Is Assad Goading Obama? Herod Couldn’t Take it, Either – UPDATED

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Given the social media jeers of his adolescent son, and Assad’s assertion that President Obama “is weak”, it sure does look like Syria is trying to taunt Obama into blowing things up, over there.

That alone should make everyone pull back from declaring “bombs-away.”

A few days ago I wondered whether Obama — who last year recklessly pronounced the use of deadly chemichals ae “red line” to which America would respond with great vengeance and furious anger — was in a similar position to King Herod. Herod, recall, promised the first-century twerkgirl Salome up to half his kingdom and then — when she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter — ordered the ugly deed, in order to save face. His pride, and concern for his standing after uttering so reckless a promise, forced his hand.

I’m glad the president is now going to make a case before Congress. Or, perhaps he’s not going to make a case — so far he really hasn’t — and just let them all preen for the cameras for a little while. We know he hates the Congress and very likely resents having to include them at all, but politically, it’s the cunning and self-protective move; if Congress says “yea” (and I expect they will) there is shared responsibility and if we don’t, Obama can be absolved of any responsibility either way. David Axelrod’s snide, immature and partisan tweet over the weekend made it clear that the move was more politically than constitutionally calculated.

Do we know for sure who used the chemicals? For sure? It’s difficult to know anything anymore, when we discover that the terrible picture we looked at, thinking it was Syria 2012, was actually picture from Iraq, 2003. And that image was reported to be John Kerry’s justification for airstrikes. There are true images, to be sure. That they weren’t used doesn’t make me feel better about the job anyone is doing.

Colin Powell went to the UN with a lot more intel than a misdated picture, and it proved to be bad intel. Or, who knows? Maybe those rumers that the chemical WMD were shipped to Syria were true, after all. Are we going to strike Syria, and enter into their civil war, when there is no pressing American interest to do so and if getting involved will possibly invite retaliations we dare not think of in our own cities? We don’t even know what this is about, we do not have a full picture of what’s relevant to the region. All we know is there was a pronounced red line. And now there must be…something.

When I read that we weren’t even looking at accurate images coming from Syria, I must admit to getting chills. We don’t know what’s real, anymore, and if the Secretary of State is using bad images, that’s bad enough; if he doesn’t even know he’s using them, that’s even worse, because it suggests a level of systemic incompetence that is terrifying to contemplate. It feels like no one actually has a good handle on any of our steering mechanisms, anywhere — like gyres are widening and centers are not holding. And what rough beast is slouching forward while our wheels are spinning?

But back to my original question: is the president being publicly goaded into attacking, by Assad? And if so, to what purpose? If “precise” US bombs are flying in Syria, does it give cover to Assad and “justify” a destructive responsive action? How big is this damned thing going to get? If we learned nothing from Iraq, we should have learned that strategies and tactics in the twenty-first century are not what they were in the twentieth; predictability has diminished, particularly in that region, and I’m not sure how many war historians and tacticians even get a full and thoughtful hearing in Obama’s very protective, very insulated, very politicized White House.

I do not pretend to know what the answer is, but that’s why its so important that we be able to trust our government (and the press) when dire situations arise. And therein lies the problem: I trust and admire not a single person currently in leadership, and the press has destroyed its own credibility in service to itself. That leaves one feeling tetherless and insecure in these circumstances.

Furthermore, I suspect if Obama had not created his “red line” last year, the world would have heard of a chemical strike in Syria and done what the world does about most terrible stories, anymore — returned to their iPhones and waited for the next buzzfeed list to come their way, so they can chuckle and send it around, and then check their email to see what article about listiciles someone else has sent them. Because that’s what we all do.

Go or no go on Syria, we are in terrible trouble; our “wheels are turning but we’re upside down.” But one thing in Obama’s favor is that most people aren’t even paying attention.

Let us pray for the President and the Congress as this proceeds. Let us pray that their angels have some influence over them. Let us join in the Pope’s call for prayer and fasting on this issue, which has so many befogged questions attached to it and needs wisdom. And perhaps a serious dose of humility to tame so many egos.

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UPDATE I: Please don’t tell me this is serious

UPDATE II: There is a plan?. Who to believe, who to believe…congratulations, press; congratulations, government. Your credibility is so damaged that it’s all just words at this point.

