Syria and the Trial Lawyers’ Dictum
By Dennis Loo (9/3/13)
There is a dictum among trial lawyers that you should never ask a witness a question that you don’t already know the answer to because if you do, they might say something that would blow your case.
This is what Obama did when on Saturday he announced that he was going to go to Congress to ask for their endorsement of his intention to bomb Syria.
He already knew what answer he was going to get. But just in case, he made it clear that even if he got a “no” that he reserved the right to do it anyway.
Today Nancy Pelosi chimed in and said she supported Obama’s plan and that she didn’t think that the POTUS had to get permission from Congress, but that it was a nice idea anyway to build more popular support for the war.
So thoughtful of the POTUS to include Congress on its war-making powers!
Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain and Lindsay Graham also joined this display of bi-partisan unity. So wonderful that they can stop their fighting when the Empire’s credibility’s at stake!
The object of democracies, supposedly, is that there be robust and genuine debate about decisions based upon real facts, especially ones that involve life and death such as wars.
Today [Tuesday] the UN Secretary General stated that Obama’s plan was in violation of the UN’s core principle: it is against the UN Charter for one country to attack another country that had not attacked the other country first.
This is no mere quibbling over technicalities. If you’re going to even have an international body that is supposed to promote the adherence to international law, then its keystone article has to be just that.
No matter. If the UN won’t give its approval and the U.S.’s most reliable ally Great Britain won’t approve it – when the Brits usually respond to the POTUS by asking “how high do you want us to jump?” - then POTUS will just “reach across the aisle” and down the street to his other greatest domestic ally: Congress.
This is a charade dressed up as “constitutional democracy” at work, designed to rope a skeptical nation and world into supporting this unjust plan.
On the BBC broadcast that I heard this morning the BBC reporter had on two guests, one who was from a “liberal” think tank, the Center for American Progress, who thought it was a great idea that Obama was broadening the “legitimacy” of his plans, attack plans which this guest supported, by bringing in Congress. The other guest was an Iraqi who said that he opposed Obama’s plans and thought the evidence of chemical weapons used by the Syrian government proffered by Kerry was unconvincing. Clearly distressed by this guest, the reporter objected: “But Secretary of State Kerry was adamant” about the validity of the evidence. To which his guest reminded him that the world was assured that the evidence was "100%" that there were weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s hands, and yet those claims turned out not to be true.
Don’t you love that? “Kerry was adamant.” Roll back the cameras and tapes to the 1930s and imagine a BBC reporter saying, “Mr. Hitler was adamant that the Communists were to blame for burning down the Reichstag, necessitating the declaration of emergency powers and suspension of the constitution…” "Must be true. He was adamant."
And BBC is considered one of the paragons of journalism!
Meanwhile, The New York Times editorialized yesterday that a) it is a good thing that Obama chose to go to Congress, b) that he should really prove his claims about chemical weapons' use, and c) complained about inaction against Syria from the UN, blaming it on Russia and China who sit on the Security Council, and the “feckless[ness]” of the Arab League. Not wanting to ruin their spotless record, they once again failed, as they had before in the run-up to and all during the Iraq war, to mention even once the core principle of the UN and of international law that WMD or no WMD, an attack by a nation on a country that does not threaten you and has not attacked you is the “supreme international crime.”
The point, my NYT friends, is that even if Obama could prove the use of WMD, this would not override the UN Charter's prohibition against wars of aggression, precisely the heart of the question that the NYT editorial overlooks. It is in such a manner that the NYT has historically appeared to be critical of various White House administrations, quibbling over a secondary question (in this case whether or not Assad has used chemical weapons) and skirting the fundamental question. Thus it was during the run-up to the Iraqi war when the NYT's Judith Miller acted as cheerleader for the WMD crowd, giving the imprimatur of the "liberal" NYT's endorsement of that war of aggression and thereby disarming so many of those who would otherwise have challenged that profoundly unjust war. There are those at the NYT and outside of it who might be congratulating themselves that they are not being as credulous as they were in the Iraq War run-up, because they are challenging the idea that chemical weapons were used this time, but they nonetheless have missed the point. This, unfortunately, is not an error but part of what is known at the NYT as Ochsian fundamentalism: do not crusade and do appear to be impartial by playing both sides of the fence. But this stance of seeming neutrality by variously endorsing the Republican version versus the Democratic version does not do the most important thing of all - telling the people the truth and basing yourself on the facts and on the law. What you have done is not acted impartially but only simulated neutrality. In so doing, the NYT (and other outlets such as BBC) are acting as government mouthpieces rather than as part of the Fourth Estate.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
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Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)