Saturday, September 28, 2013

American Exceptionalism? Obama’s Argument Deeply Flawed

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

Obama's argument deeply flawedSept 27, 2013- The United States is exceptional, President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday addressing the United Nations General Assembly, clearly in a bid to refute Russian President Vladmir Putin's criticism of American exceptionalism in a recent article published in The New York Times.

In fact, Obama's speech was exceptional as he tried to lecture the leaders and representatives from countries around the world. He said that next year an international coalition will end its mission in Afghanistan, having achieved its task of dismantling the core of al-Qaida that attacked the US on 9/11.

However, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation and a former special adviser at US Special Operations Command, has long argued that al-Qaida is far from defeated as there has been a net expansion in the number and geographic scope of al-Qaida affiliates and allies over the past decade. It would be surprising if the US president was not aware of this.

Obama also claimed that the US has limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the US, where capture is not feasible and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.

But was he admitting that he had not exercised enough caution and apologizing because he had dramatically increased drone attacks in the past years?

Obama has not got the anger at his use of drones. For example, in Pakistan, it is not just the "collateral damage" of innocent civilians that enrage people, it is also the disrespect and violation of their nation's sovereignty. Even if a bad guy is finally killed, they do not want a bomb from another country dropping from the sky and blowing up their villages.

Obama also claimed that the US is transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But for months more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo held a hunger strike, and US military officials said on Monday that a core group of 19 prisoners are still on hunger strike.

Obama said the US has begun to review the way that it gathers intelligence so that it properly balances the legitimate security concerns of its citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share. But he did not address the revelation by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US is spying on countries all over the world.

At the UN General Assembly session, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blasted the US' spying, accusing the US of violating international law. Rousseff cancelled a recent trip to the US because the US failed to apologize for eavesdropping on the Brazilian president's phone calls and spying on Brazilian oil companies and citizens. Brazil is just one of the many countries that are waiting for an explanation and apology from Washington.

Obama claimed that the evidence is overwhelming that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in his own country, but the evidence he gave was "these rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods".

Such logic is deeply flawed, as Obama with his background as a lawyer well knows, and is similar to then US secretary of state Colin Powell holding a model of a vial of anthrax during a presentation to the UN 10 years ago.

Obama was furious that he had not received support both at home and abroad for his planned military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. "It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack."

For Obama to suggest that so many people in the world cannot reason, simply because they reason differently to the exceptional reasoning of the US president, is insulting.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily 09/27/2013 page8)

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Syria War Will Destroy Efforts vs .Austerity at Home

Syria and the Reality at Home in America

By Robert Reich
Sept 9, 2013 - While all eyes are on Syria and America's response, the real economy in which most Americans live is sputtering.
More than four years after the recession officially ended, 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, many of them for years. Nearly 4 million have given up looking for work altogether. If they were actively looking, today's unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent instead of 7.3 percent.
The share of the population working or seeking a job is the lowest in 35 years. The unemployment rate among high-school dropouts is 11 percent; for blacks, 12.6 percent. More than one in five American children face hunger, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And the median wage keeps dropping, adjusted for inflation. Incomes for all but the top 1 percent are below where they were at the start of the economic recovery in 2009.
A decent society would put people to work -- even if this required more government spending on roads, bridges, ports, pipelines, parks and schools.
A decent society would lift the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy), and provide food stamps and housing assistance, so that no family with a full-time worker has to live in poverty.
We can afford this minimal level of decency.
Deficit hawks in both parties don't want you to know this but the federal deficit as a proportion of the total economy is shrinking fast: It's on track to be only 4 percent by the end of September, when the fiscal year ends. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts it will be only 3.4 percent in the fiscal year starting October 1.
To put this into perspective, consider that the average ratio of the deficit to the GDP over the past 30 years has been 3.3 percent. So the deficit is barely a problem at all. (We're still projected to have large deficits starting 10 years from now because of all the aging boomers needing health care.)
Yet while attention is focused on Syria, food stamps for the nation's poor are being cut. House Republicans would eliminate food stamps for more than 800,000 Americans who now receive them but still do not get enough to eat or have only a barely adequate diet.
Even if the Democrats prevent these draconian cuts, food stamp benefits will still be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
While attention is focused on Syria, funds for the nation's poorest schools are being slashed. Teachers are still being let go. Classrooms are more crowded than ever. The sequester will drain even more funds after October 1.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Obama Plan to Bomb Syria Protested in Pittsburgh

Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette: Protesters gather Friday on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Forbes Avenue in Oakland in disapproval of possible U.S. military action against Syria.

By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith

Beaver County Peace Links via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sept 7, 2013 - Weary of nearly two decades of intermittent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, protesters met in Oakland on Friday to tell the Obama administration not to bomb Syria in retaliation for its apparent use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month.

Chanting slogans such as "more money for jobs, not for war!" and waving signs with slogans such as "Obushma" and "These Colors Don't Run the World," the group of approximately 100 demonstrators organized by the Thomas Merton Center Antiwar Committee clogged the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard and repeatedly crossed the streets in front of stopped vehicles.

Among them, Syrian native Elaine Khalil, 47, said the United States -- and all the other countries trying to influence the outcome of the conflict between Syrian President Bashir Assad and the rebels trying to oust him -- should stop meddling and let the Syrian people make their own peace.

"With [President Barack] Obama supporting this war, our fear is it would actually explode into World War III," Ms. Khalil said, citing the possibility that military strikes might incite retribution by other countries in the region. "If they would pull their hands out of it, the Syrian people would resolve their own problems."

The administration's push to retaliate against Syria stems from an Aug. 21 sarin nerve gas attack in Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, that some reports have said killed as many as 1,700 people, including approximately 400 children.

In 2012, Mr. Obama said Mr. Assad's use of chemical weapons would be "a red line for us" that could prompt military action.

While the United States and several other countries have pointed the finger at Mr. Assad as responsible for the attack, Ms. Khalil said many Syrians, along with officials in Russia and Iran, believe the gas was released by the rebels themselves. (Middle East Associated Press and National Public Radio correspondent Dale Gavlak reported Aug. 30 that rebels had told him they received the chemical weapons from Saudi Arabia, didn't know what the weapons contained or how to use them, and had released the gas accidentally.)

Watching the protest from across the street, 18-year-old Syrian native Laila Al-Soulaiman said the conflict in her home country is too complicated to be the subject of a protest, and that resolving it is not a simple matter of supporting one side over the other.

As a Syrian, she said she supports intervention by the United States, but not military strikes. She doubts that the United States will act at all, though, since the Syrian conflict began two years ago and chemical weapons have been used there for at least a year.

"If the Obama administration had any intention of helping the Syrian people, they would have done that two years ago," said Ms. Al-Soulaiman, a freshman political science major at the University of Pittsburgh. "The 'red line' has been crossed a year ago, and now it's Obama trying to save face."

Daniel Freer, a 20-year-old Pitt bioengineering student from North Carolina, said he attended the demonstration to show he wants the United States to stay away from yet another potential military quagmire. The Obama administration's talk of military strikes as punishment for the sarin gas attack, he said, reminds him of the Bush administration's false claims of "weapons of mass destruction" as justification for going to war in Iraq, however different the circumstances.

"I know if we go in, we'll be there too long, or do it the wrong way, and it will be pointless," Mr. Freer said.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: or 412-263-1719.
First Published September 7, 2013 12:19 am

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