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SYRIAN INTERVENTION – LEGAL? DOUBTFUL; MORAL? DEFINITELY NOT!

By Damian Lataan | September 1, 2013

The US and their allies are expending a lot of effort in trying to convince both each other and public opinion that intervention in Syria would be legal both under their own respective domestic laws as well as under international law. Little, however, is being said about whether or not such action would be moral.

Neocon chickenhawk warmonger, “Mad Max” Boot, writing in Commentary, invokes George W. Bush’s legal justifications for attacking Iraq – of all examples – to set a precedent for Obama to attack Syria. Boot cites notorious Bush legal advisor and fellow warmonger John Yoo (famous for advising the Bush administration that torture of terrorists is legal) saying that Obama has executive power to ‘engage in war’ without consulting Congress but must consult Congress to ‘declare war’.

Meanwhile in the UK, Britain’s Attorney General Dominic Grieve sets out what he considers would have been Cameron’s legal justification for intervention. In Grieve’s opinion, if intervention is not authorised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the UK could still legally intervene based on three conditions, namely:

1. The Syrian regime has been killing its people for two years, with reported deaths now over 100,000 and refugees at nearly 2 million. The large-scale use of chemical weapons by the regime in a heavily populated area on 21 August 2013 is a war crime and perhaps the most egregious single incident of the conflict. Given the Syrian regime’s pattern of use of chemical weapons over several months, it is likely that the regime will seek to use such weapons again. It is also likely to continue frustrating the efforts of the United Nations to establish exactly what has happened. Renewed attacks using chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cause further suffering and loss of civilian lives, and would lead to displacement of the civilian population on a large scale and in hostile conditions.

2. Previous attempts by the UK and its international partners to secure a resolution of this conflict, end its associated humanitarian suffering and prevent the use of chemical weapons through meaningful action by the Security Council have been blocked over the last two years. If action in the Security Council is blocked again, no practicable alternative would remain to the use of force to deter and degrade the capacity for the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

3. In these circumstances, and as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention to strike specific targets with the aim of deterring and disrupting further such attacks would be necessary and proportionate and therefore legally justifiable. Such an intervention would be directed exclusively to averting a humanitarian catastrophe, and the minimum judged necessary for that purpose.

The problem with this opinion is that it does not reflect the actual situation and circumstances on the ground in Syria and, as British legal expert Professor Philippe Sands, QC, of London University points out:

…is premised on factual assumptions – principally that the weapons were used by the Syrian government, that the use of force by the UK would deter or disrupt the further use of chemical weapons – that are not established on the basis of information publicly available.

Furthermore, Grieve in his opinion note infers that the Syrian government is also responsible for all of the 100,000 deaths and is responsible for the creation of the entire refugee crisis resulting from the war when clearly both sides need to take responsibility.

The legal principles relating to burden of proof, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, gathering of evidence, laying charges, making arrests, going to trial, etc., all seems to have been abandoned by the very governments that claim all of these principles as being the foundation stones upon which have been established the virtues that ‘they’, so the Western governments have told us, hate about ‘us’.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian navy attacks Palestinian fishermen

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MEMO | September 1, 2013

Egyptian navy vessels have attacked Palestinian fishermen going about their work off the coast of Rafah. Five fishermen were arrested and two were shot when their boats were confiscated by the Egyptians.

Local sources say that Ibrahim Abdullah al-Najjar, 19, and his colleague Ismail Wael al-Bardawil, 21, were both shot in the hands during the attack. The men were taken to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah for treatment. Shooting fishermen in the hands is a tactic used by the Israeli Navy as it makes it difficult for them to get back to work.

Following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi by the army, the coup authorities have warned the Palestinians that the navy will arrest anyone who crosses into Egypt’s territorial waters.

The fishermen expressed deep disappointment at the Egyptian move. It resembles the attacks on them by the Israeli navy, they said.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Ihab Ghussein, said that he has asked for a formal explanation from Egypt about the attack on the unarmed fishermen.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment

Will Congress Endorse Obama’s War Plans? Does it Matter?

