Syria: U.S. War Making at the Expense of Democracy

31 Aug

 

             The U.S. Government rains drone missiles on civilian human targets anywhere in the world, continues to operate Guantanamo in the face of universal condemnation, whitewashed Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the torture memos, committed aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan, and invests billions to sustain its unlawful global surveillance capabilities. Still, it has the audacity to lecture the world about ‘norm enforcement’  in the wake of the chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Someone should remind President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that credibility with respect to international law begins at home and ends at the United Nations. Sadly, the American government loses out at both ends of this normative spectrum, and the days of Washington being able to deliver pious messages on the importance of international law are over. No one is listening, and that’s a relief, although it does provide material for those teams of writers working up material for the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the many standups at Comedy Central. Yet, of course, this geopolitical TV series is no laughing matter for the long ordeal of the Syrian people.

 

            There is yet another disturbing dimension of this pre-war pseudo debate about recourse to force in retaliation for an alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad against his own people: should a democracy empower its elected leaders to commit the country to war without at least securing specific legislative authorization? The contrast between the approach of the British and American approach to this issue is illuminating. David Cameron, as Prime Minister, along with his Foreign Secretary, strongly favored joining with the United States in launching a punitive attack against Syria, but arranged a prior Parliamentary debate and vote, and clearly indicated his immediate acceptance of the surprising refusal to win backing for such a policy, a show of Parliamentary independence that had not occurred in the country since the late 18th century. Of course, given polls showing only 11% of British citizens supporting an attack on Syria, Cameron may be privately breathing a deep sigh of relief that the vote came out as it did! Obama should be so lucky! If only his powers as Commander-in-Chief included a tool with which to erase imprudent ‘red lines’!

 

            Compare now the Obama approach: speeches informing the country about why it is important to punish the Assad regime so as to uphold American national security interests and to engender respect for international law and several consultations with Congressional leaders. What is absent from the Obama discourse is the word ‘authorization’ or ‘a decent respect for the opinions’ of humanity, as expressed at home and in the world. In my view, this continuing claim of presidential authority to wage war unilaterally, and absent a UN mandate, is creating a deep crisis of legitimacy not only for the U.S., but for all governments that purport to be democracies but commit to war on the decision of the chief executive, as France and Turkey appear to be doing. It is time to face up to this crisis.

 

            Above all, the foundational idea of American republicanism was to demonstrate that the power to declare and wage war was subject to ‘checks and balances’ and ‘separation of powers,’ and in this crucial respect, was unlike the monarchical powers of English kings in war/peace contexts. This makes the Parliamentary rebuff to Cameron not only a revitalizing move for British democracy, but an ironic commentary on the degree to which American ‘democracy’ has perversely moved in an absolutist direction.

 

            It is true that government lawyers as hired hands can always find legal justifications for desired lines of policy. We can count on White House lawyers do just this at the present time: working into the night at Office of the Legal Counsel to prepare breifing material on the broad scope of the powers of the president as Commander-in-Chief, reinforced by patterns of practice over the course of the last several decades, and rounded out with an interpretation of the War Powers Act that supposedly gives the president 60 days of discretionary war making before any obligation exists to seek approval from Congress. Lawyers might quibble, but democracy will be the loser if procedures for accountability and authorization are not restored with full solemnity. In this respect the law should follow, not lead, and what is at stake is whether the republican ideals of limited government would be better served by the original ideas of making it unconstitutional for a president to commit the country to war without a formal and transparent process of public deliberation in the Congress, which is that part of government charged with reflecting the interests and values of the citizenry. Let the lawyers be damned if they side with the warrior politicians, however ‘war weary’ they claim to be.

 

            It is worth also noticing that the common arguments for presidential authority do not pertain. The United States is not responding to an attack or acting in the face of an imminent threat. There is no time urgency. Beyond this the American public, as is the case with the publics of all other Western democracies, oppose by large majorities acts of war against Syria. What makes this situation worse, still, is the refusal to test diplomacy. By international law norms, reinforced by the UN Charter, a use of force to resolve an international conflict is legally a matter of ‘last resort’ after diplomatic remedies have been exhausted. But here they are not even being tried in good faith, which would involve bringing Iran into the process as a major engaged player, and enlisting Russia’s support rather than exhibiting post-Snowden pique. Obama claims that no one is more war weary than he is, but his behavior toward Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Russia convey the opposite message.

