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All Politics is Sexy ~ Cathy Elliott Jones

Sorting out the political from the sexual, and is there room for love?

Cathy Elliott Jones

Been around, seen and done some stuff

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Syria and The Guise of the Political Prize: It's Alright Ma, I'm only Bleeding

Bob Dylan 

While some on principles baptized to strict party platform ties, social clubs in drag disguise, outsiders they can freely criticize, tell nothing except who to idolize.
— Bob Dylan, "It's Alright Ma (I'm only Bleeding)," 1964

ONE MONTH AGO, I AWOKE ON October 10, 2013, to the news that once again Bob Dylan did not win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Instead, the Swedish Academy announced the winner to be Canadian author Alice Munro, referring to her as the "master of the contemporary short story."

Bobby D could not care less about the frivolousness of a subjective determination of his artistic excellence. In 1965, he dismissed a question about whether he is a songwriter or a poet by responding: "I consider myself more as a song-and-dance man." His cultural significance is a distraction he will not abide, and he is rightfully suspicious of those who wish to manipulate him by awarding to him "prizes"; he guards his persona to the extent he doesn't even care what his audiences think. But I do. In 2010, an old college friend and I swore like blood sisters that we would not die until Dylan received the international recognition that he deserved. A few months later, after a short illness, Wendy Govier died on February 1, 2011 -- which happened to be the day nominations closed for that year's Nobel prizes. I was left to carry our passionate torch, and on October 5, 2011, it was reported that Ladbrokes PLC, "a leader in the global betting and gaming market with annual Group revenues of over £1 billion," had our Bob as the 5-1, odds on favorite to bring home the gold. This one's for Wendy! Or so I thought. 

The next day, on October 6, 2011, instead the Swedes home-towned Bobby D by selecting for only the second time in history one of their own -- poet Tomas Transtromer -- to be the next laureate in literature: “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”  He is also described by reviewer Bill Coyle as a "Christian poet" who was catapulted into the public eye in 1975 by none other than his pal Robert Bly, American poet, author, activist and leader of the mythopoetic men's movement. By manipulating Carl Jung's archetype of the Evil Witch, which developed from Jung's own conflicted relationship with his mother, Bly has made a career lamenting "a total decline in the traditional role of the father in modern families,"  a vacuum into which power-grabby feminists flocked to create "soft males" who lack "the outwardly directed strength to revitalize the community with assertiveness and a certain warrior strength." 

Bob Dylan

I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you. Beat or cheat or mistreat you. Simplify you, classify you. Deny, defy or crucify you. All I really want to do is, baby, be friends with you.
— Bob Dylan, "All I Really Want to Do," 1964

Haunted by the Ghost of "Eve"

Yes. It was those female-fabricated "soft males," systematically drained of their "warrior strength," who recently brought us to the brink of war with Syria after civil unrest challenging the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad began in that country on March 15, 2011, part of the protest movement that had spread throughout the Middle East known as the Arab Spring. But more than 28 months later the Syrian death toll reportedly exceeded 100,000; on July 26, 2013, members of the Syrian opposition met with Secretary of State John Kerry to implore the United States to provide arms to the badly battered, so-called rebel groups. As reported that day by Ed Payne, Greg Botelho, and Mohammed Tawfeeq for CNN.comthere was a particular urgency to their request:

The US commitment of military support ... is vital, but it needs to happen fast, and in a way that allows us to defend ourselves and protect civilians. To deny us the right of self-defense is to risk that the regime will survive: thousands will be executed, the repression will continue without end.
— Statement from the Syrian National Coalition

John and Teresa Heinz Kerry dining with Bashar and Asma al-Assad, 2009


However, a State Department official said Kerry and coalition President Ahmad Jarba agreed that a "political solution is the best path forward" in the conflict.

Bob Dylan

Look out kid, they keep it all hid. Better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle. Don’t wear sandals. Try to avoid the scandals. Don’t wanna be a bum you better chew gum. The pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles.
— Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues," 1965

Allegations that the Assad regime has been using chemical weapons against the opposition are not new. Almost a year to the day before the Syrian National Coalition pleaded with Kerry for an infusement of traditional military arms, on July 23, 2012, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi confirmed for the first time that Syria had chemical weapons, and stated that these weapons would never be used against the Syrian people, only against “external aggression.” More than a month later, on August 20, 2012, President Obama responded:

We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
— President Barack Obama, August 20, 2012

"Other Players on the Ground?" Are We Talking Soccer in the Sand?

 "Other players on the ground" is a subliminal reminder that Middle East politics is more like a game of Monopoly™: iconic pieces move around and around the board, and alliances are formed and discarded as everyone's goal is to capture property and money. And there is always a chance of being sent to jail, or score a Get Out of Jail Free card. In global politics, the U.S. and the "other players on the ground" had decided that Syria should no longer pass Go and collect $200; the first allegation that the Assad regime had used the poisonous gas "b-quinuclidinylbenzilate" (BZ) in the Homs region of Syria, killing seven, occurred four months later on December 23, 2012.  But it was months after that before serious inquiries into not just the validity of such claims, but also the motivations, publicly began to surface:

But the reports from Homs, like so many of the allegations to emerge from Syria, were never confirmed. The next month, the U.S. State Department said it had ‘found no credible evidence to corroborate or to confirm that chemical weapons were used’ in Homs. Some experts doubt the Assad regime possesses BZ.
— Tim Lister,, August 22, 2013

Less than three months later, on March 19, 2013, it was reported that alleged chemical weapons attacks killed about 25 people and injured dozens of others in Syria’s two main cities, the Khan al-Assel neighborhood of Aleppo and the Damascus suburb of al-Atebeh. The Assad regime claimed that Syrian opposition forces used chemical weapons in the fighting there, and the next day requested a United Nations investigation. Also the next day, President Obama, on his first state trip to Israel, participated in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu:

I am deeply skeptical of any claim that in fact it was the opposition that used chemical weapons ... The broader point is that once we have established the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer.
— President Barack Obama, March 20, 2013

On the day following that, March 21, 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a joint investigation by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (W.H.O), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W.), into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet three days later, on March 24, 2013 -- with the international community buzzing and surely visions of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, and Mohamed Morsi dancing in his head, inexplicably Assad allegedly elevated his game. Opposition activists claimed multiple rocket launchers were used to propel phosphorous bombs into Adra, northeast of Damascus, killing two and injuring 23 people. On April 13, 2013, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (S.O.H.R.) announced that the Syrian army had dropped two gas bombs on Aleppo, killing two and wounding 12 more.