And, good news! We’re not going in alone! We just aren’t allowed to know who is with us!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • David

    How surprising to learn the video and photos are actually from Iraq 2003? Not very much. How surprising to learn video and photos from the Middle East are doctored? Not very much. And, how surprising this happens when Obama’s domestic policy agenda is a mess? Not very much.
    Hamas and Hezbollah did this when they were at the bad end of retaliatory strikes from Israel. Even ACM forces in Iraq and Afghanistan did that against us, and the media and Dems gobbled it up as “gospel” truth.
    When the next “atrocity” happens in the Middle East, don’t be surprised more doctored video and photos will be seen, especially when Obama needs to divert our attention to something else.

  • JohnE_o

    A question:

    Am I as a citizen of the US absolved of blame, or at least somewhat less culpable, for any bad consequences that occur if the US takes action in Syria if beforehand I’ve contacted my Congressional representatives and told them that I oppose action in Syria?

  • Augustine

    Lack of congressional approval, rather disapproval, didn’t stop Barry to rattle sabers on Libya, why would it now?

    Besides, the media is in bed with their dear leader, even to the point of fabricating news, pure misinformation:

    At least in the USSR, everybody knew that there was no truth in the Pravda (“truth” in Russian) or news in the Izvestia (“news” in Russian). Alas, in America, the typical boob does.

  • Augustine

    “Are we supporting al-Qaida in Syria?” (Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes, 2012)

  • Lorraine

    To get a different spin on news regarding Syria by reading this article certainly has me thinking and wondering what is going on in the world of politics and news coverage. I’m not a politician and cannot comment on such things as world affairs, and my opinion is as limited as is my knowledge. However, I will pay close attention as to how news reporters comment on pictures they show. I must say that I haven’t seen that particular picture that you referred to, posted on the news coverage I saw and wonder what I did see. Certainly this is an opportunity to learn more about things that go ‘bump’ in the day in the ‘wake’ of night time blunders!

  • Chesire11

    There is so much with which I disagree in this post, but as they are each matters of judgement, I’ll focus on one particular area of disagreement, and that is the statement that, “If we learned nothing from Iraq, we should have learned that strategies and tactics in the twenty-first century are not what they were in the twentieth; predictability has diminished…”

    Iraq proved precisely the opposite. There was almost nothing about the war and the occupation that was not predictable to (or unpredicted by) even the most plodding and pedestrian analysis. Nothing in Iraq was a surprise, that’s part of what made it such a colossal catastrophe.

  • John

    There are human rights violations all over Africa, China, and the Middle East. The biggest reason we are powerless as defenders of human rights is that we refuse to address the abuses at home.


  • Guest

    All this proves is that there is no real, substantive difference between the republicans and democrats. Same problems, same violent solutions. So much for a president who would embark on a more sane foreign policy after Bush’s catastrophe.

    I’m glad I don’t vote. I won’t participate in a system that serves us this adolescent tripe as governance.

  • Proteios

    Agreed. The line in the sand is political noise. Wile ignoring the sex slavery…slavery of any kind, human trafficking, etc. that much of the Mid East, Asia and Africa engage in. But to most politicians I uses that’s a local story.

  • Dr. Strangelove

    I believe that the Big O is being goaded so as to involve Russia in this mess. The Russians have a naval base in Syria, Syria has a mutual defense treaty with Russia, and most importantly, Syria has Russian supplied air defenses.
    I would not be surprised if Vlad the Putin issued a nuclear threat to the Big O soon.
    If Big O disses it, it might get real hot real quick…..
    “Where’s Major Kong????”

  • Augustine

    Everyone knows how a war starts; no one knows how a war ends.

  • Jcar

    Obama made a mistake when he drew the red line. Europe saw this as him going solo and committing America to respond. Why should Europeans help us. We made this promise beforehand on our own. These people are tired and don’t want to fight if they don’t have to. Only a fool would follow us into this hell.

