tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera November 4, 2015 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
"ali velshi on target" is next. i'll see you back here tomorrow. tomorrow. >> i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight, solving syria. i'm looking at the real reason america is putting 50 special forces trooms on th troops on t. how the styles of george w. bush an barack obama led to infringements on your civil liberties. >> syria's war lays bare, a
small contingent of u.s. special forces to back democrat forces on the ground fighting i.s.i.l. defense secretary ash carter says it's to take raqqa. if you ask what can 50 force he do to turn an already messy conflict, the answer is nothing. but the real reason for u.s. announcement, the answer is debatable. a lot has changed in just one month and the violence is growing. russia is now bombing the rebels. the u.s. is still bombing i.s.i.l. and turkey is bombing the kurds. the kurds have gained ground against i.s.i.l. i.s.i.l. has gan gauged ground against syrian government forces. into this mess the u.s. is sending special forces to assist
a select group of rebels. u.s. insists these forces will help the rebels against i.s.i.l, if you need proof that syria's civil war has already turned into a proxy war you need only look at the list of countries participating in last week's syrian peace talks in vienna. representatives from the united states, russia, turkey, saudi arabia and the big news iran for first time ever all got together to debate syria's future in vienna. but the bigger influences nobody cared the highlight the fact that the syrians themselves were not invited to their own peace talks. meanwhile, president obama still subscribes the twin pillar, defeat i.s.i.l. and continue to underpipeline bashar al-assad. but russian military is revealing how contradictory
obama's policy is. either way, america is involved in syria's war and the president needs to come up with a more realistic policy for solving syria. while we wait for that to happen, russia is taking the initiative and proposing its own diplomatic solution. barnaby phillips last this report. >> reporter: on state television in syria president assad's soldiers were celebrating. they've apparently regained control of a vital route into the city of aleppo. pushing back i.s.i.l. fighters, that captured it last month. meanwhile, in moscow, more clarity on where russia, president assad's most important ally would like the diplomacy to go from here. >> translator: we need to agree on two lists. the first list of the terrorist organizations which will not be covered by a ceasefire which we hope will be agreed upon at some point and the second list is the
opposition group that will negotiate with the government under the auspices of the u.n. >> in london i complete the leader of the syrian national coalition, which is backed by the west, several arab countries and turkey. he said he knew flog about a meeting in mostly cloudy -- knew knowinnothing about a meeting in moscow. >> in order to relaunch a political process with russia or other sides they have to end their occupation with syria, stop killing the innocent people in syria and commit to geneva communique. >> there's no dialogue no contact between you and the russians? >> after the intervention the only communication with the russians is fighting in order to liberate our country. >> the vienna talks have brought together the most important powers involved in the syrian
conflict. so is the syrians confident that support its demand that president assad should step down immediately? >> all of our allies have the same position. they did not change their position. >> you sure about that? >> i'm sure about that. we are talking with with our ou. i'm here with turkey, france, u.k, united states, their position is very clear that assad has to step down. and he has no role in the future of syria. >> reporter: back in syria more bloodshed. this was duma, attacked by national forces, local forces say at least 12 people killed dozens injured. wig diplomatibig diplomatic issues remain, barnaby phillips,
>> president obama has ordered up to 50 u.s. special forces into northern syria to advise and assist rebel groups fighting i.s.i.l. more than four years in syria's war has become so complex that we need to take a second to review all the parties fighting there as well as who from the region and the world is backing them. well the syrian government led by president bashar al-assad has been fighting to hold onto power since 2011 when popular demonstrations broke out calling him to step down. assad's government has received strong military back from iran and now the russian air force,
the government is fighting syrian rebels up to 100 factions at last count and depending on which parks we're ge talking ab, the are getting direct support from iran, russia, united states, nusra has made itself a target of u.s. air strikes from time to time. i.s.i.l. on the other hand is opposed by all the parties i've just mentioned including nusra. in 2013, i.s.i.l. fighters crossed into syria from iraq and declared an islamic state which now extends into both countries. since 2014 the u.s. has led air strikes against i.s.i.l. targets in the region and finally we have the syrian kurds fighting for autonomy, but at all times they are taking the fight to
i.s.i.l. making syria's kurds a national ally for the united states. and complicating that is the hostility that the kurds receive from turkey also a u.s. ally. that's because some kurds fighting the government from turkey have crossed intro syria to fight i.s.i.l. if you are confused you're not alone. with so much at stake in terms of regional stability in the middle east should the u.s. be doing more in syria? emma ashford says absolutely not. she's a research foal i fellow e cato institute. you say the u.s. made a big mistake sending more troops into syria. what is your biggest concern? >> my biggest concern is this is
the first iteration of continuing u.s. presence in syria. this is a classic example of mission creep. those troops even if they are successful in their limited mission, can only pave the way for more troops. that can be bad for all involved. >> the fact that it wasn't in the u.s. sphere of influence mattered less. a vacant government, an afghanistan like situation an iraq like situation in which there is no strong central government proves to be remarkable breeding ground for groups that want to launch terror attacks against the u.s. does the u.s. have to make syria -- does it have to bring syria into its sphere of influence considering it has a weak central government now? >> i think we have to try and resolve the syrian conflict and i think even senior u.s. policy makers even john kerry is saying they don't want the assad regime to collapse. i think this is the flaw of the u.s. strategy for last several years, they've been saying assad
wants to go, kind of want to get rid of assad but we are concerned with instability. you can't have both. >> the united states has never actually -- i think there are a few tiny little countries where the u.s. has succeeded in advocating for regime change and thethen successfully seeing a government govern. you heard barnaby phillips story. what about assad must go? >> the alternative is assad must go eventually. we negotiate a position, to move assad personally to other members of his regime. he himself is poisonous and can't stay but we could incorporate part of the baath party, if we manage to do that, there is a chance that would be more successful.
