Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hypocrite in Chief

Living in a Counterfactual Epoch

A hypocrite’s work is never done. Thus the need for our Nobel Prize bearing Commander in Chief to execute a needless and devastating war of aggression on a country preoccupied by its own civil war. He should pin that prize to his lapel when he announces his surgical strike on Syria. Let’s be clear: wars of aggression are, by the standards we set at the Nuremburg Nazi trials, the “supreme international crime.” Crimes for which Nazis were put to death. Anyone who pulls the trigger on a war of aggression is, by our own measure, a war criminal. But President Barack Obama needn’t worry about being isolated by his action—the annals of the American presidency are chock full of war criminals. He’ll have good company in the pantheon of imperial lore.

Of the numberless hypocrisies of the administration, this one is particularly crude. The White House claims to need to punish Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime for the unproven use of chemical weapons (sarin) in Ghouta. Not only does this atrocity, committed by unidentified actors in a civil, ethnic, sectarian, and proxy conflict within Syria, somehow make Syria a national security threat to the United States, but it also suggests we deplore the use of chemical weapons. Neither is remotely true. I think the former could be true if we do bomb Syria, as it may incite Syrians to plot against the empire that slaughtered its men, women and children. The latter cannot be true by virtue of the fact that chemical weapons are a primary element in our military arsenal, and have been repeatedly handed over to unreliable allies or deployed ourselves, against Vietnam most notably, but recently against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The author of the August 21st attack has yet to be identified. Suspects include Syria, one of the rebel groups, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The White House report offered plenty of unverified claims said to be drawn from “streams of intelligence.” Nobody outside the beltway bubble is convinced. We can, however, have “high confidence” in our assessment that the U.S. will use chemical weapons itself if it attacks Syria. At least three sources of American firepower potentially threaten to deposit a destructive payload of depleted uranium on Syrian society and soil should we attack. Destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean are likely to fire Tomahawk missiles, which have long been rumored to contain depleted uranium, either in their tip or wing. However, this has been disputed by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). At the very least, Naval combat crafts are equipped with anti-missile Gatling guns that use shells with tungsten or depleted uranium. This has been conceded by the military itself. Likewise, A-10 anti-tank aircraft are known to use depleted uranium bullets.

Depleted uranium, although not outlawed by the International Convention of Chemical Weapons (ICCW), are uranium wastes, the leftovers from the uranium that can be usefully enriched (as Iran is prudently, or feverishly, doing this very moment, depending of who you believe). According to Global Research, depleted uranium found its way into the American arsenal thanks to the fact that there are enormous amounts of it leftover from the enrichment process, and that it is cheap to produce. (There is something deeply ironic here, although I’m not sure just what.) But the primary feature of DU is its armor-piercing capability. Not only is it the heaviest of elements, DU bullets keep their shape on impact, thanks to their hideous “self-sharpening ability”, and the fact that they burst into flame on impact, generating radioactive dust. This naturally finds its way into the lungs of those nearby (who are perhaps lending “material support” to rebels, instantly nominating themselves for a double-tap drone strike should the DU not do its lethal work fast enough). Depleted uranium often produces radioactive poisoning, and potentially cancer, as former workers at a U.S. arms plant unhappily discovered. It is also likely to generate deformities in the DNA of the local birth population, as Fallujah has lately experienced. This cruel fate is often referred to by the lovely phrase, “mutagenic potential.”

In any case, we’ve left enough in the ground in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere for some viable case studies. Naturally, the development of leukemia in 76% of mice injected with DU, a study conducted by our own Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute, has been yawningly ignored by the Pentagon, although there is some suggestion that the upper echelons of international power have suppressed the growing movement to ban depleted uranium. The courageous claimant here is former WHO scientist Keith Baverstock, who eloquently concluded that, “politics has poisoned the well from which democracy must drink.” The wells from which multitudes of Arabs must drink, too.

