Tag Archives: Syrian civil war

Where is outrage over conventional weapons?

Chris Wallace has posed an perfectly legitimate question to United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

The “Fox News Sunday” host asked Haley this morning why the Trump administration is so willing to use military action against Syria when it uses chemical weapons on its citizens but doesn’t deliver such punishment when the Syrian government kills them with “conventional weapons.”

“That’s an unfair question,” Haley said in her initial response.

Actually, Mme. Ambassador, it’s a perfectly fair question and Wallace was correct to ask it.

For the record, Haley said the United States doesn’t tolerate the use of any weapons, but didn’t respond directly to Wallace’s query about whether the president views chemical weapon use differently than conventional weapon use.

I happen to support the decision to strike at Syria. I believe we responded correctly by aligning ourselves with France and Great Britain and hitting the Syrians in concert with our allies.

My belief now is that we need to reignite some intense diplomatic power to persuade the Syrians it clearly is in their best interests to call a halt to the slaughter in their country.

Oh, and while we’re at it, we also need to ratchet up the pressure on Russia and Iran to cease lending aid to a war criminal — Bashar al Assad — who happens to be the dictator who runs a ham-fisted government in Damascus.

So, here we are. We have pounded the Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure. Our forces reportedly delivered crippling damage to it. Ambassador Haley said the strikes have set back Syria’s chemical weapons program by many years.

What about those conventional weapons? When do we draw the “red line” when it involves the hideous use of those weapons on innocent victims?

Trump tweets us toward warfare?

Donald J. Trump’s use of Twitter to make policy proclamations has become more or less something of a new normal in Washington, D.C.

However, Trump’s tweeting of potential military action takes it to a new level of incredulity.

The president has alerted Russia that via Twitter that he might fire missiles at Syrian military installations. He put the Russians on notice. Indeed, he has alerted them to the point that the Russians say they might retaliate against any military strike against their allies, the Syrians.

Is this how the commander in chief is supposed to manage our strategic military operation?

Is this how we keep our secrets to ourselves? Is this how we now prepare for a military strike, by telling one of our major geopolitical adversaries what we intend to do?

Memo to The Donald: The Russians have nukes, too. A lot of them.

Twitter taunts ain’t the way to conduct matters of high statecraft.

Yes, Mr. POTUS, you need to act

You aren’t likely to believe this, but I’ll say it anyway.

I truly want Donald Trump to do the right thing regarding a possible U.S. response to Syria’s latest use of chemical weapons on innocent Syrian civilians — including women and children.

I also want the president to keep shining the light of accountability on the Russian government, which has sponsored Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s brutality. Trump said the Russians could pay a heavy price if the United States decides to use military force against the Syrians.

Does that mean Vladimir Putin — who has escaped much of the fiery rhetoric that comes from Trump — will pay a price, too?

I do hope so.

I do not want U.S. troops to remain in Syria. I do not want us to get swept up in the civil war that has killed more than 400,000 Syrians.

If the president is going to strike a tough-guy posture with regard to crimes against humanity, he needs also to single out Russia, which is wallowing in the filth of those crimes in Syria.

I am among millions of Americans who cannot understand why Trump has gone so soft on Putin and the government he leads. I also am among those Americans who is waiting for some sign that Trump’s infatuation with Putin has ended.


Our attention span has its limitation

If Donald John Trump has succeeded at anything during his first 100 days as president of the United States, he has managed to wrench Americans’ attention away from some previously grievous international crises.

We’ve instead been fixated on the chaos that reins inside the White House, on the president’s continually clumsy statements about “major, major” conflicts with North Korea and other matters.

But just for the sake of remembering some of the issues that riveted our attention, if only for a brief period, let’s review them:

* Boko Haram. Do you remember when the Nigerian terrorists kidnapped those hundreds of women and girls, holding them somewhere deep in the forest? First lady Michelle Obama made it a serious public cause as she sought to rally international indignation over the hideous treatment.

* Under-age refugees. In 2015, the United States became a magnet for thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing repression in Central America. They came all the way through Mexico and entered this country illegally. We were outraged that so many of these children were being allowed to pass through Mexico; we wondered whether the Mexican government cared to stop the kids from entering the United States. There were calls to round them up and send them back.

