By Eric Boehlert: Syria and the Beltway Media Crackup!

On the night of September 10, hours before President Obama addressed the nation about developments surrounding the crises in Syria, NBC Nightly News host Briant Williams huddled with Meet The Press host David Gregory to analyze the day's top story. Events were moving quickly. After weeks of Obama threatening to use military strikes against Syria in the wake of President Bashar Al-Assad being accused of gassing his own people with chemical weapons as part of a "massive attack," a sudden diplomatic opening had appeared. Rather than bombing Syria, the United States might be able to work with Russia to voluntarily hand over its chemical weapons. Good news? Not necessarily according to Williams and Gregory. "What has the president had gotten himself into was, "A real mess: bad sequencing disorganization, a sense of, a lack of real focus and strategy for what the U.S. wants to do in the world." Just four days later, a plan crafted by the United States and Russia's Vladimir Putin to rid Syria of its chemical weapons by next year was announced. So much for the "real mess" the white House had created. So far, no American bombs have been dropped on Syria, not one American soldier has died in fighting there, and no Syrian civilians have been killed by U.S. forces. But that hasn't stopped the chattering class from reviscerating Obama, often with a mocking and condescending tone. Deeply invested in the Obama's stumbling storyline that was attached to the president's initial call for bombing strikes, pundits and reporters failed or refused to adjust as the facts shifted and the crisis steered toward a diplomatic resolution.The Syria coverage represents a clear case of the press adopting style over substance, as well as channeling Republican spin. Of treating foreign policy as if it were a domestic campaign and insisting that a story unfolding half-a-world away was really all about Obama and how it affected and or damaged his political fortunes. It was also coverage that often lacked nuance and context, and that refused to allow diplomatic events unfold without minute-by minute surveys of the domestic winners and losers. Six months ago, who would've thought that given the chance to get Assad to give up his weapons, that achievement would be portrayed in the press as a foreign policy "fiasco" for the White House? A sampling of pundit-class descriptions of Obama's Syria performance: "head-spinning reversal." "flaccid," "stuck in a box," "confused, erratic," "debacle," "embarrassing spectacle." Meanwhile, two weeks ago, with the prospects dim of Obama winning a  Congressional vote to authorize military strikes, it seemed the only option that would save him from political doom at home, and head off the rush among commentators to announce the demise of his second term, was some sort of last-minute diplomatic push to force Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to postpone a Congressional war vote, thereby letting the White House avoid a potentially embarrassing defeat. What happened? Basically that exact scenario unfolded. Yet the Beltway press claimed Obama went about it all the wrong way. Americans didn't seem to mind. The process was botched. It looked clumsy, according to a legion of Beltway theater critics.

By Samira Shackle, Alternet: The Other American Gulag: Bagram Prison's Legal Black Hole

locks detainees in nightmarish limbo.He had been there a few weeks when American soldiers entered, asked for him by name, and took him away. That was in 2004. It was the start of a six-year nightmare. Ayaz was held first at a military base, and then at the notorious Bagram prison. To this day, he does not understand why he was detained, but believes a co-worker falsely accused him of being a terrorist in exchange for a reward. Suring his imprisonment, he had little access to justice. "They said that I was a suicide bomber and I want to bomb the USA,"he said. "I had a representative who was not a lawyer. He would often make my case worse." In 2011, Ayaz was repatriated to Pakistan. He claims he had been cleared two years earlier, after US officials determined that he was not a combatant and there were no grounds to hold him. Ayaz, now in his early 20s, lost six years of his life, but he was one of the lucky ones. Of the 3,000 prisoners currently held at Bagram prison, there to remain around 67 foreign nationals, who are caught in a legal black hole and held without charge, trial or even access to a lawyer. As the US prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, the question of what will happen to this notorious prison is becoming more pressing. Is it about to become the next Guantanamo? The prison is the largest of the detention centers opened by the US as part of its military operations in Afghanistan. Located around 60 kilometers north of Kabul, it gets its name from the Bagram Air Base, to which the original site was adjacent. The prison came into use soon after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, but in 2004, because of difficulties detaining extra prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it became the primary detention site for suspected militants and terrorists. This included Afghans and non-Afghans captured as part of the war on terror. By 2008, it held 630 detainees, double the numbers held at Guantanamo. With resources under strain, it was replaced by a permanent facility at Parwan in 2009, where the several thousand prisoners now reside. Its official name is the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), but the prison is still colloquially referred to as Bagram.) The US is preparing to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, and it does not particularly want to retain a detention facility in the country. With great fanfare, control of Afghan dedainees was handed over to the Afghan authorities earlier this year, but the foreign nationals being held at the prison still pose a problem. Each case involving a foreign national requires lengthy, bureaucratic repatriation negotiations between the US and the receiving country. Discussions between Pakistan and American authorities regarding prisoners at Bagram have stretched on for years: some of the detainees still held at the facility were cleared for release as far back as 2010, but remain stranded there. Two sticking points are ensuring their safety, under international law, the US cannot send detainees to countries where they are likely to be tortured, and it must ensure that any threat they pose to security is sufficiently mitigated. If that sounds familiar, it is because it is the same set of problems that have prevented the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Congress has imposed burdensome restrictions on repatriation, making it very difficult to close these prisons.

