Members of the Jabhat Al-Nusrah Brigade posing under the Islamic State of Iraq flag. These are the people the United States wants to support. Copyright/Credit: vice.com
War is on the horizon and, once again, we find ourselves under the constant assault of propaganda and fear-mongering propagated by the stewards of the military-industrial complex — your average talk show host on CNN; a retired U.S. general; or an ex-Secretary of Defense. Their spin master brethren occupy the news hour and virtually penetrate every medium of information spewing the typical concocted drivel aimed at preparing the populace for another imperial incursion in the Middle East – a region of the world that could arguably be dubbed “America’s New Backyard.“
As is typical when empires lust for their next quest of death and destruction, the “undeniable facts” presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings (09/03/2013 – 09/04/2013) by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and General Dempsey did nothing but obfuscate the average American citizen about the on-going war in Syria; an amateurish theatrical performance filled with bad and disingenuous actors whose true motives were revealed by their reluctance to provide the so-called undeniable evidence. Instead the “facts” and “analyses” argued in front of the committee and broadcasted nationally included nothing more than factually erroneous information and half-baked analyses – a discourse neatly packaged within the context of WMDs (this time CWs) by waging an all-out graphically and visually fear-mongering campaign concocted to psychologically and emotionally paralyze a naïve and uneducated audience. Fortunately, the typical Bush-Cheney warmongering tactics were not as effective as the theatrical farce that constituted the ramp-up to the Iraq War. Given that the levels of fear and paranoia were nowhere near as the madness that ensued in the subsequent years after September 11, 2011, the Obama administration’s calls for war were met with unified defiance stemming from an increasingly frustrated and disenfranchised population tired of wars and the psychological, economical, and social impact these imperial ventures bring along. Make no mistake however that Obama and his cronies will do whatever it takes to accomplish their ultimate goal of starting a war in Syria even in the face of flagrant violations of international law .
1. Many people have heard that the Syrian civil war has turned into a “proxy war.” How did the Syrian conflict start? What happened originally in 2011? Which side is fighting who? And how did the conflict evolve from a civil war to a proxy war being waged by multiple actors around the world?
The Syrian uprising started in January 2011 during the peak of the Arab Spring. Emboldened and empowered by the fall of various despots and dictators in the Middle East and in North Africa, a few Syrian youths decided to spray paint the words “Down with Bashar al-Assad!” – a minor act of civil delinquency typically enacted by many adolescents around the world. Unexpectedly, the response from the Syrian gov’t and its security forces was unnecessarily savage and brutal: military raids in the dead of night were conducted to kidnap the very same adolescents allegedly responsible for the mundane act of political dissidence via the use of graffiti. The situation was further exacerbated when these youths were returned to their families physically beaten and abused as well as psychologically broken. The shock of seeing these young Syrians covered in blue and black bruises from head-to-toe, disfigured from the all the still blood resulting from days of psychological and physical abuse angered many Syrians around the country. Village elders from neighboring towns and villages soon gathered together and marched to the local offices of the Syrian gov’t to demand an apology for the way the Syrian Security forces beat and abused local youths. These demands were never met as the gov’t ignored the complaints and absolved itself from any wrong-doing. Consequently, protests intensified first locally, regionally, and then nationally; with the increase in protests and demonstrations, a parallel increase in the crackdown of arrests and kidnappings of non-violent peaceful protestors and their relatives by Syrian authorities escalated very quickly. However, as the number of protests and the number of protestors kept increasing, the Syrian Security Forces response became more and more savage: corpses started appearing in ditches, roads, and fields; an act of impunity and ruthlessness designed to send a message to the restive Syrian populace. The language of violence utilized by the Syrian Security Forces had a simple message: stay quiet, do not dare raise your voices, and forget about bringing the Arab Spring in Syria. A similar type of crackdown was employed by Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s father, in 1982 when the Muslim Brotherhood mounted a rebellion in Hama which was violently suppressed and crushed in a ruthless manner per the guidance of Hafez al-Assad’s Russian allies . Taking a cue from the rebellion of 1982, with the military assistance of the the Russians, and a military elite that still populates Bashar al-Assad’s cabinet, the methodology employed to crush these protestors was eerily similar as to what was utilized almost 30 years ago. However, times have changed along with the protestors. This time it wasn’t the Muslim Brotherhood that were dealt with but Syrian citizens of diverse backgrounds and of many political and sectarian factions . Even in the face of potential massacres and slaughtering at the hands of the Syrian military, what ensued next were massive increases of non-violent demonstrations and protests orchestrated by the rural majority of Syrians who felt disenfranchised and persecuted, especially in the northern part of Syria. As is often the case, demands of representation within the gov’t often blossom from the ultimate act of self-determination. The type of violent repression employed by the Syrian military in response to popular democratic uprisings usually produces two dichotomous outcomes: either the population becomes terrified and subdues to the language of violence employed by the state; or the exact opposite happens and the opposition becomes militarized and effectively entrenches the country into a long and bloody civil war .
