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A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.
They're drafting a bill that would declare war on Syria IF chemical weapons removal doesn't meet a deadline, and regardless of what else happens in the world in the meantime, presumably including a ceasefire or a peace settlement. Are they insane? Of course. Can we stop them? Yes we can.
It's not Russia. It's not al Qaeda. It's not Bashar al-Assad. The other super power is the people of the world -- and the people of, but not by or for, the United States.
The world's people are protesting. U.S. citizens abroad are protesting at U.S. embassies. The British Parliament said no to war for the first time since Yorktown.
The U.S. polls began with single-digit support for attacking Syria, climbed a little with the corporate media onslaught, and then started sinking again as the propaganda push shifted into self-defeating top gear.
Taking the stage after Colin Powell, the Obama-Kerry war marketing team was compelled by public pressure, foreign pressure, government-insider pressure, past public statements, and the inability of even the corporate media to keep a straight face, to take this war proposal to Congress -- and to do so while Congress members and senators were at home in their districts and states, where people were able to get in their faces.
Congress has been feeling the heat. Sure, there is greater willingness by some Republican members to oppose a war if the president is a Democrat. But there are also Democrats openly supporting the war because the president wants them to. The decisive factor has been public pressure. Senators and representatives have been turned around by their constituents, and that minority still supporting an attack on Syria openly says they're defying the people who elected them. If there is no vote in Congress, it will be because the vote would fail.
Secretary Kerry stressed on Monday that he hadn't been serious about a diplomatic solution. It was just "rhetoric." He was just pointing out the "impossibility" of Assad handing weapons over. He didn't want anyone to take it seriously. Not when we have to get a war started. Not when the clock is ticking and he has already Colin-Powelled himself in front of his old committee with his wife behind him and protesters with bloody hands filling the room and everybody snickering when he claimed al Qaeda would install a secular democracy. Not after all THAT!
How can you ask a man to be the last one to lie for a dead idea?
But warmongering senators and presidents and presidential wannabes jumped at the chance of a way out of watching Congress vote down a war, and watching Congress vote down a war because we made them do it. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has a proposal for a diplomatic resolution. Republican Congressman Chris Smith has proposed a United Nations war crimes tribunal. (One might hope it will even look at the crimes of both sides in the Syrian war.) The always obvious, but hidden, fact that there are alternatives to bombing people is bursting out all over.
Sure, some people dislike this war because it would cost money, or because the Iraqis are ungrateful for the destruction of their country, or because Obama was born in Africa, but mostly people oppose this war for very good reasons -- and the financial cost is not really a bad reason. From right to left, people don't think the United States should be the world's vigilante. From left to right, people don't believe the justifications presented without evidence. From right to left, people understand that killing people with the right weapons to protest their being killed with the wrong weapons is little bit crazy. From left to right, people don't believe tales of short and easy wars that will pay for themselves. And, across the political spectrum, people have begun to be able to smell lies, even when those lies are wrapped in flags and uniforms.
We should give our government credit for listening -- if it listens. By no means are we out of the woods yet. If you want to be able to say you were part of the movement that prevented a U.S. war, now is the time to email and telephone and join in activities. We should not, however, fantasize that our government secretly held our position against the war it was trying to roll out, before we compelled it to hold our position.
Let them thump their chests a bit about how their threats won something out of Assad, if that allows their war fever to pass. But don't for a minute lose the significance of what the U.S. public has done to the otherwise broken U.S. government. Out of whatever combination of factors, it just may turn out that we've stopped a war. Which means that we can stop another war. Which means that we can begin to work our way out of the war machine that has eaten our economy, our civil liberties, our natural environment, and our soul.
Assad may be lying. Or Obama may lie that Assad is lying. Or this whole thing may otherwise fall apart and the push for this war be back with a full-court press on Congress. But we can stop it if we choose to do so. We can push as hard for peaceful solutions in Syria as we've pushed to prevent the bombs from falling. In fact, we can push 10 times harder.