Indicative of the flimsiness of such claims is the reality of such highfalutin-sounding sources:  "S.O.H.R.," for example, is in essence one exiled man's operation, assisted by a few aides inside of Syria, that is based in the United Kingdom, and operates from a semidetached, red-brick house "on an ordinary residential street in [the] drab industrial city" of Coventry, England. (Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, April 13, 2013.) This is not to imply that Rami Abdul Rahman lacks passion: it does, however, suggest the possibility of bias.

While Secretary-General Ban and Assad dithered over the scope of the joint U.N. inquiry, Eli Lake of The Daily Beast reported on April 25, 2013, that the Syrian Support Group -- a U.S.-based advocacy organization that had been pushing Obama to supply "the rebels" with advanced military weaponry -- was claiming that two chemical attacks occurred that day in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, injuring 100 people. Lake could not confirm: but if the collective reliability of an angry Syrian exile and a U.S. lobbying group could be considered a stretch in credulity, Lake had sources within the government challenging the reliability of intelligence accumulated by U.S. allies. Assessments by France and the United Kingdom were described as "squishy" by one U.S. official working on Syria. Another U.S. official confirmed that the Israeli assessment was largely based on photographic evidence, subject to alteration and not considered as airtight as other forms of evidence.

A third official disagreed with those critiques, and perennial war-monger Senator Dianne Feinstein -- the Red Queen to America's Alice -- was off with her head as she adjusted her imaginary tiara and insisted that “red lines have been crossed”! That there was no smoking gun was inconsequential to her stridency; her war-weary fellow citizens, however, were less impressed. On April 29, 2013, there was an opposition claim that a helicopter dropped canisters alleged to contain chemical weapons on the town of Saraqeb. Eight people reportedly complained about trouble breathing and nausea, and it was further reported that later one of them died. He could have been hit by a bus.

Bob Dylan

Two eyes took the aim behind a man’s brain. But he can’t be blamed. He’s only a pawn in their game.
— Bob Dylan, "Pawn in Their Game," 1964

A tense lull that marked the summer of 2013 ended abruptly in the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, when reports of a massive chemical weapons attack near Damascus surfaced.  An organization called the Syrian Revolution General Commission accused the Assad regime of attacking Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus, with sarin gas. Initial casualty reports indicated 635 people were killed, and with more than 3,600 wounded, the number of fatalities was reportedly expected to rise. The Syrian Local Coordination Committee (L.C.C.) called the attacks a "massacre." 

The timing defied logic. Only one week earlier, on August 14, 2013, Assad had agreed to allow the joint U.N. Inspection Team to investigate whether three alleged chemical weapons attacks occurred. The team was not tasked with determining fault. Four days later its members arrived in Syria, and three days after that they were asleep in their hotel rooms just a few miles from Ghouta at the time of the alleged "massacre." Tim Lister, CNN.comAugust 22, 2013. Gruesome videos and photographs of dying and dead children, and larger human forms covered with white shrouds, immediately surfaced on the internet and in social media, with each side using them to implicate the other.

There was some sort of ghastly event in the suburbs of Damascus early on Wednesday: the sheer volume of material uploaded within a short time span and the consistent testimony of medical staff attest to that. But there are as many questions as answers... It was impossible to know how many died, and exactly where or why. By the end of the day, the Local Coordination Committees were reporting more than 1,300 had been killed in areas around Damascus, some 400 in the neighborhood of Zamalka alone. Even by the standards of Syria’s remorseless conflict, that would represent a catastrophic day. But there was no way to verify such figures: mass burials began within hours, and of course, there was no access to the area for independent observers.
— Tim Lister,, August 22, 2013

You Want Us to do What ?

Obama had come face-to-face with his self-described "red line" if the opposition claims were true. If, however, forces within the rebels, and not Assad, had done the dancing across Obama's "red line," and were responsible for an obscene violation of human rights by use of chemical weapons, there was no contingency plan in place. That possibility had never been discussed, at least openly.  In fact, there were ambiguities in the videos and photographs: experts noted that many of the tell-tale symptoms of a chemical weapons attack were not visible in many of the patients depicted in the videos. Further, although one photograph displayed a homemade rocket purportedly used in the attack, loyalist militias and Hezbollah had both used makeshift rockets against the rebels in Syria's ongoing conflict. 

And there was the Iran factor. On December 11, 2009, Iran and Syria had signed a defense cooperation pact "to strengthen political, security, and economic relations between the two countries." Was engaging Iran -- one branch of the triage that George W. Bush had identified as the "axis of evil" -- the real motivation for the rush for military intervention in Syria?

Another complication that should have troubled the White House was an August 24, 2013, Reuters poll, which indicated that 60 percent of the American people opposed intervention in Syria no matter who was responsible for any chemical weapons attack, while only nine percent supported it.  In fact, a war with Syria would be the least popular U.S. war in at least the last 20 years.

None of these factors seemed to pose a quandary for Obama. Knowing that he would not receive United Nations approval to attack Syria because Russia, a Syrian ally, has veto power, the need for such was airily dismissed by a senior White House official, who claimed the four-day delay of the joint team's access into opposition-controlled Ghouta was "too late to be credible," that evidence "would be corrupted," and that was there was "very little doubt" that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on August 21. Al Jazeera, August 25, 2013. Eyeing the alarming polls while listening to the growing chorus of opposition from their constituents, some members of Congress decided they wanted an opportunity to vote on the action before Obama declared, "Bombs away!" Rosie Gray, Buzzfeed, August 24, 2013.  

