A tragedy of errors: America's disastrous "War on Terror" in Syria

A Tragedy of Errors: America's Disastrous

State Department spokesman John Kirby recently stated that the U.S. government has no interest in collaborating with Russia to undermine jihadist influence in Syria. The announcement came after Moscow proposed a joint action targeting terrorist gangs that refuse to honor ceasefires or even participate in diplomatic negotiations, and thus effectively preclude any political solution to the devastating five-year conflict. Kirby’s words ultimately serve as further confirmation that the normally-trigger-happy U.S. has no real commitment to eradicating the threat of global jihadism—perpetuating Cold War dichotomies is clearly a more pressing concern.

The general incoherence and cynicism of U.S. foreign policy is no secret, regardless of how hard the mainstream press tries to justify the State Department’s malfeasance and corroborate Washington’s lies. Examples abound, among the most recent being the Syrian civil war and the U.S. government’s notable, though relatively quiet, role in exacerbating it.
We have been told for years that Bashar al-Assad, a garden variety thug, is in essence Adolf Hitler, and that his opposition, while containing some fringe jihadist elements, is made up mostly of “moderate” freedom fighters who desire secular democracy for Syria. We should be supporting these rebels in their quest to depose Syria’s elected president, the Obama administration insisted, because they represent a brave resistance to brutal tyranny. The support was to be both moral and material in nature. Obama even considered bombing Assad out of Damascus, warning in September of 2013 that unilateral U.S. military action was imminent. Per usual, the media was on board, assuming the role of warmongering cheerleaders.

This doctrine has pretty much fallen apart, as it has become impossible for even the most vulgar propagandists to maintain that a viable moderate opposition exists. As Rafael “Ted” Cruz said in a rare moment of lucidity, the vaunted secular rebels are a “purple unicorn,” a fantasy concocted by the White House and promulgated by journalists and pundits who worship at the church of the State. Furthermore, by intervening on Assad’s behalf, Russia has ensured that he will not lose the war. We’re still sticking with our mantra—”Assad must go”—but few are mad enough call for Bush/Cheney-style regime change anymore; now the matter is to be settled diplomatically, if the hostilities ever cease.

The true reasons underlying Washington’s hostility to Assad, who has been in the crosshairs since 2002, are easy enough to ascertain, even without reading into the present conflict. It has nothing at all to do with his human rights abuses (numerous at this point), and everything to do with the fact that his Ba’athist regime is a strong ally of Russia and Iran—two diabolic states that have the arrogance to pursue policies in conflict with the geopolitical interests of the U.S. Vladimir Putin is another reincarnation of Hitler, as Hillary Clinton kindly informed us in 2014, and Ayatollah Khamenei is intent on building nuclear weapons in order to kill all the Jews, like Hitler tried to do. (Pay no mind to the fatwa Khamenei issued against the development and use of nuclear weapons, or the fact that Iran is and always has been a party to the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)—these points are immaterial.)

That’s why we had to impose crippling sanctions on the people of Iran, much as we did on the people of Iraq during the 1990s, resulting in the deaths of some 500,000 children (well worth it, according to Madeleine “Special Place In Hell” Albright). These sanctions on the Iranian people, by the way, are a key aspect of Hillary Clinton’s exalted resume: they are routinely cited as one of the many things she “got done” while serving as secretary of state.

The official line says that paralyzing the Iranian economy was necessary, because that was the only way to “bring them to the negotiating table” regarding their alleged weapons program. One wonders, then, when the brutal sanctions against Israel will commence, given it currently boasts a cache of 400 nuclear warheads. The Israeli nuclear arsenal is, like almost everything in Israel’s possession, illegal according to international law. Israel is not a party to the NPT and never has been—they are not subject to any oversight whatsoever. Moreover, by invading its neighbors every couple years, Israel has proven itself to be what Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein called a “lunatic state.” If there is a country in the Middle East that poses an existential threat to the entire region, it’s demonstrably Israel. Iran, which has never started a war, doesn’t factor into the equation.

Like most of the world, Assad has never subscribed to the spurious notion that Iran represents the gravest threat to world peace. He also refuses to recognize Israel as the rightful owner of the Golan Heights (here again his position is shared by most of the world, including the UN Security Council, which maintains that the Golan Heights is illegally occupied by Israel). He supports Hezbollah—classified by the U.S. and a few of its allies as a terrorist organization—because he views the group as a useful ally against the wayward Israeli government, which refuses to relinquish the annexed territory. Hence accusations, from the U.S. and a few of its allies, that Assad “sponsors terrorism.”

In reality Assad is and always has been committed to cooperating with America’s so-called War on Terror. In their groundbreaking book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, geopolitical experts John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt write that “the Syrian government had provided the United States with important intelligence about al-Qaeda since 9/11, and it had also warned Washington about a planned terrorist attack in the Gulf. Moreover, Syria gave CIA interrogators access to Mohammed Zammar, the alleged recruiter of some of the 9/11 hijackers.”

The same cannot be said of certain allies of the U.S., most notably Turkey, currently run by a megalomaniac bent on restoring the Ottoman Empire. Turkey has played a critical role in escalating the Syrian calamity, and there is ample evidence to suggest that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been supporting jihadists—including ISIS—in their holy war against the Assad regime. Naturally, this information seldom makes its way into the mainstream American press, and if it does nobody cares. Turkey is a NATO member state and thus an official ally of the U.S. Therefore, we are obliged to look the other way while Erdogan arms and bankrolls people who take their ideological cues from Osama bin Laden. (Now if Russia or Iran were caught arming jihadists in Syria…)

But then Washington criticizing Ankara for supporting Syrian terrorists would be like MSNBC accusing Fox News of confirmation bias. After all, it is common knowledge that the Obama administration helped funnel weapons and ammunition to rebel factions in Syria, most of which, in spite of what our dear leaders insist, have always been comprised of radical Islamists. This backstairs enterprise was carried out in concert with Turkey and a few other Sunni states. The command center for the operation? Benghazi, which had just been “liberated” from yet another Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi.