And the warmakers will be back with another war. Have no fear of that. Seriously, have no fear of it: We are a super-power. They are a vestige of a barbaric practice that has become an anachronism even while remaining our largest public investment. They are dinosaurs. They'll come back with a "defensive war". That was their biggest failure this time; they didn't make Syria a threat. Senator Harry Reid on Monday painted Syria as Nazi Germany, but he sounded like Elmer Fudd warning of a killer rabbit.
Laughter is our most potent tool. We must mock their fear-mongering. We must laugh at their claims of power and benevolent intent. We must ask to see the list of nations that are grateful for past bombs. We must inquire whether senators who play video poker while debating war plans, or secretaries of state who promise wars that will be both tiny and significant with no impact and a decisive result, are perhaps in need of better medication.
But let's not count our doves before they hatch. Get in on this successful movement now. It's going to be one to tell your grandchildren about.
Secretary Kerry will participate in a Google+ Hangout hosted by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Lara Setrakian, founder of the digital news site Syria Deeply on September 10 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.
New York Times Wants War on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Obama's the latest in a long line of US warrior presidents. He exceeds the worst of all his predecessors. He jeopardizes world peace. They risks global war.
New York Times editors and columnists support his lawlessness. They do it shamelessly. They do it unapologetically. They betray their readers in the process.
To contact Bartolo email firstname.lastname@example.org
After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that President Bashar al-Assad avoid a war by handing over any chemical weapons his government possesses, Russia quickly seconded the motion, and Assad agreed to it. Just as quickly, aparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, Kerry's staff put out this statement:
"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used. His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."
Could Assad be lying? Could he hope to stash away a hidden weapons stockpile? Yes, and then at least a U.S. attack would have been delayed and more time gained to work on preventing it. But that's not likely. Inspectors are very good. That's why Prsident George W. Bush wanted them pulled out of Iraq, where they had done a stellar job and the weaponry been eliminated. That could conceivably also be why President Barack Obama wanted them kept away from the site of the August 21st attack and wanted to send missiles into Syria before the inspectors reached any results.
So, to all appearances, Assad has immediately done what Kerry just declared impossible. How reliable, then, are other assertions of which Kerry professes to be certain?
Is it really an important international norm that one nation should bomb another in support of fanatical terrorists and on the stated basis that people had been killed with the wrong variety of weapon?
Is it really true that this war will be both unbelievably small and a significant blow to the Syrian government?
Kerry is trying to sell the same used car to people who want an ambulance and other people who want a tank.
It's not entirely Kerry's fault that he had to come on stage after Colin Powell's performance, but it is his fault that he's flubbed all of his lines.
If Obama withdraws his demand for Congressional authorization of war, it will not be because he and John Kerry played 12-dimensional chess and secretly hope to bring peace to the earth. It will be because they played duck-duck-goose with such incompetence that they managed to knock each other unconscious in the process.
If a war is prevented here -- and it's way too early to say that -- it will be the result of public opinion in the United States and the world, the courage of Parliament in Britain, and the glimmerings of actual representation beginning to sparkle through the muck and slime on Capitol Hill.
If celebrating Obama and Kerry's super brave and strong heroism in stumbling into a Russian barrier to their madness gives them the "credibility" to put their guns back in their pants, then by all means celebrate that fiction.
But if we get this crisis behind us, we should understand that Parliament acted against war for the first time in centuries, and the public stopped Congress for the first time ever. If President Obama doesn't ask for an authorization, it will be because it is not going to pass. Even if he didn't expect to use it right away, he would want it passed if possible.
Congress' apparent willingness to say no is the result of many factors, including the perversity of partisanship. But the primary factor is public pressure. That public pressure needs to intensify now that victory is in sight, not diminish.
And if it succeeds, Syria will still be in desperate need of a cease-fire, disarmament, a peace settlement, and actual aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs). Let's not allow those needs to be forgotten if they depart from our television screens. Those same television screens have tried to move us into support for war and failed dramatically. We're in charge now. We run this country. They fill fluff that no one listens to into the spaces between advertisements for crap no one buys. Fill the government in on the new arrangement.