* Haiti earthquake relief. The most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere was shattered in 2010 by a killer earthquake. The death toll reached into the hundreds of thousands. The world was stricken with horror and grief. President Obama dispatched his two immediate predecessors — Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush — to lead a task force to raise money for Haiti. Then word came back from the island nation that the money wasn’t being spent on restoration, that it was being siphoned off by corrupt government officials.

I ask about these events because there was well-meaning rhetoric from people in high places that the world must not forget these crises. They dominated news cycles for weeks on end. The world must keep them in its sights. It must be relentless in its pursuit to repair the damage done at all levels.

Then the world forgot about them.

These crises have been replaced by many others since then. The Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea’s saber-rattling, the Islamic State.

The presidential election occurred just a few months ago. Now we’re focusing on just how the new president intends to get his administration in order. If he’s able.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian women are still held captive, the children are still imperiled in Central America and Haiti remains a shattered nation.

We say we still care about these matters. Do we care enough?

Worst ever U.S.-Russia relations? Hardly

History lessons sometimes need to be delivered on the fly.

Donald John Trump said recently that U.S.-Russia relations are at their “worst” in the history of the two nations. Tensions are rising over the Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. The president wants relations to improve. Indeed, he still cannot bring himself to say out loud that the Russians are complicit in Syria’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Are bilateral relations the worst ever?

Ohhh, no. Not even close.

Let’s flash back about, let’s see, nearly 55 years.

Russia was known as the Soviet Union back then. The communists ran the government. Vladimir Putin would become head of the commies’ spy agency, the KGB.

What did the communists do to bring U.S.-Soviet relations to their nadir? They began installing offensive missiles in Cuba, capable of hitting targets throughout the Western Hemisphere with nuclear weapons.

Thus, the Cuban Missile Crisis was born.

President Kennedy got word of the intelligence. He summoned his National Security Council to the White House. He heard suggestions from his national security brass ranging from invading Cuba, bombing the missile sites, leveling economic sanctions, none of the above, all of the above.

The president settled on a naval blockade and an ultimatum: He told Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove the missiles or else. He went on national TV and told the nation — and the world — that any attack from Cuba against any target in this hemisphere would be seen as an attack on the United States and would produce a “full retaliatory response” from this country against the Soviets.

The commies blinked. They took down the missiles in exchange for our taking down of missiles in Turkey.

Crisis averted — along with a nuclear holocaust.

That qualifies as the worst, Mr. Trump.

Trump-Putin ‘bromance’ on the rocks

It took a good while — too long, in fact — but it appears the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin bromance might be on the verge of ending.

The White House has issued a stern statement accusing Russia of covering up the Syrian chemical weapons attack that killed several dozen civilians, including children. The gassing of Syrian civilians prompted the U.S. air strike that wiped out several Russian-made Syrian jet fighters at the base from where the gas attack was launched.

White House talks tough to Russia — finally

The strongly worded statement demands international condemnation of Syria for using the chemical weapons and accuses Russia of “shielding” its Syrian allies.

As the New York Times reported: “It marks a striking shift by President Trump, who entered office praising President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and seeking common ground with him — and now appears to be moving swiftly to isolate him. The charges came as Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, was preparing for meetings in Moscow on Wednesday, and as Congress and the F.B.I. are investigating potential ties between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.”

Has the president finally gotten the message that Vladimir Putin is no friend of the United States and shouldn’t be a friend of the man who now governs this country?

As for the investigation that’s under way regarding the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, let it continue full throttle.

The here and now, though, presents a whole new and different set of challenges that must require an end to the strange buddy relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

What about the ‘barrel bombs’?

Donald J. Trump unleashed 59 Tomahawk missiles against Syrian jet fighters and support facilities because of chemical weapons were used against Syrian civilians.

That is a horrific act, to be sure, and the president was right to take action against Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.

Here, though, is the question: What about the barrel bombs that Syrian military forces are dropping on civilian victims?

It is agreed around the world that chemical weapons use must be stopped. The images we see of children writhing in agony are heartbreaking in the extreme.

