FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Unilaterally Striking Syria

by BINOY KAMPMARK

It is happening, again. The grotesque similarities are haunting. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States, along with its faithful, evangelically led air craft carrier in the form of Britain, decided to treat the United Nations as a body of opinion rather than worth. Efforts made to bring to light Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (more totem than taboo), had not been successful. The reserved and ever cautious Hans Blix of the UN Weapons Inspectors team urged restraint in the name of empirical certainty. There was, as it were, no smoking gun. There were, instead, hallucinations and mirages.

Now, the imposition of inevitability in the Syrian conflict is gathering force. The illusion is going to be made a reality. Strike Syria, suggest the war loving cliques, because giving war a chance is worth doing. The UN General Secretary, the ever invisible Ban Ki-moon, prefers to see peace given a chance, but he is part of a rapidly shrinking number of policy makers to think so.

There is no getting away from the horrors of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but that does note exonerate the use of chemical weapons against civilian and military targets. Conventions such as the Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol, which was ratified by Syria in 1968, suggest that the lawyers have taken a holiday.

This, however, is jumping the gun, and a whole myriad of shells. The rhetoric of those seeking a strike is already boxed and ready for the killing market. Intervention is to be sold as the package that Assad was responsible, that his forces were instruments of the state policy. Those who wish to see a religious restructuring of Syria, creating a Sunni bastion, have somehow been recoloured or disregarded.

It is also fitting to note that the legal vacation is also taking place in other countries. For one thing, the Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, erect at the prospect of Australia assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council, is dreaming of unilateral intervention. “Like-minded countries” would respond, irrespective of what those of different mind thought. “The sheer horror of a Government using chemical weapons against its people, using chemical weapons in any circumstances mandates a response” (ABC News, Aug 28). How fitting for those who speak of international law to violate it in the name of a violation.

What is the evidence that will justify the use of force against a sovereign state? “Our belief,” intoned Australian Prime Minister Rudd, “is that the Syrian regime is responsible for these chemical weapons attacks against the Syrian people.” Quickly, he emphasises that the “evidence in our judgments is now overwhelming” (The Australian, Aug 29). The western powers are jubilant that the 8200 unit of Israeli military intelligence, according to the German magazine Focus, provided the the evidence, centred on a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of such weapons.

Again, the WMD-blueprint is being trotted out, one that shows that anything overwhelming is bound to be underwhelming on closer inspection. There is no desire to wait for recommendations and hard evidence from any UN process. There is no desire to be empirical. What we are getting is speculation in hope of intervention. This will be war on an intercepted discussion; it will entail violence on a suggestion. Importantly, like Blix’s weapons team, the effort to actually identify what happened and who was behind it, will become irrelevant.

This symptom of the war making disease is characteristic of governments in trouble. War is the perfect escape, a retreat from domestic ills. David Cameron’s government struggles in ailing, austerity mired Britain. Australia’s Rudd is destined for ignominious defeat at the polls. President Barack Obama’s popularity has been frayed. They are horsemen who would rather travel than face the problems of the local harvest or deal with their unruly subjects. These signs bode ill for those who would prefer to avoid war.

Consequences of that intervention, for that reason, blur and even vanish. What matters is the here and now. This will be bloody adventurism, further maiming and killing those in Syria. But such interventions are magnets. They pull in the participant. It is the call of the sirens. As pro-imperialist poseurs like the historian Niall Ferguson suggest, the good empire builder is there to stay. One can’t build imperiums on the cheap. There will always be a decent amount of collateral in blood and material. Body bags are good investments.

The impression being given by the U.S., Britain and its supporters is that this intervention will be much like precise dental work, isolating the cavity and filling the problem. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf claimed on Tuesday that the goal was “not about regime change”.

Instead, what is envisaged is a limited strike intent on punishing the units responsible for deploying the chemical weapons. This will entail the use of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, deployed by naval assets. Should the intervention assume the form of an airstrike, the participants risk a bruising at the hand of the Soviet-supplied S-200/SA-5 Gammon, along with the recently acquired SA-17 and SA-22 and a complex radar system.

All of this, however, remains a quibble about technics and application. Missiles are only the start. The moment a flower is bruised, it releases its fragrance. That fragrance may well prove toxic in this case, leaving the country at the hands of a vicious, counter-revolutionary force that is as varied as it is confused. Turning Syria into a territorial extension compliant with Western interests will not happen. The signs, in fact, point to the opposite of that.

Surely, the index of errors on the part of countries who decide that sovereignty is moribund is now so extensive it will make policymakers pause to think. War is always sweet to those who have not tasted it, but the gluttons may beg to differ. The U.S. is hostage to a policeman’s complex – intervene in the name of a morality that is undermined the moment weapons are deployed. It risks creating the uncontrollable, something countries in the Middle East can attest to.

Protesters against this insanity must find the switch to turn off the assembly line to war. The Syrian conflict, a regional conflict in all but name, risks getting out of the closet. The fact, of course, is that there may well be no such switch except the grimness of consequence.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently running with Julian Assange for the WikiLeaks Party in Victoria. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail