By Reginald Johnson
Some years ago, I attended a rally and one of the chants went like this:
“America attacks, the people fight back!” “America attacks, the people fight back!”
I thought of this chant yesterday, as news poured in that the United States was planning to launch a bombing strike against Syria in response to that nation’s alleged use of chemical weapons against insurgents in a civil war.
Here we are again, on the precipice of yet another invasion into, incursion of, missile strike against, bombing campaign of, bludgeoning of, another country. Some other country has gone too far, someone is threatening someone else, someone has done something wrong, and we, the land of the pure and the righteous, have to set things straight. Others can’t do it, we have to do it.
As former President George W. Bush might say, we have to smite the evil doers.
So it is with Syria. That nation has, in the words of our current President Barack Obama, “crossed a red line.” There’s been a chemical weapons attack in the country, and the administration is maintaining it was perpetrated by the Syrian government. Hundreds have been killed. Syria has committed, in the words of our Secretary of State and former war protester John Kerry, a “moral obscenity.” It is an act, Kerry said, that demands a response.
It is an absolute certainty, furthermore, according to Kerry and others, that forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian leader, carried out this attack and not anyone else. We know it for sure, because our “intelligence services” say so. Yes, we know the UN is investigating to get confirmation about the attack and who did it, but we already know, they say.
And just like with Iraq 10 years ago and the question of whether that nation had weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. is apparently not going to wait for the results of the UN investigation. No need to. We know. We’re going to send cruise missiles into Syria to hit “selected targets” and punish Syria.
And hundreds, if not thousands, will die. Human beings, blown to bits in a massive carnage. Homes ruined, factories leveled, infrastructure destroyed. Of those who survive, many will be left with life-long, debilitating injuries.
According to MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, the bombing could come as early as Thursday.
Just like ten years ago, no one in the press or in Congress seems particularly upset. It’s just kind of assumed that Assad is this really bad guy, and of course he’s used chemical weapons on his people. Reports of previous poison gas attacks by rebel forces are brushed away. Not many people are asking probing questions about what’s going on, and what American objectives really are with the planned attack.
A few people in Congress are standing up and demanding answers, and insisting that Congress must give approval for the bombing. But this principled group is far from a majority. That’s very sad.
The fact is that Obama does have to get congressional approval before launching this intervention. The Constitution is clear: Congress must approve any move by this nation to engage in war. Dropping bombs on another country is surely an act of war.
If Obama goes ahead without approval from Congress, he’s breaking the law and violating his constitutional oath of office. This is an impeachable offense.
He and this nation will also be violating international law. The law is clear. One nation cannot just willy nilly strike another nation militarily because it wants to. They have to be acting in self-defense or get Security Council authorization to launch an attack. The U.S. right now would not be meeting either of those requirements.
A U.S. president can’t say, ‘well these requirements of both national law and international law are annoying, and we’re just not bothering to fulfill them.’ Can’t do that.
And what of the categorical claims by intelligence officials that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons? Didn’t we go through this before? Remember CIA Director George Tenet’s remark, prior to the U.S. attack on Iraq, that it was a “slam dunk” about the certainty that Iraq had WMDs? Months after that statement, and after the war had begun, a UN team found no WMDs. Zero.
Is there a possibility the story about chemical weapons use by Syria has been falsified, that someone else used the weapons and the act is being falsely linked to Assad, so as to provide a pretext for invasion? Yes. It’s happened before. They’re called “false flag” operations. See the bombing of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor prior to the Spanish-American War or the Gulf of Tonkin incident prior to the Vietnam War as examples.
When the U.S. really wants to do something, like intervene in another country, sometimes these things happen. America has wanted to intervene on behalf of Assad’s opponents in Syria for a long time, badly. This despite the fact that some of the opposition forces are terrorists, including al-Qaeda.
The real objective here is Iran, a country loaded with oil --- just like Iraq was. Knock over Assad’s regime, and knock out a friend of Iran’s. Then outflank Iran, and depose that regime as well. That’s the game plan. We will gain control of Iran’s oil, keep it away from the Russians and Chinese, and eliminate an arch enemy of Israel as well.
This whole affair with Syria has nothing to do with human rights, or the suffering caused by chemical weapons. If the U.S. was concerned about mass suffering, it wouldn’t have aided an Egyptian regime which has just killed hundreds.
Maybe my analysis of events in Syria is wrong. Maybe for once, U.S. reports on an awful act by another government are correct. I’m willing to look at the evidence. But let’s allow the UN team to do their job --- to do a full investigation. Then, if the chemical attack by Syria is confirmed, go before the UN and decide on a course of action.
Don’t act unilaterally, or act with one or two allies in a bombing campaign before the evidence is in. This is morally and legally wrong.
A bombing campaign now also puts the world in danger. Given the alliances involved, Syria with Iran, Russia and China with Syria and Iran, an American intervention could spark a wider and deadly Middle East war.
It is shameful and quite frankly mind-boggling that on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington, President Obama will today give a speech honoring King, and then go back to his office and prepare for war with Syria. King was a man of peace, who stressed non-violence. In 1967, he spoke out against the Vietnam War.
If President Obama really wanted to honor King, he would stop all plans for attacking Syria, and work for peace.
Let’s hope he does.
In the meantime, people have to raise their voices and say No to bombing Syria. Call your congressperson and senator, and demand they make sure Obama gets congressional approval for any intervention and that the U.S. works through the UN.
As the chant I heard years go said, the people have to fight back.