Syria

President Obama will address the nation tonight about his burning desire to start a new war in the Middle East.  Intervening in the Syrian civil war would be an act of madness.  Through talk of a “limited strike” and the McCain/Coons resolution which would allow us a broad, “boots on the ground” intervention on the side of radical Islamists, we must first remember one fact:  once you start a war its course is out of your hands.

A military strike on Syria, however limited, would be an act of war against that nation.  Their civil war has devolved into a conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims.  Are we really prepared to side with Iran?  Is it wise to get involved, once again, in another nation’s internal conflict?  Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

The Senate resolution proposed by Senators McCain and Coons is dangerous and allows broad latitude for a major intervention.  The Russian proposal is very promising and, thus far, there has been no concrete evidence presented that the Assad government used chemical weapons.

The country is very apprehensive about believing anything our government says regarding weapons of mass destruction.  Once burned, twice shy.  One interesting facet of the debate is the opposition of right wing conservatives to react to a supposed use of chemical weapons.  They widely used Saddam’s use of them ten years previously to justify invading Iraq.

Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico sent a wisely thought out missive about this issue yesterday:

Dear Friends,

The last week has been the most difficult I have experienced in my more than eight years in public office.  What I share with you now will not win me any popularity awards, and some of you may well never forgive me for my decision today. All I ask is that you read this entire letter and seek to understand how I came to make this decision.

I have always believed that my decisions in public office should reflect my best judgment and what I believe to be the best course for our nation. Most of the time that leads to votes that are well aligned with most of you as constituents.  Just as importantly, it means that I can look my children in the eye and explain my positions with honesty, never having to explain why a vote was the result of politics or pressure. Today, I am taking a position that I believe is in line with those values.

From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.

Bashar al-Assad is a dictator who has shown a willingness to reduce residential neighborhoods to rubble, to imprison and torture children, and who has watched callously as his actions have killed over a hundred thousand civilians and displaced millions of Syrian refugees.

Despite that, I remain of the belief that as a nation, we cannot become directly entangled in a civil war that we do not fully understand. It is for this reason that I do not think we should arm the Syrian rebels and I do not support sending American troops into this conflict.

However, over recent months I also learned of the facts that are now the subject of so much debate here and around the world. What I can tell you from my perspective, having seen the public evidence as well as much that remains classified, I do not have any doubt about the following facts:

One: a chemical weapons attack occurred on August 21;

Two: that attack was planned and carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime; and

Three: that as a result, hundreds of children and non-combatants were gassed to death in the suburbs of Damascus.

I have seen how Assad incrementally tests the international community as he employs more and more brutal tactics in order to cling to power. And I can tell you that August 21 was not just some anomaly, but that it is part of a long and predictable pattern of behavior.

What’s more, I believe that when any country chooses to ignore the international norms against chemical weapons, they have made a deeply immoral decision with worldwide implications, implications that the United States and the international community cannot ignore. If you want to understand why chemical weapons were singled out for international actions, you can watch videos that were taken in the aftermath of the Damascus attacks. These videos show the real effects of chemical weapons and are completely consistent with international forensic evidence showing that the agent was Sarin nerve gas.  I would warn you not to view these with children in the room. They are real and they are horrible.

I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama’s request for the authorization of use of military force.

I will seek to make sure that the resolution before the Senate remains narrow in scope and does not put American troops on the ground in another Middle Eastern war. But I believe that President Obama and the international community should be able to send a message to Bashar al-Assad: that he is not above international norms and that he will suffer real, military consequences should he choose to gas civilians.

I will continue to support additional foreign aid to alleviate the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria and neighboring countries, and I will also continue supporting diplomatic options so long as they are credible, verifiable, and enforceable.

While I know that my vote on this matter will be controversial, especially among some of my closest supporters, I want you to know that I have little doubt it is the right decision.

Sincerely,

Signature

MARTIN HEINRICH

United States Senator

I stand with Sen. Heinrich, opposed to any war with Syria.

News & Notes December 27, 2012

A lot has happened since our last check-in:  I had a birthday, Christmas came and went, a major winter storm rolled through and a former President went into guarded condition.  Hawaii has a new Senator, we have two nominations for Cabinet positions and nothing new has happened to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”  Whew.

