Tag Archives: chemical weapons

U.S. joins allies in delivering heat to Assad

Donald J. Trump decided this evening to do something traditional and, um, presidential. He didn’t make this announcement via Twitter.

He went on national TV to tell Americans he “ordered our armed forces” to launch precision air strikes against Syrian forces and against those who launched chemical strikes against helpless civilians, including children.

The best part of this attack, presuming that they find their targets and destroy them, is that American pilots are flying alongside allies from the United Kingdom and France.

Yes, this needs to be an allied effort against the monstrous regime ruled by Bashar al Assad, who has his own allies — in Russia and Iran.

We needed to hit Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal hard. I’m in full support of this response against a government run by someone who — in my mind — needs to be captured and who needs to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Executive authority now becomes OK, yes, Mr. President?

I recall hearing time and again during the 2016 presidential campaign that Barack H. Obama’s use of executive authority was somehow a bad thing.

The president shouldn’t govern by executive fiat, said many of his critics, such as the Republican nominee for president, Donald John Trump.

Hmm. Well, times have changed, haven’t they?

Trump is now the president. He’s assumed the role of chief executive of the federal government. By golly, the man has found that executive authority isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Indeed, as that supposedly “phony” 100-day threshold approaches, the current president is left to proclaim the only victories of his new term have come via executive order.

Oh, and he’s also suffered some embarrassment through this activity as well, such as when the federal judiciary knocked down two of his travel bans for those coming here from Muslim-majority countries.

Through executive authority, Trump is demonstrating his ability to use the power granted to him by virtue of his election. I get that. I respect the authority granted to the president and I won’t condemn him for using it, per se.

What boggles my mind is how he continues to get away with the rhetorical gymnastics he performs routinely and how he manages to bluster his way out of what he said earlier.

He said while campaigning he wouldn’t have time for golf; he said would be at the White House 24/7 working to bring back all those jobs that have gone offshore; he promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else.

He’s done essentially two things during his first 100 days as president: He nominated a Supreme Court justice, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and he ordered a missile strike against Syrian military targets in response to Syrians’ use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Legislative accomplishment? Nothing, man. The president has relied almost exclusively on his executive authority — which he condemned when another president did the same thing.

Smart man makes stupid point about Hitler

Sean Spicer is not a stupid man.

However, he made a stupid point this week using the time-honored reference to Adolf Hitler to make some kind of contemporary argument.

The White House press secretary said that Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on Holocaust victims, implying that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of such weapons is even more despicable than anything Hitler did.

Time out!

How about stop using any references to Hitler? Spicer’s careless and reckless use of the historical record illustrates one of the risks involved with referencing the dastardly deeds of the 20th century’s most heinous tyrant.

I’m not going to invoke the “both sides do it” canard, which I believe is meant to dilute the transgression of one side’s error. Spicer has acknowledged forthrightly the gravity of his blunder and has manned up appropriately.

However, many of Donald Trump’s critics have used Hitler references to express their fear of what might occur during Trump’s presidency. I dislike those references, too.

If the White House press flack has learned any lesson from this unfortunate episode, it ought to be to steer far, far away from any references to Hitler.

For that matter, the lesson I want to impart is that Hitler’s deeds shouldn’t be compared to anyone else. The memories of millions of his victims compel us to recall with singular loathing the Nazi tyrant’s heinous record.

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.

Stop the blame game, Mr. POTUS

Leadership doesn’t involve blaming someone else for problems one inherits.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He lays the blame for the Syrian gas attack on civilians on the inaction of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The president calls Obama’s “weakness” in dealing with Syria for the heinous act that occurred at the hand of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.

What about the here and now?

The president rightly calls the action reprehensible. But what is the current occupant of the White House going to do about it?

I must stipulate that I am acutely aware of the many times President Obama laid blame on his predecessor for the financial collapse he inherited when he took office in January 2009. The new president, though, then got to work and sought to stimulate the economy to prevent a total collapse of its underpinnings.

I am waiting for the current president to assert his own world view  and to deal forthrightly with the Middle East crises that he inherited from Obama — and the many men who preceded both of them as president.

Trump’s assigning of blame dates back to President Obama’s failure to act on Syria’s crossing the “red line” when it used chemical weapons in a previous action. OK, I get that.

The here and now, though, requires leadership that looks forward and ceases blaming others.