By Dr. Robert P. Abele: What Happened to John Kerry? From Anti-War Vietnam

to Bellicose Rhetoric on Syria. As he has demonstrated by his bellicose rhetoric on Syria, John Kerry has made complete his 180- degree transition from an anti-war Vietnam veteran who in 1971 thtrew his navy medals back onto the White House lawn and who testified to Congress on the immorality of war, to a belligerent warrior without a cause. Tracing the causes of this shift is perhaps pointless, but a comparison between the 1971-Kerry and the 2013-Kerry will reveal the corrupting influence of the combination of money and power with its necessary consequence of surrendering what Kerry himself calls one's "moral compass." This article does not intend to attack John Kerry as a person. I respect and even like John Kerry. But Kerry is a significant and interesting example of how one operates when they surrender their moral compass and take instead the path to power over principle. Let us look at three facts that correlate with this shift. First, his change of mind regarding the morality of war correlates with his investment in war machinery. Here is Kerry in 1971 congressional testimony: "We fought using weapons against "oriental human beings." We fought using weapons against "oriental human beings." We fought using weapons against "oriental human beings." We fought using weapons against those people which O do not believe this country would dream of usingwere we fighting in the European theater." Here he is in 2013: Among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, John Kerry gas the most money invested in defense contractors, up to $38,209,020. This includes the significant investments in Raytheon and in General Electric, both of whom are major players in the U.S. war machine. Kerry decided in January to set aside his stock in these companies as a prerequisite to becoming secretary of state. Additionally, Kerry's support for chemical companies such as Dow Chemicals and Monsanto who manufactured the Agent Orange Kerry said he knew was being used while he was in Vietnam, is now well known, see Humanrightsinvestigations.org for more. Second, the process of his functioning as a small cog in the war machine in Vietnam to functioning as a small cog in the war machine in Vietnam to functioning as a big cog in the Empire correlates with Kerry changing the direction of his moral compass from moral principles and the value of individual civilian lives and interests of empire's power. In 1971, what Kerry said is worth quoting at length: We feel that what threatens this country is not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search and destroy missions, as well as by Viet Cong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong. We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum. We watched pride allow the most unimportant battles to be blown into extravaganzas, because we couldn't lose, and we couldn't retreat.     


AlterNet. By Thalif Deen. It's Not Just Syria: 6 Other Countries Haven't Banned Chemical Arms!

If Syria eventually agrees to relinquish its stockpile of chemical arms under the 1993 international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), what of the six other countries that have either shown reluctance or refused to join the treaty? Currently, there are 189 states that have signed and ratified the treaty prohibiting the manufacture, use and transfer of the deadly weapons. But seven member states have been holdouts: Burma and Israel have signed bit not ratified, while Angola, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan and Syria have neither signed nor ratified. If Syria agrees to accept the U.S.- Russia proposal to abandon its weapons under the CWC, it still leaves six others outside the treaty. A meeting of the Security Council to discuss Syria, scheduled to take place Tuesday, was cancelled without explanation. If a resolution, inspired by Western nations, is adopted by the Council later in the week, Syria is expected to agree to hand over all its chemical weapons for storage and destruction
by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague, Netherlands. Asked what progress the Security Council has made on the proposal, the president of the Council. Ambassador Gary Francis Qulian of Australia, told reporters it was premature to speculate. "It's a step by step process," he said. Stephen Zunes, professor pf politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, who has written extensively on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) singled out two other Middle Eastern nations, Egypt and Israel, as either having developed or used chemical weapons. He pointed out that Israel is widely believed to have produced and stockpiled an extensive range of chemical weapons and is engaged in ongoing research and development of additional chemical weaponry. "The insistence that Syria must unilaterally give up its chemical weapons is simply unreasonable," Zunes told IPS. No country, whether autocratic or democratic, could be expected to accept such conditions, he added. Egypt was the first country in the region to obtain and use chemical weapons, using phosgene and mustard gas in the region to obtain and use chemical weapons, using phosgene and mustard gas in the mis-1960s during its intervention in Yemen's civil war. "There is no indication Egypt has ever destroyed any of its chemical agents or weapons," said Zunes. The U.S. backed regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continued its chemical weapons research and development programme until its ouster in a popular uprising two and a half years ago, and the programme until its ouster in a popular uprising two and a half years ago, and the programme until its ouster in a popular uprising two and a half years ago, and the programme is believed to have continued subsequently, he noted. Asked whether the United Nations has the capacity to handle the weapons, U.N. associate spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS, "The secretary-general has consistently called for Syria to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to fully abide by its responsibility to maintain the physical security of any chemical weapon stockpiles in its possessions"   

