Civil Discourse Now

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Syria: Questions to which the American public is entitled to answers, and why the rush to fire missiles?

   In the lead-up to the United States invasion of Iraq, the George W. Bush administration gave reasons for "regime change" that resulted in tens of thousands dead, billions in national debt and significant loss of international goodwill---difficult to quantify,but from all signs after 9/11 many nations and people in the World expressed sympathy for this country. Questions about evidence of "weapons of mass destruction"---our purported reason for the invasion---should have been asked more sharply. Our elected representatives in Congress should have insisted on knowing the sources of much of what turned out to be misinformation. When a "secret source" is nicknamed "Curve Ball" by his handlers, as was one source about Saddam Hussein's WMD program, one gleans a possibility there is a lack of credibility. 

   So far, we have not been given even a slide-show, such as Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in horrible mimicry of Adlai Stevenson's October, 1962, presentation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are legitimate questions we should have answered. Some of these have been raised by former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich.

   What evidence supports our claim Syria gassed her own people? There are photographs of people who appear to have suffered during some sort of attack. Were those people gassed? When were the photographs taken and by whom? Have tissue samples been taken from these people and tested for chemical indicators of sarin, or some other gas outlawed under the "rules of war"? If so, who took those samples? Who tested those samples? If the source is nicknamed "Dirty Lab" or "Any Results You Want," there might be an indication of lack of plausibility. If the samples and tests, etc., have been taken by agents or employees of a corporation that stands to profit from involvement in Syria, we should have agents or employees from a different body examine the samples.

   What evidence exists that Assad's conventional forces were incapable of suppressing insurrection of a suburb of Damascus and, therefore, were forced to resort to use of chemical weapons? Syria appears to be well-armed in such things as automatic weapons and tanks. How do we "know," if chemical weapons in fact were employed, elements of the "rebel" forces were not responsible for deployment of the gas?

   Where in the United States Constitution is the Federal government authorized to carry out military actions that are not declared wars? Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made valid points last week in questions he posed to Secretary of State Kerry. Senator Paul referred to James Madison's writings, including some in "The Federalist Papers," to argue the executive branch lacks authority simply to carry out military actions. Senator Paul's questions had more to do with the possibility a negative vote on President Obama's proposed use of military force against Syria would be meaningless if President Obama, after a negative vote---one in which Congress rejects his request and presumably exercises one sort of "check," as in "checks and balances"---goes ahead and does what he wants in Syria. Our questions should go further as to total Federal authority for such actions. (And, to Nic Martin, I will say: if, as I anticipate, you would say my position here is inconsistent with my position that the Constitution gives the Federal government authority for such matters as Obamacare, regulation of interstate commerce is a power given to the Federal government by the Constitution, but declaration of war is a specific provision that limits Federal action.)

   I do not often agree with the blogger over at Conservatibbs. He wrote this morning something about not liking President Putin, a former KGB man, of Russia but that Putin makes a valid point. Attack of another nation only should be when the nation that initiates the attack is threatened. The United States has not been threatened by Syria. Further, any such act would need to be authorized by the UN Security Council. Russia almost certainly would veto a U.S. strike against Syria. Thus, the United States would act illegally in an attack on Syria.

   I do not know why President Obama has chosen to waste political capital on this matter. Whatever advantages the Democratic Party saw for the mid-term elections seem to disappear. Non-declared "wars," military actions we have carried out in other countries without formal declaration of war, for the most part have turned out badly for the United States. At best, Korea gave us "M*A*S*H" (the movie, the TV series not so much). Many people---American, Korean, Chinese, British, Australian (after all, it was a United Nations action) died there, all so everybody could end up with about the same lines drawn on the map. Vietnam was a travesty from the time Alden Pyle's body washed ashore (in Graham Greene's novel "The Quiet American"). A lot of lives were lost there, too.

   There has been no surprise attack on the United States by Syria. In fact, there has been no attack on the United States by Syria at all. Therefore, we should have information about why we need to attack. If chemical weapons were used in attacks, the people who have suffered from the attacks know the facts, if those people still are alive. The people who perpetrated the attacks know. Everyone would seem to know except---us, the American people. When I was in high school, I had a quote on my bedroom wall from Lincoln: "Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe." I don't know that is true as an absolute, but knowledge of facts certainly helps.


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