Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Photo by EPA via Time.
There's something I have to say about this horrible gas attack in Syria that I wish somebody else would say instead, but nobody else seems to be noticing this one detail, when the Trump administration denounces the Obama administration as responsible for the horror, as Spicer, reported in this piece by Anne Barnard and Michael Gordon:

 “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘a red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Mr. Spicer said.
It's that Obama did do something—it's not a secret, and I've written about it from the start—at least after it became clear that Congress wasn't going to give him an authorization for a military assault on Syria in August-September 2013: the US and Russian administrations, working together, created a plan through which the Assad regime would destroy its chemical weapons stores, and stop, at least, this especially upsetting method of murdering Syrian people at bulk rates, so that Obama's Red Line would not have been crossed for nothing.

I don't get why people seem to have so much difficulty understanding that Obama did this, or did the half of it that involved opening up discussions with Vladimir Putin, who called a good many of Assad shots then, as he does now—but it's clear to me at least that he did, and that, moreover, it worked; the chemical weapons were destroyed, and not used again for the last four years—true,

the [Organization for the Prohibition of  Chemical Weapons] has found that the Syrian government used chlorine gas as a weapon three times in 2014 and 2015, violating the treaty. Rebel fighters, doctors and antigovernment activists say there have been numerous other chlorine attacks, including at least two in the past week, in one case killing a doctor as he worked.
—but chlorine is easy to obtain and much less lethal than the horrors we were concerned with.

The agreement brokered by Obama and Putin basically held until when? Until Obama was out of office. And until

In Ankara on March 30, Tillerson commented that Assad’s long-term status “will be decided by the Syrian people.” On the same day, in New York, Haley stated “our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
Announcing, more or less, that the US no longer objects to Assad one way or the other. Following which, you know, Assad forces launch this grotesque attack on Idlib province, as if to celebrate.

Saw old Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell's old deputy and always in demand as a representative of the less reactionary side of the retired military) on TV warning us that we shouldn't assume Assad is responsible for this, because he couldn't think of a sensible strategic reason for it. "He's winning!" Why would he even bother? wondered Wilkerson. But the man's a psychopath, not a strategist. Why wouldn't it be just to show the world how the advent of Trump has made him more powerful and unconstrained than ever?

And [update] timed to hit the EU conference that convened in Brussels yesterday on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" with a big dickslap, to fill the participants with dread and despair. "Everybody is coming to Brussels to make a statement," said Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, "and the regime made its statement in Syria." Well, not quite everybody—nobody in Brussels from the United States, as far as I can see.

But Obama's action (modest, and "leading from behind") really did prevent Assad from doing this one thing for four years, and Trump has let it go in two months, and then comes out to say it was Obama's fault. Saying "No puppet! No puppet! You're the puppet!" before anybody's explicitly called him out in the first place, so I do. Trump is to blame for these killings, in addition to so many others in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan and Yemen and looking forward to more in Somalia and Bahrain and the Emirates. J'accuse.

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