by J0SEPH FARAH: Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WMD

and a nationally syndicated columnist. He is the author or co-author of 13 books, including his latest, "The Tea Party Manifesto," and America Back," now in its third edition and 14th printing. Farah is the former editor of other major-market dailies. America is getting very adept at winning every battle in the foreign wars it wages, yet having nothing to show for it after the U.S. military comes home. It was a trend started in Vietnam. It appears to be happening, again, in Iraq and Afghanistan. What did we win in Iraq, besides toppling Saddam Hussein from power and watching him hanged? We saw most of the Christian population killed or driven into refugee status. We saw Iran empowered in influence in a country it had previously battled in an eight-year war costing the lives of 1 million people. We watched as chemical weapons, which Saddam Hussein had used as no other leader in the world had since Adolf Hitler during World War II, were moved to neighboring Syria in anticipation of the U.S. invasion. Ironically, according to a credible report in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, those chemical weapons are now headed back to Iraq. The news organization reported Sunday some 20 trucks worth of equipment and material used for the manufacture of chemical weapons were transported into Iraq. Of course, as expected, the government in Baghdad denies it all. The report came just a day after the United States and Russia struck a deal stipulating that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime would destroy its chemical arsenal to avert an American military assault. The newspaper reported with a high degree of specificity that the trucks crossed the boundary separating Syria with Iraq from Thursday to Friday. Border guards did not inspect the contents of the trucks, which raises suspicions that they contained illicit cargo, according to Al-Mustaqbal. It's worth noting that they contained illicit cargo, according to Al-Mustaqbal. It's worth noting that Al-Mustaqbal is a publication known for opposing Syria's involvement in Lebanon. But the report in Lebanon agrees with earlier statements of the Free Syrian Army. Experience more of Joseph Farah's no-nonsense truth-telling in his books, audio and video products, featured in the WND Superstore. Who knows what to believe about what comes out of this part of the Middle East, where politics invlves far more intrigue than most Americans could ever keep up with? But the report raises the question Americans should be asking themselves after the blood, sweat and tears it invested in "freeing" Iraq from the reins of the madman Saddam Hussein. What did we win in Iraq? Was it all worth it? What strategic objectives did we achieve? Did we make America safer? Did we make Iraq a more hospitable place? Will Iraqis be able to govern themselves for the long term? What will we do with the most expensive embassy ever built by any nation in the history of the world as the number of American diplomatic personnel is further reduced? Is the Middle East a better place for having eliminated the tyrant? Are religious minorities, namely Christians, better off or worse off for America's involvement in this war? Will Iraq swing to an alliance with Iran and Syria? How will our involvement and sacrifice affect Iraq's policy toward friends like Israel? There are really only two spheres of influence in the Arab and Muslim world: They are Iran and Saudi Arabia.

By Kit Daniels: Justice Dept: Al-Qaeda Runs a Chemical Weapons Program!

