Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Obama, Stupid!

A trusted adviser pointed out that I'm missing the obvious. The boss only fires or asks for an employee's resignation when the boss is unhappy with the employee's performance. Before Kerry's accidental diplomacy, neither he nor Obama demonstrated much interest in a diplomatic solution to Syria's chemical weapons, so maybe Obama doesn't mind Kerry's apparent failure to seriously pursue diplomacy.

That would explain why Kerry hasn't actually been fired or forced to resign, but it doesn't explain why members of congress or the media aren't calling for his resignation, or at least asking for evidence of Kerry's diplomatic efforts.

Some in congress, like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, always prefer war, but what about those that tend to prefer diplomacy over military action, like Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul? Why aren't they calling for an investigation or Kerry's resignation? Maybe former membership also has it's privileges.

In the media, I don't expect the big boys to rise up and challenge the administration on this issue. They are always willing to hype the next war, and they want to maintain their access to those in power, but what about the little guys? Where are the independent bloggers and the real investigative journalists?

My trusted adviser again suggests the obvious...why don't I ask them? Good idea. Let's see if they'll respond.

UPDATED 10/30/2013: It's been over a month and I haven't read or heard back from anyone on this. The subject quickly changed to the shutdown, the debt ceiling, the Obamacare rollout, and now the NSA spying abuse. I think the details of our near-war with Syria will be lost to history. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

War Mongering Media, Inc. -- This is CNN

I just checked into a hotel in Cartagena, Columbia. While unpacking, I had the TV on CNN. They had a ~10 minute segment on Vladimir Putin. Here were the take-aways:

  • Putin knows how to leverage diplomatic mistakes made by others to Russia's advantage because he was a judo master.
  • Putin proven ability to influence events in Syria will enable him to influence events elsewhere. Where will he strike next!?
  • Putin, if re-elected will match Stalin as Russia's longest serving president. Stalin!

The implication is that Putin/Russia "won" and Obama/USA "lost" in the Syrian agreement to turn over it's chemical weapons to the UN. The only way that framing makes sense is if America never really cared about Syria's chemical weapons, but just wanted to involve ourselves in another mid-east war. That might be the preference of the bogeyman makers and war mongers at CNN, but it's not the preference of the American people. America doesn't lose when other countries agree to deliver what we want.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Someone is wrong on the internet

Is it me? I've been thinking about this old cartoon all week.

In my case, I'm worried that the someone might be me. None of the bloggers I read regularly share my opinion that John Kerry should resign as Secretary of State. I've even waded into the cesspool of their comments sections. None of their readers are calling for his resignation, and those people are crazy. I guess that should be somewhat reassuring, but still, no one sane or insane is supporting my view, and I can't find any new information that forces me to reconsider.

A few days later, I find that the Wall Street Journal has a story titled, "Inside White House, a Head-Spinning Reversal on Chemical Weapons: How the U.S. Stumbled Into an International Crisis and Then Stumbled Out of It" with this teaser:
This account of an extraordinary 24 days in international diplomacy, capped by a deal this past weekend to dismantle Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile, is based on more than two dozen interviews with senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and congressional officials and many of their counterparts in Europe and the Middle East. The events shed light on what could prove a pivotal moment for America's role in the world.
I was excited. This might be the detailed accounting of Kerry's diplomatic efforts I was looking for. Unfortunately, the article was blocked by a pay wall. Unwilling to give a dime to the WSJ, I checked back every day, figuring they'd eventually offer free access to an old story. In the meantime, I was intrigued by the potential irony that not only might I be proved wrong, but proved wrong by the WSJ, which I had just blasted for not disclosing O'Bagy's conflict of interest, as well as their long record of being wrong about everything.

I gave them too much credit. They eventually provided free access to their story, but despite "more than two dozen interviews with senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and congressional officials and many of their counterparts in Europe and the Middle East", the WSJ managed to shed zero light on the history of US negotiations with Syria or Russia. However, they did provide some important details about what congressional leaders were doing when Obama called to inform them that he was going to seek their support:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) was preparing a turkey sandwich in his Louisville, Ky., home when he took the call.
Wow. Now that's the kind of hard hitting reporting I've come to count on from the WSJ. But, with over 24 interviews, how did they miss the obvious follow-up questions: White or whole wheat? Toasted? Mustard, mayo or Miracle Whip?