However, the Syrian government has killed many thousands more innocent victims using barrel bombs, which are devices filled with shrapnel. The bombs explode and the shrapnel flies out, shredding whatever — and whoever — is in its path.

Death by barrel bomb might not be as agonizing — and horrifying to watch — as death by chemical weapon, but Assad’s use of the hideous ordnance needs a stern world response as well.

What is the strategy to deal with this hideous monster? Finally, what are we going to do about the Russian role — the Russians’ complicity — in the use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons?

Still waiting for Russia to get ‘blame’ for Assad atrocities

Donald Trump is correct to label Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad a heartless criminal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also speaks wisely of the U.S. effort to rid the world of the Islamic State in Syria.

World leaders are applauding the president for launching the air strikes that hit military targets … even though the result of those strikes hasn’t dealt anything close to a crippling blow to Syria’s military capability.

I am waiting with bated breath for the president to hurl some angry public rhetoric at Assad’s benefactor, Russian President/goon Vladimir Putin. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at least has spoken about the Russian role in financing the Syrian government’s efforts to put down forces that have risen against the tyrannical Assad.

The president, however, needs to speak for the United States of America in condemning Russia’s complicity in the use of lethal gas by Assad’s forces against defenseless civilians. Dozens of people died in that horrifying attack, including several children. To witness the agony of those afflicted by the gas is to witness a major crime against humanity.

Assad must share most of the blame. But not all of it.

Russian military personnel have been actively engaged in this monstrous activity for years. They answer to Donald Trump’s pal Putin.

My patience is wearing out waiting for Trump to speak as forcefully about Vlad as he has about Assad.

How can Trump deny Syrian refugees?

Donald J. Trump expressed appropriate outrage over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians — including children.

The president is right. Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. And I do support the decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles at military bases believed to be where the Syrians launched the chemical weapons against their fellow citizens.

However …

How does the president justify his decision to ban refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria because they happen to originate from a Muslim-majority nation?

His statement condemning the casualties inflicted on children seems to fly directly against his heartless decision to ban refugees.

How do you balance one against the other, Mr. President?

Blog is taking wing … so to speak

Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

I don’t consider full-time blogging to be actual work.

It’s more like therapy for me. It keeps me engaged to the best of my ability, which I suppose depends on whether you agree with the opinions expressed in this forum.

So, when I decide to take a vacation, I like taking High Plains Blogger with me. Where I go with my wife, the laptop comes along and the blog keeps spewing out musings on this and/or that.

OK. So, here we go.

My wife, myself and the blog are getting set to take wing.

We’re heading soon for Germany and The Netherlands. We have friends in Bavaria — the pretty region of Germany — and in The Netherlands we intend to see. I’m going to get caught up with these folks, one of whom I met on a journalist field trip to Taipei, Taiwan in 2010, the others I met while traveling through Israel on a month-long Rotary International Group Study Exchange trip in 2009.

I have a couple of burning questions I’m going to ask people I meet during our stay in Western Europe.

*I want to know about the Middle East refugee situation in both countries. We keep hearing on this side of The Pond about the “flood” of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. What has been the impact of their arrival? Is it the “crisis” that we’ve been told it is? And what is the state of the nationalist fervor that appears to be building, particularly in Germany?

*The second question is a bit more straightforward. What’s the feeling in Europe about the state of the U.S. presidential election that’s going to pick up a serious head of steam. Particularly, what do the Europeans think of Donald J. Trump’s nomination by the Republican Party to be its candidate for president of the United States? I will do my level best to set my own bias aside as I glean the views of our German and Dutch hosts. Rest assured: We’ll talk also about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There is likely to be some more local color I’d like to provide as well.

Neither my wife and I have been to Germany or The Netherlands — although we did stop once in Frankfurt, Germany to change planes en route home from Athens in 2001. I don’t count airport stops, you know?

I am anxious to see my friends. I also am anxious to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of cultures that are much older than ours.

What’s more, I am anxious to obtain — to the extent I am able — a broader world view of the chaos that’s about to unfold in my own country as we make up our minds on who’s going to become the next Leader of the Free World.

Come to think of it, I might even ask Europeans whether they hold the U.S. president in such high regard.