For the first 6 months of the Syrian Civil War, the opposition was comprised of low-level army defectors, regular citizens (mostly young people aged under 30), and other secularist groups (including the Kurdish minority, Salafists, and others) who wanted to topple Assad in order to reproduce the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and the fall of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. The opposition groups taking up arms in various parts of the country were not cohesive, did not have a central body of command, and were highly fractured amongst each due to ideological and religious differences. It wasn’t until a high-level defection spearheaded by Riad al-Asaad which gave birth to the creation of what is now called the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The erection of this a centralized opposition body also gave rise to many coalition groups supporting the opposition by advocating for arms and military aid to the international community . This state of affairs didn’t last long as what started as an internal conflict for the toppling of an authoritarian gov’t along with its figurehead was hijacked by regional and international actors who are actively fueling the current sectarian divide that has now taken hold of the country— hence the term “proxy war.”
The actors who are now waging a bloody civil proxy war which has created more refugees than the Rwandan Genocide of 1996 fall into two camps :
- The involvement of the Sunni States: a movement spearheaded by the Qataris with Turkey and Saudi Arabia as their main financial backers . Their meddling is noticeable via the funneling of monies, weapons, and material support to international jihadists into Syria. These “rebels” when hierarchically analyzed form a loose nebulous group of highly fractured factions of which the biggest and most powerful is the Jabhat Al-Nusrah Brigade— an off-shoot of Al-Qaeda from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) who are also active actors in the Syrian conflict . An important factor to note is the United States’ role as it is far from a neutral actor; the U.S. gov’t’s (USG) historical support of the Sunni dictatorships implicate us as indirect active agents since those Sunni kingdoms were effectively erected through petro-dollars. Thus it is fair to conclude that any money or support coming from the countries that have effectively taken side with the “opposition” is US-backed/funded money.
- The involvement of the Shi’a States and their main sponsors: on the other side we find Russia, China, and Iran (with Lebanon’s Hezbollah acting as the boots on the ground for Iran) as the main backers of the Syrian regime. Russia shares a geo-political heritage with Syria spanning many decades and has close to $19.2B of foreign direct investment (FDI) invested in the country especially for the extraction of Syria’s deep reserves of natural gas ; China is also invested economically as well as geo-politically with Syria and often votes in conjunction with the Russians in the U.N. Security Council. Last but not least, the Iranian regime believes that a destabilized Syria overtaken by Sunni extremists (or a Syria “stuck” in a perpetual and guerilla warfare situation very similar to that of Lebanon in the 1980s) will be another check to its regional hegemony . Although the main alleged reason for Hezbollah’s participation in the conflict stems from the potential destabilization of its borders, a pretext to act on the behalf of Iran. It is not far-fetched to assume that an escalation of the Syrian military conflict by the U.S. would prove catastrophic for the long-term as this would pave the beginning of decades of proxy wars fought against regional superpowers in the Middle East.
