Israel Says It Has Proof That Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons

Damascus - SyriaIsrael declared Tuesday that it had found evidence that the Syrian government repeatedly used chemical weapons last month, arguing that President Bashar al-Assad was testing how the United States and others would react and that it was time for Washington to overcome its reluctance to intervene in the Syrian civil war. In making the declaration, which went somewhat beyond recent suspicions expressed by Britain and France, Israeli officials argued Assad had repeatedly crossed what President Obama said last summer would be “red line”. But Obama administration officials pushed back, saying they would not leap into conflict on what viewed as inconclusive evidence, even while working with allies on plans to secure weapons if it appeared they were about to be used, handed to Hezbollah. The declaration from Israel’s senior military intelligence analyst was immediately questioned in Washington. Officials said an investigation was necessary, but added American intelligence agencies had yet to uncover convincing evidence that an attack on March 19, and smaller subsequent attacks, used sarin gas, a deadly agent Syria is believed to hold in huge stockpiles. “We are looking for conclusive evidence, if it exists, if there was use of chemical weapons,” Jay Carney, White House press secretary, said when pressed on the Israeli assessment. In a briefing in Tel Aviv, an Israeli military official was vague about the exact nature of the evidence, saying that it was drawn from an examination of photographs of victims and some “direct” findings that he would not specify. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested there were mixed messages emerging from Israel, saying that he spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday morning and that the Israeli leader “was not in a position to confirm” intelligence assessment. Israeli officials said they would not try to explain apparent difference between Mr. Netanyahu’s statement and that of his top military intelligence officials. At same time, Daniel B. Shapiro, American ambassador to Israel, said that contingency plans to address the use of chemical weapons in Syria were “very much part” of the discussions between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Israeli counterpart here on Monday. The Israeli intelligence analyst, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, told participants at a security conference in Tel Aviv Syrian government “has increasingly used chemical weapons.” That echoed accusations that Britain and France made in a letter last week to the secretary general of United Nations, calling for a deeper investigation. “The very fact they have used chemical weapons without any appropriate reaction,” General Brun said, “is a very worrying development, because it might signal that this is legitimate” Gen. Brun’s statements were the most definitive to date by Israeli official regarding evidence of possible chemical weapons attacks on March 19 near Aleppo, Syria, and Damascus, the capital. Another military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the evidence had been presented to Obama administration but that it had not fully accepted the analysis. None of the assertions, by Israel, Britain or France, have included physical proof. Experts say most definitive way to prove use of chemical weapons is to collect soil samples promptly at the site and examine suspected victims (…..)



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28 Responses to Israel Says It Has Proof That Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: This is fascinating. A few weeks ago a chemical attack occurred in a city under Syrian government control. Each side accused the other for the incident and UN promised an independent report. So far, no report from that incident came to light. Now, highly trusted Israel’s intelligence services say Assad is using chemical weapons in the civil war. If the accusation is proved correct and not misinformation, Pres Obama will lead the US to another Middle East war, something Netanyahu works very hard to accomplish. As the SNL Church Lady used to say: how convenient!

  2. Gary K: Don’t hold your breath Uzi. Netanyahu does not have that kind of clout anymore and you know it if you’re keeping track of what’s happening in Israel. Also read the article more carefully – no one has proven anything yet.

  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    Gary, don’t forget one thing. After the gun control defeat, Obama became a lame duck president as far as the domestic agenda is concerned. Foreign relations — going after terrorists — is the only area he can work freely without GOP opposition. The incentive to use force is very powerful during the second mandate of Pres Obama.

  4. How many innocent Syrian civilians would be killed should the United States launch airstrikes against Syrian government radars, anti­aircraft sites and air bases — obvious targets if the White House approved setting up the no-fly zone some members of Congress want? What would be the legal basis for such action? (…..)

