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Syria's business
October 27, 2008 7:02 AM   Subscribe

"US helicopter raid" in Syria. Could this be an October Surprise? Many have hinted this election's October Surprise will be the capture of Osama Bin Ladin or a resurgence of terrorist activity. As we recall, news media had jumped on a McCain Aide who claimed a terrorist attack would benefit McCain in the Election.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled (91 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's the economy, stupid.
posted by you just lost the game at 7:07 AM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Because if there's one thing that will get a Republican into office, it's being reminded how ineffective the last 8 years of Republican rule have been?
posted by DU at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So the US killed four children? Yeah, i'm not sure how that's going to be help McCain. He needs a "God endorses McCain" sort of surprise.
posted by chunking express at 7:10 AM on October 27, 2008


Looks like just standard operating procedure under this GOP administration -- botched mission, total secrecy, violated borders, appalled former allies, special forces, murdered children, obscure aims, bad timing, overkill, uninformed electorate... and oh yeah, victory!
posted by digaman at 7:10 AM on October 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


We have achieved victory, digaman–victory over the excesses of the Clinton years! Excessive budget surplus? GONE! Excessive remodeling of the military to prepare it for modern conflicts? GONE! Excessive appropriate use of force in the Balkans? GONE! Excessive PLOCHOPS? GONE!

I really miss that last one.
posted by Mister_A at 7:15 AM on October 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


The worst excesses of all are in that radical document known among its supporters as "The Constitution".
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2008


I'll point out that the modus operandi doesn't fit the GOP's profile. If this was a Republican geared October Surprise they would have been a tad smarter: False flag Syrian terrorist attack, several days/weeks of political fist waving, and a media feeding frenzy. Get the Democratic candidate to say something that would appear yellow-bellied to the hawks, fire it at prime time...

Noting that US media has failed to even mention this accusation tells me something is definitely smelling to high heaven, but I can't bring myself to blame it on GOP political maneuvering.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2008


No surprise here. The neocons have been wanking themselves raw over the idea of assaulting Syria since around the time of the Iraq invasion. Remember when they were desperately trying to sell the notion that the WMDs were, like, totally real, and they must've been sent to Syria, who like, totally loves Saddam Hussein, like, really guys!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:19 AM on October 27, 2008


Many have hinted this election's October Surprise will be the capture of Osama Bin Ladin

Again?
posted by rokusan at 7:27 AM on October 27, 2008


Excessive PLOCHOPS? GONE!

Mmmm.... with apple sauce.
posted by rokusan at 7:28 AM on October 27, 2008


I would like ACORN to capture Osama by registering him to vote.
posted by srboisvert at 7:32 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


After crossing over from Iraq at the Al-Rabia crossing back in 2003, I met two local Syrians in my guest house on their way to Iraq for "jihad". Their room was attached to mine by a large opening near the ceiling. After an entire night of the light in their room shining into mine and the old deaf owner informing me they were asking a lot of questions, I left for Allepo.
posted by gman at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2008


gman...

These Syrian terrorists you speak of?

Did they know sign language?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:37 AM on October 27, 2008


This attack makes no sense at all. Let me make sure I've got this straight:

US helicopters fly into Syria all la-di-da, violating their airspace.
They land outside a building under construction and basically shoot everyone they can aim at, including women and children.
They get back in the helicopter and fly away.

This would almost make more sense if it involved the fear of the American Bogeyman in the Middle East taking on material form and going about its business like some sort of Wes Craven horror movie.

Perhaps this is part of some plan to carry out attacks that they normally couldn't do in such an outrageous and incomprehensible way so that no one actually believes that they would do such a thing.
posted by cimbrog at 7:42 AM on October 27, 2008


Did they know sign language?

Sorry. Dude wasn't 100% deaf, just that he laid on a couch all day with his mini radio at full blast on his ear.
posted by gman at 7:44 AM on October 27, 2008


To be fair, official news out of Syria is not really trustworthy.
posted by Mister_A at 7:45 AM on October 27, 2008


Nor has been official news out of the White House.
posted by digaman at 8:09 AM on October 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


I suspect that was what Mister_A was getting at...
posted by gman at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2008


Hm. Cock-up rather than conspiracy, I think. Some hypotheses.

They thought they were in Iraq, and it was therefore OK.
They thought they were in Afghanistan, and it was therefore OK.
They thought they were in Syria and it was therefore OK.
They had no idea where they were and did it anyway
They thought they were in Syria and did it anyway.
They had no idea where they were and didn't give a fuck.
They thought they were in Syria and didn't give a fuck.
posted by Phanx at 8:18 AM on October 27, 2008


Some hypotheses.

I'll posit one more ...

Cheney's been scheming again.
posted by netbros at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2008


Or to put another way, they have fuck-all idea what they are doing, but as long as they're shooting at somebody, it's good.
posted by nax at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be fair, official news out of Syria is not really trustworthy.

Story confirmed by MSNBC.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2008


Or to put another way, they have fuck-all idea what they are doing, but as long as they're shooting at somebody, it's good.

