Today the United States declared that it will begin arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella group of belligerents who oppose the current Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration justified the policy by claiming that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on several occasions, crossing a “red line” in its conduct of a civil war which has lasted over two years and in which almost 100,000 people have perished.
This is very bad news. Far from having the best intentions of the Syrian people at heart, the U.S. government has decided to further sacrifice them and their country so that it can redraw the map of the Middle-East to suit its own political objectives. For Obama and his cronies, Syria is nothing more than a spot on a chessboard, a position to dream and drool over while “playing war games” from the comfort of a White House map-room. As for the Syrian people, they are irrelevant – expendable pawns which can be tossed into the flames without a second thought.
The stated justification for arming the FSA, i.e. the purported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, is an interesting one. As of yet, the U.S. government has failed to provide any concrete evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, a fact which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has noted in his opposition to the new American policy.
What makes the logic of American intervention particularly bizarre, however, is the existence of previous evidence which suggests that the FSA, the group which the U.S. backs, previously employed chemical weapons. Last month Carla Del Ponte, a top UN human rights investigator, said that the UN investigators had “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” adding that “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
Such evidence is certainly more concrete than that which the U.S. government is currently (not) offering. If Obama et al. were really preoccupied about protecting Syrians from chemical weapons then they would already have intervened in May – that is, against the FSA which they plan to arm and already have been providing other means of support. The decision to accouter the FSA with arms is, consequently, a move that is premised solely on shared political interests, not humanitarian motives.
What only adds to the insanity of the “red line” rationale offered by the Obama administration is the recent history of chemical weapons in the Middle-East, a blood-drenched tale in which the U.S. has been the chief arms supplier (and hence moneymaker).
The first use of chemical weapons in the Middle-East began after WWI by the British in Iraq. After the war, both Britain and France carved up the former Ottoman Empire into spheres of Western exploitation. In a stunning act of betrayal, both European powers had reneged on their wartime promise to allied Arab nationalists that after the war the former Ottoman territories would be allowed self-rule. Instead, the British and French conspired in the formation of the now infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret pact which divvied up the Middle-East between each power.
Winston Churchill, then British colonial secretary, had a keen interest in Iraq, especially the oil-rich region of Mosul. On his initiative the British navy had converted from coal to oil-based power. While this guaranteed the maintenance of a cutting-edge navy, it also meant that oil as a commodity dramatically increased in value. Yet the subjugation of Iraq did not go as easily as the Brits anticipated.
Inflamed by the European perfidy, Iraqis revolted against their new overlords in a popular uprising, one which is resonant of the “Arab Spring” today. Needless to say, this chagrined Churchill and the other imperialists to no end.
Never one at a loss of ideas, however, Churchill decided that the best way to subdue the “niggers” would be to use chemical weapons and the newly formed Royal Air Force (RAF), a solution which he believed to be both efficient and scientific. Subsequently, if an Iraqi town did not pay its taxes or failed to kowtow to British rule, the entire village ran the risk of being mowed down by planes or suffocated in a cloud of mustard gas.
Since its introduction by Western powers chemical weapons, gases in particular, have been a mainstay of oppression in the Middle-East. Outside observers would do well to remember that the most vivid images of Western authority that have been etched into the minds of Middle-Easterners are those of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the occupation of Palestine.
Back in the 1980s the U.S. supplied chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein for his war with Iran. This cynical policy – one which is not all that different from Obama’s in Syria – was meant to bleed both Iraq and Iran, neither of whom the U.S. government liked, in the most senseless and profligate way imaginable. In the end, millions of lives were silenced, mangled or otherwise ruined. I guess you could say that U.S. arms-makers really did make a “killing” out of the affair.
More recently, photos of Palestinian protestors being assaulted by the Israeli Wehrmacht continue to inflame the region’s popular consciousness. Invariably these peaceful demonstrations are broken up with the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons; and, just as predictably, the gas canisters bear the signature “made in the U.S.A.” on the bottom.
Consequently if there really is a “red line,” as Obama would have us believe, it is one which permits the use of chemical weapons by certain groups such as the Israeli Wehrmacht and other pro-U.S. dictators in the area. Or perhaps the real “red line” that Obama is referring to is the sales marker of American weapons makers, those manufacturers of death and hawkers of war who are only all too eager to see the U.S. further intervene in Syria. Unlike other businesses, the “red line” for arms manufacturers does not denote business losses; rather, it signifies soaring arms sales whose profits are stained with blood.