  • Manny

    Ultimately I have to trust the President that his version of the facts are true, at least to te best of his knowledge. If he’s lying about Assad’s use of chemical weapons (and I understand that this president’s word evolves) then he will not only have a failed presidency, which I think he already has, but he will go down in history as a disgrace.
    Here’s my evolution on the issue. Before this became prominant I dd not want any US involvement. Assad is a cruel dictator but the opposition is no better, and if anyone is less viscious to the Christians it’s Assad’s side. That said when all those bodies were displayed from having been gassed, I began to believe we had to take action. You couldn’t let such a use of chemical weapons to go unanswered, not if treatises against their use are supposed to ean something. However, I was still on the fence. How would launching a few missiles have any deterence? However, John Kerry’s speech on Saturday was most persuasive. I would say it was Kerry’s finest hour, and I’m no John Kerry fan. If you haven’t heard it, see if you can look it up on youtube. Over 400 innocent children gassed to death. Kerry made it seem that our response would be sgnificant, even if we didn’t put boots on the ground. Then Obama pulled this fiasco of pulling back and seeking Congressional aproval, one of the most horrendous foreign policy blunders I have ever seen. Assad has a right to ridicule him. I am embarressed as an Americn. Now if Obama doesn’t get Congressional approval, his presidency and American power in the world is over for at least the remainder of his term. He better get approval and he better have a substantial response, either coordinatng with Assad’s opposition or putting American troops on the ground. Significant response is not enough at this point. If Obama’s heart is not in it he better just crawl under a rock and do nothing.

  • Manny

    Or it proves that the problems are real and the solutions once you get in office and are privy to all the facts outside of politics are the logical course of action no matter what your party. As a Conservative I will say it gives me endless satisfaction to hear Obama and John Kerry mouth the very same arguments Bush made.

  • bender

    The one doing the goading and taunting isn’t Assad, it’s Obama and his gang. Like on every other issue, he’s trying to punk his way into getting what he wants from Congress.

  • Guest

    The same arguments… which turned out to be lies, fabrications, and exaggeration.

    I’m immensely satisfied as well… to see for myself that they are ALL spineless, chickenhawk war mongers.

  • Augustine

    Those pictures that shocked you are from 2003 in Iraq, as Elizabeth said (v. ). Don’t let yourself be duped by these warmongers.

  • rudy

    Look at today’s ‘The Independent’. What the exact chemicals are is exactly what is poured down scores of U.S. water sources – fluoride. Please check out the source. This is incredible. We would go to war for this?

  • Manny

    If you belive that presidents of both parties have lied to bring us into war then you should renounce your citizenship and leave the country. I couldn’t live in a place where I thought as you think.

  • Manny

    Well, I can’t speak for the pictures, but the Washington Post reported fully on the nature of the evidence:

  • Augustine

    Ask Collin Powell about fabrication of evidence to justify war against non-threats to America. Enough of crying wolf to perpetrate the demonic absurd of killing people in order to avoid people being killed.

  • Manny

    Oh pulease. Stop with the ideological B.S. Iraqi WMD intelligence wasn’t fabricated. If it was erroneous, so be it. If it was fabricated then a whole lot of people need to be brought up on treason. Do you realize the implication of your claims? Stop thinking the worst in people trying to do a difficult job, and that goes for either party. I’ll tell you what I told the other guy in this blog post. If you believe that sort of treason takes place at the upper parts of our government by both parties, you need to renounce your citizenship and find a new country that you can believe in. Why don’t you pull a Snowden.

  • Amatorem Veritatis

    As usual, I am in broad agreement with Her Anchoress, but I find the absence of discussion by Elizabeth or the commentariat regarding the applicability of Catholic teaching, or more broadly Just War doctrine (there can be some minor divergence), to be puzzling on this question.

    Of course I would never expect the coalition of the willing (quasi-fascist progressives [Democrats] and neo-conservative political utilitarians [Republicans] to discuss, much less invoke the principle as a rationale for war, but I do expect at least a cursory treatment on a Catholic blog.

    Any reasonable review of the elements of classical (Augustian & Thomistic) doctrine, or other more modern renditions such as that dusty old thing we call the Catechism, reveals we have no basis for going to war in Syria. None. Not one of the four elements of justification (and all four must be met BTW) in CCC 2309 have been satisfied, or can be satisfied.

    One wonders what doctrine nominal Catholics such as John Boehner are using as justification when they declare support of a misguided policy before a case has even been presented by the administration? Unless you consider the president’s ego to be appropriate justification. No, my cynical side tells me that the Boehners, McCains, Grahams and other Republicrats who support this foolish venture are operating not according to Just War doctrine, but according to the more progressive doctrines of “Just to Get Elected” and its corollary, “Just Because I Can”.