This encroaching resistance to the notion that one's political party leader deserved unwavering loyalty, as though he or she was the quarterback of one's local professional football team, was a phenomenon that even Leon Festinger's 1957 theory of cognitive dissonance could not have predicted. After eight years of lies, manipulation, secrets, and economic collapse emanating from the George W. Bush administration, including the pants-on-fire insistence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, Barack Obama had campaigned with a promise to bring transparency to the White House. Shortly after his inauguration in 2008, he released a memorandum that stated:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
— Barack Obama, 2008

What derailed Obama's much-vaunted road to transparency? In an article published in Slate, more than five months before the Reuters poll indicated that Americans were in fact beginning to abandon Obama's Titanic, and which was entitled Where the Sun Don't Shine,  March 12, 2013, reporter Paul D. Thacker, who had covered both the George W. Bush and the current administrations, declared that Obama had "failed miserably" to deliver on his promised transparency. Thacker stated: "The storyline is classic Washington: Whistleblowers run to Congress about bad behavior; Congress demands answers; the White House throws up a wall. But where is the outrage, especially from the very groups who are supposed to be holding the government accountable? It doesn’t exist."        

Not to mention his obsessive effort to prosecute whistleblowers, the very same people whom President-elect Obama had described as those who are "[o]ften the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse of government." Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the agency's use of torture and who would be reporting to prison two weeks after the publication of the Slate article, related to Thacker conversations he had with Daniel Ellsberg, who Kiriakou said repeatedly asked: "Where is the outrage? If this were a Republican administration, people would be in the streets, right? We would be marching in the streets. But people cut Obama a break to the point of irrationality.As Thacker wryly noted: "The most absurd example came a couple years ago when a group of Washington watchdogs went to the White House to give the president a “transparency” award, and the president refused to accept the award in public. The meeting wasn’t even listed on the president’s public schedule." 

Awaiting his pending imprisonment, Kiriakou mused: 

I think these groups are stuck in a 2008 mentality where, ‘Oh my gosh, we have President Obama. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and he’s promised greater transparency, and he really wants to do that but he just can’t yet. It will come. It will come. We should trust him.’
— John Kiriakou,, March 12, 2013

In 2009, Was That "Prize" Benign?

Yes, that odd decision made by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama. "Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics," the committee gushed in a press release dated October 9, 2009. Only, Obama had been in office for less than nine months when he was so effusively lauded. Even worse, the deadline for nominations for the 2009 Peace Prize was February 1, 2009. Assuming the decision to nominate him was delayed right up until the cut-off date, Obama had by then been President of the United States for only two weeks. All the time in the world needed by this former, one-term United States senator who spent most of his time in that office running for president, or so the Norwegians apparently concluded, to whip up "a new climate in international politics." A mighty feat. Or was Obama merely "a song-and-dance man" without the irony, and who lacked the temerity to slough off as a distraction and an effort to co-opt him an "award" of an as yet undeserved and therefore phony political prize? But more on that later.

Bob Dylan

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns when they all come down and did tricks for you. You never understood that it ain’t no good, you shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you. You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat, who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat. Ain’t it hard when you discover that he really wasn’t where it’s at. After he took from you everything he could steal.
— Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone," 1965

Legacy of a True Hero

So to what can this five-month shift in blind political loyalty be attributed? Enter into the picture Private First Class Bradley Manning, a twenty-three-year-old United States Army soldier who in 2010 was working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. In February, 2010, he provided to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks "the largest cache of classified documents in U.S. history." Among the documents leaked was the so-called "collateral murder" video shot from an Apache Helicopter, which depicted the assassination of seven unarmed Afghan civilians, a photojournalist from Reuters and his driver, and the wounding of two children. On July 13, 2007, the incident was reported by the military:

"The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed." Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times, July 13, 2007

In Obama's era of "transparency," Reuters' Freedom of Information Act request for the video of the attack had been denied. When the video was made public by WikiLeaks, the contradiction between the official military account and what occurred that day was startling: toward the end, the wounded Reuters' driver was attempting to crawl to safety while an Army soldier aboard the Apache can be heard in radio chatter begging him to pick up a weapon, and repeatedly requesting permission to fire. It was granted. The video can be viewed at

Manning, who had sought counseling for sex reassignment surgery in November, 2009, struck up an online acquaintance with Adrian Lamo, a former hacker and FBI informant. In a chat on May 22, 2010, Manning was hesitant to discuss his role as a source for Wikileaks, but Lamo was persistent: "give me some bona fides ... yanno? any specifics."  Manning was arrested on May 26, 2010.

In one of those awkward, "He-sounds-like-Nixon-insisting-Charlie-Manson-is-guilty-before-trial" moments, less than one year after Manning was arrested and more than two years before he would finally face trial, Obama told an audience that Manning "broke the law," itself an egregious violation of protocol and ethics, and counter to federal law itself. 

During the protracted United States of America v. PFC Bradley Manning , prosecutors portrayed Manning as an "anarchist" and a "traitor." On July 30, 2013, he was acquitted of the most serious charge -- aiding the enemy -- but convicted of six charges pursuant to the 1917 Espionage Act, and most other charges he faced. 

On August 21, 2013 -- the same day the Assad regime was accused of using sarin gas against its own people -- Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.  He received 3 1/2 years off his sentence for pretrial detainment, and for the "abusive treatment," or torture, he endured while being held at Quantico. He is eligible for parole in seven years.

After his conviction, Manning expressed his desire to continue transitioning to female, and requested to be known thereafter as "Chelsea." She also released a statement  that read in part:

It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
— Chelsea Manning, July 30, 2013

Chelsea Manning

A document released by WikiLeaks, dated December 13, 2006, and marked "classified," self-identifies its origin "from Syria Damascus." It is addressed to The Department of Treasury; Israel Tel Aviv; National Security Council; Secretary of State; The League of Arab States; U.S. Mission to European Union (formerly EC) (Brussels); United Nations (New York); United States Central Command; and the White House. It is entitled: "INFLUENCING THE SARG [Syrian Arab Republic Government] IN THE END OF 2006." After some fussing that, "As the end of 2006 approaches, Bashar appears in some ways to be stronger than he has in two years," the memo identifies some methods to destabilize his regime: 

Actions that cause Bashar to lose balance and
increase his insecurity are in our interest because his
inexperience and his regime,s (sic) extremely small
decision-making circle make him prone to diplomatic stumbles
that can weaken him domestically and regionally. While the
consequences of his mistakes are hard to predict and the
benefits may vary, if we are prepared to move quickly to take
advantage of the opportunities that may open up, we may
directly impact regime behavior where it matters—Bashar and
his inner circle.
— Influencing the SARG in the End of 2006, December 13, 2006

"If we are prepared to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunities that may open up."