But DU is only the leading villain in an ensemble cast of malign characters. Alongside it one can observe the flesh-eating effects of white phosphorous ‘shake-n-bake’ bombs, napalm and “mark 77 firebombs,” a mix of kerosene and polystyrene similar to napalm, all used to great effect in Iraq. American-made cluster bombs are an Israeli favorite, such as when it wants to blow up unsuspecting Arab farmers in southern Lebanon. Yet there they sit, our leaders Obama and Kerry, the urbane sophist and his zombie accomplice, mirroring our nation in miniature: a country whose signal conflicts seemed to carry the mantle of liberty, against the British then the Nazis, but which has since devolved, to borrow anthropologist F.G. Bailey’s phrase, into “a babel of inconsistent moralities.”

Largely owing to our commitment to chemical weapons, internationalist efforts to ban WMDs in the Middle East have met with typical disinterest. U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 twists in the wind. Agreed to in 1991 to provide a legal umbrella for the U.S. attack on Iraq, it calls for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and the banning of chemical and biological weapons. Naturally, the looming regional hegemon Israel is the obvious roadblock to the realization of this initiative. In a forgotten instance of considerable irony, Syria proposed the same concept to the Security Council with a draft resolution in 2003, but then U.N. ambassador John Negroponte noted that we might consider it, but then hysterically added—as if snapping to his senses—that this didn’t mean we would “adopt it, embrace it or endorse it in any way, shape or form.” In other words, best to shelve it with all the other useful ideas the U.S. has nixed since the founding of the U.N.

If you’re looking for a link between our degraded civil rights and our depleted uranium, look no further. There it is, in the White House report and its dearth of actual evidence. If only they had added an addendum with the dozens of YouTube videos that factor heavily in their portfolio of supposition. But what reason is there, truly, for yours or my indefinite detention, for the continuous invasion of our privacy, the usurpation of legislative power (the people’s tribune) by that of the executive (the ghost of monarchy), and the evisceration of the sovereignty of other nations like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and soon Syria? Whether shot from ships or fired from jets, depleted uranium bullets and shells will strike innocent targets with the same fact-less impunity with which our rights are denied. We live in a counterfactual epoch, where the shrill presence of conjecture disguises the voluminous absence of evidence. Hypocrites lie, victims die.

More Americans quit looking for work

A disappointing jobs report in the United States shows a large drop in the share of Americans who are either working or looking for work.

The nation's jobless rate was 7.3% in August, down slightly from 7.4% in July, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly employment report.

But that small improvement was mostly the result of discouraged jobseekers who have given up looking for work. People who are not actively looking for employment are not considered as unemployed.

Some 312,000 people stopped looking for work in August, pushing the labor force participation rate to 63.2 percent, the lowest since 1978.

The labor force participation rate measures how many healthy, working-age people 16 and older are working or looking for jobs.

The participation rate has been declining for years because millions of Americans have quit searching for a job, a result of the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile ,employees in the United States continue to express elevated concerns about their job security nearly five years after the global financial crisis.

The poll shows that millions of US workers are still worried about having their benefits and wages reduced, their hours cut back, and being laid off.

Moreover, most of the jobs created during the sluggish economic recovery have been part-time jobs in low-paying industries like retail stores and restaurants.

Such jobs leave consumers with less money to spend than do better-paying positions in industries such as manufacturing and construction, which have mostly shed jobs the past four months.

Fracking Away Our Water Supply

Fracking is how humanity commits suicide.

September 6, 2013 | By WakingTimes
Farron Cousins, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

As many areas of the country experience severe droughts, the fight for clean, fresh water is becoming vital to survival for many American citizens. The problem has been made worse by the expansion of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which gobbles up hundreds of millions (billions, according to some estimates) of gallons of potable water every month.

The state of Texas has become the prime example of what can happen when the natural gas industry is allowed to run roughshod over citizens. The state is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in modern times, and certain areas have already had to resort to water rationing.