Those bullets aren't going to shoot themselves.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bathtub Bobsled: "Syria's business"

Ohhh. I get it now.

I'm embarrassed it took that long, though...
posted by Rhaomi at 8:52 AM on October 27, 2008


Oh, come on, who hasn't gotten drunk and invaded Syria?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:55 AM on October 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm as suspicious of the motives of the current administration as anyone but based on the limited information at hand now, this looks more like a fairly standard attack the type of which goes on in Iraq constantly and officially "by mistake" they crossed the border and attacked a building in a border village.

I hope I'm right when I say:

This isn't the October Surprise you're looking for.
posted by chimaera at 8:58 AM on October 27, 2008


I'm not questioning whether an attack took place, but I would not uncritically accept Syria's characterization of the attack any more than I would take anything from a Bush mouthpiece at face value.

That said, it is, I think, extremely provocative and less than helpful to whatever the US cause is said to be at the moment to conduct these cross-border raids. This is a recipe for further consolidating anti-US sentiment throughout the Islamic world, and it's just plain stupid.
posted by Mister_A at 9:01 AM on October 27, 2008


Hm. Cock-up rather than conspiracy, I think. Some hypotheses.

They thought they were in Iraq, and it was therefore OK.
They thought they were in Afghanistan, and it was therefore OK.
They thought they were in Syria and it was therefore OK.
They had no idea where they were and did it anyway
They thought they were in Syria and did it anyway.
They had no idea where they were and didn't give a fuck.
They thought they were in Syria and didn't give a fuck.


Doubt it. If this was one helicopter I could MAYBE buy it, but this was four. It's not like the army just flies around aimlessly on their days off looking for shit to do; someone has to tell them first. And with modern technology, do you really believe that they could cross into Syrian airspace and not know it, both from their GPS systems and from American and Syrian officials yelling into their radios? It's not like they were on foot with a tattered map, here.

So, either you're right and four military helicopters [i]got lost[/i] or just decided to go [i]kill people without permission[/i]... or they went there on purpose for an actual reason, which seems far more likely to me. What that reason is, I have no idea, of course, and whatever it is, I doubt it excuses traipsing into a random country and killing people. But there's no WAY this wasn't a planned military operation.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2008


As much as we fucking spend on the fucking military, all those fucking billions, and we can't get them to stop acting like raiding Visigoths?

Fucking sons of bitches make me want to fucking puke.

I know it is hardly a new phenomenon, but it sure does upset me.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:08 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


PS- I hope this doesn't lead to another stupid fucking war.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:08 AM on October 27, 2008


The BBC seems to be quietly wondering if "a man and his children" meant adult children.
posted by mendel at 9:12 AM on October 27, 2008


I don't know that this will harm U.S. standing significantly. Everybody pretty much knows Syria's m.o. The only surprise here is, what took so long?

From a political standpoint, it does nothing to strengthen the GOP at home. Coming this late in the administration gives the next president the option of continuing the policy, using it as a bargaining chip, or terminating the policy.

I am getting the distinct feeling that the Bush Administration is running on auto-pilot these days, with major decisions being made outside the White House. Not that Bush would have stopped this, but had it been a White House initiative, it likely would have happened sooner. Maybe they just don't give a damn at all any more.
posted by Xoebe at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2008


Maybe our guys just needed a break from building all those schools we've been hearing about.
posted by Mister_A at 9:15 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


A US military spokesman was unable to confirm or deny the reports, saying it was a "developing situation".

Well, if it's true that we flew in to a sovereign nation and killed a bunch of construction workers and their kids, and then bolted for the border, then yeah I'd definitely say that you have a 'developing situation' here.

"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official said.

And that might be the problem.
posted by quin at 9:21 AM on October 27, 2008


I don't know that this will harm U.S. standing significantly.

A guy picked my pocket the other day. But since he'd already broken both my legs and raped me for three hours with a blowtorch, the whole wallet thing didn't really didn't bother me so much.
posted by rokusan at 9:29 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'll Put it another way, rokusan:

"When you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

-Robert Zimmerman
posted by Mister_A at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2008


When we heard this on the BBC this morning (here in the states, mind you), the first thing three different people said was "Bin Laden."
posted by gcbv at 9:55 AM on October 27, 2008


paisley henosis: What's the matter; don't you support our troops?

I keed, I keed.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2008


I wonder how much effect an October Surprise this late in the election cycle would actually have?. For instance, they who conduct polls expect that by election day, over 60% of all Colorado voters will have already cast their ballot through early voting means... and Colorado is one of them swing states.
posted by fusinski at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2008



PS- I hope this doesn't lead to another stupid fucking war.

paisley. The word is invasion. Not war.
posted by notreally at 10:13 AM on October 27, 2008


Middle East sources report that Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah have alerted their forces to a possible Israeli strike against Hizballah’s arms smuggling routes, supply sources, and stocks, using as a precedent the US cross-border raid which killed eight people at an al Qaeda base in northern Syria Sunday, Oct. 26.