>> all right so along those lines, the ultimate goal of putting the 50 u.s. troops on the ground is to test the waters in a way and attempt to build a multiethnic syrian coalition to coordinate with these kurdish fighters. it's not diplomatic but the military solution of what you just suggested. >> i don't want to sound like a broken record, the problem still remains that we haven't resolved the syrian civil war. there is u.s. conflict against i.s.i.s. in loins to a lot of other nation and then there's the syrian civil war. until we convince rebel groups on the ground that they can't overthrow the assad regime we can't back them against i.s.i.s. as much as they would want to be. a diplomatic solution is the only answer, if we are going to approach the i.s.i.s. situation
militarily. >> i know you know a lot about russia. a month ago russia began air attacks in the support of assad government. you received them to putin's syrian misadventure. do you still see it that way? >> yes i do. i firmly believe that syria -- russia's involvement in syria has as much to do with russian domestic politics than it has to do with any geopolitical chess game. putin's ratings at home were slipping, he's losing the war in ukraine and he has to do something that looks good at home. sending fighters to prop you the assad regime, showing russia coming to the aid of its friends looks really good for the domestic audience. it's not great for the strategic russia.
russia was previously involved under the soviet union in afghanistan. ended in them withdrawing in complete and utter disarray. i think that's why russia hasn't committed much in the waive ground troops this time. some artillery troops, but mostly air strikes and artillery. i think you're right it's the afghanistan effect. >> your point, let's take your point about a diplomatic solution. what do you think about the meeting in vienna nan nah and does it make sense not to have the belligerent parties attend a meeting where you're talking about syria's future? >> it's strange optics. holding it at the hotel imperial too didn't help either. the largest problem is between these third party countries. between iran and saudi arabia, between russia and the u.s.
those groups can't even agree on who within syria is a reputable pattern that they can talk to. other parties, like qatar, getting together ail the outside parties to decide who they think should be included in future peace talks might actually be a smart move. >> emma, good to talk to you. thank you so much for joining us. emma ashford is a visiting color at thascholar at cato institute. what both did to national security after 9/11 about fter 9/11 about >> tough that the country gave up on me. >> look at the trauma... every day is torture. >> this is our home. >> nobody should have to live like this. >> we made a promise to these heroes...
>> president obama has been a major disappointment to many civil liberties advocates. they expected his election would mean an end to policies launched during george w. bush's war on terror. and dick cheney's assertion of executive power, justified many of their policies. they include warrantless phone and internet surveillance, drone strikes, indefinitely detention at guantanamo bay. but aside from ending torture president obama did not significantly change the course
set by bush and cheney. as edward snoa edward snowden pe obama administration didn't justify its actions by claiming that a president during war time has the right to act like a king and do whatever necessary to protect his people. instead the obama team relied on sophisticated legal arguments to continue bush-era policies with only slight changes. don't forget that obama is a lawyer while bush and cheney were ceos and the role of lawyers shaping national security policy helps explain a man that helped personal privacy protection took a turn that many are deeply troubled by. power wars, charlie savage, i asked him whether it's fair to
say obama broke a campaign promise. >> as obama started to gofn, he wagovern,he was going to close e know after edward snowden he kept a surveillance that was vast. in some ways he betrayed the promises of his campaign rhetoric that he was going to change the war on terrorism. his people though would push back against that. part of what i'm doing in this book is going behind the scenes to one of these legal dilemmas after another after another. what is happening to this world that people are talking about. why it's important to pay attention to the lawyering and when we know about obama from that perspective. one of the things that arises this is an extremely lawyerly administration, putting
constraints and recognizing source he of power, power that they're going to exercise. and in hindsight now we see something that was not as clear at the time during the bush years ago. that there were two different strands of criticism among the left and some on the right of what bush and dick cheney were doing after 9/11. there was a civil liberties critique and one of law. the civil liberties said the state shouldn't have the right to put someone on trial in the military court without the associated rights. >> and the legal argument says you don't have the right to as opposed to you shouldn't be. >> maybe this is is the right policy but, on the rule of law critique, when congress passes statutes in the second term of the bush administration and early obama to authorize rather than forbid these things, i'm not acting like bush.