Sen. John Kerry has been nominated to be Secretary of State.  Swift boating of Susan Rice was successful when the President bailed on her.  This makes Kerry’s Senate seat up for grabs which was the objective of the attack on Rice.  Former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel is being accused of antisemitism before his hearings to be the new Secretary of Defense over criticism he made of Israel’s government policies.  If all of us who have been critical of Israel’s genocide towards Palestinians were accused of being anti-semitic because of that you’d see how absurd it all is.  My questions are these:  why are liberals going to bat for a right wing Republican Senator?  Why do Democrats feel only Republicans are fit to be Defense Secretary?  Doesn’t that just play into the meme that Dems are soft on Defense?

George H.W. Bush is in intensive care at a Houston hospital with a persistent fever caused by lung ailments.  Coincidentally Houston has the worst air of any American city.  Funny how the chickens come home to roost.

House Republicans failed to come to agreement on a deficit package and Speaker Boehner looked weak after failing to gather enough votes to bring his Plan B tot he floor.  It was aborted.  Now their strategy is to blame the Senate for acting.  That takes balls.

A New York newspaper is under fire for printing the names and locations of everyone in two counties holding a gun permit.  This is public information and, in the wake of Sandy Hook, important information to have.  I’d like to know which of my neighbors is dangerous.

Gov. Gasbag, after campaigning on a promise of open and transparent government, on promises that he’d change the culture in Harrisburg, had a cozy weekend summit with his major donors and contributors last summer.  How many palms were greased with no bid contract promises?  We’ll never know because of the lack of openness and transparency.  Corbett is no different from every other corrupt politician who trades campaign cash for business and legislation.

In further news of his corruption the Governor took a vacation paid for by a natural gas businessman.  Corruption doesn’t get any plainer than this.  Corbett campaigned on a platform of refusing to tax energy companies for our natural gas they profit handsomely from while polluting our waterways, air and ground.  A nice vacation in Rhode Island was part of his payoff.

Three Pennsylvania State Troopers, including one from the Executive Service Section which provides security for the Governor, were accused with traveling to southeast Asia to hire prostitutes.  There didn’t appear to be any repercussions for their behavior.  This is known as sexual tourism.

There have been so many shootings lately it’s difficult to keep up with them.  The deranged man who shot several people in western PA was riled up about the Mayan apocalypse predictions.  What, he was too stupid to understand that calendars end?  It’s too easy for idiots to get guns.

Speaking of guns did you hear about the Tea Party shake-up?  Former GOP Congressman Dick Armey attempted a coup at Freedom Works including walking in with an armed guard to fire staffers.  He wound up getting fired himself at a cost of $8 million to stupid Tea baggers.  Is the Tea Party turning into a circular firing squad?  With all the guns those crazy people have this could wind up being good for the country assuming no collateral casualties.

Democrats have no accountability for House members who betray one of their own.  They named Rep. Thomas Caltagirone to again be Democratic Chair of the Judiciary Committee after he actively worked to defeat fellow Democrat Mark Rozzi.

I still wonder why stupid voters returned so many Members of Congress.  Republicans have proven, without a doubt, they are unable and unwilling to govern.  Why anyone would re-elect them then complain that nothing gets done is beyond comprehension.  The Violence Against Women Act expired because Republicans refuse to protect Native American women.  Do they not suffer from abuse too?  The Farm Bill also expired and is dormant.  Your milk prices will double next week as a result.  Republicans, after throwing millions of Americans into poverty with their failed economic and deregulation policies, now want to slash their food stamps.  Costing them their jobs, homes and retirements wasn’t enough now they also want to starve them.  47% of the country voted for this.  Relief for Hurricane Sandy victims is also being held hostage after conservatives spent the past ten years screaming that climate change is all a hoax.  After refusing to acknowledge reality we’re faced with the devastating consequences and they refuse to pay up.

Bush/Cheney Made 9/11 Political

The killing of Osama Bin Laden Friday and announced last night is political.  Though it is a victory for America George W Bush and Dick Cheney also made it a victory for Obama and Democrats.  They did it by politicizing 9/11.  Their 2004 presidential campaign was all about making 9/11 political and in one infamous campaign stop VP Cheney told the nation that the election of Democrat John Kerry would endanger us all.

