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Who Did It? UPDATE

UPDATE, Wednesday Aug. 28. Stephen Walt has this literary analogy to our current situation.

"More than anything else, Obama reminds me here of George Orwell in his famous essay "Shooting an Elephant." Orwell recounts how, while serving as a colonial officer in Burma, he was forced to shoot a rogue elephant simply because the local residents expected an official of the British Empire to act this way, even when the animal appeared to pose no further danger. If he didn't go ahead and dispatch the poor beast, he feared that his prestige and credibility might be diminished. Like Orwell, Obama seems to be sliding toward "doing something" because he feels he simply can't afford not to."

So look what happened to the British Empire anyway!  [Update 9 P.M., but the Parliament still functions. See comment way below.]

Original Post: As war-mongering heats up in Washington, London, and Paris, and the White House asserts that it was almost certainly the Assad Regime that used chemical weapons last week, here is a Ha'aretz story that includes six different version of who might have done it.  We can look at them all with a good deal of skepticism. The White House's plunking for the Syrian government should get equal skepticism. Story here: "More Questions than Answers."

"1. One version is that of the Free Syrian Army and the political opposition, whose spokesmen explaine at a news conference Saturday that the chemical missiles were fired by the Syrian army’s Brigade 115 from its Mount Kalamun missile base and that, during the attack, the head of the Syrian missile directorate, Taher Hamed Khalil, was present at the base.

"2. Another version is that of Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq, relying on a source in the Free Syrian Army who claims that soldiers of the Fourth Elite Unit, commanded by Maher Assad - the Syrian president’s brother - raided the Scientific Studies and Research Center and captured quantities of the chemical weapons after killing a Syrian officer who refused to let them in.

"3. A third version comes from the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah, through an Iraqi source close to the separatist Muktada al-Sadr, who says that fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, in charge of some of the chemical weapons stores, fired the chemical weapons at the town of al-Ghouta, despite opposition by the Syrian army brass.

"4. Yet another version, published on the Syrian opposition website al-Hakika, reported that the chemicals were smuggled from Turkey by activists of the Turkmen uprising and that these activists were the ones who fired the missiles to spark an international provocation.

"5. The website, which published reports on the smuggling of the chemicals about a week before the attack - as well as after it - raises questions about the way the dead were found, plus the fact that the weather conditions on the day of the attack could not ensure that Syrian soldiers would not also be killed.

"6. The Syrian regime has its own version, in which five Syrian soldiers were killed and others rushed to the hospital after they were injured by the chemicals."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Images and videos can be fake. What I would like is for some trusted journalist to report what he or she has seen with their own eyes. In the end I'm not sure what better proof there is than a trusted witness. 

As the saying goes, the first casualty of war is truth.

The only thing certain is that it happened. In that sense, a line has been crossed around use of biological and chemical weapons and that is something we need to be concentrating on, and the leaders in that region need to reflect on very seriously. The situation is out of control but it reflects deep ethnic tensions and histories that run deep.

As far as what the USA or the west "should" do. At this point, nothing except to promote mediators for the sides should they wish it.

As with Bosnia, Kosovo, these are horrible, tragic situations. Pray for all those involved.

Further to George's recommendation for prayer, this letter from Cardinal George appeared in our church bulletin yesterday.

One passage:

"The international community, including the United States, is offering military aid to one side or the other.  But the introduction of more arms only escalates the violence, delays negotiations for an inclusive political solution, and contributes to the suffering of the Syrian people."

Also, I had not heard of the visiting Orthodox bishops who have been kidnapped, and not heard from for over 100 days.



The situation in Syria is awfully fuzzy and confusing, even for journalists who have been able to get in there at great personal risk. What those journalists are seeing and reporting is horrific, but they are usually getting to places in the aftermath, relying on highly emotional eye-witnesses who are jumping to preconceived conclusions without any proof. 

I think our foreign policy is also fuzzy and confusing. It's all well and good to talk about red lines being crossed, but the harder job is developing a sane and appropriate response. What, exactly, are our national interests in Syria that justify intervention? Will military action make things better or worse not only in Syria but with our relations with other countries in the region? Complicating things even further is Russia's involvement with Assad.