 

            And finally, some urge what be called ‘a humanitarian right of exception,’ namely, that this crime against humanity committed against the Syrian people requires a proportionate response from the perspective of international morality, regardless of the constraints associated with international law. Disregarding ‘the slippery slope’ of moral assessments, this particular response is being presented as directed against the Assad regime, but not motivated by any commitment to end the civil war or to assassinate Assad. There are reasons for viewing Washington’s moralizing reaction to the horrifying chemical attacks of August 21, especially the rush to judgment with respect to attributing responsibility to the Assad regime without awaiting the results of the UN inspection team and the odd timing of a such a major attack just as the inspectors were arriving in Damascus. It is not only habitual skeptics that recall Colin Powell’s presentation of conclusive evidence of Iraq’s possession of WMD to the UN Security Council in the lead up to the unlawful Iraq War. We should by now understand that when a foreign policy imperative exists for the occupant of the White House, factoids replace facts, and moral/legal assessments become matters of bureaucratic and media duty.

             

 

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17 Responses to “Syria: U.S. War Making at the Expense of Democracy”

  1. Gene Schulman August 31, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    As usual, Richard, the facts are well presented. Which leaves the question: “What is to be done?”

  2. Stephen freer August 31, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Rulers are into their EndGame.
    Their “endless war on everything”
    will soon be in the ‘homeland’ , in full fury.

    Drones everywhere, FEMA concentration camps ,
    ‘false flag’ frame-ups , Military Police state.

    First, comes their contrived Financial Implosion.

    Get away, while you’re still able!

  3. Weston, Burns H August 31, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Richard:

    I’m with you as far as you go. But you don’t go far enough. You need to address the singular importance of the 1972 and 1992 bans biological and chemical warfare, along with 1925 Protocol and the ICC Statute, each of which stand for the proposition that violations of them constitute crimes against humanity. This begs you to detail the “soft power” measures you see as appropriate (e.g., double down with Putin in Moscow, not stiff him or his diplomats in The Hague; go to Teheran and talk with Iran’s new president; put a vote to the UNSC; seek prosecution before the ICC, etc). You need also to deal with the US hypocrisy specifically in relation to the use of chemical weapons (e.g. Agent Orange, napalm in Vietnam, etc).

    Where are you now?

    Warmest,

    B

    PS: By the way, have a look at this “must see/hear”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/30/phillip-agnew-march-on-washington_n_3842281.html

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    • Richard Falk August 31, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Burns:

      Thanks for your message. I deal with most of what you find missing in a parallel piece that was posted today by Aljazeera, and also in a prior post on
      this blog. I agree with you that diplomacy is the soft power option that is the only path to pursue at this stage.

      We have been in Yalikavak the past three months, and after a trip to Australia, will be in London for the rest of 2013. Where are you? Let us know if you pass by London.

      warmly, Richard

      • ray032 August 31, 2013 at 11:07 am #

        Richard,

        I was writing a comment on this article earlier with a specific question to you, but I mistakenly did something that eradicated what I wrote and not remembering the exact words I wrote as they flowed the 1st time, abandoned the effort.

        Nevertheless, you answered the specific question I posed in Al Jazeera.

        “the UN Charter in Article 2(7) – which calls upon states, and the UN itself, to refrain unconditionally from intervening “in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states”.

        Last Wednesday, Senator Bomb Bomb Iran McCain let it slip past his loose lips saying in an interview on FOX NEWS, “the US has to attack Syria to reverse the momentum of the Syrian regime”
        The FOX reporter did not pick up on that to probe deeper. to ascertain the Truth?

        Imagine that! Assad was making gains prior to these chemical weapons allegations using Conventional weapons. I read other news reports to that effect.

        Who stood to gain using chemical weapons? The terrorist-insurgents, that’s who.

        May 30, 2013

        Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb.

        Another report;
        Syrian rebels used sarin gas: UN human rights investigator

        Syrian rebels have made use of the deadly nerve agent sarin in their war-torn country’s conflict, UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte has said.

        “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas,” del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor, said in an interview with Swiss radio late on Sunday.

        “We still have to deepen our investigation,verify and confirm (the findings) through new witness testimony, but according to what we have established so far, it is at the moment opponents of the regime who are using sarin gas,” she added.

        Do you know Carla del Ponte?

        What is so exasperating is watching the News media, Canadian and American, report as fact in their reporting, the Official line Assad did it when there is so much more investigating to do.

        In my view, this is where the world is on Syria from this preview recorded 2600 years ago.