“If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again — that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney said.

Even today Karl Rove took credit for the kill for Bush claiming that he gave the kill order.  His faulty logic is based on the assumption that President Obama simply “reaffirmed” the order.  Obviously George W Bush wasn’t in the Oval Office last week to give the command order to launch the Navy Seals operation which killed Bin Laden aka “Geronimo.”  The message “Geronimo KIA” went to Obama, not Bush.  If you use Rove’s insane logic then one must credit Bill Clinton with the kill since he first gave an order to kill OBL.

Democrats didn’t politicize 9/11 Bush and Cheney did.

Bush didn’t prioritize getting Bin laden after allowing his escape in Tora Bora.  “I don’t spend much time on him” was this quote in 2002:

Bush was mostly interested in creating endless war to provide as total a control package for himself as Commander in Chief, enrich his rich campaign donors in the defense industry and funnel those profits back to GOP campaigns.  killing Bin Laden was counter to his agenda so it didn’t happen.  Barack Obama made getting the Al Qaeda leader the foremost priority of the war in Afghanistan.  In doing so he proved Cheney’s lie.  It took a Democratic President to get Osama.  He’s no longer Bin Forgotten.

Specter Swift Boats Sestak

Arlen Specter’s Republican roots are showing.  The incumbent Senator turned to Swift Boat tactics to smear his Democratic opponent by saying the Navy relieved the three star Admiral of duty.  Joe Sestak retired from the Navy after serving thirty one years, commanding a carrier battle group in war and serving in the White House.  A distinguished career in service to one’s country has been reduced to an attack ad by a desperate man.

Specter’s poll numbers began tanking after Rick Santorum revealed a quid pro quo six years ago in a secret deal to put John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.  Specter had to do something desperate and he did.  Veterans reacted angrily and this could really turn around and bite the Senator badly since there are thousands of veterans in Pennsylvania.  There’s nothing like motivating them to vote May 18th.

The Sestak campaign sent a letter to the media condemning Specter:

MEDIA, PA – Today, Philadelphia-area Veterans called on Arlen Specter to immediately pull his ‘swift boat’ attack ads targeting former-Admiral Joe Sestak’s 31-year record of distinguished service to our country in the United States Navy. More than twenty Vets gathered at the American Legion Robert Holt Post 358 in Clifton Heights, Pa., to deliver their message to Senator Specter.

The press conference was led by Lieutenant General Robert E. Kelley, United States Air Force (Ret.), a Veteran of 119 combat missions in Vietnam and former Vice Commander of the Tactical Air Command.

“We’re all here because we’re enraged at the fact that someone, anyone, in the United States today would question someone who has 30 years of service,” said General Kelley. He said Joe “was brought up in a climate in which order, structure, discipline and a commitment to excellence is the order of the day, so when someone starts to question that, they really don’t know what they’re talking about.

“Joe Sestak is an individual who has committed himself to this country and to service over self. He is a serving leader and I for one think we ought to get our act together in this country and recognize that the people who are serving today, who served yesterday and will serve tomorrow deserve our respect.”

After the shameful “swift boating” of Senators John Kerry and Max Cleland, the Veterans declared that they would not tolerate political attacks on the careers of American servicemembers, especially from someone who claims to be a Democrat.

One by one, the Veterans in attendance gave their name and rank and delivered the message to Arlen Specter and his supporters: End the attacks, pull the swift boat ads.

Earlier today, in response to these attacks, the Sestak campaign released a letter signed by more than 100 other Veterans attesting to Joe’s leadership, character and dedicated service.

For me this contest boils down to character:  Sestak has it and Specter doesn’t.  The Senator has illustrated he will do or say anything to keep his job.  Power corrupts and Specter has been so corrupted by power he has forgotten why he is in the Senate:  to serve the people.  Instead he serves himself, his corporate interests and will betray anyone who jeopardizes his power and privilege.  Joe Sestak, on the other hand, has dedicated his life to serving his nation, works tirelessly to serve his constituents and is a man of deep integrity.  I know because I know him.