Those sources report that Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah fear that US-Israeli military synchronization for Israel’s attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor in September 2007 may have been repeated in Sunday’s American raid at Abu Kemal.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, intelligence analysts in Damascus, Beirut and Tehran have concluded that US Air Force planes, specifically those providing an umbrella for the helicopter-borne raid, flew over Israel before reaching Syrian skies.

They point out that, on the morning of the attack, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Brig. Amos Yadlin, appeared before the cabinet session in Jerusalem with an unusually grave assessment of the military collaboration between Damascus and Hizballah.

He disclosed that Syria had become “Hizballah’s arms warehouse” and was catering to “every single Hizballah wish for strategic resources.”

Syria has given Hizballah, DEBKAfile reveals, medium-range surface rockets, radar systems and anti-air missiles. Yadlin reported that “Assad trusts Hizballah more than his own army.” Its operatives work out of Syria without any restraint.

Damascus and Hizballah find room for anxiety in three more events:

1. Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy met the UNIFIL commander Gen. Claudio Graziano last week and put him on notice that Israel would no longer put up with the ongoing Syrian violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which imposed an embargo on arms supplies to Hizballah.

2. Before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, defense minister Ehud Barak and Gen. Ashkenazi put their heads together on ways to halt these violations.

3. Barak then phoned Gen. Graziano to reiterate that Israel had run out of patience with Syrian arms smuggling to Hizballah.

Israel normally liaises with the UNIFIL commander through the OC Northern Command, Brig. Gad Eisenkott. Direct high-level contacts are rare.

All these pointers to possible Israeli military action in the steps of the American raid have made Damascus and Hizballah’s leadership anxious; they fear Israel has reached breaking-point and may no longer choose to look the other way on Hizballah’s massive rearmament.
posted by Postroad at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2008


“Oh, come on, who hasn't gotten drunk and invaded Syria?”

C’mon, it’s Syria. We zip in, we shoot 'em up, we zip right out again! We're not going to Tehran. It's Syria! It's like we're going into Wisconsin!

(By the way, chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear and when I do it's usually something unusual.)

“the first thing three different people said was "Bin Laden."”

I can think of nothing (at the moment) that would infurate me more than, after all this bullshit, the deaths, the collateral damage, the money and loss, the political wrangling, the list goes on and on - after this mountain of time, effort and circumstances - after all thats gone on within the U.S. and outside of it because of the Bush doctrine and supposedly chasing OBL - after all this, we get him now - why?
Because it’s politically expedient.

That, yes, would thoroughly enrage me.

Not that I’d buy it. OBL has been waved around, then discarded. General indefinite terrorism (GIT) has been a better boogeyman since Bush said he wasn’t interested in finding him.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2008


October surprise, my foot, this was apparently a raid after Abu Ghadiya, the leader of the Syrian network that funnels weapons into Iraq.

Lots more from the always useful (and much more accurate that Debka, sorry Postroad) Danger Room blog. No news as to whether the US captured him, or about the civilians killed or wounded.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Syria Comment has some really good, well informed discussion/analysis of this.
posted by milkrate at 10:53 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


That "Osama captured" latimes blog link actually states something about him being killed, which is far more plausible. I have no proof, but it wouldn't be a stretch to assert that Bin Laden has been dead since 2006.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2008


So, either you're right and four military helicopters ... just decided to go [i]kill people without permission[/i]...

Yeah, because that's never happened.

posted by rodgerd at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2008


This is a recipe for further consolidating anti-US sentiment throughout the Islamic world.

It ain't just the Islamic world, and those sentiments are perfectly justified. It's the belief that the US supports freedom and democracy that is irrational now.

The US has killed hundreds of thousands of people in one unjustified war and two botched and bloody occupations. Bombing random countries seems to have become a national sport. Torture -- really America, torture? -- is now institutionalized and systematic. None of this is unprecedented for the US; ask the people of South and Central America about the past 60 years.

Just to be clear, electing Obama does not, in itself, make everything better. Ten years of being less evil would be a start.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:23 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Everybody pretty much knows Syria's m.o.

Being attacked without any apparent provocation?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 AM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Re: October surprise.

I think we are well past the point where an October surprise is possible. It's nearly the end of October. Too many people have already made up their minds. I'm not a big fan of Obama (I am much more liberal) but he is clearly by far the better option.

So I just watch whatever Drudge runs up the flagpole go right by, with no effect on the poll numbers. I think it's easier for me because I'm not really emotionally invested in the candidate. Don't worry about it - McCain is playing defense in red states, Obama has a very good ground game by all accounts, the economy is the #1 issue, I seriously doubt even Bin Laden or fake Bin Laden dropping a videotape on us is going to affect people more than watching their 401Ks take a shit plus the job losses, mortgage crisis, etc.

Don't worry.
posted by citron at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2008


Eye for an eye
posted by hortense at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Last I checked, justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, hate speech was illegal where you live.
posted by oaf at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2008


oaf, I don't think the charter protects the USA against being called out for being a giant dick of a country. Last I check, anyway.
posted by chunking express at 12:29 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


“Being attacked without any apparent provocation?”