"The U.S. commitment for military support is vital... but it needs to happen fast..." -- Syrian National Coalition, July 26, 2013.

For at least seven years, that has been the strategy of the West, its allies in the Middle East and Europe, and the U.N. to topple the Assad regime. The opportunity had arrived -- just as Chelsea Manning was brought to trial; Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, remained in well-publicised asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; and on June 5, 2013, a contracted employee of the National Security Agency, who four days later revealed himself to be Edward Snowden, surfaced in Hong Kong and blew the whistle on the NSA and its annual $20 million surveillance program called PRISM: his files revealed that the NSA, and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, were spying on... everyone, often without individual warrants, collecting data that had been stored by major U.S. technology companies, and often with the secret cooperation of those companies -- like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, PalTalk and Yahoo. Further, PRISM allowed a "mass interception of data from the fibre-optic cables which make up the backbone of global phone and internet networks." Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian. Our government is tapping our phones and monitoring our internet activity. Daily. No one is immune. Asked by Greenwald why Americans should be concerned about this invasion of their privacy and violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, Snowden replied:

Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded, and the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
— Edward Snowden, June 9, 2013

Two days after what was just the beginning of a tsunami of stunning revelations from Edward Snowden, Obama's giddy, post-election site, which included his ode to whistleblowers and had been linked to the White House website ever since, suddenly vanished without any official acknowledgement or explanation. Like all things that distract from the government's narrative, this was unreported by the corporate-owned mainstream media. But it did not escape the eyes of citizen journalists and savvy internet warriors.   

"It may be that Obama’s description of the importance of whistleblowers went from being an artifact of his campaign to a political liability." emptywheel, July 25, 2013.

Our Collective Conscience: Overshocked

As our leaders tread the rising water about ongoing government abuse of its authority, the ever-condescending patrician, Secretary of State John Kerry, was quickly tasked with scolding us into plebeian submission. In prepared remarks he delivered with thundering aristocracy on August 26, 2013, John Kerry tried to shame us:    

What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable… Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.
— United States Secretary of State John Kerry, August 26, 2013

I may have taken that proverbial trip to the woodshed with John-Boy had the Atlantic Wire not posted the day before, on August 25, 2013, that recently declassified CIA documents obtained by Foreign Policy exposed how askew was our government's own moral compass. During the 1980s, the U.S. knew about, and in one case helped, Iraq's chemical weapons attacks against Iran. "The evidence, FP writes, is 'tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.'" 

And while Foreign Policy’s additional reporting places the Iraq situation in contrast to today’s debate over Syria, the details reveal just how sharply, in the past, the razor of U.S. interests in the Middle East has cut: ‘it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost,’ the report explains. And apparently, that went up to and including helping Saddam Hussein gas Iran.
— Abby Ohlheiser,, August 25, 2013

Secretary Kerry, you might want to remove your bony, elitist finger out of the faces of the American public. When it comes to wielding moral compasses, ours are way out of your league.

   Bob Dylan

Go ‘way from my window, leave at your own chosen speed. I’m not the one you want babe, I’m not the one you need. You say you’re lookin’ for someone who’s never weak but always strong, to protect you an’ defend you whether you are right or wrong. Someone to open each and every door. But it ain’t me, babe.
— Bob Dylan, "It Ain't Me, Babe," 1964

What was finally becoming apparent to the U.S. government and some of its allies is that the majorities in their populations were remaining steadfast in the face of a media blitz, and were also shaking their heads and saying, "It ain't me, babe." On the day before Kerry's piteous appeal for our submissiveness, August 25, 2013, the Israelis decided to be helpful and reveal to the German magazine Focus that they had intercepted, in real time, senior officials in the Syrian government discussing the alleged August 21 chemical attacks, which were conducted, the Israelis said, by a division commanded by Bashar al-Assad's even more insidious brother, Maher Assad. They just forgot to mention it sooner. The same information, quoting the article in Focus, was subsequently reported by The Times of Israel on August 26, 2013: "Israel, like the rest of the world, has refrained from responding to the Syrian crisis in any large-scale way, taking in only a small number of injured Syrians and reportedly carrying out covert air strikes at regime weapons sites. Yet officials have said action must be taken, with most expecting Washington to respond to the attack."

So let’s get this straight: an attack takes place on Wednesday, Focus reports on Saturday, the news becomes mainstream after the U.S. and the entire western world have long made up their mind that the perpetrator was Assad, the source is an anonymous Mossad operative, yet the contents of the actual conversation in which it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator is ‘the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad’ are unknown... [O]ne wonders why Israel did not go public with this ‘information’ or disclose just what the actual ‘chatter’ was (together with proof of the identities of the speakers of course) earlier, or after the attack, in which case one can only assume the Assad regime, knowing very well the NSA and the entire world was eavesdropping on every form of electronic communication, was merely begging for the admiration that admission of such an attack would generate on the public arena.

Or something else just as nonsensical along those lines.

Either way, it is probably safe to say the terminal escalation is in play and now the ‘democratic’ regimes are just following through with the PR motions, what actually happened be damned.
— Tyler Durden,, August 25, 2013

Someone needs to inform these people that we are not the same bunch who pretended to believe the Warren Commission Report during the 1960s. As Bobby D has said: "Things have changed."     

 Far from being shamed by Kerry's chastisement, more and more people were speaking up. Even CNN was asking some hard questions, and reporting on others who were asking with more authority. With more than 100,000 Syrians killed and millions displaced during two years of civil strife, was a single attack with chemical weapons that killed either a few hundred or more than a thousand, regardless of who were the perpetrators, sufficient justification for intervention now? "Given the massive human toll of attacks with conventional weapons, what makes this a potential turning point for the world to act?" asked Josh Levs, CNN.comAugust 28, 2013. Levs cites an article written for the Atlantic by political science Professor Dominic Tierney:

Blowing your people up with high explosives is allowable, as is shooting them, or torturing them. But woe betide the Syrian regime if it even thinks about using chemical weapons!