Now that we have examined the chemical weapons canard, let us look at the other components of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Syria.
As one would expect, America’s efforts to provision the FSA have been framed in humanitarian terms. Arming the rebels, we are assured, will bring peace to Syria by providing the rebels with the necessary means to decisively end the conflict.
Unfortunately, Americans have been deluged by such nonsense for so long that many fail to even question the most ridiculous parts of this proposal. For starters, the idea that introducing more bombs, guns and bullets into a warzone will bring peace is akin to saying that the best way to stop a fire is by adding gasoline. Yes, the conflagration will burn out eventually but so will everything with it -- in other words, the civilians whom the Obama administration is supposedly trying to save.
Rather, the real reason the U.S. has now decided to channel arms to the FSA is because the Assad regime, excepting such an intervention, will likely manage to defeat the rebels. During the past several months the Assad regime has managed to secure several unambiguous victories over the FSA, and with the assistance of Hezbollah and Iran it seems improbable that the FSA can continue to hold on without an infusion of outside aid.
Despite the fact that the U.S. collaborated with Assad during its 2003 invasion of Iraq and has long outsourced torture to the regime, American hawks have never felt at ease with the current government. In recent years this mistrust has compounded into outright enmity, especially after the Iraqi government became dominated by Shiites – largely because of U.S. bungling in Iraq – allowing relations between Shiite Iran, Iraq, Syria and Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon to become more fluid.
The consolidation of this “Shiite Crescent” has perturbed U.S. officials ever since they made it possible. This displeasure is, contrary to popular belief, not because these countries hold pro-“terrorist” policies but because they do not uncritically back U.S. policies in the Middle-East.
When some countries question Washington’s sponsorship of Israeli concentration camps and its colonization of Palestine, America's illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the West's backing of regional despots, serious people like Obama knit their eyebrows and raise their voices to tell us that these countries are full of “terrorists.”
Now it is true that these counties' opposition to American excesses have generally been confined to the rhetorical level, and are generally tinged with hypocrisy or employed to channel domestic discontent away from their governments' own corrupt policies. Even so these countries, like all sovereign entities, should be allowed to pursue their own policies independent of U.S. interests within the framework of international law. Otherwise they cannot claim to be free and we cannot claim to value freedom.
And speaking of “terrorists,” it is well known that some fighters who are part of the FSA are supported by al-Qaeda. Contrary to popular pronunciations, the U.S. does indeed "negotiate" with “terrorists.” In fact, it gives them weapons.
Lastly, the recent past has conveyed in grim detail the sad truth that the U.S. government really could not care less about the lives of Middle-Easterners. To say that the U.S. is aiding the FSA because it cares about the lives of Syrian civilians is hence a boldfaced lie and an aberration of language.
While reading about the U.S. decision to arm the rebels for "humanitarian" reasons I could not help but recall the cultural awareness lessons which some American soldiers were given before they entered Iraq. The lessons were an entrée to Middle-Eastern culture as only the U.S. government could offer.
Depicting the lives of the Middle-Easterner as that of another species, the lessons focused on the subject of the “Arab Mind,” predictably concluding that Arabs are violent, inclined towards mischief and incapable of prolonged intellection. The overall impression was not unlike that given by General Westmoreland of the "Oriental" after the Vietnam War, when he said that, ''The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."
Unfortunately, it seems that on some level most Americans have assimilated this same worldview. The failed U.S.-NATO intervention in Libya completely destabilized that country, allowing not only for the free reign of religious extremists but the deaths of countless Libyans. Instead of paying even lip service to the disastrous effects of Western aggression in Libya, however, Americans are preoccupied about the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Once more the lives of non-white, non-Western and, simply put, non-American people are considered irrelevant. As thousands of Libyans die the only remarks that Americans make about Libya are in reference to the plot of turf that the U.S. “owned” there, the U.S. lives involved and the U.S. interests vested in the country.
Yet the lives of those in the Middle-East do matter, just as the lives of all human-beings. And while Obama and his cronies would have us believe otherwise, their lives are not all that different from our own. It is only by recognizing this reality which rests before us in plain sight that we can hope to transcend the “red line[s]” of prejudice and hate. And it is only by transcending the fixations of power, violence and war that we can hope to achieve that which humanity so badly needs but seems to forever elude our grasp. Peace.