A new call against standing idly by?

By Stephen Gowans

Will the United States, or its proxies, directly intervene militarily on the side of Syrian rebels? If they do they will invent a pretext, and it may be this: Syrian leader Bashar Assad, desperate to cling to power, is poised to use chemical weapons against civilians. An intervention is necessary to prevent a massacre.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “We are concerned that an increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate, might be considering the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people.” (my emphasis) (1)

The Syrian Foreign Ministry denies the allegation, ruling out the use of chemical weapons against Syrians “under any circumstances.” (2)

All the same, Washington points to “transfers” of chemical weapons stocks that suggest “the Syrian leader could be planning to use the gas against civilians.” (my emphasis) (3)

It might be that the Syrian military is moving its supplies beyond the rebels’ reach. It could be that the Syrians are transferring the weapons to prevent them from falling into the hands of Jordanian special-forces. Under the direction of a US military task force, the Jordanians have been putting together a plan to make a dash across the border to seize Syria’s chemical weapons. (4) Or it’s possible that the transfers haven’t happened, and like Iraq’s mythical WMDs, this is another example of a falsehood intended to conjure up an imperative for war.

Washington says that the Pentagon is opposed to a direct US military intervention. But it has proxies in place which it can press into war on its behalf and “lead from behind.” These include the already mentioned Jordanians, along with Israel–recipient of billions of dollars annually in US military transfers—which says “it might be forced to take military action to prevent the use or spread of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.” (5)

At the same time, NATO has approved the deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey. While the military organization says the missiles will defend against Syria launching a ballistic missile attack, possibly tipped with chemical weapons, NATO could use the missiles to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria. This would give Syrian rebels a larger territory from which to attack the Assad government. (6)

It’s unclear whether Washington will go any further in its attempt to engineer concern over a possible looming massacre of civilians, and whether Patriot missiles will enforce a no-fly zone.

Still, it’s a simple matter for Washington to invent impending massacres as excuses to use military force to topple governments it doesn’t like. It did so in Libya, invented a genocide in Kosovo that never happened, and fabricated a story about Saddam Hussein hiding WMDs.

The possibility that the United States has begun to create another fiction, this time centered on the Assad government’s possible use of chemical weapons against civilians, cannot be discounted, and we should be alert to the possibility that the Obama regime is heading down this road.

1. Jay Solomon and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. warns Syria on chemical arms”, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2012
2. Anne Barnard and Ellen Barry, “Assad suffering reversals in fighting and diplomacy”, The New York Times, December 3, 2012
3. Solomon and Barnes, December 3, 2012
4. Solomon and Barnes, December 3, 2012s; Jay Solomon and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S., Jordan discuss securing Syria cache”, The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2012
5. Solomon and Barnes, December 3, 2012
6. Anne Gearan in The Washington Post of December 4, 2012 (Nato says anti-missile defense for Turkey does not open door to Syrian intervention) writes that while NATO denies the Patriot missiles will be used to establish a no-fly zone, they “could be repurposed as part of a wider campaign or provide air cover for action in Syria should NATO change its mind.”

14 thoughts on “A new call against standing idly by?

  1. In my opinion you fail to see that all over the Middle East (and the world) ordinary people are day after day risking their lives for political and social rights we in the West take for granted. Naturally reactionary forces are at work, certainly in Syria, but does that limit the scope of the revolutionary tide? Weren’t reactionary forces always involved when ordinary people rose up against political and/or socio-economical injustice, did that keep those people from going for it? The Arab spring ended the era of the simple dichotomy imperialist vs anti-imperialist (totalitarian) states. It opened a space for the people, the real human beings that according to you apparently need to go on living in a dictatorship because it is opposed to imperialism and grants it’s people a few social rights. (Read for example: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/20122276412929860.html)

  2. syrians arent suffering under Baath rule…why continue with that fallacy? if they were youd not see one million of them tally for the govt…BUT Baath rule is arab secular socialism….maybe thats why Steven objects

  3. what utter bilge No steven,….the govt of syria has not committed massacres against the syrian people.You shouldbe ashamed of airing such baseless slander….The syrian people who yoinclaim are being murdered by their givt suport their govt as these videos show:
    Damascus oct 2011

    allepo ocxt 2011

    students from Homs thank thr syrian army for protecting them

    Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media
    Assad’s popularity, Arab League observers, US military involvement: all distorted in the west’s propaganda war

    so whats your sources steven\? surely not the western MSM? or qatars aljazeera?


  4. saudis desperate to turn syria into wahhabi land employ prisonlabor:..over 1000 of them:
    Revealed a letter from the Saudi Ministry of Interior agreed with some of the prisoners from Arab and foreign nationalities, including Iraqis sentenced to death recruited “Jihad in Syria” in return for scrapping their sentences.

