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May 11, 2011

Syrian Army Shells Civilians, Obama Administration Might Slowly Ratchet Up Rhetoric

Remember when we started a war because we were afraid Gadaffi might slaughter civilians? Well, what do we do when the Syrians actually do it?

The Syrian army shelled residential areas in the country's third-largest city Wednesday, sending people fleeing for cover in a sharp escalation in the government's attempts to crush a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad's autocratic rule, according to activists and witnesses.

Heavy tank- and gunfire rocked at least three residential neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, which has seen some of the largest anti-government demonstrations during the seven-week-long uprising.

"There were loud explosions and gunfire from automatic rifles throughout the night and until this morning," a resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals. "The area is totally besieged. We are being shelled."

More than 750 people have been killed in a crackdown on the unrest and thousands of Syrians have been detained, with about 9,000 still in custody, said Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

But fear not! Bill Richardson says some talk might be on the way!

Bill Richardson expects Obama admin to slowly ratchet up rhetoric against Syria but slowness due to lack of Mideast allies being anti-Assad

Well, I'm sure that has the Syrians shaking in their boots!

I'm not saying that a military campaign against Syria would be a great or even good idea at this point but it shows the fecklessness of the Obama administration. If you're going to talk about protecting civilians in Libya, why not Syria? Everything Obama said about Libya applies to Syria....

In the face of the world's condemnation, Gadhafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.

Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime's attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.

Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Gadhafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.

At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gadhafi declared he would show "no mercy" to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

Actually, there are two big differences between Libya and Syria.

The first is we have a far greater interest in seeing regime change in Syria than we ever did in Libya. Syria hosts and supports terrorists groups, has nuclear ambitions and is one of Iran's most important allies. Undoing that is worth the risk of instability that would follow.

Second, as Richardson points out above, there's no international interest in doing anything about Syria. That puts the lie to the idea that Obama created some great international coalition in Libya. He followed Sarkozy and Cameron into Libya and either can't get them to do anything about Syria or he's not really even trying.

Where's this great leadership? Where's the Obama charm that would get other countries to follow us? Syrians dying for their freedom don't even get a speech, just a paper statement a week after business hours on Fridays? "Leading from behind" looks not so much like leadership but a craven attempt to avoid responsibility at all costs.

I admit that just because we can't do everything, doesn't mean we should do nothing. We can't invade Iran or North Korea but that didn't mean we had to take a pass on Iraq. It's precisely because you have to pick your battles carefully that you can't make sweeping pronunciations like a lot of liberals did about some supposed "Responsibility to Protect" and you damn well better be sure when you do play the war card, it's for a vital interest.

Obama simply fails at all of this.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:39 AM

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