A week ago, the United States made its first direct strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the country was plunged into a war. The deployment of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles toward Syrian military targets, including an airfield, followed reports on April 4 that sarin gas was used on Syrian civilians. Assad was immediately blamed for the chemical attack, as he was for the chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta in 2013.
I don’t like this development for a few reasons:
- The missile assault has only served to deteriorate U.S.-Russian relations.
- This attack goes against Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
- There is the prospect of the deeper U.S. involvement in yet another foreign country.
- There is the question of legality.
- This incident has exposed the real ambitions behind politicians and the Western Press.
- And let’s not forget the big questions: Do we know for a fact that Assad gassed his own citizens? And why were we in Syria in the first place?
- The attack by the U.S. begs philosophical questions most Americans (and Westerners) refuse to answer.
Now, I know I might anger some people with what I have to say, but I feel the need to say it anyway. And I will fully explain why I feel this way.
Table of Contents
- Trump Going Against His Own Campaign Rhetoric
- Deteriorating U.S.-Russian Relations
- The Prospect of Deeper U.S. Involvement
- The Question of Legality
- Exposing Our Politicians and Press
- The Big Questions
- Philosophical Questions Raised
- Works Cited
Trump Going Against His Own Campaign Rhetoric
Trump repeatedly stated he was against an intervention in Syria. Oddly enough, it looks like this was one of Trump’s most consistent positions, because he held it before he even began his presidential campaign in 2015.
Time’s Ashley Hoffman showed a collection of 18 tweets Trump made from 2013-2014 regarding Syria. Numerous times, Trump called for Congressional approval before going to Syria.
On September 20, 2014, he wrote the following:
Do you believe that Obama is giving weapons to “moderate rebels” in Syria.Isn’t sure who they are. What the hell is he doing.Will turn on us
Regardless of how you might feel about it, this development goes against President Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding Russia and Assad, albeit not completely. While repeatedly saying that he wanted the United States to improve its relationship with Russia — a position moderates support, regardless of their feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin — Trump at least indicated he could be pushed to reassert his manhood. Sadly, I feel this is one such case.
Deteriorating U.S.-Russia Relations
Russia is Syria’s chief ally so of course, the recent missile strikes only serves to strain an already bad relationship between the United States and Russia.
As it stands now, Russia has only blocked resolutions in the U.N. Security Council (as one of the six members with veto power). And it has reportedly revoked an agreement that make sure U.S. and Russia planes stay clear of each other over Syria. But it has not struck back at the United States militarily.
If anything, this strike might have called Russia’s bluff somewhat, but that is a best-case scenario.
Why Is This Bad?
Well, consider this:
- Both the U.S. and Russia are nuclear-armed countries and our current animosity puts various nuclear treaties in doubt. We already stepped away from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (in 2006). And now, we are antagonizing Iran, which had agreed to a deal with us in 2013.
- Russia loves to use our missteps and flouting of international law as propaganda.
- Russia is also a close ally to China, a country we have urged to keep North Korea in line.
Will This Devolve into World War III Like Some Observers Fear?
I know there are many people out there who are fearful that might happen. To be honest, I simply don’t know if there will ever be a World War III. The United States’ defense budget is larger than that of the 7 closest spenders combined, and Russia and China have contracted their defense budgets.
But if there was a WWIII, would you trust Trump to lead the United States in it? I sure as hell don’t, especially because we have nukes. Also, I doubt he and the Republicans would come up with a program to get the country ready for such a war.
The Prospect of a Deeper U.S. Involvement
The missile strike in Syria portended of an escalation by United States and a deeper involvement in the country. As I mentioned in the News Roundup for April 2-8, the U.S. already has 900 troops in Syria with another 1,000 promised. If senior officials in the Trump administration agree that Assad must be removed, that won’t be done strictly with airstrikes and far-off missile launches.
Is this the right thing to do? From where I stand, it isn’t, particularly when you consider where the United States is already involved militarily.
