Comment writer Jennifer Preston reflects on the interfaith event by the Woolf Institute hosted at the University of Birmingham.Written by Redbrick on 18th November 2015
Intervention is unwanted and dangerous
This article is part of a debate on intervention in Syria
It’s interesting to watch the mainstream media air reruns of the same show. The justifications for war against Syria reached fever pitch this week on the same grounds they had a month ago. Then, ABC News, as did much of the press, opened with the headline ‘The White House now confirming Syria's president has in fact used chemical weapons to kill.’ That’s an interesting use of the word ‘confirming’, the statement is about as ‘confirmed’ as Colin Powel’s speech to the United Nations in 2003 was. That’s the level of ‘confirmation’ it has. Chemical weapons were indisputably used - then and now - but the question is who used them. No one knows. Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV regarding last month’s chemical attack there were ‘strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof’ the chemical weapons were used by the rebels.
With the current attacks, David Cameron admitted to the Houses of Parliament ‘there is no 100% certainty about who is responsible’. So what is required is that evidence is presented before decisions are made. That’s how a rational mind works. But that’s too much of a requirement. Hans Blix, the weapons inspector George Bush kicked out of Iraq before he could finish inspecting, frustrated with the gung-ho approach of David Cameron and Barack Obama wrote, ‘the Russians and Chinese have said they want "fair and professional inspections" in Syria. The Iranians have also agreed…the Iranians have suffered most in the world from the use of chemical weapons in their war with Iraq during Saddam's time’. David Cameron retorted he would still bomb Syria on ‘humanitarian’ grounds with or without UNSC approval, but was forced by MP’s to wait for the UN to publish a report.
What’s more interesting is what were relegated from the press to specialist journals and op-eds buried deep within news websites at the same time the press is ratcheting up for a war with Syria. CIA documents describing the extent Ronald Reagan helped Saddam Hussein gas Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War were released, with Foreign Policy describing them as ‘tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched…even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.’ It always is for the powerless. What was also hidden deep inside news-websites was a July 2013 report from the House of Parliament Committee on Arms and Export Controls which found Britain had sold £12billion worth of chemicals (used to manufacture chemical weapons) to Syria, Saudi Arabia, China and even has licenses to sell them to Iran. Another story garnered slightly more fringe coverage; the United Sates sold Saudi Arabia, which is cracking down on pro-democracy reformers in Bahrain, $634 million worth of cluster bombs, which are banned by 83 nations. Those were non-stories for the press; we’re the good guys and indoctrination needs to be total.
“'the United Sates sold Saudi Arabia...$634 million worth of cluster bombs, which are banned by 83 nations. Those were non-stories for the press; we’re the good guys and indoctrination needs to be total.'
So what are the remaining arguments for attacking Syria? For the world’s agenda setter, the New York Times, ‘Presidents should not make a habit of drawing red lines in public, but if they do, they had best follow through.’ So Obama might be embarrassed if he doesn’t attack Syria over a statement he accidently made, or risk the consequences of attacking. Hmm. Tough one.
The United States is a democracy (so I’m told), so what do the people think? Do the American people favor war? First we need to get some context. In March of 2003, 62% of Americans favored a war with Iraq. By December 2006 that figure had fallen to 26%. In 1965 on the eve of rapid escalation, 61% of Americans approved going to war with Vietnam, by 1971 only 28% of Americans still agreed with the decision to go to war. How many Americans favor attacking Syria right now? Nine percent. It would be the war with the least popular sanction in modern American history without comparison. Obama would outdo George Bush and Richard Nixon three fold. Not bad for a Nobel peace-prize winner.
So why are we really encouraging the gulf dictatorships to send in arms and watch Syria rip apart? With the Bush debacle in 2003, Iran became the most powerful nation in the region. By implementing democracy (against it’s initial plans) in Iraq, Bush and his gang of neo-cons created a Shiite arch stretching across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which gives Iran leverage (if attacked) over Israel through Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and control of Iraq. Independence will not be tolerated. The plans to destroy this arch date back at least to 2005, with the New Yorker then reporting ‘The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria.'
“'It would be the war with the least popular sanction in modern American history without comparison. Obama would outdo George Bush and Richard Nixon three fold. Not bad for a Nobel peace-prize winner.'