The Obama administration appears to be pressing ahead with military strikes on Syria despite new obstacles at home and abroad. On Wednesday, an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement after Russia and China opposed any authorization of force in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack in Ghouta. Obama administration officials say they now see little point of going through the United Nations. The United Nations is also facing resistance from its closest ally, Britain. After domestic pressure, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will seek parliamentary authorization for using force against Syria, and only after U.N. inspectors complete their current mission. Meanwhile in Washington, the White House plans to brief lawmakers today following growing calls that President Obama seek congressional backing for any use of force.
Speaking Wednesday night to PBS NewsHour, President Obama said the United States has definitively “concluded” the Assad regime used chemical weapons and backed what he called a “tailored, limited” response. Obama said a response is needed not just to prevent future attacks on Syrian civilians, but also to protect U.S. national security.
President Obama: “When you start talking about chemical weapons, in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where, over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they’re allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility, in which chemical weapons, that can have devastating effects, could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that that does not happen.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says U.N. inspectors will wrap up their mission in Syria on Friday and leave the following day. On Wednesday, Ban said any international response to the alleged chemical weapons attack should be decided upon after inspectors complete their probe.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Let them conclude their — complete their work for four days. Then we will have to analyze scientifically by the experts team. Then, I think, we will have to report to the Security Council for any actions which they may deem it to — deem it necessary to take, yes.”
The United States has rejected a Syrian government request that U.N. inspectors extend their mission in Syria, calling it a delay tactic by the Assad regime.
Thousands of people gathered on Washington’s National Mall on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told the crowd that the quest for Dr. King’s call for economic justice continues.
Benjamin Jealous: “As we stand here 50 years after the March on Washington, let us remember that Dr. King’s last march was never finished. The Poor People’s Campaign was never finished. Some 50 years after the March on Washington, while fewer people as a percentage in our country are poor, more as a number in our country are poor. And while the ladder of opportunity extends to the heavens for our people today, more are tethered at the bottom and falling off every day.”
Also addressing the 50th anniversary march, President Obama said a proper commemoration should honor the civil rights movement’s gains while also acknowledging lingering injustice.
President Obama: “But we would dishonor those heroes, as well, to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance.”
The death toll from Wednesday’s violence in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has reached at least 80. Another 250 people were wounded. It was Iraq’s deadliest day this month as the country faces its worst violence in five years.
At least 35 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a series of attacks in Afghanistan. Taliban fighters killed 15 Afghan police officers in an ambush Wednesday night. The Taliban, meanwhile, launched their most elaborate attack on the U.S.-led NATO occupation this year with an attempt to seize a military base in Ghazni province. At least one U.S. soldier was killed, and dozens of Afghans were injured.
Authorities in Russia have raided the home of the country’s leading gay activist as part of a crackdown on LGBT rights. Nikolai Alexeyev says police ransacked his home.
Nikolai Alexeyev: “I would say it was not a raid, but rather a pogrom, because the whole flat has been dug up. You can look here, in the bathroom. There are broken tiles in the bathroom. In the other room, where my mother lives, everything has been thrown out. The balcony has been dug up. Everything has been totally dug up.”
Alexeyev is a leading critic of a new law that allows Russian authorities to fine anyone accused of promoting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” The crackdown has sparked protests around the world with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, Russia.
The Iranian Parliament has approved a measure that would sue the U.S. government for overthrowing Iran’s nationalist government 60 years ago this month. On August 19, 1953, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled in a coup organized by U.S. and British intelligence. Mossadegh was targeted after nationalizing Iran’s oil industry, sidelining the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which later became known as British Petroleum, or BP. The removal of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on U.S. aid and arms. The Iranian vote to sue the United States comes days after the CIA finally admitted to its role in the coup with the release of declassified reports.
Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan has been sentenced to death for killing 13 people, mostly soldiers, and wounding 30 others during a 2009 rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan has said he acted to avenge U.S. attacks on Muslim countries. He committed the rampage just weeks before he was set for deployment to Afghanistan. Hasan becomes the sixth servicemember on the military’s death row. It could be decades before he is put to death.
More details have emerged on the New York City Police Department spy program targeting Muslim Americans. The Associated Press reports the NYPD has labeled entire mosques as terrorist groups in order to use undercover informants that make secret recordings and spy on imams, often without any evidence of wrongdoing. Designating a mosque as a terrorist organization means anyone attending services could be put under investigation and surveillance. At least a dozen “Terrorism Enterprise Investigations” have targeted New York-area mosques since 9/11. Targets of the NYPD’s spying on Muslim Americans filed a federal lawsuit in June, alleging what they call “unconstitutional religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance.” In a statement, the groups Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “[The NYPD] must stop egregious discriminatory policies that single out individuals simply because of how they pray.”
The wife of Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman has been sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to perjury. Shellie Zimmerman admitted she lied about the couple’s finances in court last year, hiding the fact they had raised more than $100,000 in order to secure a lower bond for his release. Attorneys for George Zimmerman, meanwhile, have asked Florida for up to $300,000 to help cover the costs of his legal defense following his acquittal last month.
The United States has carried out its first transfer of Guantánamo Bay prisoners in nearly a year. The Pentagon today announced that Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sayyab have been released to Algeria. The two are among 86 prisoners who have remained at Guantánamo despite being cleared for transfer as early as three years ago. They are the first prisoners to be released since last fall, months before the hunger strike that began in February. According to the Pentagon, 164 prisoners remain at Guantánamo Bay.
Thousands of low-wage workers at fast-food and retail chains nationwide are walking off the job today in what organizers call the largest strike of its kind so far. Workers in some 58 cities are taking part in a pre-Labor Day action for a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize. They plan to picket outside major chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Macy’s. The walkouts follow a series of actions that began last November at fast-food restaurants in New York City. A number of states are seeing fast-food strikes for the first time since the campaign began, including California and scores across the South.