Yes, exactly. How dare Lebanon try to have a secular government within it’s own borders, that totally attacks Syria. The whole sunni way of life? Attacks Syria.
Saad Hariri? He said some very hurtful things on his television station that attacked Syria without provocation. So naturally Hezbollah (May, this year) had to invade Beiruit, fuck up his followers, force the t.v. station off the air and set the building on fire.

I don’t mind calling a spade a spade and saying, yes, the U.S. has done some fucked up things.
But are so many of you so god damned blind that you can’t see anything but U.S. malfeasance in every single act we do?
Yes, the U.S. tortures. There’s a hell of a lot of people strongly opposed to that in the U.S. who want to see those responsible for that pay.

Y’know who else tortures? Canada. Er... I mean, Syria.
Openly. And for a long time now.

Jeezus, you hear this “blame America first crowd” rhetoric and you think it’s hyperbole. But damn, attacking Syria is an example of U.S. excess on par with My Lai?
Oh, and we’re taking Syria’s word that it was just some guy and his children?
Get a clue. I hate the Bush administration too but not every single thing the U.S. military does is evil.
Or were we all fucking angels when Clinton was president? That whole Balkans thing we just showered folks with flowers? Or no, we were evil there too?
Stopping genocide was just a pretext, we just wanted to kill innocent women and kids?

You’d think it’d be easy for some folks not to see things in black and white the way people on ‘the right’ are characterized (or characterize themselves) but apparently not.
Wake up man.
The U.S does a lot of crummy stuff. Sure.
This particular thing - muscling Syria - not much of a problem. (Given it went down legitimately - I mean if some idiots decided unilitaterally to cross the boarder and blow the hell out of some poor guy they should be arrested and tried for treason and crimes against humanity).
At the very least it help cool tensions with the Kurds.
Or were we just going to sit back and let them get chopped up?

I think we should pull out. I think we should pull out of every foreign military base we have. I think we should stop policing the oceans (except for our ships) and I think we should become isolationists again.
Then, as people in a lot of regions go at each other’s throats, we’ll get the same crap we’re getting about Darfur - hey, why aren’t you guys doing something?

Doesn’t excuse anything the U.S. has done in the past. But not every problem is gordian knot in nature. Sometimes it can't be unraveled and you can't just cut it. And it sucks all around.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on October 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Calling Americans evil isn't protected by the Charter, either.
posted by oaf at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2008


Are having treats before bedtime protected by the charter?
posted by rosswald at 1:02 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is confirmed that they were going for Abu Ghadiya. And they got him. Still not clear how many casualties were actually civilian, if any.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2008


Calling Americans evil isn't protected by the Charter, either.
posted by oaf at 12:37 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


Oh, haha, wow. I thought you were joking when I read your first post. That's not hate speech, that's an outside perspective.

As for the guys apparently smuggling weapons into Iraq, that's an interesting situation. On the one hand, those are weapons presumably being used to kill American soldiers. On the other hand, American soldiers shouldn't be in Iraq in the first place. Because American forces can't be withdrawn immediately (for whatever reasons), taking out the smugglers appears to be within the bounds of morality* -- essentially as self-defense.

Now the situation gets sticky, because the smugglers don't have their base in a country in which American forces have a right to engage in military action. So the first move has to be to ask the Syrian government for permission to go after the smugglers, unless they have evidence indicating that, say, the government is colluding with the smugglers. If the American forces didn't meet either of those conditions, then the action immorally violated Syrian sovereignty. Seeing as the Syrian government has publicly decried the action, my hope is that the American forces have some evidence that the Syrians had previously refused to deal with the smugglers.

*Assuming there can be justice in war at all. Also, there's no need to bring up the "Well what if some jerk breaks into your house and you try to hit him...is it still self defense when he beats you up?!" argument. We've all heard it before.
posted by voltairemodern at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2008


Calling Americans evil isn't protected by the Charter, either.

Speaking as an American, I sure hope it is. Lord knows we have enough problems without other countries getting their panties in a twist on our behalf.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 1:24 PM on October 27, 2008


