Syria: Timeline in Tweets and Facebook comments

In just a matter of weeks, the Unites States has taken a curious path with regard to Syria and the use of chemical weapons. From a “red line” clearly defined by President Obama alone, to the question of attack (and if congressional approval is necessary), to blunders by Secretary of State Kerry that created a diplomatic resolution. Through out the course of these events public opinion has remained steadfast in opposition as a justification and plan of action failed to be presented to the American (and British and German) people.

The following are a series of tweets (@electvasquezny) and Facebook comments ( presenting some of the thoughts and views during this political drama. Included are key events that occurred along this timeline. For a history of key events in Syria since 1918 (from a British perspective) you can review this BBC News summary.

***Note that for the New York 22nd Congressional District Representative Richard Hanna, along with 15 other NY members of Congress, did not make any position on Syria throughout the proposed conflict. While overwhelming opposition from the public was in place, Rep. Hanna could not determine if standing by constituents or the leaders of the Party was correct course of action.

While this has currently resolved itself, the question of where Rep. Hanna – and the other members of Congress for New York (and other parts of the nation) that chose to sit on the fence – stands on this and similar issues remains unclear and perhaps implies political self-preservation as opposed to the best interests of the nation or representation of the public.***

August 21, 2013 – An alleged chemical attack took place at Ein Tarma and Zamalka in Syria. After initial confusion, blame for the attack was placed on the Syrian Government lead by President Assad. Syria has consistently denied the use of chemical weapons.

August 28, 2013 – President Obama states in an interview with Judy Woodruff that he has not decided what to do about Syria –

“JUDY WOODRUFF: But Mr. President, with all due respect, what does it accomplish? I mean, you’re – the signals the American people are getting is that this would be a limited strike or of limited duration. If it’s not going to do that much harm to the Assad regime, what have you accomplished? How – what – what’s changed?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Judy, again, I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it again. And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria.”

‏@JazzShaw 28 Aug
I assume Joe Biden will be opening impreachment proceedings if Obama bombs Syria w/o congressional resolution in support?
Retweeted by Michael Vasquez

‏@MVConsult 28 Aug
If regime change not the point of dropping bombs on Syria, why bother?

@SenRandPaul 28 Aug
@BarackObama in 2007: POTUS lacks authority to unilaterally authorize military attack w/o imminent threat to nation
Retweeted by Michael Vasquez

August 29, 2013 – British Prime Minister David Cameron’s support of a military strike against Syria is voted down,

“…it was clear that parliament did not want to see a military strike on Syria to punish it for chemical weapons use and that he would act accordingly.”

@electvasquezny 29 Aug
So why hasn’t Rep Hanna joined the call to have Pres Obama get authority from Congress for Syria along w 100 Repubs …

@electvasquezny 29 Aug
Will Syria be another foreign policy flip-flop for Rep Hanna, like Libya? …

@electvasquezny 29 Aug
Apparently the British can’t see a point in bombing Syria that benefits them, so why is President Obama pushing for it when America is same.

August 30, 2013 – President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry try to make case for a military strike on Syria, resistance is noted internationally as well as domestically.

“In Washington, questions about the veracity of the U.S. intelligence and whether the nation is headed for another long war based on false information — like happened in Iraq — have emerged from both parties in Congress.”

‏@MVConsult 30 Aug
I still am unclear what US national interest is affected by a Syrian internal conflict. And why are economic sanctions off the table?

‏@electvasquezny 30 Aug
50% don’t want US involved w Syria (NBC poll), 80% want Congress approval, US intel still unsure of details, British are out. Time to pause

@electvasquezny 30 Aug
Can anyone recall the last time Britian didn’t support, even grudgingly, a military action by US?

@electvasquezny 30 Aug
In dictionaries, under examples of feckless you can see the following: ‘See Obama Syria bombing plan’

Michael Vasquez – August 30 via mobile [Facebook]
Britain has supported every military action by US that I recall, even if they didn’t like it. But on Syria they are out, and the powerhouse of France is backing us. When was the last time France won a military action? Napoleon? Is this really the only support we are getting. Shouldn’t this give pause as maybe something is wrong.

I think you can find the answer on what to do about Syria in the following quote from December 20, 2007…

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As commander-in-chief, the president does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

August 31, 2013 – France steps up as a supporter of a military strike against Syria. President Obama takes first steps to get Congress to authorize a military strike,

“In a dramatic turnaround, President Obama said Saturday that he will wait for congressional authorization to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack, even though he has decided a military strike is needed.”

