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Memo from Islamabad

Out of Control

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

Islamabad.

The United Nations Charter states, among other wise and widely forgotten strictures, that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The meaning is clear, in that the signatories to the Charter agreed that territorial integrity was and is fundamental to sovereignty and national dignity. It is essential that a country be permitted to conduct its affairs without the fear of attack by powerful states having policies and intentions detrimental to humanitarian values and civilized conduct.

But civilized conduct is not a phrase or policy platform readily associated with the Bush administration. Following the example of Israel, which carried out a bombing raid against Syria last year, helicopter borne US special forces landed 5 miles inside Syria on October 26 and killed several people. According to Reuters, “Suleiman Ghadban, head of the hospital in the nearby town of Bou Kamal, said: “The hospital received seven bodies aged between 16 and 50 and three wounded, including the mother of the [deceased] family.”

It was disquieting but not surprising that “US forces based in western Iraq denied that they were involved in the incident, suggesting that it may have been carried out by a special unit outside the regular US command structure.” This is far from unusual, because special forces are a law unto themselves. They do not take orders, in either Iraq or Afghanistan, from the US commander on the ground. They answer only to the head of Special Forces Command, who tasks them irrespective of international sensitivities, the effects on US forces in the theatre, or – and of most importance – any consideration of humanity or decency. His orders come directly from the cabal of repulsive fanatics in the Bush administration.

The BBC reported October 30 that “Souad Khousaim lay very still on her hospital bed and in a quiet voice wracked with pain told me she was one of the innocent victims of Sunday’s raid by US special forces. ‘I went outside to get my son and the Americans shot me,’ she says. ‘They were very close, five meters away. I was screaming, terrified.’ Her husband was among the seven Syrian men who died, but hospital officials have not told her this yet.” Oh, these big brave special forces soldiers, how wonderful you are.

“Five of those killed were from the same family, a man and four adult sons. His widow met me surrounded by 20 or so grandchildren, who were all now fatherless.” Well done, special forces: will you sleep well at night? Yes, you probably will, because you are devoid of feeling, deficient in humanity and lacking in soul. You are muscle-bound killer robots whose horrible skills are wielded in the manner approved by your demented president whose scorn for non-American humankind (and lots of Americans, too, of course) is verging on the paranoid.

In addition to the death toll and the terrified woman shot and widowed by the intrepid knuckle-draggers, there is the matter of international relations. On the very day of the attack the Syrian foreign minister was travelling to meet his British counterpart in London and the Danish foreign minister was holding talks with President Assad in Damascus. Only a short time before the slaughter the President of France (and at the moment of the European Union) had invited the Syrian president to visit Paris. The Europeans can’t fail to resent the fact that the message from Bush is again one of contemptuous derision : Europeans don’t matter ; their attempts at engaging Syria in dialogue are irrelevant to the purposes of the United States and Israel ; and their usefulness is measured solely by their willingness to subordinate all their policies to those of the Bush administration.

The usual “US official” who is always ready to give anonymous unattributable background to reporters following this sort of cowboy brutality said that “We are taking matters into our hands,” because there was supposedly a “foreign facilitator” who was engaged in arranging for foreign fighters to enter Iraq to attack US forces. But was he there? Where is the proof? The special forces had overwhelming firepower and lots of people who should have been capable of taking captive the object of their operation. In none of the illegal US forays into the territory of sovereign nations has there been one iota of evidence that the so-called “high value” individual was in fact the person against whom the attack was launched.

Much use of special forces around the world is disastrous. They have no rules of engagement; they kill at will; and are not answerable to anyone who does not automatically support their depraved activities. They are shielded by the all-embracing mantra that “We do not discuss special forces matters,” which means, quite bluntly, that whatever they do, no matter how illegal, repulsive and barbaric, is deemed to be proper and totally acceptable by their governments.

The operation by special forces in Syria has increased the danger to their comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan. It caused alarm and despair in Europe and vastly increased hatred of America in the Middle East. It ripped up the United Nations Charter and was entirely counter-productive. These people are out of control. But now that the genie of gung-ho cowboy killer arrogance is out of the bottle, can they ever be reined in?