Note that both sides are culpable of atrocities against civilians on a massive scale. There is no “good guy” in this current situation. It’s a very ugly conflict for which the ultimate solution is picking the most favorable choice out of a list of very unfavorable choices.
2. Why is the United States getting involved in Syria now?
Due to political, geo-political, and economic implications. Obama stuck his neck out with his calls of crossing an imaginary, moral “red line” in regards to the use of CWs. On the domestic front, he might be perceived as politically “weak” if he doesn’t stand by what he said . However, this is an answer that explains only the domestic political motive. The more pragmatic and realistic implications to go to war with Syria stems from Assad’s current military ascend; the Syrian gov’t has been recapturing many previously rebel-held areas in the northern part of the country. Since the United States has been unwilling to attack Iran even with all the fear-mongering, pandering, and lobbying by AIPAC, the liberal and conservative warhawks of the military-industrial complex want to punish Iran indirectly through the use of “surgical” strikes aimed at Syrian military and gov’t facilities. This reaffirmation of military dominance by the U.S. and its allies also acts as a deterrent against Hezbollah’s meddling in the conflict. A deterrent capacity through military force would reaffirm Israel’s militaristic prowess in the region. Since Israel cannot attack Iran unilaterally, an entrance into the Syrian conflict will be sending a message to Iran and Lebanon that their incursion in Syria hasn’t gone unnoticed and will be dealt with accordingly . For the Israelis, the ultimate goal of getting involved in the Syrian conflict has the covert goals of knocking down the Assad regime, letting the various ultra-extremists factions massacre each other, all the while weakening and isolating the Palestinians and the Lebanese . A destabilized region will give pretext to the Israeli military to “police” the region and absorb the Sinai Peninsula, for example.
Needless to say, the military-industrial complex and the agents that keep this industry of death and destruction alive are fully aware that their main bread and butter are constant and never-ending states of global warfare. There’s a lot of money at stake for a select group of people and the corporations they represent — mobilizing navy ships, fighter jets, the possible deployment of troops, and other military folly generate a lot of money in the short-run for a small group of people and the respective corporate sectors and industries they represent. A foray into Syria would justify our mind-bogglingly high military budget as well in a time where the gov’t is about to become bankrupt.
3. What is this so-called evidence that the United States (and the French, recently) claim is “undeniable?”
Many serious geo-political analysts (including Robert Fisk and Dave Gavlak) claim that the intelligence was fabricated by the Israelis. When U.S. politicians say “we [emphasis on the we] have evidence that Bashar al-Assad has used CWs,” the ‘we’ insinuates Israeli intelligence. The so-called smoking gun is an intercept between a Syrian Defense Minister and a Syrian army general about a confirmation that CWs were detonated in the Ghouta area . However, the unreleased and classified intelligence report purportedly does not conform to the solid and verifiable proof that repeated demands to use chemical weapons by Syrian generals has been systematically denied by Assad himself . Moreover, the intercept which happens to be the crux of U.S. and Western intelligence actually absolves the Syrian gov’t since the intercept demonstrates surprise that CWs were detonated. Unfortunately, this document is actually classified and the CIA/NSA spooks refuse to release the actual intercept to the public — even members of Congress with the necessary security clearance have been barred from viewing the document altogether.
The 9-page document released by French intelligence on Monday does not include any new information that isn’t searchable on the internet. Five of the nineteen references in the paper link to Twitter/YouTube videos of the attack. It’s not a serious document with serious facts because such a document simply does not exist . Another very important fact that the Obama war caucus and the mainstream media (MSM) have omitted on purpose have been the previous uses of CWs in Syria in March 2012. U.N. inspectors have concluded that the previous use of sarin gas bombs were used by rebel factions, and not the Syrian gov’t. Their evidence was based on the fact that shells that contained the chemicals were crudely built; the explosives used to detonate the bombs were a homemade concoction of various chemicals including fertilizer; and civilian witnesses as well as rebel fighters have confirmed that a peculiar smell emanated once the CWs were set-off, further proof that the Syrian gov’t did not use its stock of CWs as military-grade sarin gas has no odor .
