This year’s “Shame On You, That’s Propaganda, Not Journalism” award goes to AP reporter Julie Pace, the Associated Press for distributing it, and the dozens of newspapers and blogs that ran the story on President Barack Obama’s decision to consult Congress before going to war with Syria over chemical weapons.
Pace’s story, “Analysis: Obama’s credibility on line in reversal,” greeted me from Page 1 of my local newspaper this morning. Her message: Obama will be seen as weak if his line-in-the-sand on chemical weapons doesn’t lead him to military action.
Perhaps channelling the discredited Judith Miller of the New York Times, who helped drum up domestic support for the ill-advised, illegal, and tragic war in Iraq during the George W. Bush presidency, Pace writes, among other zingers,
President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to instead ask Congress for permission left him with a high-risk gamble that could devastate his credibility if no action is ultimately taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that crossed his own “red line.”
The stunning reversal also raises questions about the president’s decisiveness and could embolden leaders in Syria, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, leaving them with the impression of a U.S. president unwilling to back up his words with actions.
If you ask ME…
- The President is constitutionally required to get Congress’s permission. Even G.W. Bush did so, though based on a tangled web of fabrications, untruths, and misleading statements.
- It is fairly clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria, and that is definitely not acceptable. However, there’s been quite a bit of speculation about who actually used them. Here, for example, a Congressman in Obama’s own party expresses skepticism about who used the weapons—and about their use to justify military action. And here, an AP story that speculates the rebels may have been the ones using chemical weapons, in order to draw other countries into the conflict.
- Pace makes an assumption that military force is the only acceptable response. That, frankly, is just plain crazy. Why not just send in a small, well-protected squad of international peacekeepers to arrest Assad, and try him? This is not so different from the way the US killed Bin Laden, after all.
- If the justification is to save innocent lives, please explain to me how the far greater bloodshed that inevitably occurs in war will accomplish anything other than the embitterment of the local populace against us and their recruitment by terror elements, as has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan—which, not coincidentally, undermined most of our credibility and our reservoir of good will in those parts of the world.
- War generally does not solve problems. Usually, it makes things much worse.
- In this case, war with Syria runs huge risks of involving Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. Do we really want to create a regional holocaust and the potential for World War III?
- Diplomacy and example are much more powerful credibility builders than macho posturing.
- Speaking of example, the US is not in a position to throw stones here. The US has a long and ugly history of using unconscionable weapons that disproportionately affect civilians. Examples include the Dresden firebombing against German civilians and the use of atomic bombs against Japanese civilians during World War II, Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam (aren’t those chemical weapons?), and depleted uranium in Iraq.
Lastly, which part of Obama’s noncredibility do we want to focus on? Is it the red line in the sand about chemical weapons that Pace focuses on—or the deeper issue that even she mentions later in the article?
Obama could make good on the promises he made as a senator and presidential candidate, when he called for restraint and congressional consultation by White House’s seeking military force. And with the American public weary of war and many opposed to even modest military action against Syria, Obama could share with Congress the burden of launching an attack.
To me, he started losing credibility when he failed to make good on those promises of peace for which he was elected. He has proven himself a war hawk, a lover of the Bush-era NSA spy apparatus, an enabler of torture and false imprisonment at Guantanamo, a suppressor of dissent, and unworthy of my trust. If he tries to be a Boy Scut about his promise of retaliation if chemical weapons are used, he breaks those earlier, more crucial promises yet again.
Barack Obama is still an improvement over Bush, but it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference.