Thursday, September 05, 2013

124.8 - Syria: More death is not an answer

Syria: More death is not an answer

For the rest of the show I'm going to be talking about Syria.

As I know you know, there is a case being made for a US attack on Syria, based on - take your pick, reports, claims, allegations, intelligence - that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out chemical weapons attacks on the rebels who have been fighting his regime for something approaching three years now.

In that time, in that 2-1/2 to 3 years, by best estimates over 100,000 Syrians have been killed as the fight evolved from a government crackdown on a peaceful protest movement into a full-scale civil war appropriately described as "scarily reminiscent" of the one that has ripped up Iraq over the last decade, a civil war, let's not forget, that our invasion unleashed and which saw at least 67 people killed in coordinated bomb attacks on Tuesday.

In Syria, ethnic massacres have been committed by both sides and both sides have groups that we consider as terrorists as allies. Again, in that last 2-1/2 years, over 100,000 Syrians, both fighters and civilians, have been killed. They have been shot, shredded by shrapnel, blasted, bombed, slaughtered, and strafed. They have been murdered by mortars and mauled by mines.

There are two million United Nations-registered refugees, half of them children, three-quarters of those younger than 11. The total number of refugees may be as high as seven or eight million.

And across that time the world, including the US, watched and muttered vague threats and shuffled its feet and turned away because the demands of international power politics and posturing spoke louder than the wails of the wounded.

Oh, but now that's all going to change, yessiree! Our Nobel Peace Prize president is gonna show that Assad guy what for! Why now? Because, the White House claims, Assad killed 1,429 people - a number I find suspiciously precise - 1,429 people with a chemical weapons attack.

Yes, chemical weapons are regarded as particularly horrendous. Yes, they are banned by international law and treaty, legal concepts that under other conditions doesn't seem to concern us much. But yes, they are horrendous and yes, they are banned. And yes, despite some lingering doubts, doubts well-based in the miserable failures of American intelligence in the case of Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and despite a surprising number of suggestions of a false-flag operation - that is, that it was the rebels who gassed their own supporters in order to pin it on Assad in hopes of provoking Western intervention - despite that, I am quite willing to accept that Assad did use chemical weapons. On the what, Doctors Without Borders is convinced chemical weapons were used, and that's good enough for me. On the who, I find the false-flag claims utterly unconvincing, no more than wild pro-Assad speculation, which leaves Assad as the who.

But still I have to ask: Are those victims any more dead than the 100,000 others? Were their screams any louder? Do their families mourn them any more deeply?

So why now? Is it actually because of chemical weapons? Not exactly: It's because of what we said about chemical weapons. It's about the "red line" we drew. It's about our "credibility." It's about, as John McCain said, "sending a message" not just to Syria but to Iran, North Korea, and those we consider terrorist groups. It's about because we said we would, not because it will accomplish anything other than creating an even bigger piles of bodies. Even the White House doesn't claim it's call for a "limited strike" - by the way, the White House has a somewhat odd understanding of the word "limited": Appearing on "All In with Chris Hayes" on MSNBC on Tuesday, former NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor, described as being "back at the White House" to help Obama make his pitch for an attack, referred to what he also called a "limited strike" as involving "a couple hundred cruise missiles." Apparently, anything short of a nuclear first strike is "limited."

Anyway, even the White House doesn't claim this "limited strike" will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again; it only claims that it will serve to "degrade his capacity" to do so.

Glenn Greenwald said it well:
There are few things more bizarre than watching people advocate that another country be bombed even while acknowledging that it will achieve no good outcomes other than safeguarding the "credibility" of those doing the bombing. Relatedly, it's hard to imagine a more potent sign of a weak, declining empire than having one's national "credibility" depend upon periodically bombing other countries.
There is so much more to say about this, such as how we're supposed to be just so thrilled that Obama deigned to ask Congress for authorization even as the White House made it clear that he don't need no stinking authorization and he might just go ahead and bomb Syria anyway even if Congress says no, which is what the public wants it to do. He did it in the case of Libya, why wouldn't he do it again?

I will, I swear I will, talk more about this next week even if the vote, scheduled for the week of September 9, has already happened.


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