    Make no mistake. I am not a pacifist, nor a libertarian isolationist, but one of those hated war mongering conservatives (yeah…talking to Mr. Shea there). My military roots go back some 238 years to the first USMC regiments raised for the Revolutionary War. So my opposition is not some reflexive jerk of the patella. But facts are stubborn things, and engaging in direct or even indirect military action in Syria is a fools errand, without any justification grounded in Church teaching, secular Just War doctrine or in basic common sense.

    So it does not surprise me that the Fool in Chief and his enablers in Congress, are stampeding to the microphones to unzip and demonstrate their manly manliness. Followed of course by many manly women such as Hillary, Feinstein and others who like to show off their designer jockstraps on occasion. Obama has many reasons for arriving at this unfortunate place. Virtually all of them bad and politically motivated. It is depressing that Catholics as well as conservatives seem to have any confusion on this question.

  • Florin S.

    Sept. 4th….Obama gave Assad plenty of warning and plenty of time to protect himself and his assets…word is that Assad has already moved his chemical weapons and placed them among the general population, near hospitals and schools and that he has moved his military to safe locations. Why don’t we focus on bringing aid to the millions of refugees living under horrendous conditions in nearby border countries; there are tens of thousands being raped and slaughtered in the Sudan and this has been going on for years; Bishop Gassis has begged for help but we have not responded; nor did we respond in Rwanda…why now??? Obama left Americans to die in Benghazi just so he could get on to Vegas and his campaign and then, with the help of Hillary, lied and covered it all up. Both Hillary and Obama should be tried for treason, for dereliction of duty.

  • Augustine

    Hermann Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice,
    the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is
    easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and
    denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country
    to danger. It works the same way in any country.

    (Interview with the Nazi head of the Lüftwaffe before his execution for war crimes in Nüremberg)

    Some company you enjoy, huh?

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    I’m puzzled. I’ve seen those films of suffering children dozens of times and have not heard it mentioned that the images were 10 years old from Iraq so basically are lies. You would think at least Fox would jump at a story of media complicity and cover-up.
    Every time we have tried to save the lives of oppressed people in the Middle East even more have would up dead. Maybe we should listen to the people in the Mid East that are convinced that a war will only make things worse for them.

  • MeanLizzie

    The videos are not what’s 10 years old — that was on specific image of many shrouded bodies, and it’s not clear to me that Kerry was intentionally misleading or if someone just dropped a ball, there, in the press and he ran with it. But your points are sound, nevertheless.

  • JohnR

    Anyone with any sense will want to keep out of this entirely. One tip which my mother gave me when I married and began a family was “Don’t threaten children. They are very likely to call your bluff”. Obama has broken that rule. His red line in the sand was a threat. His bluff has now been called.

  • Manny

    Where did i say pacifists lacked patriotism? There’s no point in continuing this onversation, especially if you’re going to insult.

  • Augustine

    I’m not alone in believing that sort of treason; the whole wide world does:

    It’s indeed a new century when the American president is an irrational warmonger trying export his ideology by force and the Russian president is a rational voice of reason.

    Meet the new Empire of Evil.

  • Scott Hebert

    While I will not say that we should or should not go to war, there is a huge fallacy in your argument, and that is that fluoride is not dangerous to human beings. It is. It simply depends on the concentration.

    There are any number of chemicals in the world that are neutral, benign, or horrendously fatal depending on the dose. So is there discussion about the dose in that source?

  • retiredladyann

    How many decades back have our presidents lied? how many wars have we fought on another country’s soil? We HAD to defend the USA against the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Baloney. Wars are started for the purpose of making the rich even richer by making and selling armaments, tanks, planes, and putting the common people in danger of death. Patriotism sells, but I don’t buy it any more. It’s never the sons of the rich who die on foreign soil. Not that all rich people are evil; many do great things for others. The common man is expendable, and all the more so since the population control people have insinuated themselves into every level of government and education. When America returns to loving and trusting in God and His purposes in our lives, we’ll find our way back to Peace. I am in my 70′s and have watched the destruction of our nation from the inside. These demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

  • Augustine

    And we have the word of the “semper fidelis” Gen. Butler that war is a racket:

  • Manny

    I’m sorry you think that way. What you’re essentially claiming is that this country is evil and has been evil. I’m not going to get into it, but it’s unfounded.