But the dwindling supply of fresh water in Texas has barely slowed down the natural gas industry’s fracking activities. Even as livestock are dying off, crops are withering, and citizens are having to purchase bottled water in order to quench their thirst, fracking companies are sucking fresh water out of the ground in order to satisfy their need to extract every ounce of natural gas from beneath the Texas soil.

The drought and water shortages in Texas have gotten so bad that some residents have said that on some days, they can turn on their faucets and nothing even comes out anymore.

But some residents aren’t bothered by the lack of water, or by the gas industry’s activities that are compounding the problem. In fact, they’ve figured out how to make a fortune off the disaster.

According to AmericaBlog, some Texas residents have begun to lease their property to the gas industry simply to dig wells and pump water. One man reported that he is leasing his land for a staggering $36,000 a month to the gas industry. This man is either the world’s greatest salesman, or the gas industry knows that they have created a problem that is only going to become worse in the very near future.

There is also the push-back from the dirty energy industry’s astroturf organizations. The industry front group Energy in Depth dismisses the claims that fracking uses too much water by making silly comparisons to the paltry amount of water used on golf courses, car washes, and even the water that flows from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico (which Energy in Depth apparently thinks is wasteful). However, they seem to overlook the fact that none of these activities (which all use less water than fracking) are pumping toxic chemical cocktails into the ground, further contaminating remaining water supplies as fracking does.

The reason the gas industry is allowed to use up all of Texas’ fresh water while residents goes thirsty is simple. They are one of the largest campaign donors and lobbying groups in the state, and few Texas politicians are willing to deny those hefty paychecks, or to stand up to the abuse that they are inflicting upon the state.

Texas is not alone, either. The state of Colorado is also willing to let the gas industry have access to water while denying that privilege to residents. Thanks to the effects of climate change, the Colorado River basin is drying up very quickly, starving aquifers that feed large portions of the Midwest. There is now a battle taking place in Colorado on who gets what’s left of the water – farmers, residents, or the gas industry.

The fracking / water shortage story is almost too ironic to believe. Americans are overly dependent on fossil fuels, which leads to climate change, which leads to droughts and water shortages, and the remaining water is then used up in our quest for more and more fossil fuels. It’s a self-sustaining cycle that can only be broken by embracing clean, renewable forms of energy. But in places like Texas, the state that oil built, the idea that renewables can win the day is laughable.

While independent media outlets have done a great job of telling this story, there is a separate, but related, component that has yet to be fully developed, and that is the problem of water privatization.

As the general concept of privatization continues to impact education, prisons, and national security, the impact that it is having on our water supply has been grossly overlooked.

All over the country, private companies are trying to take over the water delivery systems, which would be a disaster for American citizens. A prime example is the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Many years ago, they experimented with privatizing their water supply, and the results were less than flattering. Residents soon began to complain about dirty, brown water being delivered through their pipes, and some areas actually stopped being served altogether. The enormous public backlash prompted the city to cut the 20-year contract they had signed off after only a few years.

The same story unfolded in Detroit when they moved to privatize their water supply, and it was replayed again in states like Massachusetts, Ohio, and Detroit. Rate hikes, poor water quality, and the reduction in covered areas are all common when private companies take over the supply and delivery of water.

So that leaves us with a three-fold attack on the American water supply: There is the growing threat of water shortages from climate change, a problem that could be irreversible; The over-consumption of water from the natural gas industry; And the threat that private corporations pose when they try to take over our water.

Sadly, little is being done to mitigate this three-pronged assault on water. How many more livestock and crops will we sacrifice to the gas industry as they can continue to frack us right out of drinkable water?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fracking has caused Over 100 Earthquakes in Ohio

Radiation at Fukushima Soars to Highest Level Yet

As officials tout 'ice wall' experiment, more lethal levels of radioactivity detected
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Record high radiation levels were detected at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan's nuclear regulator and plant operator TEPCO said on Wednesday, raising more concerns that the spiraling catastrophe has no end in sight.

