“Credibility”

An embarrassing number of people in DC have been saying publicly since Friday that we have to launch cruise missiles against Bashar al-Assad or risk the “credibility” of the United States. John McCainMike McCaul. Adam Schiff. Former NSC staffer Barry Pavel.

But this WSJ piece — after describing how central the Saudis were in presenting earlier claims that Assad had used chemical weapons and in the midst of descriptions of how central a role Bandar bin Sultan is playing in drumming up war against Syria — reports that Saudi King Abdullah and others were bitching about US credibility as early as April.

In early April, said U.S. officials, the Saudi king sent a strongly worded message to Mr. Obama: America’s credibility was on the line if it let Mr. Assad and Iran prevail. The king warned of dire consequences of abdicating U.S. leadership and creating a vacuum, said U.S. officials briefed on the message.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who was the first Saudi official to publicly back arming the rebels, followed with a similar message during a meeting with Mr. Obama later that month, the officials said.

I wonder if we started taking Saudi taunts about our credibility more seriously after Bandar made a show of wooing Vladimir Putin?

In any case, here we go, hastily getting involved in the war in Syria and potentially escalating it across the region as a whole, without proper review much less a plan on how to actually improve the situation in Syria.

Credibility.

Apparently, the only kind of credibility that matters for America’s place in the role anymore is if our Saudi overlords suggest we lack credibility if we fail to do their explicit, and long-planned, bidding.

Credibility.

Meanwhile think of all the things American has squandered its position as unquestioned leader of the world without confronting. Poverty, hunger. The most obvious, of course, is climate change.

How much more “credibility” would the United States have by now if, at the start of his Administration, Obama had launched not just a Manhattan project to dramatically curb American use of fossil fuels, but also invested the goodwill Obama had (back before he expanded the drones) to find an equitable, global approach to climate change.

Credibility.

Apparently, the only thing the Villagers in DC think could or should win us “credibility” is in unquestioningly serving as global enforcer against the brutal dictators our brutal dictator friends the Saudis wants us to punish (though the Saudis are quite selective about which brutal dictators they stake our credibility on).

America could have used its power and leadership to earn real credibility. Instead, we’re trying to suck up to Bandar Bush.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

36 replies
  1. Frank33 says:

    Saudi King Abdullah and others were bitching about US credibility as early as April.

    And the Homeland is Bandar Bush’s Bitch. The Homeland Oligarchs need their dirty oil and will do anything bitchy thing to get it. Saudi Arabia continues to train terrorists in their madrassas. The corrupt Homeland gives bags of cash to leaders Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan and Afghanistan. In return the Homeland gets wars and terror theater. The American people get new enemies to fight in future years.

    The psychopaths, such as McCain and Obama are just thrilled to have more blood and death and destruction. Should not there be discussion, before another war? Should we think about the short and long term consequences? Should Congress, you know, vote for or against a war. That is what the Constitution requires.

    If Obama and Congress start another blood bath in Syria, they all should be impeached. That is unlikely but the wars are coming home. The war against citizens of the United States by an oppressive Homeland heats up.

  2. joanneleon says:

    Was Bandar cozying up to Putin or telling him to back off? Or bribing him to back off?

    This is one of the most bizarre and troubing “interventions” I’ve ever seen. It goes against all logic, from an American interest standpoint, and even from the ‘Assad used chemical weapons’ standpoint. Also, there’s no other country who could have done this “intervention”? All these militaries in the world and nobody else can do it? Except it looks bad if former colonial powers in the region, UK and France, do it. And the Saudis and Qataris can’t do it overtly, I guess, nor can Israel. I was angry at the Iraq invasion, but still didn’t understand what was going on. I was furious at the Libyan “intervention” and destabilization. I’m beyond livid about this one. Any country with a shred of decency and credibility would be trying to pull the mercenary jihadists out of there and let Syria pull itself together again, then pressure and pressure for elections. Not bombing. And if this CW attack was cooked up and they killed all those people just to justify an attack to cripple the regime so the mercenary jihadist could “win”, whoever did it needs to be on trial at the Hague, ASAP. A more despicable thing, I’ve rarely heard of.