    Legal authority for the use of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere — but not Syria — was another focus of the hearing. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a joint resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, was first used by the George W. Bush administration and now by President Obama to authorize the use of drones in counterterrorism operations. It gives the president authority to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”

    According to a subcommittee witness, Georgetown University Law Center professor Rosa Brooks, “AUMF’s language appears to restrict the use of force both with regard to who can be targeted — those with some culpability for the 9/11 attacks — and with regard to the purpose for which force is used — to prevent future attacks against the U.S.” A former counselor during the first two years of the Obama administration to the undersecretary of defense for policy, Brooks said that drone strikes have evolved “from a tool used in extremely limited circumstances to go after specifically identified high-ranking al-Qaeda officials to a tool relied on in an increasing number of countries to go after an eternally lengthening list of putative bad actors, with increasingly tenuous links to grave or imminent threats to the United States.” So what legal basis would be used for a military strike in Syria? The drone strikes in Yemen are openly authorized by that country’s government. In Pakistan there is a less public wink-and-nod approach, though the AUMF clearly applies to al-Qaeda and Taliban targets. What imminent threat to the United States does the Assad regime pose? You could try to argue that the radical jihadists supporting the opposition to Assad have some distant al-Qaeda ties. But wouldn’t the U.S. bombing be supporting them in a joint effort to end Assad’s regime? What about U.S. participation in a no-fly zone in Libya based on humanitarian needs? Doesn’t work. The legal basis for that no-fly zone was U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted March 17, 2011, which imposed “a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.” The Security Council also authorized member states who have notified the Security Council and League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organizations, “to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance.” The reference to “all necessary measures” is “the standard phrase the Security Council uses to authorize states to act militarily,” according to a Yale Journal of International Law Online article by Michael N. Schmitt, a former professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College. There’s no such resolution for Syria. Without one, or without Congress approving a Syrian resolution, there is no legal basis for U.S. forces striking Syrian targets.

  5. On April 13, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority resigned. It was an easy development to miss, but not one to be ignored. It was very bad news, because Salam Fayyad was the “Arab Spring” before there was an Arab Spring. That is, he was what the Arab Spring was supposed to lead to: a new generation of decent Arab leaders whose primary focus would be the human development of their own people, not the enrichment of their family, tribe, sect or party. That Fayyad’s brand of noncorrupt, institution-focused leadership was not sufficiently supported by other Palestinian leaders, the Arab states, Israel and America is really depressing. It does not bode well for the revolutions in Egypt, Syria or Tunisia — none of which have a Fayyad-quality leader at the helm. Who is Salam Fayyad? A former economist at the International Monetary Fund, he first came to prominence when he was named finance minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, after donors got fed up seeing their contributions diverted for corruption. Shortly after he became prime minister in 2007, I coined the term “Fayyadism” — the all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or resistance to Israel and the West or on personality cults or security services, but on delivering decent, transparent, accountable governance. Fayyad “dried up all slush accounts and went against Yasir Arafat’s orders by insisting on paying all security officials by direct bank account (rather than with cash given to their commanders based on a questionable list of personnel),” wrote Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist, in The Jewish Daily Forward. “Fayyad also became the first Arab government official to publish his government’s entire budget online, ushering a new transparency not seen in the entire Arab region.” Fayyad also played the leading role in rebuilding the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, which even the Israeli military grew to respect, and in trying to build Palestinian institutions, on the argument that the more Palestinians built their institutions — finance, police, social services — the more Israel’s denial of them of a state will be unsustainable (…..)

  6. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The Palestine-Israel debate in the NYT reminds me the most important lesson from the Vietnam war. The limits of a superpower to solve by hook or by crook certain intractable problems in the world. Here is the danger for Netanyahu et al. The US public is suffering from war fatigue in the Middle East induced by Israel.

  7. President Obama has left little mystery about how he views his predecessor. “The failed policies of George W. Bush” wiped away a budget surplus and “squandered the legacy” of bipartisan foreign policy. Mr. Bush put two wars “on a credit card,” led the country away “from our values” and “crashed the economy.” But Mr. Obama will surely say none of that when he helps dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday. Addressing a crowd of Bush supporters and administration veterans, the 44th president will no doubt extol the virtues of the 43rd and praise his years of service to the country (…..) Marc Thiessen, a chief speechwriter in the Bush White House, said the test on Thursday would be whether Mr. Obama could be “substantively generous,” not just “personally generous.” In other words, would Mr. Obama acknowledge that despite their differences over Iraq, health care and other issues, Mr. Bush accomplished worthy things in office, like his fight against AIDS in Africa? “He’s never going to say this,” Mr. Thiessen said, “but if he’s being totally honest, he would say that except for interrogations, he adopted almost the entire Bush counterterrorism policy, some of it voluntarily, some of it involuntarily, but most of it voluntarily.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush have more in common than either might admit. They both value discipline and an orderly operation. They are both politicians intent on transformational presidencies. They both proved polarizing even though they arrived in Washington promising bipartisanship. But they have never connected in a meaningful way, leaving many in both camps to watch closely how they interact on Thursday. Past library openings have proved to be bonding moments: Mr. Clinton praised the elder Mr. Bush at his library opening in 1997, and both Bushes returned the favor at his dedication seven years later. Mr. Clinton was touched and has since become a virtual adopted member of the Bush family. “It was 2004 at the dedication of the Clinton library where the friendship was really renewed,” said James L. Rutherford III, known as Skip, a longtime friend of Mr. Clinton’s and the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. “That’s where they really bonded again and have remained good friends ever since. “That’s one of the beauties of the presidential library system,” he added. “That makes that possible.”