    Word in the book that carried the adjective “top-secret” got all of Iraq [where] a copy of it and the sender of the Director of follow-up, an Interior Ministry Abdullah bin Ali to head the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the General Intelligence “referring to a telegram Royal Court No. 112 and the date April 19 1433 AH [2011 AD] and referred to the detainees in the prisons of the kingdom accused of crimes apply the rule of Islamic law to kill them تعزيرا sword. “

    “We inform you in communion with the defendants were convicted of drug smuggling, murder and rape of nationalities [105] Yemen and [212] Saudi and [21] Palestinians and [96] Sudanese and [254] Syrian and [82] Jordanian and [68] Somali and 32 Afghan and [194] Egypt [203] and Pakistani [23] Iraqi and [44] Kuwait “.

    “It was agreed with the dismissal of a legal limit on them and payment of monthly pensions to their families and loved ones who will be prevented from traveling outside Saudi Arabia for the rehabilitation of the defendants and their training in order to send them to the Jihad in Syria.”



  5. If innocent people are suffering in Syria, and I’ve no doubt they are, it’s not because of Assad or the Ba’ath Party. Syria had a pretty good state until the recent fighting – healthy, educated and employed to a high degree, especially by regional standards. Much like Libya.

    It’s because what would have been a very limited anti-government movement, largely confined to a few small areas of the country, was exploited by imperialist-backed Gulf states (with arms other military aid) who have always opposed Assad’s secularism in Syria and friendly relations with the “heretic” Shiite government in Iran, to become a protracted and bloody civil war.

    Just as Qaddafi would have handled his critics in Benghazi in fairly short order, Assad would probably be done with this issue by now. But when imperialism presents any government with an interest in self-defence with a determined and fully-backed armed movement, people are going to get killed. And as far as imperialism is concerned, the more people die the better – greater pretext for intervention.

    And if people aren’t dying, then f**k it – just make up some nonsense and make sure the corporate media repeat it ad nauseam. Liberals, social-democrats and Trotskyites will soon be lining up to repeat the lie along with the Right.

  6. It’s apparently fun to speculate on the downside of the US-NATO inspired attempt to regime-change Syria by making selective comparisons with NATO’s cowardly murder of Qaddafi and despoiling of Libya. But NATO & Friends will always become quite circumspect about directly attacking all but the softest of undefended targets.

    “Al Qaeda’s Air Force” flew 21,000 sorties over Libya and lost one plane, at most.
    US-NATO targets don’t come much softer than that.

    It would take “balls” for NATO to initiate an R2P against Syria – and it won’t happen, no matter what self-righteously indignant crapaganda we hear from the likes of Obama, Panetta, Cameron, Wussmussen and Mrs Clinton.
    Syria has put down an ‘uprising’ in the past and has the armed forces, intelligence agencies, weapons and experience (plus competent friends like Russia and China), to do so again. Syria will be a mess when NATO’s ‘rebels’ have been crushed but Syria will still be controlled by Syrians.

  7. My apologies, that wasn’t my intention at all. I sympathize with Bricmont’s views and that article you refer to is a really good read. But in the heat of the moment I sometimes let my emotions take over. I know there isn’t a simple solution but sometimes I wish their was cause I can’t stand seeing innocent people suffer (be it under American drone attacks or Baath’s rule.)

  8. Are the actions of the Syrian government in meeting a rebellion against it, relevant to the question of the Obama regime possibly inventing a pretext for military intervention in Syria? I can’t fathom how it is, which makes me wonder why you broach this subject at all, unless your aim is to divert attention from an argument against war to one more congenial to the aims of NATO propagandists .

    I might also ask whether ruthless repression of rebels in a civil war justifies Western intervention? I suspect you may be sympathetic to that view, but are reluctant to say so openly.

    Had the British intervened on the side of the South in the US Civil War, citing as their justification the need to end the ruthless repression of the rebels, only the dull would have failed to see that the British intervention was inspired by motives other than those claimed, and that the ruthless repression of the rebels (apart from being what happens in civil wars) was a red herring. And only the dull would fail to understand the poorly concealed political agenda of those who professed opposition to British intervention, while at the same time bidding others not to forget that the North was brutally repressing the South.

    I fear that you are among those who Jean Bricmont describes as the anti-anti-war left (what used to be called social-imperialists), or possibly worse than that.

    At best, your intention is to confuse a clear, straight-forward discussion with irrelevancies.

  9. This indeed sounds like yet another Western fabrication and we should be alert for interventionist calls. But that doesn’t change the fact that Assad does head a government which has committed massacres and is tackling the civilian unrest with ruthless repression.

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