How Far U.S. the Military Is Spread
Since 2001, the United States has been involved in at least 9 interventions across this globe. They include:
- Afghanistan. (Yep, we’re still there.)
- Uganda. (Obama did some action against Kony.)
We are still doing drone strikes in at least three countries on that list.
At least four of those countries were added during Obama’s tenure, although there were plans to expand wars in some of those countries during W’s time in office. In a 2007 interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, retired Gen. Wesley Clark told the audience of the administration’s 2001 plans to go to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and then Iran. (Bashar al-Assad assumed power in 2001 and Bush already considered him an enemy.)
When Obama was in office, he set a record from drone strikes, relying on them far more than his predecessor. They were supposed to reduce the need for “boots on the ground.” However, after a time, it became clear drone strikes were not as effective as Obama had hoped.
By 2013, it was clear that 90% of the drone strikes hit unintended targets.1 Obama’s administration then changed course somewhat and took the authority of calling for drone strikes away from the CIA.
Until Trump took office, the Military Central Command had sole authority of ordering drone strikes. Drone strikes have gone up 432% and Trump has since reverted back to granting the CIA that responsibility.
Keep in mind that Trump is definitely eyeing North Korea. In fact, he has already sent warships towards the DPRK.
Why I’m Mentioning This
Well, I feel that the United States’ military is being stretched too thin. We have a force of 400,000 and many of them are already in far-flung places of the world. We don’t have a draft and it is hard to recruit people for the military (unless standards have to be lowered for a protracted war effort).
But both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been poorly managed and costly, although they have made defense contractors richer.
Many Americans want our troops to be brought back from Afghanistan and Iraq, although I initially agreed with the 2001 action in Afghanistan and I would like to see the Taliban, Al Qaida, and ISIS be defeated once and for all.
Can’t we do much of that by cutting off terrorists financially and stop arming them? We are arming militants in Syria, and some of them, like Al Nusra, are offshoots of Al Qaida. Even the mainstream media admits this.
I mean, we armed people in Afghanistan during Reagan’s administration and you know what happened? We helped terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the militants we armed became the Taliban. This is precisely why Barack Obama was averse to doing anything in Syria.
The Question of Legality
Well, is this legal?
There are a few areas I would like people to consider:
- The War of Terror
- The Auspices of an International Body
- National Safety
- Conflicts of Interest
The Auspices of an International Body
Any country can scoff at the United Nations when it comes to matters like these. The U.N. is limited and only as useful as member countries allow it to be.
I will admit the irony in Russia calling for an international agreement to slow down any action against Syria, but in this case, Russia has a point. There needs to be an international investigation into the recent deaths of civilians. If the Syrian government is found guilty, so be it, but the response should not be unilateral.
The War on Terror
Now, consider the parameters of our “War on Terror.” Since it was waged by George W. Bush, the president was perpetually given the authorization to go after those who were deemed terrorists in any country. In September 2001, Congress approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which held:
That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Normally, the president would need the approval of Congress before declaring war in other countries. But Bush (and Cheney) used this authorization to expand and call secret strikes.
Obama used the above authorization and the auspices of NATO to go into Libya2, to call drone strikes there and in Pakistan, among other things.
In many of these cases, there was presumably a chain of command and a deliberative process before a strike was carried out.
Yet, as David Frum — the main who coined the phrase “axis of evil” — points out, Trump dropped all pretense and went straight to calling the strikes against Syria.
Did Trump even act in the United States’ best interest? He says he did, but it that true? If not, that violates the authorization and international law.
I don’t see any long-term benefit of ousting Bashar al-Assad, at least right now. In fact, people who have talked directly to Syrian civilians — like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and independent journalist Eva Bartlett — have held that the people prefer Assad, at least for now. And the people prefer him over terrorists.
The fact remains, if Assad is ousted any time soon, the country will likely devolve into sectarian violence, much like Iraq. Who will take over in the void? The country will fall to terrorists groups still there, including ISIS.
