Syria: Kerry Says Obama Can Act Without Congress

(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On  Friday President Barack Obama, citing “proof” that the Assad government used chemical weapons on his own people, said that he will go to congress for approval for authorization to use military force in Syria. The purpose, according to the president, is to send a message to Syrian President Bashir Assad not to do that again.  

He appeared to acknowledge some potential pitfalls when he called on members of Congress to “consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment”.

The president did not say whether he would launch a military attack without congressional approval.

The question of whether a US president can launch military action without congressional backing is subject to dispute. While it is argued a commander-in-chief cannot constitutionally declare war without Congress, in recent decades presidents have used executive powers to sanction military action. When running for president in 2007, Obama said the president “does not have power under the constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation”. He added that “in instances of self-defence, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent”.

Obama came under serious criticism for attacking Libya in 2011 that led to the overthrow and assassination of Moammar Gaddafi.

On this morning talk shows, Secretary of State John Kerry told the talking heads that the US has evidence that sarin gas was used but could not cite precise evidence that it was the Assad government that used it or that Assad had ordered its use. Kerry also said that the president has the right to act regardless of the congressional vote:

Less than a day after the president vowed to put an attack to a congressional vote, secretary of state John Kerry said the administration was determined to act against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and did not need the backing of Congress to do so.

Kerry, one of the leading advocates of a military assault on dictator Bashar al-Assad, claimed the US had identified the type of nerve agent used in the 21 August attacks on 12 neighborhoods outside Damascus. [..]

The secretary of state stressed that President Obama had the right to take action “no matter what Congress does”. He said he could “hear the complaints” about presidential abuse had Obama not gone to Congress, but that its backing would give any military action greater credibility: “We are stronger as a nation when we act together.” But he added: “America intends to act.”

Incredibly, there are some congress critters who believe the president should attack Syria. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) clearly stated that Obama was “undermining the authority of future presidents”;

“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own redline.”

While his rhetoric may be the most charged, King is not alone in calling for Congress to come back immediately. House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel of New York said something similar in his own statement.

“The President has laid out a strong and convincing case to the American people for action in Syria. However, I understand his desire to seek explicit authorization to do so from Congress,” Engel said. “I call on the Speaker to immediately recall the House back from its August recess and debate this critical issue as soon as possible.”

So just who it that’s abdicating his Constitutional responsibilities?

One of the biggest problems with the justification for the action is the assertion that it is the Assad government that used the weapons. After the lies told by the Bush administration and the faked intelligence of yellow cake, there is little confidence in the integrity of the intelligence community not to tell the truth and do the bidding of an administration determined to start another war.

The ghost of “Curveball” is haunting the Obama administration and undermining its efforts to marshal strong foreign and domestic support for military strikes on Syria.

Curveball was the code name given Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who claimed in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had deployed mobile biological weapons labs to evade international detection of his manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. His testimony, even though viewed as dubious, was used by the George W. Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

As Americans and their allies debate the wisdom of making military strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the phony pretext for the Iraq invasion is being dredged up by those fearful of being lured into another protracted Middle East war.

Asia Times roving Correspondent, Pepe Escobar has covered the Syrian conflict since it began almost two and a half years ago. He appeared on RT news to discuss Obama’s determination to attack Syria

Obama Set For Holy Tomahawk War

By Pepe Escobar

The ”responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ”responsibility to attack” (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.

On Sunday, the White House said it had ”very little doubt” that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ”undeniable” – and accused Assad of ”moral obscenity”.

So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground.

The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors’ hotel. If you don’t believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory.

Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad’s offer of access for the inspectors came ”too late”. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed – but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.

As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ”of Arabia” Cameron are concerned – supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles – that’s irrelevant; Obama’s ”red line” has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak – of the R2A kind – rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that’s because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy – all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception – all over again.

h/t Edger at Docudharma


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  1. TMC
  2. Edger

    but I don’t see any glaring mistakes in them. It appears to be a reasonable compilation taken from news reports I’ve also seen over the past few days.

    Vernon Huffman on Facebook about 20 minutes ago…

    There is absolutely no evidence or confirmation that the Assad government carried out the alleged chemical attack.

    United Nations weapons inspectors are in Syria at the direct REQUEST of the Syrian government to prove that they have not used chemical weapons. The attack took place a mere ten miles away from the inspection team, on the very day they arrived.