Lavrov Calls Kerry's Bluff
by Stephen Lendman
Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov wants peace. He's going all out against war on Syria. He's doing it responsibly.
Important world leaders back him. So does overwhelming global anti-war sentiment.
Time to Reveal US Intel on Syria
September 9, 2013
Editor Note: Countering growing opposition to plans for bombing Syria, the White House dispatched Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Sunday talk shows. But the choice underscored the Obama administration’s credibility problems and raised new doubts about the case for war.
By Ray McGovern
Were White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough not pushing for yet another war based on what look to be false pretenses, one might feel sorry for him after his multiple TV appearances on Sunday arguing for a military strike on Syria. This unenviable job fell to McDonough as pinch-hitter for the two more natural choices to push the Obama administration’s case for a “limited” war on Syria.
The questions include some excellent and some awful ones. Here they are:
CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS
September 6, 2013
President Barack Obama The White House
- Contrary to the general impression in Congress and the news media, the Syria chemical warfare intelligence summary released by the Barack Obama administration Aug. 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment, an IPS analysis and interviews with former intelligence officials reveals.
The evidence indicates that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper culled intelligence analyses from various agencies and by the White House itself, but that the White House itself had the final say in the contents of the document.
BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence – no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications – connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.
In its absence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Neither has produced evidence for that case, either. That’s left more questions than answers as the U.S. threatens a possible military strike.
Syrian Army Attacks Hills Around Christian Village
Syrian troops launched an attack Monday on hills overlooking a Christian-majority village near the capital Damascus, two days after rebel forces captured the ancient community, an activist group said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front and the Qalamon Liberation Front still control Maaloula, an ancient village that is home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Rebels captured the village on Saturday.
The battle has thrown a spotlight on the deep-seated fears that many of Syria's religious minorities harbor about the growing role of Islamic extremists on the rebel side in Syria's civil war.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said troops attacked the hills around Maaloula early Monday under the cover of heavy shelling. He said the aim of the troops appears to "to isolate the rebels in the village."
The village, famous for being home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria, is nearly empty of its inhabitants. Only around 50 people remain there, according to a resident who left the area in the past days.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from rebels, said there was a truce Monday morning in order for paramedics to evacuate 10 wounded Christian residents.
He added that one church on the western side of the village was burnt.
A nun in the village told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that Nusra Front members are still in control of the village, adding that they entered her convent early Monday and took pictures and videos of the site.
"The Syrian army is on the outskirts," said Pelagia Sayaf, who heads the Mar Takla convent. "We only know about what is happening in the convent. We know nothing about outside and whether anyone was killed or kidnapped ... There are sporadic clashes and I can hear the sound of warplanes."
Situated about 40 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Damascus, Maaloula had until recently been firmly under the regime's grip despite sitting in the middle of rebel-held territory east and north of the capital.
The village was a major tourist attraction before the civil war. Some of its residents still speak a version of Aramaic, a Biblical language believed to have been used by Jesus.
The attack highlights fears among Syrian Christians that the alternative to Assad's regime — which is made up mostly of Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam — would not tolerate minority religions.
Such concerns have helped Assad retain the support of large chunks of Syria's minority communities, including Christians, Alawites, Druze and ethnic Kurds. Most of the rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims.
Syria's crisis, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 100,000 people according to the U.N.
By Norman Solomon
Many senators began this week still uncommitted on whether they’ll vote for attacking Syria. Among the fence-sitters are enough “progressives” to swing the Senate’s decision one way or the other.
That decision is coming soon -- maybe as early as Wednesday -- and the Obama White House is now pulling out all the stops to counter public opinion, which remains overwhelmingly against a war resolution. The administration hopes to win big in the Senate and carry momentum into the House, where the bomb-Syria agenda faces a steeper climb.
