Friday, September 13, 2013

Red Friday...

Please wear your RED shirt today and every Friday in solidarity!


Syria: Residents of Christian village ravaged by jihadists write to Congress: "What will happen when the USA bombs Syria?"

From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer


"What will happen when it weakens, when the air force of the USA is bombing Syria? What awaits Christians in the towns and villages? It is terrible and it is scaring us."

These are the people we should be aiding, not al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. But one thing about Obama: he's consistent.

"Residents of Ma'loula write a letter to the USA Congress: 'What will happen when the USA bombs Syria?,'" from Pravoslavie, September 7 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
On September 6, the residents of Ma'loula sent a letter to the Congress of the USA, in which they tell what happened as a result of criminal acts in one of the oldest towns of the Christian world, reports Linga. 
"First, let us tell you what has happened today in Ma'loula and then explain what Ma'loula is like,” the letter said. “At 4.00 AM (Damascus time), gangs of the ‘Free Syrian army’, terrorists and killers... attacked the town, violating the security of houses, monasteries and churches, desecrating icons, and demanding that people renounce their faith and accept Islam.
“Yes, that is what has happened today at dawn in Ma'loula, when the armed gangs burst into the town, shot in the square, desecrated the icons, and closed the gates.
“These are the crimes aimed at Christian towns, and the terrorism directed against Christians; and this is only a part of the larger plan of wiping out Christians from our native homes.
This is happening now, when our state is still strong. But what will happen when it weakens, when the air force of the USA is bombing Syria?
“What awaits Christians in the towns and villages? It is terrible and it is scaring us. What happened in Ghassaniyeh (A Catholic priest-monk, Fr. Francois Mourad, was brutally killed there), in the Monastery of St. Simeon the Stylite, and in Holms, where terrible attacks on churches and monasteries took place. What has happened in all these places, arouses one's conscience, makes one suffer. What have I done to stop terrorism in Syria?
I am not even speaking about the massacres that have happened in all towns to the Christian minority."
Further in the letter the story of this very ancient town is related. The people here speak Aramaic--the language which was spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in His earthly life--to this day; and it was here that St. Thecla, Equal-to-the-Apostles, a disciple of Apostle Paul, came through the mountain that had cleft apart before her. Her holy relics are preserved in a local Convent to this day.


House Republicans passed the "No Subsidies Without Verification Act" today, which would bar any of Obamacare's subsidies from being distributed until a fully-functional eligibility verification system is in place.  Phil Klein must be pleased.  The legislation would head-off the widespread fraud and other abuses expected to result from the administration's eleventh-hour weakening of required standards.

Under the new rules, individuals and families can receive generous taxpayer-funded benefits without proving that they qualify for them.  This "honor system" approach is outrageous, especially considering how much waste and abuse occurs within programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- which actually have operational verification standards.  The Wall Street Journal appropriately dubbed the administration's about-face an invitation to "liar subsidies."

This desperate delay was rushed through because states and insurers aren't even close to having operational exchanges that fulfill all the obligations set forth in the law.  By passing this item, the House is protecting taxpayers:

The House has passed legislation aimed at preventing people from receiving health insurance subsidies under ObamaCare until a better system is put in place to verify who is eligible for those subsidies. Members passed the No Subsidies Without Verification Act, H.R. 2775, in a 235-191 vote that saw support from five Democrats.  But like dozens of other bills from the House meant to tweak or repeal ObamaCare, this one also seems likely to go nowhere in the Senate. The White House has said the bill is unnecessary, and President Obama would veto it if it were presented for his signature.

Of course they did.  They don't mind fraud.  The goal is to get as many people signed up and hooked on government benefits as possible.  They also want to mitigate the massive political embarrassment of Obamacare's liftoff crashing on the launchpad.  "Liar subsidies" are hardly the only fraud-related concern surrounding the law; experts warn of computer glitches, vulnerable personal data "hubs," and under-vetted Obamacare "navigators," who will have access to citizens' sensitive financial and health information.  As public support for the "Affordable" Care Act continues to wane, Republicans should exploit other unpopular provisions and administration actions to apply pressure to Democrats (particularly in the Senate).

Low-hanging fruit includes forcing votes on: (1) Delaying the hated individual mandate tax -- to give families and small businesses the same break big corporations received with the employer mandate postponement -- (2) Undoing the extremely unpopular Congressional exemption the president orchestrated to shield Congress from its own law, and (3) teaming up with Howard Dean to repeal Obamacare's unaccountable "IPAB" rationing board.

