Syria and the US Warfare State
Below, I take a second look at the recent headlines out of Syria.
The Unheeded Warnings of Eisenhower
In a now infamous farewell address given just moments before handing the mantel of Presidential power to a young John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower (admittedly one of my personal favorites as an American leader and a living embodiment of the West Point code of duty, honor and country) made a calm yet brilliant warning against the increasingly dangerous influence of the “military industrial complex” over US domestic and foreign affairs.
I’ve written about Eisenhower’s fiscal leadership elsewhere, but in these introductory paragraphs, I will speak to his broader wisdom as an American, a leader and a man. In sum, he (and his warnings) deserves profound deference.
Stated otherwise, one has to appreciate the significance of his farewell address warnings, as he knew this “military industry” better than any man and surely cannot be accused of ignorance, dovish stances or anti-Americanism…
A career soldier, Ike literally helped save the world from fascism, propaganda and war crimes of unprecedented levels. In short, when Ike has bee up his bonnet about fears of an American warfare state, one ought to therefore take him seriously…
Indeed, it was against such warfare states that he fought in the Second World War.
Sadly, if Ike were alive today, I’m quite confident he would feel that his warnings have been unheeded, as the current morass in the Middle East in general, and Syria in particular makes abundantly clear.
In short, the very warfare state he warned against has become a reality, and I feel all of us (red, blue, left, right or center) need to look at the facts, not the headlines from such a state.
As missiles and Presidential tweets fly to avenge the recent and alleged gas attacks on Syrian civilians which have the potential of expanding an already endless war in the Middle East, it might be worth considering the evidence first, rather than just the Western media, as to what really happened in the Douma gas attacks.
I’m not saying I know myself; I am saying that before we start rattling sabers and risking escalation with Russia and Iran (at the behest of foreign policy interests that favor Israel and Saudi Arabia far more than the US), we ought to do what all lawyers like myself were trained to do before prosecuting or defending a case…
…Namely: we need to consider such archaic topics as facts, evidence and motive before assigning a verdict and rendering a sentence.
In the recent events in Syria, it seems the US began with a verdict first (“Assad is guilty”), then moved directly to sentencing next (i.e. air strikes) while failing to fully consider such preliminary matters as facts, evidence and motive…
Such radical perversions of common sense and policy, I feel, could only happen in the very scenarios Ike warned against. That is, only a warfare state (as opposed to an intelligent state) could explain such a misleading and mis-sequenced foreign policy as the one the US is currently pursuing in Syria.
So, let’s look at what we do know without rendering a verdict too quickly on Assad’s Syria.
- Less than 2 weeks ago, Trump was indicating that it was time to extricate the US from Syria. His Tweet can’t be denied:
“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon…Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out….We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”
- Immediately thereafter, there was a reported gas attack waged on Syrian civilians in Douma, which was immediately attributed to Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, by a western media machine whose conclusions were based upon “sources” with an extremely dubious record for accuracy or objectivity (more below).
- Horrific images of gassed women and children induced global outrage which naturally made it to the White House. Trump Immediately reacted with a new, bellicose stance to punish Assad and thus ostensibly increase, rather than decrease, US involvement in the region.
- Russian and Syrian leadership as well as their media arms reacted with an equally fervent denial of any role in the attacks, or even the existence thereof, and agreed to resist any unlawful or premature attack by US-led NATO forces.
- Trump, never one to ignore a criticism, immediately compared muscle sizes by sending out another policy tweet:
“….Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
- Team Putin, via its ambassador in Beirut, equally proud of their own views and muscles, responded in kind:
“If there is a strike by the Americans on #Syria, then… the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired,”
Days later, a US lead missile strike was launched against Assad’s so called “gas stockpiles” and the Tweet war escalated to a bombing campaign.
And thus, the brutal civil war in Syria, in which atrocities exist on every side, got hotter rather than colder.
Was the US Attack on Syria the Right Thing?
So now the big question remains: did the US do the right thing? The answer depends, again, on evidence not tweets or missiles. So, let’s look at the evidence, the parties, and the motives and see what we can deduce thus far.
Douma: Ghouta Part 2?
On the evidence side, it is fairly well agreed that prior gas attacks on Syrian civilians that were blamed on Assad (i.e. Ghoute in 2013) turned out to be, well, less than accurate, as Seymour Hersch’s Pulitzer-prize-winning journalism more than made clear.
In Ghouta then, as in Douma today, these gas attacks conveniently occurred just days after the US announced a desire to extricate itself from Syria. Yet after such attacks, the US expanded its role in Syria, much to the delight of Israel and Saudi Arabia (as well as the US warfare state) and much to the chagrin of Assad…
In short, gas attacks seem to be the last thing that Assad would want (but more on that below).