Blog article – The Syria questions

September 1, 2013 – Syria responds to US actions,

“Syria hailed a “historic American retreat” on Sunday, mockingly accusing President Barack Obama of hesitation and confusion after he delayed a military response to last month’s chemical weapons attack near Damascus to consult Congress.”

September 2, 2013 – Pending vote on Syria in Senate stirs comments,

“We cannot make this about the president versus Congress or him shuffling off responsibility,” Mr. Rogers, the Michigan Republican, said Sunday on “State of the Union” on CNN. “We can have all of those debates at another time. This is really about the credibility of the United States of America standing up for an antiproliferation and use of chemical and biological weapons.”

September 3, 2013 – Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution (10 – 7) that authorizes a limited military response, comedian (and noted Liberal) Jon Stewart expressed a backlash against President Obama and the plan on his Daily Show program. President Obama to travel overseas to Stockholm on the 4th.

‏@pewresearch 3 Sep
Few See U.S. Military Action Discouraging Chemical Weapons Use
Retweeted by Michael Vasquez

‏@MVConsult 3 Sep
1,400 dead Syrians = moral imperative for US. In Darfur 1.2 million dead, 250,000 refugees, over more than 8 yrs = nothing.

@electvasquezny 3 Sep
So what are the odds of the Nobel asking for the peace prize back when President Obama is in Sweden? And yes I know it was Oslo.

Michael Vasquez shared a link. – September 3 [Facebook]
74% believe this will cause a backlash against US and 61% think it won’t stop chemical weapons use. So is it really worth helping the President save face?

September 4, 2013 – President Obama tries to shift pressure on Syria from his “red line” to the international community, and fails to win support – “While Obama may have had some justification for drawing that line based on international conventions, the decision to tie U.S. military involvement to Assad using chemical weapons was Obama’s red line.” Russian President Vladimir Putin expresses pending opposition to the US on Syria during upcoming G20 talks,

“We have our ideas about what we will do and how we will do it in case the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise. We have our plans.”

@MVConsult 4 Sep
Bold statement from Rep Hanna on Syria – ‘I’m definitely standing on the fence’

@electvasquezny 4 Sep
Can Rep Hanna be any less decisive on Syria? Or is taking a stand too politically definitive for his arbitrary standards?

@electvasquezny 4 Sep
Leadership is not about winning every battle or being right in every debate, its about decisiveness in the face of ambiguity. Rep Hanna?

@electvasquezny 4 Sep
Shockingly at 1:38pm Secrty Kerry went 2 for 2 on comparisons to nazi concentration camps killings. What arw the odds he will try another?

Michael Vasquez shared a link. September 4 [Facebook]
A statement saying you (Rep Richard Hanna) have no statement is just an attempt to look good as you waste taxpayers money. Pick a side on Syria, that you believe is right, and explain why you think that. Constituents will let you know if they agree.

Michael Vasquez September 4 via mobile [Facebook]
Sect Kerry dodged completely the timeframe and scope of potential Syria attack, and any potential consequence as asked by Rep Smith of NJ. He didn’t even try to acknowledge the question. @ 1:24pm. Does that mean there is no plan or projections? Or is it trying to maintain a sembance military secrets on a very public action?

Michael Vasquez September 4 via mobile [Facebook]
Secty Kerry response to Rep Chabot of OH on difference of Syria to Libya @ 1:32pm, was the imminent threat to life – they why has there been no action on Darfur in past 8 years. Or do 1.2 million dead not count to President Obama in his concern about saving lives?

‏@MVConsult 4 Sep
Seriously, vote on Syria is not partisan but about best interest of America and our plan of action. How can a Congressman not have opinion?

Mike Vass September 4 via DROID [Facebook]
Seriously, vote on Syria is not partisan but about best interest of America and our plan of action. How can a Congressman not have opinion?

September 5, 2013Opposition in House of Representative to a military strike on Syria is notable – even with both Dem and Republican leadership support of President Obama,

“If the House voted today on a resolution to attack Syria, President Barack Obama would lose — and lose big.”

Blog article – What’s the worst position to have on Syria?

Michael Vasquez shared a link via Mike Vass. September 5 [Facebook]
Issues of this magnitude have grave consequences, and political opportunism can never benefit the average American. More than ever, moments like this define the future of the nation and thus require those strong enough to stand up and take a stance they believe is both correct and worthy. Only in making strong arguments, and fighting for the best outcome can America walk a path to tomorrow with confidence it has done the right thing.

