The Senate Armed Services Committee Preps for War
Renee Parsons, Counterpunch, Oct 13 2016
As the chaos in Syria continues to escalate, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s recent three-hour hearing, entitled “Pindosi National Security Challenges and Ongoing Military Operations,” provided a glimpse into how eager bipartisan Committee members are for the Pindosi military to engage ‘Russian aggression.” The only two witnesses scheduled to testify were the provocative tag-team of Ashtray Carter and JCoS Dunford, thus blurring the lines of a constitutional democracy’s civilian authority with the military’s subordination to that civilian authority. With the high-ranking Dunford seated at Ashtray’s elbow, there were repeated occasions when the two spoke with one voice, leaving considerable question as to whether the government’s civilian control and decision-making authority had been usurped by a strident advocacy for war with the military implementing its own autonomy. It was of special note that the hearing occurred on Sep 22, a mere five days after the Sep 17 ‘mistake’ air attack by the USAF on Syrian troops at Deir ez-Zor and two days after an attack on the UN humanitarian convoy headed to Aleppo. There was not one question, not even a mere mention of the Deir ez-Zor attack by any committee member, while the convoy attack generated considerable agitation, all assuming Russian guilt. Not one Senator of either political party ever referred to the ‘mistake’ air attack. Clearly, omission of the Deir ez-Zor attack had been agreed to by all members of the Committee prior to the hearing. Given that a major function of this Committee is oversight of its assigned jurisdiction which is the nation’s military apparatus (including the DoD, defense policy, weapons research and development and the security aspects of the country’s nuclear program), the complete lack of curiosity on the part of every member of the Committee regarding the ‘mistake’ air attack is an answer in itself and the Committee’s eagerness to make accusations against another sovereign country without a shred of evidence should be astounding, but it is not.
This hearing of the Armed Services Committee is but one example of how the country’s highest elected officials have relinquished their authority and, in the process, lost their credibility, until we are now looking at a powerful Senate committee like Armed Services with minimal intellectual curiosity, few critical thinking skills and negligible analytical ability. While the Committee deliberately avoided demanding an explanation for the ‘mistake’ at Deir Ezzor, if indeed it was a ‘mistake,’ it did not hesitate to assert inflammatory allegations regarding the UN convoy attack 48 hours after the event and before a credible assessment could be made. In his opening statement, Ashtray Carter went into full gear, saying:
The Pindo military is the finest fighting force the world has ever known. There’s no other military that’s stronger, or more capable, or more innovative, or more experienced, or with better friends and allies. That’s a fact.
While no Senator dared challenge Carter’s claim, it remains a mystery how an insurgent gang of flip-flop and turban-wearing “terrorists” have had sufficient funding and organizational capability to stymie and stalemate the Pindosi military for more than a decade. As if on pre-arranged cue, the Committee’s well-behaved Greek Chorus could be heard wringing their hands in deference with promises of budgetary support for the Pentagon which apparently has a tough time existing on $700b/yr. With 7 out of 26 Committee members being female, not one woman expressed anything remotely like a reproach or an independent analysis of why war is productive for either the health or wealth of the nation. Since much of the support for pro-war Hillary Clinton that comes from women is based on her potential of becoming the country’s first female President, apparently it is now politically correct for women to favor endless imperialist wars and militarism as much as men. In response to chairman John McCain’s opening comments, Dunford replied with all the authority in the world:
We do not have any intention of having an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the Russians.
When McCain pointed out that was Jackass’s “proposal,” Dunford repeated with conviction:
The Pindosi military role will not include intelligence-sharing with the Russians.
Since Dunford’s testimony was on Sep 22, at the time of a UNSC meeting taking place, with the ceasefire agreement in Syria being a hot button topic, and since Ashtray Carter did not contradict Dunford’s certitude, we can only assume that even as the debate raged at the UNSC, the decision had already been made for Pindostan to not participate in the ceasefire agreement, a key component of which was establishment of a Joint Intelligence Center. No Senator spoke in favor of the ceasefire or the proposed coordinated effort to target ‘terrorists.” Jack Reed, ranking Democrat of the Committee, recited a glowing tribute of Pindo successes in Iraq against Daesh, vague reference to the Syrian ceasefire not “holding” and his support for Obama’s decision to keep 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into 2017 after more than a decade of failed war. Reed went on to attack Russia for ‘harassing Pindo air and naval forces in the area,” claiming that “their aviators have harassed Pindo ships and aircraft deployed to the region.” Apparently the Senator believes the rest of us are geographically challenged and do not understand that it is Pindostan that is trespassing and intruding into Russia’s neighborhood and that Russia is not threatening to sail up the Potomac River. Reed, who ought to know better, went on to claim:
Russia continues its pattern of confrontation and antagonistic behavior.
