The Common Ills
By David Swanson
The accepted story in the United States of what's happened in Syria is just that, a story told to make narrative sense of something completely un-understood.
In Southern Sweden a giant round rock lies on flat farmland, and the lovely story my ancestors used to tell to explain how it got there came down to this: a troll threw it there. As evidence, in a nearby castle, one can find a horn and a pipe that come into the story. The horn contained what today would be called chemical weapons, which burned the back of a horse when the hero of the story was smart enough to dump it over his shoulder rather than drinking it. Man and horse got away by riding across the furrows of a field, because everyone knows that trolls must run back and forth the full length of each furrow, which slows them down tremendously. The facts all fit. Some fringe conspiracy theorists may question the very existence of trolls, but such arguments need not be taken seriously.
A peace activist recently sent this video link to a listserve with a note stating that this video got the Syria story pretty much right. I had a number of objections:
That the United States got involved in Syria in 2006 is revealed in WikiLeaks. That the Pentagon was intent on overthrowing the Syrian government in 2001 is revealed by the Donald Rumsfeld memo shown to Wesley Clark, and by Tony Blair in 2010. So the story in this video of the U.S. taking an interest -- purely humanitarian of course -- only in 2013 is highly misleading.
That misdirection also facilitates leaving out of the story the U.S. brushing aside of a peace process proposed by Russia in 2012.
The statement, presented in the video as fact, that Assad used chemical weapons in that attack in 2013 is outrageous, as that has never been established. What ought to have been said was that someone used chemical weapons and Obama claimed falsely to have incontrovertible evidence that it was Assad.
Quoting Obama on a 2013 proposal for a "targeted military strike" blatantly avoids Seymour Hersh's report on the massive bombing campaign Obama had planned.
The video's conclusion that because the war is complicated there is therefore "just no end in sight" is reckless, as an end could be achieved if some effort were put into it, beginning with an honest assessment of the facts, and a retelling of 2013 as something other than "the United States backing down."
What would an honest account about the same length as this video look like? Perhaps like this:
Sad to say, the global policeman of humanitarian intent is no more real than a troll or a "Khorasan Group."
At least as early as 2001, the United States had the Syrian government on a list of governments targeted for overthrow.
In 2003, the United States threw the Middle East into a whole new sort of turmoil with its invasion of Iraq. It created sectarian divisions, and fueled and armed and facilitated the organization of violent groups.
At least as early as 2006, the United States had people in Syria working for the overthrow of the government.
The U.S. response to the Arab Spring, and the U.S.-led overthrow of the Libyan government made matters worse. ISIS was developing long before it burst into the news, its leaders organizing in U.S. prison camps in Iraq. The region was heavily armed with weapons from outside the region, primarily from the United States. Three-quarters of weapons shipped to Middle-Eastern governments were and are from the U.S. The weapons of the U.S. military itself and of its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq, were intentionally and accidentally supplied to new violent groups.
The Arab Spring in Syria was made violent almost immediately, with support for violence from one side coming from the United States and its Gulf dictatorship allies, and from the other side from Iran and Hezbollah and Russia. The Free Syrian Army became one player in a civil and proxy and regional war, recruiting fighters from around the region of "liberated" disaster states. Al Qaeda became another player, as did the Kurds. The U.S. government, however, remained focused on overthrowing the Syrian government, and took no serious steps to halt support for al Qaeda and other groups from U.S. Gulf allies or Turkey or Jordan (steps such as cutting off the flow of weapons from the United States, imposing sanctions, negotiating a cease-fire or arms embargo).
In 2012, Russia proposed a peace-process that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down, but the U.S. brushed the idea aside without any serious consideration, suffering under the delusion that Assad would be violently overthrown very soon, and preferring a violent solution as more likely to remove the Russian influence and military -- and perhaps also due to the general U.S. preference for violence driven by its weapons industry corruption. Meanwhile the Iraqi government was bombing its own citizens with weapons rushed to it by the U.S., violently fueling the coming ISIS assault. And the U.S. had "ended" its military occupation of Iraq without ending it.
In 2013, the White House went public with plans to lob some unspecified number of missiles into Syria, which was in the midst of a horrible civil war already fueled in part by U.S. arms and training camps, as well as by wealthy U.S. allies in the region and fighters emerging from other U.S.-created disasters in the region. The excuse for the missiles was an alleged killing of civilians, including children, with chemical weapons -- a crime that President Barack Obama claimed to have certain proof had been committed by the Syrian government. He never produced so much as a horn or a pipe or a pleasant story as evidence.
Seymour Hersh would later reveal that the U.S. plan had been for a massive bombing campaign. And Robert Parry, among others, would report on the debunking of White House lies about the chemical weapons attack. While Syria might have been guilty, the White House almost certainly did not know that, and the U.S. public seemed to recognize that even such guilt would not justify entering the war. A Russian proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons had already been known to the White House and been rejected. What compelled Obama to accept diplomacy as the last resort in 2013 was the public's and Congress's refusal to allow war. But Obama went right on arming and training fighters in the Syrian war, and sending more troops back into Iraq.
When ISIS burst onto the scene it openly begged the United States to attack it, viewing this as a huge recruitment opportunity. The United States obliged, attacking ISIS from the air in Iraq and Syria (and getting numerous allies to do so as well), in addition to continuing its arming and training operations -- now supposedly aimed at both ISIS and Assad. ISIS thrived, as did various anti-Asad groups.
Turkey joined in by attacking Kurds rather than ISIS or Assad. Russia joined in by bombing ISIS and anti-government groups in Syria. This dangerously increased already high tension between Russia and the United States, as Russia intends to keep the Syrian government from being overthrown, and the United States intends to overthrow it -- and to bring in more allies, with the UK planning a vote on adding their bombs to the mix.
Of course, a ceasefire, an arms embargo, actual aid and reparations, regional disarmament and diplomacy, and the departure from the region of foreign powers all remain possible if pursued.
--David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director ofWorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books includeWar Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.