It strikes me that any direct response to the gas attacks ought to be made after discussions with nations which already have high stakes in this conflict--especially countries that are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees. Moreover, while the gas attacks are horrendous and can be used to stir up a lot of highly emotional responses, the larger humanitarian crisis is in the refugee camps where far more innocents are in danger of food shortages, shelter, and health risks, and creating burdens for the host countries. Might we not do better asking the host countries how we can help on that front than on a reactionary military intervention?

The UN team seems to have arrived at one of the spots, after being sniped at by someone (unclear who). Interviewing victims and witnesses, collecting samples, etc., may allow these inspectors to say something about the chemical weapons, but will they be able to say who did it? The sophistication of the weapons (or lack thereof) may point one way or the other, but it's hard to imagine a definitive answer on the perpetrators. Or maybe I don't fully understand the capabilities of these investigators.

Is the U.S. going to find itself in the position of having to "Do something," if not "Do anything!!!"  The WSJ (to which I cannot link) had a story this morning about the activities of Saudi Prince Bandar out and about promoting U.S. action and more weapons for the opposition. I know Saudi Arabia is a very good and long-standing friend of the U.S., but you've got to ask what the home of bin Laden and Al Qaeda have up their sleeves. Or at least, I am asking myself that. Any answers?

What is worse? Being attacked by chemical weapons or being hostage to the banks whose executives get sick salaries while continuing to endanger the economy.

In the Savings and Loans debacle banking officials were arrested and prosecuted. These guys at Chase, Bank of America, are waltzing around like they still know what they are doing. Truly outrageous. 

The WSJ is reporting that we're asking the UN to get the weapons inspectors out of harm's way, since it's clear that the Assad regime is guilty, and we no longer need to consider what the inspectors say. I expect that we're right, and the Assad regime is indeed guilty. But our record on the existence and use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical as well as other) is hardly free of error. Short circuiting the UN at this points seems a pointless and dangerous step.

Thank you Nicholas. Didn't we send the UN inspectors (and Hans Blix) away in Iraq, only to have General Judith Miller of the NYTimes discover that there were really no WMD?

No doubt there are chemical weapons, but why dismiss the inspection and inspectors?

A few questions: Did the White House paint itself into a corner when the President used the 'bright red line rhetoric' in 2012, such that it now has no choice except to do something, anything?  What specific outcomes, better than the status quo, does American military action (apparently it would consist of firing cruise missiles, perhas to disable Syrian air power) expect to accomplish?  What is more in the US interest: that Assad prevail (and presumably establishes some order); or that the rebels prevail, with the risk that Islamist extremists may take power or wield influence?  Would Russia with its Security Council veto block any concrete action that the UN might take beyond a regimen of inspections?

I heard a radio interview this morning with John Bolton, of all people - his suggestion is that the only real American interest is ensuring that the chemical weapons don't get into the hands of our enemies who could take them abroad and harm us or our citizens or military personnel.  Therefore (in his view) the correct policy is to locate the weapons and destroy them.  How the US is supposed to make that happen, I don't know, and neither did he.  He had no suggestions of concrete, helpful things that the US could actually do to make any of this better.


The chemical weapons would seem to present several disposal problems whether in efforts to destroy or to seize them. Bombing their sites would release the chemicals, presumably causing serious and/or fatal casualties to surrounding populations. Efforts to seize them would require "boots on the ground," which no Western nation is going to provide. I hope we wouldn't encourage the opposition to seize them. Do we even know where all the sites are? It is, of course, possible that rogue units in the Syrian Army and/or Hezzbolah would grab them and run. Israel would have a keen interest in how this gets handled, leading me to conclude that we are not going to bomb sites or seize them.

If we then bomb something/anything, it's likely to be military headquarters and/or Assad's residence.

The red line threat turns out to have been a big mistake imho; it didn't stop the attacks and now that they have occurred, there are members of the U.S. government pressing to "keep our word." "Our credibiliy is at stake, etc." As every experienced parent knows idle threats come home to bite!

