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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


“Obama was asking for a do-over to fix his previous policies in Syria.” The ever-shrinking “left” wing of the Congressional Black Caucus crumbled last week, an early casualty of the new phase of President Obama’s three-year war for regime in change in Syria. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, to which 24 of the Black lawmakers belong, also failed to rally against a Democratic president’s war plans.

The lop-sided House vote was not on whether to authorize Obama to launch attacks against targets in Syria; the White House claims the president is acting within his powers as commander-in-chief, and needs no OK from the Congress. Instead, the administration sought a general demonstration of approval for Obama’s scheme to train and arm so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. A vote on the $500 million price tag comes later, after the November elections.

In essence, Obama was asking for a do-over, to fix his previous policies in Syria. The United States and its Arab, Turkish, European and, reportedly, Israeli allies have, in fact, been arming and training rebels to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad since at least 2011. They have failed, despite having spent mountains of money to subsidize a kaleidoscope of armed groups, each vying for Islamic fundamentalist authenticity and the privilege to slaughter Shiites, Christians, secularists, apostate Sunni Muslims and backsliders of all kinds. It also turned out – to the administration’s apparent surprise – that these jihadists don’t see themselves as mere foot soldiers under an American chain of command. In fact, the best fighters think of the United States as the “Great Satan” – an opinion widely shared in that part of the world. With the rise of the head-chopping champions of ISIS, Obama had no choice but to ask Congress to give him another chance to scour the region in search of that most elusive of men, the “moderate” Syrian rebel, and turn him into a killing machine that can defeat both the Syrian government and ISIS.

Blank Check for Expanded War Back in 2006, after three years of failure in Iraq, George W. Bush agreed to a timetable for withdrawal from that country. He had little choice, because the Congress was in no mood to continue his war. But last week President Obama, by a vote of 273 to 156, was allowed a second throw of the dice in what may turn out to be an even larger war in Syria and Iraq and who knows where else. The reason that Obama’s wars have such longer shelf-life, is that Democrats will not oppose him, including such luminaries of the Caucus left wing as John Conyers and Maxine Waters, who were among the 23 Black members who gave the president a blank check, last week.

Barbara Lee, the California congresswoman who joined 16 other Black lawmakers in opposing Obama’s new-and-improved war in the Middle East, said, on the House floor: “The consequences of this vote, whether it's written in the amendment or not, will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war.” There is also another consequence: the total discrediting of a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have abandoned the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com and sign up for free email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Below is a breakdown of the CBC vote on September 17 on arming and training Syrian rebels.

Yes
23

  • Karen Bass (CA)
  • Joyce Beatty (OH)
  • Sanford Bishop (GA)
  • Corrine Brown (FL)
  • G. K. Butterfield (NC)
  • Andre Carson (IN)
  • William Lacy Clay (MO)
  • James Clyburn (SC)
  • John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
  • Keith Ellison (MN)
  • Chaka Fattah (PA)
  • Al Green (TX)
  • Steven Horsford (NV)
  • Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
  • Hank Johnson (GA)
  • Gregory Meeks (NY)
  • Cedric Richmond (LA)
  • Robert Scott (VA)
  • David Scott (GA)
  • Terri Sewell (AL)
  • Marc Veasey (TX)
  • Maxine Waters (CA)
  • Frederica Wilson (FL)
No
17

  • Yvette Clarke (NY)
  • Emanuel Cleaver (MO)
  • Elijah Cummings (MD)
  • Danny Davis (IL)
  • Donna Edwards (MD)
  • Marcia Fudge (OH)
  • Alcee Hastings (FL)
  • Hakeem Jeffries (NY)
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
  • Robin Kelly (IL)
  • Barbara Lee (CA)
  • John Lewis (GA)
  • Gwen Moore (WI)
  • Donald Payne Jr. (NJ)
  • Charles Rangel (NY)
  • Bobby Rush (IL)
  • Bennie Thompson (MS)

 


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