Some Democratic senators who’ve cultivated progressive reputations nationwide -- Barbara Boxer of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota -- haven’t hesitated to dive into Obama’s war tank. Boxer, Durbin and Franken quickly signed on as carnage bottom-feeders, pledging their adamant support for the U.S. government to attack yet another country.
Other Democrats, like Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tom Udall of New Mexico, have made clear their intention to vote “no” when the war-on-Syria measure reaches the Senate floor.
But more than a dozen other senators widely viewed as liberal or progressive have held back from committing themselves on how they’ll vote. Here’s a partial list of those equivocators:
* Both Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey
* Both Oregon senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley
* Both Colorado senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet
* Both Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell
* Ohio senator Sherrod Brown
* Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin
* Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse
* Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono
* Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar
If you live in one of those states, or anywhere else in the USA for that matter, you can send a quick email to your senators and representative to tell them “No Attack on Syria” by clicking here.
Perhaps no “undecided” stance from senators is more egregious than the one from Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who won a hard-fought race that elevated her from the House of Representatives last year on the strength of major progressive support.
Speaking at the annual Fighting Bob Fest in Madison last weekend, Baldwin sparked an angry response to her doubletalk about Syria. A video of the encounter shows a wooden politician who badly needs reminding of her progressive roots. In a suitably confrontational mode, activists serenaded Wisconsin’s junior senator with a stirring rendition of “Which side are you on Tammy?”
The symbolism could hardly have been more apt. Senator Baldwin was behind the podium at an event named after “Fighting Bob” La Follette, the senator from Wisconsin who led opposition to U.S. entry into World War One. In a Senate speech, La Follette denounced those who “inflame the mind of our people into the frenzy of war.”
Which side are you on Tammy… and Elizabeth, Ed, Ron, Jeff, Mark, Michael, Patty, Maria, Sherrod, Sheldon, Mazie, Amy?
Senators who portray themselves as progressive are at crossroads as they decide how to vote on attacking Syria. At this historic moment, with enormous consequences, will they cave in to the presidential juggernaut?
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org
AIPAC Lobbies for War on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Previous articles discussed the Israeli Lobby's rage for war on Syria. AIPAC and 50 other Zionist organizations endorse it.
They threaten world peace. They want Israeli interests served. Ravaging and destroying Syria does so. Much greater stakes are involved.
by Stephen Lendman
AIPAC's a weapon of mass destruction. It fronts for Israel's worst crimes. It promotes war. It threatens world peace.
It menaces humanity's survival. It operates extrajudicially. It's an unregistered foreign agent.
Lee Syria Resolution to Hold Assad Regime Accountable and Resolve the Crisis through a Negotiated Political Settlement
Support Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force
I write to urge your support for my proposal which lays out non-military options the United States can pursue, in partnership with the international community, that is consistent with law and would hold perpetrators accountable for heinous crimes against humanity.
While I believe the Assad regime must be held accountable, I reject that it has to mean a military response to be effective. There is no military solution to this complex civil war, and while a negotiated settlement is necessary, I do not believe military action will further that goal.
Instead of pursuing military force, United States policy should focus on working with the United Nations and the international community on an enhanced diplomatic strategy to facilitate a negotiated political settlement and hold the Assad regime, and all responsible parties, accountable for human rights violations. My Resolution lays out options such as:
1) requiring the Government of Syria to allow unfettered access to humanitarian organizations;
2) pressuring all internal and external parties to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process and other negotiations and regional arrangements with the League of Arab States and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation;
3) seeking to strengthen and coordinate multilateral sanctions targeted against the assets of Assad;
4) investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law, including appropriately-timed International Criminal Court referral;
5) working with member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
6) working with the international community to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal; and
7) enabling United States courts to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law committed in Syria.
We must recognize that we do have alternatives to the use of force and we should be vigorously pursuing them. I urge you in joining me to support non-military means to hold the perpetrators accountable and bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Please direct requests to cosponsor or questions to _________________.
To contact Bartolo email email@example.com
By Dave Lindorff
The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.