Several of these efforts have already passed the House, with some Democrats defecting and voting with the GOP.  Moving forward, I've made my position on threatening government 'shutdown' in a quixotic bid to defund Obamacare pretty clear.  Some of this polling data bolsters my case, and here's Jim Pethokoukis adding a few more points on the subject.  I'll leave you with Jay Carney laying down, shall we say, a red line on the upcoming budget fights:

Delaying Obamacare is unacceptable!  Except when we do it -- five times, all on our own.  Then it's totally fine, of course.  And legal.  Because Obama says so.


UPDATE - It looks like Mitch McConnell's going to play ball in the Senate.  Will supposedly 'anti-obstructionism' Democrats allow votes on these widely-supported proposals?
Here's how the Obama folks have been starting to spin Syria. The president made a credible threat to use military force in Syria. At the same time, he worked behind the scenes to get Russia's Vladimir Putin to push Bashir al-Assad to give up chemical weapons.

These two seemingly discordant initiatives, brilliantly coordinated, combined to produce a process to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons without even a shot being fired across the bow.

Of course, every bit of this is false. Only the most credulous Obama fans are fooled.

Back on Aug. 20, 2012, in response to an intelligent question from NBC's Chuck Todd, the president said that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a "red line" that would "change my calculus."

That's a threat to go to war. As the Washington Post's Walter Pincus points out, once a president declares a red line, he should be prepared to back it up. He should order military contingency plans, consult with members of Congress and seek support from foreign governments.

There is no evidence that Obama did any of these things in a serious or sustained way in the 366 days between his red-line statement and the use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus -- not even after British and French intelligence reported the use of chemical weapons last spring.

Then during the week of Aug. 26-30, leaks poured out from the administration that Obama would order air strikes in Syria, but only little ones. Regime change was off the table.

On Friday night before the Labor Day weekend, Obama suddenly decided, during a walk in the White House grounds, to seek congressional approval.

Were any soundings taken of congressional opinion before that decision? It doesn't seem likely.

Even the slightest pulse-taking would have suggested that getting majority approval would be difficult in a House of Representatives where most Republicans mistrust the president and most Democrats are congenitally dovish.

Especially when public opinion strongly opposed any military intervention.

Attempts to propitiate Democrats by stressing that air strikes would be only a pinprick inevitably repelled Republicans willing to support only measures that would weaken or dislodge the Assad regime.

After Labor Day, as media vote counts started showing a majority of House members voting or leaning no, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who accompanied Obama on his Friday night walk, was still predicting that the administration would prevail. That was either insincere or delusional.

The claim that the Russians agreed to push Syria on chemical weapons only because Obama threatened to use force requires a belief they thought he would do so after an adverse congressional vote. Not likely.

Nor is it likely that John Kerry's statement in his Monday press conference in London that the attack could be avoided if Syria submitted to international inspections was part of a calculated strategy.

Kerry's next words were, "But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously."

Kerry was winging it, and so was Obama when he spoke favorably of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's offer to push Syria to give up its poison gas.

So the president's Wednesday night speech included words supporting military action and other words explaining that it wasn't necessary.

It can be argued that Obama's decision to hold off on air strikes and negotiate with the Russians is better for the United States in the short run than the other two alternatives on offer -- ineffective air strikes or a landslide repudiation of the commander in chief by Congress.

But in the long run, it's a terrible setback for America.

Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger muscled the Soviet Union out of Middle East diplomacy back in 1973. In the 40 years since, American presidents have kept the Russians out.

Now they're back in. A nation with a declining population, a weakened military and an economy propped up only by oil and gas exports has suddenly made itself the key interlocutor in the region.

Obama has allowed this even though it's obvious that effective disarmament is impossible in a nation riven by civil war and ruled by a regime with every incentive and inclination to lie and conceal.

The negotiations and any fig-leaf inspection process can be dragged out for weeks, months and years, as Saddam Hussein demonstrated.

Obama said he hoped to degrade Syria's chemical weapons program. Instead he has degraded his own -- and America's -- credibility.
Secret Assad Forces Hiding Chemical Weapons
By: Todd Beamon /
Image: Secret Assad Forces Hiding Chemical Weapons   Newsmax
 
A secretive Syrian military unit has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, American and Middle Eastern officials said on Thursday.

