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Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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It is not just the Assad regime that is bracing itself. Jihadists fear the US may seek to kill

two birds with one stone by targeting them as well, amid fears that they emerge the winners if the Assad regime is overthrown. On Foreign Policy, Charles Lister writes:

In a note entitled "Important Instructions... Before the US initiates its Mission," distributed via social media on 27 August, senior Fatah al-Islam leader Abdullah Shaker (Abu Bakr) claimed: "For each and every missile that strikes a [Syrian] missile site, there will be another that targets the mujahideen's positions," suggesting such strikes would aim to kill as many jihadist leaders as possible. Shaker went on to advise all jihadists to "change your positions, take shelter, and do not move in public," and underlined how previous experiences in Mali, Iraq, and Afghanistan had seen "the mujahideen destroyed in a very short time," as the necessary precautions were not undertaken. Shaker also advised against any attempts to deploy anti-aircraft weapons against US "raids" as this would "practically be suicidal."

Similar notes of warning and advice have been distributed by known Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS members and sympathizers, including an anonymous "brother familiar with the American media." He suggested on 25 August that in addition to US-led strikes targeting Syrian "radar systems, air defence systems, the chemical weapons industry, and stocks of Scud missiles," a second set of strikes would target "the training camps of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, the group's top tier leaders, and the sharia courts."


This possibility had nor occurred to me. In may just be paranoia in the context of the Syrian situation, but I suppose their fear is based on past experience elsewhere.

Nice post. And a great example of how to be passionate and convincing without name calling.

"Ok, so Barack Obama seems poised to drag us into another military conflict. It's a bad idea."

I agree.

"The opposition to Assad is rife with al Qaeda/islamists. Shall we put them in power? If not, how do we prevent it?"

I suppose "rife" is a subjective term. Assad has from the beginning portrayed this as a "you are with me or the terrorists" choice, at the beginning when the protests were massive and peaceful.

What I read is that, aside from Assad's propaganda, the Al Qaeda linked Al Nusra Front numbers from 6,000 to 10,000 fighters and they are some of the best fighters in the opposition. That accounts for 10-20% of the total rebel fighters. That may qualify as "rife" and they are certainly a force that will have to be reckoned with in the long run.

"How many people will WE kill as a result of our military involvement? What of the Christian and Alawite minorities after the fall of Assad? What of the Sunni/Shia conflict after the Christian/Alawite ethnic cleansing?"

If we commit a war crime to allegedly punish a war crime, how are we any better than Assad? Is it possible to "punish" for a war crime without committing one ourselves? I suppose it is possible but very difficult.

I agree that what happens to minorities in Syria has to be considered, as does what has happened to the majority in past decades. In that way it is similar to the advent of majority rule in South Africa. Many whites were concerned that's majority rule would be very dangerous for the white minority. While about half of the white population has indeed emigrated from South Africa, the worst white fears were never realized.

"The President has said that it seems clear that the Assad regime used chemical weapons, but I don't believe him. I don't trust the people advising him. I don't trust the organizations in charge of providing the intel. I'm not saying the President is lying (per se) but I don't think he's actually telling the truth."

I think it is obvious that Obama is not itching to get involved in the Syrian conflict. If he were, as Bush/Cheney were in Iraq, he would have found a pretext long ago (or invented one as they did).

He knows the history of the intelligence communities mistakes and lies in the past as well as any of us and takes what they report with a grain of salt. That does not mean that he could never be convinced that Assad's forces used chemical weapons.

Many of us will not be convinced by anything we hear from Obama or any other American official. Even if the UN inspectors were to implicate syrian forces (hypothetical, at this point, but certainly a possibility), many of us would not be convinced. I suppose that is because I know that I support a policy of not intervening and ANY investigation by ANYONE that reaches ANY conclusion that lessens the likelihood of that policy being implemented is something I am going to have a hard time "believing".

I know the habit of choosing policy first then accepting evidence that supports it and rejecting or discrediting evidence that does not, is a common republican trait. They choose policies like smaller government, lower taxes and global warming as a hoax among many others. Then they latch on to any "evidence" that seems to support their chosen policy and reject or discredit all evidence that clashes with what "they know is the right thing to do". I do try to fight this habit; sometimes with more success than others.