    Carla Del Ponte, a United Nations Human Rights investigator, has stated that the Syrian government has not used chemical weapons but the rebels have.

    In May, 12 members of the Syrian rebel forces were arrested in Turkey. The rebels possessed 4.5 pounds of Sarin, the neurotoxin gas alleged to have been used in the recent attack.

    In January, the “Daily Mail”, a prominent British newspaper, reported that the Syrian rebels were planning a chemical attack which they would blame on the Syrian government in order to justify U.S. intervention. The report was based on leaked emails from military contractors.

    The Syrian rebels are receiving direct weapons and funding from the United States, despite their record of atrocities including rape, murder, and torture. The U.N. has reported that they are actively recruiting young children, in addition to other violations of international law.

    The Assad government has fully cooperated with the weapons inspection teams.

    Members of the United Nations inspection team have openly stated their doubts about the chemical attack. Dr. Ake Sellstrom, the leader of the team, called the reports of the alleged attack “suspicious”.

    Reports on the attack are extremely inconsistent. Some reports said over 1,300 were killed. Other reports have said less than 200. Still other reports say over 350. The numbers are unclear and totally unsubstantiated.

    The report being circulated by “Doctors Without Borders” is not based on their own information, but based on reports they received from a Syrian rebel group by their own admission.

    Videos of the alleged attack were posted on the internet by allies of the Syrian rebels, BEFORE the attack took place.

    The credibility of the video of the alleged chemical attack is being widely questioned by chemical weapons experts. The victims are not displaying the proper symptoms of having been struck by a Sarin nerve gas. The people shown treating them are not wearing proper equipment.

    The U.S. is currently urging the U.N. weapons inspection team to halt its work. The U.N. weapons inspectors insist that they must be allowed to continue their investigations and to determine actual facts.

    Despite all of this confusion and inconsistency in the claims about this alleged attack, the U.S. government, along with its corporate allies in Britain and France are openly pushing for an attack on Syria.


    We have seen all this before:

    The Spanish-American War was justified with an alleged attack on the U.S.S. Maine. In reality, the ship was sunk by an internal explosion.

    The U.S. entrance into World War I was justified with the “Zimmerman Telegram”, claiming Germans were plotting to invade the U.S. with Mexico. The telegram was later proven to be a fraud.

    The Vietnam War was justified with the “Gulf of Tonkin”incident claiming Vietnam had attacked a U.S. ship. It was later proved that the alleged attack never actually took place.

    In 1983, the U.S. invasion of Grenada was based on allegations that the government was planning to murder U.S. medical students. This was proven to be complete fiction.

    In 1989, the U.S. overthrow of the government of Panama was based on false allegations about drugs and attacks on U.S. troops.

    The U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was justified with reports of with unsubstantiated reports of genocide in Serbia. A great number of these reports have been totally discredited.

    The Gulf War of 1991 was justified with false reports of Iraqi War crimes in Kuwait. The “babies thrown from incubators” stories that filled the TV news, were proven to be totally false.

    In 1991, the U.S. used satellite photos to claim that Iraq was amassing soldiers to invade Saudi Arabia. The photos were proven later to have been complete forgeries.

    The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was justified in the name of fighting a “war on terror” after Sept.11. None of the people who allegedly carried out the 9/11 attacks had any connections with Afghanistan or its government.

    The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based on reports of “weapons of mass destruction” and “chemical and biological weapons.” After the U.S. invaded, killing thousands of innocent people, it was proven that Iraq didn’t have any such weapons.

    The U.S. intervention in Libya was justified with claims of genocide and rape. Now that the Libyan government has been overthrown and thousands innocent Libyans killed, many of these reports have also been thoroughly discredited.

  3. tahoebasha3

    I had seen some of MSF’s rebuttals — it’s a dreadful shame that they should have been put in such a position period.  You know and I know you know that MSF means exactly what it stands for — it is apolitical.  Its business is medicine and helping people in need of urgent care.

    Here’s an article I’ve just found on the “legitimacy” of intervention in Syria, as told by Gareth Porter, of today’s date.

    How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria

    Tuesday, 03 September 2013 09:05

    By Gareth Porter, Truthout | News

    Hummm.  Those words have a familiar ring to them!!!

    Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.  

    Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack. . . . .


    (I haven’t finished reading it, but scanned it, and well, not surprised.)

