Syria

War With Syria?

Well, I guess it’s good to know that Trump finally recognizes the seriousness of the Syrian situation. And I hope he makes a connection between the horrible Sarin gas attacks and his terrible refugee policy making it harder for Syrians to flee.

But what is happening now?  Is this saber-rattling for real, or is it posturing?  An “America First” Donald Trump would not go to war with Syria, but as I have written about recently, Trump it seems is becoming more globalist and less isolationist.

I don’t know the answer regarding Syria.  Neither did Obama. Neither did the Congress under Obama when they would not grant his request for war.  Which, by the way, I hope Trump will do.

Er, let me put that another way.

Trump MUST get approval from Congress.  Doing otherwise would violate the Constitution.

Or maybe he’ll just do a surgical strike or two.

Hmmmm.  Seems there is a downside to Trump being a globalist too.  He’ll be a neo-con.  Great.

Photo Op

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Hey!  Look!  It’s President-Elect Donald Trump!  And who is with him?  Why, that’s Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  This was yesterday as they were meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster NJ.

I wonder what that was all about. Kris Kobach is a central figure in the nativist movement and the architect of Arizona’s notorious “papers please” law.

Oh wait.  What’s our boy Kris holding?

Can we zoom in on that?

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Closer?  Turn 90 degrees clock– uh, can you sharpen that up a ,little?

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Huh.

Looks like some kind of plan…..

The document is arranged in a numbered format. The first point reads, “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists.”

The document calls for updating and reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The program was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but largely suspended in 2011.

“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document reads.

The document then calls for “extreme vetting questions” for “high-risk aliens”; echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric. High-risk aliens would be questioned about support for Sharia law (Islamic religious law), jihad, the equality of men and women and the U.S. Constitution.

The document also asks for reducing the intake of Syrian refugees to zero.

The rest of the page is either partially or totally obscured by Kobach’s hand and arm. When the photograph was taken, Kobach was standing outside with Trump – it is highly unlikely Kobach wasn’t aware he was being photographed.

The document contains obscured references to the arrest and removal of illegal aliens, “386 miles of existing actual wall,” the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act, and voter rolls. “Draft amendments to National Voter —” can also be seen, perhaps a reference to the National Voter Registration Act.

Good to know.

What Syrian Refugees Are About

CNN’s Kate Bolduan is a reporter who asks tough questions and is often expressive and emphatic when she does it. Today, however, she was expressive in a very different way. While sharing a video of a five-year-old Syrian named Omran Daqneesh sitting in the back of an ambulance with blood and soot all over him, Bolduan was tasked with explaining that he and his family were pulled from the rubble that was once their house. She said that there had been an air strike — which is common, as the country has been embroiled in a violent civil war for years — but had to stop and compose herself a few times.

There is little point in describing her visceral reaction when you can watch it right here for yourself:

Picture Of The Year?

I don’t know, but it should be contender.  The photographer is not a journalist or professional photographer, but I don’t know if that makes any difference.

This is a woman who escaped ISIS territory and was able to wear color again, taken sometime in early December 2015.

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Vetting Syrian Refugees: A Governor With Guts

Kudos to Gov. Peter Shumlin

SOUTH BURLINGTON – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values.

As of early Monday afternoon, nine Republican governors had said they would attempt to stop the relocation of refugees from Syria because of safety concerns following Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

“The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,” Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning, “which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.”

As of September, the United States had accepted 1,854 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The war has displaced about 4 million people.

Shumlin said he believes seven or eight refugees from Syria are being considered for placement through the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont, and he believes the state can take more.

“It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin emphasized what he called the “rigorous” screening process for refugee resettlement.

“We root out folks who should not be accepted,” Shumlin said.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seems xenophobia is ruling the day with the red-staters.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

Can they do this?  In a word, no.

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.

The vetting of Syrian refugees to the U.S. (we’re only going to be taking in 10,0000) is arduous:

And entering the U.S. as a refugee is by far the most difficult and complex of all routes in; refugees are the single most vetted population entering the country.

All those seeking to come as refugees must first be registered by the UN Refugee Agency, which identifies the families most in need. UNHCR screens each family, painstakingly documents their family composition and history of flight from Syria, then refers those who best qualify for the U.S. resettlement program on to the federal government.

The U.S.’s own vetting process then kicks in, with the Department of Homeland Security conducting in-person interviews, gathering detailed biographical and biometric data and conducting multiple background checks that include combing through multiple federal agencies’ respective consular, law enforcement, intelligence and national security databases.

Expertly trained officers from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple intelligence agencies are involved in vetting refugees before they are approved to travel to America. Further screening is also conducted when refugees arrive in the U.S., after their first year here, and if and when they apply for citizenship.

 

The process takes 18 to 24 months, which makes it harder.  For example, the medical screening is only valid for 6 months, so you might have to repeat this process a couple times before all is said and done.

Keep in mind that many countries in Europe will accept a refugee application based simply on a case file.

Here’s one Syrian refugee’s family’s story.

And another from a local family.

UPDATE:  Ben Carson denamds end to federal aid to Syrian refugees (remember, these are people running away from ISIS):

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NUMBERS TO CONSIDER from the Economist

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And that’s it.  NONE — ZERO — NADA — have been arrested for committing domestic terrorism.

UPDATE — Booooo to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is also challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for her Senate seat.  She is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees.

When Will We Ever Learn… Oh, When Will Weeeee Ever Learn?

I don’t write much about the Middle East because — Jesus, it’s a clusterfuck and it just gets worse and worse and it is depressing.  It’s basically an unsolvable problem and everybody wants to kill each other.