Last but not least, the New York Times reported about a month ago that a commander of the Jabhat Al-Nusrah Brigade said that they had plans to detonate chemical weapons and then blame the Syrian gov’t in order to get the United States to intervene in the conflict .
4. Which factors and facts cast doubt about the likelihood that the Israeli intelligence services captured the so-called “smoking gun” intercept?
The following factors are the strongest proponents which cast doubt on the alleged use of CWs by the Syrian gov’t:
- Communication intercepts are often difficult to be captured given their heavy encrypted nature . The idea that Israelis would be able to capture a clean-cut definitive statement by Syrian officials over the use of chemical weapons is dubious — it challenges common sense at a very basic level by making anybody wonder why Syrian officials would advocate the use of CWs when they themselves know that the use of such weapons would be the perfect pretext for a Western/NATO intervention.
- Various Syrian scholars who have studied the military structure of the Syrian regime for decades claim that it’s highly unlikely for this kind of communication to have happened given the highly compartmentalized structure of the Syrian military during war time. Using the Iranian model (and the model employed by Hezbollah to a certain extent), different factions of the Syrian military are completely cut-off from each other in terms of communication and intelligence sharing via the uses of “fire walls” which effectively create standalone and self-serving battalions working in silo to regain various parts of northern Syria. These fire walls are secretive in nature and are designed in such a way that communication between Syrian military factions is only possible through very narrow and limited channels. The use of highly encrypted personal radio channels using private military frequencies and other traditional means of communications render the capture of a clean and definitive communication intercept make this claim even more dubious.
5. What moral authority does the United States have when it comes to setting imaginary moral “red lines” and lecturing the rest of the world against the use of CWs?
Absolutely none. The United States is the biggest user/abuser and purveyor of CWs in modern warfare history:
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki: atomic bombs are essentially chemical weapons due to the heavy radiation they leave in the soil, air, land, water, and other natural resources decades after they bombs have been set off .
- Vietnam: the United States used over 8 million tons of bombs containing the chemical substance Agent Orange, also known as napalm, during an 8-year bombing campaign in Vietnam. The amount of napalm used in Vietnam was three times the amount of various CWs used in WWII. The effects of napalm are so profound that disfigured birth rates, miscarriages, and other horrors are still being felt by the Vietnamese population close to half a century later .
- Afghanistan/Iraq: the U.S. military uses depleted uranium casings to store the bullets given to their very own soldiers. Not only does it get their own soldiers terminally ill, locations that have seen major combat operations like Fallujah (a city that witnessed the most intensive battles of the Iraq War) have more radiation in the soil than the radiated soil of Chernobyl. Even more horrifying is the use of white phosphorous bombs which burn through human flesh (actually burns through cement) in the most horrible way imaginable. Note that Israel uses white phosphorous cluster bombs on Palestinians every time the Arabs get uppity and need to be taught a lesson  .
- Food: the USG wages a daily chemical war against its own citizens via agricultural means. A run-of-the-mill “tomato” found at your local Safeway contains over 35 chemicals and by the time it arrives in your plate, it’s lost 97% of the nutrients that a real organically grown tomato provides. These chemicals have been imposed on citizens for the last 40 years and the consequences are unknown. Our gov’t and with the help of corporations have turned the eating habits of American citizens into a massive laboratory of misery, death, and most importantly, corporate profit .
Our gov’t’s hypocrisy and wrongdoing is almost endless. The way our so-called representatives are treating and regarding this matter needs to be looked at very closely. As citizens, we must be involved in the process at every step of the way since we cannot rely on a Congress that has completely sold-out whatever remnant of integrity it had over to the warmongers and the mega-conglomerates.. Reports are coming that representatives in each state are receiving e-mails in a ratio of 100:1 (against : favor) against the war. For once, our voices are strong and united and the collective will and voice of the American public should be proclaimed in a collected and resounding ‘NO’ to more wars of imperialism and profit.