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Obama and U.S. Military Divided Over Syria

Has Syria crossed the “red line” that warrants a U.S. military invasion? Has it not? The political establishment in the United States seems at odds over itself. Obama’s government cannot speak with one voice on the issue, and the U.S. media is likewise spewing from both sides of its mouth in an attempt to reconcile U.S. foreign policy with that most stubborn of annoyances, truth.

The New York Times reports:

“The White House said on Thursday that American intelligence agencies now believed, with “varying degrees of confidence,” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons…”

Immediately afterwards, Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, gave a blunt rebuke: “Suspicions are one thing; evidence is another.”

This disunity mirrored the recent disagreement that Chuck Hagel had with Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, when both testified in front of Congress with nearly opposite versions of what was happening in Syria and how the U.S. should respond. Kerry was a cheerleader for intervention while Hagel — the military’s mouthpiece — advised caution.

The U.S. government’s internal squabbling over whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons is really an argument on whether the U.S. should invade Syria, since Obama claimed that any use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that, if crossed, would invoke an American military response. Never mind that Obama’s “red line” rhetoric was stolen from the mouth of Bush Jr., who enjoyed saying all kinds of similarly stupid things to sound tough.

But now Obama’s Bushism must be enforced, say the politicians, less the U.S. look weak by inaction. This seemingly childish argument is in fact very compelling among the U.S. political establishment, who view foreign policy only in terms of military power. If Syria is not frightened into submission by U.S. military threats, then Iran and other countries might follow suit and do as they please and U.S. “influence” would wane. Only a “firm response” can stop this domino effect from starting.

This type of logic is the basis for the recent Syria chemical weapons accusations, which was conjured up by the U.S. “Intelligence” service (CIA) and its British and Israeli counterparts (the same people who “proved” that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which later proved to be a fabricated lie). All three of these countries’ intelligence agencies simply announced that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, provided zero evidence, and then let their respective nations’ media run with the story, which referred to the baseless accusations as “mounting evidence.”

In the real world it appears that the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are the ones responsible for having used chemical weapons against the Syrian government. It was the Syrian government who initially accused the U.S.-backed rebels of using chemical weapons, and asked the UN to investigate the attack. This triggered the Syrian rebels and later the Obama administration to accuse the Syrian government of the attack.

A very revealing New York Times article quoted U.S.-backed Syrian rebels admitting that the chemical weapons attack took place in a Syrian government controlled territory and that 16 Syrian government soldiers died as a result of the attack, along with 10 civilians plus a hundred more injured. But the rebels later made the absurd claim that the Syrian government accidentally bombed its own military with the chemical weapons.

Interestingly, the Russian government later accused the United States of trying to stall the UN investigation requested by the Syrian government, by insisting that the parameters of the investigation be expanded to such a degree that a never-ending discussion over jurisdiction and rules would eventually abort the investigation.

Complicating the U.S.’ stumbling march to war against Syria is the fact that the only effective U.S.-backed rebel forces are Islamist extremists, the best fighters of which have sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda. The same week that the U.S. media was screaming about chemical weapons, The NewYork Times actually published a realistic picture of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, which warrants extended quotes:

“Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.”

“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

“The Islamist character of the [rebel] opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion…The religious agenda of the combatants sets them apart from many civilian activists, protesters and aid workers who had hoped the uprising would create a civil, democratic Syria.”

Thus, yet another secular Middle Eastern government — after Iraq and Libya — is being pushed into the abyss of Islamist extremism, and the shoving is being done by the United States, which The NewYork Times discovered was funneling thousands of tons of weapons into Syria through U.S. allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We now know that these weapons were given to the Islamist extremists; directly or indirectly, it doesn’t matter.

Even after this U.S.-organized weapons trafficking was uncovered, the Obama administration still has the nerve to say that the U.S. is only supplying “non lethal” aid to the Syrian rebels. Never mind that many of the guns that the U.S. is transporting into Syria from its allies were sold to the allies by the United States, where the weapons were manufactured.

Now, many politicians are demanding that Obama institute a “no fly zone” in Syria, a euphemism for military invasion — one country cannot enforce a no fly zone inside another country without first destroying the enemy Air Force, not to mention its surface to air missiles, etc. We saw in Libya that a no fly zone quickly evolved into a full scale invasion, which would happen again in Syria, with the difference being that Syria has a more powerful army with more sophisticated weaponry, not to mention powerful allies — Iran and Russia.

This is the real reason that the U.S. military is not aligned with the Obama administration over Syria. Such a war would be incredibly risky, and inevitably lead to a wider conflict that would engulf an already war-drenched region, creating yet more “terrorists” who would like to attack the United States.

The U.S. public has learned the lessons of Iraq’s WMD’s, and that lesson is not lost on U.S. soldiers, few of whom want to fight another war for oil against a country which is a zero-threat to the United States.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

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Shamus Cooke is a member of the Portland branch of Democratic Socialists of America. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

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