What Gives the U.S. the Right to Bomb Syria?


To those who think the United States should intervene in Syria, remember this is the same United States that: 

·   – is still deeply involved in two failed wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan that have lasted for over a decade without coming to a conclusion;

·   – is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not over a million Iraqis and Afghans through aerial bombardments, night raids, artillery shelling, ground missions and genocidal sanctions;

·   – used depleted uranium and white phosphorous munitions in Iraq leading to a sharp increase in cancerous birth defects in areas like Fallujah.

·    knowingly aided Saddam Hussein with intelligence while being completely aware that he was using chemical weapons against Iran;

·    –has systematically tortured and/or overseen the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram prison, Abu Ghraib, and numerous CIA rendition and black sites;

·    –is engaged in an illegal, vicious and indiscriminate drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia which has murdered numerous women, children and non-combatants with total casualty estimates ranging around 3,000-5,000;

·    –bankrolled (and refused to condemn) the Israeli army as it used white phosphorous shells to attack civilians at Al-Quds hospital and a U.N. compound housing refugees in Gaza in 2009;

·    –continues to offer diplomatic cover for the brutal and expansionist Israeli occupation and provides weapons to the Israeli military as it carries out further crimes against Palestinians;

—- actively supported dictator Hosni Mubarak and his torturous military regime with weapons for over three decades;

·   – is now complicit in the massacres being committed by the very same Egyptian military under the coup government led by General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi which has murdered over 1000 people in cold blood in the last month;

·    –remains tightly allied with the monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the suppression of their populations; 

·    –armed and trained fundamentalists forces, including the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, that eventually gave birth to Al-Qaeda and similar groups;

·    –backed former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by sending 12 million in “security assistance” to suppress the popular uprising at the start of the Arab Spring revolutions;

·    –has left Libya, and consequently Mali, in a state of chaos after a 2011 supposed “humanitarian intervention” to remove Muammar el-Qaddafi;

·    –pushed the Pakistani military from 2007 -2010 to carry out dreadfully unaccountable operations in the SWAT, FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that led to the death of 1,300 civilians and the internal displacement of nearly 4 million Pakistanis; 

·    –is the #1 weapons exporter in the world and does not consider the importing countries’ records on human rights or democracy a relevant factor;  

·    –currently maintains stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and other banned weapons, such as cluster bombs;

·    –regularly persecutes and incarcerates its own dissenters, war resisters, and whistleblowers; 

·    –does not want you to remember the horrors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Agent Orange and the Gulf War Syndrome.

The many atrocities committed by the Assad regime since the start of the Syrian revolution are absolutely unacceptable and the stories emerging from the country are completely heartbreaking. And in fairness, the war crimes committed by the many rebel militias operating in Syria, though lesser in number and intensity, are gruesome and also unacceptable. The recent chemical attacks are undoubtedly a very disturbing development. The 100,000 lives lost prior to these attacks were every bit as precious and the suffering of their families is no easier due to the type of weapons which killed their loved ones.  

As an outsider, I cannot pretend to know what the answer is to resolving this conflict, providing justice to those who have been harmed, or building a stable and inclusive Syria for all its inhabitants. I am not sure that anyone knows. The Arab and Muslim states and various militias are divided by their specific interests. The large foreign powers all have their own agendas primarily based on competing imperial calculations. Ordinary Syrians’ voices are being drowned out by the violence and more immediate concerns like seeking bread and shelter. (However, it is important to recognize that with all the focus on foreign Islamist fighters in the conflict, Syrians have remained active in the resistance, both armed and non-armed, to the Assad regime. They, of course, also make up the ranks of the government’s forces.)     

I lean towards agreeing with Patrick Cockburn’s analysis that a first step in ending this nightmarish stalemate would be pressuring all sides involved in the fighting and the major regional and outside powers (who undoubtedly wield influence with the government and rebels) to immediately negotiate a ceasefire. The US has reportedly abandoned any participation in peace proceedings and is finalizing plans for air strikes. But even to those who see some sort of armed intervention as necessary, I would ask you to critically question the United States record in the region as a credible force for democracy, as a responsible and moral military and as a suitable partner for peacemaking. With the drumbeats for war building and as US warships are arriving off the Syrian coast, I urge us all to speak out, work together and collectively seek another solution before even more of Syria is destroyed. There are many potential disastrous implications and consequences to increased US involvement in Syria and the region. With the United States hypocritical and self-serving track record, another blunderous intervention will only make things worse.   

Joshua Brollier is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He has participated in delegations and peace-building efforts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Palestine. He studied Arabic in Syria from September 2010- February 2011. 

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