Thursday, September 5, 2013

US-Syria drums of war — a familiar beat


The only solution for the Syrian issue is a political one and a peace conference of all actors may stop further bloodshed.


A HORRENDOUS attack with chemical weapons is alleged to have killed 1,429 people in a Damascus suburb on Aug 21.

Use of such chemical weapons is a flagrant violation of international law and the culprits must be hounded and herded to the International Criminal Court.

However, it is not clear who the real perpetrators are.

The Syrian government alleges that US-supported rebels carried out the attack to turn global sentiment against Syria. Obama pins the blame on Assad and is using this as a justification for a threatened war that circumvents the UN, like Bush before him.

The claims of both sides must be investigated impartially by the UN and there should be no resort to unilateral punishment before all facts are established. It is not in accordance with due process for the accusers to arrogate to themselves the role of adjudicators.

In the meantime, one must note that in March, an Independent Commission of Inquiry of the UN headed by Carla del Ponte had concluded that the nerve agent sarin was used by US-supported rebels and not the Syrian government.

It is also noteworthy that the weapons inspection team of the UN was in Syria at the invitation of Assad who is unlikely to have resorted to such an abomination with the UN watching over his shoulders.

The US and UK have a long, catalogued history of murderous lies to construct the pretext for war.

In August 1945, the US concealed the fact that Japan was actively negotiating surrender and went ahead to incinerate hundreds of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a brutal atomic attack.

The US invasion of Vietnam in August 1964 was founded on the deceitful lie that Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. The war took the lives of millions of innocent Asians and 50,000 American combatants.

In 2003, lies and skewed facts about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction led to the pulverisation and conquest of Iraq. 

Similar deceitful warmongering led to the attacks and subjugation of Afghanistan and Libya. The Third World is now quite mindful of Western spin masters and their weapons of mass deception. 

Assad is on a winning wicket and Western allies are understandably eager to find any pretext to kill him like the way they did Saddam of Iraq and Gaddafi of Libya.

The US, EU and Israel are fomenting civil war in Syria that has so far killed 100,000 for various geopolitical reasons: to weaken Iran and Hezbollah who are the only remaining regional rivals of Israel; to thwart the proposed Iran-Syria oil pipeline; and to kill the plan to sell Iranian oil in currencies other than the almighty US dollar. The Syrian conflict is a proxy war by the US against Iran.

There is also the desire to consolidate an uncompromising version of corporatism that seeks total economic hegemony over the region. Observers have noted that “defence manufacturer” Lockheed Martin’s stock prices rose sharply since news proliferated of the chemical weapons attack!

Any attack on Syria by a “coalition of the willing” on so-called humanitarian grounds will be a gross violation of the UN Charter.

Except for the narrow exception of unilateral self-defence under Article 51, the Security Council of the UN is the only authority empowered by chapter VII, Articles 39-42 to use force against a nation that is guilty of a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.

American-style unilateralism and exceptionalism pose significant potential for abuse. This is evidenced by Nato’s destruction of Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 under the guise of a limited humanitarian operation. One must also note that the terror of war necessarily results in thousands of civilian casualties.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the Damascus chemical attack as a “moral obscenity” is very touching but reeks of hypocrisy. It is well known that the US used napalm and agent orange in Vietnam; depleted uranium in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bosnia; and white phosphorus bombs in Fallujah in 2004.

Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks against Iran were with Washington’s full knowledge and support. In fact the chemical weapons, the feeder stock and equipment were supplied by the US, UK, Germany and Italy.

While the world has been focused on the horror in Damascus, US supported rebels have carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against 40,000 Syrian Kurds to force them to flee across the Tigris into Iraq.

There is not a word of Western condemnation of this atrocity.

The threatened missile attacks against Syria would cost thousands of innocent lives. In typical American style of justice, people will be butchered in order to save them from a dictator!

Weapon depots will explode, resulting in horrendous collateral damage. There is no certainty that Bashar Al-Assad will be toppled.

A broader conflict may result if Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran react against Israel and America’s bases in the Middle East.

US military intervention in Syria’s civil war will, therefore, be an enormous mistake. It will not promote US interests. The use of missiles can change the military balance but it cannot resolve the underlying historic, ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fuelling this conflict.

The only solution for the Syrian issue is a political one. A peace conference of all actors may stop further bloodshed.

President Obama must remember that you can start a war when you will; you can’t end it when you please!

Reflecting On The Law - contributed by Shad Saleem Faruqi
Shad Saleem Faruqi is Professor of Law at UiTM. The views expressed here are entirely his own.  

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