From a US civil rights attorney - Two and a Half Years Later: Inside 'Liberated' Syria

Living in the U.S., I had long stopped using the term "Revolution" to describe the situation in Syria. Yet in my time in Syria, not a single person I met used any other term to describe it. It didn't matter whether I was talking to a mother or an FSA fighter or an activist. It also didn't matter if I was talking to someone who supported the Revolution or was critical of it. They all spoke of the "thawra" (Revolution). Indeed they spoke of little else. Similarly, not a single person I met used the term "civil war" to describe the situation in Syria. I was told time and again that a civil war requires two sides. In Syria, there was only one side -- the government -- that unilaterally waged war against its people.

Through that interaction and others that I witnessed, it was clear that the Syrians did not welcome these foreign Islamists and viewed them as an evil, only second to the Syrian Regime and its allies. Indeed many Syrians suspected that there was a partnership of sorts between the "Islamiyeen" and the Regime. "While the Regime constantly targets FSA military posts," explained a Syrian man from Kafranbel, "it never targets the Jubhat or Dawlat's military posts."

None of the Syrians I spoke with knew the exact nature of the relationship between the Regime and the "Islamiyeen" but they strongly believed the Regime wanted them in Syria. "They substantiate the government's story that it is fighting terrorists," explained one man. "But rather than targeting them, the government shells us, its own people." The "Islamiyeen" also became the international community's scapegoat for declining to intervene in Syria or provide weapons to the moderate FSA. "What, the Islamiyeen are only about 9,000 fighters while the FSA are about 100,000 fighters!" told me the same man. "Yet America only talks about the Islamiyeen as if everyone else in Syria doesn't count." And of course, the "Islamiyeen" have little loyalties to the Syrians in the "liberated" areas and justify their extremist views and harsh dealings on archaic notions of religion and religious statehood. The Dawlat (ISIS) kidnapped a young Syrian videographer and activist I had met a day earlier because he wore a Metallica shirt and expressed irreligious sentiments in his private videos. To this day, his whereabouts remain unknown.

As I left the bakery, I jokingly asked my Syrian hosts if we had accidently driven to Afghanistan rather than Saraqeb. "Don't worry," one of them responded, "they are not welcome here and we won't let them stay in Syria once the Regime falls."


Of course, this writer spent her time in rebel-controlled areas of Syria so her observations deal with the people who live in those areas. These people downplay the role of the jihadists (even going so far as to see "conspiracies" in which the government does not target the jihadists since they serve a PR role) and seem overly optimistic about the ease with which they will be sent away when the conflict ends.

Truthout: Greece's Golden Dawn: A Wake-up Call for Europe

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When Greece entered the European Union in the early '80s, hopes were high that it signaled a new era. Despite the common tendency toward fatalism, many Greeks hoped that the sad history of 20th century ethno-nationalism, a history of war, occupation and dictatorships, had finally closed. Now they feel that the rug has been pulled out from under them. Suddenly the beneficence of the EU, much of which was diverted into the pockets of the politicians and financiers with a nod and a wink, has become a noose around their necks. Among the Greek middle class, - which, thanks to the EU, has grown to include most farmers, small craftsmen and clerical workers - feelings of frustration and injustice are palpable. Not only has their new-found prosperity collapsed like a huge pyramid scam, but they are being pilloried in the international press as a bunch of lazy welfare cheats.

With Greece looking more and more like the Weimar Republic, Golden Dawn has found success following the Nazi playbook. Golden Dawn was founded in 1980 under the leadership of right-wing fanatic Nikolaos Michaloliakos. During the '80s and '90s, Golden Dawn was a tiny party on the far-right lunatic fringe. Their fetish for Nazi regalia won them few supporters in a country that had suffered horribly from the German occupation. Among other things, they claimed Christianity was a Jewish plot and advocated a return to worshiping the ancient Greek gods, positions which did not sit well with traditionally devout right-wing Greek nationalists. After several unsuccessful attempts to merge with other right-wing groups, Golden Dawn finally muted their more bizarre positions and concentrated on promoting a neo-fascist philosophy they branded as "social nationalism." They also shifted their recruiting efforts from the old right-wing organizations to the new generation of apolitical soccer hooligans.

Golden Dawn may also be receiving some assistance from Russia. One of the novelties of Golden Dawn's brand of neo-Nazism is its antipathy toward Germany and strong links with Russian and Eastern European fascist groups. Russia has always been an important player in Greek politics due to its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Many Greeks express admiration for the right-wing, nationalist government of Putin and his ability to stand up to European capitalists. And, as in Cyprus, there seems to be a lot of Russian money flowing into Greece.