September 6, 2013 – Syrian rebels attack US – Russia deal on chemical weapons –

“America told the world it would bomb Syria and then, when the time came, it got scared,” said Abdelqaderi Asasheh, operations chief of the Liwa al-Tawhid brigade in Aleppo.”

September 7, 2013White House weekly address on limited military action in Syria.

September 8, 2013 – Syrian President Assad warns of retaliation from any US military action,

“You should expect everything,” Assad said in an interview with CBS taped in Damascus. “Not necessarily from the government. It’s not only the government … in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology.”

September 9, 2013 – Secretary Kerry offers rhetorical resolution to Syria to avoid military strike. Secretary Kerry also describes any US military action as “unbelievably small”“We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”

President Obama acknowledges may lose congressional support of military strikes,

“Battling stiff resistance in Congress, President Barack Obama conceded Monday night he might lose his fight for congressional support of a military strike against Syria, and declined to say what he would do if lawmakers reject his call to back retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last month.”

Michael Vasquez September 9 via mobile [Facebook]
So what does the Obama administration do now that, as the President seeks to create support for what most see as (and Secretary Kerry described) a useless show of force, Kerry has given Syria an out? Ignore the diplomatic solution that they offered? Or push forward on an attack that has no support on all sides, national and international (France doesn’t count)?

‏@MVConsult 9 Sep
Amazing how an option in Syria is available once the Obama Admin mentions it and does not assume the answer

September 10, 2013 – President Obama speaks to American public, trying to gain support for military strikes as Russia moves on Secretary Kerry’s rhetorical offer.

September 11, 2013 – President Obama places congressional approval on hold, as Russia and Syria indicate support for Secretary Kerry’s rhetorical offer.

Fred Thompson ‏@fredthompson 11 Sep
Kerry:Syria attack would be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort”. Oh… like the State Department’s Benghazi investigation? #tcot
Retweeted by Michael Vasquez

Michael Vasquez likes an article on POLITICO. September 11 [Facebook]
Good translation of of the polispeak in the speech – What President Obama said, what he meant

Michael Vasquez September 11 via mobile [Facebook]
Much to the relief of Rep Richard Hanna and 15 other members of Congress representing NY State, the question of bombing Syria is off the table – for now. These members have been rewarded for sitting on the fence. No longer do they need to justify why they would not support the overwhelming view of their constituents, nor stand with their Party leadership. Each has preserved their re-election hopes, but will voters recall thier lack of intestinal fortitude?

September 12, 2013 – US and Russia start talks with Syria on turnover of chemical weapons.

@electvasquezny 12 Sep
If report cited by WSJ correct and N Korea is starting plutonium reactor, will Pres O bomb them? Doesn’t Syria policy mandate response?

Michael Vasquez September 12 via mobile [Facebook]
The problem with how Syria has showcased a weak and confused US stance may be realized, if as Wall Street Journal article suggests, North Korea is activating plutonium reactor. Isn’t that a more credible US national interest and threat? Will Pres Obama suggest bombing N Korea, and is the assumption that the US is impotent spurring this action?

‏@MVConsult 12 Sep
If US ignores first 100,000 Syrian dead & 1.2 mill Darfur but alleged chem use = bombing then what is policy on N Korea and plutonium?

September 14, 2013 – Deal reached on Syrian chemical weapons, plan to take place by mid-2014. President Obama states military option still possible if deal fails.

“If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

What’s the worst position to have on Syria?

For most of the day, on Sept 4th, the media was deeply entrenched in news about the US potentially bombing Syria due to the alleged use of chemical weapons. From the weak attempt of President Obama to try to garner support from the international community (“…the world set a red line…”) to Secretary Kerry’s avoidance of questions about how the Obama Administration would use any authorization of force against Syria to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval of same authorization. Big news for an issue that likely will take a decade to resolve all the ramifications.

Both sides of the issue have strong reasons for their causes. Those in favor of bombing Syria make the case that this will help deter future chemical weapons use around the world. They say that there is a moral imperative for the 1,400 that died. They say that if not stopped now, one day a terrorist will decide to use such weapons against the US, potentially.

Those against action state that US intervention in a sovereign nations internal dispute has no benefit to America. They pose the conclusion that ultimately, no matter who wins, the US will be blamed for collateral losses which will spur terrorist recruitment and lead to attacks against the nation. They counter that if the loss of 1,400 lives is a moral imperative, then what is the reason for the lack of action in the face of the genocide in Darfur that has claimed more than 1.2 million lives, and created ore than 300,000 refugees?

