No 847 Posted by fw, September 6, 2013
“I think that the forces of warmongering and the forces of the military-industrial complex are headed for an historic defeat in the House….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. The margin among Democrats right now in the House is four-to-one against. The margin among Republicans is over 10-to-one against.”—Rep. Alan Grayson
How refreshing — a politician who actually listens to and is influenced by public opinion. Florida Rep. Alan Grayson outlines the reasons for his opposition to a strike on Syria in an interview on Democracy Now. To see the interview and access the complete transcript, click on the following linked title. Alternatively, the video of the interview is available in two parts below, followed by a greatly abridged transcript, which includes added subheading to facilitate browsing.
Video, Part 1
President Obama’s effort to win legislative backing for military strikes against Syria passed its first hurdle on Wednesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 7 in favor of bombing Syria. We’re joined by Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, a leading opponent of the resolution in the House. Grayson has set up a website, DontAttackSyria.com, which is gathering signatures for a petition calling on Congress to deny permission to attack Syria. “I am very disturbed by this general idea that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it,” Grayson says. “The president has criticized that mindset, and now he has adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this.”
Grayson asks Hagel about media report claiming Obama administration “mischaracterized” Syrian communications about chemical attack
Rep. Alan Grayson: Secretary Hagel, there’s been a report in the media that the administration has mischaracterized post-attack Syrian military communications and that these communications actually express surprise about the attack. This is a very serious charge. Can you please release the original transcripts so that the American people can make their own judgment about that important issue?
Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel: What transcripts are you referring to?
Rep. Alan Grayson: The transcripts that were reported that took place after the attack in which the government has suggested that they confirmed the existence of an attack, but actually it’s been reported that Syrian commanders expressed surprise about the attack having taken place, not confirmed it.
Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel: Well, that’s probably classified. Congressman, I’d have to go back and review exactly what—what you’re referring to.
Rep. Alan Grayson: Well, you will agree that it’s important that the administration not mislead the public in any way about these reports, won’t you?
Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel: Well, of course. But I’m not aware of the administration misleading the American public on this issue or any other issue.
Rep. Alan Grayson: Will you agree that the only way to put that matter to rest is to release the original reports in some redacted form?
Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel: Well, I’m not going to agree to anything ’til I see it and ’til I understand better what it is. But most likely it’s classified.
Grayson asks Kerry if he has heard reports that Syrian opposition don’t want US attack
Rep. Alan Grayson: Have members of the Syrian opposition called for such an attack? And if so, whom?
Secretary of State John Kerry: Not specifically that I know of. Have they? They supported, apparently, but we—I—they have not advocated to me. I’ve had conversations with the president of the opposition, and there was no pleading or urging to do this.
Rep. Alan Grayson: In fact, haven’t members of the Syrian opposition said they don’t want an attack? Isn’t that true?
Secretary of State John Kerry: No, I have not heard that.
Rep. Alan Grayson: You haven’t seen the public reports to that effect?
Secretary of State John Kerry: No.
[The rest of this abridged transcript focuses solely on the comments by Rep. Alan Grayson]
“Forces of warmongering are headed for an historic defeat in the House”
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. The margin among Democrats right now in the House is four-to-one against. The margin among Republicans is over 10-to-one against.
Obama’s people are “living is a dream world” if they think the attack proposal will pass in the house
I think that they’re living in a dream world, based upon what you just said. These are independent sources, The Washington Post, The Hill magazine, Firedoglake. Everyone recognizes that the administration is in an extremely deep hole. And, you know, if you want to talk about McCain’s playing poker, I think the administration has now gone from trying to draw the inside straight to bluffing. If they’re saying that they’re going to win this vote, they’re bluffing.
Obama asks “What are our responsibilities” – Here’s what they are not
Well, let’s talk about what our responsibilities are not. Our responsibilities are not to ignore the United Nations. Our responsibilities are not to ignore NATO or the Arab League. Our responsibility is not to ignore the international court of The Hague. Our responsibility is not to make vague remarks about red lines and to follow them up with equally vague remarks about violating international norms, which is a cover for saying that they have—that the Syrians have not violated international laws.
Why do we think that “every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it”?
I’m very disturbed by this general idea, this notion, that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it. And, in fact, the president himself has criticized that mindset, and now he’s adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this. I’ll give you an example. There is substantial evidence right now, which the Russians have chosen to actually present to the United Nations, unlike the United States at this point, of the rebels using poison gas. Are we going to bomb both sides?
Administration “is misleading the public” regarding 300 intelligence reports, none of which has been released to Congress
Well, The Daily Caller reported in great detail that the report that the administration relied upon, in which the administration said that the Assad government must have been involved in this attack and ordered this attack because afterward one of the Assad generals commented on it, well, according to The Daily Caller, the comment was “We didn’t do this,” or words to that effect. And the administration has—if that’s the case, if that was the comment, the administration has completely mischaracterized it.
And, in fact, as far as I can tell, not a single member of Congress has actually seen the underlying document. What’s been provided to us so far is a four-page unclassified document and, if we bother to go down to the bowels of the congressional facility here, a 12-page classified document. But that classified document cites 300 underlying intelligence reports, none of which have been released to any member of Congress, despite the fact that we all have classified clearance. And I indicated that if there is some possibility that the administration is misleading the public regarding any of those 300 documents, then that has to be dispelled. We can’t go to war by mistake again.
