The bovine feces issuing from the Obama Administration regarding its proposed attack on Syria is nauseatingly familiar: ‘this is going to be precise, and limited, and will teach Assad that he shouldn’t use chemical weapons again,’ said one of Obama’s National Security advisers, ‘and degrade his capability to the point that he will conclude that coming to the bargaining table is his best option because if he doesn’t, what he holds dear—his weapons, his army—will be taken from him’ (neverminding the fact that coming to the so-called bargaining table under the conditions set by the United States—that the Assad regime must hand over its power to the opposition—will by that very move lose “what he holds dear;” so what is the incentive to “come to the table"???). It is this kind of stupidity, this kind of logical contradiction that once again fills the airwaves. But let us take things one step at a time.
First, it should be clear: if the United States attacks Syria, it is not a “teachable moment,” or a warning, or an inducement to negotiate; it is an act of war. Though the President and his spokespeople keep referring to “punishing the Assad regime for violations of international norms,” there is no, repeat NO international authorization whatever for this so-called punitive attack. Short of a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force—and the use of force is almost exclusively reserved, by the UN charter, for situations in which one nation attacks another nation—there is NO legal justification for any attack on Syria. None. Not that this has ever stopped the United States before, of course. Just think Iraq and/or Afghanistan in 2003 or Grenada or Korea or Panama or any of a number of invasions just since WWII; though it must be said that in almost every other case, at least some figment of a fig leaf was fashioned to create the illusion of legitimacy or the resolve of the collective world community. Here, alas, we have neither.
Then there’s the so-called evidence the administration keeps braying about. Marc Seibel of the McClatchy newspapers has just (Sept 4) written a piece about the widespread doubts over this so-called evidence. First, no chemical tests or satellite photos or anything else have been made public. Just some videos, apparently taken by the opposition. Then there’s the so-called “preparations” evidence. The U.S. claims it knew of preparations three or four days before the attack on Aug 21. But even the opposition forces are puzzled by this one: if the U.S. knew a gas attack was coming, several have said, why didn’t it warn them so lives could be saved, so the deaths of those darling children we’re all told about could be prevented? The answer is that the pre-attack evidence is probably manipulated, not least because the evidence came after the fact, after some spook analyst or other came up with conclusions that didn’t appear originally from the so-called evidence. Oh look, someone apparently said, here’s evidence of Assad’s troops putting on gas masks and getting their chemical attack mode ready. Very convincing. And then there’s the constantly-repeated claim by U.S. spokesmen that the UN inspectors were prevented from doing their work because Assad wouldn’t let them near the site of the attack for four or five days. This is total nonsense. In fact, countless observers testify that Assad gave permission to the inspectors to go to the site the very next day. No matter; citing the delay and the supposedly “degraded” condition the chemical evidence would be in (actually, sarin gas can be detected years after an attack), the U.S. simply withdrew all reliance on the UN inspectors (sound familiar? remember Iraq?), and said that the U.S. didn’t need UN evidence. Such evidence would come too late, anyway, it said, and wouldn’t matter because we already had conclusive proof that the gas used was sarin (problematic; even with the UN’s sophisticated equipment being applied in a lab, it could take weeks and up to a month to come to a valid conclusion; so how did the U.S. in mere hours conclude that it was sarin? and who gave them the samples and in what condition? unless… the conclusion was foreordained.)
Then there’s one more element of this UN inspection team brouhaha that bears consideration. We have been told that one reason for not putting any faith in UN findings is that the UN inspectors can’t even address the question of who delivered the alleged gas attack (which we already “know”); their mandate limits them to only determining if poison gas was used. This seems crazy on its surface. But does anyone ever mention why this UN mandate is now so limited? The fact is, we know very well why. It’s because an earlier UN inspection, referred to in a news interview by Carla del Ponte of Switzerland, one of the members of the UN investigating commission and a renowned prosecutor, found that gas was indeed used, and it was used by the opposition. That’s right. All the West (and that includes Israel) accused Assad of using poison gas and demanded a UN inspection, and when the UN found that indeed gas had been used and that it was the opposition forces that were using it (see BBC news 6 May), the conclusion was dismissed and ignored, and Carla del Ponte has not been heard from since. And just to be sure no repetition of this embarrassing conclusion was presented to the world, the subsequent request for UN investigations of poison gas use was stripped of its mandate to find out who used the gas, and limited to only the determination of whether gas was used. Period.