This October Surprise musing is endlessly entertaining to me. I think it's created by both parties any time it seems the Democrats might be close to victory - Democrats simply cannot it believe it will happen and masochistically expect something like Bush calling a press conference on November 3rd, waving with one hand and holding Osama in a chokehold with the other. Republicans, for their part, are using the October Surprise meme most of all this cycle, mostly as a mill for colorful rumors. Jon Swift touches on this a bit, as he covers the Great Moments in Election Year Blogging:
Larry Johnson of No Quarter used to be a liberal until the Democrats decided to nominate an unqualified African-American for President. In a last-ditch attempt to get Democrats to come to their senses, he revealed the existence of a secret videotape featuring Michelle Obama speaking to a group that included the wife of Louis Farrakhan and maybe even Farrakhan himself in which she confirms the most feverish nightmares of some white Americans by ranting about “whitey.” Johnson claimed that Republicans had a copy of this tape, which they were holding onto until October, when it would do the most damage. Although he didn’t actually see the tape himself, he had many friends and friends of friends who did see it. Stop the ACLU wrote, "This is all a rumor, but if you read Michelle’s college thesis on race you will find it is most likely true." Macranger reported, "Too many insiders are talking about it to outright dismiss it." Jim Geraghty of National Review's The Corner initially believed the tape existed but later grew skeptical, writing, "I note that despite my readers' hopes, this fits the pattern for rumors like this — they're always simultaneously vague but hyped to be huge, and they're always coming just around the corner." Killjoy. If Johnson is right, and there is no reason to doubt him, we should be seeing that tape any day now. But you might want to send him a note and remind him that there are only two more weeks left in October so they better release that tape quick.
As for the attack in Syria, keep in mind that this was just barely over the border with Iraq. The border area has seen its share of action in the past, and remains a hot spot. Syria has been under pressure to mend its ways lately, and has even gone as far as to begin peace talks with Israel. They're not in a position to start a war over this, as outrageous as the death of children is. So no, not an October Surprise or even the beginnings of one - just more of the usual death and destruction in and around Iraq ... which gives me a dead, sickening feeling in my stomach to say.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2008


There’s a difference between any country’s people and their government.
So, let’s just cede the U.S. government has done some pretty crummy stuff in terms of foreign policy. Even ‘evil’ or downright stupid stuff. ( even as we speak ). Maybe some good stuff too.


But Syria?

A lot of people have seen this coming for a while after the assassination of Hairiri (the dad, I mean, Rafik) - Hell, Bush spoke to the U.N. about it. (But then Syria says they had nothing to do with it. Which must be true because teh U.S. is Evilz and Syria? Because oh, they’ve *never* done anything like *that* before.)

That said, I’m not a big fan of the Bush Doctrine.

But there’s already a U.N. resolution on the books - (UNSC - 1559) calling for Syria to withdraw military and intel forces from Lebanon (who, y’know, otherwise really love having those guys run their country for them)

And they’re openly terrorist. President Bashar Al-Assad’s father Hafez said himself terrorism was a political tool with which to further Syria’s strategic objectives.
(This isn’t to say the Sunni’s are sunshine and puppy dogs. President Assad is an Alawite Muslim, the majority of the population is Sunni. The latter regard the Alawites as heretics to Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood instituted activities against Assad and the Baath Party - ‘splosions. etc. Back in the day the Syrian government sort of over reacted - brought in artillery and tanks for urban combat. That sort of thing. Flattened buildings rather than engage the guerillas. Not a bad tactic per se, if you don’t mind, as they obviously didn’t, killing thousands of innocent people deliberately. Exploding buildings that might have a Brotherhood cell in it regardless of whether it was full of other people. The death toll is estimated at about 20,000. Just google ‘Hama uprising’)

And it’s not like they haven’t provoked us. April of ‘04 the Jordanians said they stopped an attack with nerve and blister agents (from our buddy Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) on the U.S. embassy and Jordanian govt. offices.
In ‘05, same deal, but against U.S. tourists, plus! explosives and of course, Israel (because we all want death to Israel, amirite?).

I dunno. The term ‘shit sandwich’ comes to mind here. Sit back and do nothing, and death and destruction just keeps rolling on. Attack, maybe you stir up a hornets nest.

Pressure seemed to be working. The Syrians seemed to help with the Iraqi insurgency, turn over Hussein’s brother, all that. One of the prime suspect ( Kannan ) commited suicide after the Hariri assassination, etc.

“On the one hand, those are weapons presumably being used to kill American soldiers.”

On many other hands, those are weapons being used to kill tourists, Israelis, Sunnis, Kurds, pretty much anyone that doesn’t bend their knee the way the Syrians want. I mean, if we’re holding the U.S. to it’s foreign policy past...

But I doubt we’re going to war (and as I’ve said ‘war’ as in intra-state industrial, is a lot more rare - this thing in Iraq is a bizarre anachronism...for a number of reasons really) with Syria tho.

Probably just raids like this. And focused attacks are better than firing off a missle and maybe hitting a school, IMHO.
(again - given Syria’s full of b.s. here. It would astonish me if they were on the level).
posted by Smedleyman at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's not hate speech, that's an outside perspective.

Replace "Americans" with "Jews." Either neither is hate speech, or both are. But that's really not the point.


Some people seem to believe that unthinking, knee-jerk anti-American hurfdurfery rises to the level intelligent discourse.
posted by oaf at 1:51 PM on October 27, 2008


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow:

Show us on the doll where America hurt you.
posted by RussHy at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2008


level of intelligent discourse
posted by oaf at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2008


Replace "Americans" with "Jews." Either neither is hate speech, or both are. But that's really not the point.

Some people seem to believe that unthinking, knee-jerk anti-American hurfdurfery rises to the level intelligent discourse.


