President Obama wants to see his refusal to bomb Syria in 2013 as his “liberation day” from Official Washington’s expectations, but he promptly put himself back into captivity, writes Robert Parry.
In late August 2013, with Barack Obama on the verge of launching retaliatory airstrikes against the Syrian military for its alleged role in a lethal sarin gas attack, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed the President that U.S. intelligence doubted that Bashar al-Assad’s government was actually responsible, causing Obama to pull back from the attack.
The disclosure that U.S. intelligence lacked “slam dunk” evidence implicating Assad’s forces went unreported in mainstream and most alternative media outlets so President Obama could join in on perpetuating the anti-Assad propaganda.
Not only did the White House issue a “Government Assessment” on Aug. 30, 2013, trying to pin the blame for the attack on Assad’s regime – and not only did Obama dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to make the dubious anti-Assad case to the country – but Obama himself asserted Assad’s guilt in his Sept. 24, 2013 address to the United Nations General Assembly.
“It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack,” Obama said. Yet, the President knew that many of his own intelligence analysts doubted that the Assad regime carried out the attack.
In his statement, Obama is asserting that the U.S. intelligence community was either dishonest or crazy. However, Obama was just reading the words of a speech prepared by State Department propagandists who understood the need to knock down the growing suspicion that the attack was a provocation committed by Islamist extremists trying to trick the United States to join the war on their side.
Obama had to know that his words were deceptive, but by lacking courage and integrity, he chose to keep them in his speech. He just went along like a willing puppet of the foreign-policy establishment mouthing falsehoods prepared for him rather than acting decisively as America’s Commander in Chief to protect his own and his nation’s credibility.
Obama’s U.N. speech puts into a different context the narrative that Goldberg presented in The Atlantic article where Obama relishes his refusal to go along with what he “calls, derisively, ‘the Washington playbook,’” which dictates a military response to foreign challenges like the Syria sarin case.
Goldberg wrote that Aug. 31, 2013, when Obama backed away from the widely anticipated Syrian bombing campaign, “was his liberation day.” But several weeks later, Obama went before the United Nations and denounced as irrational anyone who raised exactly the doubts that had been central to his decision not to bomb.
So, what is one to make of Obama’s passive-aggressive resistance to the military imperative mandated by the “Washington playbook” while succumbing to its propagandistic tactics to justify war? Even as he resisted the demands to bomb, he could not challenge the Washington establishment enough to explain to the American people that U.S. intelligence analysts were uncertain about Assad’s guilt.
Instead, Obama allowed his subordinates to pile on the calumnies against Assad – with Secretary of State John Kerry doing so in belligerent speeches and the White House releasing a “Government Assessment” fingering Assad’s forces – while Obama let those distortions go unchallenged and, indeed, reinforced them in his U.N. speech.
The Sullen Teen
Try viewing Obama’s conduct of foreign policy by envisioning the President as a sullen teenager on a family vacation, sitting in the back seat of the car complaining that he’d rather be hanging out with his friends. This unhappy teen lets others do the driving but occasionally throws enough of a temper tantrum to make continuation of the trip impossible.
Obama’s passive-aggressive behavior didn’t even change after his “liberation day” on Aug. 31, 2013. He continued to let his so-called subordinates control his foreign policy.
Obama’s failure to level with the American people about the relevant facts and his strategic reasoning, makes him seem like a confused and conflicted puppet of a chief executive. Though he may have seen his refusal to bomb Syria on Aug. 31, 2013, as his “liberation day,” Obama put himself back into captivity over the past two-plus years, shackled at the feet of his puppet masters who pull the strings in Washington’s foreign-policy establishment.