A woman and her child under fire in Aleppo might miss this distinction. It’s not obvious that high explosives are inherently less evil than chemical weapons.
— Dominic Tierney, correspondent for the Atlantic and associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College, December 4, 2012

To make his case, on August 28, 2013, President Obama sat down with Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill on  PBS' Newshour :

I think we all understand that terrible things have been happening in Syria for quite some time, that the Assad regime there has been killing its own people by the tens of thousands… [W]hat I also said was that if the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people that that would change some of our calculations… This is a volatile country in a very volatile region, we’ve got allies bordering Syria, uh, Turkey is a NATO ally; Jordan, a close friend that we work with a lot; Israel is very close by; we’ve got bases throughout the region… We have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place, and nobody disputes, or hardly anybody disputes, that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations. We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons of that, er, uh, chemical weapons of that sort, we do not believe that given the delivery systems using rockets that the opposition could have carried out these attacks, we have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out, and if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences… But we want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you’re also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop.
— President Barack Obama, August 28, 2013

What Obama failed to disclose to Gwen and Judy was that just the day before, on August 27, 2013,  NBC Nightly News cited senior U.S. officials in reporting that U.S. military intervention in Syria could begin as early as August 29. Four Navy Destroyers with the capacity to fire Tomahawk missiles at Syrian targets for an anticipated three days were already positioned in the Mediterranean, waiting for an order to strike. 

The State Department fed the growing drumbeat around the world for a military response to Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels Aug. 21 near Damascus, saying that while the U.S. intelligence community would release a formal assessment within the week, it was already ‘crystal clear’ that Assad’s government was responsible.
— Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Cube, Erin McClam,, August 27, 2013

Bob Dylan

I lived with them on Montague street in a basement down the stairs. There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air. And then he started into dealing with slaves and something inside of him died. She had to sell everything she owned and froze up inside. And when one day the bottom fell out; I became withdrawn. The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew ... Tangled up in blue.
— Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue," 1975

The British Aren't Coming

August 29, 2013, a date upon which many believed would be D-Day for Syria, the British Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee delivered a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, in preparation for his motion to Parliament requesting authorization to attack Syria. Outlining its assessment of Assad's responsibility for the August 21 chemical weapons attack, it was noted that some of the intelligence was "extremely sensitive" [and therefore not subject to public dissemination]. The letter concluded that "there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility."

We also have a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks and that they were conducted to help clear the Opposition from strategic parts of Damascus.
— Jon Day, Joint Intelligence Organisation, 29 August 2013

Later that day, Cameron made his impassioned motion for authorization to intervene in Syria "if necessary" in response to the chemical weapons attacks that were claimed to have occurred eight days earlier. But in what was described as a "severe blow" to his authority and international standing, and amid calls for his resignation, the motion was rejected 385 to 372, a difference of 13 votes. The Daily Mail  reported: "In what is thought to be an unprecedented parliamentary reversal over British military action, Tory rebels joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister.  

I think we understand that there is a deep well of suspicion about military involvement in the Middle East stemming largely from the experiences of Iraq in 2003, and that’s a reality that we have to face and that in turn has affected parliamentary opinion. I think it tells us that there is a deep sense of unease about British military involvement in the Middle East, and that that largely stems from what happened in 2003.
— Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, Daily Mail Online, August 29, 2013

Well, that's one way to put lipstick on a pig. Another is to acknowledge that people are tired of war-mongering and ongoing regime changes that lead to our buddying up with formerly declared sworn enemies. Or the reverse. I would have expected Obama to comprehend that. Instead, in response to the stunning developments in the UK, he cowboyed up like his predecessor, and shortly after Commons vote, declared his intention to have the U.S. go it alone, now that he had a coalition of the non-existent and had severely jeopardized David Cameron's job.  

Members of Congress, however, were still facing primary challenges and reelections with which they had to contend. Their Richter scales were more finely tuned, and the reverberations from across the pond more keenly felt. Shortly after the Commons debacle, 150 bipartisan members of Congress had signed two letters to Obama demanding a vote to authorize military intervention in Syria. (By August 31, 2013, that number had grown to nearly 200.) Rep. Justin Amish, a Republican congressman from Michigan, tweeted: "UK Parliament votes on going to war. Congress votes on critical things, too, like renaming post offices."

In fairness, Congress has also voted at least 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an egregious and unforgivable waste of time, money, and the ability to progress on to important issues, like joblessness and an economy that is still in a free-fall. But few people would ever defend our congressional representatives from accusations of hypocrisy. 

And even worse for Obama, his slavishly devoted mainstream media was also smelling a loser and turning on him. Dylan Beyers, writing for Politico on August 29, 2013, said: "For a moment, it looked like the media were going to go quietly along as America bombed Syria."

On Thursday, The New York Times editorial board, which had initially endorsed a limited strike, said the Obama administration has yet to make a convincing legal or strategic case for military action against Syria. The Washington Post editorial page likewise called on Obama to consult Congress before ordering a military strike and warned, ‘Unless linked to a broader strategy for weakening the Assad regime — and forcing it either out of power or into real negotiations — the use of force might prove worse than useless. These boards join a slew of columnists and pundits — anti-intervention liberals, isolationist libertarians, war-weary ex-hawks and even leading right-wing media pundits — who all have stressed the risks of U.S. intervention and, in some cases, advocated against any military engagement in Syria whatsoever.
— Dylan Beyers,, August 29, 2013

"The Only Thing Left to Do Was to Keep on Keepin' on... Like a Bird that Flew"

On August 30, 2013, the White House released its own assessment of the events in Syria on August 21: an "unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community's analysis of what took place." But: "Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners." One of whom had just the day before said, "Nah, we're not getting involved in this."

All of this was just a euphemism for, "Trust us! We're lookin' out for ya! Have we let you down before?" Well, yes. Chelsea Manning had shown us that. WikiLeaks had served up for us a litany of lies we have been told by the U.S. government. Edward Snowden had to break to us the news that, to our government, our allies and even the people of the United States had morphed into "the enemy." 

