NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 31, 2013

In Syria fight, Obama raises questions

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — I had just about finished my coffee by the time Big Freddy showed up so I waved to the waitress for a refill as he scrunched into his side of the booth.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“What’s up is us going solo into that not-so-good night in Syria, and what that’s going to mean for Obama,” Freddy said.

“Well, we don’t know all there is to be known yet,” I said.

“What we know is he’s lost the Brits. France is not going to be far behind, and Germany wants to leave it up to the Security Council,’” Freddy said.

“I was surprised by the Brits’ vote,” I said.

“They did the right thing by taking it, and it turns out ‘No way, Jose’,” Freddy said.

“That was really big, and it’s just as well it did. There was no way Congress would vote on it, even if there was time, because the way public opinion is going, Obama would lose.”

“But delaying counteraction would give those responsible the time to cover their tracks,” I said.

“But there’s a larger question. Why is he insisting on going ahead anyway when there’s so much opposition?”

“Why did Kennedy open the door to Vietnam, and Johnson go through it?” Freddy said. “Why did Bush do the same in Iraq?”

“National self-determination?” I said.

“And they did it without a declaration of war by Congress,,” Freddy said. “We haven’t declared war since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and we’ve been warring like there’s no tomorrow.”

“You’re stretching things,” I said. “All things considered, what just happened in Syria, as awful as it is, wasn’t against us, it was against Syrians.”

“But by using poison gas on innocent men, women, and children,” Freddy said. “That’s an international no-no.”

“Then let the UN deal with it,” I said.

“Too slow,” Freddy said.

“But we don’t have a dog in that fight,” I said.

“But Israel does,” Freddy said. “And when Israel does so do we. Don’t brush that off because Obama and Congress can’t.”

“I don’t,” I said. “I was there after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Syria surprised Israel but lost the Golan Heights. I was over there after that and visited the Heights, and they’re not far from the Syrian border.”

“Well Israel still has them and Syria not only wants them back, it wants Israel gone, and they’re not alone with that,” Freddy said.

“This has been going on since 1948 when Israel was facing six nations, took them on and won. You should look it up.”

“I did, after I came home,” I said. “Lots of hits, lots of wins and lots of taking away from others by Israel.”

“They want Israel gone, and Israelis have to live with the consequences,” Freddy said.

“You think Israelis aren’t taking this gas attack seriously you should look it up, because there’s a major run on gas masks and not enough to go around,” Freddy said. “You wonder why Obama’s been on fast forward to get Syria to back off?”

“But why the stalling by the others?” I asked.

“The vote in Britain says it all. The fallout from that is what Obama has to live with at home. He’s sending a message to Syria and all others: Back off or else. He’d better be right for a lot of reasons. We’re only a year away to the next Congressional election, and the timing for Democrats couldn’t be worse.”

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Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist.