Pretend with me a scenario of manifest justice, though the furthest thing from reality, in light of world political-military foundations of power. The time, two weeks hence; the occasion, US missile attacks on Syria; the American reception, strident chest-pounding in Congress, mass cheering at all college and professional football games that weekend; the ambient political culture, cries of “traitor” directed to critics, moral assurances from all quarters of American humanitarianism and greatness; the ultimate result (here my fantasy kicks in), international condemnation, General Assembly votes of censure, the ICC-issued subpoena commanding Barack A.S. Obama to appear before the Court (A.S., not to confuse with others of the same name, designating two of his most obvious identifying marks, Assassination and Surveillance), and a verdict of guilty of murder, murder disguised as the pursuit of the American national interest. If the planets were aligned and Justice ruled the world, here fantasy would be converted into fact.
Obama stated at a news conference in Sweden (Sept. 4), ” I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.” No despot in recorded history could have said it better—not, I am the State; no, I am the world, miniaturized in my own person. I speak for humanitarian intervention, absent all the individuals vaporized through my authorized drone strikes (and even then, probably terrorists masking as women and children), absent too the ones killed for sport from helicopters, imprisoned via indefinite detention, disappeared via covert operations, tortured, its leading advocate now my CIA director, in sum, the form of humanitarianism–my present National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, will attest to this–best conducing to whatever is necessary for United States supremacy in international trade, politics, military affairs, and ideological values (i.e., capitalism as the sole determinant of Way of Life). And these, please note, do not question or qualify humanitarian intervention (as the term “absent” might suggest), for in every case America is self-evidently in the right—a proposition that holds true for whatever America does, killing for sport, e.g., warning others, by that example, that God has chosen the US for executing His/Her will, being the duty that flows from hegemony. Now, the world breathlessly awaits US action in Syria, by his reckoning, Good v. Evil, as the carrier Nimitz and its battle group sail into position, and a battleship lies in waiting in the Red Sea—all to prove Obama is a man of his word? Hardly, though his uncontrolled ego cannot be gainsaid.
For America, Syria is a pawn on the geostrategic chessboard, its concern over chemical weapons—still no convincing evidence pointing to the Assad regime—pathetically fraudulent for a nation that not so long ago used napalm (itself a chemical weapon) indiscriminately and promiscuously in Vietnam (the photograph of the young girl fleeing, her body in flames, should be etched into the conscience of the world—and should have prevented the high-octane patriotism of Kerry and Hagel, both Vietnam veterans, in their Foreign Relations Committee testimony supporting, Sept. 3, the new intervention) and now practices assassination, POTUS right in there with his hit lists, on a regular basis. The hearing, in which the chair, Sen. Menendez, a Democrat, in his introductory remarks had prejudged Obama’s call for the military attack vital to the national interest, and practically equated dissenters from that view with traitors, was sickening. Kerry’s testimony, however, was like Charlie McCarthy (to those old enough to remember Edgar Bergen and his puppet) scripted by Brennan-Rhodes-Donilon, ringing the charges of every Cold War platitude tied together by the Domino Theory—if we don’t stop Syria, watch out for Iran, North Korea, whomever is hiding under the rug.
Let’s drop the guise of fantasy—Obama will never be indicted for war crimes, America will not surrender its hegemonic claims and the means to their continued achievement, nuclear modernization increasing lethality will continue apace, China will remain Obama’s primary military-strategic focus, Russia will be reintroduced into the Cold War ideological framework as a supplementary consideration, surveillance will not abate, class-differentials of wealth and power will not lessen, and, if anything, grow, Snowden and Manning will still be thought unpatriotic (the communists of our time)—business as usual. If only the International Criminal Court had jurisdiction, or, as I think will happen, the attack on Syria will so enflame world opinion that, “friends and allies” dropping away, the US will become recognized as a pariah nation, having little to show for its Exceptionalism but interventions, surveillance, capitalism a runaway system of cyclic fluctuations and deepening hardship and suffering.
My New York Times Comment on its editorial rationalizing the use of military force in Syria (Sept. 4):
The international community’s attempt to deter further chemical weapons atrocities in Syria is far from over.” What if the international community should attempt to deter further drone warfare for targeted assassination ATROCITIES in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan by the United States? How can NYT be so one-sided and myopic, neglecting decades of American intervention, and, in recent years, outright torture, rendition, covert campaigns of regime change…and blanket surveillance in an attempt to prevent the disclosure of these war crimes? Aren’t you suspicious of a POTUS who shows contempt for civil liberties, and who treats the Syrian intervention as though selling a used car–with all the public relations worthy of a huckster? The Foreign Relations Committee hearing revealed national leaders playing the patriotism tune ad nauseum, always overlooking the carnage left by American intervention. “Shock and awe” should have left the whole bunch under indictment for war crimes, and now, people, yes, civilians, scrambling around in Damascus, in fear for their lives, waiting for Obama to pronounce their death sentence. Has The Times lost its moral compass?
Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University. His new book, Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published by CounterPunch in the fall of 2013.