While others seem to believe racism is the same as criticising the foreign policies of a country's administration.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:20 PM on October 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


That said, I’m not a big fan of the Bush Doctrine.

In what respect, Smedleyman?
posted by kirkaracha at 2:28 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


While others seem to believe racism is the same as criticising the foreign policies of a country's administration.

Not quite. Whichever Parliament decided to make "bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor" part of the equation made slurs against Jews and slurs against Americans equal in that regard.
posted by oaf at 2:32 PM on October 27, 2008


Not quite.

Yes quite. This is clearly a criticism of demonstrable foreign policy, and isn't even in the same ballpark as "Jews are cheap" or "Black people steal things" or whatever. Why you can't see the difference is beyond me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Saying Americans can't use electing Barack Obama to make up for the fact that they're evil…
posted by oaf at 2:44 PM on October 27, 2008


So, yeah. Not quite.
posted by oaf at 2:44 PM on October 27, 2008


Re: October Surprise,

I'm a little unclear on how Bush popping up in a press conference with Bin Ladin's bloody head would directly benefit McCain.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2008


I'm a little unclear on how Bush popping up in a press conference with Bin Ladin's bloody head would directly benefit McCain.

Because bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are best buddies, and Iraq was saved by the surge, which was John McCain's invention, and leadership maverick country first!

The number of people who will be voting based on random neuron firings is depressingly high.
posted by oaf at 2:51 PM on October 27, 2008


Saying Americans can't use electing Barack Obama to make up for the fact that they're evil…

... is an exercise in pulling one unfortunate phrase out of the context of an entire paragraph criticising foreign policy. Let's not cry "hate speech" too often when criticism of torture and the war(s) come up.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:51 PM on October 27, 2008


I'm a little unclear on how Bush popping up in a press conference with Bin Ladin's bloody head would directly benefit McCain.

Because in that scenario, Bush caught the bad guy, which is good, and Bush = Republican, and if McCain = Republican, too, then McCain must be the one to vote for!

Or, yeah, pretty much what oaf just said.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:54 PM on October 27, 2008


Is it just me or does Smedleyman format his posts like a newspaper columnist?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:59 PM on October 27, 2008


If there is no bloody "october suprise" can we pleeeeese retire the phrase?
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:27 PM on October 27, 2008


“In what respect, Smedleyman?”

Going after terrorist groups it’s sometimes necessary to go after them in someone’s backyard. If that country is harboring them - that’s one thing. If they can’t reach them, that’s another. I think we’re better served by negotiation than unilateral military force.
By the same token, there are occasions where one has to act quickly. Still - all this can be worked out at a table before the fact.
(bribes are expensive if they work, but threats are more expensive if they fail)

The Bush doctrine attempted to address this problem, but developed into this first strike/preventative war b.s. - plus - regardless of an imminent threat. That’s pretty much obviously garbage.
So let’s address the tiny bit of it that was meant to address non-state actors running in and out of borders as protection.

What we’ve done in Syria is different than what’s going on in Pakistan in a number of ways.

Pakistan - and I’m dodging a whole slew of stuff here for the sake of brevity - is unstable but law-abiding. That is, they’re orderly.

Syria is somewhat stable, but not law-abiding. And the border region is completely without order.
(Understand, that’s a LOT of shorthand going on - I’m just stepping over a lot of nuance to get to a larger point about the U.S.’ actions).

Fighting terrorism is a law enforcement job (I’ve spoken on this plenty of places).
Where the military gets involved is where there is a complete absence of order. Law enforcement works only where there is some kind of order.
If a given country has no, or has ceded, control over a given region, it’s fruitless to negotiate with them.

The military’s job (under these specific circumstances) is to impose order.
The sooner order is imposed, the sooner law enforcement can do its job.

Where I depart from the Bush doctrine on this (again, sliver thin rational piece of it - the administration otherwise believes counterterrorism is a job for infantry) is in information, intelligence, and precision.
Anytime an innocent is killed (even if they’re a ‘bad guy’ who morally or materially supports terrorism) the law is diminished. Naked force - that is, military force, is seen as the only ‘law.’ And so the objective of the support of the will of the people is lost.
That’s the main strategic objective in modern warfare (unless we’re comfy with democide or genocide as the Syrians apparently are).

So it’s very hard to apply military force in support of this objective because it is - by its nature - lethal, on a large scale, and often arbitrary (whoops, sorry).
The missile attack in Pakistan is of this order.

The special forces operation into Syria is more targeted and more oriented to fostering order.

This issue of sovereignty has lost a lot of ground since we’re no longer going to war (really) as state on state.
I mean, so it’s ok for me to shelter an organization that fosters terrorism in your back yard, but hey, I ‘disavow’ them and they’re not my ‘regular’ forces. But when you cross the line with your regulars to stop them, that’s way beyond the pale?
Crap.
What was 9/11? That wasn’t an attack on a ‘sovereign’ nation?
It’s like hitting someone from behind then saying they’re not fighting fair when they kick you in the balls.

