The big news today is that President Obama appears likely to order “limited” strikes on Syria in the next few days in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against opposition fighters. From the WaPo: After Syria chemical allegations, Obama considering limited military strike.
President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in that country’s civil war, according to senior administration officials.
The timing of such an attack, which would probably last no more than two days and involve sea-launched cruise missiles — or, possibly, long-range bombers — striking military targets not directly related to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, would be dependent on three factors: completion of an intelligence report assessing Syrian government culpability in last week’s alleged chemical attack; ongoing consultation with allies and Congress; and determination of a justification under international law.
“We’re actively looking at the various legal angles that would inform a decision,” said an official who spoke about the presidential deliberations on the condition of anonymity. Missile-armed U.S. warships are already positioned in the Mediterranean.
I guess “looking at…legal angles” is code for that pesky rule in the Constitution where Congress has to declare wars. When’s the last time that happened–WWII?
Meanwhile, BBC News reports: Russia and China step up warning over strike.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show “prudence” over the crisis and observe international law.
“Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” he said in a statement.
Late on Monday, the US said it was postponing a meeting on Syria with Russian diplomats, citing “ongoing consultations” about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Hours later, Russia expressed regret about the decision. The two sides had been due to meet in The Hague on Wednesday to discuss setting up an international conference on finding a political solution to the crisis.
The Russian deputy defence minister, Gennady Gatilov said working out the political parameters for a resolution on Syria would be especially useful, with the threat of force hanging over the country.
Read more at the link.
Just as SOS Kerry was giving a speech to justify the upcoming military strikes, providing “Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria” (NYT), a little birdie told Shane Harris and Matthew Aid of Foreign Policy magazine that the U.S. facilitated Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran back in 1988.
The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, Foreign Policy has learned.
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.
U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.
“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.
Read the rest of this long article at Foreign Policy.
The wildfire in Northern California continues to spread into Yosemite National Park and has begun to threaten towns in the area. From the LA Times: Massive Rim fire continues to reshape lives and topography.
…even as firefighters worked furiously to hold a line outside of town, officials warned that this blaze was so hot it could send sparks more than a mile and a half out that could jump lines and start new hot spots. Evacuation advisories remain in effect for Tuolumne City and nearby areas.
On the north edge, the fire — now 134,000 acres — pushed into the Emigrant Wilderness Area and Yosemite National Park. It’s the one side of the fire with a natural last stand: Eventually it will run into granite walls that have snuffed out fires in this region for centuries.
Each day, what the massive blaze does depends on the wind. But officials were particularly attuned to each shift of breeze Sunday because of the weather’s eerie similarities to the day when the fire first exploded out of control.
So far the unpredictable blaze is only about 20% controlled, and it still threatens water and power sources for San Francisco.
The massive fire presents every challenge: steep slopes, dry fuel, rugged terrain and entire communities possibly in harm’s way.
The base camp and incident post, usually a haven outside fire lines, was a prominent example of the fire’s unpredictability: It’s in the middle of the burn zone, charred land with still-smoldering stumps on both sides.
Firefighters call such complete devastation “the black.” Entire ravines and ridges were a dusty gray moonscape. But some of the land was a “dirty burn” — meaning there were small circles of pine and aspen and even grass and wildflowers in the middle of charcoal-black areas where smoke still curled and embers glowed. The specks of beauty made firefighters nervous: To a fire, they are fuel.
My sister and her husband own a house north of San Francisco. It’s probably not in danger, but it still brings the scope of this disaster home to me. I sure hope Firefighers will begin to make progress soon. The burning area is now the size of the city of Chicago, according to CNN.
Yosemite National Park, California (CNN) — A massive northern California wildfire that’s threatening Yosemite National Park and San Francisco’s key water and power sources grew Monday, becoming the 13th largest in state history, state fire authorities said.
The Rim Fire, which has devoured 160,980 acres, has scorched an area about the size of the city of Chicago while more than 3,600 firefighters try to rein it in….
The wildfire, which was 20% contained Monday night, was spreading primarily to the east and threatened to grow amid extremely dry conditions and hot weather.
Part of the fire continued to spread Monday toward a key part of San Francisco’s water supply: the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which lies within Yosemite and is just east of the flames.
The fire also could threaten the area’s hydroelectric generators, which provide much of San Francisco’s electricity. Because of the approaching flames, officials shut down the generators, and the city — more than 120 miles to the west — temporarily is getting power from elsewhere.
Speaking of disasters, Charles Pierce reminds us that West, Texas is still recovering from the horrible explosion at the fertilizer plant there and that Texas still isn’t doing that much to prevent similar events in the future.
Read the rest of this entry »
Article from The Houston Chronicle: Sights and sounds surrounding HB2 hearing
A marathon hearing on a package of sweeping anti-abortion proposals is proceeding without interruption inside a the state Capitol.
But outside, in a courtyard a couple of feet away from the room where a House panel is hearing testimony on House Bill 2, the scene has been consistently rowdy all day.
That’s where a band of pro-choice activists have set up shop with a microphone (they were also doing prayer groups and handing out twisty balloons). And that’s where a smaller group of pro-life activists have taken to countering that message with constant chanting
Photos and audio clips at the link.
Here’s a live blog at the Burnt Orange site (Stand With Texas Women). On Twitter people are using the hashtags #HB2 and #StandWithTexasWomen.
Octogenarian wingnut and former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese (who even knew he was still alive?) has weighed in on Tea Party nutball threats to impeach President Obama if he uses executive orders to regulate gun sales. TPM reports:
Former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, now a prominent emeritus official at the Heritage Foundation, became the latest conservative to warn that President Obama could risk impeachment if he takes executive action on reducing gun violence in an interview Monday night.
Speaking with Newsmax, Meese said Congress may have to consider impeaching Obama if he were “to try to override the Second Amendment in any way” with an executive order. He did allow that there are some executive actions related to guns that Obama could take wouldn’t be impeachable.
“It would be up to the Congress to take action, such as looking in to it to see if, in fact, he has really tried to override the Constitution itself,” Meese told Newsmax. “In which case, it would be up to them to determine what action they should take — and perhaps even to the point of impeachment.”
In Texas, state rep. Steve Toth is preparing a bill that would make it a felony for any federal official to attempt to enforce gun restrictions in the Lone Star State.
A Texas lawmaker says he plans to file the Firearms Protection Act, which would make any federal laws that may be passed by Congress or imposed by Presidential order which would ban or restrict ownership of semi-automatic firearms or limit the size of gun magazines illegal in the state, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Republican Rep. Steve Toth says his measure also calls for felony criminal charges to be filed against any federal official who tries to enforce the rule in the state.
“If a federal official comes into the state of Texas to enforce the federal executive order, that person is subject to criminal prosecution,” Toth told 1200 WOAI’s Joe Pags Tuesday. He says his bill would make attempting to enforce a federal gun ban in Texas punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Toth “would welcome” legal challenges to the proposed new law.
“At some point there needs to be a showdown between the states and the federal government over the Supremacy Clause,” he said.
The Supremacy Clause is the portion of the Constitution which declares that federal laws and statutes are ‘the supreme law of the land.’
“It is our responsibility to push back when those laws are infringed by King Obama,” Toth said.
Let me get this straight. The Supremacy Clause, which is part of the U.S. Constitution, should be challenged if any branch of the Federal Government tries to limit Texans’ access to artillery of any kind? WTF?!
What’s your favorite wacky wingnut story of the day? This is an open thread!