Officials said they had detected radiation of levels of 2,200 millisieverts per hour on Tuesday near contaminated water storage tanks. That's a rise of 20% from the previous high, the Guardian reports.

The announcement comes just days after officials said they had detected lethal radiation levels 18 times higher than previously documented because the testing equipment they were using could only read measurements of up to a maximum of 100 millisieverts per hour.

Reuters notes that "both [the 2,200 and 1,800] levels would be enough to kill an unprotected person within hours."

Also festering at the plant is the buildup of contaminated water, which has proven an unsustainable crisis. There has also been as a series of leaks from storage tanks and pipes.

Mycle Schneider, lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports, told BBC News last month that the problem of water leaks "is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse." There are leaks "not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place," he said. Further, the head of Japan's nuclear regulatory body warned on Monday that there may be no other option than to dump radioactive waste water into the Pacific.

In a desperate attempt to stop the leaks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday the government plans to invest nearly $500 million in a giant "ice wall" surrounding the plant.

Nuclear engineer Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research called the wall of ice plan a "risky experiment." Speaking on PBS Newshour, Makhijani explained:
I don't know that an ice wall like this has been tried before.

It's like building a dam underground, but with ice, by freezing all the poor water in the soil, all soil has -- so there's water coming in from uphill, through the side and going into the ocean, all underground. It's an aquifer. Some of that water contacts the molten fuel and is becoming contaminated.

And they hope to build -- to freeze the soil, basically, with a giant freezing machine, just like your freezer at home, put cooling coils in the soil, lots and lots of them. It takes an enormous amount of electricity and they would freeze it. Of course, it contains the water behind it like a dam, but eventually it's going to overtop the dam, as it did before. [...]

It is an experiment. And I think it's a risky experiment, because if the power fails, you know, just like if your -- when the power goes out with your refrigerator, everything will de-freeze in -- defrost in the freezer.

So, if this ice melts suddenly and it's blocking an enormous amount of contaminated water behind it, then you have got a problem. At the same time, you know, the tanks are themselves something of a threat, if there's another earthquake and this highly contaminated water gets into the ocean. And so they have a got a very -- couple of very, very serious problems of containing the water.

Last month, Makhijani warned, "This is an accident that’s shockingly not stopping."

Amidst the fight to contain the nuclear disaster, Japan is brushing aside concerns of radioactivity as it makes its bid to be the host of the 2020 Olympics.

“The radiation level in Tokyo is the same as London, New York and Paris,” said Tsunekazu Takeda, an IOC member and president of the Japanese Olympic committee. “It’s absolutely safe, 35 million people living there in very normal conditions. We have no worries.”

Drug Agents Have an NSA-Style Spying Problem

Thursday, September 5, 2013 by ACLU Blog
by Ezekial Edwards

Over the last few months, we've been bombarded with revelation after revelation about the NSA's unprecedented spying on Americans. But, according to The New York Times, the NSA's untethered snooping is eclipsed by the agents fighting in a war that began long before 9/11: the costly and failed War on Drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's secret Hemisphere Project, news of which broke this week, allows drug law enforcement agencies broad access to billions of AT&T phone records going back a quarter century—to 1987. As The New York Times explained, "the scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.'s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act."

Our government's mass telephonic data-mining has sparked immense and deserved outrage. But to those who have been targeted by the War on Drugs for the last several decades, the Hemisphere Project is only one in a long line of privacy-invading tactics employed by the U.S. government. Many other intrusions – such as the thousands of unconstitutional stops-and-frisks of people of color in cities across the country, the countless doors kicked in by police in search of drugs, the seizure and forfeiture of property of people never convicted of a crime – are representative of the kinds of common corporal intrusions that have been endured by many Americans, disproportionately of color, long before many post 9/11-era invasions of privacy became commonplace for all Americans.

Further, since 9/11, there has been an increasingly entrenched relationship between overreaching national security programs and domestic drug law enforcement policies. Each has fed on the other: the long-running drug war provided useful surveillance blueprints for the massive domestic spying programs that have sprouted up since 9/11. At the same time, domestic drug law enforcement agencies have seized upon the dismantling of basic constitutional protections over the past decade – in the name of national security – and pointed the resulting weapons toward America's own citizens.