So we should wait for them to develop a regular army and face them on a field fairly? C’mon. They’ve got like what, two choppers? And one of them is for news and traffic.

This is the nature of asymmetric warfare. Now I’m not saying the use of guerilla tactics is out of bounds. Syria is doing what any good guerilla outfit should be doing - especially in terms of getting their message out.
But let’s not pretend we’re not at war when they hit our stuff, and kill our tourists, but suddenly we are when our guys cross this line here.
We’ve been ‘at war’ with Syria for some time. Just haven’t really hit them lately is all.
Hell we were ‘at war’ with Iraq through the Clinton era - or was all that bombing and maintaining a ‘no fly’ zone just a courtesy detail?

So the upshot being - if we are going to do this, the military has to be more of a deterrent. Where we use it is going to have to be with an eye toward developing order. Information is the currency, not firepower.

I suppose that last is the core of my beef with the Bush doctrien.
What did we want to achieve with this raid? Why? How do we show the threat is/was credible? What law are we using here? Are we dealing with their leaders? If not - then who is it we are talking to - because we should be talking to someone with some legitimacy. Etc.

Essentially what Camus said about the Algerian revolution - “While it is true that in history at least, values - whehter of the natior or of humanity - do not survive unless we fight for them, neither combat nor norce suffices to justify them. The fight itself must be justified and enlightened by those values. To fight for the truth and to take care not to kill it with the very weapons we use in its defense. This is the double price to be paid for restoring the power of words.”

The Bush doctrine (the small part of it that makes any sense at all) seeks only national defense. Which, while a legitimate objective, cannot be achieved by, as the Bush doctrine posits, force of arms alone.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:31 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty - it’s this stupid computer. People keep telling me to put line breaks in, so I do that where I would normally pause for breath. It makes it look weird on the laptop, but ...this thing isn’t really designed for typing stuff out.
I’m trying. All I’m going to say on it.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:34 PM on October 27, 2008


I'm bummed because I had UAR in the "who will Bush invade before his term is up" office pool.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:53 PM on October 27, 2008


Smed, I prefer your comments to look unique. That way I know when to pay attention.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:31 PM on October 27, 2008


If I hear any more politics my head is going to explode....
posted by Logboy at 4:57 PM on October 27, 2008


Interesting interpretation, eponysterical oaf. There is a difference between calling the actions of the American government evil and making every individual American out to be a mustache twirling villain, right?

I really wasn't feeling particularly angry about recent American history, and I wasn't intending to be a troll myself. I just wanted to say that context affects how people around the world will interpret the Syrian strike and future American actions. If President Obama attacks targets in Pakistan (as he has suggested he will) he will be seen as carrying on with a very old policy tradition of bombing, invading and generally disregarding the sovereignty of relatively weak countries.

When faced with terrorist targets that need a military smackdown, why not do it right? The multinational fleet bearing down on Sudanese pirates is a good example. If you build international consensus that military action is needed first, a lot fewer people get mad at you afterwards.

I agree Smedleyman, it is horrible that Canada allowed and enabled the torture of several of our citizens. Transferring Afghan POWs to Afghan prisons where they were tortured was also quite evil. The government that did these things is still in power. We're not acting like the country we used to be, and I expect that there will be considerable long term damage to Canada's reputation. There's a lot of shame to go around.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:30 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


eponysterical oaf

Nope. But thanks for playing.
posted by oaf at 7:40 PM on October 27, 2008


There is a difference between calling the actions of the American government evil and making every individual American out to be a mustache twirling villain, right?

It's not the government who elects Obama. It's the people. "Being less evil" applies to them, since they're the ones doing the "electing" (these are your words). Perhaps you didn't say what you intended, but don't attack me because of it.
posted by oaf at 7:47 PM on October 27, 2008


Awww ... Dubbya is just having fun blowing the last of his whoopie money-for-murder.

"This secret directive, for which Congress made an outlay of $300m, promised backing for covert attacks by non-US forces from Lebanon to Afghanistan." --- US admits raiding Syria to kill ...

"Secret directive"? Dubbya can do anything he wants for the next 83 days?!!
posted by Surfurrus at 8:35 PM on October 27, 2008


oaf, the clear context of "electing Obama won't...make everything better" was in talking about the reputation of the United States as a country.

"Please don't attack me" -- this from the man slinging hate crimes accusations in a public forum?

If I read you right, you want to stop arguing and move on with our lives. Me too. Truce? I'll let you have the last word if you insist.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:03 PM on October 27, 2008


botched mission, total secrecy, violated borders, appalled former allies, special forces, murdered children, obscure aims, bad timing, overkill, uninformed electorate... and oh yeah, victoryPROFIT!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:57 PM on October 27, 2008


“There's a lot of shame to go around.”

