Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria (Glenn Greenwald)

Written by on August 28, 2014 in Government, Military, Politics with 0 Comments

Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept | Aug 26 2014

CBS News, August 18, 2011:


President Barack Obama officially demanded that Syrian President Bashar Assad resign for the sake of his own people, saying he was no longer fit to lead after “imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people” during a crackdown on pro-reform protesters.

New York Times, October 24, 2012:

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

Barack Obama, August 31, 2013:

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. . . . [W]e are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.

New York Times, today:

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad. . . . The flights are a significant step toward direct American military action in Syria, an intervention that could alter the battlefield in the nation’s three-year civil war. . . .

On Monday, Syria warned the White House that it needed to coordinate airstrikes against ISIS or it would view them as a breach of its sovereignty and an “act of aggression.” But it signaled its readiness to work with the United States in a coordinated campaign against the militants.

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony BlairAnne-Marie SlaughterNicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.


It’s as though the U.S. knew for certain all along that it wanted to fight in the war in Syria, and just needed a little time to figure out on which side it would fight. It switched sides virtually on a dime, and the standard Pentagon courtiers of the U.S. media and war-cheering foreign policy elites are dutifully following suit, mindlessly depicting ISIS as an unprecedented combination of military might and well-armed and well-funded savagery (where did they get those arms and funds?). Something very similar happened in Libya: the U.S. spent a decade insisting that a Global War on Terror – complete with full-scale dismantling of basic liberties and political values – was necessary to fight against the Unique Threat of Al Qaeda and “Jihadists”, only to then fight on the same side as them, and arming and empowering them.

Nobody disputes the brutality and extremism of ISIS, but that is a completely different question from whether the U.S. should take military action against it. To begin with, the U.S. not only ignores, but actively supports, all sorts of brutal and extreme parties in the region.

More important, what are air strikes going to accomplish? All one has to do is look at the horrific chaos and misery in Libya – the Successful Humanitarian Intervention™ – to know that bombing Bad People out of existence accomplishes little in the way of strategic or humanitarian value. If one really wants to advocate that the U.S. should destroy or at least seriously degrade ISIS, then one should honestly face what that actually entails…

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