It should not surprise us then that the Hemisphere Project is only the latest disclosure of mission creep.
We found out last month that the DEA secretly uses NSA surveillance data against Americans as part of its drug investigations – and then conceals its reliance on this foreign intelligence information. This practice jeopardizes the right to a fair trial for anyone facing criminal prosecution based on evidence derived from that surveillance data.

Or consider "sneak and peek" warrants, in which law enforcement enters a home or office when no one is present and conducts a search of the premises, without giving notice to the occupant beforehand. Provisions allowing for these warrants were included in the Patriot Act after government officials said they are necessary to fight terrorism, but 76% of "sneak and peeks" were used in drug investigations in 2010. (And that is no anomaly: from 2006-2009, 1,618 sneak and peek warrants were used in drug cases, 22 in fraud cases, and 15 in terrorism investigations). Further, the use of GPS tracking devices, aerial surveillance, and the militarization of police – often justified by national security needs – are instead often coopted as highly destructive components of our domestic drug war.

In keeping with the clandestine nature of our government's various spying programs, the DEA had delineated a series of steps to "keep the program under the radar" by instructing "all requestors … to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document" and "‘walling off' the information the government obtains from Hemisphere." This is all in the name of enforcing drug prohibition, a 40-year failure that has cost billions, led to the unnecessary incarceration of millions of Americans, and failed to make a significant dent in the use, availability, or potency of drugs.

Why has the DEA kept this surreptitious surveillance program in the shadows? Because, as with so many of government surveillance programs, Hemisphere raises serious constitutional questions. There is a strong argument that it is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment for the government to outsource the automatic collection and storage of millions of Americans' phone records without any individualized suspicion and without court approval or oversight—simply so that law enforcement agencies have easy and immediate access in the future. Like the N.S.A.'s mass call-tracking program, such extensive and unlimited data gathering, particularly reaching back decades, allows the government to construct incredibly detailed and invasive pictures of our past and present lives.

Simply put, under the tired guise of protecting Americans from drugs, the U.S. government has secretly targeted and invaded the life and privacy of millions of its own citizens. The U.S. should be ending the War on Drugs, not expanding it by secretly outsourcing widespread surveillance.

New NSA Revelations: Internet Privacy Encryption Virtually 'Defeated'

Thursday, September 5, 2013 by Common Dreams
NSA builds 'industry relationships' to control encryption technologies, deteriorate privacy safeguards
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Internet privacy safeguards known as encryption technologies promised by email, online banking, and other such online databases have been virtually 'defeated' by the U.S. National Security Agency, according to new documents obtained by the Guardian, New York Times, and ProPublica.

According to the Guardian—which has reported extensively on the NSA's dragnet surveillance practices revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—the NSA and its British counterparts the GCHQ have used "covert measures" to control and manipulate international encryption standards to tprivacyhe benefit of the NSA, largely through building "industry relationships" with many technology companies and internet service providers.

As joint reporting by ProPublica and the New York Times explains, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, the NSA has deployed "custom-built, superfast computers to break codes" and began collaborating with "technology companies in the United States and abroad" to build 'backdoor' entry points into their products and introduce weaknesses into their encryption standards.

The records do not identify which specific companies have been working with the NSA to this extent. However, one document does reveal that a GCHQ team has been working to develop ways into encrypted traffic on the "big four" service providers, named as Hotmail, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

"By deliberately undermining online security in a short-sighted effort to eavesdrop, the NSA is undermining the very fabric of the internet."

Through these relationships the NSA has become nearly immune to most encryption technologies, and has thus mastered the use of "supercomputers" to break encryption with "brute force," leaving a dying number of encryption technologies immune to NSA surveillance.

As one of the NSA documents obtained by the news agencies states, the NSA "actively engages US and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products' designs," and in turn inserts "vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems."