By Ron Paul | September 1, 2013

President Obama announced this weekend that he has decided to use military force against Syria and would seek authorization from Congress when it returned from its August break. Every Member ought to vote against this reckless and immoral use of the US military. But even if every single Member and Senator votes for another war, it will not make this terrible idea any better because some sort of nod is given to the Constitution along the way.

Besides, the president made it clear that Congressional authorization is superfluous, asserting falsely that he has the authority to act on his own with or without Congress. That Congress allows itself to be treated as window dressing by the imperial president is just astonishing.

The President on Saturday claimed that the alleged chemical attack in Syria on August 21 presented “a serious danger to our national security.” I disagree with the idea that every conflict, every dictator, and every insurgency everywhere in the world is somehow critical to our national security. That is the thinking of an empire, not a republic. It is the kind of thinking that this president shares with his predecessor and it is bankrupting us and destroying our liberties here at home.

According to recent media reports, the military does not have enough money to attack Syria and would have to go to Congress for a supplemental appropriation to carry out the strikes. It seems our empire is at the end of its financial rope. The limited strikes that the president has called for in Syria would cost the US in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote to Congress last month that just the training of Syrian rebels and “limited” missile and air strikes would cost “in the billions” of dollars. We should clearly understand what another war will do to the US economy, not to mention the effects of additional unknown costs such as a spike in fuel costs as oil skyrockets.

I agree that any chemical attack, particularly one that kills civilians, is horrible and horrendous. All deaths in war and violence are terrible and should be condemned. But why are a few hundred killed by chemical attack any worse or more deserving of US bombs than the 100,000 already killed in the conflict? Why do these few hundred allegedly killed by Assad count any more than the estimated 1,000 Christians in Syria killed by US allies on the other side? Why is it any worse to be killed by poison gas than to have your head chopped off by the US allied radical Islamists, as has happened to a number of Christian priests and bishops in Syria?

For that matter, why are the few hundred civilians killed in Syria by a chemical weapon any worse than the 2000-3000 who have been killed by Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan? Does it really make a difference whether a civilian is killed by poison gas or by drone missile or dull knife?

In “The Sociology of Imperialism,” Joseph Schumpeter wrote of the Roman Empire’s suicidal interventionism:

“There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive an interest – why, then it was the national honour that had been insulted.”

Sadly, this sounds like a summary of Obama’s speech over the weekend. We are rapidly headed for the same collapse as the Roman Empire if we continue down the president’s war path. What we desperately need is an overwhelming Congressional rejection of the president’s war authorization. Even a favorable vote, however, cannot change the fact that this is a self-destructive and immoral policy.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 4 Comments

Four young boys arrested and beaten in Hebron

International Solidarity Movement | September 1, 2013

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Friday 30th August, Israeli soldiers arrested four Palestinian boys and held and abused them in a military base for around four hours.

Ashaq (15), Ali (15), Anwar (14) and Ahmed (10) were walking down the Shilal Street in the Old City of Hebron at around 6.30pm, when soldiers near Bab Al-Baladia violently grabbed them and accused them of throwing stones. Anwar’s shirt was torn by a soldier as they arrested him. They took the four boys through the yellow gate into Beit Romano military base. All four were blindfolded, and Ashaq was slapped in the face by a soldier. The soldiers also ate seeds in front of the boys and then spat the shells at them. The boys were held in the military base for nearly four hours. International activists who went to the military base to demand information on whether the boys were being held inside and why they had been arrested, were told by soldiers “we don’t know”, and were asked to leave. As they were waiting outside the military base, they were insulted and threatened by a settler. Subsequently the army forced them to leave Shuhada Street and threatened one international with arrest if she tried to return.

At around 10.15pm, Youth Against Settlements (YAS, a Palestinian activist group which seeks to end Israeli colonization and settlement activities in Palestine through non-violent popular struggle and civil disobedience) received a call by worried residents who had seen twelve soldiers taking the four blindfolded boys up into the cemetery opposite the military base. The youngest, Ahmed, had a bag put over his head. Members of YAS rushed to the scene, and when the soldiers saw them they seemed scared, released the boys and left quickly.