Coinciding with the release of the "unclassified summary," Secretary of State Kerry was trotted out again to deliver prepared remarks at the State Department. Lampooned back in 1970 as the self-proclaimed "Gorgeous Preppie" by Garry Trudeau in Doonesbury, Kerry was determined to win over his audience this time. So he wheedled:

And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That’s our responsibility, to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the administration and Congress with responsibility for their security. That’s why this morning’s release of our government’s unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings are as clear as they are compelling. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Read for yourself, everyone, those listening, all of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available.
— Secretary of State John Kerry, August 30, 2013

But the "unclassified" findings were not clear at all. And the people who would be paying for this war, with their money, and their blood, and the blood of their children, were not entitled to analyze a complete assessment. The Gorgeous Preppie tried to clarify that. 

But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly. 

So what do we really know that we can talk about?
— Secretary of State John Kerry, August 30, 2013

How utterly convincing. The American people went to bed that night with the incessant drumbeat of war echoing in their ears. 

Bob Dylan/Bob Dylan

‘There must be some kind of way out of here,’ said the Joker to the Thief. ‘There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessman they drink my wine, Plowman dig my earth. None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey.’
— Bob Dylan, "All Along The Watchtower," 1964
Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.
— President Barack Obama, August 31, 2013

And then he punted. 

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.
— President Barack Obama, August 31, 2013

The message emanating from the White House since the inception of this fast and furiously-declared Syrian "crisis" had consistently been that neither U.N. nor congressional approval was needed for President Obama to order military strikes. So he qualified his capitulation by adding:

"Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective."  

It also bought him some time. Congress was enjoying its summer recess, scheduled to end September 9, 2013

Bob Dylan

Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you, and then he kneels. He crosses himself, and then he clicks his high heels. And without further notice he asks you how it feels, and he says, ‘Here is your throat back, thanks for the loan.’ And you know something is happening, but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mister Jones ?
— Bob Dylan, "Ballad of the Thin Man, 1965

"Rush to War, Interrupted"

In the days following the "Rush to War, Interrupted," questions began to arise involving the reliability of intelligence cited (or claimed to be classified) to support the assertion that the Assad regime had indeed crossed Obama's now infamous red line. In an article entitled, Dubious Intelligence and Iran Blackmail: How Israel is driving the U.S. to war in Syria, dated September 1, 2013, Max Blumenthal stated: 

"President Barack Obama’s August 31 announcement that he would seek congressional authorization to strike Syria has complicated an aggressive Israeli campaign to render a U.S. attack inevitable."

Blumenthal challenged the Israeli claim to have intercepted regime chatter in real time about the chemical weapons attack in real time (but neglected to say anything about it for several days until it first surfaced in the German magazine Focusand a day later in The New Times of Israel):  

Oddly, neither outlet was able to reproduce audio or any quotes of the conversation between the Syrian officials. Channel 2 did not appear to cite any source at all – it referred only to ‘the assessment in Israel’ – while Focus relied on an unnamed former Mossad official for its supposed bombshell. The definitive nature of the Israeli intelligence on Ghouta stood in stark contrast to the kind introduced by other U.S. allies, which was entirely circumstantial in nature. At the same time, it relied on murky sources and consisted of vague assertions.
— Max Blumenthal,, September 1, 2013

Former Israeli intelligence officer Giora Inbar boasted to Channel 2 on August 27, 2013, that the United States was "aware" that his country had made a priority of gathering intelligence about the Assad regime,  "and relies on it." And indeed, despite a U.S. Intelligence assessment that Kerry so aptly described as: "Now, what do we really know that we can talk about?", it did refer to "intercepted communications" in language nearly identical to that which was originally reported in Focus . As Blumenthal noted, on September 1, 2013, "Likud-friendly correspondent Herb Keinon dismissed in the Jerusalem Post  the British and American response to Syria as "international dallying" that would not "install confidence in Israeli leaders that they can count on the world when it comes to Iran."

Yes. The I-word had surfaced. And as a menacing talking point was reinforced: In Haaretz, also on September 1, 2013, Amos Harel claimed "Arabs perceive Obama as weak" (without citing any specific Arab), and commiserated that Netanyahu feared he may be forced to go it alone if Iran attacked Israel.

In the week or so before Congress returned from recess, the threat that Israel may unilaterally attack Iran, Blumenthal said, could even force the "night flower-style" Israeli lobbying group AIPAC to blossom in the sunshine and lean on U.S. representatives.   

 Someone Lost an 800-Pound Gorilla?

Blumenthal's reference to AIPAC was prophetic. On September 2, 2013, The New York Times  reported that Obama's decision to bomb Syria had gained the critical support of Sen. John McCain. It also reported that the French had declassified their intelligence report, but (as she slowly exhales cigarette smoke), so what? The next day, M.J. Rosenberg, a long-time Beltway pol and Mideast expert was quick to seize on the overnight deletion of a paragraph in the Times article in which the Obama administration had admitted that AIPAC was key to a Syrian attack:

This was in the New York Times last night:

’Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac ‘the 800-pound gorilla in the room,’ and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, ‘we’re in trouble.’

It was originally in this story. Now it’s gone. Its only remnant is in the Times search engine. If you put in ‘gorilla,’ it points you to this story. But the gorilla ain’t there.
— M.J. Rosenberg,, September 3, 2013

On September 2, 2013, Secretary Kerry invoked "Godwin's Law" in a conference call with House Democrats when he told them the U.S. faced "a Munich moment" in deciding whether to attack Assad, whom he described as a "two-bit dictator" who will "continue to act with impunity." 

Kerry also said that Israel, America’s closest ally in the region, backed the need for a U.S. military response... But Kerry — who was joined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the call — also faced pushback from Democratic lawmakers.
— John Bresnahan, Seung Min Kim, Jonathan Allen,, September 2, 2013

In what was beginning to resemble not soccer, but ping-pong, Truthout challenged Kerry's insistence that the Syrian intelligence assessment was more accurate than the 2002 disastrous intelligence insistence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Instead, parsing every word in the report, Gareth Porter asserted the unclassified  Syrian intelligence assessment utilized "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.
But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.
The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.
— Gareth Porter,, September 3, 2013

Truthout also joined the chorus of those questioning the intercepted Syrian chatter "involving a senior official intimately familiar" with the chemical weapons attack offensive. Although that wording suggested it was the United States which had intercepted that "chatter," Truthout quoted former British Ambassador Craig Murray, who in his blog on August 30, 2013, explained that the GCHQ listening post on Mount Troodos in Cyprus was "the most valued asset that the U.K. contributes to U.K./U.S. intelligence cooperation... Troodos is valued enormously by the NSA. It monitors all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East, ranging from Egypt and Eastern Libya right through to the Caucasus. Even almost all landline telephone communication in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage, picked up on Troodos."