US intervention is selective. There are multiple "moral obscenities" to use Kerry's words. Chemical weapons does cross the line. But the question is who will replace Assad if he is overthrown? Kosova was clearer. So many innocent people were being massacred. There are certainly many fatalities in this war. Right now the rebel action seems like a mistake. Egypt is not stable. The Arab Spring seems very different now. While intervention against chemical weapons seems right, why is intervention right here and not in Africa where dictators routinely bar food and medicine to a needy people?

MOS:  I hope that there is someone in the Pentagon raising the same questions that you do if we have indeed moved into the "reaction and response" phase to what John Kerry rightly has called a "moral obsencity."  

However, - if I can extrapolate from your comments on this blog stream - if we followed your argument we would still be fretting over the moral rightness of destroying the death camps in WW2 Europe when we finally had evidence of the enormity of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis.  It is simply morally unacceptable to allow these crimes to go unanswered.

I have a faith that Barack Obama has come to the reluctant conclusion that the Assad regime has committed this atrocity, and that the time has come to bring justice to these war criminals.

As Carl von Clausewitz wrote, "war is the continuation of politics by other means."  In my heart, war is never righteous.  But in the human condition, sometimes war is justified.  As it is written: "To everything there is a season:  A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace." (Ecclesiates 3:8)

I hope that American military action is targeted specifically on the Assad regime:  We must decapitate this dictatorship of terror.  I hope that we have the military technology to accomplish this.  I fear that as in all wars, more innocents will suffer and die as a consequence. 

None of the players in this tragedy are "choir boys" - including our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria who generally support the outlaw Assad regime.  The real moral imperative here falls on the Islamic societies of the region - most especially our close NATO ally Turkey and our client Gulf states - to intervene in this civil war and establish at least a cease fire so that the Syrian people can begin to pick-up the pieces of their lives.

In addition, Syria has some oil (previously mostly exported to the EU) and is in a critical location for oil and gas pipelines. For a country like the US that imports lots of oil, the political situation in Syria is important.

Plus, a military intervention would be a chance for the US to test and refine its military technology, so that it remains the world leader in sophisticated weaponry.

Plus, if (if!) that military intervention were successful, the status of the US army would go back up and other countries would rightly fear our country and be wary of acting against our interests. After the Afghanistan and Iraq debacles, it would be a good reminder of the power of the US army.

So, there are many reasons to be morally outraged.


The Egyptian generals are now citing religion as a reason to kill their opposition. Jesus warned of this. Thanks to Augustine it became the Christian mantra. The French Revolution was in a totally Catholic country. Pope Francis is a welcome change from the monarchy. The saying has been: "No peace unless there is peace among the religions." Still holds.

On the other hand there are two problems with a US military intervention in Syria: first, even if the US intervene "successfully" (whatever that means), then what? Who can the US give support to, post-intervention? There is no reliable Syrian ally in sight, is there? Second, it would boost the US president's ratings, but there is no election coming up, so what's the rush? So maybe it is better to tone down US moral outrage for the present, until, say, 2015 or early 2016.


For all those in favor of "boots on the ground" in Syria or anywhere else in this world:

I'll support it under 2 conditions:

1.  An immediate 10% war tax be imposed on all sales and income from all sources for all people and corporations, with no exceptions.

2.  The draft be immediately reintroduced without an end date and includes all men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 irrespective of gender, marital status, current participation in educational programs and very rare exclusions for physical or mental health.  Verifiable, defendable conscientious objection to military participation will mean that the individuals will mandatorily participate for civilian service that will be as difficult, uncomfortable and life-disrupting as will be military service.

Waving the flag and the pumping of testosterone should have an observable cost to all citizens of this country.

BTW, when I talked about income above, I include contributions to religious groups.  

In HS I learned that Roman Senators who wanted war were told to lead a legion against German tribes.. GOP senators posing as war  mongers should  be shown the road to Damascus.

Jim Jenkins: Bombing the concentration camps or trains going thereto would present the same problem as bombing chemical weapons sites; indiscriminate bombing would kill more innocents. (Not that that stopped the fire bombing of Dresden, Tokyo, etc).

Jim McCrea: Excellent ideas. Now give us the strategy that would get us through the "Congress that cannot do anything."

