On August 20, 2012 President Barack Obama showed up at a White House press briefing and laid out what he called his "red line" against the movement or use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad in Syria. At the time Syria Tracker put the total number of Syrians killed in the conflict at 24,456.
Several hours after he made that statement, I wrote a diary here calling the statement a "green light" to more slaughter because it also signaled to Assad that he could continue his carnage with sub-chemical weapons such as cluster bombs carrying napalm and kill at at least another ten thousand people without any concern that the US would stand in his way.
Specificity, what Obama said in August was:
We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that thats a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.So far, Assad has not used chemicals and Obama has kept his word not to intervene militarily, even sending the CIA in to make sure the people Assad was bombing wouldn't be able to get modern anti-aircraft weapons before they were able to take then from the Assad forces themselves. He blocked shipments of surface -to-air missiles from other countries.
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
And since Obama's statement, Bashar al-Assad has managed to kill another 17 thousand Syrians without crossing Obama's red line.
Until this week he did.
This week US intelligence reported that Assad has indeed been moving his chemical weapons around, most ominously they reported that he has been loading sarin gas into bombs.
This must undoubtedly be consider a violation of Obama's prohibition against "movement on the chemical weapons front."
So what did Obama do about that? He moved the "red line", back to a place Assad hasn't crossed yet!
This Monday, as reports surfaced of the increasingly desperate Assad regime moving its chemical weapons stores, Obama re-issued his "red line" threat and any mention of a prohibition against moving them, or apparently, even loading them into bombs, was removed.
At the WH Press Briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Jay Carney described Obama's new red line this way:
[T]he President has said, any use or proliferation of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cross a red line for the United States. The Assad regime must know that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the United States and the international community if they use chemical weapons, or fail to meet their obligations to secure them.That was followed by this exchange:
Q And just to go back to the red line, I just want to clarify where the red line is for the President. Obviously, use of chemical weapons is a red line. But in terms of the movement of that, there obviously are reports that the weapons are being moved or have been moved. Is the type of movement that were seeing right now, does that cross the red line?One might take some solace from the fact that the "whole bunch of chemical weapons" qualifier has been removed from from this latest formulation but given the reality that Assad has been able to continue to kill so many thousands without chemical weapons or US interference and, I would say, even with US passive support, the "green light" side of the ying-yang of Obama's "red line" statements shine brighter than ever.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President made clear that the use of weapons was a red line. We are monitoring the situation in Syria closely, and we are monitoring the regimes chemical weapons stockpiles. Im not going to get into intelligence matters, but as I said, we believe that with the regimes grip on power loosening, with its failure to put down the opposition through conventional means, we have an increased concern about the possibility of the regime taking the desperate act of using its chemical weapons.
Q But at this point, you can't say for sure that what were seeing right now does not cross the Presidents red line?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think were talking about the use of chemical weapons.
Q But he also talked about the movement of chemical weapons in his press conference in August.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I understand that.
The lesson here for the Syrian people and the Syrian Revolution is the one that has been so brutally drummed into them by 22 months of regime violence while the world watched. Look not to Western governments for support. What they did for Libya was exceptional. Here is the true face of "Responsibility to Protect." It is a lie.
The only thing Obama and NATO appear to be going now is preparing chemical weapons as a pretext for putting boots on the ground after the revolution has defeated the Assad regime.
REPORT: At least 5 British warships are also now coordinating with USS Eisenhower, France's Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean #Syria Joseph Trevor Antley (@jtantley) December 9, 2012
They may be none to happy with Assad at long last, but the last thing they want is a revolutionary and democratic Syria. They may not have been willing to help the Syrian people defeat Assad, or lift a finger to throttle his campaign of "death from above", but they will intervene to help "shape" the new Syria. That is how imperialists do it.
A red shift in the light from distance galaxies is caused by their rapid movement away from us, and apparently a "red shift" in Obama's Syria policy has been caused by Assad's movement of his chemical weapons.
For more of my writings on the relationship between Barack Obama and Bashar al-Assad, see especially these diaries:
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Obama opposes French support for Assad's opposition in Syria
Assad: "Syria doesn't need a green light!"Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 6:12 PM PT:
Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 3:21 PM PT:
@clayclai Isn't it amazing how no one on your website cares a damn about the Middle East? Just can't get their heads around it I guess plemochoe (@plemochoe) December 6, 2012
Since the chemical-weapons "red line" warning on 20 August 2012, at least 18032 people have been confirmed killed in #Syria, acc. to LCC. EatingMyPeaz (@EatingMyPeaz) December 13, 2012