Trump actually had it right before when he said our top priority in the Middle East — besides supporting Israel’s right to exist — should be getting rid of ISIS. This group is recruiting people from Russia and from Western countries, including our own.
Now, Assad is no angel, by any means.
- He shut down dissent by making forum posts public and shutting down social media in his country.
- He’s been accused of torturing opposition politicians and harboring militants, who then migrated to Iraq to launch attacks there.
- When the uprising first occurred in his country in 2011, some of his men shot protesters, according to reports.
- And he did say he was anti-West and anti-Israel, but so are the terrorists.
This guy was training to be an eye doctor. Would he use violence to keep order because of his own incompetence? It’s possible.
If Assad did all he was accused of doing, he should be dealt with. That said, terrorist groups are immediately more dangerous than he is and I don’t know if the United States should be involved in removing Assad.
Conflicts of Interest
This is also a big one because Trump and others stand to benefit from a war in Syria.
The Financial Benefit to Trump
Did you hear that Trump invested in Raytheon, the company that produced those Tomahawk missiles fired on April 6? Well, he does. Investors gambled on the prospect of war so the price of Raytheon’s stock went up.
As I’ve already discussed, Trump have investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. He also has invested in a company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline. If this isn’t corruption …
Trump should be impeached and this is one reason why.
Genie Energy, an America-based oil company, has shareholders that include Rupert Murdoch (the owner of FOX News) and Dick Cheney. In Golan Heights, Afek Oil and Gas seeks to drill oil. The company is an Israeli subsidiary of Genie Energy and it may be breaking international law by extracting the oil.
Exposing Our Politicians and Press
When you take that last point into account, this development has exposed our media and many individuals as warmongers and hypocrites. Other people (including myself) have been relatively silent while others are being silenced for their dissent.
What Politicians Are Saying and Doing
In Washington, a number of prominent U.S. politicians weighed in with Republican Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Lindsay Graham (SC) applauding Trump’s action. A few lawmakers who had previously stood against Obama’s request, like Reps. Pete Olson and Martha Roby, also applauded Trump’s action.
Democrats who favored a strike in Syria included Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), Nancy Pelosi (CA), and former secretary Hillary Clinton. I disagree with these three on this issue and many more.
There were Democrats who opposed this strike like Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee (both from California), and Tulsi Gabbard (HI).
Gabbard was singled out because she questioned if the chemical attack was done by Assad. She had previously met with him and Syrian civilians some weeks ago. The Democrats want to primary her, although Nancy Pelosi met with Assad in 2007 long after the U.S. designated him as an enemy and Bush wanted him to be diplomatically isolated.
The Democrats want to primary Gabbard although stooges like Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for most of Trump’s cabinet picks and even voted for Gorsuck’s corrupt self.
Really. Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, has to go for saying not to war. She’s being treated like Phil Donahue, who said no to the Iraq War when he was on MSNBC.
The Overall Press Coverage
The overall press coverage of the strikes was positive, with 39 out of 47 editorials on the strikes containing glowing reviews by April 11.
On television, two notable commentaries came from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and NBC News’ Brian Williams. Zakaria said Trump became presidential last week, although he offered caution later on. Williams said those strikes were “beautiful.”
Five Big Questions
Overall, I think there are at least five questions we should ask ourselves:
1. Did Bashar Al-Assad Gas His Own Citizens?
And if he did, what would he stand to gain from it?
When you consider the situation in Syria before last week, you would see Assad had no real reason to gas civilians. In fact, the “rebels” would have more to gain by pinning this attack on Assad.
Assad’s coalition had already retaken Aleppo, which was considered the most important city in the conflict. Before April 4, his side had continued to make gains in Syria and beat back militants.
In Iraq, which, along with part of Syria, was part of the Islamic State’s caliphate, ISIS was also losing ground.