Who could write the play that shows that U.S. & friends bombing of something/anything has to be carried out because our president created a red line, and Secy of State has declared our moral consciences, shocked, shocked, and because no one will ever believe us agains, and the FRENCH are up in arms about this, dare I say U.S. arms. My playwright candidates: Kurt Vonegut, Samuel Becket, and yours?

From todays' London Tablet:

Military intervention in Syria ‘could spark world war'

27 August 2013

A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop yesterday warned that armed intervention in Syria could unleash a "world war".

Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican Radio: "If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned."

The Syrian prelate was speaking as Britain and the US discussed plans for military action in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, plans strongly opposed by Russia and Iran.

"We hope that the Pope's call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting," he said.

The Vatican's semi-official daily, L'Osservatore Romano, meanwhile criticised Western powers in an editorial and called for greater "prudence".

"The drumbeat of an armed intervention by Western powers is becoming ever more insistent and ever less restrained by prudence," it said.

Pope Francis on Sunday called for the international community to help find a solution to the civil war.

"I launch an appeal to the international community to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and to commit itself to the maximum to help the dear Syrian nation find a solution to a war which spreads destruction and death," he said during his Sunday Angelus in St Peter's Square.

"The rise of violence in a war between brothers and sisters, with increasing massacres and atrocious acts, which we have all been able to witness in the terrible images in these days, prompts me to once again raise my voice so that the sound of arms might be silenced," he continued.

In his appeal on Sunday, Pope Francis reiterated earlier condemnations of the fratricidal violence, saying the only prospect for resolving the Syrian war was an "encounter and dialogue" between the opposing factions.




How do you *nuance* any type of military response?  It appears that we will draw a *red line* between choosing sides/attacking Assad and making a statement about the use of chemical weapons especially against women/children. 

Will that work?

- most agree that attacking the actual chemical sites is too dangerous

- so, that leaves you with some sort of military reprisals that *send a message*....has that worked militarily ever? 

- what about anti-aircraft degradation and setting up a no fly zone - then, you could monitor the known sites and stop any missile launches  (do believe we know where the sites and storied chemicals are)

- will we wait for the UN team's findings before attacking?

- will a coalition of *willing partners* allow us to *nuance* support (since Russia/China would veto any UN action)?  will this be supported by Saudi Arabia/Gulf Nations/Turkey/Jordan and does that make a difference when the West is the heavy lifter

- will this open Obama up to Republican attack - doubt he will get congressional approval before acting...and really doubt Congress wants to deal with this issue

- can't figure out any reasonable solution - surgical strikes and demand for peace talks at the Hague?  Will that work?  And if Assad ignores, do we escalate attacks?

(BTW, Ms. Steinfels, got the book 1914.  Interesting and obviously using newly released secret documents.  But, in comparing to Tuchman's Guns of August (except for a two day chronology mistake), it was uncanny that Ms. Tuchman was able to use documentation; read between the lines; and arrive at basically the same conclusions as the 1914 book historian.  What it did detail was the known fact that the 1914 monarchs were all but *psychologically sick*; supported by incompetent power seeking men.  And once mobilization started, there was no turning back....yes, he is able to underline Russia's cupability; Great Britain's biased behavior but the dilapidated monarchies created this situation.)

If there is any connection to today's Syria, you again have a *monarch/dictator* with the added religious extremism element and now public statements that require action (whether correct or not).  Does it really just come down to bluster; saving face; or is there really a moral question here?

Margaret - what about Tom Stoppard?  Too dark for him?

Bill de Haas: You mean the Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark? I never read the Tuchman book; back then I was immersed in Bernard Fall on Vietnam. So many wars, so much to read about. 

I did think Clark drew in the Russians in greater detail than anything else I'd read; and he certainly pointed a stern figure at the Serbs, in fact beginning his narrative with the assassination on June 11, 1903 of King Alexandar and Queen Draga of Serbia by the Serbian military. As you say, this emphasis may come from newly available documents from Eastern Europe. I wonder if Clark is proficient in all the languages involved, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Turkish, French, German, Italian, or if he had a lot of bright grad students doing his research?

This from the NY Times at about 4 pm, 8/27.

