Quote-of-the-day mailing list
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: qotd: Off topic: On Syria
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2013 06:05:47 -0700
From: Don McCanne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <email@example.com>
Note: Today's message is not on the topic of a single payer national
health program. Rather it is on the broader topic of health: Health of
the people of Syria; health of society - nationally and internationally.
It is a plea for us to promote a healthy world society - for war is not
healthy for children and other living things.
Carnegie Middle East Center
August 28, 2013
Bracing for Impact in Syria
By Paul Salem
After two years of virtual inaction on Syria, the administration of U.S.
President Barack Obama appears on the verge of launching a direct
military strike on key Syrian military sites following a chemical
weapons attack by the Assad regime. The imminent and much-discussed
strike should deter Syria from repeat use of chemical weapons but is
unlikely to be a game changer in the course of the Syrian conflict.
The U.S. administration has said that the attack would be a response to
the use of chemical weapons; regime change would not be the aim. Obama
feels the need to act to protect the global nonproliferation regime and
prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, but he does not want to
get dragged into the long Syrian conflict. The exceptionally tough
language that has come from high administration officials might provide
a way for Obama to amplify the attack's importance, get it done quickly,
and then put it behind him.
The attack would not tie in directly to Washington's longer-term Syrian
strategy to strengthen the moderate elements in the Syrian opposition
and, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and others, to
train and strengthen the rebel Free Syrian Army. That process might take
many months or years to bear fruit. The strike might weaken the regime
somewhat, but is unlikely to dramatically alter the balance of power.
Meanwhile, the rebel-held areas in Syria are dominated by radical
Islamist forces that the United States and Syria's neighbors Israel,
Jordan, and Turkey do not favor. Some key U.S. allies—particularly
Israel and Jordan—have serious fears that if Assad loses Damascus
tomorrow, the radicals will be on their borders. So for Washington, it
is important that the Assad regime not collapse too quickly. Rather, the
goal is to temper the violence, de-escalate the conflict, and press the
regime to join political talks sometime in the near future.
If talks fail, and if strengthening the moderate rebels eventually
succeeds, the United States could become more serious about toppling the
Assad regime. In the meantime, Washington might have a preference for
upholding the basic status quo between the regime and the rebels,
provided the regime refrains from using weapons of mass destruction and
ratchets down its assaults on civilians—actions that trigger
international action and cause destabilizing refugee flows.
The Syrian regime appears to be bracing for the attack. Because of the
ample warning time, it presumably has moved whatever personnel and
matériel it can out of the way of expected targets. The attack is likely
to involve cruise missiles launched from naval units already positioned
in the eastern Mediterranean and to target airfields, chemical plants,
and other military or official command and control centers. The
expectation among local media is that the attack will last for a few
days (or nights)—enough to damage but not seriously cripple the regime.
Some Western powers might join in the operation, but the involvement of
regional powers might be constrained in order to avoid direct regional
Regime officials have been full of bluster, but they are likely to
absorb the blow and not respond or retaliate in a major way. Syria does
not have the capacity to intercept cruise missiles or other advanced
weaponry that the United States might deploy. And if the regime can't
avoid the attack, it will simply hope the United States will get it over
with and go home. Retaliation or escalation would just spur the United
States to become more engaged in war in Syria, which is not at all in
the regime's interest. Washington has largely ignored the conflict for
two years; the regime would like to return to that condition.
Furthermore, the regime's options for retaliation are limited. It could
attack Israel, or get its ally Hezbollah to do so, but that would only
invite a large-scale Israeli attack, which neither Syria nor Hezbollah
wants. Contemplating direct retaliation against U.S. forces in Jordan or
the Gulf is unrealistic, and U.S. troops have already left nearby Iraq.
If Turkey or Arab states do not join in the attack, Syria would not have
sufficient warrant to retaliate against them.
So the regime is likely to limit its response to making much political
hay and denouncing the U.S. attack. Its regional and international
allies—particularly Iran and Russia—will likely join in the criticism.
The regime will say that the attack proves that the Syrian rebellion is
an "American-Zionist-Salafi" plot, and Damascus's allies will decry the
violation of international law and sovereignty, highlighting the
inevitable destruction, loss of life, and "collateral damage."
The Syrian regime will survive and will go back to trying to consolidate
its hold on the capital and the central and western parts of the country
that it controls. The rebels, meanwhile, will continue to hold much of
the north and east of the country as well as Deraa in the south, and
they will continue to fight within the capital.
Although the attack might cause enough heat to create momentum for the
convocation of a Geneva II meeting in the fall, the Syrian conflict
seems fated to go on for several more years. The regime is content to
hunker down in its areas of influence and is not interested in
negotiating with the rebels; and the rebels are too divided and
generally too radical to contemplate or be able to enter serious
The imminent U.S. attack might be necessary to deter the use of chemical
weapons in the future. But it is unlikely to dramatically change the
course of the Syrian conflict.
The War Prayer
by Mark Twain
Editor's note (from The Religious Society of Friends): Outraged by
American military intervention in the Philippines, Mark Twain wrote this
and sent it to Harper's Bazaar. This women's magazine rejected it for
being too radical, and it wasn't published until after Mark Twain's
death, when World War I made it even more timely. It appeared in
Harper's Monthly, November 1916.
It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up
in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of
patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols
popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand
and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a
fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young
volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new
uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts
cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by;
nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory
which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they
interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears
running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors
preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles
beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence
which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and
the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and
cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and
angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank
out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the
front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young
faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the
gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight
of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the
surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored,
submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear
ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no
sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for
the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service
proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first
prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the
building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and
beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation
God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and
lightning thy sword!
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it
for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of
its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us
all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and
encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the
day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make
them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to
crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable
honor and glory --
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up
the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed
in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair
descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face
unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him
and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to
the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the
preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer,
and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,
"Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and
Protector of our land and flag!"
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which
the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he
surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an
uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!"
The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he
gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your
shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His
messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its
full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it
asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and
"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and
taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other
not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the
spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would
beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke
a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing
of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly
praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain
and can be injured by it.
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I
am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that
part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed
silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You
heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is
sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those
pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed
for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow
victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening
spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth
me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go
forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also
go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our
shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of
their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the
shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their
humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of
their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out
roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their
desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames
of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with
travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for
our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives,
protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their
way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their
wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source
of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are
sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak!
The messenger of the Most High waits!"
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because
there was no sense in what he said.
Comment: War is always wrong.
We are observing from afar the atrocities of war. So our response is...
more atrocities of war.
War is always wrong.