  8. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    Pres Obama won’t have any problem in delivering a speech on W. Library dedication. After all, Bush war on terror doctrine became Obama’s foreign policy trade mark. On the economy, the only difference between Obama and Bush is the political rhetoric. Economic policy remains the same. Banks too big to fail continue to be banks too big to fail while systemic risks still lurk around the financial industry.

  9. In what appeared to be a new phase in an intensifying conflict that has raised fears of greater bloodshed and a wider sectarian war, Iraqi soldiers opened fire from helicopters on Sunni gunmen hiding in a northern village on Wednesday, officials said. The air attack was among clashes throughout the country between forces of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and Sunni gunmen that left at least 27 people dead and dozens wounded. The Sunni tribesmen were continuing a fight that began on Tuesday after the Iraqi Army stormed a Sunni protest encampment in the village of Hawija, leaving dozens dead and injured. Several others were killed on Wednesday in explosions, including the detonation of a car bomb at a public market in the evening in a Shiite neighborhood north of Baghdad, and a roadside bomb attack on an army patrol in Tikrit, also in the north. The deadliest battles occurred near Hawija and Sulaiman Pek, northern towns near Kirkuk, and battles were still raging in the early evening. In Hawija, the army shut off electricity, and troops shouted through loudspeakers, urging civilians to evacuate, witnesses said. Government helicopters also fired at Sunni gunmen on the ground in Sulaiman Pek. The Sunni uprising, having now turned violent, represents a significant challenge to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose consolidation of power over the security forces and the judiciary, and his targeting of high-level Sunni leaders for arrest, has raised alarms among world powers. Mr. Maliki has presided over an unwieldy power-sharing government, which nominally gives prominent roles to Sunnis but in reality has resulted in political stasis, and he has signaled in recent months that he would prefer to move to a majority government, dominated almost solely by Shiites. On Tuesday, two Sunni ministers quit to protest the raid in Hawija, and the largest bloc of Sunni lawmakers suspended participation in Parliament. Mr. Maliki made no public comments on the situation Wednesday, but on Tuesday, after being pressed by American officials and the United Nations, he said he would open an investigation into the events in Hawija, and promised to hold military officers accountable for any mistakes (…..)

  10. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The law of unintended consequences. The Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003 has strengthened the Shia majority of the population, making the country a natural ally of Iran. Paraphrasing Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry: A country got to know its limitations.

  11. HonorB14U: One can no more say that just because Iraq and Iran are of the dominating Shi’ite Sect means they are in agreement with everything anymore than one can say that because Republican leaders are against background checks means that all their constituents are. Don’t give Iran all that power! The Shi’ite, Al-Maliki administration of Iraq, needs to share more of their political power with the Sunni and the Kurdish Sects. Make Iraq share power with their people; all their people, instead of alleged power by association with Iran.

  12. Michael: When Ahmadinejad visits Iraq, Maliki rolls out the red carpet. They are in cahoots. Iraq has opened up its airspace to allow Iran to fly weapons and other supplies to the Shia Assad’s government fighting the Sunni rebels.