"Officials anticipated that a first round of attacks would be followed by a pause to assess the damage and the regime’s response before a potential second wave of strikes would be ordered. With few human intelligence assets on the ground, the inspection of targets after the strike would be conducted by satellite or surveillance aircraft capable of flying above the range of Syria’s highly regarded integrated air-defense system.

"Officials also cautioned that arguments for a more limited strike included the fear that the refugee flow to American allies Turkey and Jordan — where the influx already is causing political concern — would increase. And there are worries that Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants might step up terrorism around the region in retaliation."

Is anybody thinking about Assad going for broke and retaliating by deploying all of his chemical weapons against the opposition and civilian areas that it controls, and/ or against Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey?

JP: Tom Stoppard would be good, especially since he's still alive. Music by Tom Lehrer?

I'm with Jim McCrea, and with Jean. Helping countries that host refugees is obvious.

The number of Syrian children like Aya forced to flee their homes has now reached one million.

 I really  don't like this "bruit de bottes" (threat of war). But if the US really want to "do good" in a military way (what does that mean!?), we must form an international coalition and we must be supported by regional powers.

Margaret - yes, I noted that commonality among your nominees.  I was going to suggest Moss Hart.  Or maybe Aeschylus; this plot just about fits his scale, I think, and possibly it will be the same oeuvre.


Here is an opinion piece that argues about "The perils of a limited response," and urges the Obama Administration to kill Assad--or try to.

"Nor will limited (there’s that word again) strikes against Syria improve Assad’s behavior. If the Obama administration seriously wishes to alter Assad’s ways, then it must attack or threaten to attack that which he values most: his and his regime’s survival. It is not clear, of course, that Assad will change course even if he is personally threatened. But it is only if he is eliminated, or appears likely to be, that elements within his security services concerned primarily about their own survival and prosperity will have the opportunity to reach an accommodation with some of the regime’s opponents, neighboring states and the West."

Also, I congratulate you on providing a NY Times link, as a newscast just reported that their site has been down/under cyberattack all day; and thanks for providing key quotes, very helpful for we non-subscribers.


I am surprised Obama hasn't thought of calling Congress into session to pass a declaration of war. Wouldn't t be nice to have a constitutional scholar president consult the Constitution? But here is the beauty part: If he calls Congress, the House won't come. He can then have his cake -- doing nothing, which he has been trying to figure out how to do and leading the news with, since last week -- and blame the Republicans.

Haaretz has some details on the coming attack: note Netanyahu's threat if Assad attacks Israel. No suprise, of course, but what might Israel do under cover of a U.S.-British attack? Haaretz seems to have good conduits to Israeli intellegence; better than the NYTimes to NSA/CIA.

"Most likely, the U.S. will do the bare minimum and attack but then swiftly disengage. Such an approach dictates a particular set of targets: Not symbols of the regime but strictly military targets such as missile bases, anti-aircraft batteries and perhaps chemical weapons sites. Western intelligence agencies know the locations of at least 90 percent of the Syrian chemical weapons bases. According to various reports, the components are stored separately and assembled when an order is given – meaning that a strike won't trigger a chemical reaction."

Hurrah for Jim McCrae - enough with "cheap grace" in this realm. 

Of course we will have to keep that taxation up for some very long while, to address the costs that the war brings home to us:

"to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, anfd for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."  [A. Lincoln,  4 March 1865]

The only change I'd make to Jimmy's plan would be to ensure that the children of elected officials got drafted first, and no fair hiding out in the National Guard reserves like in Vietnam (though that didn't prove to be a very safe haven in Iraq conflict).

Reports today noted that many Arab countries believe Assad used gas and condemned the actions. But the WSJ filed a report a few hours ago noting that there is no public support by the Arab League nations for any U.S. military response to the gas attacks in Syria; the league apparently prefers to go through the UN Security Council. Jordan is in an especially tough situation, having taken in thousands of refugees and sitting on Syria's border.


The following was posted at 8:37 on Pat Lang's site by "Harper," one of the regular poster there. While there is a certain amount of conspiracy theory types who comment on the site, I have found the posts to be honest efforts to look at our foreign and defense policies by men (and possibly women) who have had (or who currently have) insights into and connections to U.S. defense and intelligence agencies.