"US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails," the Guardian reports.

"For the past decade, NSA has lead [sic] an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies," a 2010 GCHQ document states. "Vast amounts of encrypted internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable."

"Cryptography forms the basis for trust online," said Bruce Schneier, an encryption specialist and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "By deliberately undermining online security in a short-sighted effort to eavesdrop, the NSA is undermining the very fabric of the internet."

The NSA's encryption busting program called "Sigint [signals intelligence] enabling" received $254.9 million in 2013 alone (compared to $20 million allotted to the previously exposed PRISM program).

“The encryption technologies that the NSA has exploited to enable its secret dragnet surveillance are the same technologies that protect our most sensitive information, including medical records, financial transactions, and commercial secrets,” stated Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Soghoian continues:
Even as the NSA demands more powers to invade our privacy in the name of cybersecurity, it is making the internet less secure and exposing us to criminal hacking, foreign espionage, and unlawful surveillance. The NSA’s efforts to secretly defeat encryption are recklessly shortsighted and will further erode not only the United States’ reputation as a global champion of civil liberties and privacy but the economic competitiveness of its largest companies.

Senators Voting for Strikes on Syria Got More Defense Money

Thursday, September 5, 2013 by Common Dreams
New analysis shows big difference between Senate Foreign Relations Committee members who voted for and against military force against Assad.
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A new analysis offers a look at the difference between campaign contributions from defense contractors to the senators who voted Wednesday on whether to approve a strike on Syria.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee members who voted 'yes' to a resolution authorizing military force "received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war," Wired reported Thursday.

Based on data from, the analysis showed the top recipients of contributions from defense industry employees and political action committees between 2007 and 2012 were Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at $176,300 and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) at $127,350, both of whom voted 'yes.'

The 'yes' voters received an average of nearly $72,850 from the industry over the five-year period, while the 'no' voters' average was just $39,770.
The committee passed the resolution 10-7, and a full vote on the resolution will likely head to Senate next week.

We Need to Talk About Prince Bandar

Chemical Weapons, False Flags and the Saudis' Hard Line

In the back and forth about Syria, there is surprisingly little discussion about Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar.

Even though Bandar apparently took over the Saudi covert account last year and has driven the Kingdom’s hard line against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

It’s also clear that Saudi Arabia has slipped the leash and is no longer a cooperative US ally. The general narrative is that the Saudis got disgusted and disillusioned by the Obama administration’s dithering in Egypt.

Maybe it wasn’t just dithering. Maybe the Obama administration was consistently supportive of civilian rule and insufficiently sedulous in the attention it paid to the Egyptian army and its role in assuring the institutional continuity (ahem) and stability of Egyptian political life.

It is also possible that the Saudis finally decided that it would not try to paper over the disagreements between the US and the KSA over persistent US support for the Morsi regime, especially since the Saudi government was determined to overwhelm US attempts to control the Egyptian military through withholding the US aid package of $1.2 billion by “flooding the zone” with a promise of $12 billion from Riyadh.

So a clean break was marked by a coup, a defiant massacre of America’s preferred political partners in Egypt, and orchestration of a vociferous and extremely public anti-US PR campaign that has made the Obama administration’s name mud in pro-coup activist circles.

My thoughts returned to Prince Bandar on the occasion of a piece on Kevin Drum’s blog about President Obama’s miserable Syrian options.

In a previous post I speculated that the Syrian gas attack might have been a false flag attack designed to force the Obama administration to intervene in Syria.