By all accounts, Assad was winning, so it would make no sense for him to mess everything up and risk U.S. intervention.
That threat was constant, ever since Obama’s “Red Line” speech. And Assad was already close to it when Syrians were gassed August 21, 2013 in Eastern Ghouta.
Why didn’t Obama hit Syria then? Besides his reticence4, it turns out that gassing couldn’t immediately be pinned on Assad.
According to a German newspaper, Assad repeatedly blocked requests by his military officers to use chemicals, yet the newspaper said the gassing could be blamed on parts of Assad’s government. This was based on audio communications intercepted by German intelligence.
By other accounts, the after-gassing scene was staged in what was called a “false flag” event. The intelligence against Assad was faked and independent investigators determined that terrorists had killed over 1,000 Syrians with poison gas.
Additionally, Russia intervened and brokered a deal for Assad to get rid of all his chemical weapons. And the U.S. had intelligence that raised the prospects of Al Nusra having the capability of producing sarin.
The press wants us to forget about that and rush to judgment in this case.
But if you ask yourself some questions, you might doubt that Assad was responsible for this latest attack, too.
2. What About Those ‘Emergency Workers’?
The first responders to the April 4 gassing were the White Helmets, who Bartlett maintains are working for the terrorists.
Is there proof of that allegation?
Well, if you saw photographs and videos of the first responders tending to the victims, they didn’t look right.
For one thing, no one gives CPR by stomping on a victim’s stomach, hosing them down with water, and rolling them over.
Also, the victims were being tended to by “medical professionals” who were not wearing gloves.
Sarin is a nerve toxin that is similar to but far more harmful than pesticides. It presents an immediate danger and it vaporizes easily. However, it can sit in clothes and when mixed with water, it can present an even greater danger.
If the victims were contaminated, those White Helmets would have immediately put themselves in danger.
That’s not all, though. It turns out that 250 people were kidnapped by terrorists one week before the reported gas attack. The gassing victims could have been some of those same people.
3. Can We Completely Trust What Turkey Tells Us?
The first reports of the attack came from Turkey, but Turkey has long wanted Assad out of power. After Trump’s order, Turkey was one of the countries that cheered that decision.
The first reports from Turkey immediately said Sarin was used. But we don’t know if Sarin was actually used since an investigation had not determined what was used to kill the Syrian civilians.
4. What Role Does Israel Have in All This?
Israel has an interest in the fate of Syria for various reasons.
- Syria borders Israel. Whatever happens there will definitely affect the Israelis.
- Syria has the support of Hezbollah, which is a threat to Israel.
- Israel is opposed to any Middle Eastern government that’s in partnership with Iran.
- Golan Heights is part of Syria and it is occupied by Israelis. Many shareholders would like to see this part of Syria be annexed by Israel so they would have rights to the oil that’s there. The removal of Assad would expedite this process.
5. And Why Is the United States in Syria?
The United States has long wanted Bashar al-Assad to be deposed in Syria, even as early as 2002.
The United States is also acting in the interests of Israel.
But most of all, the United States has financial and military interests in Syria.
As many people don’t know, there are two competing pipeline routes, one existent, and one proposed, that would run through Syria. The first is how Russia provides oil to Europe. The second is proposed by Qatar and supported by the Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel.
Additionally, as John Kerry revealed in 2013, Qatar and Saudi Arabia offered to pay for any military operations the United States would undertake in Syria.
Philosophical Questions Raised
Yeah, this raises philosophical questions people might brush off as pretentious. But I will ask them anyway, dammit!
The U.S.’s Role As the World’s ‘Top Cop’
Should the United States act as the World Police Force?
One Person’s Perspective
As I was reading a series of posts in a thread about the recent missile strikes, I came across this post from a highly intelligent person. She said that interventionism was a self-serving position likely held by liberals who then root for the wrong side.
At first, I saw this as an absolutist statement, but then I realized it is a bit of a strawman. Basically, this person was saying that anyone who opposed this action was naturally on the side of Assad.