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

On the other hand, remember Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me", and Colin Powell's speech to the UN claiming Iraq had WMD. I was fooled then. Now I am not ready to accept claims that are not backed by the work of the UN.

MOS:  That's the real problem with war:  By its very nature it is indiscriminate.  Too many wise men and women over the centuries have observed:  In war, truth is the first casuality.

One thing we can be sure of in any Syrian campaign:  All the people that will die from gas attacks will still be dead after the war.

What I would like to hear from you, MOS, is what is your preferred response to innocent women, men and children being gased in the homes and neighborhoods by their own outlaw government?  You just can't carp from the sidelines or hide behind some kind of journalistic veil of impartiality.

Francis Ford Coppola already made that movie in 1979:  Apocalypse Now.  At the turn of the 20th century, Joseph Conrad wrote the novel, Heart of Darkness.

Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now says it best:  "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

Jim McCrea:  Absolutely on target!  Actually, I believe that we should amend the US Constitution to include your war-making clauses.  

I would also like to see a clause in the amendment that would require each Federal official's family - all three branches: executive, legislative, judicial - would have at least one member of the family inducted into military service.  That way, the elite of our government would have some real skin in the game, not just be sendingoff the children of poor folks to die in war.  Hopefully, that would keep the rest of us a little more safe from unnecessary wars based on lies - a la Iraq.

JJ:    Those who are dead are already dead. Those who will be killed by our Tomahawk missles are still alive. Isn't that a sufficient reason to hesitate?

I am not a pacifist. I am not carping impartially from the sidelines. I can imagine scenarios in which the U.S. should attack, e.g., we know that the Syrian army is about to launch another attack with chemical weapons, perhaps on its own people, perhaps on Jordan, Israel, and/or Turkey. Thwarting those attacks would be reason for us to strike. On the other hand, would our own attack trigger these? Something to think about.

As it is, the current motives for an immanent attack on who knows what, seems to be a face-saving device for the Administration, the appearance of retribution (depending on where we strike), and punishing the Assad regime. Are those sound justifications?

Those most opposed to a U.S. attack, or at the very least reluctant, seem to be our own military, beginning with General Martin Dempsey, head of the joint chiefs and Secretary of Defense Hagel. They are probably better at foreseeing unintended consequences than our political leaders, talking heads, etc. Tells me something!

General Anthony Zinni in Wednesday's WashPost: "“The one thing we should learn is you can’t get a little bit pregnant,” said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was at the helm of U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. “If you do a one-and-done and say you’re going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in.”

See also:


Christians in the Middle East unanimously oppose potential raid on Syria

(Yes, I know that I have posted this reference elsewhere on this blogsite.)


And "limited response" military action is like being slightly pregnant.  Either you are in or not.  Unless the military mindset has changed from what it was when I served in the AF from 1962 to 1970, it is not programmed to be slightly pregnant.

I posted the above BEFORE I read MOS's Zinni comment about getting a little pregnant.  Sorry to be unintentionally but nonetheless repetetive.

Re: the Stephen Walt update to Margaret's post: for anyone interested, here is the George Orwell essay that Walt references.  Possibly it contains a lesson or reflection apropos to this situation.  It may also be an inducement to vegetarianism.

Some members of a legislative body seem to remember what happened last time!

"LONDON — The prospect of an imminent Western military strike on Syrian government targets appeared to encounter a delay on Wednesday when Britain signaled it would first await the findings of a United Nations inquiry into the suspected use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds near Damascus last week, and then hold a separate parliamentary vote, which could be days away.

"Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war. Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus."

New York Times.

We are beginning to understand just what kind of hot mess any intervention in Syria would become:  As posted above, Syrian Christians don't want the Assad regime war criminals attacked!  Obviously they are allied with Assad against those elements in the Syrian opposition that the Christians see as a threat to themselves.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend ...

If we could loose Assad (personally) perhaps that would improve the situation.  Who knows?  Maybe only regional Muslim powers should intervene and Westerners should stay out - no matter how horrific the atrocities?  

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