True. The big difference is folks in the U.S. and Canada do feel ashamed. And are trying to do something about it.
The folks in Syria, not so much.
Not that there aren’t men and women of conscience there. But y’know, resist and they kill everyone on your block - is a pretty big deterrent.
Plus a lot of folks take their moral cue from religion (I’m speaking of there, but this is true many places), rather than secular authority.
Well, that really screws things up good because one tends to keep playing the ‘higher law’ card and circumventing responsibility.
Oh, water service is out? God’s (Allah’s) will.
No trash disposal service? Sorry, God’s will.
Someone shot your mail man? He was probably a heretic, God’s will.
And then of course, as long as they make someone else suffer more than you, they tend to stay in power. So, sure you’re living in rubble, but at least those filthy (Sunni/Shi’ites, etc. etc.) are getting theirs. Torture or whatnot.

And it rolls on and on for a thousand years.

Unfortunately, yes, they (the infamous ‘they’, not any specific ‘they’) are trying to bring that game to the west.
Hence the torture.
Which is very much an element of lawlessness and an appeal to this supposed higher authority, albiet a secular ‘God’ in our case - the ticking time bomb.

And yet - we must confront them. I’m reminded of something I heard a bit ago about the good samaratian - the guy who came upon a man who had been beaten and robbed and helped him where two other people (one of them a priest) had passed him by. The moral there is obvious.
But what if you come upon the man while he’s being beaten and robbed?
Sure, if it’s a bunch of guys and they’ll beat you if your interfere, the choice is made (unless you’re bad ass enough to take a beating with someone and there are those rare few whom I do deeply admire).
But take away the helpless aspect of this. You can do something about it. You’re armed. You’re in excellent physical shape. Whatever. (Again, as above, cedeing to those who use non-violence effectively and are willing to take a beating even though they could do the beating themselves.)
So - do you stop it?
I’m not arguing violence or non-violence as superior in method. I’m saying at some level you either choose to stop violence with violence or you die. And that some are willing to die, and I respect the commitment to the longer sea change that represents.
But in the now - the guy getting beat on by thugs is going to get beat either way.

So, as one stops to help, do you also stop to prevent? Do you act to impose - not just support - impose order on that road in order to prevent the group of thugs from beating another guy? And another?
Because at some point there’s enough chaos that achieving an ideal like a self-directed universal commitment to non-violence is impossible, in part because of the nature of chaos, but also in part because people will accept *any* order rather than tolerate chaos and indeterminacy to such a degree that they can’t go get groceries, say, without being beaten and robbed.

(Which is why despotic regimes are tolerated - because the alternative is indeterminate chaos - and despots make sure that is the only alternative to them - this is the undercurrent in any authoritarian message. Keep an eye on Fox news. It’s fairly ubiquitous. If ‘x’ happens, than ‘I don’t know.’ If ‘y’ happens, it’s going to be ‘crazy’ etc. And the extension of otherwise rational appearing conceptual frameworks into sparking a nonsensical response (offhand the ‘isn’t Obama a marxist?” line of reasoning which has no practical response. Which is by design. Not merely as attack strategy, but as extrapolating chaos as the outcome of, in this case, electing Obama)).

So - you can stop them. And let’s say not even with force - with the threat of force. You’re traveling with a small squad of trained and armed men.
Do you do stop them from beating him? Especially since we don’t know they’ll stop. That they won’t kill him, just leave him for dead by the side of the road.

Well, I choose to get involved and stop them.

From there it’s just a question of method.

But I don’t presume that my largesse grants me some natural form of authority. It can’t. Especially since I’m acting on behalf of another.
Oh, I’m helping myself out, sure. I might be walking the road alone some time and I’d sure like the thugs to be afraid of reprisals if they beat and rob me.
But I can never forget I am also acting on their behalf. The thugs.
Because it’s not them that I’m aiming to ‘stop.’ I’m not using violence to kill them, that’s not the objective.
I’m using violence to stop violence. Which means I must be more in control of myself than my opponent.
(Which is why the ‘b-but ‘they’ torture! why shouldn’t we?’ argument is bullshit)

Reminds me of Nietzsche: Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

It’s so easy to launch a missile and forget about what happens on the ground.
So, as to method, I prefer this up close and personal because it keeps that reminder handy. That violence is at hand. That we must remember we fight to end fighting so we must not forget to stop it or make it too easy to use.

So we apply force here in Syria. While I agree with the method, and I’m willing to cede its necessity against Syria specifically, I hope my objections to appeals to authority in the use of violence generally are clear.

While I’d probably have agreed with this kind of targeted strike against Syria’s weapons smuggling had we never gone to Iraq in the first place - its that argument - the tautology that because we use force for ‘good’ that we can use force whenever we wish - that the Bush Doctrine makes and its that thinking that got us into Iraq and torturing people in the first place.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2008


Iraq politicians warn raid could hurt U.S. pact
posted by homunculus at 9:15 AM on October 28, 2008


The Real October Surprise: If Osama bin Laden releases a pre-election tape like he did in 2004, don't assume it will be to the Republicans' benefit.
posted by homunculus at 10:03 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Twilight Struggle: In its closing days, the Bush administration escalates the war on terror.
posted by homunculus at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2008


Who Authorized the Syria Raid?
posted by homunculus at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2008


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