While there are “bleeding hearts” who behave like that from time to time (see: Americans who sympathized with Fidel Castro, for example), that isn’t the case with me or many others who are questioning Trump’s response.3
Now, after making the post I spoke of above, the same person wrote another (maybe in another thread) justifying the U.S. military presence around the world. Basically, this person said the United States has financial interests and trade with many other countries and we need to protect those interests.
This is a fair argument, but what if another country wanted to expand the number of its trade partners? Or is it just right for us because we are the most powerful nation on Earth?
What I’m Thinking
Trump said he was affected by images of “beautiful babies” who were killed by the chemical attack, but he doesn’t want to let in Syrian refugees. And as I mentioned above, he killed over 20 civilians in that strike in Yemen.
Now, I don’t like Assad (or Putin, for that matter), but I question our priorities. I question why we should risk making things worse by arming terrorists and why people are clamoring for war. I also question why we should spend any money in yet another war when:
- We are still in so many interventions already;
- Far too many civilians in distant lands have died from our War on Terror;
- We are poorly funding vital programs for American citizens, and;
- S. authorities are violating the rights of American citizens on a daily basis.
Who are we to judge other countries when we are refusing basic rights like clean air and water, health care, a quality education, and due process? Our worthless Senate just put a sniveling corporatist on the Supreme Court bench and that bastard sided with a company in a case where a trucker could have frozen to death if he did not leave his truck.
Yes, I know: There are worse countries out there, but that does not excuse everything. We are not a dictatorship, but what if we were and how bad can Trump and his handlers get? How many of our civil liberties will be gone by 2021?
If the Roles Were Reversed
I’m not trying to sway opinion with this, but I find it weird how many Americans and other Westerners just accept the fact that we can just march into foreign countries and attack. We can just depose leaders if we want to.
What if this country was as bad as the countries where we intervened? Would we welcome intervention?
An Analogy: Premeditation vs. a Drunken Massacre
Someone can take what I said above and argue that the difference between our kills and kills done by dictators and terrorists in intent. But to that, I ask them to consider two scenarios:
In one, a person deliberately targets three people and kills them.
In the other, a drunken person gets behind the wheel and mows down 14 people, killing 10 of them.
We know the first person is culpable, but is the second person not also culpable? I would say that person is given what we know about drunk driving. This person made a conscious decision to get drunk in public and get behind the wheel.
In the case of the U.S., we are more like a person who deliberately seeks to kill specific targets but ends up killing others to get to those targets and with no guarantee we actually get our targets. How is that justified?
Yeah, I know this post might not be positively received, but that’s not the point.
I just needed to express the concerns I have about the strikes in Syria and the lack of an investigation. The terrorists have every reason to make Assad look bad and get the international community to oust him. If Assad is indeed guilty, there is no defense for him, but do we need to take him out if he presents no direct threat to us?
Keep in mind, though: Every country involved in this conflict has a vested interest in the outcome. Mostly, those are financial interests.
In short, I do not want to see this turn into another Iraq, much less the start of a larger war. Iraq was mostly started because of the financial interests of defense contractors and not due to some higher moral or practical reasoning. The same motivations are likely pushing for war in Syria.
- One of those unintended targets was 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the son of Al Qaida sympathizer Anwar Al-Awlaki. The latter’s 8-year-old daughter, Nawar, was killed this year in a strike in Yemen authorized by Trump. All three were American citizens.
- Obama’s first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, argued we did not need the 2001 authorization for Libya because we went there as a member of NATO.
- In the past, I was accused of sympathizing with Saddam Hussein, but that was preposterous. I just stated that I was always against the War in Iraq. I didn’t care for Saddam, but I cared about the human and financial toll of that war.
- Two years after the Libya intervention, Obama initially asked for Congressional approval to go to Syria. However, he was denied by a coalition that included Republicans like Marco Rubio, who now cheer on Trump’s action.
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