The movements of chemical weapons by Syria's elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its chemical attacks, the officials told The Wall Street Journal .

Further, the activity raises questions about the implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpiles, they said.

The U.S. estimates Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has 1,000 metric tons of chemical and biological agents.

"That is what we know about," a senior U.S. official told the Journal. "There might be more."

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies said they still believe they know where most of the chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago.

Secretary of State John Kerry met on Thursday in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss a proposal by President Vladimir Putin to turn over the weapons to international control.

Kerry bluntly rejected a Syrian pledge to begin a "standard process" by turning over information rather than weapons — and nothing immediately.

"This is not a game," Kerry declared at a news conference, as a stone-faced Lavrov stood at his side. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."

The Obama administration has said that a chemical-weapons attack by the Syrian government on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21 killed more than 1,400 people, including over 400 children.

Assad on Thursday again denied any involvement in the chemical attack, but he said that his government was prepared to sign an agreement banning the use of chemical weapons.

Syrian officials couldn't immediately be reached by the Journal for comment on the weapons.

A division of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, Unit 450 manages the regime's overall chemicals weapons program, according to the Journal. It has been moving the stocks around for months, officials and lawmakers briefed on the intelligence said.

Movements occurred as recently as last week, the officials told the Journal, after President Barack Obama said he was preparing to launch strikes.

The unit is in charge of mixing and deploying chemical munitions, and it provides security at chemical sites, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. It consists of officers from Assad's Alawite sect.

One diplomat briefed on the unit told the Journal that it was Alawite from "janitor to commander."

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have investigated whether to gain influence over members of Unit 450 via inducements or threats.

"In a perfect world, you would actually like to co-opt that unit," a senior U.S. military official told the Journal. "Who cares who pays them, as long as they sit on the chemical weapons?"

Although the option remains on the table, government experts say the unit is so closely knit that they doubt whether any member would break ranks without being exposed and killed.

According to the Journal, the Assad regime traditionally kept most of its chemical and biological weapons at a few large sites in western Syria. But beginning about a year ago, the Syrians started dispersing the arsenal to nearly two dozen major sites, U.S. officials said.

Unit 450 also started using dozens of smaller sites. The U.S. now believes Assad's chemical arsenal has been scattered to as many as 50 locations in the west, north and south, as well as new sites in the east, officials told the Journal.

The U.S. is tracking Unit 450 vehicles by satellite as they disburse the chemical-weapons stocks. The imagery, however, does not always show what is being put on the trucks.

"We know a lot less than we did six months ago about where the chemical weapons are," one official told the Journal.

Though small in size, Unit 450 controls a huge infrastructure that makes it easier for the U.S. and Israel to track its movements, according to the Journal.

Chemical-weapons storage depots are guarded by the unit within larger compounds to provide multiple layers of security, U.S. officials said.

Whenever chemical munitions are deployed in the field, Unit 450 must pre-deploy heavy equipment to chemical-mixing areas, which the U.S. and Israel can track, the Journal reports.

The movements, activities and base locations of Unit 450 are so sensitive that the U.S. will not even share information with its trusted allies in the opposition for fear the unit would be overrun by rebels, current and former U.S. officials said.

The U.S. wants any Syrian military strikes to send a signal to the heads of Unit 450 that there is a steep price for following orders to use chemical weapons, U.S. officials said.

But the Obama administration also does not want any strike to destabilize the unit so much that it loses control of its chemical weapons, giving rebels a chance to seize the arsenal, the Journal reports.

"Attacking Unit 450, assuming we have any idea where they actually are, would be a pretty tricky affair because … if you attack them, you may reduce the security of their weapons, which is something we certainly don't want," Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, told the Journal.

Even within Syria, little is known about Unit 450 or the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center. One building is in a sprawling complex on the outskirts of Damascus, the Journal reports.

High-ranking defectors from the Syrian military that form the core of the rebel insurgency — including those who served in units trained to handle chemical attacks — told the Journal that they had not heard of Unit 450.

The Pentagon has prepared multiple target lists for possible strikes, some of which include commanders of Unit 450, the Journal reports.

But a senior U.S. official told the Journal that no decision had been made to target them, reflecting the challenge of sending a message to Unit 450 without destabilizing it.