At the time I wasn’t aware of the reporting on Prince Bandar’s extensive involvement in Saudi Arabia’s Syria project, so I coyly referred to the hypothetical visitor as “Prince B—“. But based on Mour Malas’ August 25 piece in the Wall Street Journal—including the revelation that Saudi Arabia had already been trying to push the Obama administration over the chemical weapons red line several months ago—we can certainly fill in the blanks and speculate about Prince Bandar’s possible role in a false flag attack:
That winter, the Saudis also started trying to convince Western governments that Mr. Assad had crossed what President Barack Obama a year ago called a “red line”: the use of chemical weapons. Arab diplomats say Saudi agents flew an injured Syrian to Britain, where tests showed sarin gas exposure. Prince Bandar’s spy service, which concluded in February that Mr. Assad was using chemical weapons, relayed evidence to the U.S., which reached a similar conclusion four months later. The Assad regime denies using such weapons.

According to Malas, Saudi Arabia has also been repeatedly telling the Obama administration its stature in the Middle East is toast unless it acts firmly on Syria.

Connoisseurs of US Congressional diplomacy will also be pleased to know that Senator John McCain, who has been all over the airwaves pushing for a US response of regime-change dimensions and not a symbolic slap on the wrist, is hand-in-glove with Prince Bandar.

Anyway, as cited by Kevin Drum, Malas’ most recent piece fills in (boldface by Drum) some of the blanks, making the case that President Obama’s rather more genuine dithering on Syria resulted from the unwillingness to knock down the Assad regime until the U.S. and Syrian opposition moderates had gotten their act together and could field a plausible team to handle New Syria transition and governance.

The delay, in part, reflects a broader U.S. approach rarely discussed publicly but that underpins its decision-making, according to former and current U.S. officials: The Obama administration doesn’t want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate.

….The administration’s view can also be seen in White House planning for limited airstrikes—now awaiting congressional review—to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons. Pentagon planners were instructed not to offer strike options that could help drive Mr. Assad from power: “The big concern is the wrong groups in the opposition would be able to take advantage of it,” a senior military officer said. The CIA declined to comment.

….Many rebel commanders say the aim of U.S. policy in Syria appears to be a prolonged stalemate that would buy the U.S. and its allies more time to empower moderates and choose whom to support….Israeli officials have told their American counterparts they would be happy to see its enemies Iran, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and al Qaeda militants fight until they are weakened.

“Slow and steady” is manifestly not the strategy that Prince Bandar prefers in Syria. Given the dysfunction of the Syrian overseas opposition—as opposed to the murderous efficiency of the distinctly non-democratic jihadis—one can’t really blame him.

The Geneva peace talks, by the way—which embodied the US hopes of some kind of negotiated transition involving the Syrian opposition democratic goodniks—are not going ahead, thanks to the gas attack.

As the Russian media reported:
Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the timing of the chemical attack “suited” the opposition, “who obviously do not want to negotiate peacefully”, instead they want to “sabotage” the talks.

“Why go to a conference if you believe that the regime’s infrastructure will all be destroyed anyway by allies, and then you can just march into Damascus unopposed, and take control?” said the official in Moscow.

Good question.

Anyway, Prince Bandar has been very active on the Syrian brief. He arranged the high profile shipment of arms to the rebels out of Croatia and also—according to disputed but plausible reports—unsuccessfully cajoled/threatened Vladimir Putin to drop Assad by promising that Saudi Arabia could in return deliver a) support for Russia’s gas export ambitions and b) hold in check the Chechen rebels who otherwise might do awful, awful things to Putin’s Olympics in Sochi.

Inevitably, there are also mumblings linking Saudi Arabia to the supply of sarin gas to the rebels.

Now, thanks to President Obama’s injudicious red line/chem munitions remark, he’s being forced to make a choice, to “get off the fence”.

Well, maybe the choice has been made for him. Maybe he got pushed off the fence. By Prince Bandar.

I think we are creeping closer to confirmation of the hypothesis I’ve been advancing since November of last year: that Saudi Arabia had not only decided to push the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood out of the leadership of the Syrian opposition (something which has subsequently been confirmed and reconfirmed), but that the Saudi strategy for Syria involved regime collapse first, rejecting the strategy of cutting a deal with Assad to get him to the bargaining table after prolonged bleeding for some kind of negotiated capitulation and a democratic transition.