Both sides can be faulted for making assumptions that may not be fully valid. Both have flaws as well as core truths that should not be ignored.

But recent polling show clear lines of thought. Pew Research (9/3/13) noted that 74% felt a strike on Syria would lead to a backlash against the US. Only 33% felt, in the same poll, that a strike would be effective in deterring future chemical weapon attacks.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll (9/3/13) shows 59% opposed to attacking Syria (and 70% opposed to arming they Syrian rebels). An NBC poll (8/29/13) shows only 26% in favor of military action, increasing to 42% if chemical weapon use is proven, still a mere 21% see US interests actually linked to Syria.

Yet this is not the point of this article. The above is only meant to clarify a single point. There are clear and definitive positions in America on the issue of military strikes against Syria. In fact more than 140 Republicans and Democrat legislators signed a letter by Rep. Scott Rigell that went before President Obama on the issue of authorization by Congress for any proposed action (one of the most bipartisan acts in some time). For or against, the majority of elected politicians have taken a stance and are doing their jobs by trying to convince their constituents that they are on the right side of the issue.

The point of this post is about those politicians that are sitting on the fence, like Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22). He is 1 of 2 Republicans, and 1 of 16 members of Congress representing New York State, that have clearly stated they have no position on the issue at this time.

“When the use-of-force resolution is finalized, I will review it closely to determine whether or not actions enabled by it advance vital interests of the United States and are in the best interest of upstate New Yorkers” – Rep. Richard Hanna 9/4/13

I do not believe that such a position is an act of leadership or even a responsible response for a representative elected to Congress. My first thoughts in fact were summed up in my Twitter response earlier in the day,

@electvasquezny – “Leadership is not about winning every battle or being right in every debate, its about decisiveness in the face of ambiguity.”

Let me be clear, I do not advocate a hasty decision on an issue with ramifications that reach across the globe and may not be resolved in total for a decade or more. Nor do I advocate a close-minded approach that would prevent both proof and reasonable debate from swaying an elected official from one position to a more worthy one.

But this is an issue that demands definitive answers from elected officials now. Constituents have a right to know if their representative believes that Congress needs to approve Presidential military action of this nature. They need to know if, after weeks of discussion and information, their Representative believes that US interests are at risk – one way or another.

It is the obligation of an elected politician to present, in their view, the best options available on any issue – and provide proof and arguments to back up that belief – for the benefit of constituents. Anything less is not deliberation but political maneuvering glossed over with false sympathy, in my opinion.

This is even more true when such ambiguity is the weapon of a politician that has time and again taken both sides of issues – like immigration, long-term abortion, the NSA and 4th Amendment, even going back to 2011 and Libya. “When the use-of-force resolution is finalized…” says volumes. Once that is done, the debate will essentially be over, with a clear indication of both where the nation feels is the best course of action and what will or will not be done. At that point, those on the fence will just be jumping on a bandwagon, evading any fear of a cost of votes in their next re-election.

Issues of this magnitude have grave consequences, and political opportunism can never benefit the average American. More than ever, moments like this define the future of the nation and thus require those strong enough to stand up and take a stance they believe is both correct and worthy. Only in making strong arguments, and fighting for the best outcome can America walk a path to tomorrow with confidence it has done the right thing.

I can say with certitude that I believe intervention into Syria, especially with military action that is purposefully ineffective at swaying the conflict, is the worst option for America in the long run. It is a plan without foresight to the consequences it will create, and provides no upside to our nation at any point. I appreciate and respect the reasons that oppose my view, and I am more than willing to listen to informed and reasonable debate to sway my position – just as I am willing to wholeheartedly defend my points until proven credibly wrong. I have talked to residents of the NY-22 and beyond, and will speak to more on this issue upon request, because this conversation is the only way to resolve a problem that the hubris of our President has thrust upon us. How can our elected officials do any less?

There are 16 members of Congress for New York that are on a fence. I have called out Rep. Hanna to reveal, clearly and without ambiguity, where he stands and why as he is my Representative and others should do the same for their Representative. I have no doubt that he and the others all hold preferences, and they should have the internal fortitude to let the public know what that is. Just as this is not about partisanship, so to it should not be about bandwagons and political maneuver for re-election plans and fundraising dreams.

