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Let me see if I’ve got this right.
Back on September 11, 2001, a bunch of Muslim fanatics working for a terrorist outfit called Al Qaeda attacked the US. They had been trained to take over and fly several fully loaded and fueled wide-bodied jets into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers and, allegedly, the White House, and managed to hit three out of their four targets with devastating impact.
Because their maximum leader Osama Bin Laden was holed up in Afghanistan, a guest of the Taliban government there, and had some bases there where he was reportedly training his terrorist army and preparing for more mayhem, Congress, at the request of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, declared war not just on Afghanistan, but on Al Qaeda and “terror” in general, unleashing the whole US military on anyone so as much as wrote an email to someone suggesting that it might be fun to blow out the windows in a storefront post office.
Flash forward a decade or so. As the wave of popular uprisings against sclerotic dictatorships and anachronistic, ossified sultanates in the Middle East swept across the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, eventually the cartoonish tyrant Col. Muammar Gaddafi came under threat. Libyans of many political persuasions poured into the streets in the capital of Tripoli, the second city of Benghazi and elsewhere, and a civil war erupted. The US, which in many of the Arab Spring uprisings chose to side, at least until the cause was seen as doomed, on the side of the dictators (Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain) or the royals (Tunisia), in Libya’s case it quickly moved to back the rebels. Oddly though, many of those rebels the US was backing turn out to have been fundamentalist Muslims, sometimes linked directly to Al Qaeda. The blowback came quickly too, with a deadly attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, in which the visiting US ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed.
That disaster hasn’t deterred the US from a policy of backing Al Qaeda, though. In Syria, where another popular uprising against a brutal tyrant, this time Bashar Hafez al-Assad, the son of long-time Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Assad, finds the US enthusiastically if surreptitiously helping to arm and organize the rebels, despite knowing that much of the rebellion’s leadership and many of its fighters are fundamentalist Muslims who self-identify with Al Qaeda. These people are being supplied with not just rifles, machine guns, mortars and anti-aircraft weapons, but with deadly Stinger wire-guided, shoulder-fired missiles — the kind that are easily smuggled and that are easily capable of taking down a 747 or A330 jumbo jet on takeoff or landing from as much as a mile away.
You might think that at least someone in the White House War Room, or in the Pentagon, would look back at the history of arming and training terrorists and fanatics and say, “Hey, we provided those kinds of weapons to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were fighting the Russians there, and we provided money, arms and training to Osama Bin Laden back then too to help him organize an army of volunteer Muslim “freedom fighters” against the Russians, and that didn’t work out so well in the end.”
Apparently, though, nobody is offering any kind of dissent to this policy of aid to terrorists, or if they are, they are being transferred to Nome, Greenland or some other remote assignment where there are poor cell phone and wireless connections.
I’m thinking that if America’s much-touted Libyan adventure, in which we kept our soldiers and pilots safely out of the war zone, but bombed the crap out of Gadaffi’s military using French and British air forces and of course our handy fleet of Predator and Reaper drones, and then dumped a lot of heavy arms into the hands of the rebels, turned out to be such a bust, we should be pretty concerned now that Bashar’s regime looks to be on the ropes in Syria. Libya, while loaded with oil, is a pretty dinky little country population-wise, with only some 6.5 million people. Syria, on the other hand, while smaller geographically, is quite a bit bigger, with nearly 21 million people, and it has a lot more weapons, even not counting the ones that the US, France, Britain, and other European countries are currently pouring in (Iran and Russia are also pouring weapons in to aid the government side).
When the government finally falls, which is looking increasingly likely, I think it’s pretty predictable that the result will be either a government heavily influenced by Al Qaeda-type hotheads, or a prolonged period of tribal war and instability with no real central government.
Kind of like Afghanistan today.
Nice work Washington.
Now, if you look at this picture, one conclusion you might come to is that American foreign policy and military policy is in the hands of a bunch of real first-class bozos. One part of me, having lived through the whole era of the Vietnam War, has no trouble believing that. But then there is another conclusion you could also come to: namely that these people in Washington and Arlington may actually be happy to see all the chaos in places like Libya and Syria and Yemen, etc. Having a bunch of crazed Al Qaeda terrorists threatening terrorist actions against US interests abroad and occasionally at home, after all, is what keeps the War on Terror going.
Just recently, Jeh Johnson, the top attorney at the Pentagon, in an address at Oxford University, speculated about how the War on Terror might be declared “over,” and how that would mean an end to all the special laws limiting civil liberties in the US, and the special powers granted to the executive branch of the government. Those huge underminings of the Constitution have been endorsed by the Supreme Court on the grounds that in “wartime,” and in a “war zone,” especially, the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution don’t apply. There must have been a collective shudder in the top echelons of the Pentagon when they read news reports of Johnson’s talk.
How inconvenient it would be for those who are thriving on limited freedom and on unchecked executive power, if the justification for those things — a seemingly unwinnable and unending War on Terror, in which the “battle zone” includes the United States itself — were suddenly to end.
Providing weapons to the rebels in Syria, as in Libya earlier on, would seem to be a great way to see to it that such a dreaded thing doesn’t happen.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.