By Peter Childs
I’ve just read the CNN account of Trump’s attack on Syria, and I’ve heard what’s been said both on mainstream and alternative media about the buildup to it. As is so often the case these days I’m uncertain as to the facts. It’s so easy for Americans to simply accept the statements of their government; for others (e.g. Russians) to accept the statements of theirs, and to continue down the road of mostly uncritical confrontation. But history has given us plenty of examples of what results from that way of doing things; we need to step back from our usual emotional predispositions, take a more objective view of things, and think critically about them in order to see the truth, which it is now becoming imperative that we discover.
I don’t know who is responsible for the Douma attack or, for that matter, any of the others. Legitimate doubt seems to me to have been cast on all the competing claims and I can’t yet tell where the truth lies. I don’t understand what Assad would have to gain from using chemical weapons, which is like jabbing a stick into the hornets’ nest of international opinion. What do we think he has gained from using them? What do we think he thinks he has gained? If he thought it was worth using these weapons (regardless of the predictable response from the U.S. alone), wouldn’t he use them on a wide enough scale for them to be clearly effective in “winning”? I can’t see how he would gain more than he would lose from using them, but I can see how his opponents would benefit greatly from the perception that Assad was responsible for such atrocities. Maybe he used them; maybe he didn’t. I don’t know, but this feels to me too much like the whole thing with Saddam’s WMDs; the rush to attack on the basis of loud, unsubstantiated, and in fact false claims.
There are several questions that I think any serious reporter (or anyone else interested in the truth) would ask here. The CNN report says that the targets were 1 ) “a scientific research center…involved in the development and production of chemical weapons” 2) “a chemical weapons storage facility” 3) “a chemical equipment storage facility and important command post”.
But the Pentagon: “assessed that some chemical or nerve agents were likely present at one of the targets” (emphasis added).
Really?! When one of the three targets was a “center” for the “production of chemical weapons”, and another was “a chemical weapons storage facility’?
And if we knew about these facilities why did we say nothing about them until now? Why didn’t we point them out (prove their existence) and complain then to the Russians about their “failure to guarantee the end of Assad’s chemical weapons program”, instead of waiting until a missile strike was felt to be appropriate? Could (should) we have thus prevented this chemical attack in Douma?
“Experts from the international chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, were en route to the site in Douma before the joint military strikes. The group said Saturday it would continue on to Syria as planned.” Why, if the facts were known? And if the facts were not known, what is the actual basis for our attack? Again, the aroma of Iraq and WMDs.
What does international law and/or the U.N. charter say about nations taking military action against other nations? What does our law say about our attacking other nations (e.g. with drones) without a Congressional declaration of war? Do we care about the “rule of law” or do we just say we care? Is this important?
Since WWII we’ve more than amply demonstrated that, much as we’d like to save our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world from bad governments (let’s accept for the moment the enormously naive assumption that that is our sole motive, or that the pot is in a position to call the kettle black), we simply can’t. If there is to be a World Policeman, it has to be the U.N. Unfortunately the U.N., being composed of normal human beings, is incapable of taking on that responsibility. So here we are, with the world quite possibly trembling on the verge of nuclear holocaust and our elected representatives apparently capable only of wringing their hands. The answers are all there but we’ve been looking in the wrong places for them, i.e. to our “leaders”, who not only don’t have the answers but who aren’t even looking for them, and who in fact helplessly continue to lead us straight toward a Very Big Cliff. We desperately need to elect real leaders; representatives who can tell the difference between fact and fantasy. Otherwise we will soon be over that Cliff.
What will be the actual results of our raid? Exactly how will it help end the carnage in Syria? I think it likely that what really happened here is that Trump needed an “incident”. Stormy is hard on his heels, and with the FBI raid on his lawyer he’s running scared. This will boost his credibility with his base, who will accept whatever he says uncritically, and Trump always plays to his base. That was most likely the reason for the raid, and in that respect the raid will surely prove to have been successful. But it won’t change the situation in Syria one bit, except to make it more tense.
I can’t tell who has been responsible for these chemical attacks (and neither can anyone else, so far as I can see) but of this I am certain: I find it hard to see much difference between the weeping loved ones, blood-soaked streets, and scattered body parts resulting from 1) a drone attack on a wedding party in Afghanistan, 2) the essentially identical scenes of these chemical attacks, or 3) any other form of people killing each other. Right is right and wrong is wrong. “When will we ever learn?”