In his recent book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh details what was known as “the rat line”—a covert passageway used to smuggle weapons and personnel into Syria:

A highly classified annex to the report [on Benghazi], not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdogan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities…. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.

So after relieving Libya of Gaddafi—reducing the once-stable country to Islamist anarchy—the U.S. thought it wise to transfer the erstwhile dictator’s weapons to rebel forces in Syria. It goes without saying that this was done without congressional approval and in violation of international law, and it should come as no surprise that “many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaeda.” This is our War on Terror in praxis.

According to a former intelligence official who spoke to Hersh about the operation, “the [Benghazi] consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms. It had no real political role.” After four Americans were killed in the September 11, 2012, attack on the consulate (causing massive backlash against the Obama administration), “Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya… but the rat line kept going.” Turkey now essentially had carte blanche, and within weeks “as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers… were in the hands of Syrian rebels,” who used them to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. Obama had been determined to keep such missiles away from the Syrian opposition forces, fearing they might be used by jihadists to blast passenger jets out of the sky. The CIA’s rat line worked out well.

Much more significant, however, is Turkey’s known collaboration with al-Nusra (i.e. al-Qaeda, who, lest you forget, flew planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11) to help the Salafist gang “develop a chemical warfare capability.” The reason for this was simple, and remarkably cynical. By 2013, it had become clear that Assad was not going anywhere any time soon; he was winning the war. Erdogan could not brook this. His Ottoman Empire redux fantasy presupposes the fall of Assad and the installation of a regime sympathetic to Turkey’s regional objectives. There was one way to reverse the tide: U.S. intervention. Obama had previously established what he called his “red line” vis-à-vis Syria: the U.S. would intervene on behalf of the opposition in the event that Assad used chemical weapons. The goal, then, was to galvanize Obama into military action.

On August 21, 2013, the Damascus suburb of Ghouta was attacked with sarin gas, and within days Obama announced that the U.S. would “send a message” by launching unilateral airstrikes against the Syrian government, because “we know the Assad regime was responsible.” Despite the utter lack of evidence, the Western media dutifully lapped it up, declaring Assad guilty of the chemical attack and calling for his head. The death toll was exaggerated. Public hysteria was whipped up. Everything was going according to plan.

Then, to the dismay of neocon psychos everywhere, the intervention was abruptly called off, and Assad was told to relinquish his chemical stockpiles, which he did without blinking. Why the about face? It’s simple: the pretext was too flimsy. The White House knew Assad wasn’t responsible for the attack (he’d have to be insane or suicidal, not merely brutal, to try it), and there was enough dissent within the administration to give Obama cold feet. Did he really want to invade another country in the Middle East under false pretenses, creating another massive power vacuum for terrorists to exploit? He decided he didn’t. It was too Cheney-esque. (Had Hillary Clinton still been in charge of the State Department, maybe the invasion would have gone ahead and Assad would be in the ground—who knows?)

There is little doubt about the real culprit behind the Ghouta chemical attack. A former intelligence official put it in plain language for Hersh:

We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line. They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the [Defense Intelligence Agency] and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey—that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.

Since Obama asserted as a hard fact, to the entire world, Assad’s culpability for the chemical attack, he could not very well come back around and reveal the truth: that it was a false flag operation engineered by our Turkish friends, and that we very nearly bombed Damascus without the slightest justification. That would be too embarrassing. Too many awkward questions would be raised, for instance: “Will we now ‘send a message’ to Erdogan by shelling Ankara?” Best leave it alone and hope the media cooperates (they did).

That Turkey has not even been investigated, let alone condemned, for its criminal role in the Syrian civil war is not surprising, but it nevertheless speaks volumes about the state of world affairs.

If an enemy of the U.S. uses chemical weapons, it forms the basis for military bombardment. The same goes for developing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism. The pretext for invading and destroying Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD program and ties to al-Qaeda, neither of which he had. Afghanistan was invaded and destroyed for harboring terrorists. Iran may yet be invaded and destroyed, in spite of the nuclear agreement and particularly if Clinton wins the presidency (she would be happy to “totally obliterate” the 80 million people living there, remember), because it stands accused of coveting a nuclear weapon and sponsoring terrorism.

If you happen to be a U.S. ally, however, you can illegally stockpile nuclear weapons (Israel, Pakistan, India), orchestrate chemical attacks (Turkey), supply terrorist organizations with munitions and personnel (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar), routinely commit war crimes and pursue a policy of aggressive expansionism (Israel), chop off people’s heads for committing thought crimes (Saudi Arabia)…. It’s all kosher. No big deal. Just remember to generally align yourself with our foremost interest, which is to preserve U.S. global hegemony, not to stamp out terrorism or check nuclear proliferation or any other such fanciful notions.

The hypocrisy of the U.S. is odd for its utter transparency and shamelessness. We wish to rid the world of Assad because, among other things, he allegedly supports Islamic extremism (an evident falsehood). To achieve this end, we actively support the Islamic extremists with whom he is at war. That doesn’t quite scan, does it? If only Syria were an isolated incident, and not standard U.S. policy—maybe then the rest of the world wouldn’t consider us the greatest threat to world peace. Not that our government could care any less what the rest of the world thinks.