Friday, August 30, 2013

A Sober Barack Obama Wants Action Against Bashar-Al Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons




The war in Syria rages on, with media reporting contradictory stories that masquerade as the truth about what’s really happening. The war in the US rages on; a war of words, emotions and opinions that verge on ludicrous conspiracy theories. Did Bashar-Al Assad use nerve as in an attack on Damascus that left more than 1400 dead, over 400 of them children, or was it the rebels killing their own in a Machiavellian plot to make Assad look bad?

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the attack was an offense and even a crime against humanity and that if the West did nothing Assad could take that as permission to repeat the offense. David Cameron wanted to do something but British MP’s voted him off the stage, although that was before the UN report was released.

Russia and China of course refuse to get involved, and Barack Obama has been fighting a losing battle with Congress and with many US citizens, to take some kind of action. He has repeatedly said that he would wait until he received the UN report and that he was not considering troops on the ground or any kind of action that would lead to long term involvement in Syria’s civil war, but the press continues to use the most dramatic headlines possible, and whatever it is that has underpinned opposition to Obama in the US since he first got elected is feeding off the drama.

It’s par for the course that conservatives in the US don’t listen to his actual words, and conveniently ignore the reality of his actions, just as it’s predictable that they will accuse him of having no backbone no matter what he does.

But the latest is that he’s being compared to GW Bush on the eve of the Iraq war, which is so far from the truth that if it wasn’t tragic it would be laughable. Bush’s intention was clear from the start. Justification for the Iraq war, where there was none, was fabricated on the flimsiest of excuses. Well, patent lies, actually. The US military industrial complex profited immensely as people on both sides got slaughtered. By the time the truth was obvious to Americans it was too late. Not for the military industrial complex of course.

Barack Obama has no intention of creating a war as GW Bush did. He has no intention of indiscriminately involving the US in Syria’s complex civil war. He has openly refused to do so up to this point, and gotten little recognition for it.

But he once said, when criticized for attempting to work with Congress, that he knows perfectly well how to draw a line in the sand, and that when he does he doesn’t back down. He spoke to the press on Friday, having seen the UN assessment which categorically states that Assad used sarin in the Damascus attack. The following is taken from the text of Obama's speech, transcribed by Federal News Service:  

“…This kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well-established international norms against the use of chemical weapons, by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region like Israel and Turkey and Jordan, and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us. So I have said before, and I meant what I said, that the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons.”

“…But again, I repeat, we’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach. What we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons, understanding that there is not going to be a solely military solution to the underlying conflict and tragedy that’s taking place in Syria [my italics]. And I will continue to consult closely with Congress. In addition to the release of the unclassified documents, we are providing a classified briefing to congressional staffs today, and we’ll offer that same classified briefing to members of Congress as well as our international partners. And I will continue to provide updates to the American people as we get more information.”

For this he’s recently been accused of trying to save face. I guess when you don’t want to see the truth of a man you won’t see it no matter what. Obama hasn’t said yet what action the US should take. But he’s being blasted from all sides as if he had openly and aggressively declared war and said let’s kill the bastards. Frankly, the idea that nerve gas can be used indiscriminately by a lunatic like Assad and get away with it unnerves me. But what’s more unnerving is how many people in the West are quite happy to let him get away with it because it’s not on their doorstep. Yet. And maybe because it’s about Middle Easterns.

A lot of the comments left on recent New York Times articles about Obama’s desire to take some kind of action have been of the nature “let the Syrians kill each other, they’re all violent criminals anyway”.

So much for global humanity. The callousness of conservative Americans is nauseating. They’ve forgotten – as they forget anything that contradicts their current fantastical theory, whatever it is – that the original rebels didn’t initially commit the atrocities; they just fought for their freedom. It was when they got utterly desperate and particularly when foreign, fundamentalist elements came in to support them, that atrocities started being committed on both sides.

What conservatives in the West are too short-sighted to see is that if Assad has stockpiles of chemical weapons and he uses them and nobody in the West takes him to task, a precedent has been set. And if – or maybe I should say when - fundamentalists get hold of them, hallo international terror all over again but on a much bigger and more horrifying scale than ever before. If Obama doesn’t take action now – moderate action, as he’s proposing - what will they say then? If they’re alive to say anything at all.