Terrorist group runs a R&D lab while Washington is focused on Iran. While the Washington discourse is shifted towards Iran, the U.S. Department of Justice quietly admitted that al-Qaeda is currently running a full-blown chemical weapons program, complete with a research and development lab in Somalia. During an investigation of three members of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda subsidiary in Somalia, the DOJ found that "the defendants had substantial knowledge regarding an al-Shabaab research and development department that was developing chemical weapons for use by that terrorist organization." CBS This Morning attributed the quote to a case document released by the United Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "Isn't this our worst nightmare?" One of the CBS anchors asked. "Terrorists using chemical weapons." "It's certainly in the top one or two: nukes or chemical weapons," responded John Miller, their guest on the show and a former FBI assistant director. "Al-Qaeda is more likely trying to develop their own homemade sarin or working with, and this is a real problem, readily available, commercial and industrial products that can be turned into dispersal devices that can be very deadly in terms of chemical weapons." This revelation is yet another addition to the already substantial evidence that al-Qaeda can easily launch chemical attacks in Syria. As we reported last week, the U.S. military admitted that Al-Qaeda possessed and produced "kitchen-grade" sarin gas for chemical attacks against the Syrian people. The National Ground Intelligence Center report stated that Al-Qaeda in Iraq produced the sarin gas and then shipped it to the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, the main opposition force in Syria. Back in May, anti-terror forces in southern Turkey seized a cylinder of sarin gas from Syrian rebels with the al-Nusra Front. An analysis on the seized gas found that it was a "kitchen variety," which corresponds to the sarin gas used in the Aug. 21 chemical attack near Damascus, according to Dr. Yossef Bodansky, a top terrorism expert. Unlike military grade sarin, the sarin used in the Damascus attack did not accumulate around the victims' hair and clothing, according to Bodansky. If it did, he said, the sarin molecules would have detached from the victims' bodies without protective clothes and masks."Yet even though none of the first responders to the Aug. 21 attack wore adequate protective gear, there were no reported casualties among them. High-level U.S, intelligence officials reinforce Bodansky's conclusions, stating that they are unconvinced that the Aug. 21 chemical attack was carried out by Assad's government. They are not even sure that Assad knew about the attack beforehand. But it is known that al-Qaeda can develop sarin gas in-house for chemical attacks around the world, especially
for false flags.    


By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich: Syria and the Saudi-Israel Connection:

The Chemical Weapons Attack. Who was Behind It? The long anticipated UN inspectors report confirmed the use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013 in the Ghouta area of Damascus. The investigators report provided "clear and convincing evidence that surface-to surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used". Warmongers were quick to pounce on the use of rockets as evidence that the Assad government was responsible. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov was quick to point to the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" argument, correlation does not equal causation. So whodunit? Foremost, given that the report emphasis the use of rockets, the Saudis should be asking themselves why it is that the accusatory finger has been pointed to them. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Syria conflict. Their involvement is not restricted to providing arms to the rebels but as USA Today reported in January, they have been sending death-row inmates to fight in Syria. That said, the UN report clearly repudiates dubious reports which surfaced on the internet citing a rebel's father who had claimed that the Saudis supplied the chemical weapons without telling the rebels what they were which is why "they (chemical weapons) went off in the tunnel. While it is not a secret that the Saudis aim to spread their influence in the region by assisting neocons remove Assad from power, what should be of note to the Saudis and of interest to media watchers ids the fact that in spite of the Saudi's full cooperation with America and Isreal in fubding and supporting wars against fellow Arabs and Moslems, and even providing them with terrorists, the neoconservatives such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies are now claiming that Saudi Arabia is responsible for pushing for war. This should give Saudis reason to pause and reflect. But to the report. According to the UN report two types of rockets has been used, including an M14 artillery rocket bearing Cyrillic markings and a 330-millimeter rocket of unidentified origin, though perhaps not so unidentified. Shortly after the August incident, Foreign Policy published and made mention of these mysterious rockets which according to former UN inspectors bore a strong resemblance to a 1970's American weapon, the SLUFAE. Although SLUFAE had been shelved, the concept was built upon by several countries, namely Israel. According to the former UN inspector, "a very similar munition was found 3-5 years ago, during one of the Israeli excursions," into Southern Lebanon". Further, there is the strong possibility that the rockets with Cyrillic markings, attributed to the Soviets can be traced back to the "Bear Spares" program. According to the 1995 Teicher Affidavit, the United States had a "Bear Spares" program with the objective to provide ammunition for Soviet or Soviet-style weaponry and deliver them third countries without direct involvement. Israel which had a large stockpile of Soviet weaponry and ammunition captured during its wars was active in this program and, according to Teicher, transferred the spare parts and weapons to third countries or insurgents such as to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, to the Afghans, and the Contras. Of note is the fact that Isreal posses Sarin gas and it is not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). 