        The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap………………………

        Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of Nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

        The Nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind…………..

        And behold at evening tide trouble; and before the morning he is not.
        Isaiah 17

        The Nations are rushing into Syria not knowing what they are getting into.

  4. Francis Oeser August 31, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Richard,
    Your outrage is justified.
    There’s another aspect worth pondering: how the hypocrisy of the US statements (it seems clear the decision to war has already been taken, as was bombing Afghanistan, no ‘inspections’ or considerations of law or UN policies influence the action), US hypocrisy backfires in the sense that American attitudes (tainted by its own hypocrisy) judge Syria and the rest of the world. Or misjudge, as you state. The global danger is this faceless uniformity (we’re all the same rogues). Reason, history, debate, ideals are excluded from decision-making.
    The issue is an ancient one: powerful states do what they like and get away with it. I wonder whether Rome’s (and others’) fall was due to such carelessness? Are we witnessing the demise of USA?
    Regards,
    Francis

  5. ray032 August 31, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    It is an old Truism Power Corrupts.

    Watching the puffed up hypocritical indignation of old John Kerry on the use of chemical weapons the other day (napalm and Agent Orange aren’t chemical weapons?) this is not the same John Kerry who detailed American War Crimes in Vietnam in testimony before Congress with sincere passion in 1971.

    Are the perks of power still corrupting him.? Listen to his 1971 testimony starting at the 10 minute mark in this link:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2004/2/20/john_kerry_then_hear_kerrys_historic

    • Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Those two John Kerry’s are not the same? Are they?

      • Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

        I am thinking: “are John Kerry and Obama along with him bewitched—or is there something else going on?” Delays and hypocrisy by UN, when comes to Syria? Is this possible, at all?

        Therefore, why such argument? If, in fact, both John Kerry and Obama are under the Law of the Spirit-and, not bewitched—they may only in that case step outside their appointed areas. However, why now, and why not just a few months into the Syria state of chaos?

        Is it too late to get involved—or too soon to act without UN? It is mind boggling as timing is specifically important.

  6. Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    A while ago, I had a reflection:
    In Psalms 119, we read how Mem receives (from David) who is to be precisely youth–praising divine Law and he find some key values in God’s Law: He loves God’s Law (first), and he is non-stop occupied with God’s Law. He is wiser than his enemies because he takes ownership of God’s commandments. He is not teachable by his teachers, and he does not hear/learn from them; yet, by the instructions of the Law. God’s precepts are his understanding…, on the end we find out that it is the Law/God’s judgments, and God’s wisdom by which he hates all deceptive ways. (See v.97-104).
    The Law is Spirit, and it is Life because it is Word of God. The Law is good, and it is Spiritual—Christ fulfilled the Law—the Law and the prophets (the One who gave the Law has also fulfilled the Law and those who believe/understand and practice this Law, according to the Sufficiency of Christ are indeed the Christians. It is impossible for non-Christians to keep the Law of Christ: The Law and the Prophets. However, by the very Law of the Gospel Christianity is judged and cut off from their faith and salvation when they fall short of New Law, according to the New Covenant (which is of the heart), according to the Gospel: the Law of the Spirit/Law of the Gospel—the Law of Christ.

    The Spirit (God’s Grace) in His divine essence is working and sanctifying the believer and nonetheless is placing him under Sufficiency of Christ. When we declare that we are under the Grace of God, we Claim that we are under God’s Spirit, and not the Law, according to the Old Testament. It is not valid, however, when people with another spirit misuse the Grace in order to violate the Law, mainly, the Law of the Gospel, which is Spirit/presence of Jesus of Nazareth—The Law of the Spirit, and the Law of Christ. Now, immature Christians, who are not in faith, (not grafted in by His Spirit), and not under the Law of the Spirit are not judged according to the Law of the Spirit, only according to the Law, or law of sin—they will behave as spiritual babes without the Spirit; yet. Unless they sin against Spirit and the Gospel (the Word of God), they will not be judged by the Law of the Spirit (only due to the violation of the Word of the Gospel, one is judged according to the Gospel), and they will be judged, with accuracy of the Gospel, and also can be broken off, permanently. Sometimes, people can be judged according to all everlasting covenants; it depends under which they are under.

