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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Alan Grayson & Sarah Palin are united on Syria

Democratic Congressmember Alan Grayson of Florida, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Obama's plan to punish the Assad regime with military strikes for its use of chemical weapons.

There are many good reasons for opposing these planned strikes, like to begin with, they aren't even being done with the primary goal of effecting a positive outcome in Syria. They aren't being done as any part of a plan to bring an end to a civil war that has cost more than a 110,000 lives. They are being done for reasons that have to do with international diplomacy, superpower threat credibility and regional power politics. In short, because Bashar al-Assad littered Barack Obama's "red-line" with 400 dead children.

There are good reasons and ways of opposing these planned strikes that aren't selfish, don't denigrate and misrepresent the people fighting to free Syria from a murderous dictatorship or implicitly support the Assad Regime, and then there is Alan Grayson. He was on Democracy Now on Thursday talking about the fight against Obama's war resolution in the House. He listed four reasons Congress seems overwhelmingly opposed to this or any military intervention in the carnage in Syria:
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, I think that the forces of warmongering and the forces of the military-industrial complex are headed for an historic defeat in the House. According to the New York — The Washington Post whip count as of this morning, there are 19 members of Congress in favor of this resolution and 174 against. And the reasons are simple: It’s not our responsibility, it’s not going to do any good, it’s expensive, and it’s dangerous. And those arguments are winning the day among House members, both Democrat and Republican.
Now as you can see, Grayson's four reasons aren't so much objections to Obama's current request as they are general objections that could be raised against any intervention in Syria. Let's look at them individually:
  1. It’s not our responsibility
  2. This is a deeply philosophical question at least as old as Cain and Able. The obvious response, especially when it is posed by the richest and most powerful country in the world is: If it's not our responsibility, then whose is it? All of the world's great religions have affirmed our responsibility to humanity as a whole. I know communists do. I think my written contributions to the Syrian struggle speak for themselves. We all have to make a personal decision as to what is and isn't "our responsibility," as does our country, but I will say this: We are but the inhabitants of one small blue planet floating in the milky way. We will all strive or perish together. I fear this is something the "not our responsibility crowd" on either the right or the left, still don't get.
  3. It’s not going to do any good
  4. Now that is just a very bad attitude to begin with. While it is probably true about the current Obama proposal, the fact remains that a regime that the United States help to put into power, that the CIA has worked with on special rendition and torture, has done the vast majority of the killing in a bloody civil war that has cost 110,000 lives and, with the introduction of chemical weapons as tools of mass slaughter, is poised to kill many more if nothing is done. It is also a fact that in two and a half years, diplomacy has not worked. So opposition to Obama's punishment strikes does not relieve congress of the responsibility, IMHO, of developing a counterproposal designed to do some good. It should be a plan to stop the bloodletting and I think it is clear that there can be no meaningful relief for the Syrian people without a military response to Assad's repression machinery. That can best be done by arming the revolutionaries but a no-fly zone should not be ruled out because it would be the quickest way to stop Assad from killing most efficiently with "Death from Above." In any case, while "it's not going to do any good" may be a good argument against a bad proposal, it's a bad argument for doing nothing.
  5. It’s expensive
  6. Expense is alway relative. Rescue operations, military or not, tend to be expensive. The costs have to be weighed against the lives saved. In Syria now, close to 200 people a day are being killed in this conflict, mainly because of the fascist regime's overwhelming superiority in air power and heavy weapons. That is very expensive in blood, but Grayson wasn't considering that expense here, he was arguing that to do anything about it would be expensive in dollars. But before congress can decide if it's too expensive, first they need a viable plan to end the conflict and stop the bloodletting. Then they will need to determine the likely cost to implement the plan and then weigh that against the lives likely saved and the destruction averted and then they can make a moral judgment as to whether its too expensive or not. Of course, Sarah Palin will probably say it's too expensive even if it costs two cents because "It’s not our responsibility."
  7. It’s dangerous
  8. Military operations tend to be dangerous. Rescue operations tend to be dangerous. Being a witness in a criminal trial can be dangerous. Many things well worth doing can be dangerous. And then there is always the danger of not fighting the conflagration.
So we can see that the four reasons Alan Grayson lists for not supporting intervention in Syria are very general and are good reasons for not doing many things that won't benefit you directly. They may all be good reasons not come forward as a witness in a criminal trial. They are all good reasons not to save somebody.