Anyway, in the proxy war for Syria it looks like we now have a debate between the rather conflicted but intensely risk-averse and regime-transition fixated Obama administration and Saudi Arabia + John McCain’s regime collapse advocacy.

And everybody’s waiting for Israel—which is uncomfortable with a jihadi-led insurrection but probably feels that clout and initiative are slipping out of President Obama’s fingers—to get off its fence and either push for a strike, a big strike, or nothing at all.

Wonder how that will work out.

In any case, if we’re talking about Syria, we need to talk about Prince Bandar.

Supporting al-Qaeda a Week Before 9/11 (Yeah, those Syrian Rebels? Al-Qaeda.)

We Will Never Forget?

In a twist of irony that has escaped mainstream commentators, one week away from 9/11, the US is considering a course of action that will empower al-Qaeda; i.e., bombing Syria. As terror expert Evan Kohlmann put it, “two of the most powerful insurgent factions in Syria are al-Qaeda factions.” (Kohlmann is an authority on the topic, having worked as a consultant in terrorism matters for the DoD, DOJ, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies.) These rebel factions will be the immediate beneficiaries of a strike against the Assad regime.

This wouldn’t be the first time that the intelligence community expected a US military operation to increase the likelihood of terror attacks against the US. As a letter from CIA Director George Tenet to the Senate Intelligence Committee chair revealed, it was anticipated that Bush’s invasion of Iraq would lead Saddam Hussein to be “much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions”; moreover, the invasion of Iraq was expected to raise the threat of attack by WMD from “low” to “pretty high”. And the intelligent experts were correct. Earlier this year, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the FBI that he and his brother carried out the Boston Marathon bombing because they “were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq”.

We can only hope the intelligence experts like Evan Kohlmann won’t be correct this time around.

If we had an authentic democracy—rule by the people—an attack wouldn’t happen, because strong majorities oppose intervening in Syria. Polls conducted by Reuters almost daily between May 31st and September 3rd indicate without exception that a strong majority of Americans are opposed to intervening in Syria—even if Syria used chemical weapons. Similarly, a poll conducted by the BBC shows that, in the UK, “71% of people thought Parliament made the right decision” to reject military action against Syria. Two thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t care if Parliament’s decision harmed UK-US relations.

Another poll shows that a stunning 80% of Americans believe that Obama should seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria. The Obama administration has interpreted this rather narrowly, having scheduled a congressional vote, but still insisting that Obama “has the right to [attack Syria] no matter what Congress does”, as Secretary of State John Kerry remarked. Obama said the same thing, albeit somewhat more tactfully: “I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization”.

The polls pertaining to the prospective strike on Syria differ significantly from those regarding the US and UK support for the Iraq War. Back in 2003, a series of polls found that a majority of Britons supported the invasion of Iraq; Americans at the time supported the invasions by even larger majorities.

Simply put, there’s less support for a strike on Syria than there was for the invasion of Iraq—and we know how well the Iraq War turned out.

Yet public opinion and the threat of provoking terror attacks are not persuasive to the unfathomable wisdom of the Obama administration. As John Kerry said, a strike on Syria “is of great consequence to…all of us who care about enforcing the international norm with respect to chemical weapons.” Apparently Kerry is more concerned with international norms than international law, since attacking Syria without a U.N. Security Council resolution would violate the latter. In Obama’s words, the Security Council is “paralyzed”—which, by definition, means it won’t do what he tells it to do.

Matthew Waxman, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations—hardly a radical outfit—observes that, “despite treaties outlawing chemical weapons use, there is no precedent for using military intervention as a response to violations.”

To be fair to the Obama administration, we should listen to what US leaders have to say about chemical weapons; they’re experts on the matter. In Iraq alone, they used white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions, which coincided with an explosion of birth defects throughout Iraq that “surpassed those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of WWII”.

But Syria-sly folks...


And don't forget, "if they cross this line" and "I never gave them a line to cross--the world did."

He's nuts, get rid of him.