9-22: Who Is in Charge?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece, which comes from various places.]

With regard to the U.S. bombing of regulars in the Syrian army last week it seems several scabs have been scratched.

On the World Socialist Web Site we find:

“Everything suggests that the attack…… was deliberately committed by forces inside the US government hostile to the ceasefire….Claims that US fighters were unaware of who they were bombing are simply not credible, and are flatly contradicted by other accounts in the media…”
— Alex Lantier

The Smirking Chimp headline roars:

Rogue Mission: Did the Pentagon Bomb Syrian Army to Kill Ceasefire Deal?

This provocative, bold-faced question begs another: who is in charge of U.S. military affairs, the White House or the Department of Defense?

The Chimp’s Mike Whitney says,

A rift between the Pentagon and the White House turned into open rebellion on Saturday when two US F-16s and two A-10 warplanes bombed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions at Deir al-Zor killing at least 62 Syrian regulars and wounding 100 others. The US has officially taken responsibility for the incident which it called a “mistake”, but the timing of the massacre has increased speculation that the attack was a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to derail the fragile ceasefire and avoid parts of the implementation agreement that Pentagon leaders publicly opposed. Many analysts now wonder whether the attacks are an indication that the neocon-strewn DOD is actively engaged in sabotaging President Obama’s Syria policy, a claim that implies that the Pentagon is led by anti-democratic rebels who reject the Constitutional authority of the civilian leadership (emphasis added). Saturday’s bloodletting strongly suggests that a mutiny is brewing at the War Department.

This is a claim not to be taken lightly by any of us. Our history was forged on the principle that the supreme leader, so to speak, must be a civilian; our future as a democratic state depends on it.

The world is watching.

The chasm that’s emerged between the Pentagon warhawks and the more conciliatory members of the Obama administration has drawn criticism from leading media outlets in the US (The New York Times) to high-ranking members in the Russian cabinet. On Saturday, at an emergency press conference at the United Nations, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin referred to the apparent power struggle that is taking place in Washington with these blunt comments:

“The big question that has to be asked is ‘Who is in charge in Washington? Is it the White House or the Pentagon?’ …Because we have heard comments from the Pentagon which fly in the face of comments we have heard from Obama and Kerry…”

The old adage about political differences ending at our shores apparently does not hold sway anymore. The current argumentative state of presidential debate does nothing to assuage this condition. The New York Times reported on the incident, saying that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

“was among the administration officials who pushed against the (ceasefire) agreement … although President Obama ultimately approved the effort … at the Pentagon, officials would not even agree that if a cessation of violence in Syria held for seven days — the initial part of the deal — the Defense Department would put in place its part of the agreement on the eighth day…

“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.” (“Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon“, New York Times)

Food for Thought

(Whitney) Think about that for a minute: Lt. General Harrigian appears to be saying that he may not follow an order from the Commander in Chief if it’s not to his liking. When exactly did military leaders start to believe that orders are optional or that the DOD had a role to play in policymaking?

This is serious stuff, folks. Let’s hope the subject comes up in next week’s debate. It certainly wasn’t broached in the so-called Commander-in-Chief Forum hosted by Matt Lauer.

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