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Ralph Nader Headshot

Stopping Barry O'Bomber's Rush to War

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Dear President Obama:

Little did your school boy chums in Hawaii, watching you race up and
down the basketball court, know how prescient they were when they
nicknamed you "Barry O'Bomber."

Little did your fellow Harvard Law Review editors, who elected you to
lead that venerable journal, ever imagine that you could be a
president who chronically violates the Constitution, federal statutes,
international treaties and the separation of power at depths equal to
or beyond the George W. Bush regime.

Nor would many of the voters who elected you in 2008 have conceived
that your foreign policy would rely so much on brute military force at
the expense of systemically waging peace. Certainly, voters who knew
your background as a child of third world countries, a community
organizer, a scholar of constitutional law and a critic of the
Bush/Cheney years, never would have expected you to favor the giant
warfare state so pleasing to the military industrial complex.

Now, as if having learned nothing from the devastating and costly
aftermaths of the military invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya,
you're beating the combustible drums to attack Syria -- a country that
is no threat to the U.S. and is embroiled in complex civil wars under
a brutal regime.

This time, however, you may have pushed for too many acts of war.
Public opinion and sizable numbers of members of both parties in
Congress are opposed. These lawmakers oppose bombing Syria in spite of
your corralling the cowardly leaders of both parties in the Congress.

Thus far, your chief achievement on the Syrian front has been support
for your position from al-Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria, the
pro-Israeli government lobby, AIPAC, your chief nemesis in Congress,
House Speaker John Boehner, and Dick Cheney. This is quite a gathering
and a telling commentary on your ecumenical talents. Assuming the
veracity of your declarations regarding the regime's resort to
chemical warfare (first introduced into the Middle East by Winston
Churchill's Royal Air Force's plastering of Iraqi tribesmen in the
nineteen twenties), your motley support group is oblivious to the
uncontrollable consequences that might stem from bombing Syria. One
domestic consequence may be that Speaker Boehner expects to exact
concessions from you on domestic issues before Congress in return for
giving you such high visibility bipartisan cover.

Your argument for shelling Syria is to maintain "international
credibility" in drawing that "red line" regardless, it seems, of the
loss of innocent Syrian civilian life, causalities to our foreign
service and armed forces in that wider region, and retaliation against
the fearful Christian population in Syria (one in seven Syrians are
Christian). But the more fundamental credibilities are to our
Constitution, to the neglected necessities of the American people, and
to the red line of observing international law and the UN Charter
(which prohibit unilateral bombing in this situation).

There is another burgeoning cost -- that of the militarization of the
State Department whose original charter invests it with the
responsibility of diplomacy. Instead, Mr. Obama you have shaped the
State Department into a belligerent "force projector" first under
Generalissima Clinton and now under Generalissimo Kerry. The sidelined
foreign service officers, who have knowledge and conflict avoidance
experience, are left with reinforced fortress-like embassies as befits
our Empire reputation abroad.

Secretary John Kerry descended to gibberish when, under questioning
this week by a House Committee member, he asserted that your proposed
attack was "not war" because there would be "no boots on the ground."
In Kerry's view, bombing a country with missiles and air force
bombers is not an act of war.

It is instructive to note how government autocracy feeds on itself.
Start with unjustified government secrecy garnished by the words
"national security." That leads to secret laws, secret evidence,
secret courts, secret prisons, secret prisoners, secret relationships
with selected members of Congress, denial of standing for any citizen
to file suit, secret drone strikes, secret incursions into other
nations and all this directed by a president who alone decides when to
be secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. What a Republic,
what a democracy, what a passive people we have become!

Voices of reason and experience have urged the proper path away from
the metastasizing war that is plaguing Syria. As proposed by former
President, Jimmy Carter, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and other
seasoned diplomats and retired military, vigorous leadership by you is
needed for an international peace conference with all parties at the
table, including the countries supplying weapons to the various
adversaries in Syria.

Mr. Obama, you may benefit from reading the writings of Coleman
McCarthy, a leading advocate of peace studies in our schools and
universities. He gives numerous examples of how waging peace avoided
war and civil strife over the past 100 years.

Crowding out attention to America's serious domestic problems by yet
another military adventure (opposed by many military officials), yet
another attack on another small, non-threatening Muslim country by the
powerful Christian nation (as many Muslims see it) is aggression
camouflaging sheer madness.

Please, before you recklessly flout Congress, absorb the wisdom of the
World Peace Foundation's Alex de Waal and Bridget Conley-Zilkic.
Writing in the New York Times, they strongly condemn the use of nerve
gas in Syria, brand the perpetrators as war criminals to be tried by
an international war crimes tribunal and then declare:

"But it is folly to think that airstrikes can be limited: they are
ill-conceived as punishment, fail to protect civilians and, most
important, hinder peacemaking.... Punishment, protection and peace must
be joined... An American assault on Syria would be an act of desperation
with incalculable consequences. To borrow once more from Sir William
Harcourt [the British parliamentarian who argued against British
intervention in our Civil War (which cost 750,000 American lives)]:
'We are asked to go we know not whither, in order to do we know not

If and when the people and Congress turn you down this month, there
will be one silver lining. Only a Right/Left coalition can stop this
warring. Such convergence is strengthening monthly in the House of
Representatives to stop future war crimes and the injurious blowback
against America of the wreckages from Empire.

History teaches that Empires always devour themselves.


Ralph Nader