Syria dominates the news after Secretary of State John Kerry gave an impassioned speech about the tragedy of at least 1,419 deaths from chemical warfare. Last week most people were opposed to involvement in Syria with 25 percent saying that they might change their minds if chemical weapons were used. Thus Kerry made the case yesterday that that Bashar al-Assad’s regime used these weapons, and President Obama is weighing “limited and narrow” action. Britain voted against military action so France has now become the United States’ BFF after they said they would strike. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a delay in any military action until inspectors present their findings.
Only the day before Kerry’s assurance, U.S. intelligence officers said that the picture is “not a slam dunk,” referring to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that intelligence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk.” It was that “intelligence” that sent the United States into a disastrous and expensive war ten years ago, intelligence that as just plain wrong.
At least one-third of representatives in the House, led by Tea Party members, think that the president should consult with Congress before making any decision, possibly with the hope that they can vote down any military action. Today President Obama announced his decision to “seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.” In another world, this might make sense. Intellectually, this makes sense if we consider that these legislators are rational and thoughtful beings. Many of them aren’t.
The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans whose only goal is to defeat every Democrat candidate by disagreeing with everything that the president recommends. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will shut down the government to get his own way in defunding Obamacare and cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. He said that his position “may be unfair” but he’ll do it anyway, holding the United States’ people hostage.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the House GOP’s budgetary chieftain, said that the GOP will only negotiate with Democrats over the budget if they can stop votes about the U.S. economy.When they aren’t threatening to shut down the government, the House GOP concentrates on blocking legislation, passing restrictions against women, and defunding Obamacare.
Impeaching the president is also on the GOP agenda. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) bragged about calling in lawyers to tell him how to impeach the president of the United States. In a sane world, he would need evidence, but GOP-land has its own rules. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told people at a town hall meeting that the House would probably have enough votes to impeach but the Senate wouldn’t convict. He didn’t have any reasons either.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) was a little more careful; he told his constituents that the president was “perilously close” to the standard for impeachment. He also said, “Thank goodness it doesn’t have to happen in the Senate until they’ve brought charges in the House.” Once again, no evidence. The same with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who claimed that the only reason they couldn’t impeach the president is that Democrats control the Senate.
In addition to Cruz’s other insanities, he thinks that he can become president if he drops his Canadian citizenship. Although quiet during the entire “birther” kafuffle, he gets most of his support from Tea Party birthers. One of them has total faith that Cruz is a natural-born citizen because “as far as I am concerned, Canada is not foreign soil. That’s the way I look at it.” (It’s worth watching several times!)
Ten days ago after he failed to bring the IRS up on charges, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) promised to expand the probe of the four deaths at Benghazi. Yet when the U.S. government flew its personnel out of Yemen and the State Department urged all Americans in Yemen there to leave “immediately” because of an “extremely high” threat of a terrorist attack, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) described that people who left as “cowards that go running away.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) asserted that there is no such thing as white collar crime, because “for a criminal practice there has to be a gun.” (Maybe there’s no crime in Syria because they used chemical weapons?) Would he then think that there was no crime in Syria because chemical weapons may have been used?)
He asserted that bad financial decisions are the responsibility of the individual because that’s “the price we pay for the freedom to make all of the good decisions in our lives.”
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has invited a clown to perform in his district–the same clown who gained notoriety by wearing an Obama mask and a broom sticking out of his baggy-pantsed rear. Stockman is also known for tweeting, “The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.”
In GOP-land, legislators vote against anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. Arizona Republicans Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Paul Gosar all voted against emergency relief funding for SuperStorm Sandy victims, but after an Arizona wildfire, they complained that FEMA isn’t helping their state. The agency tried to explain that they had funded firefighters but couldn’t pay for uninsured private residences damaged in the fire. McCain said he’d call the president.
Along the same lines, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), whose family was on food stamps for two months, told an audience that huge proposed cuts to food aid would not impact anyone, that “not one person would lose a calorie or crumb that deserves it.” He thinks most Americans on food stamps actually deserve to starve although more than 50 million people in the United States don’t know where their next meals are coming from.
Those in GOP-land will make up any excuse to refuse immigration reform. After the president delayed one part of Obamacare because of administrative issues, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said on the House floor that he wouldn’t vote for any part of the immigration plan. “One of the biggest fears we have about the Senate amnesty bill … is we can’t trust the president. We can’t trust him.”
McCain has wanted to support the Syrian rebels with “heavy weapons” for several months, despite the fact that ABC’s Martha Raddatz reminded him that some of the rebels are terrorists swearing allegiance to al Qaeda. “There aren’t that many” terrorists that he would provide with “heavy weapons,” McCain said. After a trip to Syria, a photo distributed to news organizations showed McCain with a group of rebels, two of them later identified as kidnappers of 11 Lebanese Shi’te pilgrims. On CNN, McCain told Anderson Cooper, “We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people.” It’s hard to tell who the “right people” are.
Here’s a preview of debate about invading Syria. Two days ago, Gohmert insisted that Saddam Hussein “had weapons of mass destruction” and may have moved the stockpiles “over into Syria.” Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) supported Gohmert: even though Terry is opposed to military intervention in Syria, his “gut feeling” is that the Syrian government now possesses chemical weapons that came from fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He added, “[W]e all we know that Iraq had … chemical and biological weapons and then they weren’t there.”
Once again! Iraq’s WMD stockpiles didn’t exist. They couldn’t have been moved to Syria because Iraq didn’t have any.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) worries that U.S. might be “used to kill Christians.” He also thinks that debate should “start with the Constitution,” despite the fact that this document never refers to Christians—or God or religion–except to declare that people can be free from it. About 10 percent of the Syrian population, many of them Palestinian refugees, identifies as Christian. Has a bomb been invented yet to identify religions?
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) hopes he has a compelling reason for staying out of Syria: the United States cannot afford it. “Our military has no money left,” the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee said in a statement three days ago. He cited the $500-billion cut over the next decade mandated by the sequester. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff disagrees, having assured the president that they are ready to “strike whenever we choose,”
The body that should approve any action against Syria is the United Nations, according to former President Carter. “Punitive action” without a mandate from the U.N. Security Council or “broad support from NATO and the Arab League” would be “illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war,” Carter said.
We’ve regressed ten years—just with a different president. The disaster that started in Iraq ten years ago was all about oil—and this proposed war with Syria has the same motivation. That topic, however, probably won’t be mentioned in the debates.