Of course there are other anomalies in the so-called evidence, such as that the proportions of deaths to those affected are not high enough; nor is there enough vomiting of victims. That is, Doctors Without Borders has cited figures of over 3,000 people attacked but only around 300 deaths. The proportion of those killed by sarin should be much much higher. Too, one of the significant marks of sarin gas poisoning is constant vomiting; it appears from video evidence that almost none of the alleged victims vomited. And of course, the numbers. Most estimates of the number of deaths hover in the 300 to 400 range; but according to U.S. spokesmen like John Kerry and President Obama since last week, a very precise number—1,429 victims killed—suddenly emerged. How could such a precise number have been arrived at, and how was it determined? No one can say.
Finally, there’s the supposed “overheard” communications that the U.S. detected: Syrian commanders were allegedly heard by the renowned U.S. listening technology (see all, know all, hear all) talking about the attack and the fear it would be discovered. Well, it turns out that the source for that conversation was not U.S. but Israeli “intelligence,” Mossad, presumably, which is not exactly known for being unbiased where its Arab neighbors are concerned. Which means that, once again, we are being led or urged or hijacked into an unwanted war against an Arab country by none other than peace-loving Israel.
So here we are at the brink. Unsubstantiated allegations. The drums of war beating. The Congress full of thundering declamations of humanitarian intervention to “stop the horrible slaughter of children,” and all of it based on flimsy, ever-changing accusations devoid of any real proof. And the underlying question that keeps being suppressed: why, if Bashar al Assad’s force were winning in recent months, driving the opposition into more and more remote areas, with no real opposition force capable of taking over if Assad falls—even in the estimation of the United States—why would Assad at such a triumphal moment spoil his momentum by using chemical weapons that are no more effective than the more conventional artillery and air assaults he’s already been using? Why would he do this? If he were backed into a corner, perhaps. But when his forces were winning? It makes no sense.
What really makes sense is this: the U.S. and its (rapidly dwindling) allies have concluded with alarm that the opposition was being defeated; that Assad was about to take back the whole country. Since the U.S. and its allies had early on torpedoed any attempt for a negotiated settlement (even though Assad had agreed to negotiate—until, that is, the U.S. insisted that the only settlement could be one in which he conceded defeat; what kind of negotiation is that?), then all that was left was a military solution. But a pretext for a huge military intervention was needed. Poison gas, yet another “weapon of mass destruction used by yet another ‘Hitler of the Middle East,’ fit the bill. Now the U.S. can not only “punish” Assad for the use of WMDs, but also step up its already robust supplies to the opposition, to now include anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons it has been reluctant thus far to give them. It means to go all in, and tip the balance, once again, to the rebels. No matter that they are led by al-Quaeda elements; no matter that the al Nusra front (an al-Quaeda affiliate) is, according to almost all observers, the dominant opposition group. No matter. That wonderful, democracy-seeking Free Syrian Army, according to administration hacks, is the only group we will supply. And they will prevail.
The only remaining question is why? Why is it so important that Assad be unseated? Because his nation is the only real Arab power left in the region. And Israel has always planned to get rid of any and every Arab country that could threaten its plans for the Palestinians (extermination) and hegemony over the entire region. With U.S. help it got rid of Saddam and crippled Iraq in 2003. It reduced Lebanon in the 1980s. It got rid of Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood a couple of months ago, and Libya a few months before that. It long ago pocketed the quisling Saudis and Jordanians. And now it is determined to get rid of Syria. Who drops next? You guessed it, Iran. That’s what this is all about. Cripple Iran by destroying Assad so that the US/Israel axis can finally bomb or sanction Iran back into the stone age. And the American public will be stampeded, as it always is, into this new war waged from ships outside the range of any retaliation. That’s the kind of war we really like. We invulnerable Americans, dropping high-tech death from ships at sea or drones or high-flying bombers above. The wogs slaughtered on the ground by our super-smart weapons (not of mass destruction, to be sure; we moral Americans don’t use those; well, maybe a little white phosphorus, or napalm or uranium-tipped shells or cluster bombs or nukes, but always with the best of intentions—so that the Middle East can finally be made safe for democracy—well, democracy that we approve of—not like those fake democracies that put into power Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, but good democracies. Like Israel (What, you don’t approve of democracies that have religious requirements; that refuse to establish actual borders?). Like Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Kuwait and the UAE (What, you don’t approve of democracies run by royal families?) Like Egypt (What, you don’t approve of democracies run by military coup?)
The sad thing is that the Syrian people are being massacred in a vicious war that is in part a proxy war. And sadder still that the man elected to extricate us from military ventures in the region, a Nobel Peace laureate, no less, is now moving heaven and earth and every possible pretext to get us into another one.