Humbugs and Moderate Rebels

The Bible’s Book of John records Jesus as challenging a bunch of would-be woman-stoners who wanted to punish her for allegedly committing adultery.  It was intended that the man in the case should receive a lesser penalty or no punishment at all, as continues to be the custom in such primitive nations as Saudi Arabia  and Afghanistan in which it is legal to stone women to death ;  but in neither of these valued allies of the West is there a Jesus to protect women from being barbarically murdered, as approved by fanatical Islamists.

Jesus would not last long in either country before being lashed or having his head cut off,  but his wisdom has endured in more enlightened regions.  His words are relevant in the wider context of exposing barbaric pietism and hypocrisy and his adjuration to the savages intent on murder was that they should think about the horror of what they intended to do, and consider “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Jesus was making it clear that for a person to act sanctimoniously and barbarically in the smug and mistaken belief that he (or she) is perfect in thought, word and deed is rampant hypocrisy as well as being contrary to all tenets of decency, compassion and mercy.

Which brings us to a particularly pietistic bit of perambulating humbug, one Samantha Power, the ambassador of the United States to the United Nations.  Ms Power wrote a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide which was rightly described as a “searing critique of American responses to genocides from Bosnia to Iraq.”  Her observations on later killings have been even more intriguing.

In the current conflict in Syria its government, recognised by the United Nations since 1945, is fighting against rebels who want to overthrow it. There are scores of rebel groups, including those who, according to the BBC,  formed an alliance, the New Islamic Front, which wishes to “topple the Assad regime completely and build an Islamic state”  — in which, presumably, as in Saudi Arabia, “Christians may be arrested, imprisoned, tortured and deported for their faith.”

Many of these Islamist rebels were and continue to be supported by Western and Middle Eastern powers, notably the US, Saudi Arabia and Britain.  In a December 2015 BBC programme, “investigative journalist Peter Oborne documented disturbing evidence that the United Kingdom and United States continue to support the Syrian opposition, particularly the Free Syrian Army, despite ample evidence that they work closely with extremist groups NATO has traditionally thought of as enemies.”  It became obvious that the jihadis received vast quantities of weapons (and who knows what else) from the West.

Then came the farce of the US-backed “Moderate Rebels” in Syria who were encouraged by the CIA and the Pentagon in their efforts to overthrow the Syrian government following the orders of their president who declared five years ago that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Washington has achieved some success in removing national leaders, here and there, and thereby creating utter chaos, notably in Libya, where, as infamously chortled by the mercifully unsuccessful presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “We came. We saw. He died.”  So the massive military power of the United States of America was brought to bear to topple yet another head of state.

Qaddafi’s murder was endorsed by President Obama who stated in an August 2014 interview with the New York Times that “Our participation in the coalition that overthrew Qaddafi [emphasis added] in Libya. I absolutely believed that it was the right thing to do.”  It seems that murder is permissible so long as it is committed by rebels supported by Western nations.

The name of Washington’s game is regime change, but America, the “indispensable nation” has failed in its military adventures around the world.  All of them caused anarchy which in turn led to the current explosion (literally) of extremism and terrorism.

President Assad is scheduled for death at the hands of US-supported rebels, and in July last year according to CNN  the US military in Syria were “currently vetting 7,000 [anti-Assad] volunteers. The goal of the program is to train 3,000 to 5,000 fighters per year.”

But in September 2015 the US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only 60 Syrian rebel fighters had been trained.  To a mixture of smiles and frowns he admitted  he had “said the number 60, and I can look out at your faces and you have the same reaction I do, which is that that’s an awfully small number.”

Then more truth had to be forced out, and ABC News stated that “General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command leading the war on ISIS, told Congress today that only “four or five” of the first 54 US trained moderate Syrian fighters remain in the fight against ISIS.”  What a bunch of incompetent amateurs.   But the other “Moderate Rebels” weren’t amateurs : they were and continue to be barbaric killers.  Their occupation of the Aleppo region was vile, oppressive, intolerant and contrary to all standards of decency, except those espoused by Ms Samantha Power and her ilk.  Ms Power concentrates on insulting Russia and, following the Obama personalisation of crude abuse directed against President Putin, delights in being as offensive as possible about airstrikes in Syria, providing they are not carried out by US aircraft, in which case they are held to be justified and essential.

Her harangue about Russia in the UN consisted of asking the question “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”  This sort of stuff is a bit rich, coming from the representative of a country whose air force, among other atrocities,  deliberately destroyed a hospital in Afghanistan in airstrikes that went on for hours :  “As the attack planes returned again and again, and the hospital collapsed and burned, MSF staff inside the hospital, in Kabul and in the United States put in frantic calls to contacts in the US military from Afghanistan to Washington.”  But the slaughter continued.

Amnesty International recorded the deaths of over 300 civilians by eleven US “coalition” airstrikes in Syria last summer when, it was reported that “more than 100 civilians, including children” were killed “in the villages of al-Tukhar, al-Hadhadh and al-Ghandoura in their homes and at a market.”  But there wasn’t a word about this from the venomous Samantha Power.

He who is without sin among you, let him carry out the first moderate airstrike.  What a bunch of humbugs.

A version of this piece appeared in Strategic Culture on December 30.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.