By Abdel Ban Atwan: Welcome to the New Libya, Country 'Liberated' by NATO:

No Oil Revenues, No Security, No Water, No Electricity. Welcome to the new Libya, a country 'liberated' by NATO, which now finds itself without the oil revenues which could make it rich, with no security, no stability and assassinations and corruption at unprecedented levels. Last Friday, the Economist magazine published a report about the implosion of Libya. My attention was caught by the pictures that illustrated the piece, particularly one of some graffitti on the wall of a sea front cafe in the capital Tripoli. 'The only way to Heaven is the way to the airport' it read. The joke is indicative of the troubled state of Libya nowadays following 'liberation' by NATO warplanes in the sky and the revolution on the ground which toppled the dictatorial regime of Muammar al-Ghadaffi. Recently I have met people who are visiting London from Libya and they tell stories of life there which are hard to believe. The capital Tripoli had no water or electricity for a whole week. The armed militia dominate and rule the streets in the absence of a workable government, a national security establishment and basic municipal services. Onoud Zanoussi, the 18 year-old daughter of Abdullah Zanoussi, the former chief of Ghadaffi's security establishment, was kidnapped on her release from prison following seven months behind bars accused of entering her country illegally. She was abducted in front of the prison gates and the abductor was one of the guards! Two years ago, the British and French business community sharpened their teeth and rubbed their hands with glee in anticipation of their share of Libyan reconstruction. Now there isn't a single foreign businessman in Tripoli, all of them ran for their lives after the assassination of the American Ambassador and attacks on several foreign businessman in Tripoli, all of them ran for their lives after the assassination of the American Ambassador and attacks on several foreign Embassies and Consulates. During the NATO bombardment, news from Libya dominated the front pages and was the first news item on every Western and Arabic television station. There was 24-hour coverage about the Libyan Liberation miracle and the great victory achieved by NATO and the revolutionaries. Nowadays it is very rare to find a Western reporter there and even more rare to read a decent report about Libya and what is really going on there. Oil was the main objective and the real reason for the NATO intervention: but oil production has all but ceased due to a strike by security guards on the oil fields and export terminal. The ostensible reason for this strike is the demand for a pay rise but there is another, equally powerful, motive, they are protesting the demands of various separatist movements who are calling for self-rule for oil-rich Barca (Cyrenaica) with its capital in Benghazi. Most of Libya's oil reserves are situated here. Rather than the local or national government, a militia is in control of most of oil on the oil fields and the export terminal, it has started to sell huge amounts of oil on the black market and is trying to expand these activities leading Ali Zidan, the Prime Minister, to threaten to expand these activities leading Ali Zidan, the Prime Minister, to threaten to bomb any unauthorized oil tanker going anywhere near these sites. The irony is that the same thing is happening now in Eastern Syria where the militia and local tribes are in control of the oil fields in Deir Al-Zour, refining the oil themselves by hand and selling it on illegally.

By Haider Rizvi: Washington Commemorates Peace and Nuclear Disarmament,

by Testing a New Advanced Nuclear Missile. The US plan to test nuclear missiles next week has drawn fire from international peace activists who have been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons for years. "Instead of honouring the significance of these dates and working in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament, the United States has chosen to schedule two tests of its Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile on September 22 and September 26," said Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. September 21is the International Day of Peace that would be observed throughout the world before the UN high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament takes place at the world body's headquarters in New York on September 26. "Just hours after the International Day of Peace ends, the missile that delivers US land-based nuclear weapons, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands," Wayman said. In a Statement sent to Daily Times, he added, "Then, on the same day that most countries will send their head of state or foreign minister to send another Minuteman III missile from California to the Marshall Islands. These missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads capable of killing thousands of times more people than the chemical weapons used in Syria," he added. The US Vandenberg Air Force Base has not yet publicly announced either of theses launches scheduled for some time this month. According to them, the launches are due to take place on September 22 and 26. "We are disappointed that a test launch is scheduled for the same day as the High-Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament at the UN in New York," Wayman told Daily Times. Asked to comment on this issue, the UN spokesperson, Farhan Haq, cited the UN secretary general's recent statement in which he said, "We should all remember the terrible toll of nuclear tests." In his statement, Ban Ki-moon mentioned that as many as 456 nuclear tests were carried at Semipalatinsk since the first explosion there more than 64 years ago. Nearly one and a half million people were affected by the consequences of nuclear testing, and an immense territory has been contaminated with radiation, he noted. With the adoption of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, he said, the international community completed its first step towards putting an end to all nuclear weapon test explosions. In his view, this objective is "a serious matter of unfinished business on the disarmament agenda". Until now, 183 countries have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and 159 have ratified it. Ban is urging all states to sign and ratify the CTBT without further delay. Eight states whose ratifications are necessary for the treaty to enter into force have a special responsibility: China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. "None should wait for others to act first. In the meantime, all States should maintain or implement moratoria on nuclear explosions," Ban said. Writing on this issue, Jonathan Granoff, the president of the Global Security Institute and an adjunct professor of international law at Widener University School of Law, notes that "many countries know this and that is why" the 67th session of the General Assembly moved to convene the high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament for the 68th session next week.