FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hypocrite in Chief

by JASON HIRTHLER

A hypocrite’s work is never done. Thus the need for our Nobel Prize bearing Commander in Chief to execute a needless and devastating war of aggression on a country preoccupied by its own civil war. He should pin that prize to his lapel when he announces his surgical strike on Syria. Let’s be clear: wars of aggression are, by the standards we set at the Nuremburg Nazi trials, the “supreme international crime.” Crimes for which Nazis were put to death. Anyone who pulls the trigger on a war of aggression is, by our own measure, a war criminal. But President Barack Obama needn’t worry about being isolated by his action—the annals of the American presidency are chock full of war criminals. He’ll have good company in the pantheon of imperial lore.

Of the numberless hypocrisies of the administration, this one is particularly crude. The White House claims to need to punish Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime for the unproven use of chemical weapons (sarin) in Ghouta. Not only does this atrocity, committed by unidentified actors in a civil, ethnic, sectarian, and proxy conflict within Syria, somehow make Syria a national security threat to the United States, but it also suggests we deplore the use of chemical weapons. Neither is remotely true. I think the former could be true if we do bomb Syria, as it may incite Syrians to plot against the empire that slaughtered its men, women and children. The latter cannot be true by virtue of the fact that chemical weapons are a primary element in our military arsenal, and have been repeatedly handed over to unreliable allies or deployed ourselves, against Vietnam most notably, but recently against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The author of the August 21st attack has yet to be identified. Suspects include Syria, one of the rebel groups, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The White House report offered plenty of unverified claims said to be drawn from “streams of intelligence.” Nobody outside the beltway bubble is convinced. We can, however, have “high confidence” in our assessment that the U.S. will use chemical weapons itself if it attacks Syria. At least three sources of American firepower potentially threaten to deposit a destructive payload of depleted uranium on Syrian society and soil should we attack. Destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean are likely to fire Tomahawk missiles, which have long been rumored to contain depleted uranium, either in their tip or wing. However, this has been disputed by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). At the very least, Naval combat crafts are equipped with anti-missile Gatling guns that use shells with tungsten or depleted uranium. This has been conceded by the military itself. Likewise, A-10 anti-tank aircraft are known to use depleted uranium bullets.

Depleted uranium, although not outlawed by the International Convention of Chemical Weapons (ICCW), are uranium wastes, the leftovers from the uranium that can be usefully enriched (as Iran is prudently, or feverishly, doing this very moment, depending of who you believe). According to Global Research, depleted uranium found its way into the American arsenal thanks to the fact that there are enormous amounts of it leftover from the enrichment process, and that it is cheap to produce. (There is something deeply ironic here, although I’m not sure just what.) But the primary feature of DU is its armor-piercing capability. Not only is it the heaviest of elements, DU bullets keep their shape on impact, thanks to their hideous “self-sharpening ability”, and the fact that they burst into flame on impact, generating radioactive dust. This naturally finds its way into the lungs of those nearby (who are perhaps lending “material support” to rebels, instantly nominating themselves for a double-tap drone strike should the DU not do its lethal work fast enough). Depleted uranium often produces radioactive poisoning, and potentially cancer, as former workers at a U.S. arms plant unhappily discovered. It is also likely to generate deformities in the DNA of the local birth population, as Fallujah has lately experienced. This cruel fate is often referred to by the lovely phrase, “mutagenic potential.”

In any case, we’ve left enough in the ground in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere for some viable case studies. Naturally, the development of leukemia in 76% of mice injected with DU, a study conducted by our own Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute, has been yawningly ignored by the Pentagon, although there is some suggestion that the upper echelons of international power have suppressed the growing movement to ban depleted uranium. The courageous claimant here is former WHO scientist Keith Baverstock, who eloquently concluded that, “politics has poisoned the well from which democracy must drink.” The wells from which multitudes of Arabs must drink, too.

But DU is only the leading villain in an ensemble cast of malign characters. Alongside it one can observe the flesh-eating effects of white phosphorous ‘shake-n-bake’ bombs, napalm and “mark 77 firebombs,” a mix of kerosene and polystyrene similar to napalm, all used to great effect in Iraq. American-made cluster bombs are an Israeli favorite, such as when it wants to blow up unsuspecting Arab farmers in southern Lebanon. Yet there they sit, our leaders Obama and Kerry, the urbane sophist and his zombie accomplice, mirroring our nation in miniature: a country whose signal conflicts seemed to carry the mantle of liberty, against the British then the Nazis, but which has since devolved, to borrow anthropologist F.G. Bailey’s phrase, into “a babel of inconsistent moralities.”

Largely owing to our commitment to chemical weapons, internationalist efforts to ban WMDs in the Middle East have met with typical disinterest. U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 twists in the wind. Agreed to in 1991 to provide a legal umbrella for the U.S. attack on Iraq, it calls for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and the banning of chemical and biological weapons. Naturally, the looming regional hegemon Israel is the obvious roadblock to the realization of this initiative. In a forgotten instance of considerable irony, Syria proposed the same concept to the Security Council with a draft resolution in 2003, but then U.N. ambassador John Negroponte noted that we might consider it, but then hysterically added—as if snapping to his senses—that this didn’t mean we would “adopt it, embrace it or endorse it in any way, shape or form.” In other words, best to shelve it with all the other useful ideas the U.S. has nixed since the founding of the U.N.

If you’re looking for a link between our degraded civil rights and our depleted uranium, look no further. There it is, in the White House report and its dearth of actual evidence. If only they had added an addendum with the dozens of YouTube videos that factor heavily in their portfolio of supposition. But what reason is there, truly, for yours or my indefinite detention, for the continuous invasion of our privacy, the usurpation of legislative power (the people’s tribune) by that of the executive (the ghost of monarchy), and the evisceration of the sovereignty of other nations like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and soon Syria? Whether shot from ships or fired from jets, depleted uranium bullets and shells will strike innocent targets with the same fact-less impunity with which our rights are denied. We live in a counterfactual epoch, where the shrill presence of conjecture disguises the voluminous absence of evidence. Hypocrites lie, victims die.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail