Arbitrary use of force in Syria

By Carlton Joseph

On Friday night, the United States, England and France coordinated military strikes against two alleged chemical weapons storage facilities and a research center in Syria.

In his usual cavalier manner, Trump hailed the military strikes a success. In a tweet Saturday morning, he said :“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military.  Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, when questioned about the attack, claimed that waiting for the United Nations to authorize military action in the future would effectively give Russia a veto on British foreign policy, and suggested the “security” of the operation could have been compromised. To quote May: “I am absolutely clear that it is parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions – and parliament will do so, but it is my responsibility as prime minister to make these decisions. And I will make them.”  Seems to me we have another “Iron lady” in the British Parliament.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron did not give the source of his information but said: “We have proof that last week, chemical weapons, at least chlorine, were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”  Macron also claimed that France convinced Trump that the strikes had to be limited to suspected chemical weapons sites and that the US keep its troops in Syria.  Seems to me we have a “knight” craving for the world to view him as a “king” or “prince,” or someone of major influence on the world stage.

I am disturbed by this arbitrary use of force, especially when inspectors were not given the opportunity to verify the source of the chemical attack.  The episode reminds me of the “Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)” claim by President George Bush.  Remember, we still have not found these WMD”s.  More disturbing, it reminds me of how the US got involved with the Vietnam War.   A little history is necessary to make my point.

The French, who seem to be always angry at losing their colonies, take every opportunity to bomb them back into antiquity and ensure that the Western powers maintain control of the old colonies.  Let me explain.  The partition of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate after World War 1 resulted in the rise in the Middle East of the Western powers – you guessed – Britain and France. Russia, although part of the alliance, was not allowed to share in the spoils of what was known as ‘The Great Game.’

In this partition, Syria and Lebanon became French protectorates and the British were awarded Iraq, Jordan and Palestine and the Jewish population was allowed to increase.  This is the background you need in order to put things in perspective.

The British and the French, prior to the war, believed that they would eventually dominate the area so they rejected the Ottoman Empire when it sought protection before the war, leaving them no choice but to form the Ottoman-German Alliance.

This rush to bomb middle-eastern countries and countries with black, brown and yellow populations under the guise of  ‘fighting for democracy’ or ‘alleged chemical weapons’ or ‘weapons of mass destruction or any other lie they can produce, is the continuation of a racist policy that started with slavery and continues to this day but operating at a more sophisticated level and indiscriminate use of force.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, indicated that President Trump had three major goals: (1) to make sure that chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction were not used;(2) that we defeat ISIS completely and wholly, to make sure that all of the threat is gone; and (3) that we had good grounds to watch what Iran was doing and they weren’t making a lot of aggressive headway in that, because Iran and everything else in the above is a national threat to American interest.

We should be grateful that Trump does not use political diplomatic language.  His three major goals were all about “threats to America’s interest.”   Everyone should understand that this is not about Syria or trying to save lives or accepting refugees.  This is entirely about America’s interests. It is about time the rest of the world wakes up and makes sure that they should also do everything primarily in their own interest.

The nongovernmental organization, Save the Children, recently released a report documenting almost unbelievable trauma among Syrian children. Hundreds of thousands of these children have known nothing but war, death, dispossession and loss. Syrian enrollment in primary education has dropped from 98 per cent before the war to 61.5 per cent this year. An entire generation risks being lost, not only in Syria but also across the fractured states of the Middle East.   Airwars, a non-profit organization, reports that more than 2,500 civilians have been killed by the US-led coalition.  And the Russia involvement in bombings has accounted for as many civilian deaths.

This hypocritical hysteria over 42 people being killed by a chemical attack is nowhere near the 5000 civilians who were killed by US and Russia military bombings, the 5.6 million who are refugees and the six million who are displaced from Syria.  We should be appalled when any type of weapon kills people; this rouge action is not addressing the much greater destruction that has been inflicted on this country.  Innocent people going about their daily lives just trying to provide food and shelter for their family are being disrupted with impunity by politicians thousands of miles away.

I recall when the twin towers were targeted with airplanes.  It was traumatic for the families and the country was in shock.  We commemorate this event annually.  What do you think is happening to the people of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan?  They are traumatized daily with drones dropping bombs almost every night.  They do not even have time to mourn their loved ones and definitely do not have enough psychologists or sociologists to handle the problem.

Is control of the world’s human and natural resources so important to the economic and political elite that they would destroy everyone and everything to achieve dominance?  Unfortunately, it seems that this is precisely what they would do to achieve their goal.

On Saturday, Syria said that its air defenses responded to U.S.-led strikes on military targets and research facilities in the country and their armed forces vacated key military airports and positions.  They condemned the attacks as a violation of international law.

This is the state of affairs in the Middle East.  The old colonial powers, now under the leadership of the new US boss, are resurrecting old colonial grievances.  They believe that this US President is naïve, lacks historical knowledge and does not listen to his advisors or use the institutional knowledge embedded in the CIA, FBI, State Department or other administrative structures in the US.  They believe he can be led for their economic and political benefit.   I hope they are wrong in their assessment and that the US is not drawn into another fiasco like the Vietnam War.

 (Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)