  13. The White House said on Thursday that American intelligence agencies now believed, with “varying degrees of confidence,” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, but it said it needed conclusive proof before President Obama would take action. The disclosure, in letters to Congressional leaders, takes the administration a step closer to acknowledging that President Bashar al-Assad has crossed a red line established by Mr. Obama last summer, when he said the United States would take unspecified action against Syria if there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used in the civil war. The White House emphasized that, “given the stakes involved,” the United States still needed “credible and corroborated facts” before deciding on a course of action. The letter, signed by the president’s director of legislative affairs, Miguel E. Rodriguez, said the United States was pressing for a “comprehensive United Nations investigation that can credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what happened.” Although the White House said it could not confirm the circumstances in which victims were exposed to chemical weapons, it said it believed that the chemical agent sarin had been used. “We do believe,” the letter said, “that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.” Britain, in a letter last month requesting a United Nations investigation, cited three episodes in which it suspected that chemical weapons had been used: in a village west of Aleppo and on the outskirts of Damascus, both on March 19, and in Homs on Dec. 24. Secretary of State John Kerry, emerging from a Congressional hearing, said that the United States believed that chemical weapons had been used in two instances, though he did not offer details. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, wrapping up weeklong travels in the Middle East that included daily discussions of the Syria crisis, said he was prepared to “give advice on policy decisions” for Pentagon action, but he cautioned that much remained uncertain about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Asked if the assessment had proved that Syria had crossed a “red line” drawn by the president, he responded, “We need all the facts, we need all the information.” He noted that uncertainties remained over “what was used, where it was used, who used it.” The disclosure brought a swift reaction on Capitol Hill, where Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said, “I think it’s pretty obvious that a red line has been crossed,” and he referred to Mr. Obama’s characterization last summer that Syria’s use of such weapons would be a “game changer.” Mr. McCain called on the president to begin supplying weapons to the rebels, which he has so far refused to do; to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria; and to redouble pressure on Russia to abandon its support for the Assad regime (…..)

  14. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: When a chemical attack in the city of Aleppo occurred a few weeks ago, my comments went along the following lines. If an UN fact finding mission found solid evidence the insurgency responsible for the chemical attack, the Obama administration would never accept the result. If it did, the official policy of supporting the insurgent movement would lose public support in the US. In the next few weeks, the CIA with the usual invaluable collaboration of Israel, will certainly come up with the smoke gun of chemical weapons use by Assad. The next step is not difficult to anticipate. Middle East, here comes another Marine expeditionary force to take care of business.

  15. Abdulaziz Albataa: The world powers have a moral responsibility to end the genocide perpetrated by both sides of the conflict in Syria. More than 70 thousand lives have been lost and tens of cities destroyed and more than a million refugees.

  16. Judyw: The world Powers may have tne responsibility but who pays for them? War cost money, men and lives — why should it always be the US? What is wrong with Turkey — it has a big army? Someone has to pay for MORAL RESPONSIBILITY – and I don’t think it should be the US taxpayer – how about national of the Middle East paying for it and perhaps using their men, money and materials.

  17. Libby: Why is it the U.S.’s responsibility to keep Syria in line? Who appointed the U.S. the world’s top cop? Why does the U.S. so willingly assume this role? Why does the rest of the world sit quietly by and allow it to assume this role? If other countries want the U.S. to intervene, then they should pay the U.S. to do so. Otherwise, the United Nations is the proper forum for this matter.