  3. C says:

    Shortly after the uprising/revolution/civil-war/proxy-war/don’t-ask-me-I-don’t-give-a-damn-war started in Syria there were reports coming out about how the Saudis were basically financing the whole thing, supplying the weapons, and even the troops. But despite all their oil wealth neither they nor the gulf states ever did enough to actually tip the balance only to make the pain go on. Now for the sake of our “credibility” they want us to clean up the mess and take the blame.

    This reminds me of two things: (1) In the run-up to the Iraq war, for all the public opposition, Bandar Bush was in the loop and on board before Colin Powell; (2) Some of the more interesting leaked diplomatic cables on Wikileaks showed that despite their public statements of revulsion many of the gulf “leaders” were happy, even thankful, for Guantanamo Bay because it let us take their problems away.

    Neither Iraq nor Guantanamo has been good for us and one even reduced our access to oil. Why oh why should we take the blame again?

  4. orionATL says:

    +- 600 people located in a small, contiguous area are said to have died of gas poisoning.

    who dropped the gas, if gas was dropped?

    – assad boys

    – anti-assad boys

    – israeli boys

    – saudi boys

    – american boys

    – russian boys

    – hezbollah boys

    – al-q boys

    – beach boys?

  5. orionATL says:

    @orionATL:

    i forgot to include:

    – cia boys

    – proxys for cia boys

    whatever, this event has a distinctive “gulf of tonkin” feel about it.

    or, to put it differently,

    why, if assad’s side is slowly predominating in a war of attrition, as has recently been reported, would assad risk the one activity that would encourage greater “other nation” involvement?

    doing so does not make sense.

  6. P J Evans says:

    @orionATL:
    I saw one comment where they were talking about people ‘writhing in pain’ after having had sarin used on them. I don’t believe it works that way…

  7. bell says:

    it’s just a rerun of the same type of story about saddam and weapons of mass destruction… anything to make it look more publicly acceptable to make war on syria.. it is bad enough everyone is quite happy to supply both sides with all the ammo.. what a messed up world..

  8. lefty665 says:

    Nobody bitched when we gave Saddam the intelligence and targeting data he used to gas the Iranians. Now it is our credibility, we are arming Al-Qaeda in Syria, and itching to go to war with Assad over gas.

    How could we tell that we have not elected neocons and are on a mission to fulfill PNAC’s goals?

    Maybe the Repubs are right and it is time to impeach.

  9. JohnT says:

    The Saudi’s (British protectorate House of Sa’ud) are the origin for the gas attack story

    The reports of massive chemical attacks in Syria might become the “red line” for the US for active military intervention. But even rudimentary analysis of the story shows it is too early to believe its credibility.

    The Middle Eastern newspaper, Al Arabiya, reports that “At least 1,300 people have been killed in a nerve gas attack on Syria’s Ghouta region, leading opposition figure George Sabra said on Wednesday…” The paper went on to claim that the Government of President Bashar al Assad was responsible for the attacks. If confirmed it could be the “red line” that US President Obama previously stated would tip the US into active military intervention in Syria, using No Fly Zones and active military steps to depose Assad.

    […]

    Al Arabiya, the origin of the story, is not a neutral in the Syrian conflict. It was set up in 2002 by the Saudi Royal Family in Dubai. It is majority-owned by the Saudi broadcaster, Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC). Saudi Arabia is a major financial backer of the attempt to topple Syria’s government. That is a matter of record.

    […]

    http://rt.com/op-edge/syria-gas-attack-chemical-propaganda-796/

  10. john francis lee says:

    Cred would be number 3 of Ian Brownlie’s conclusions on Kosovo which hold as true for Syria fifteen years later …

    XIV. CONCLUSIONS

    There is no point in presenting a summary of what has gone before. The intention is to highlight points of particular significance.

    The conclusions are as follows.

    – The primary justification for the bombing of Syria was always the imposition of the NATO plans for the future of Syria. It was in this context that the bombing campaign was planned by August 18 2011.

    – The threats of massive air strikes were made in the same context as and well before the first public offers of arms to the takfiris in June 2013. Neither the purpose of the planned air strikes nor their implementation related to events on the ground in Syria in August 2013.

    – The cause of the air strikes is quite simple: given that Syria has not given in to threats, the threats have to be carried out.

    – The legal basis of the action, as presented by the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO States, was at no stage adequately articulated.

    – Humanitarian intervention, the justification belatedly advanced by the NATO States, has no place either in the United Nations Charter or in customary international law.