It is therefore very strange, to say the least, that John Kerry claims to have access to communications intercepts of Syrian military and officials organising chemical weapons attacks, which intercepts were not available to the British Joint Intelligence Committee.

On one level the explanation is simple. The intercept evidence was provided to the U.S.A. by Mossad, according to my own well placed source in the Washington intelligence community. Intelligence provided by a third party is not automatically shared with the U.K., and indeed Israel specifies it should not be... The answer to the Troodos Conundrum is simple. Troodos did not pick up the intercepts because they do not exist. Mossad fabricated them. John Kerry’s ‘evidence’ is the shabbiest of tricks. More children may now be blown to pieces by massive American missile blasts. It is nothing to do with humanitarian intervention. It is, yet again, the U.S.A. acting at the behest of Israel.
— Craig Murray,, August 31, 2013

The ping-pong ball landed this time on the German side of the table, whose own intelligence claimed on September 4, 2013, to have intercepted a telephone call from an Hezbollah official and Assad ally to Iran that confirmed the chemical weapons attack was ordered by Bashar al-Assad  (but not the evil brother, as Israel had claimed). German lawmakers, however, were less than impressed. Having been burned in 2002 after claims made to German intelligence by alleged Iraqi defector, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, infamously codenamed "curveball" as he proceeded to do just that -- concoct a fabrication about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction -- they had no intention of participating in any intervention in Syria, a decision that would be deeply unpopular at home.

The Russians Arrive

Also on September 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria's strongest ally, said his country could not rule out military strikes against that country "if it could be proved that Assad was really behind the attack." However, that same day Putin publicly accused Kerry of "lying" for telling Congress that there was no al-Quaeda presence among the Syrian opposition. Putin said in televised comments:

I watched the debates in Congress. A congressman asks Mr. Kerry: ‘Is al-Qaida there?’ He says: ‘No, we are telling you responsibly that they are not. [Putin added that the Syrian rebels’] “main combat unit is al-Nusra, an al-Qaida unit. They [the U.S.] are aware of that.... He [Kerry] lied. And he knows that he lied. This is sad.
— Jim Craig, RIA Novosti,, September 4, 2013

Although Kerry had acknowledged to members of Congress the presence among the Syrian rebels of al-Nusra, he did not identify the group with al-Quaeda. However, at an August 15, 2013, meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, State Department records indicate that Kerry said that there were "many al-Quaeda leaders now operating in Syria." Putin, however, called it "absurd" to assume that Assad would utilize chemical weapons at a time he was about to defeat his opposition.

Either way, it was a similarly convoluted, misleading use of language that distorted the facts.

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

The same day, Obama was holding a press conference in Sweden when a reporter quizzed him about his now infamous "red line." His response was astonishing:


Let me unpack the question. First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line… Congress set a red line...
— President Barack Obama, September 4, 2013

As the G20 leaders gathered in Saint Petersburg for their annual meeting, on September 5, 2013, China hopped aboard Putin's bandwagon, saying military action would "have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices -- it will cause a hike in the oil price." Even the newly beloved Pope Francis weighed in: in a letter he wrote to Putin, the Pope "reiterated his strong opposition to any military intervention in the country," adding that "armed conflicts… create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal."

That same day, Reuters all but called Kerry a liar, noting that his portrait of "moderate Syrian opposition groups" that he claimed were "growing in influence" did not match up with U.S. and allied intelligence sources, and private experts on Syria's civil war. 

While the radical Islamists among the rebels may not be numerically superior to more moderate fighters, they say, Islamist groups like the al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front are better organized, armed and trained.
— Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart, Reuters, September 5, 2013

How could this be "news" to those gathering intelligence in preparation for a war with Syria? As far back as July, 2013the deputy director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, David Shedd, "estimated that there were at least 1,200 different Syrian rebel groups and that Islamic extremists, notably the Nusra Front, were well-placed to expand their influence."

‘Left unchecked, I’m very concerned that the most radical elements will take over larger segments’ of the opposition groups, Shedd said. He added that the conflict could drag on anywhere ‘from many, many months to multiple years’ and that a prolonged stalemate could leave open parts of Syria to potential control by radical fighters.

U.S. and allied intelligence sources said that such assessments have not changed.
— Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart, Reuters, September 5, 2013

So. For the 15 long days that the world -- and the American people -- remained poised for another war in the Mideast, none of our "intelligence assessments" bothered to inform us that by aiding the "rebels" with military strikes against Syria, we would be climbing in bed with al-Quaeda, the same group that allegedly (because who knows what to believe any more) hijacked airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, launching our never-ending "War on Terror"? Or was that part "classified"? 

Also on September 5, 2013, The New York Times published a video it said was smuggled out of Syria "a few days ago" by a "rebel" who had become disgusted by his team's brutality, and which depicted the sickening execution of seven Syrian soldiers by the opposition. "Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West," the headline mused.

Oh, those pesky "dilemmas," mucking up the plans that had been in the works for at least seven years (and obviously much longer than that).  

Bob Dylan

I ain’t a-saying you treated me unkind. You could have done better but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time. But don’t think twice, it’s all right.
— Bob Dylan, "Don't Think Twice," 1962

The Silence of the Lambs

The drumbeat to war in Syria -- for the purposes of preserving humanity and above all saving the chiiiiiildren -- had drowned out the voices of Assad's real opposition, ordinary Syrians -- many of whom were and remain nonviolent, and who had been engaging in an effort to be free from the ruthless dictator Assad since the Arab Spring.  In a September 9, 2013 article entitled: "Syria's Nonviolent Resistance is Dying to be Heard," Al Jazeera America reported: "Many civil society activists who continue to defy the Assad regime are not convinced by the case for U.S. airstrikes."