Just this morning, ABC's Good Morning America told the story of a white ex-Marine who came upon three white thugs beating up a black kid and his father. He immediately jumped in and helped the father defend the kid. Soon he was taking the brunt of the thugs' rage, but he saved the kid and the thugs got arrested. The ex-Marine got badly beaten up for his troubles but everybody is calling him a hero and a Good Samaritan. It's lucky for that kid and his father, and whoever these thugs would have targeted next, that Alan Grayson wasn't around to make his four points before our hero let his humanity take over.

Grayson's callus disregard for the suffering of ordinary Syrians really shows in the latter parts on the interview:
We’ve had a civil war now for several years there, which has managed to conduct itself without our intervention up to this point, and we’re likely to have it for some time in the future.
What is being called a civil war in Syria is largely a government killing anyone who opposes it whether they have armed themselves or not. That has cost 110,000 lives so far but since they aren't American lives, he doesn't really give a cent.

Then he goes on to do something else that is curiously characteristic of those opposed to intervention, he tries to belittle the Syrian death toll:
I will point out to you that there’s more people who died last year in the Mexican drug war than died in Syria.
According to the SOHR, 110,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict since March 2011.

According to the NY Times in January 2012, 47,515 people had been killed in drug-related violence since late 2006. According to Wikipedia, 6,800 were killed so far in 2013, and Mexico is a much bigger country.

So he is wrong on the facts but the real question is why is he dragging Mexico into a discussion about Syria in the first place? He is doing the same thing Obama did earlier when he pointed to the tragedy of the Congo as the reason not to do anything in Syria. "There are other problems." he cries. It is an old and shabby excuse for not addressing the problem at hand.

Finally he pleads again that the superpower simply suffers from a poverty of ability:
We cannot dictate, much less even influence, what goes on in Syria. It started as a civil war. It’s evolving into a proxy war between Shiite Muslim fundamentalists and Sunni Muslim fundamentalists, both of whom historically are our enemies. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think that Palin actually has this right: Let Allah sort it out.
Since Alan Grayson is suppose to be a progressive, I can't believe he is saying that either.

Sarah Palin was making a play on words. She was alluding to a statement first made by a French Cistercian monk named Arnaud Amalric in 1209. He was assisting Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman and Crusader who had been promised by the aptly named Pope Innocent III that he could keep the land of any heretic he killed. When he ask the monk how he should tell the Catholics from the heretics, Amalric reportedly told him “Kill them all and let God sort it out.”

Since then it has been repeated with John Wayne like vibrato by killers in every war of aggression including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, to justify killing everybody.

So to watch mass murder happening and see the innocent, even the children, cut down along with your favorite heretic and offer not even sympathy, saying "let God sort it out" is already depraved, IMHO. But Palin doesn't say "God," she says "Allah" which might be a proper translation if she normally called God "Allah," but she doesn't. She is just being disparaging towards Islam along with being disdainful about the thousands of lives lost. When I first heard it, I had no trouble understanding that Sarah Palin's statement was informed by a racist opinion of Arabs. Now what am I to conclude about Alan Grayson's endorsement of it?

What I conclude is that this much celebrated left-right unity that is being built between the Tea Party and MoveOn.org, between Rand Paul and IAC, between Alan Grayson and Sarah Palin, is not based on any new enlightenment on the part of the conservatives, it is base on the slinking back to opportunism by a part of the Left.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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