Obama’s Trust in Our Enemies Could Kill Us

Punish Syria for using chemical weapons, President Barack Hussein Obama cried. Any resolution in Syria must include the removal of Assad, he insisted. Supporting the opposition was his strategy.

If blathering were a sport, the president would be world champion. And if using thoughtful common sense were a prerequisite for being Commander in Chief of the only world super power, Obama has failed out of the gate.

Instead of punishment, Vladimir Putin came to Assad’s aid with regard to Obama’s threats of military action, and now 49 percent of raw materials for chemical weapons in Syria have been removed. Had Obama had his way and perpetrated a military strike, there would be blood and bone strewn about and all chemical weapons materials would still be in Syria.

If the U.S. had armed and then trained the Syrian opposition there would be a very good likelihood that our recent Al Qaeda enemies, some fresh from Club Gitmo, would have been the beneficiaries. Now they just get logistical support from us.

Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey January 2, 2014. Picture taken January 2, 2014.     REUTERS/Yaser Al-Khodor

Insisting upon the removal of a sovereign head-of-state while he deals with a civil war smacks of neo-colonialism. At least in Iraq the U.S. enjoyed a unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolution and 39 countries signed on to go in with us. Syria could well have been President Obama’s Bay of Pigs, with his “red line” nonsense, especially considering Syria is supported by Russia, Iran and China.

Remembering that in the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) Assad provided the Coalition with the Syrian 9th Armored Division and a Special Forces Regiment to oppose Saddam Hussein in the liberation of Kuwait is far from Obama’s recollections, as well as from the memories of the mainstream media and most Americans. How soon we forget who our friends and allies were now that public opinion, shaped by the liberal media and an even more liberal Obama administration, has swung against the military and political actions of said Syrian former ally.

If we look at the slew of Arab teammates who helped perpetrate war against the rogue Hussein (Saddam, not Barack for those of you keeping score), we find Saudi Arabia (Islamist misogynists), Kuwait (same), Qatar (yup), United Arab Emirates (uh, huh), Oman (yes), and Egypt (not so much), all gave blood and treasure to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.

Where are they now when the fire is again in their back yard, or at least in their neighbor’s back yard? Perhaps they are doing what we should be doing – letting the Islamists in Syria attrition themselves into extinction. And then, when there’s nothing left, do business again with Assad, their brother.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, left, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. The Russian ITAR-Tass news agency on Wednesday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that Syria told Russian officials the material it handed over shows "rebels participating in the chemical attack" but that Russia has not yet drawn any conclusions. Syria has turned over materials to Russia which aim to show that a chemical weapons attack last month was carried out by rebels, a top Russian diplomat visiting Damascus and a Syrian official said Wednesday. Credit: AP

There is an old Arab saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Not in the case of Syria if Assad is our enemy. And if Assad is our enemy, what (or who) changed that between 1991 and 2011?

Islamists engaged in the Syrian conflict against Assad are not much different than Al Qaeda in Iraq; opportunistic “foreigners” trying to score credibility points by taking out “bad boy” Assad. It’s a bit cannibalistic, but leave no doubt that for us to get involved with any of the opposition factions is tantamount to playing the amphibian to the Islamist arachnida in the old proverb, “The Scorpion and the Frog:”

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out. But in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

It is the nature of Al Qaeda and other Islamists to sting the frog, killing them both if necessary, for, according to one version of the parable the scorpion replies after the drowning frog protests, “it is better that we both should perish than that my enemy should live.” This is the common sense reason why we should never ally ourselves with those who would just as soon kill us as look at us.

Why then cannot the scorpions fight the king scorpion, Assad? Why involve the frog at all? Because the frog is prey.

Obama is being devoured by his own naïveté, and now by the wolves (Russia and Iran) as well as the Syrian opposition scorpions. And heck, all he did was offer them a ride across the stream, right? Ever hear Leo Durocher say, “Nice guys finish last?” Obama apparently has not.

(Photo credit: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

So, Putin has his way with Crimea and Egypt (signed an arms deal with Egypt while the world – and Obama – were distracted by the Olympics), the Mullahs have their way with nukes in Iran, and Assad plays carrot with Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In the mean time, Assad waits him out, watching as the opposition scorpions keep trying to convince Obama to take them across the stream. Assad is supported by the Russians, who havemore reason than ever to thumb their nose at the U.S. (economic sanctions over the Crimea/Ukraine situation). Assad is supported by Hezbollah and the Iranians, and still apparently enjoys some gravitas from Arab neighbors due to Assad’s ganging up on fellow Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm.

Assad played that card to prevent Israel from taking advantage of Iraq’s instability and invading Syria during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Assad eventually gained approval from Syrians for that move, and bought himself twenty years of relative peace.