Ironically, the best hope for the survival of the EU lies with the left opposition. After all, the social democratic parties around Europe were instrumental in the growth of the EU in the first place by enforcing various social benefits programs that cemented popular support. The chance of an electoral victory by the near-left coalition Syriza, however, grows more unlikely by the day. A Syriza victory is anathema to both the European finance capitalists, who insist on squeezing out the last drops of profit, and the Greek elite who prefer to use political repression in a short-sighted attempt to preserve their franchise.


Interesting that Golden Dawn terms its political philosophy "social nationalism" rather than the "national socialism" that it is patterned after. Apparently some terms are too toxic even for a neo-nazi party like this.

You are right, Cali. Here's a link to an Atlantic article regarding this rebellion.

Executive-power-wary Tea Partiers and labor-aligned Democrats could block "fast-track" authority for two huge agreements.

It is generally agreed that the Obama will not be able to conclude the TPP and TTIP negotiations unless Congress grants him Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) -- commonly known as "fast-track" -- which guarantees that Congress will hold a straight up or down vote on any trade agreement the president negotiates.

When Congress grants TPA to a president, the authorizing legislation always includes negotiating objectives. This is a reminder to the president that he is acting as a delegate from Congress. The negotiating objectives themselves, however, often become the major point of contention. It was a battle over labor and environmental standards, for example, that prevented the House from granting President Clinton fast-track authority in 1998.

In the Senate, Democrat Max Baucus is already leading the charge for the renewal of TPA. He can expect significant Republican support, but may have some trouble corralling members of his own party. Democrat Sherrod Brown, whose power base in Northeast Ohio's Rust Belt remains upset about the 1994 NAFTA, has already expressed reservations. And since fast-track authorization is subject to filibuster, Obama may need all the votes he can get.

The battle in the House might be even more interesting. ... One can easily see an odd alliance in the House between progressive Democrats, who reflect the concerns of organized labor, and Tea Party Republicans, who don't want to give power away to the president. Even Rep. Darrell Issa, usually a free-trade advocate, might oppose it because of suspicions about the secretive nature of the TPP negotiations.


Krugman: Globalization, the stimulus and trade.

Looking at some of the comments on yesterday’s column, I see that a fair number of readers believe that Keynes is no longer valid because any increase (like the stimulus)in domestic demand will simply “leak” abroad. This is a widespread view, but it’s wrong. Globalization has been impressive, but it has not proceeded far enough to make Keynesian analysis irrelevant.

Actually, you should realize this point immediately just by thinking about the Great Recession itself. If domestic spending all goes on stuff made in China, the one-two punch of plunging home construction and falling consumer spending should have done all its damage abroad, not here in America. Obviously that didn’t happen.

But we can also look at the issue directly. The fact is that despite rising trade, a large majority of workers in America still produce goods and services that can’t be traded. My favorite estimates here come from Jensen and Kletzer (pdf), who use geographical variation across the United States to estimate which industries and occupations are tradable. ... Their results look like this:

Add to this the point that even tradable industries are strongly affected by domestic demand, and you find that globalization has not, in fact, changed the rules all that much.


Actually, the Senate and the House will have to approve the TPP - at least that has been the case

with every other trade agreement.

In the United States, the term "treaty" is used in a more restricted legal sense than in international law. U.S. law distinguishes what it calls treaties from congressional-executive agreements and sole-executive agreements. All three classes are considered treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal United States law. The distinctions are primarily concerning their method of ratification: by two-thirds of the Senate, by normal legislative process, or by the President alone, respectively.

In general, arms control agreements are often ratified by the treaty mechanism. At the same time, trade agreements (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and United States accession to the World Trade Organization) are generally voted on as a CEA, and such agreements typically include an explicit right to withdraw after giving sufficient written notice to the other parties. If an international commercial accord contains binding "treaty" commitments, then a two-thirds vote of the Senate may be required.

American law is that international accords become part of the body of U.S. federal law. As a result, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law


Every trade agreement since the one with Israel in 1975 has been a "congressional-executive agreement" which requires both houses of congress to approve.

It will also be interesting to see if the House approves "fast track" authority. The tea party influence there (with their distrust of Obama and multinational organizations like the UN and the WTO) would seem to make make passage unlikely.

As you posted, the last time TPA passed in the House in 2002 it did so it did so by just 3 votes and that was with a republican president and before the big influx of tea party types. Also the republican congress refused to grant Clinton TPA when it expired during his second term. I don't think they are likely to give it to Obama now.

Without TPA the TPP is a "dead man walking". None of the previous trade agreements passed without TPA. Neither will the TPP.
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