  18. All five living presidents gathered in Texas Thursday for a feel-good moment at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which is supposed to symbolize the legacy that Mr. Bush has been trying to polish. President Obama called it a “special day for our democracy.” Mr. Bush spoke about having made “the tough decisions” to protect America. They all had a nice chuckle when President Bill Clinton joked about former presidents using their libraries to rewrite history. But there is another building, far from Dallas on land leased from Cuba, that symbolizes Mr. Bush’s legacy in a darker, truer way: the military penal complex at Guantánamo Bay where Mr. Bush imprisoned hundreds of men after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a vast majority guilty of no crime. It became the embodiment of his dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them. It is now also a reminder of Mr. Obama’s failure to close the prison as he promised when he took office, and of the malicious interference by Congress in any effort to justly try and punish the Guantánamo inmates. There are still 166 men there — virtually all of them held without charges, some for more than a decade. More than half have been cleared for release but are still imprisoned because of a law that requires individual Pentagon waivers. The administration eliminated the State Department post charged with working with other countries to transfer the prisoners so those waivers might be issued. Of the rest, some are said to have committed serious crimes, including terrorism, but the military tribunals created by Mr. Bush are dysfunctional and not credible, despite Mr. Obama’s improvements. Congress long ago banned the transfer of prisoners to the federal criminal justice system where they belong and are far more likely to receive fair trials and long sentences if convicted. Only six are facing active charges. Nearly 50 more are deemed too dangerous for release but not suitable for trial because they are not linked to any specific attack or because the evidence against them is tainted by torture. The result of this purgatory of isolation was inevitable. Charlie Savage wrote in The Times on Thursday about a protest that ended in a raid on Camp Six, where the most cooperative prisoners are held. A hunger strike in its third month includes an estimated 93 prisoners, twice as many as were participating before the raid. American soldiers have been reduced to force-feeding prisoners who are strapped to chairs with a tube down their throats. That prison should never have been opened. It was nothing more than Mr. Bush’s attempt to evade accountability by placing prisoners in another country. The courts rejected that ploy, but Mr. Bush never bothered to fix the problem. Now, shockingly, the Pentagon is actually considering spending $200 million for improvements and expansions clearly aimed at a permanent operation. Polls show that Americans are increasingly indifferent to the prison. We received a fair amount of criticism recently for publishing on our Op-Ed page a first-person account from one of the Guantánamo hunger strikers. But whatever Mr. Bush says about how comfortable he is with his “tough” choices, the country must recognize the steep price being paid for what is essentially a political prison. Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.

  19. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Not even in his wildest nightmares Usama Bin Ladin could imagine the 9/11 impact on the US society. It ignited a series of unfortunate events that continue to go on and on and on. First, W. overreacted and invaded Iraq-Afghanistan. More importantly, Bush came up with a national security policy of global war on terrorism. This doctrine sets the country on a permanent state of war while curbing individual rights and freedom at home. Information on US citizens is collected indiscriminately.

    However, the huge and costly intelligence apparatus fails when tested as in the case of the Boston bombing.

    Second, for the first time in history the military-intelligence establishment got control of foreign policy. Civilian control has been loosened and debilitated. Drone killing became the foreign policy trade mark of the Bush-Obama administrations. Third, defense spending went to the roof and contributed to the worst economic recession and unemployment in memory. Federal debt has reached 80% of GDP while the Congress is paralysed by a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans. Obama is a lame duck president at the beginning of his second mandate. Fourth, the moral ground (soft power) painstakingly conquered by successive US administrations was lost among friends and foes alike. The US image has changed from the good guy to the bad guy, from a positive force to a negative force in the world scene. Guantanamo is just the last drop of credibility to be lost.

  20. Jim Steinberg: “Conservative” Republicans are miffed that President Obama is taking so long launching us into another war. Will someone explain to me how this is conservative? Thank you.

  21. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Obama is a lame duck president. Gun control was his last defeat in Congress. Foreign policy is the only area Obama can move without political opposition. Both parties rally around the president when the use of military force is decided by the White House. In the post 9/11 world, public opinion is no longer relevant when the use of force is decided by the President.

  22. For years now I have been fascinated by the story of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. In the late 19th century, after early death claimed her family members one by one, she became convinced that her family was cursed, haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. Sarah decided that she had to move out West and begin building a house, which would confuse and trap the ghosts that were haunting her and her family name. She settled in San Jose, Calif., and once construction on her home began, it continued until her death in 1922. The architectural oddities in the home are many: stairs and doors going nowhere, windows looking back in on the house, like an M.C. Escher drawing come to life. All of these features were added to confound the ghosts of gun violence that, she believed, continuously lurked the corridors of her home. I can’t help thinking of Sarah and her house each time there is a mass shooting or when Senate gun-control legislation fails, as it did last week. America has had, at various times in our history, common-sense regulations and controls on firearms, from the 1790s through the Wild West era and up until the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Until the current Republicans acknowledge this, we will all continue living in Sarah’s haunted house.

  23. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    The US, like any country, has many virtues and many vices. Among the vices, Americans love guns, drugs and violence. It is a warrior nation, embedded in the social DNA fabric. Any legislation to curb or control gun possession is politically doomed as many failed attempts have shown so far. What seems surrealist for the rest of the world is a logical solution in America. That is, arming school teachers to defend against deranged gunman as proposed by the NRA.