    I appreciated your application of the Law of Christ in this assignment because it teaches us, where we fail Christ. We understand why Christianity is so diverse; it is discriminating against each other, and with that alone it is why they fail in the Law of Christ. I understand the very reason is because God’s Grace (His Spirit) is not presented in their inner-man (spiritual life)—they have no Spirit of God. In fact, these people are professing, but not believing, and are not active by Faith Christians, and are not under Sufficiency of Christ—His Spirit and His Law. Law is always valid; Christianity cannot annul the Law, for Christ Himself did not revoke the Law. Nevertheless, Christ Himself has fulfilled the Law, and He fulfills the Law by His Sufficiency in believers’ life by His Spirit. However, rituals and works of the Law are not valid, only works of Faith, which will be manifested in believers life (as work of the Spirit), according to the Law of Christ.

    I have found that Hans is teaching a lot according to the works of the Law/ behavior modification, and I do not like to see that. However, immature Christians can apply works of the Law, when they cannot apply Sufficiency of Christ. I do not believe that I have to do anything for anyone, when I am not moved to do that, but I have to manifest love for another Christian and an outsider. I must love those who are outsiders to the Christianity because Christ loved the world without condition, he accepts and Loves. This has nothing to do with works of the Law, but Faith, the work of Love, which is naturally flowing by the essence of God’s Spirit, just gracefulness. Being graceful is totally an opposite from the works of the Law. Works of the Law are taught, but the grace is not taught; it is only passed-down trough close relationships. If one can not relate with someone, one cannot learn from them. Christianity connects and learns by Spirit, nothing else.

    If one had a chance to look in the field of weed and seeing some tares, one will notice a remarkable difference, so it is with Christians that are under the Law of the Spirit, and others that are not. With doctrines (same applies—astonishing difference between truth and lie). With that, it is both with the doctrines and the people. Non-Christians fail to be Christians because they are judged on the base that Christ has established: His Law. Sufficiency of Christ selects truth, against the lie.

    This is significant in ministry: to be fulfilling His Law. It is amazing that one can practice–to put away all books if he can only learn, understand, and practice the Law of Christ, based on Sufficiency of Christ. When people talk about Grace, they speak directly about Sufficiency of Christ. This is what leaders have to look to nurture in their people, according to Grace: the Sufficiency of Christ: to be compassionate and graceful, but also unmerciful ready to judge according to the Gospel. With that, I must say that is relevant to draw a line where encouragement according to the Spirit of God stops, and Mentoring starts. When the mentoring in the Church takes place; this has to be by the Word, and under the Spirit, the personal comments do not apply. Why? It is just yeast, which we all have, and we richly can or cannot enjoy that. I love teaching of Apostle Paul; he teaches the Law and the Gospel: The Law of the Spirit (Grace), the Law of Christ. That is by Grace/by the Law of Christ…” So, the programs, lists, and plans –this all equals the works of the Law. (If I am not being sarcastic). Still, we must teach the Law according to the Gospel, just as did Apostle Paul: One has to have to do list in your heart/mind. Know that, teach that.
    Yes, even Satan and his all evil demons (his entire dominion) believe–this is one thing they can not’s do is to be in any obedience/love, for they are in a frozen state of rebellion. It is like “believers” who are in state rebellion/LAWLESSNESS!

  7. Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    This is what Spirit said to you, “Be baptized in Spirit—you are too young to be journalist and a woman.”

  8. buush.mo@facebook.com August 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Does one have to be a warmonger to be American president ?i am really ashamed of Obama being associated with my country kenya and my continent Africa as a whole,this hurts me so much that I ask myself what is the use of the UN if it can’t stop such aggression on a sovereign nation

    • Kata Fisher September 1, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Long time ago, I was hanging out with Renee; she prophesies. This is what Renee has said, “God is in covenant with Africa.”

      However, the Spirit has corrected us in this conversation saying, “God is in a royal convened with Africa,” refereeing to the Davidic covenant that he has with people in/of Africa. Then, to me the Spirit said on another occasion, “What will King do to those who abuse his people?” I hear, and have heard a lot in the past about Africa–directly by Spirit.

      When I hang out with Renee, not that she says a whole lot about but I sense in her presence all grief of people, descendants of Africa–stolen for her.

      This is the Order of the Church: The priest is silent, — the prophets speak, and curse the wicked. The King will curse and will cut of the wicked. These who teach shall teach.

      The priest are silent the prophets speak, those who teach shall teach.

      I believe in the royal line of David; concealed somewhere in Africa.

      I am not ashamed of Barak, in any way. (Now not that I am saying that he is that royal line of David, nor that he is. Still, who else could be?) Let us look and see?

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