Cheney wrong on Iraq, but right on Iran?


Let me stipulate up front that I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

Having made that admission, I now must wonder aloud why the immediate past vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, should be taken seriously when he criticizes the Iran nuclear deal.

Why question it? Because Vice President Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration national security team were woefully wrong about Iraq and the conditions that lured us into the Iraq War.

Yet, there he is, out there blasting the Iran nuclear deal while actually defending the decision to go to war in Iraq. Remember the weapons of mass destruction? Or that Saddam Hussein was working to develop a nuclear arsenal of his own? Or that we’d be greeted as “liberators” by the Iraqis?

Cheney and the rest of the Bush gang said all of that.

Now we are supposed to believe him when he assesses the Iran nuclear deal as presenting a far greater risk to the United States than the terrorists who hit us on 9/11.

Cheney was wrong in 2003. He’s wrong now.

But he stands firm on the rationale he, the president, the national security team and the secretary of state all presented to the world that, by golly, Saddam was going to present a threat to the entire world. We had to take him out, Cheney said.

We weren’t greeted as liberators. The WMD? Not a sign of it anywhere. Ditto for the Iraqi nuke program.

Mr. Vice President, your miscalculation — or perhaps it was a deception — on Iraq disqualifies you from speaking out against an agreement that has far greater chances for success than the misadventure you helped create in Iraq.


Dr. Carson: I wouldn't have invaded Iraq

There you have it.

The growing field of Republican presidential candidates is being sprinkled with individuals who actually are breaking with a key policy of the most recent GOP president.

Dr. Ben Carson said this week he would not have “gone into Iraq.” He said the United States could have employed other means to get rid of the late Saddam Hussein. He said the nation lacked a clear long-term strategy once Saddam had been toppled.


“When you go into a situation with so many factions and such a complex history, unless you know what you’re doing or have a long-term strategy, it just creates more problems,” Carson told The Hill in a telephone interview.

He becomes the second major Republican figure to put daylight between himself and former President George W. Bush. The other one, more or less, was the former president’s younger brother, Jeb, who took a more awkward approach to trying to take back what he said initially in a clumsy response to a TV reporter’s direct question.

There well might be others GOP candidates who will realize the folly of going to war on what is now known to have been faulty intelligence regarding Iraq’s supposed possession of chemical weapons.

The Iraq War was a mistake. It’s good to hear Dr. Carson acknowledge as much.

I’m now waiting for former Vice President Dick Cheney — who’s been blasting Democratic officials’ criticism of the war — to weigh in against his fellow Republicans.

Well, Mr. Vice President?


Obama got Syria 'right'

Once in a blue moon, politicians get praise from the most unlikely of sources.

Such as when an Israeli prime minister known for his hawkish views relating to anything involving highly hostile neighbors heaps praise on you for not using military force in a crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the hawk’s hawk — said President Obama was right to back away from his “red line” threat to use force against Syria when it became known that the Syrian government had used poison gas on its citizens.


In an expansive interview with Bloomberg News, Netanyahu said President Obama offered “the one ray of light in a very dark region” when he backed off the threat of force. What happened next, of course, was when the Russians brokered a deal to get the Syrians to turn over their stockpile of chemical weapons.

“We are concerned that they may not have declared all of their capacity. But what has been removed has been removed. We’re talking about 90 percent. We appreciate the effort that has been made and the results that have been achieved,” Netanyahu told Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg makes it clear in the interview that Netanyahu and Obama haven’t yet healed the deep rifts between the men, who he writes have a “famously contentious relationship.”

It’s intriguing, though, to hear Netanyahu offer words of encouragement for the use of diplomacy over military action, which is the course sought by Obama in trying to find a path to peace in the Middle East.

Indeed, when someone with Netanyahu’s experience battling next-door enemies who swear to eradicate his country speaks of the virtues of diplomacy, there ought to be lessons learned by other critics who have far less skin in this game. I refer, of course, to Obama’s critics at home who continue to harp on the need to employ “the military option” to solve foreign crises.

The Israeli leader has many issues yet to settle with the United States. For example, Netanyahu wants to continue building Israeli settlements on land taken during the 1967 Six-Day War, something the United States opposes.

However, the cause for diplomacy has chalked up an important ally who has an up-close stake in finding peace in one of the world’s most violent regions.