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John Kerry’s Tender Sensibilities


In response to Bashir Assad’s crossing of a “red line” by allegedly using chemical weapons against his own people, Secretary of State John Kerry cites his own fatherly feelings as justification for the all-but-inevitable looming US military intervention in Syria. “As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head, of a father who held up his dead child, wailing …”

Hopefully CNN will try extra hard to sanitize the war footage from Syria once the bombing starts, now that we know how badly dead Syrian kids upset Kerry. Because you can be sure there are a lot more dead Syrian kids on the way.

Of course, Kerry’s sensitivity to dead children is a bit like Carter having a problem with liver pills. This is the same John Kerry who served in Vietnam, and who backed two attacks on Iraq and one on Afghanistan, is it not? One of the most iconic images in the history of journalism is a little girl, naked and burning, running down a Vietnamese road after a chemical weapons attack by the United States. And the US all but condemned Al-Jazeera as a terrorist organization for airing images of Iraqi children incinerated in the American attack in 2003.

For that matter, US “redlining” of a country for using chemical weapons is also a bit odd. In the same press conference, Kerry spoke of holding Iraq accountable for violating international, historically established norms. But the US itself has quite a history of violating such norms. In WWII, for instance, the U.S. holds pride of place not only for the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, but for being the first and only military power in history to burn hundreds of thousands of civilians alive with atomic weapons in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As for chemical weapons, aren’t Agent Orange and napalm — the liquid fire used on that screaming little girl mentioned above — supposed to count? The cumulative effect of US chemical weapons use in Indochina is millions dead during the war in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — and millions more dead of cancer and genetic defects in the decades since.

While we’re on the subject of chemical weapons, the story just came out — at about the worst possible time for the US, as it’s rolling out its propaganda for another war — that the US actively aided Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in targeting Iranian troops with nerve gas. It was known for some time that the Reagan administration had shared intelligence with Iraq at the same time it was using chemical weapons in the Gulf War. But it turns out Washington was supplying intelligence in full knowledge that that intelligence would be used to identify Iranian troop concentrations for targeting with nerve agents. Iran was preparing for the strategic exploitation of a huge hole in Saddam’s defenses, which might well have turned the tide of the war and led to enormous Iranian gains at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates, increasing military pressure on Kuwait and other Arab Gulf states.

The overall American policy arc in Iraq from the ’80s on seems to be: 1) Help Saddam to make war on his neighbors; 2) help Saddam use weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors; 3) encourage Saddam to invade Kuwait; 4) bomb the hell out of Saddam in 1991 for invading Kuwait and making war against his neighbors; 5) bomb the hell out of Saddam in 2003 for possibly still having weapons of mass destruction.

In short, the United States simply does not give a rip about Saddam, Assad, or anyone else using chemical weapons or committing war crimes of any kind. The US routinely supports regimes that engage in war crimes — and then publicly condemns them for war crimes only when they stop taking orders from Washington or otherwise become a liability. War crimes by official enemies are just a propaganda point for selling wars to the public.

Consumer advisory: Don’t buy a used war from this man.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

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