  24. BARBARA BUSH is a word that rhymes with fright. She’s right. Asked on the “Today” show whether she thought her son Jeb should run for president in 2016, as W. has urged, the famously candid and caustic Silver Fox offered the most honest assessment of her oldest son’s legacy. Aside from the cascading disasters that the country is still struggling to recover from, a key W. legacy is derailing the path of the son Poppy and Barbara Bush dearly wanted to be president: Jeb. For the first time, the 87-year-old former first lady acknowledged, in essence, that W. had worn out the family’s welcome in the White House. “He’s by far the best qualified man, but no, I really don’t,” she said when asked if her second son should aim to be the third Bush in chief. “I think it’s a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes.” Jenna Bush Hager, a “Today” show correspondent who was a participant in the Thursday interview with her grandmother, mother and sister, blurted “Surpri-i-ise!” and threw up her arms. CNN e-mailed Jeb to find out what he thought of his mother’s “priceless” comment and Jeb e-mailed back: “Priceless indeed!” But Bar, who was also giving the back of the hand to the Clintons, spit out the truth. It is wearying that America, a country that broke away from aristocratic England in a burst of rugged individualism, has spawned so many of its own royal political families, dynasties that feel entitled to inhabit the White House, generation after generation, letting their family competitions and tensions shape policy and history to an alarming degree. Why does a George P., Chelsea, Beau Biden, Joe Kennedy III presidential sweepstakes feel so inevitable? There were plenty of other, less perspicacious assessments of the Bush legacy on the occasion of W.’s presidential library opening in Dallas. Josh Bolten, Bush’s chief of staff in the second term, defended 43’s economic record — two off-the-books, badly managed wars and more of the deregulation that led to toxic derivatives, government bailouts and a near collapse of the whole economy — saying it “really wasn’t so bad.” Former Bush staffers and some on the right defended 43 in the usual debates: Was he the Decider or the Dupe? Was he smart or simplistic? The latter question is really beside the point in Washington, the capital of smart people doing dumb things (…..)

  25. (…..) W. and other Bush officials continue to say they could not possibly have known that Saddam had no W.M.D. But I’m now told that Saddam sent word through the Saudis to the Bushies over and over that he had no W.M.D. and was only blustering to keep his nemesis in the neighborhood, Iran, at bay (…..)

  26. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Ex post Iraq invasion debacle and the worst economic- financial crisis in history W. is an easy target. His Texan cowboy style of walk and intellectual challenged face puzzled foreigners why he was voted president twice. From a foreign standpoint, W. legacy is not only about him or the Bush family dynasty. Is how American voters are choosing their leader lately.

  27. To retirees, the offers can sound like the answer to every money worry: convert tomorrow’s pension checks into today’s hard cash. But these offers, known as pension advances, are having devastating financial consequences for a growing number of older Americans, threatening their retirement savings and plunging them further into debt. The advances, federal and state authorities say, are not advances at all, but carefully disguised loans that require borrowers to sign over all or part of their monthly pension checks. They carry interest rates that are often many times higher than those on credit cards. In lean economic times, people with public pensions — military veterans, teachers, firefighters, police officers and others — are being courted particularly aggressively by pension-advance companies, which operate largely outside of state and federal banking regulations, but are now drawing scrutiny from Congress and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The pitches come mostly via the Web or ads in local circulars. “Convert your pension into CASH,” LumpSum Pension Advance, of Irvine, Calif., says on its Web site. “Banks are hiding,” says Pension Funding L.L.C., of Huntington Beach, Calif., on its Web site, signaling the paucity of credit. “But you do have your pension benefits.” Another ad on that Web site is directed at military veterans: “You’ve put your life on the line for Americans to protect our way of life. You deserve to do something important for yourself.” A review by The New York Times of more than two dozen contracts for pension-based loans found that after factoring in various fees, the effective interest rates ranged from 27 percent to 106 percent — information not disclosed in the ads or in the contracts themselves. Furthermore, to qualify for one of the loans, borrowers are sometimes required to take out a life insurance policy that names the lender as the sole beneficiary (…..)

  28. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Against this social backdrop, the Obama makes preparation for another Middle East war. This time in Syria. Is time for the American people and their representatives in Washington DC take a hard look in the country’s priorities. What good is to be the only military superpower with a growing poor middle class?


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