But I think I have figure out ONE truism.

Intervention on the part of the United States makes things worse for us.

I don’t care who the president is, or where the conflict is within the Middles East, or whose side we are on.  Everytime we intervene, it just makes the situation worse.  The Middle East is fire, we are oil, period.  Case in point:

In another embarrassing setback for one of President Barack Obama’s centerpiece strategies for defeating the Islamic State, the Pentagon said Friday that the commander of U.S.-trained Syrians appears to have turned over his pickup trucks and weapons to al Qaeda militants in exchange for protection within days of re-entering his homeland.

The Pentagon admission represented an abrupt reversal of its position as recently as Wednesday, when American military officials firmly denied social media reports that a U.S.-backed commander had defected to Nusra Front, Syria’s al Qaida affiliate, and provided trucks and weapons to the radical Islamic group.

“Unfortunately, we learned today that the New Syrian Force unit now says it did in fact provide six pick-up trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected al-Nusra Front (representative),” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday evening.

Two days earlier, Davis had stated: “The folks that are part of the New Syrian Force are accounted for, as are their weapons.”

The new revelations angered American military leaders.

Remember the good old days when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and we backed the Afghan rebels there by providing them weapons, including that guy — oh, what was his name — Osama bin Laden?  Fine ally he turned out to be.

The political climate is unstable there, and the factional politics is always shifting.  You can show a support for Israel (and we do and we should), but trying to back anyone on the flipside of that coin — it’s impossible.  And if stupid me has figured that out, why hasn’t anyone in power?

The Lesson From 2002

We all have felt it from time to time.  The urge to simply go nuclear.

It's understandable.  Some backwoods jihadi moron slices off an American head, or a bunch of them band together and fly hijacked airplanes into sckyscrapers, and our natural reaction is: "Fuck you.  NOW you're going to see the hand of God."

The problem with that is that it doesn't work.  Unless you are prepared to kill every single Muslim whereever they live, and every potential ally of the Muslim, all you are going to do is further enrage the beast.

Bush wanted to invade Iraq.  He didn't have a strategy.  Just a dream.  Number One: we invade and get Saddam… which leads to…  Number Two: Huge power vacuum… which leads to…. uh, peace?

Of course not.  It leads to even scarier fucks occupying the vacuum.  Hello world, meet ISIS.

And once again, we have the right wingers screaming for us to do exactly what was done before — go in and start bombing things without regard to collateral damage (i.e., innocent civilians) and without any idea of the consequences of our actions.

Obama is right in taking it slowly.  He's thinking "Can we figure out a strategy that might actually work, like the air support that helped Iraqi forces break the siege of one town?"

Take a breath. Figure out the complexity of the situation (which involves more than crazed Islamic radicals taking over territory and nearly genociding people). 

A little patience, maybe. How about getting some allies involved, since — you know — this affects them.  And perhaps a whole bunch of American snipers.

That's how we win this.  But to just cowboy up and zoom in guns-ablazin'?  We just did that.  Made it worse.

Chickenhawks

Yes, this is annoying.

When Obama was making noises about bombing Syria, Republicans (and some Democrats) chastized him as being reckless.

Now, thanks to Russia, it looks like we’re going to get the chemical weapons away from Assad, and we don’t have to bomb Syria.

And those same Republicans are now criticizing Obama.  John?

It’s obvious that these people have no moral, or even political center. If Obama is for something, they are against it. That’s it.

Oh, Who Cares?

I've been paying close attention to the debate over Syria, and how the United States should respond to the revelation that Assad used chemical weapons to kill over 1,500 of his people, including hundreds of children. 

And here's what I've figured out:

(1)  We should bomb in retaliation because this is a clear violation of the Geneva convention and it crosses a line that only Hitler and Saddam have crossed.

(2)  We should bomb in retaliation if only to establish our moral outrage and this immoral act.

(3)  We should bomb in retaliation because to do nothing would show Assad that he can get away with it, and he will continue to do it on his own people and maybe even us in the western world.  If we are to remain a world leader, we must act like one.

(4)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because we're not even sure it happened.  Let the UN inspectors finish their investigation.

(5)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because 100,000 Syrian citizens have been killed since the outbreak of civil war there in March 2011… and we're supposed to say that Assad crossed a "moral line" when he suddenly uses chemical weapons to kill several hundred?

(6)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because it'll just get Assad mad and you know, 9/11.

(7)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because it's only symbolic.  If isn't going to oust Assad, then why do it?

(8)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because Assad's opposition in Libya ain't no angels themselves, and probably have used chemical weapons too.

(9)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because of the law of unintended consequences, i.e., we don't know what happens next.

(10)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because we shouldn't be the worlds' policemen.

The political fault lines are interesting on this.  You have a lot of Republicans voting against retaliation, but they're only voting that way because they want to see Obama fail.  What really ticks me off are the Republicans who wanted to invade Iraq, but are now calling Obama a warmonger over Syria.

The Democrats are at least more consistent on this.  Those who opposed Iraq (and are still in Congress) are against retaliation (except, notably, Obama himself).

Where do I stand?

It's clear that the limited bombing strike proposed by Obama is the only military option, and therefore the only response, that there is.  But it's entirely symbolic.  Obama wants to punish Assad for violating the abstract norms of war even as he leaves Assad capable of continuing his massacre by more conventional means.

That's why I can't get enthused about intervening in Syria: Making the decision to punish Assad means explicitly making the decision not to stop him. 

And so what's the point?  Bomb just to show we're pissed?  Really?

Ok, Fine.