  4. tahoebasha3

    that the U.S. is so “obsessed” with WMD’s (really not, but use them, like religion).  This is beyond chutzpah when we have continually used white phosphorus and depleted uranium wherever we have gone in the last 12 years, particularly, Iraq, where the damage is so severe that cancer is rampant and babies are born grotesquely deformed . . . (the dust of depleted uranium remains in the air ad infinitum) . . . . . literally, we committed a genocide to Iraq (with sanctions from all those years, babies dying under age 5, all for want of proper medical supplies and medicines, etc. and our invasion of Iraq, resulting in over 1 million killed, thousands and thousands, 1 million displaced outside Iraq, 1-1/2 million displaced inside Iraq, infrastructures falling apart, and people living in poverty.  


    There is no country on earth more audacious than the good ‘ole U.S. of A., IMHO!  

  5. TMC

    It’s interesting how the Obama administration is using the very public statements of MSF as part of its “secret intelligence” in the case for war:

    I’m especially interested by the potentially inflated number given the way the White House case introduced it.
       In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

      A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

    I confess, when I first read this and followed its presentation on Twitter, I believed the casualty numbers were attributed to the “highly credible nongovernmental organizations” referenced in the previous sentence, not “a preliminary US government assessment.” That had me perplexed because there are two potential organizations that might comment on casualties: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which, as the bolded language in McClatchy’s account makes clear, says there have been 502 dead (at the time the White House presented their case, I don’t think they had yet come up with an estimate). Or Médecins Sans Frontières, which had reported the number of 355 by that point, but emphasized they couldn’t confirm the cause of death in these cases.

    Three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died.


    “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress,” said Dr Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations.

    Patients were treated using MSF-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. MSF is now trying to replenish the facilities’ empty stocks and provide additional medical supplies and guidance.

    “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack,” said Dr Janssens. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events-characterised by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers-strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons.” [my emphasis]

    And that’s significant because the only piece of intelligence from an NGO specifically mentioned (though not by name) in the White House case was MSF.

       Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization.

    The only other mention of NGOs I see is this one, which again seems to include MSF.

       We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

    The MSF 3,600 number was almost always reported with the 355 number. And the White House case quotes the MSF release, almost verbatim. If the 3,600 is credible, then the 355 number should be treated as credible too.

    But the Administration used the 1,429 number, several times the casualties either the Brits or the French or either of the two highly credible NGOs cite.

    Just as important, though, is the Administration’s treatment of the MSF number. There was nothing secret about MSF’s hospital admissions number – the release with almost the same language as that used in the White House case is right there on its website.

    Needless to say MSF was pissed.

    [Syria: MSF statements should not be used to justify military actions

    Share http://www.msf.org/article/syr

    Response to the US administration and other governments referring to MSF Statement of August 24

    28 August 2013 – Over the last two days, the US Administration and other governmental authorities have referred to reports from several agencies, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while stating that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was “undeniable” and to designate the perpetrators. MSF today warned that its medical information could not be used as evidence to certify the precise origin of the exposure to a neurotoxic agent nor to attribute responsibility.

    Last Saturday, MSF said that three hospitals it supports in Syria’s Damascus governorate had reportedly received 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms, of which 355 died. Although our information indicates mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent, MSF clearly stated that scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required and therefore an independent investigation was needed to shed light on what would constitute, if confirmed, a massive and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian law. MSF also stated that in its role as a medical humanitarian organisation, it was not in a position to determine responsibility for the event.

    Now that an investigation is underway by UN inspectors, MSF rejects that our statement be used as a substitute for the investigation or as a justification for military action. As an independent medical humanitarian organisation, MSF’s sole purpose is to save lives, alleviate the suffering of populations torn by Syrian conflict, and bear witness when confronted with a critical event, in strict compliance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

    The latest massive influx of patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in Damascus governorate comes on top of an already catastrophic humanitarian situation facing the Syrian people, one characterised by extreme violence, displacement, the destruction of medical facilities, and severely limited or blocked humanitarian action.

  6. polm

    This country’s always been run by a bunch of criminal/lunatics, and it still is.  It’s disgusting that our country is so persistent on going to war, especially just to topple, or try to topple governments abroad that don’t kowtow to US interests.  

    Not that there’s any excuse for this, but if the whole history of the United States is any indication, countries (including the USA) that have come into existence by force often keep on keeping on, if one gets the drift.  

    Ever heard the quote (the name of the person who quoted it escapes me at the moment.),

    “History doesn’t repeat.  It rhymes.”

    That applies here, perfectly, imho.

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