Not to be outdone, Richard Blumenthal, who received five military deferments between 1965-1970 and later fraudulently claimed service in Vietnam, did no better with what appeared to be a set-up question:
General, is there any doubt in your mind that Russian planes were responsible for attacking the UN convoy trying to deliver aid to Aleppo?
Dunford pointed the finger at Russia but offered no evidence. During the hearing, Ashtray affirmed a new standard for Pindosi aggression, with:
Russia is responsible for the strike whether they conducted it or not because they have taken responsibility for the conduct of the Syrians by associating themselves with the Syrian regime.
Regarding Syria, Blumenthal surpassed every other gung-ho member of the Committee, stating:
Pindostan bears a responsibility to use its military forces to stop the bloodshed and needless and senseless killing of civilians.
Apparently a believer in humanitarian war, Blumenthal now favors going to war to stop the killing and bloodshed, not unlike the Pindo intervention in Libya. Unexpectedly offering a welcome break from the script of mindless militaristic hogwash was Jeff Sessions, who opened:
The situation in Syria is a colossal disaster. I do not believe it had to happen. I believe a wise statesman could have foreseen some of the difficulties we are facing today and we should have been more careful and cautious in our declarations on how we expected Syria to develop over the years. It has not developed as President Obama projected and disaster has been the result.
Who would have guessed that a 70-year-old Senator from Selma, Alabama, would express what not one other Senator on the panel had the inner grit to articulate. Sessions, unable to leave the subject, continued:
Syria is such a disaster; hundreds of thousands dead, six million refugees. I do not see an end in sight. General Dunford just said that Assad is not leaving any time soon. Five years ago the President said Assad has to go and is going. He did not go, and this is all a result of that.
Sessions then asked Ashtray:
What kind of end do you see for this disastrous conflict? What’s our goal?
Ashtray’s predictable response was along the lines of:
We are making progress in our counter-Daesh campaign… Pindo policy in Syria is to end the civil war… a political transition from Assad to a government that includes a ‘moderate’ opposition that can run the country.
So Ashtray’s message was clear. The Obama administration will settle for nothing less than removing Assad, no matter the costs of violence and human lives sacrificed. But Sessions was not having any of it as he interrupted Ashtray’s glib chatter.
I believe we could have done a better job. We need an active Pindosi policy, a leadership in the world, but we cannot establish all these governments and run them and assure how they will come out in the end. We cannot occupy these countries for decades to assure that. That is just not realistic… A wise statesman would have seen the danger in Syria, a wise statesman would have seen the danger in Libya, and a wise statesman should have seen what could have happened in Egypt. We’ve got to be more realistic in our foreign policy and know what we can do to positively affect the world and what we cannot do. We cannot assure democratic governments though this region and we are now facing a colossal humanitarian disaster.
Following Sessions, as his words evaporated into thin air with no recognition from any of his Committee peers that his solemn insights deserved some acknowledgment, the more inconsequential banter continued until Mike Lee quizzed Ashtray about the who’s who complexities in Yemen. Citing the “tensions’ of Pindosi allies the Toads fighting the Houthi rebels who are being opposed by AQAP who are alleged foes of Pindostan who are also opponents of the Houthis while the Toads continue to fund AQAP, leaves the age-old question “which side are you on” to be determined. Jeane Shaheen’s asked:
What other options do we have that might change the trajectory of what’s happening in Syria?
This led to a no-fly zone discussion, with Carter responding:
There can be no question of grounding Pindosi aircraft that are conducting strikes against Daesh. We do that with exceptional precision and care and concern about civilian casualties that no other country can match.
No, seriously. That’s exactly what he said with a straight face and no reference to the “mistake” at Deir Ezzor unless, of course, DE was the precision target. In further discussion about a No Fly zone, Roger Wicker suggested that No Fly be renamed to a “more palatable term,” perhaps a BBB (barrel bomb ban) would surely fool the Russians. Ashtray added:
Sec Jackass is trying to promote a No Fly zone for Russia and Syria who are attacking the Syrian people (and) a stand-down of the Syrian and Russian Air Force.
There was, of course, no mention that the Russian and Syrian Air Forces have been attacking Daesh for months and to ground the Russians and Syrians would by counter-productive to defeating the Jihadis. Dunford recounted:
For us to control all of the air space in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.
He clarified his position with the reassurance that imposing a No Fly zone for the Russian and Syrian air forces would not require a full-scale war. While the hearing provided a public platform exposing the country’s decayed political apparatus labeled as bipartisanship with little difference between Democrats and Republicans (with noted exceptions), it was obvious that Committee members prefer to remain in the dark about who bore ultimate responsibility for the Syrian ‘civil’ war. For all the staff and resources at their disposal, every member of the Committee has chosen to ignore the facts that Syria had been on the Pentagon’s regime change hit-list since 2001, and that the CIA moved into Syria seeking ‘rebels’ (later dubbed the FSA) after Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline in 2010.