In America we expect more from our politicians, and this is the time and issue where our politicians live up to that expectation.

The Syria questions

As President Obama continues to embark on a path to attack Syria for its probable use of chemical weapons, several major issues remain unanswered. Questions that not only address the use of deadly force by the nation, but also address consequences that could reach far into the future.

The first and most pressing issue is if the President can act without the authorization of Congress. As Senator Obama stated December 20, 2007

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As commander-in-chief, the president does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

The key to that statement is “actual or imminent threat to the nation.” It is the same critical point brought up by Rep. Scott Rigell’s letter to the President sent August 28, 2013. It is the crux of the War Powers Act of 1973.

Without a threat to the nation, use of force against Syria is unconstitutional if it fails to have the consent of the Congress as I and apparently 150 members of Congress believe (Rep. Richard Hanna, my congressman, is NOT among the 100 Republicans and 50 Democrats that support the Rigell letter currently).

The second question is what is the benefit? Assuming that either Congress approves, or there is a national threat that thus far appears unproven, what is the gain to America for having taken action?

If the attack of the Syrian government is limited, as has been widely discussed by the White House, to just bombings then it means that collateral damage is likely. Collateral damage can be destruction of infrastructure and deaths of civilians. Such damage feeds into terrorist groups, using the grief and strife to fuel recruitment that given time can lead to terrorist attacks on America. Just imagine a child that has lost a parent, or a parent of a child that is critically wounded via collateral damage, and a nefarious organization preying upon them under the guise of hitting back against America and you can visualize the scenario.

Against such a potential problem, among many others, what will be achieved? President Obama has already stated that US action will not result in a regime change. Due to the mix of rebel supporters that are known enemies of the US, the strength and depth of integration among the rebels being unknown, the US currently does not want to provide additional support to rebels. So the proposed action in effect does nothing to change the situation in Syria, thus how does America benefit?

It should also be noted that the American public, that of Britain and Germany, as well as other nations do not believe military action should be taken. They too do not see a benefit, and as such support to the US has already been impeded.

Third is a question of planning. What is the purpose to the attack against Syria? What is President Obama trying to gain ultimately?

Attacking a sovereign nation, under internal conflict or not, never just ends with the last bomb going off. There are consequences that continue long after. The US relationship with Russia and the other Middle East nations will be affected. Considering the lack of support form critical allies England and Germany, and the potential of unilateral action, all consequences will lie solely on the US. Is there any contingency for how say Iran, or Hezbola, or China may react? Will this impede the use or production of future chemical weapons by Syria or any other nation? Does this signal a US willingness to attack other nations with chemical weapon stores – and if so, how does the US justify the stores of chemical weapons that we have?

At this time, no plan – coherent or otherwise – has been offered to address any of these concerns. In fact, beyond the act of aggression, no other forward looking proposal has been made. The ramifications of this range from the mundane to the extreme. If the current Assad regime wins the internal Syrian conflict, the US will have created an enemy that will remember what we did in their difficult time. If rebels factions win, many are aligned with organizations and nations that outright hate America. Even if those factions of rebels are not the clear winner, Syria will become a nation akin to Libya, Egypt, and others that are torn by internal power plays and vacuums increasing Middle East instability.

Considering what is known at this time, the conclusion that can be drawn from just these simple questions, is that:

  • There is no threat to America from the internal Syrian conflict that is immediate or even an obvious direct consequence from non-action.
  • There is no benefit (direct or long-term) to the US if a limited non-regime changing attack were to take place.
  • The production and use of chemical weapons will not be hindered, globally or regionally, whether or not the US attacks Syria.
  • The consequences of taking this action will cause a ripple in the Middle East that is likely to have ramification long-term that will in all cases be negative to the US.
  • The American people, and those of some of its closest allies, do not believe that military action is the correct path.
  • Without a justification greater than – to put it crudely – ‘I am the president and I think it’s bad’, there seems to be no reason to engage Syria. Until a clear and definitive plan of action can be constructed, that takes into account all of the above and more, it is best for America to remain outside of this internal conflict. That is true even if the fact that chemical weapons are being used is accurate, as seems probable at this time.

    What is most shocking at this time is that 285 members of Congress (including my own representative, Rep. Hanna) have not joined Rep. Rigell in demanding justification and congressional approval prior to action. This is not about partisan politics, but ultimately the best interest of America. Allowing a poorly thought out military strike today can and likely will result in ramifications that will be an actual and imminent threat to the nation in the future.

    But that is my opinion.

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