Video, Part 2
Members of Congress on both sides report public feedback is “more than a hundred to one against this”
There are now both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have reported that their emails and letters and phone calls to their office are running more than a hundred to one against this. People are against it. They’re adamantly against it.
At our website that you mentioned, dontattacksyria.com, in almost no time we’ve attracted 35 signatures on our petition to the Congress and to the president, and we’re going to take those signatures and deliver them to the individual members of Congress, showing in some cases hundreds, if not thousands, of their own constituents are against this attack. So, any organization, like AIPAC or otherwise, cannot operate effectively in the environment that we’re in, where the public is speaking and speaking very loudly.
Debate over Syria is keeping Congress from dealing with important domestic issues
It’s far worse than that. It’s far worse than what you’re saying. We are three weeks away from the government shutting down. We are five weeks away from the government running out of money. And we’ve already spent two weeks engaged in a subject where almost everyone feels it’s simply not our responsibility. I said on MSNBC recently that the entire U.S. government, both Democratic and Republican, seems to be suffering from a very bad case of attention deficit disorder. We’re not showing any ability to focus on the things that actually matter in the lives of our constituents. And it’s not getting better; it’s getting worse.
Overwhelming Congressional coalition is listening to overwhelmingly powerful public opinion
Well, first of all, what you have is a coalition of people who are listening to popular opinion, and an overwhelmingly powerful coalition listening to overwhelmingly powerful public opinion. The public simply doesn’t want this. We have 20 million people in this country who are looking for full-time work. We have almost 50 million people in this country who rely upon the government to feed them. We have almost 40 million people in this country who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick. That’s what actually matters in the lives of Americans, not these high-flown ideals that have nothing to do with the safety of Americans. Let’s remember that we changed the name of the War Department to the Defense Department generations ago. And we did that because its assignment is to defend Americans and defend our allies, not be a police officer for the world, much less a judge, jury and executioner for the world. That’s simply not what America wants. It’s not even constitutional.
The US cannot dictate what goes on in Syria, and “our constituents don’t care because it has nothing to do with their lives”
Well, there’s been enormous amount of pearl clutching by these so-called experts about what might or might not happen in Syria. 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.
I will point out to you that there’s more people who died last year in the Mexican drug war than died in Syria. But leaving that aside, there are conflicts like this all over the world. When I speak to my constituents in Orlando, I don’t think they care, and I understand why they don’t care: It has nothing to do with their lives. We have to concentrate on solving our problems. We have to concentrate on doing the things that are needed to meet our own human needs.
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.
If the US attacks and Syria retaliates, there will be a war, and in war “you can’t be sure of anything”
Listen, it’s clear that if the Syrian government does anything other than simply taking a pounding and ignoring it and brushing it off, and it retaliates in virtually any way, then there will be a war between Syria and the United States, and it will involve boots on the ground. If Syria, for instance, responds to our missile attack with a missile attack against our ships in the Mediterranean and sinks one of them, there will be war. If they respond to our missile attack with a missile attack against the Beirut embassy, the U.S. embassy in Beirut, which is, by the way, 15 miles from the Syrian border, a two-minute flight in a MiG bomb—a MiG bomber, there will be war. You can’t start something like this and ever foresee what the consequences will be, but history tells us that when you start a war, you’re going to end up with war. The only thing you can really be sure of in a situation like this, when you’re starting a war, is that you can’t be sure of anything.
From Iran, from Hezbollah. You know, Hezbollah forces are literally down the block from the U.S. embassy in Beirut. And we’re not talking about a hypothetical. That embassy actually was attacked, and it was taken over once before. So, you know, I think the administration is not thinking these things through. This is a very dangerous undertaking. There’s no telling where it might end up, except for the fact that history tells us that when you start things like this, it’s very difficult to end them. Remember how World War I got started: by accident.
Hagel says the cost of an attack will be tens of millions; it’s more likely to be “a billion dollars”
Well, first, with regard to your question and the framing of it, there are other public estimates right now of the cost of this, including estimates from the general who testified next to Senator Kerry yesterday that run as high as half-a-billion dollars a week. That’s half-a-billion dollars a week, depending upon what specific option is chosen to try to respond to the chemical weapon attacks. So we’re talking about far larger sums of money. The best guess at this point is that the attack we’re talking about here, as it’s been described in general terms, will cost a billion dollars.
That’s a billion dollars that could be spent, at least in part, on humanitarian aid to help the almost two million refugees who are now in Jordan and Turkey. It’s also a billion dollars that could be used for domestic needs. We’re living in a time where we’ve actually cut food stamps. We’ve cut home heating oil support for people in the winter. We’ve cut the budget for the FAA to keep planes from falling out of the sky. And we’ve cut all sorts of security budgets, justice budgets and so on. And it seems to me that this is the wrong time to be spending more on our so-called defense, when this is a matter that doesn’t even involve our so-called defense. I will tell you that in the hearing yesterday I specifically asked, “Will you be coming back to the Congress for more money after this attack comes, more money for the Defense Department in the budget?” And the answer was maybe.
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