Obama Intends Shock and Awe Madness on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Overwhelming support for peaceful conflict resolution at home and abroad opposes him. It doesn't matter. He plans devastating strikes on Syria.
He ordered an expanded hit list. He wants more targets struck. US and French warplanes will supplement cruise missiles. Reports suggest long range B-2 and B-52 bombing.
By Victor Madej, USMA ‘70+
By Norman Solomon
No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is -- to the extent we’re not numb -- profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.
But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.
Into the Capitol Hill arena, the Obama White House sent Secretary of State John Kerry to speak in a best-and-brightest dialect of neocon tongues. The congressional hierarchies of both parties -- Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Boehner, Eric Cantor -- are on the same page for an attack on Syria. And meanwhile, the U.S. mass media have been cranking up the usual adrenalin-pumped hype for war.
7 September 2013 | stopwar.org.uk
TELL JOHN KERRY NO WAR ON SYRIA
Monday 9 September 8am
US secretary of state John Kerry is touring Europe trying to drum up support for a war on Syria that opinion polls around the world show is opposed by majorities in most countries. Two thirds of Americans say no to war. Close to 75% of people in Britain are opposed, which no doubt was what motivated MPs in parliament to stop David Cameron taking this country into yet another war in the Middle East on the coat-tails of US foreign policy.
Barack Obama was isolated at the recent G20 meeting, at which only the French government was prepared to commit to a military attack on Syria. Latest polls show that most people in France are opposed to president Hollande's backing of Obama's drive to war, saying they feared it could "set the entire region ablaze".
The attack Barack Obama is planning is illegal under international law without the backing of the United Nations security council. It will not help to solve the civil war in Syria which is causing such suffering for the Syrian people, but will only further inflame the conflict, as we have seen happen in all the US-led interventions in the region over the past decade -- in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. What is needed in Syria is not more devastation and death at the end of a barrage of US Cruise missiles, but serious moves towards a negotiated political settlement.
On Monday 9 September, John Kerry will be in London banging his drums for more war, as his boss Obama prepares a national address he will make on Tuesday trying to persuade the American people and US Congress that yet more war is what's needed to help bring peace to Syria.
Stop the War has called a protest on Monday 9 September, at 8am, when John Kerry will be meeting British foreign secretary William Hague at the Foreign Office in Whitehall. If you can, please join us to tell Kerry that the world says no to war on Syria.
* A new motion that has now been been tabled in Parliament urging US representatives in Congress to reject war. Please use Stop the War's lobbying tool to urge your MP to support this motion: http://act.stopwar.org.uk/
* Stop the War will call a protest at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, London on the day the of the debate in the US Congress, which is likely next week. Details will be publicised on the Stop the War website and through our Facebook and Twitter.
* No Attack on Syria
Wednesday 11 September
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square on Wednesday 11 September at 7pm.
More details here:
Shady PR Operatives, Pro-Israel Ties, Anti-Castro Money: Inside the Syrian Opposition’s DC Spin Machine
During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain both cited a Wall Street Journal editorial by Elizabeth O’Bagy to support their assessment of the Syrian rebels as predominately “moderate,” and potentially Western-friendly.
“She works with the Institute of War,” Kerry said of O’Bagy. “She’s fluent in Arabic and spent an enormous amount of time studying the opposition and studying Syria. She just published this the other day. Very interesting [Wall Street Journal] article, which I commend to you.”
Kerry added, “I just don’t agree that a majority are al-Qaida and the bad guys.”
What Kerry and McCain neglected to mention was that O’Bagy had been recently hired as the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a little known outfit that functions as a lobbying arm of the Syrian opposition in Washington.
Until today, O’Bagy had failed to note her role as a paid Syrian opposition lobbyist in her Wall Street Journal byline and did not note the position in her official bio at the Institute for the Study of War. Only after a storm of criticism did the Wall Street Journal insert a note in O’Bagy’s recent op-ed disclosing her paid position at SETF. O’Bagy was also compelled to amend her bio with a lengthy clarification about her work at SETF.