What we do know, is that the rush to judgement in 2013, as today, seems to have been a mistake.
Who Really has the Gas?
Furthermore, we also know that it is a documented fact that the rebels whom Assad is trying to defeat (i.e. real sweethearts like ISIS and its other Al Qaeda subsidiaries, Al Nusra and Al Din al Zike) possess chemical weapons and have launched false flag gas attacks in the past—even as 1,300 tons of Assad’s inventory was destroyed according to the certification of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Of course, as of now, we don’t know if Assad had other stockpiles of chemical weapons. He could be lying. But so could ISIS and their second cousins in this landscape of lies, confusion, media grandstanding and murder.
Either way, it bears repeating that Assad had the least, rather than the most, to gain from gassing his own people. The same cannot be said, however, about ISIS and her various second cousins slitting throat after throat in Douma for the last 5 years…
In that context, can anyone say with certainty whether the alleged chlorine gas release last Saturday in Douma originated in a bomb dropped by Assad’s air force or came from a rebel stockpile that was hit by a bomb?
Or whether it was another deliberate false flag attack staged by the jihadists (with the most to gain and nothing to lose) or perhaps that it never happened at all?
Trust Our Sources, Not Theirs?
Naturally, our instincts as proud, patriotic Americans is to trust our Cabinet, our media and our sound intel from Langley and the Pentagon. Certainly, if Trump said, “fire away,” it was because the data was sound and the cause just.
But let us not forget, another President did the same thing in Iraq in 2003 based on “sound intel” that Sadaam Hussein had Weapons of Mass destruction. The media fully supported him then.
Oops. They got that wrong.
So just where did the US (and the NY Times for that matter) get its “sound intel” to be so certain that Assad was to blame within 10 minutes of the Douma event?
In fact, the evidence came primarily from rebel forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which any 1st year trial lawyer might suspect as being, well, unreliable?
One of these intel “sources” was the Violations Documentation Center, a virulent anti-Russian (and hence anti-Assad) organization funded by George Soros.
Another was the White Helmets, an absolutely comprised operation financed by the US and UK which has operated only in rebel (i.e. anti-Assad) held territories under the likes/control of the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist elements.
Again, hardly “objective” providers of facts…
Think Before Shooting, That’s All…
Again, I’m not suggesting that Assad is without blemish, or even that he is innocent, but I am saying that before the US war state jumps to action, and before Americans trust everything they see on TV, it might be wise to pause and think before pulling triggers.
After all, these are triggers that could drag us not only deeper into a Syrian war, but possibly push us deeper into war with Russia and Iran—two enemies which would only add to the US and civilian body count in our “war on terror.”
(By the way, more Americans have died from texting and driving than from terror attacks since 9-11; we may want to allocate some of our military budget from the DOD to the DMV…)
The Moral High Ground. Who Has It?
Also, before we Americans rely on the moral fallback of simply wanting to do the right thing and punish bad guys, it’s also worth asking about the “bad guys” with whom we are allied…
That is, if the US wants to punish the immoral elements of this crazy region, we’d have to consider sending equally explosive missiles to al-Sisi in Egypt and Erdogan in Turkey, not to mention our own headlined ally, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, for his genocidal attacks on Yemen or Bibi Netanyahu for his constant, yet largely media-ignored, “lawn mowing” exercises on the Gaza strip…
In short, we and our “noble allies” are hardly without our own stains, and frankly, the weekly Wednesday beheadings in Mecca (a veritable Saudi spectator sport) are no less gruesome than anything ISIS does just because Saudi is in oil ally and ISIS is not…
What About Assad?
Other facts worth at least considering is that Assad has never attacked, threatened or even openly mocked the United States. Equally important is the fact that the majority of the Syrian people support him and passionately maintain his innocence in the alleged gassings.
It seems that if Assad (a mild-mannered, Western-trained ophthalmologist) really was the mass-murdering “Hitler 2.0” the Western press says he is, perhaps his own countrymen would agree?
But they don’t…
Again, I’m not suggesting that Assad is innocent. I’m merely suggesting that we look at all the facts, contradictions and biases that tilt potentially (not factually) toward a re-thinking of the standard narrative dished out by the US warfare state and its potentially complicit allies in a main stream media that daily loses its credibility to anyone with a critical and open mind.
In short, we shouldn’t be launching missiles before considering all the angles in this Syrian swamp of contradictory evidence, motives, parties and interests…
What the Rest of the World Thinks
When I read media in other languages and countries, the reports are very different than what I read or see in The Times, NPR or Fox News. Toward this end, I highly recommend the English-language reporting of Ozy journalists like Tim Anderson or Phillip Knightly.