This incident stands out from other child arrests which are almost a daily occurrence in occupied Hebron due to the forced movement of the boys into the cemetery. This worrying act highlights the arbitrary nature of the occupation as well as the virtual impunity with which the soldiers are allowed to act.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Obama bypassing UN, making Congress his world court: Venezuela

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Press TV – September 1, 2013

Venezuela has condemned US President Barack Obama for bypassing the United Nations and asking US Congress to approve a military offensive against Syria, saying the move can lead to destruction of international institutions.

During a visit to the South American country of Guyana on Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the US president was shamelessly bypassing the UN and turning Congress into his personal world court.

“If multilateral bodies and the international system are disregarded like this, what lies ahead of us in this world is war, is destruction,” Maduro warned.

“It is a very serious thing indeed when President Obama tries to take the place of UN bodies, and that he has tried and convicted the Syrian government, and that he has decided to invade, to militarily attack the people of Syria, and that he has chosen the US Congress as a sort of high world court in place of the UN Security Council,” Maduro said after holding a meeting with his Guyanese counterpart Donald Ramotar.

Earlier in the day, Obama said he has decided that Washington must take military action against the Syrian government, which would mean a unilateral military strike without a UN mandate.

Obama said that despite having made up his mind, he will take the case to Congress. But he added that he is prepared to order military action against the Syrian government at any time.

Obama once again held the Syrian government responsible for the chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people in the suburbs of Damascus.

On Thursday, the second meeting of the UN Security Council’s permanent members ended without reaching an agreement on Syria.

Representatives from the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China met on Thursday afternoon at the UN headquarters in New York for the second time in two days, but the meeting broke up after less than an hour, with the ambassadors steadily walking out.

The Western members of the council have been pushing for a resolution on the use of force while Russia and China are strongly opposed to any attack on Syria.

The call for military action against Syria intensified after foreign-backed opposition forces accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21.

Syria has strongly rejected the allegations and says terrorists carried out the deadly chemical weapons attack.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Court rules White House visitor logs can remain secret

By Julian Hattem – The Hill – 08/30/13

A federal appeals court has ruled that the White House can keep secret some records of visitors who enter the building.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that visitor logs for the Office of the President, at the center of the White House, are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Anti-secrecy organizations criticized the ruling as a barrier to public oversight.

“Decisions like this turn FOIA from a transparency law into a secrecy law,” Tom Fitton, president of the right-leaning Judicial Watch, told The Hill. He added that the decision was “unprecedented.”

Records for other offices on the White House complex, however, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality, are subject to public disclosure requests, the court ruled.

The appeals court ruling overturns a district court case brought by Judicial Watch, which sued the Secret Service in 2009 for not releasing seven months’ worth of visitor logs.

The dispute centered on whether the visitor logs amounted to “agency records,” which FOIA requires to be accessible to public requests, except in certain circumstances.

Judge Merrick Garland wrote in the court’s opinion that classifying White House visitor logs as “agency records” could “substantially affect the President’s ability to meet confidentially with foreign leaders, agency officials, or members of the public. And that could render FOIA a potentially serious congressional intrusion into the conduct of the President’s daily operations.”

He added, “Congress did make clear that it intended to place documents like the President’s appointment calendar beyond the reach of FOIA.”

Transparency advocates worried about the precedent that would be set by the decision.

“White House visitor records have proven of enormous value to the public in exposing the outside influences brought to bear on presidential decisions and policies,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which joined the case. “With this ruling, that window on the White House is now shut.”

The Obama administration has voluntary released its logs of White House visitors, but even those have been a point of contention. The records lack additional identifying details beyond a visitor’s name, can often include typos and may include names of people cleared to enter the building who never actually showed up.

Fitton said that Judicial Watch was “strongly considering” appealing the ruling.

“The option of doing nothing is unlikely,” he said.

Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment