Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Libya? Why not Syria? Why Yemen?

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 7, 2011.

As I watched our president’s latest press conference, I was intrigued by his response to a question from a reporter who asked him about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act. I will not go as far as Mark Halperin went in his description of President Obama’s demeanor (for the story on his comment, follow this link: http://beta.news.yahoo.com/blogs/cutline/msnbc-suspends-mark-halperin-obama-remark-145819640.html), but I will say that he was less-than-congenial and that he was very defensive of his position. He claimed that the War Powers Act did not apply to the situation in Libya (our drones are dropping bombs, our planes are flying sorties, our military personnel are involved in strategy and our warships are sending rocket attacks toward a specified target and we have declared a mission that involves the removal of a foreign leader), does not rise to definition of war, therefore he does not need to answer the question about the constitutionality of the legislation that every other president since Nixon has had to deal with.

According to President Obama, war is not war unless our soldiers are “in harm’s way”. (http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/169043-obama-dismisses-libya-fuss-congress-as-political-game-playing). Right. And according to Bill Clinton, sex was not sex unless…but I digress.

As we examine the reasons for our “involvement” in Libya and our reluctance to get involved in similar uprisings and reprisals in Syria, Yemen and the Saudi peninsula, we have to ask our leaders the right questions. Why Libya? Why not Syria? Why Yemen? Why not the Sudan?

The answers to those questions are important and the American people deserve a better answer than President Obama gave in his press conference.

If our mission in Libya is to protect citizens from a despotic and malicious ruler who is brutally murdering civilians simply because they are protesting his policies, then we must also send missiles and drones into Syria, where, according to the latest reports from the Associated Press, more than 1,400 rights activists have been slaughtered by government forces under the direction of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Why have we basically ignored the situation there?

In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, where poverty and unemployment rates both top 50%, protesters have been marching in the capital city of Sanaa since January, demanding jobs, education and social services. Their demands have been met with gunfire directed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing hundreds of civilians. What has our State Department done in that situation? Did they rush in with humanitarian aid and missile strikes against Saleh’s palaces as we did in Libya?

The answer to the above question is yes and no. Yes, we sent Predator drones, missiles and rockets into Yemen. And yes, we have CIA operatives and Special Forces on the ground there. However, it is not quite the way you think.

You see, in Yemen, the Obama administration has decided to back the Saleh regime in this civil conflict. We have been carrying on military operations in another foreign nation, plotting assassinations, identifying targets and killing civilians – and all of this without congressional consultation or approval or the knowledge of the American people. Meanwhile, our news media finds the Casey Anthony trial worthy of 24-7 coverage! So much for the Fourth Estate!

Please read the following quote from author, Niall Green, writing for World Socialist Web Site, on June 17, 2011 (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/jun2011/yeme-j17.shtml).

Though Washington has been secretive about the extent of its operations, there are reports in the US and Arab media of an increased use of US air strikes in southern Yemen, with six alleged Al Qaeda militants killed in such attacks over the past month.

One such air strike led to the killing of an alleged mid-level Al Qaeda militant in the country last week. The Obama administration is also attempting to assassinate US citizen Anwar Awlaki, a Muslim cleric believed to be living in Yemen, accused of playing a leading role in the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

There are reports of US Special Forces troops on the ground in Yemen providing intelligence for air strikes and carrying out assassinations of alleged Islamist militants. The Obama administration has denied that any US troops are involved in active operations in the country, but has acknowledged that some armed forces personnel are engaged in providing weapons, advice and training to Yemeni counterterrorism forces.

I agree that this source should be verified with additional sources, but the overall point is clear:

Our foreign policy is a muddled mess of conflicting signals and inconsistencies. We have troops and ongoing military operations in several Arab nations. Our “limited kinetic operation” (as Obama calls it) is looking much like an incremental war as France has begun supplying weapons to the rebels, which, if Khaddafi succeeds in overthrowing them – unless we step up our efforts with “boots on the ground” – will undoubtedly be used against us and our European allies when Khaddafi retaliates, as he has recently vowed to do.

I believe we should re-evaluate all of our missions. If there is no direct threat to our national security, we should not be involved. Our military is not a humanitarian agency – it is a killing machine. Most of these Arab nations have been fighting tribal conflicts since biblical times. We cannot pick and choose sides and expect to foster democracy in an area where loyalty to sects is more powerful than the urge for freedom.

I know Keith will accuse me of changing my stripes and of being inconsistent. Perhaps I am guilty of those charges, but apparently I have company in the White House when we consider the inconsistency of the man who once thought one war was too many; now, he seems to think three are not enough.

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