Once one considers other perspectives beyond the US media (as any good jury or district judge would have to consider all sides, not just one side), they’d see a different take on events.
Overseas, and of course in the Middle East, the basic message is that the US is run by a military deep and dark state with a defense budget of $720 billion whose military/industrial/surveillance/congressional complex favor (rather than seek to avoid) occasional and provocative acts with Russia and Iran (via a Syrian proxy war) in order to keep the national security gravy train of money growing toward the $1 trillion funding mark.
War, after all, is big business.
In short, the press that is coming from outside the US ponopticon is warning about the very same military dark state that Eisenhower warned against in 1961…
They genuinely fear that Trump is being surrounded (and controlled) by the likes of the most militant and expansionist neocon minds in US history—namely the hawkish trio of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel.
Am I saying the foreign press is freer than ours? Am I saying they are right and we are wrong?
Nope. I’m only saying we need to consider all opinions, not just the highly managed narrative spoon fed to us daily by the same political and media system that fed us the WMD lies and disastrous Iraq war of 2003.
It’s important to be objective rather than blindly obedient to a deep state narrative before we embark on further bloodshed in Syria and beyond, where our own soldiers are dying and coming home maimed and confused as to the what for’s and why’s of our wars—which may partially explain why the suicide rate for returning GI’s is a staggering 21 per day…
Motive—Equally Worth a Second Thought
Motive, like intent, is the key to unlocking the truth in most criminal trials. This much I remember from studying under the infamous Yale Kamisar in my 1L crim course.
When I think of these basic concepts—motive and intent—I have to admit that Assad makes for a poor guilty verdict, at least based upon the current facts.
Both militarily and politically, Assad and his Syrian army (as well as Russian allies) would have absolutely zero to gain in ripping defeat from the clutches of victory by suddenly gassing his own civilians in Douma.
Military Motive? Nope…
First, let’s briefly consider the military facts that led to Douma, which are undeniably in favor of Assad’s denials.
After a violent two-month campaign, his Syrian Army (supported by the Russian Air Force) had captured most of the rebel strongholds in the Eastern Ghouta district outside of Damascus (wherein Douma lies). This effectively meant that the civil war was essentially over.
After Assad’s renewed offensive in February, Eastern Ghouta had been split into three pockets of resistance which had finally capitulated after bloody battles that caused upwards of 1,200 military and civilian casualties on both sides.
Under negotiated deals, opposition fighters (some notorious cut throats) and their families were evacuated in buses to rebel-held territory in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.
This left only a small enclave of some real bad guys (Salafist fighters from the “Army of Islam”[Jaish al-Islam]) holding out in Douma.
By April 5, however, the situation was so bad that even these poster-children of “the cruel and unusual” agreed to negotiations, but stalwarts among these guys were killing anyone of their own kind seeking to surrender to Assad.
In short, these were some real “die hard” fanatics in Douma capable of killing their own—and anyone else for that matter…
Thus, last Friday, Assad’s army resumed its offensive and the purported gas attack occurred the next day, when it appears the fight was effectively over for the terrorist rebels.
Given these facts, one just has to ask why in the world would Bashar Assad, who was on the verge of total victory over an Alamo of rebel extremists, would use chemical weapons on civilians and children?
Political Motive? Nope…
Furthermore, just hours after Trump had originally tweeted to wean the US from Syria (veritable music to Assad’s ears), why would Assad provoke the US by committing a humanitarian atrocity which would most certainly re-ignite US involvement?
Even a madman would not be that politically stupid…
In short, Assad had the least to benefit from such on act on military, political and even moral grounds.
Terrorist Motives? Plenty…
The same, of course, cannot be said of the desperate Jaish al-Islam fanatics fighting Assad to the last man in Douma, and whose record of head-chopping, civilian torture, and chlorine attacks would make a psychopath blush.
In short, if I were the judge or jury to these undisputed facts, I’d be looking less at Assad and more at these first and second cousins of ISIS, who our “allies,” Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been funding, training and supplying for years…
The ironies (and facts) do abound…
Putting this altogether, one has to think more broadly, more objectively. Doing so does not make you anti-American, anti-Trump or pro-terrorist or even pro-Assad.
Instead, it just makes you more informed, more cautious, more questioning, and alas, more cognizant of the warnings of President Eisenhower in 1961…
Stated more simply, before we send more missiles, soldiers and civilians into harm’s way, and before we blindly accept everything we read in The Times et al, I hope we come armed with all sides of the truth, not just one side.
I hope, in short, we show the courage and discipline of Ike rather than the impulses of a tweet…