My next step was to simply google "John Kerry should resign". The #1 link is to John Bolton, George W's neocon UN ambassador. My post is #7! That's disturbing. Bolton, in addition to claiming that Obama is the weakest president since Buchanon, says on Fox News (of course) that Kerry should resign out of principle. Bolton explains that Kerry has been pushing attacks on Syria so hard that Obama's pursuit of a diplomatic solution is such a slap in the face that Kerry should quit in disgust. OK, that's what I expect from the man behind the mustache that is John Bolton, which is not at all the argument I was making.

In between John Bolton and me, one guy is calling for Kerry to resign because he is a Free-Masonic Zionist member of Yale's secret Skull & Bones society. Again, not my argument. The New York Sun relives the Swiftboat campaign, calling for Kerry to resign because his blunder led to "appeasement", claiming that "his whole public life has been a long arc of retreat." Not my argument either. National Freedom Forum thinks Kerry "should resign rather than have his good name attached to this weak and incompetent President," and should jump ship before "Socialist President Obama" makes him the fall guy. Not my argument, and by the way, it's not an accident that I'm not providing links to any of this crap.

There was one guy who called for Kerry's resignation back in June when chemical weapons were first used in Syria. His argument was similar to mine, noting that any Secretary of State should not be the head cheerleader for war. No word on what he thinks about the current situation. Maybe he was silenced by Kerry's Free-Masonic Zionist Skull & Bones allies.

So, it looks like I'm alone here, but without more information about American diplomatic efforts with regard to Syria's chemical weapons, I'm standing by my original response. Kerry should resign or be fired. It's an indictment of both congress and the media that they are not demanding this information. Following his recent distortion of intelligence on Syria, no one owes him the benefit of doubt.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Questioning myself, questioning Kerry

I seem to be the only one on the internet who thinks Kerry should resign or be fired. Are my usual allies so relieved that we stumbled upon an alternative to bombs that they forgive the stumble? It's kind of cool being the lone voice, but also kind of disturbing. Disturbing enough that I'm trying to figure out how I might be wrong. In doing so, I see this via NPR:
Obama also added that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had talked about the plan now on the table both during the recent G-20 meeting in Russia and during another meeting last year in Mexico. 
In other words, the proposal is a true diplomatic breakthrough long in the making. 
So, I'm supposed to believe that bombing Syria was not avoided by Kerry's gaffe, but by a "true diplomatic breakthrough"? Hmm... To help get my head around this, I created a timeline:

8/21 Chemical weapons attack in Syria
8/30 British parliament votes against military action
9/5-6 Meetings between Obama and Putin at G20
9/9 Kerry's infamous gaffe

OK. If the plan on the table was discussed last year at the G20 in Mexico and at the recent G20 in Russia, what exactly happened in the 3-4 days after the G20 that caused Russia, and perhaps Syria, to reverse course? Were they just seizing an opportunity to embarrass Kerry and Obama? Were the US and Russia talking to each other with neither actually talking to Syria? The latter seems very likely to me, as Syria is not a member of the G20.

Either way, I find it very disturbing that the two (two!) cited diplomatic efforts regarding Syria's chemical weapons happened at economic summits that did not include Syria! At the Russian G20, Obama and Putin only met privately for 20 minutes. That does not strike me as a serious diplomatic effort.

Furthermore, both G20 discussions were between Obama and Putin. What exactly has Kerry done with regard to Syria since he became Secretary of State? I want to know with whom he talked, when, and for how long. The fact that this information is not being desperately shoved at the media, as well as Kerry's demonstrated willingness to distort intelligence in favor of military action, makes me skeptical that Kerry has made any attempt at diplomacy.

If I was a member of Congress, if not asking for Kerry's resignation, I would at least be demanding answers for how he got caught completely off guard once again with regards to war in the middle east.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

O'Bagy really is the new Chalabi

That 26-year-old Syria expert really is the new Ahmed Chalabi. Today, she was fired by the Institute for the Study or War for falsely claiming she has a Ph.D

Still waiting for Kerry's resignation. I suspect John McCain and Lindsey Graham will eventually start demanding it if it turns out Kerry's off the cuff remark really does stop them from getting their new war. Also, I'm still waiting for someone/anyone else to call for Kerry's resignation. Am I a lone voice here? Do other people not think that Kerry failed to execute THE central responsibility of the office of Secretary of State?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

John Kerry should resign...

...or be fired. A few days ago, I criticized Secretary of State John Kerry  because he quoted unsubstantiated figures from a 26-year-old Syrian revolutionary over those of our national security agencies. That was an embarrassment, but now, it's much worse.

