Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Both VP Candidates Call for War with Russia in Syria

What was most alarming about the vice presidential debate last night was not only the intense Russophobia on display but the unanimity among the candidates, Tim Kaine (D) and Mike Pence (R), for invading Syria to establish "safe havens." The moderator, Elaine Quijano, tried to suss out how the safe havens would work -- for instance, what happens to all those jihadis armed to the teeth with a penchant for chopping off the heads of apostates? -- but she was completely ignored.

The vice presidential debate seemed more traditional, more familiar than the first clash between Trump and Hillary. So I think it is pretty safe to say that the opinions expressed last night represent the mainstream thought of the ruling political class. I can't recall a Russian leader being derided and vilified as much as Vladimir Putin (maybe Joseph Stalin). Think back to Reagan's "evil empire" speech. Did Reagan call Andropov a small man, a thug, a dictator? Of course not. The treatment Putin is getting is consistent with Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic. The huge difference being that the Russian Federation is neither Iraq nor Serbia.

There is an unhinged quality in U.S. mainstream political life right now. We are being forced into a war footing with Russia. Is this aburdity Kerry's Plan B?

Below is that portion of last night's debate that deals with confronting Russia in Syria to establish humanitarian safe havens. The Washington Post provides a complete transcript.
KAINE: Syria.
QUIJANO: I want to turn now to Syria. Two hundred fifty thousand people, 100,000 of them children, are under siege in Aleppo, Syria. Bunker buster bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons are being dropped on them by Russian and Syrian militaries. Does the U.S. have a responsibility to protect civilians and prevent mass casualties on this scale, Governor Pence?
PENCE: The United States of America needs to begin to exercise strong leadership to protect the vulnerable citizens and over 100,000 children in Aleppo. Hillary Clinton's top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset, the Russians reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea.
And the small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America -- the greatest nation on Earth -- just withdraws from talks about a cease-fire while Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense system in Syria while he marshals the forces and begins -- look, we have got to begin to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership.
It begins by rebuilding our military. And the Russians and the Chinese have been making enormous investments in the military. We have the smallest Navy since 1916. We have the lowest number of troops since the end of the Second World War. We've got to work with Congress, and Donald Trump will, to rebuild our military and project American strength in the world.
But about Aleppo and about Syria, I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones, so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real time, right now, to make that happen.
And secondly, I just have to tell you that the provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.
There's a broad range of other things that we ought to do, as well. We ought to deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on out of not wanting to offend the Russians back in 2009.
QUIJANO: Governor, your two minutes are up.
PENCE: We've just got to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they're dealing with a strong American president.
 QUIJANO: Senator Kaine?
KAINE: Hillary and I also agree that the establishment of humanitarian zones in northern Syria with the provision of international human aid, consistent with the U.N. Security Council resolution that was passed in February 2014, would be a very, very good idea.
And Hillary also has the ability to stand up to Russia in a way that this ticket does not. Donald Trump, again and again, has praised Vladimir Putin. And it's clear that he has business dealings with Russian oligarchs who are very connected to Putin.
The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces. Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama. Vladimir Putin has run his economy into the ground. He persecutes LGBT folks and journalists. If you don't know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you got to go back to a fifth-grade civics class.
I'll tell you what offends me...
PENCE: Well, that offended me.
KAINE: Governor Pence just said -- Governor Pence just said that Donald Trump will rebuild the military. No, he won't. Donald Trump is avoiding paying taxes. The New York Times story -- and we need to get this -- but the New York Times suggested that he probably didn't pay taxes for about 18 years starting in 1995. Those years included the years of 9/11.
So get this. On 9/11, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's hometown was attacked by the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States. Young men and women -- young men and women signed up to serve in the military to fight terrorism. Hillary Clinton went to Washington to get funds to rebuild her city and protect first responders, but Donald Trump was fighting a very different fight. It was a fight to avoid paying taxes so that he wouldn't support the fight against terror.
QUIJANO: The question was about Aleppo, Senator.
KAINE: He wouldn't support troops. He wouldn't -- he wouldn't support -- this is important, Elaine. When a guy running for president will not support the troops, not support veterans, not support teachers, that's really important.
KAINE: And I said about Aleppo, we do agree the notion is we have to create a humanitarian zone in northern Syria. It's very important.
QUIJANO: Governor Pence, you had mentioned no-fly zone. Where would you propose setting up a safe zone specifically? How would you keep it safe?
PENCE: Well, first and foremost, Donald Trump supports our troops. Donald Trump supports our veterans.
KAINE: He won't pay taxes.
PENCE: Donald Trump has paid all the taxes that he's -- do you not take deductions? How does that work?
QUIJANO: Gentlemen, this is about Syria. I'd like to...
PENCE: Honestly, Senator. Honestly, Senator.
KAINE: It is about our troops. It is about our troops.
PENCE: I understand why you want to change -- I understand why you want to change the subject.
KAINE: How can you support the troops if you won't pay taxes?
PENCE: I understand why you want to change the subject. And let me be very clear on this Russian thing. The larger question here...
KAINE: Do you think Donald Trump is smart to not pay taxes?
QUIJANO: Gentlemen, we're going to have time to get to Russia here.
PENCE: What we're dealing with is the -- you know, there's an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates. And the truth of the matter is, the weak and feckless foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awakened an aggression in Russia that first appeared a few years ago with their move in Georgia, now their move into Crimea, now their move into the wider Middle East.
And all the while, all we do is fold our arms and say we're not having talks anymore. To answer your question, we just need American strength. We need to -- we need to marshal the resources of our allies in the region, and in the immediate, we need to act and act now to get people out of harm's way.
QUIJANO: And exactly how would those safe zones work? How would they remain safe?
PENCE: The -- the safe zones would have to be -- as the senator said, there's already a framework for this that's been recognized by the international community. The United States of America needs to be prepared to work with our allies in the region to create a route for safe passage and then to protect people in those areas, including with a no-fly zone.
But, look, this is very tough stuff. I served on the Foreign Affairs Committee for a decade. I traveled in and out of that region for 10 years. I saw what the American soldier won in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And to see the weak and feckless leadership that Hillary Clinton was the architect of and the foreign policy of the Obama administration...


  1. I've gotten banned by some sites for pointing out things like how Clinton's "no-fly zone" in Syria is essentially a declaration of war. I guess someone can start a betting game for how long until an S-300 takes down a US military plane. By the way, if they plan on pushing a hot war in Syria they'll do it before Obama leaves office so that it's a fait accompli by the time Clinton is sworn in.

    Also, if you are at all interested in the MH-17 takedown, here's an interesting article which explains why the latest investigation turned out the way it did: it was controlled by the Ukrainian government:

  2. I'll check it out, Bob. I read the the Robert Perry stuff on his CONSORTIUM NEWS web site, and a post on NAKED CAPITALISM by John Helmer. The obvious point is that the Joint Inspection Team report never accounts for the fact the Ukrainian BUKs were also in the area. Parry makes a convincing argument about what nonsense the route is the Russian BUK purportedly navigated to get to Snizhne. Helmer argues there are fundamental problems with the shrapnel marks if MH17 was hit head on from a missile coming from the east:

    "The key claim from the Russian side is that for the engine to be as damaged as it was, the warhead must have detonated on the starboard side. And for that to be the outcome, the missile must have approached MH17, and been fired, from the south."

    A missile coming from the south implicates the Ukrainians.