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If America were Syria

1:21 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

If America were Syria

Our eyes glaze over when we read statistics of the horrific mayhem ravaging Syria. Numbers lose all meaning. One way for Americans to appreciate what those figures mean is to compute what the impact would be if the same tragedy were devastating the United States.

With 313 million people, the U.S. population is 14 times larger than Syria’s 23 million. Thus, if Americans were being slaughtered at the same rate as Syrians since the Spring of 2011, the number of American dead would be greater than 1.4 million, and increasing at an ever accelerating pace.

That 1.4 million is greater than the total of all Americans who lost their lives in every war that Americans have fought in—including the Civil War.

But with foreign backers providing weapons and money, the level of mayhem has  only ratcheted up. According to the United Nations, seven thousand Syrians were killed in just the past month. The equivalent figure in the United States would be 100,000 Americans slaughtered per month.

Even allowing for the much smaller American population at the time, that toll far exceeds the average monthly mortality rate—4, 250—during the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict American’s ever engaged in, that raged from 1861 to 1865.

Meanwhile, more than 2 million Syrians have fled abroad. That translates into 28 million Americans packed into teeming refugee camps in Canada and Mexico.

Another 75 million Americans, would have fled their homes and towns and cities to  become what the aid agencies refer to as  ‘internal refugees.’

The total number of Americans displaced equals more than one third of the nation–one hundred million Americans, terrified, uprooted, their lives destroyed, desperate for the conflict to end—turning for help to the outside world—which continues to fuel the conflict.

(My new mystery, “The Watchman’s File”, about Israel’s most closely-guarded secret (It’s not the bomb) , is available on Amazon. Read the rest of this entry →

Syria: Perilous Precedent

9:50 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

The issues in Syria we are told by the Obama administration and its allies, are clear-cut. America has no choice but to act. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The current face-off between the U.S. and Syria is the product of blurred rhetoric, diplomatic double talk, and shocking miscalculations from both sides. The upshot: the U.S. and a few of its allies are ready—once again to unleash a volley of sophisticated weapons against another Middle East dictator, with no solid legal basis nor any realistic goals in mind.

For example, one of the questions many are asking is: knowing how devastating the U.S. response would be, why would Assad risk using chemical weapons?

The answer is that Assad didn’t know what the U.S. response would be.

Indeed, President Obama was less than precise when he made his statement at a press conference August 20, 2012 that the introduction of chemical weapons in Syria., might change his decision not to order a U.S. military engagement.

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.  That would change my equation.

Furthermore, we are told that many of Obama’s aides were taken aback by that new and vague policy declaration, the President in effect painting himself into a very imprecise corner.

Just the same, after Obama had issued that warning. why would Assad have risked using chemical weapons in the horrific attack this past week, killing hundreds of his own people.

One part of the answer is that Assad’s forces had apparently already used chemical weapons, in much smaller doses over the past few months, triggering little more than a tepid response from America and its allies, Obama declaring a vague intention to arm the rebels — though such arms have yet to get through.

Another part of the answer is that the August 21 chemical attack may have been a dumb miscalculation on the part of one or more of Assad’s commanders, rather than the result of an order from Assad himself. That, according to Foreign Policy magazine, was the conclusion that U.S. intelligence drew after listening to intercepts as “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.”

Thus, it is not at all clear that the slaughter was not the work of one or more Syrian officers overstepping their bounds. “Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? “It’s unclear where control lies,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. “Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?”

It was thus revealing when the New York Times reported today that

“American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack, and they tried to lower expectations about the public intelligence presentation…But even without hard evidence tying Mr. Assad to the attack, administration officials asserted, the Syrian leader bears ultimate responsibility for the actions of his troops and should be held accountable.

“The commander in chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership,” said the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf — even if, she added, “He’s not the one who pushes the button or says ‘go’ on this.”

Of course, using that same doctrine others might argue — as they often do — that American Presidents, like George W. Bush, or yes, even Barack Obama, should be held responsibility for the atrocities committed in the field by their forces.

But that’s probably not something the White House would like to discuss at this time. Read the rest of this entry →