aacting like bush means breaking the law. this is now law. >> the net effect for every american may not be any different. some of the surveillance takes place, some of the national security activities take place but this administration, this lawyerly administration of obama has created a construct within which it's legal. that was arguable about the bush administration. >> i mean, it's a sort of striking way to put it. i think they would argue well, there's more oversight now, you have judges looking what's going on, there's not going to be abuses. but in some essential way what you're saying is correct. this disconnect arises, aclu, and -- >> you are a civil libertarian, these are bad in both ways but both bad. >> you find a lot to criticize. part of the great question was people expected obama to change these things and they maybe overthought what was going to change.
they thought we weren't going to do military commissions at all anymore, we weren't going to have warrantless surveillance at all anymore. >> what they got was they were not going to do these things without a completely airtight construction around them. >> a conservative republican administration who both say the post-9/11 world needs this stuff. drained the controversy, normalized them, entrenched them, this is what it's like diagnose forward. part of what i did with this book is sort of figure out how we got here. we are talking in generalities here. it is your responsibility now and you're dealing with this, one after another after although you see why this added up to what became the obama administration. >> you build a thorough book tharnd detroiaround that detroio
tried to blow up his underpants. the idea that dick cheney was really into gathering and preserving some of the authority of the president, he had been into this for many years as a white house staffer, congressman and the bush cheney administration felt they wanted to possess certain executive officer authority that had been drained from the executive office. the obama administration didn't see things that way. so it wasn't about the net result about whether somebody can gather information from my phone. it's who has the authority to make the decision and under what legal authority do they collect this information. >> i think that's right. i mean i would be even more charitable to dick cheney, it wasn't just that they wanted that power for themselves. they wanted that power for white house going forward for all future presidents, for future president barack obama it opportunity out because they felt the executive in the modern world needed more authority to protect ourselves in a complicated dangerous world.
coming out of the '70s part of the history there's nothing like that in barack obama, joe biden, hillary clinton, they weren't coming out of the postwater gate church era, and yet they end up entrenching some of those things, not the notion that the president as commander in chief can routinely violate statutes. we are not acting like them -- >> joe biden barack obama, hillary clinton all lawyers. >> indeed. >> compared to an administration of ceos. one of the interesting undercurrents in your book is the laws that we have to deal with terrorism, to deal with national security threats were written at a time when there were state conflicts. conflicts between states. we now have stateless actors, we now have countries that are ungoverned or with very, very weak central governments. and that poses a whole set of challenges that our laws are really not up to date enough to
handle. >> you're hitting on something that is one of the reasons i wanted to write this book and one of the reasons i hoped the readers will find fascinating the stuff i find fascinating. even when you have an administration that takes the law serials, justifies what they're doing, they will disagree with themselves about what is the correct legal interpretation all the time. and the reason for that is that over and over again, we see right now the rules that the society has built for sphainlts fosurveillance, for war, were nt written for this time, it has nothing to do with the internet yet they are trying to apply what the government can do under the system to this new technology. they're applying to a nonstate actor that goes around to bad lands with there are no governments and no hot beds.
if there are fascinating pu fass about this. >> for all the criticism of president bush, president bush has not authorized the killing of an american without due processing. this has now happened four times in the obama administration. how do they defend that? >> i want to correct two things. i'm not a lawyer. something i'm not. they authorize the killing of one american, anwar alalaki. the strike in september of 2011 that is the fascinating one. you're right george w. bush never as far as we know, his administration never deliberately set out to hunt down and kill an american abroad. this is a response to the
administration, when they had an incredible dilemma, an american hiding in a place where there was no government, coming up with the december underwear bombing in 2009, what do you do in that circumstance? it is one of the most fraught chapters i have. the fallout and the secrecy that they continued to impose over this incredibly interesting precedent that they had set for years not wanting to talk about it even though they were holding themselves to be the most transparent in history. that is clearly going to be one of the core legacies of the obama administration, and this fraught era in which it governed. it doesn't mean though that necessarily what it did was wrong but it certainly is worthy of great scrutiny. >> power wars. that's the book. the news continues on al jazeera america. america.
>> on "america tonight." transgender in texas. the fight over rights that led to a bathroom door and the challenges faced even those in transition at 12. >> i think social transition is the the hardest part. the physical part can be changed by hormone blockers or testosterone or estrogen. all that can be changed. if you can tell a friend and they don't want to be friends with you, there's basically