If he’s not careful, in the end, which is neigh, Obama will be left drowning in the middle of a stream, asking “why?” as his muscles turn to stone and his lungs fill with water. My question is, if that happens, where does it leave the rest of us?

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

 

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Chemical Exposure and Gulf War Syndrome: Forgotten Illnesses, Forgotten Warriors?

I remember ramping up for the First Gulf War as a combat medic with the 102nd Medical Battalion, “Fighting” 69th Infantry Regiment, 42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard out of Manhattan, N.Y., back in 1990-1991.

I was helping teach a Combat Lifesaver course to the non-medical personnel in my unit and from other 69th units. The supply weenies (endearing term) were taking our measurements for “popcorn” desert camouflage uniforms, and our vehicles were being painted sand colors from their woodland camouflage pallet of black, green and brown.

Everyone thought there would be a protracted war with the Iraqis. They had entrenched themselves along the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti borders and were holding their elite combat units in reserve. A classic, conventional defense that would prove a tough nut to crack, or so we thought. We were preparing for a drawn out and bloody trench war. Also, since Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against the Iranians in the nearly decade long Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and against his own Iraqi Kurds, we trained heavily and seriously for chemical warfare, including treatment and care of chemical casualties and decontamination techniques.

U.S. soldiers pose in their chemical suits. Photo Credit: Veterans Today.

U.S. soldiers pose in their chemical suits. Photo Credit: Veterans Today.

Before my unit got orders for mobilization, the war had begun and then ended 10 days later. Victory was swift and decisive, with few U.S. casualties that weren’t self-inflicted.

It took months and then years for stories of strange illnesses, later tagged as Gulf War Syndrome, to filter into the conversations of the reserve military medical circles I ran in. Several soldiers and officers I later served with in the 356th Field Hospital and then the 4220th U.S. Army Hospital (U.S. Army Reserve units) out of Rocky Point, Long Island, N.Y., who served in the Gulf War, talked about symptoms of unexplained headaches, body aches, lack of concentration, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems.

I remember reading about a hypothesis in a study in the Military Surgeon’s periodical that said the syndrome could have been caused by the consumption of diet cola sweetened with aspartame – heated above 84 degrees Fahrenheit in storage facilities prior to being served to troops, turning the artificial sweetener into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde poisoning was the guess. By the way, your body turns the aspartame into formaldehyde as well, which binds to some bodily tissues.

I read other studies and reports that pointed to exposure to nerve agent spread from demolition of an Iraqi chemical weapons plant proximate to U.S. troops, and destruction of a chemical weapons storage facility by U.S. troops. Still other guesses included biological infestations, exposure to mysterious airborne desert particles and smoke from the over 700 burning oil wells, set fire by retreating Iraqi forces.

U.S. Marines walk near burning oil fields in Iraq. Photo Credit: U.S. Marines Space Corps.

U.S. Marines walk near burning oil fields in Iraq. Photo Credit: U.S. Marines Space Corps.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs now lists over a dozen potential causes of illnesses associated with service in the First Gulf War. The VA offers a “free Gulf War Registry health examfor possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service.”

Now I read that “medical experts cannot agree on a definition of the illness,” which adds to the stigma associated with complaints from nearly one third of all who served in that war.

The skepticism surrounding the illness has waned, but a definitive treatment is elusive due to the varying symptoms and lack of concrete evidence pointing to a cause. My gut instinct from stories I’ve heard and personal conversations with those who served in the First Gulf War is exposure to chemical nerve agent, which affects the central nervous system. These agents are persistent, which means they are oil based and therefore can be absorbed into human tissue. These symptoms can manifest as an allergic reaction, either mild or severe.

There is legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2510, which would address chemical exposure in veterans from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, but since it was introduced in Congress last June it has not been brought to a vote.

U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Afghanistan Feb. 4. A judge recently dismissed 57 lawsuits filed by military personnel who said they were injured by toxic fumes from the pits. Photo Credit: Reuters

U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Afghanistan Feb. 4. A judge recently dismissed 57 lawsuits filed by military personnel who said they were injured by toxic fumes from the pits. Photo Credit: Reuters

The bill instructs the Department of Defense to “create three burn pit centers of excellence to research, diagnose, and treat veterans who have been exposed to these toxins.” Thousands of veterans, who dutifully established and maintained burn pits under orders, are suffering, some need lung transplants. But the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense are denying long-term care for these dedicated and loyal military servicemen and women.

Please sign the petition and let House Majority Leader, Eric CantorSpeaker of the House John Boehner, and your representatives know you want those who made it home to have every bit of care they deserve, whether or not what ails them can be easily diagnosed. It is all of our responsibility to care for our wounded warriors.

When they wrote a blank check to their country, they didn’t ask if it would be easy, they knew it could cost them their lives, but no one ever told them if it didn’t they would be ignored.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1