Is This Obama’s Dumbest Mistake Yet?

by / Personal liberty Digest

Is This Obama’s Dumbest Mistake Yet?
UPI
For a while, it looked as though Barack Obama would suffer his most humiliating political defeat ever.

Congress was about to tell the President a loud and emphatic “No!” to his request for legislation authorizing a military strike against Syria, when suddenly who should come galloping to his rescue other than his longtime nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin?

What the heck is going on here?

The present charade began last Monday, when Secretary of State John Kerry made a supposedly off-hand remark at a press conference in London.

When asked if anything could avert the United States from taking military action against Syria, Kerry said there was. All that was necessary was for Syrian President Bashar Assad to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community.”

But Kerry then said, “He isn’t about to do it.” And referring to the fact that it would be impossible to verify that all chemical weapons had been surrendered, even if Assad were to agree, Kerry added, “And it can’t be done.”

But it looks like we’re all going to pretend that it can be. The Russians promptly grabbed the Kerry fumble and scored a touchdown with it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country would be delighted to supervise the compliance by its longtime ally.

And Assad — who up until now had denied that his government even possessed chemical weapons, much less used them against any of its citizens — said he’d go along with the plan. Sure he will.

Prior to these latest developments, the White House had been lobbying Congress day and night to give the President permission to attack Syria. We’d do it all long-range, you understand, without a single American soldier ever stepping foot in the country. “No boots on the ground,” we were promised, just “unbelievably small” air strikes.

President Barack Obama said he really didn’t need Congress’s permission to launch the missiles, he just thought it would be a good idea to get the support of the people’s representatives. Not only would his people lobby hard on Capitol Hill, the President would take his message directly to the public.

The White House asked the major television networks to carry Obama’s remarks live on Tuesday night.

In a lifetime of watching Presidential addresses, I have never seen a bigger waste of time than Obama’s speech that night. The best thing about it was that it was short: only 16½ minutes long. But what was the point of it?

In her blog, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan called the speech a “time filler.” That it was. She wrote:
He should have canceled the speech. It was halfhearted, pro forma and strange. It added nothing, did not deepen or advance the story, was not equal to the atmosphere surrounding it, and gave no arguments John Kerry hasn’t made, often more forcefully, in the past 10 days.
True. The original purpose of the speech — to rally support for military strikes against Syria — was no longer valid. Instead, the President said he had asked Congress “to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force, while we pursue this diplomatic path.” He’s called for meetings of the U.N. Security Council in New York City. He’s sent Kerry to Geneva to meet with the Russian foreign minister. He himself will continue to talk with Putin. Meanwhile, he’ll keep all U.S. military forces in place, just in case.

In another post, Noonan wrote: “The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.”

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan said the same thing, but more colorfully: “Kerry fumbled the ball into the end zone and Obama fell on it, and now we’re not going to have a war,”

Don’t be so sure. Just after all the glad-handing and merrymaking, Putin dropped a major fly in the ointment, saying that Russia would pursue the deal only if the United States would promise that it would not take any military action against Syria. And he followed up that demand with the announcement that Russia was going to supply Iran, its other ally in the area, with sophisticated air defense missile systems. Not only that, but it would also build a second nuclear reactor in the country.

As if that weren’t insult enough, yesterday The New York Times published an op-ed piece allegedly written by the Russian president. In it, Putin lectures the United States about what could happen if Obama proceeds with his oft-threatened military strikes against Syria. And he actually claims: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” Sure thing, buddy.

The whole idea of “the international community” getting hold of Syria’s chemical weapons is absurd.

There is no way to rid Syria of chemical weapons in a few weeks, even if Assad were to agree.

Remember what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted? It took authorities more than two years to complete their search of the country. And that was after “peace” had allegedly been restored. Syria is in the middle of an incredibly savage civil war.

The rebels are just as barbaric and bloodthirsty as the government’s troops. Many of them are fanatical jihadists with links to al-Qaida. And these are the people we want to see overthrow Assad?

Yes, the price being paid in Syria is dreadful. More than 100,000 people have been killed. Several million people have fled the country; more people are trying to do so every day. But for now, the United States will stand down. And the grand charade will continue — at least for a while.

By the way, the next time Obama wants to address the Nation, I hope he’ll do it from the Oval Office. That location conveys a certain majesty and gravitas, which should be appropriate for a Presidential address.

By comparison, the long, empty corridor behind the President on Tuesday night seemed bleak and insignificant. At least this time the location matched the content.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.