    – Whilst in theory customary law could develop in such a way as to legitimise action by way of humanitarian intervention, the proponents of a change in the customary law have a burden of proof of a new consensus among States which cannot now be discharged on the evidence available.

    – If the view is held that the Permanent Members of the Security Council would recognise the need for humanitarian action, then no doubt a resolution would have been sought.

    – The argument that a resolution will be “blocked” by Russia and/or China is unattractive, in part because the matter could then be taken to the UN General Assembly (in a Special Emergency Session) on the basis of the Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950. Presumably the NATO States have no hope of obtaining a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly.

    – The intentions of the United States and the United Kingdom include the removal of the Government of Syria. It is impossible to reconcile such purposes with humanitarian intervention.

    – The claim to be acting on humanitarian grounds appears difficult to reconcile with the disproportionate amount of violence involved in the use of heavy ordnance and missiles. The weapons have extensive blast effects and the missiles have an incendiary element. A high proportion of targets will be in/near towns and cities. Many of the victims will be women and children. After seven weeks of such bombing at least 1,200 civilians were killed and 4,500 injured in Kosovo in 1998.

    – In spite of the references to the need for a peaceful solution to be found in Security Council Resolutions, the public statements of Ms Rice, Mr Kerry, Mr Hague, and others, and the reiterated threats of massive air strikes, make it very clear that no ordinary diplomacy is envisaged.

  11. Nigel says:

    @P J Evans:

    No one knows what chemicals might have been used (for example, a ‘cocktail’ of non lethal incapacitating agents and small amounts of nerve agents such as sarin has been proposed).

    What seems almost beyond dispute is that a very large number of people were killed by chemical means, and the reluctance of the Syrian regime to allow UN inspectors to visit the site promptly is suspicious.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @P J Evans: Very good question. Probably also taking the word of the Israelis.

    That’s why we needed to have a public accounting of where our dodgy intell leading up to the Iraq war came from. So it would be more difficult to trust their word now.

  13. harpie says:

    Via b at Moon of Alabama:

    Alexei Pushkov [chair of the Russian Federation State Duma’s international affairs committee]

    “To us, it looks as though [George W.] Bush, [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld never left the White House. […] It’s basically the same policy, as if US leaders had learned nothing and forgotten nothing in the past decade. They want to topple foreign leaders they regard as adversaries, without even making the most basic calculations of the consequences. An intervention in Syria will only enlarge the area of instability in the Middle East and expand the scope of terrorist activity. I am at a complete loss to understand what the US thinks it is doing.”

  14. harpie says:

    @harpie:

    See this MoA post for links to:

    [Past is future?]
    Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran; Foreign Policy: 8/26/13

    [And, remember how Obama gave Yemen a waiver from the child-soldier law?:]

    As Syrian rebels’ losses mount, teenagers begin filling ranks; WaPo; 8/24/13

  15. harpie says:

    Tweet:

    Justin Amash [email protected] 18h
    War Powers Resolution is consistent w/Constitution: Pres can take unilateral action only pursuant to nat’l emergency. [links to WPR]
    Retweeted by DebatingChambers [emphasis added]

    Debating Chambers is powwow

  16. Frank33 says:

    And speaking of CREDIBILITY, Josua Foust NSA war pimp, discusses the revelations of the Church Committee. They discovered the US taxpayer supported spies were “meddling” in domestic affairs during the 60’s and 70’s. Actually the spies were neutralizing anti-war groups and civil rights groups and any progressive movement. They, the Intelligence Community, were very successful and destroyed many lives.

    “What the Church Committee revealed was that the intelligence community, which was supposed to be focused on foreign threats, was actually directly meddling in domestic issues,” Foust said in an interview. “What these (recent) disclosures show is that while the NSA does violate the rules, it also makes a good faith effort to try to minimize both the number of violations and their scope.”

    And see the funny joke that Foust makes. When the spies violate the rules, they make a good faith effort to conceal it the best they can.

  17. dakine01 says:

    Fuck the Saudis and the horse they rode in on. “Credibility” is meaningless if used in other wasted, military action that does nothing but squander US resources and lives.

  18. What Constitution? says:

    @harpie: OK, so this guy is “only a Russkie”. But that’s one helluva statement from one whose title at least suggests both knowledge and some degree of circumspection. Anyone in the US replying to it as if it was possibly worthy of a response, or does it just get dumped in the “against us” bin?