But her work at the Institute for the Study of War should have been enough to set off alarm bells.
“Logrolling for war”
The Institute for the Study of War’s (ISW) board of directors is led by William Kristol. Kimberly Kagan, the group’s president, was on General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic review team in 2009, advocating for a dramatic expansion of the US presence in Afghanistan. Her husband is Frederick Kagan, the AEI fellow who is the uncle of fellow neocon Robert Kagan.
In its 2011 annual report [PDF], the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) detailed its close working relationship with Palantir Technologies, a private surveillance firm contracted by Bank of America in 2011 in an unsuccessful plot to dismantle Anonymous and sabotage Glenn Greenwald.
The report listed New York Times reporter Michael Gordon as “ISW’s journalist in residence.” Back in January 2013, Gordon published an article pushing claims that Syrian army forces had used sarin gas, thus crossing Obama’s “red line” and triggering a US intervention. Noting that the State Department could not confirm the information in Gordon’s report, former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Pat Lang accused Gordon of “logrolling for war in Syria.”
Despite his past affiliation with a think tank dedicated to pushing for US intervention in Syria, Gordon remains on the Times’ Syria beat.
When O’Bagy took to Twitter to boast about McCain’s “shout out” to her during the Senate hearing on Syria, the conservative writer Charles C. Johnson (who recently reported on O’Bagy’s lobbying) asked her if she was in fact employed by the Syrian Emergency Task Force.
“Yes I do humanitarian aid work through the organization,” O’Bagy told Johnson. “Can’t go to Syria frequently and not help the people.”
But O’Bagy’s work has less to do with tending to the needs of war-stricken refugees than it does with leveraging the media to agitate for US intervention. Indeed, she has been among the most prominent and widely cited commentators marketing the Syrian rebels as a bunch of America-friendly moderates.
As she said during an August 26 appearance on Fox News, “What I’ve tried to show through this research and by traveling around with many of these rebel groups is that there are actually a majority of the opposition that would be aligned with U.S. interests.”
The woman whose opinion lawmakers are relying on to go to war in Syria is also a paid advocate for the war-torn country’s rebels.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged members of the House of Representatives to read a Wall Street Journal op-ed by 26-year-old Elizabeth O’Bagy — an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War — who asserted that concerns about extremists dominating among the Syrian rebels are unfounded.
“Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards,” O’Bagy wrote for the Journal on Aug. 30. “Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces,” she wrote.
But in addition to her work for the Institute for the Study of War, O’Bagy is also the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that advocates within the United States for Syria’s rebels — a fact that the Journal did not disclose in O’Bagy’s piece.
Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies. When I'd researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn't based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.
That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it's contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government's current claims about Syria. The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history. Every other case for war has always been dishonest.
The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse. There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine. The Philippines didn't benefit from U.S. occupation. The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms. The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. Iraq didn't take any babies out of incubators. The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court. Libya wasn't about to kill everyone in Benghazi. Et cetera. Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR's tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.
The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda. But the evidence offered in the case of Syria is no stronger than that for Iraq. It's harder to disprove merely because there's nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, no science. Congress members who have seen the classified version say it's no better than the declassified. Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don't believe the White House's claims. The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors, and are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination. The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war. It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons two weeks ago, and already certain that even if it did, President Obama and Secretary Kerry don't know it -- they've only guessed it at best.
The debate over chemical weapons, itself, is framed by the lie that a law against chemical weapons can be enforced by one nation attacking another. In fact, Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. If it were, it would be subject to prosecution in court. In any event, it is subject to the judgment and action of the world and its courts, not of one vigilante representing 4% of the world. The bizarre idea that bombing a country can be a form of law enforcement dishonestly hides the fact that the action itself violates the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact.
