Ocean Breathes Salty in Syria

Well that is that and this is this/Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed -Modest Mouse

Is Syria in the cross-hairs of the imperial machine which pillaged the Iraqi state after the so-called shock and awe campaign of 2003, a series of calculated and intentional crimes of war that would have earned its planners and executioners a place on the dock at Nuremberg? Absolutely.

Has the Assad family run the Syrian state like an ossified Mafia enclave at least since 9-11, if not earlier? Totally.

Is there a tenable argument being made by Eric Zuesse at Strategic Culture Foundation, based on reporting done by Seymour Hersh for London Review of Books in 2013 and 2014, that “Hillary [Clinton] Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian Rebels”? I personally am uncertain about this one because Gaddafi’s disarmament was voluntary and taken up as part of a deal that reopened diplomatic relations with the US. The American embassy in Benghazi was housing a CIA annex that supported and supplied Salafist rebels responsible for the lynching of Black Libyan workers. So is it possible that Gaddafi would have transferred some of his sarin stockpiles to Syria in a covert fashion? Is it possible that the Americans would have given some of these stockpiles to Salafists who have gone from Libya to Syria via their rat line? Either has a whiff of probability. A 2013 Business Insider story by Michael Kelley and Geoffrey Ingersoll says the following:

Also in October we reported the connection between Ambassador Stevens, who died in the [Benghazi] attack, and a reported September shipment of SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles (i.e. MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades from Benghazi to Syria through southern Turkey. That 400-ton shipment — “the largest consignment of weapons” yet for Syrian rebels — was organized by Abdelhakim Belhadj, who was the newly-appointed head of the Tripoli Military Council. In March 2011 Stevens, the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan rebels, worked directly with Belhadj while he headed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.” Syrian rebels subsequently began shooting down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets with SA-7s akin to those in Qaddafi’s looted stock. (The interim Libyan government also sent money and fighters to Syria.)

Either way seems possible to me. So much of this disaster ultimately goes back to Obama and Clinton’s cynical, racist sponsorship of the pogrom in Libya. Gaddafi, ensconced for decades in power, had become a crass caricature of his former self by 2011. He and Assad both made Faustian pacts with the Bush administration after 9-11. Consider this opening paragraph from a 2006 Time magazine story by Scott Macleod to see the depths he sank to:

When I called on Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi in his Bedouin tent last year, he was at pains to explain how he and President Bush were on the same wavelength. In all his years as a bad boy in the eyes of the West, he said, Libya was simply doing what Bush did when he invaded Iraq. “Bush is saying that America is fighting for the triumph of freedom,” Gaddafi said between sips of tea. “When we were supporting liberation movements in the world, we were arguing that it was for the victory of freedom. We both agree. We were fighting for the cause of freedom.”

Oh really? Just in case we forgot, Nelson Mandela, who took patronage from Gaddafi during apartheid, said three years earlier “Bush is now undermining the United Nations. He is acting outside it, not withstanding the fact that the United Nations was the idea of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Both Bush, as well as Tony Blair, are undermining an idea which was sponsored by their predecessors. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations [Ghanaian Kofi Annan] is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals were white… If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings… Who are they, now, to pretend that they are the policemen of the world? ”

Am I certain that Russian media has played a very cynical and unprincipled game in the past few years by giving broadcast platform to everyone from Noam Chomsky to Alex Jones? Very much so. I think that one can even argue a significant level of the rightward shift in tone in our popular politics can be directly attributed to the broadcasting segments of RT and Sputnik Radio that wobbled between notions of class war and race war. The European affiliate of RT is much different than the American one, utilizing stereotypes about “rape-ugees” and other types of xenophobia to court the pro-Kremlin nationalist parties and voter bases.

But is everyone also failing to look at things in a way that doesn’t put the US or Russia front and center of the operations? Yes. It is strange that this event took place in the same week as a bombing in Russia. It is also strange that this was within a day of the neo-Nazi isolationist Steve Bannon getting the boot from the National Security Council. And it is also after the ouster of Rhode Island native Michael Flynn, who was in favor of a detente with the Russians and bombing Iran. My inclination always has been that Putin would have been able to act as a mediator to talk the Trump administration into better relations with Tehran, who we already have been building a semi-covert military relationship with in the past few years across the region.

And so could Saudi-backed parties, totally without the knowledge of the Pentagon or CIA, launch a series of coordinated attacks in both Russia and Syria to exacerbate a conflict that would insure their hegemony and prolong the hindrance of a pipeline construction project spanning Iran to Syria? We certainly have sold plenty of military planes to the Saudis in the past decade. Would anyone be surprised by the idea of the Saudis, who have been subject of increasing American public scrutiny since the July 2016 release of the so-called “28 pages”, the redacted section of the Congressional 9-11 report that confirms the hijackers that took out the World Trade Center and Pentagon were getting aid and assistance from people operating out of the Saudi embassy and consulates across America, being up to something to stop a detente process that would be to their detriment? Ultimately we are witnessing in Syria a hot front in a New Cold War not as much between Russia and America as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Arguing otherwise falls back on notions and narrative tropes that were popularized in the 1970s when Brezhnev was using Mandela, Arafat, and Assad as parts of a propaganda war. How glorious it would have been to return to that “Golden Age for the Soviet working class” and had a Russian leader who had problematic positions but ultimately served as an effective counterweight to American imperialism.

Ultimately Syria must solve its problems without the help of Americans. The Baath Party probably has a lot to answer for as a result of this war. But the Americans have absolutely zero room to help in de-Baathification of the country.

Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed/When the ocean met the sky/You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.