Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Think again, please.

Before you accept the corporate media version of the Obama Administration’s decision landscape for what now appears to be an inevitable, illegal attack on another sovereign nation, please take another look.

Here are some inconvenient facts and analyses:

Firstly, it is not clear at all that the Syrian military were the sole perpetrators of sarin gas use on civilians in the Syrian conflict.  In May 2013, UN investigator Carla del Ponte reported in connection with the suspected use of sarin gas: ‘This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities’ (see the Daily Mail and Der Spiegel among others). 

This was after numerous interviews with victims and victims’ families in the neighborhoods where the attacks took place and the acquisition of forensic proof that the rockets carrying the nerve agent were launched from rebel-held areas.  This view was disputed by the US and Britain.  However, it was Ms. Del Ponte’s team who were on the ground, under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, doing first hand investigation.  Consequently, we must reasonably accept at the very least, that this is still a debatable point.  The US mainstream media seem to have forgotten these details.

Assuming that a unilateral military attack is legal, which it is not under the UN Charter and international law, is attacking one side in a conflict under the presumption of guilt a morally justifiable act when there is evidence that both sides are perpetrators of the same offense? 

Secretary of State Kerry and other State Department officials have insisted, as a matter of fact, that the Syrian government delayed on the question of UN inspection of the East Ghouta area (the alleged and recent location of nerve gas use).  In fact, the request was not delivered to the Syrians until Saturday, in person, by UN representative Angela Kane and the Syrians responded within one day with an affirmative answer.  This was confirmed by the UN.

The State Department also insists that the Syrians are destroying evidence with the continued shelling of Ghouta, but both the Syrians and UN inspectors, who observe that a ceasefire has remained intact in the area, dispute this.

Western media sources reported that UN inspections were halted by sniper fire and in many cases made the inference that the sniper fire came from Syrian troops, when in fact the inspections went ahead on schedule.  Oddly, the fact that Syrian officials were escorting the UN inspectors to the crime scene seems to have escaped US mainstream media sources.  Why would the Syrians fire on their own officials after their government approved the inspection, publicly announced it and personally escorted UN inspectors there?

There are two problems with the US rationale.

First, they insisted on allowing inspections of East Ghouta by UN inspectors, but then tried to get UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to call off the inspections after it was clear that the Syrians would comply, thereby removing putative justification for US military action.  The public rationale for this was concern over the presumed quality of remaining evidence.  In other words, the discovery of more uncertainty would not be useful to US unilateral aims. 

Second, the US has completely disregarded the fact that some evidence exists that rebel forces had already used sarin.

After listening to C-SPAN today, it is clear that the State Department is engaged in double-speak.  While insisting that the US would act in a legal fashion, they refused to offer a legal rationale for military action, despite repeated questions from members of the press who actually appeared to be doing their job at the State Department briefing.

Some points to ponder:  If the US, once again, attacks a sovereign nation in violation of the UN Charter and international law and in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution, on what basis will we be able to prevent China or Russia from doing the same anywhere in the world should they decide to do so?  How can the law only apply to others, but not the US?  How is it justifiable to take action for presumed crimes that have not yet been fully investigated by UN inspectors who, as I write, are trying to complete their legal responsibilities under international law?

Almost without exception, US unilateral military interventions in foreign conflicts have resulted in increased civilian casualties after the strikes take place.  Civilian casualties always occur, but are glossed over, as was the case with the bombing campaign in Libya.  Doctors on the ground there and Human Rights Watch, among others, reported scores of civilian deaths as a direct result of the airstrikes.  NATO left the post-strike investigation responsibilities to the transitional rebel government: in other words the very people who benefited from the bombing campaign.  They have shown no interest in undertaking an investigation and western media have dropped the story, but initial on-the-ground evidence is disturbing.

It is popular myth that President Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia and Kosovo reduced the level of slaughter taking place there.  But as the Wall Street Journal and an in depth study by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) revealed, mass killings increased after the bombing campaign took place.  This fact was further demonstrated with exculpatory evidence presented in the subsequent war crimes trials of Slobodan Milosevic and his henchmen.

But what of the ghastly abomination taking place in Syria?  How can we stand idly by?  These questions are legitimate and urgent, but should be put in the context of our recent world history.  It is also fair to ask if this is a genuine motivation for US military involvement.  Where was US military action during the Rwandan genocide, which led to the murder of 500,000 people? 

Where was US military action when the Indonesian government, after illegally annexing East Timor, slaughtered 250,000 people using US-supplied arms and funding?

Examples abound.

What is different about these countries than say Iraq or Syria?  Are their citizens of less value?

If we have learned anything from US militarism ersatz diplomacy it is that there are always unknown and underestimated consequences.  Some immediate questions: If there are US-led bombings, will Hezbollah make true on its promise to attack Israel?  Certainly Israel will make good on its promise to retaliate with unmatched force.  What will then happen in Lebanon?  What will happen to an already refugee-strained Jordan?  In the chaos that ensues, what will come of internecine battles between Al Qaeda affiliated rebels and Hezbollah inside and outside of Syria?

What else will go wrong?

One thing we can count on is oil prices going up and the Saudi’s and Big Oil making more money.  We can also count on the big US defense contractors making a big windfall.  And you can be sure that more people will die and the Middle East will become increasingly unstable.