  19. Dredd says:

    The script sounds like the one the Bush II propagandists wrote up when “doing” Iraq.

    The word to consider, then, might be crudability, not credibility, as some surmise.

    Is this Bread and Circuses as a diversion from the military NSA scandal and economic woes?

  20. JohnT says:

    Hope this isn’t in EPU land, and it’s sort of on topic

    But, there’s this

    Israel Awards First License to Drill on Golan Heights to Genie
    By Calev Ben-David – Feb 21, 2013

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-21/israel-awards-first-license-to-drill-on-golan-heights-to-genie.html

    And this

    Business And Financial Leaders Lord Rothschild And Rupert Murdoch Invest In Genie Oil & Gas

    and this

    Other members of Genie’s Strategic Advisory Board are:

    […]

    Dick Cheney – 46th Vice President of the United States. Former President and CEO of Halliburton Company, and U.S. Secretary of Defense;

    Genie Energy press release

  21. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    They just won’t stop until all the oil has been consumed and all the profits have been booked. The U.S. presidency is just as much of a puppet, for-camera position now as it was under Reagan or GWB…

  22. Strangely Enough says:

    The U.S. did stand aside mute while the Saudis rolled into Bahrain to crack down on unarmed protestors, so I guess that would make the Saudis quite qualified to discuss American “credibility.”

    /can’tmakethisshitup

  23. JohnT says:

    This could be explosive (metaphorically speaking)

    A British defence company has been breached and as a result a heap of documents have been published online and now the site has gone offline.

    […]

    A quick look into the files shows shocking plans for chemical warfare attacks where they have planned to lure victims to kill zones. The file can be found in the Iran folder under OPLAN (Ruhayyat) 1433H-1.doc.

    http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2013/01/24/britam-defence-hacked-confidential-documents-leaked-site-offline/

  24. Jessica says:

    In our funding and supplying of weapons, training, intellegence, combined with the seemingly endless supply of war-mongering drummers, we have contributed to the death toll in Syria. If it was true, that we cared about civilian deaths, all of that nonsense should have stopped before it began. And to act as if outside “intervention” will stem the rising death toll, to make such hay over a still-disputed amount of dead (even if it were the upper end, it would be a fraction of the accumulative deaths to date) when in reality, foreign intervention will increase the number of casualties exponentially – I just don’t even know what to call it. I almost can’t even follow this story, it is such a disaster.

    The collapse of the anti-war left is pitiful, yet instructive. Where are the thousands upon thousands (10s of? 100s of? I don’t want to be guilty of inflating numbers to support my position.) who physically protested the Iraq war? (The comparison of pending wars is not exact, but the current threat is still immoral.) The only conclusion I can reach is that those who opposed the war when Bush was president were doing so for partisan reasons, wittingly or not, which frankly is more disturbing than one who genuinely and transparently supports a war on it’s own (purported) merits. (Which I’m certainly not endorsing. The latter is very disturbing.)

    I vacillate between which is more destructive to the prospective of peace: a republican as president, who is (perhaps) more likely to go to war but will hesitate due to a vocal opposition from the left, or a democrat as president, who (perhaps) is less likely to go to war but faces nearly ZERO opposition from all sides. I lean more towards the latter.

    It is disheartening and discouraging. And, in light of how pernicious is the state’s spying apparatus, the chilling-effect has worked it’s magic, if only in my more paranoid moments.

    I’m grateful, at least, to have a few like-minded people out in the interwebs, who will read and/or politely tolerate my venting – without getting “USA USA USA” as the counter arguement.

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    No one succumbs to propaganda about their alleged low level of testosterone faster than the Democrats. Since at least little Harry Truman, it’s worked like a charm for hard right wingers: the McCarthy era excesses were fully bipartisan, just as the “anti-terrorism” excesses are today. Mr. Obama seems especially malleable; he seems as incapable of fighting such propaganda as he is unable to negotiate without giving away the store.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @orionATL: Good question. I haven’t read answers to them. If chemical weapons were used, who used them, who made them, who supplied them, who trained the Syrians in their use?

  27. P J Evans says:

    @JohnT:
    That’s – interesting. In a horrifying way. It would set up a false-flag gas attack, as an excuse to get involved.

    Can we send these guys to the Hague, before they start another damned war?

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