Responding to a British reporter questioning whether there was anything Syria could do at this point to avoid an American attack, Kerry said this:
Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week…without delay and allow the full and total accounting for that, but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done, obviously.
What he didn't anticipate was that the Syrian foreign minister would agree, with the support of Vladimir Putin, to transfer chemical weapons to the UN. There are details to work out, and maybe this option will fall through, but happy ending or not, Kerry should still resign or be fired.

John Kerry is not the Secretary of Defense. He is the Secretary of State. If Chuck Hagel had made this comment, I would not be calling for his resignation. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel's job is to provide and execute military options. As Secretary of State, Kerry's job is to provide and execute diplomatic options. He has obviously failed at that task.

Ten years ago, he voted to authorize war in Iraq without doing due diligence on Bush's intelligence claims. Now, Kerry has revealed that he is once again ready to go to war without doing due diligence and without exhausting diplomatic options. He still doesn't take the prospect of war seriously. He has learned nothing. He is an embarrassment, he is a failure, and he should resign or be fired (and I say that as someone who voted for him in 2004).

To anyone that thinks Obama and/or the USA would look bad if Kerry resigns or is fired, what exactly does it look like if he stays?

Friday, September 6, 2013

John Kerry has learned nothing from Iraq

This is depressing. First, via the excellent Marcy Wheeler, John Kerry claims that he and Chuck Hagel were against the Iraq War, even though they both voted for it. That's not news. Kerry, like other Dems who voted for the Iraq AUMF, has been weaselly about this since things started going badly. This part, though, is news:

According to Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul, Kerry’s claims that only 15 to 25% of the rebels are extremists do not match what the intelligence community has briefed him (they’ve said over half of the fighters are extremists).  
Update: Meanwhile, the source Kerry cites for his estimates on numbers of extremists is a consultant for the rebels. 
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged members of the House of Representatives to read a Wall Street Journal op-ed by 26-year-old Elizabeth O’Bagy — an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War — who asserted that concerns about extremists dominating among the Syrian rebels are unfounded. 
“Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards,” O’Bagy wrote for the Journal on Aug. 30. “Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces,” she wrote. 
But in addition to her work for the Institute for the Study of War, O’Bagy is also the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that advocates within the United States for Syria’s rebels — a fact that the Journal did not disclose in O’Bagy’s piece.

This is unbelievable. The Wall Street Journal is a horrible newspaper. Their editorialists in particular have an uncanny record of being wrong about nearly everything. I certainly don't approve of their omission of O'Bagy's conflict of interest, but I'm certainly not surprised by it.

I am surprised that the Secretary of State--in a country that spends more on defense and intelligence than the rest of the world combined--ignores his own intelligence agency in favor of an editorial by the new 26-year old "Ahmed Chalabi" in a newspaper that is routinely hostile to his own party. It's an embarrassment, and yet another warning sign that going to war in Syria is a very bad idea.

My thoughts on Syria

It's hard for me to believe that we now have a Democrat in the White House--who got there in part by being against preemptive war--who is forcing UN inspectors to leave yet another mid-east country so that we can start bombing.

Arguing that we must attack because chemical weapons violate international norms is pretty rich. We gave Saddam Hussein his chemical weapons and helped him use them against Iran. Using atomic weapons violates international norms, but we're the only country who's done that. Preemptively bombing and invading other countries violates international norms, but we've done that. Torture violates international norms, but we've done that. Using cluster bombs and land mines violates international norms, but we refuse to sign on to treaties banning their use. We also refuse to sign up for the International Criminal Court because we want immunity from our war crimes. This is not exactly the ideal resume for international norm enforcer.

The best synopsis of the situation in Syria that I have read is from William Polk via James Fallows. I can't add much to what he says, but it's reassuring to know there are level-headed people that demand rigor when contemplating war. It's also good to see that the British people, Parliament, the American people, and perhaps even Congress, have learned something over the last decade about scrutinizing lame-ass excuses for going to war.

The one thought I can add is the potential political impact of attacking Syria. Military action there will go wrong--per the situations today in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It will be the height of irony if Obama and Congressional Democrats rally the American people to a young upstart anti-war Senator named Rand Paul in 2016, but it's possible, especially against pro-war Hillary Clinton. Of course, it's also possible that she could once again lose the primary to an anti-war opponent, though sadly, I'm not sure who that might be.