Wars, a central lie maintains, are fought against evil. But Assad is not the devil incarnate. He's a horrendously awful ruler, pushed in bad directions by those around him as much as they by him. He's someone who has proposed disarmament in the past and been rejected by the United States. He's someone who has done evil things in cooperation with the United States, including lawless imprisonment and torture. He's not going to eat American children in their sleep. He's never threatened the United States, and has shown remarkable restraint in the face of threats by the United States and the CIA's efforts to undermine and attack his government. Residents of the United States in search of dangers to get excited about shouldn't arrive at Bashar al Assad until far, far down the list past poor diet, poor healthcare, lack of exercise, automobiles, obesity, industrial pollution, unsafe workplaces, gun accidents, chain saws, lightning strikes, and countless other causes of death.
Wars, a common lie holds, are fought in defense. But Syria is no threat to the United States, and when President Obama suggests that theoretically it could be, the laughter you hear from most listeners is the correct response. The White House hasn't sought to build much of a case for "defensive war" against Syria, even on the Benghazi model, and that deficiency is a major weakness. Most people have no tolerance for non-defensive wars. Exceptions are sadists and believers in humanitarian bombings, or -- to name a category that encompasses both of those groups -- imperialists.
The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports. In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen. If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs. Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you'll often -- and increasingly -- hear.
We've also been hearing that President Obama has no choice. He's painted himself into a corner. War simply must happen now, for better or worse. This is nonsense, of course. If Kennedy could back off from a nuclear pissing match with Khrushchev, then surely Obama can accede to the opinion of the United States and the world on the matter of Syria. Had Kennedy prioritized stupid machismo, we wouldn't admire him more. We wouldn't do anything at all. We'd all be dead or never born. Wars, despite a common lie, are not inevitable.
Violence doesn't reduce violence, despite the prevalence of this lie. Wars are not ended by enlarging them. Adding violence to the Syrian civil war will kill directly, escalate the killing by both sides, risk further escalation into a regional conflict, exacerbate a refugee crisis, damage existing aid operations, and make a cease-fire and negotiations more difficult. Killing some Syrians and blowing up some Syrian buildings will leave Assad with exactly whatever "impunity" he had before -- particularly if no nations pursue his indictment in any court for any crimes. But those Syrians killed and everyone else impacted indirectly will be worse off, not better.
As war drags on and expands, the arguments for continuing it will be retaliation against the attacks of other nations, even if our nation provoked them, and the almost religious duty to "support the troops." But the dirty little secret hidden by that shiny lie is that the troops don't benefit from adding years to each quagmire. The troops, in fact, suffer -- often severely. Wars are not prolonged for the good of soldiers, no matter what your television says. They're prolonged for politicians and profiteers.
The beneficiaries of a U.S. attack on Syria will be war profiteers, their political servants, media outlets that gain higher ratings, and a gang increasingly dominated by al Qaeda-affiliated groups that is seeking power in Syria through the use of vicious violence that is illegal in its entirety. War makers do not have noble motives.
A U.S. war on Syria, short or long, will not be fought by armies on a battlefield. It will be fought by missiles and planes and drones in and above the neighborhoods where men, women, and children live. The human, societal, and environmental damage will be something that too many parts of the world are familiar with but the United States itself is not.
This war, like others of its sort, will not be won. Syria was not going to be the first case in which a war was based on honesty. It's also not going to be the first place where a humanitarian war benefits humanity. It's not going to be the first place where the U.S. military builds a stable democratic nation. It's not going to be the first nation whose people are grateful for such an intervention. And it's not going to involve anything that could be properly called a victory.
The deepest lie at the
route root of this drive for war is perhaps the lie that a nation can prepare for war, dumping its energies and resources into every possible plan for every conceivable war, and yet manage to avoid those wars unless they are forced upon it as a "last resort." This next dishonest, immoral, illegal, unpopular, murderous, atrocity-laden, uncontrollable, environment-destroying, rights-eroding, money-wasting war will come relentlessly, ineluctably, it will come . . . unless we compel our government to consider other possible courses of action, including that of actively working for peace through a posture of respect for others that would require a bit of truthfulness.