September 1, 2013
The "just" is being employed advisedly, of course. But the fact of the matter is that there is more than one horrendous way for Assad to attack civilians associated with rebel forces.
This past Thursday, information came out from Syria via BBC journalists that was picked up by very few news sources. I would have thought it would have been screamed from the rafters, but either it is "ho hum" or is simply running under the radar.
It was the end of a school day in the north of Syria, and, reportedly, a fighter jet overhead flew back and forth looking for a target (i.e., place where a group of people is assembled). The one the pilot decided upon was the yard of a high school, where groups of teenagers just dismissed from a day at school were lingering.
What he dropped on the kids was some sort of "napalm-like" incendiary bomb that caused horrendous burning. Ten young people were dead and many more injured, "writhing in agony."
The aftermath of the attack was filmed.
The BBC link is here although I advise you not to look at the video portion unless you have a strong stomach.
Credit: BBC Panorama
The "fighter jet" wasn't identified by the BBC journalists as belonging to Assad's forces, but certainly it was. The rebel forces don't have fighter jets. The location of the attack, an area where those supporting the rebel forces are found, makes this even more clear. According to the Independent (UK) the attack took place in Aleppo.
Read: Syria: Reports of 'napalm-like' bomb attack on Aleppo playground emerge after MPs vote against military action
It is only days ago that there were Americans saying that the military warning to Assad to stop using gas had to be delivered soon because there was fear of another gas attack, with the most likely target Aleppo.
After I viewed the video, I confess that I responded viscerally: My first thought was that Assad's head had to be bombed off. Of course that probably would not be possible because he's hiding in a bunker.
I make no apology for that initial emotional response to such gross and shocking inhumanity. But, in short order, I began to think more rationally again, with regard to the wisdom -- within the full context of the situation -- of taking the Assad regime down. There are a lot of people calling for this -- not because of the incendiary bomb, but for broader reasons regarding a weakening of Iran.
What has shocked me is how little the world has paid attention to this latest attack by the Assad regime. Evidence seems clear in the video, but if further confirmation is required, let journalists begin to investigate.
And here I would suggest that you, my readers, can be a vehicle for spreading the word of the reports on what is going on.
If you cannot definitively say, "Assad's air force dropped an incendiary bomb that burned young people to death," although there is an exceedingly good likelihood that this is precisely what happened, then you can say just that: There is a good likelihood of this having happened as reported, and it's important for people to know, to pursue the matter, and to raise their voices loudly.
For the record, use of an incendiary bomb is forbidden by international law, on a humanitarian basis. I've checked this with an international lawyer. Alan Baker, my frequent "go to" on such issues. As I said, it's not "just" gas.
Use the BBC link, or the Independent link, or both, for confirmation. Put this up on websites, and on discussion groups, and ask why the world is not responding with horror.
Equally shocking to me (I suppose I should no longer be shocked but I haven't learned to move past this) is how brazen Assad is. Defying all norms established by the international community with regard to humanity, he proceeds blithely even as he knows he is being watched.
He is thumbing his nose at the world, confident that he can proceed without paying a price.
And this is precisely why he must pay a price.
Now to Barak Obama, and his statement last night.
I make a public confession. For one fleeting moment, after I heard that he was going to address the American people, I imagined that he was going to say that there had been sufficient justification for action in Syria in any event, but now with evidence of an attack on young people with an incendiary bomb, the case is even stronger.
Silly me... I was quickly brought back to the reality: Obama is a coward who has made a fool of himself.
According to unattributed sources within the administration, Obama's turn-around on speedy action in Syria was made unilaterally at the last moment. Advisers gathered expecting to discuss details of the attack, only to be told that the plans had changed. Understand that he is not surrounded by advisors we would call "right wing" or "hawks." And yet they were on board for moving on Syria.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which carried this story, Obama's change of mind was facilitated by reassurance he received from chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said that the timing of the attack did not matter: Whether strikes were launched tomorrow, or a week from now, or a month from now, the military would be able to ensure the effectiveness of the operation. he reportedly maintained.
I take strong issue with Dempsey on this. What he is saying -- if indeed he said this as reported -- is akin to nonsense. Already too much time has elapsed, and too much has been said by the president.
There are reports of military equipment being moved in Syria away from the places the US is most likely to attack. Reuters, for example, reported on some missiles and launching equipment being moved from a key military site last week as a "precautionary measure":
Other reports have alluded to precautionary troop movements.
What is worse, there are multiple reports of prison inmates being moved by bus, by the thousands, to those sites most likely to be targeted -- to serve as human shields. This is also in defiance of international law.
See, for example: Syria 'human shields': President Assad moving inmates from prisons to military targets ahead of possible air strikes
And Dempsey maintains that the timing is irrelevant here?
Obama's reluctance to act against Syria has been evident from the start, whatever the surface bravado of his words. He has now surrendered to that unease -- which was exacerbated by the negative response of the British Parliament and Cameron's subsequent pull out.
He has fallen back on the excuse that it will be more of a "democratic" process if he permits Congress to debate the issue and then vote on it. (Obama: the champion of democratic process.) For the record: this is not required of him by law, as he is not declaring war on Syria; there is ample precedent for the sort of action he was supposed to take.
Congress is not scheduled to re-convene after its summer recess until the 9th of September. That is when the debate will begin; who knows when the vote will be held.
There is mixed opinion here: Is Obama hoping that the Congress will vote against, so that he is off the hook? Or is he looking for support so that he isn't going it alone? He says he intends to attack Syria eventually; but if Congress is opposed?
My contempt for all of this is boundless.
I will note here that the argument is being made that with the delay Obama will at least have access to the findings of the UN team that went to the site of the gas bombing and came out with samples -- and thus will his case be bolstered. I find this a bit of nonsense as well. For it has already been concluded that there was a gas attack. If the UN now says the blood samples show there was a gas attack, how does this make Obama's case stronger?
The issue (allegedly) was one of being sure that Assad ordered the attack. But the UN team's blood samples will not provide evidence of this.
A case can be made that the longer the delay, the less the sense of immediacy, the easier to dispense with it all together.
Coming full circle, there is also concern about additional attacks against the Syrian population that Assad will pursue with great equanimity if has not been attacked. If the whole point is to warn him that his current behavior will not be tolerated, then he has to be warned, does he not?
In fact, Obama's delay is causing Assad to feel even more emboldened.
Here in Israel, where criticism of Obama is strong, it is being said that Netanyahu now knows he cannot count on Obama on Iran.
My own opinion is that Netanyahu, who is not foolish, figured this out a long, long time ago.
Perhaps there are others, either here in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, who have now been disabused of any notion that Obama is someone to be depended upon. Neither the government of Israel nor that of other countries such as Saudi Arabia, eager for the attack, were informed in advance of Obama's change in plans. The president's credibility has sunk to a new low.
What is certain is that in Iran, they're sniggering.
What I would like to suggest is that, if you are an American, you contact your representatives in Congress now, as they prepare to convene for the big debate.
Tell them that before they vote, they should be aware of the evidence of an incendiary bomb attack by the Assad regime on Syrian teenagers. Provide the BBC link, complete with video.
You might want to see Alan Baker's comments for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the situation in Syria. He is taking a broad international position:
Lastly, let me share an upbeat article from the JPost Magazine about Israeli medical care provided to Syrians wounded in their horrendous civil war. This is the sort of article not only to read and share, but to save in order to refute malicious charges against Israel.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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