by Mark Scheinbaum
March 10, 2013
WHY NO PANAMA HATS AT AMERICA'S TOP TRAVEL SHOW?
BRADENTON, Fla., April 25, 2013 -- It's extremely painful to revisit the issue of Israel's role in prodding the United States to go to war against Iraq based on the supposed possession by Saddam Hussein of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, a premise we later learned was based on outright lies.
Now, Israel appears to be prodding us to go to war in Syria by claiming the Assad regime has used chemical weapons - sarin gas, specifically - "multiple times" against the growing army of rebels that appose Bashir al-Assad.
As established in a slew of investigations, members of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) illegally obtained classified documents from pro-Israeli officials at the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department.
It was emblematic of the power of that group that the day after the FBI arrested two of its leaders on espionage charges - not the first leveled against Israeli agents - then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott addressed the group's gathering at the Republican National Convention in New York City. Suffice to say if the indicted group was of any other national or ethnic origin, no politician in America would have set foot in their tent.
There are important questions to be asked, and lessons to be learned, in this new push for U.S. troops in Syria. Some 200 "advisors" were sent last week - precisely how JFK started our involvement in the Vietnamese civil war - as the possible vanguard of 20,000 U.S. troops that defense officials have indicated may be sent to fight with the rebels against the despotic Syrian government.
"Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin," Secretary of De.fense Chuck Hagel said today. It was not a ringing declaration that it's time to go to war, but some conservatives took it that way.
"I think it's pretty obvious that that 'red line' has been crossed," U.S. Sen. John McCain responded today to Hagel's announcement - which Hagel indicated was plenty short of the threshold for war. McCain said the same information has come from French, British and other allies.
"We need all the facts," Hagel said. "We need all the information." His was the rational response, especially since there are "varying degrees of confidence" in the information.
In contrast to that caution, McCain blurted, "We need to have operational capability to secure these weapons,” CNN reported. "Some of them are in heavily contested areas and could easily fall into the hands of extremists." The phrase "operational capability" means control of U.S. troops in Syria, just as it meant U.S. troops in Iraq.
Is it fair to note that after prodding us - and there was plenty of momentum before that happened, to be fairer - into war against Iraq, The United States has spent $2 trillion and the lives of 4,488 young American men and women in the fruitless war that began on March 19, 2003 - 10 years ago - while Israel spent nothing and lost no lives in the fight? The same would probably be true in Syria should we go there to fight.
We do think it is a fair comment. Our foreign policy, and particularly the policies that lead us to war, should not be influenced by any foreign governments - the British, French and Israelis included.
McCain could not even claim that he had any of "the corroboration" for the reports he's received, "or that [the claim] is factual," he told CNN.
I am not immune or indifferent to the terrible suffering the civil war has brought upon ordinary Syrians. Just this week, graves of more than 566 victims were found on one day. The toll of death is said by the U.N. to be as many as 70,000, and many of those were totally innocent men, women and children caught in crossfire between the government and the rebels. But why should my nephew, or a neighbor's only son, die in Syria because of it?
Yet I have to be conscious that al-Qaeda is apparently looking at Syria, as at Libya, as a fabulous prize to be won by infiltrating, energizing and controlling Syrian rebels, possibly with hopes of controlling the chemical weapons the government may have used, and that any distribution of U.S. arms to the Syrian irregulars will ultimately lead to arming al-Qaeda elements for future engagements in places like Mali, where those weapons might tilt the balance toward them.
Let's reverse this paradigm. Let the United States urge Israel to go to war against Syria and commit its own troops and money there. They are its immediate neighbors and the most threatened by either a militant Assad regime or an al-Qaeda-led rebel government in Syria. In fact, according to a publication called The Jewish Press, based on a Le Figaro story a month ago, reports today that King Abdullah of Jordan has decided to open that nation's skies to allow Israeli drones to attack Syria. Many publications say today's comments from the Obama Administration were a tacit "green light" for an Israeli attack. So what are they waiting for?
Israel should put its blood and treasure where its mouth is - or at least where their information is. They are not openly advocating U.S. entry into a Syrian war as yet; the reports are a necessary preliminary phase, as they were prior to the war in Iraq. Thankfully, Congress is not leaping to embrace them, with the exception of Sen. McCain and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. They are honest men, but they can sometimes be a couple of idiots.
It is to Israel's credit that on September 6, 2007, they hit what they and the CIA claimed was a nuclear reactor and Syrian military nuclear facility. It's time for Israel to take the same kind of action against the chemical facilities they can find and bomb or seize. The United States will provide diplomatic support for any effort of that kind. We are already firmly committed to defending Israel if doing that leads to an attack against them by Syria, Iran or anyone.
In defense of Israel's claims, we should point out that Great Britain also claims that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against their own citizens "in a village west of Aleppo and on the outskirts of Damascus, both on March 19, and in Homs on Dec. 24," the New York Times reported today. Of course, it was Times reporter Judith Miller's false reporting in their pages that did so much to move the U.S. to its fatal invasion of Iraq. Now she is a "talking head" on various news shows.
The supposedly anti-Israeli Obama Administration is really anything but that. It appears to be buying the story, but apparently has said today that the "multiple" uses cited by Israelis, on March 19, 2013 and other days, do not cross the "red line" - that's the line drawn in U.S. blood - that it has created by fiat.
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