Khaled Harbash, age 21, who has been part of the resistance since the Arab Spring, echoed the sentiment of many when he blamed Russia, the Gulf states, the West and Turkey as all "part of the problem and complicit in the crimes committed against civilians in Syrian villages and cities. What started as interference is now an assault on Syria's sovereignty."

"'The United States is not an international judge who can punish and forgive as they please,' said Harbash. 'Any military strike would not be against the regime, but against the entire country. And Syrians who for two and a half years have suffered from the war will bear the consequences.'"


Hurricane Carter/Bob Dylan

How can the life of such a man be in the palm of some fool’s hand? To see him obviously framed couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game.
Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise.
— Bob Dylan, Jacques Levy, "Hurricane," 1975

Were Kerry's Lips Loose? Or Did He Take One For The Team?

"John Kerry is in trouble again," intoned John Cassidy from The New Yorker on September 9, 2013.  His purported crime were statements made that day during a press conference in London that left the world scratching its collective head. First, in what appeared to be more of his wearying effort to sell a war with Syria, he minimized it: he described any potential U.S. air strikes against Syria as "an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort." Well, uh, what would be the point then? 

Next, he implied that Assad could avoid any punitive action if he relinquished his chemical weapons "to the international community," and permitted a "full and total accounting" of the program.

The White House shrieked that Kerry's comments were rhetorical, and even trotted out Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton as window dressing while her mother contradicted Kerry's assertions. Obama was poised for a pro-attack media blitz to a public who was no longer listening to a word he said. But there was a new glint in one man's icy blue eyes: Carpe Diem! Vladimir Putin seized the day. Russia announced it would "support the establishment of international control over Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons." Syria quickly responded that it welcomed the "Russian initiative." And the White House? Obama told CNN that he would "engage with the Russians and the international community to see, can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious."

In fact, the only aspect of Kerry's comments that appeared to bristle the president was the suggestion that any U.S. attack would be "unbelievably small." 

“The U.S. does not do pinpricks,” Obama sniffed during a primetime address on September 10, 2013 about the Syrian crisis. “Our military is the greatest the world has ever known. And when we take even limited strikes, it has an impact on a country like Syria.”

By this point, it was not difficult to conclude that, while the U.S. "does not do" pinpricks, it still harbors its share of pin-headed pricks. The September 10 prime time address, that had been scheduled four days earlier -- and was originally intended to push Obama's war agenda --  transformed instead into what "one New York Times columnist called 'an extraordinarily strange evening'": Obama's continued insistence that while we should invade Syria (he invoked "the chiiiildren" five times), while he simultaneously insisted he had a "deeply held preference for peaceful solutions," and would work with Russia, China, and U.S. allies to "force Syria to hand over its chemical weapons" -- something it had already agreed to do. 

Obama also revealed that he had asked Congress to delay a vote on Syria, which had been scheduled for the next day -- the bone-chilling 12th anniversary of September 11, 2001 -- while negotiations were ongoing and the U.N. inspectors completed their report; again, an event he had previously written off as unnecessary. Then he reassured America of its "exceptionalism."

Postscript, Uninterrupted

On September 11, 2013, Vladimir Putin appeared in the Op-Ed pages of  The New York Times  reiterating from the outset Russia had advocated for a "peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future." Then he challenged head-on Obama's claim of America's "exceptionalism":

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
— Vladimir Putin, The New York Times, September 11, 2013

On September 11, 2013, the pro-Syrian intervention expert favored by John Kerry and John McCain -- Elizabeth O'Bagy -- was fired from the nonpartisan Institute for Study of War for faking her credentials.

On September 13, 2013, the joint United Nation Team, which included the World Health Organization and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, delivered its report confirming there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria, and strongly hinting that the Assad regime was responsible.

On October 25, 2013, Syria claimed the leader of the al-Quaeda-linked opposition had been killed. The report was alternatively denied or met with uncertainty by members of the Nusra Front.

On October 31, 2013, the exile who lives in Coventry and operates S.O.H.R. updated the death toll from nearly three years of civil war to 120,296.  

Oh. And October 11, 2013 -- one day after the Swedes did not award to Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the winner of the 2013 Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel remains a curious man. One of the world's pioneers in weapons manufacturing and arms dealing, he established a year before his death -- in what may have been an Oppenheimer moment -- the Nobel Foundation, establishing prizes in physics; chemistry; physiology or medicine; literature; and eventually economic sciences -- all to be chosen each year by the Swedish Academy. Determination of each year's winner of the peace prize was reserved for the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the members of which are selected by the Stortie, the Norwegian Parliament. Its current chairman is Thorbjorn Jagland, a career Norwegian politician who, like Barack Obama, had a banner year in 2009: He was first named Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and elected to the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, although he had to battle to retain the former position after he strong-armed the committee to award that year's peace prize to Barack Obama, a decision many claim politicized the prestigious honor.
The winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize? The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, part of the joint U.N. team that investigated the Assad regime for use of chemical weapons in Syria, "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons." Congratulations, O.P.C.W.! I wonder when you will be given back your throat.

Dylan has famously never liked being used as a spokesman for other people’s causes, a BBC correspondent reports. After the speech, he said simply that he was ‘proud and grateful’ and left. In her speech, Ms Filippetti waxed lyrical about Dylan’s cultural importance... Naming song after song, ranging from the The Times They Are A-Changin’ in the 1960s to Time Out Of Mind in the 1990s, she sought to tie them to eras and causes such as the US civil rights movement... His aesthetic, she said, spoke to the heart; his voice, a cry of liberty. The minister also made an awkward allusion to Dylan’s influence on the famous Paris student uprising of May 1968...

A journalist who attended the ceremony said Dylan, 72, had looked distinctly uncomfortable.
— BBC, November 13, 2013

Bob Dylan 

The drunken politician leaps upon the street where mothers weep and the saviors who are fast asleep, they wait for you.
And I wait for them to interrupt me drinkin’ from my broken cup
and ask for me to open up the gate for you. I want you. I want you. Yes, I want you so bad. Honey, I want you.
— Bob Dylan, "I Want You," 1966