More Than Rumors of War

Trump’s attack against Syria needs not surprise anyone following his bellicose pronouncements about women, minorities, the disabled, and others. Bullies seek to express their anger toward others in all sorts of unacceptable ways and the victims are usually weaker. Following the 2001 attacks in the U.S., all the stops were pulled and civilians were fair game in the wars the U.S. wages. Drone warfare and collateral damage from drone warfare are examples of acts of war  where international law falls far short, or are completely ignored.

What was a bit surprising, however, even within the parameters of bald-faced U.S. militarism, was the reaction of the established media. Brian Williams led off the cheerleading on MSMBC with his description of the cruise missiles being fired as “beautiful.” Imagine a reporter for a major mainstream news outlet describing the launching of a weapon of such destructive power as “beautiful” (“Brian Williams is ‘guided by the beauty of our weapons’ in Syria strikes, The Washington Post, April 7, 2017).

And the leader of the pack of so-called liberal news reporting, “the newspaper of record,” expressed the attack this way: “It was hard not to feel some sense of emotional satisfaction, and justice done, when American cruise missiles struck an airfield in Syria on Thursday” (“After the Airstrikes on Syria, What’s s Next?,” The New York Times, April 7, 2017). Obviously, the Times editorial writer doesn’t get quite enough satisfaction from the normal interactions in life, so those “bombs bursting in air,” must be the stuff of great solace.

A rational analysis to the chemical attack in Syria and the U.S. response to it could only be found in left media. In “Wilkerson: Trump Attack on Syria Driven by Domestic Politics,” The Real News Network, April 7, 2017), Col. Lawrence Wilkerson makes the argument that the chemical attack in Syria may not have been the work of Assad and that there has been no independent investigation that Assad spearheaded this heinous assault in Khan Sheikhoun.

The Middle East was divided up among the major powers of the 20th century, with England being the predominant superpower prior to the dominant position taken up by the U.S. following World War II. Oil was the name of the game in the Middle East and all manner of mayhem was tolerated as long as that black gold poured into the coffers of the West and fueled their economies and militaries. Democracy was most often squelched before it could develop in places like Iran, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories. Some of the worst reactionary regimes operated in places like Saudi Arabia, now underwritten by the U.S. in the former’s war in Yemen. When proxy wars were fought in places like Afghanistan, most often rubble was left behind. Regime change ended in endless wars that made trillions of dollars for arms’ manufacturers. And majorities in the U.S., out of both fear and anger, could be counted on to support just about any war after the attacks of September 2001.

Given the tortured history of the Middle East, is it any surprise that a monster like Assad would come to power in Syria?

I doubt that if the rules of war were explained to Donald Trump he would be able to comprehend  them. If indeed he did understand them, he’d laugh them off. The problem would be that the concepts about what is acceptable action in times of war (war technology has made nothing acceptable) would fall on the unhearing ears of this caricature of  Narcissism.

The Laws of War, edited by Michael Reisman and Chris Antonio (1994), provides the framework for the 20th century’s refinement of the just war theory. The just war theory simply stated outlines the conditions under which nation states may go to war. An attack by an aggressor must be grave, the response must be proportional to the attack, wars must be waged by recognized states, force can only be used by states after all other alternatives to war are exhausted, and civilians and prisoners of war must be protected in times of war.

The Covenant of the League of Nations states that war or the threat of war “is a matter of concern to the whole League.” It further elaborates that any act of war not supported by League members is an act of war against all members of the League. The U.S. was not a signatory to the League.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact states that contracting parties to the pact “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies.”

The Charter of the United Nations states emphatically that members “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

The Hague Convention Respecting The Laws And Customs of War on Land states that those who have signed the convention must instruct their soldiers in the law of war.

And most importantly are the Geneva Conventions that concern the treatment of prisoners during war, the use of chemical and incendiary weapons, and the protections of civilians during war,. The Conventions delineate many acts in times of war that are prohibited between waring parties. Many of the Conventions were written following the horror of the fascist march across Europe, Asia, and the Pacific during World War II, with its attendant grotesque disregard for the rights of civilians, noncombatants, and captured soldiers. That same disregard for humanity goes on daily in Syria today. Many nations have blood on their hands in regard to Syria.

The Nuremberg principles set the framework for what constitutes a war crime and the responsibility of individual soldiers in times of war to respect civilians.

And most of the international rules of war are supported by laws, both military and civilian, passed in the U.S.

None of these rules of war matter to any great degree in the current climate of endless warfare. In “North Korea ‘ready for war’ after US navy strike team redeploys,” (The Guardian, April 10, 2017), it is not difficult to comprehend why the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been set at 2 and 1/2 minutes to midnight. There are more than just rumors of war!

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now