Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The war drums beat louder

Another year, another war. Tragedy and propaganda often are close companions in war. Atrocities happen and more often than not, committed by both sides. The Syrian government may well be guilty of the chemical attack for all this blog knows. But many do not seek the truth but simply look for a pretext for war.

 How many times now has the media reported the statements of politicians and military experts” that there is ‘little doubt’ the Syrian government used chemical weapons. If you want absolutely proven atrocities, all you need to do is look at Egypt and the hundreds of unarmed and defenceless protesters killed by the Generals. No threats of cruise-missile salvoes on Cairo. Known, undeniable mass-murders, of which there is no doubt, and whose culprits are known and undisputed, bring no outrage. An alleged mass-murder, whose perpetrator is not proven, is the subject of huge outrage.

 Much of the media continue to assume that the statements of “our"government officials and politicians are characterised by what Mark Curtis calls a 'basic benevolence'. They may lie here or there, or they may act in a foolish or misguided way, but to advance the proposition that they are calculating liars, fully consciousness of the outcome of their policies is beyond the pale. If one were to question the basic assumption that the leaders of “liberal democracies” are basically good people and our foreign policy is both helpful and benevolent, one could start an avalanche of other questions. How can democracies allow men who are little more than lying criminals to assume positions of such power and take us to war over and over again based on lies? Soon one would be questioning the basic core assumption that we live in a democracy at all, and who in the media or public life want to go down that very dangerous path? They don't see Blair as a bloodthirsty criminal mastermind, but a good man who made mistakes and was led astray by his understandable desire to help the people of Iraq and deliver them from tyranny. The Russians and Chinese have selfish interests that they pursue with no regard for morality. Our side, on the other-hand, have noble values that we want to defend, even if we might sometimes be misguided in doing so. The golden assumption is that Obama, Cameron and Hollande care about the lives of the people of Syria, that they care so much that they willing to go to war to help them, and any other motive is never and arguably cannot be suggested or examined .

 What's frightening is that people have accepted the dogmas behind their own oppression, which is quite a trick, if it can be pulled it off! Any criticism or alternative view automatically becomes a conspiracy theory and can be dismissed almost out of hand. Chomsky explains one underlying reason why journalists are fully compliant with government propaganda - you mustn't bite the hand that feeds you.

Rare will the report be exposing the true motives of the capitalist Great Powers but Reuters let the mask slip in one article “France's active support of rebels in its former colony stems in part from a wish to secure trade interests.”

In the case of Iraq they produced lots of false evidence before the war, like Blair's Dodgy Dossier or Colin Powell's  misinformation at the UN. After the invasion no WMDs were found the US and UK governments were badly discredited. This time it seems that the plan is for a limited strike without evidence except for hearsay. So there will be no proof or disproof , just claims and counter claims.

There is evidence, none of it direct so far, that a chemical attack did happen.  But we are far short short of an independently verified account clearly establishing responsibility. It is difficult to think of any action by the Syrian government more self-destructive than the Syrian army launching a massive chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held districts in its own capital within several minutes car-ride of th UN inspectors. Assad is well aware that such an atrocity would allow the USA, Britain, France and others to bypass the UN Security Council, and the vetoes of China and Russia against any UN-sponsored intervention.

So was it the work of one of the rebel groups, desperate to provoke a response against the Assad regime?  Turkish police were reported to have found sarin gas with members of al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda associate fighting in Syria, and had made a number of arrests last May. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Nusra allies have actually carried out chemical attack in Iraq. The Syrian government claimed that its troops had entered "the tunnels of the terrorists" and discovered "chemical agents". In an earlier chemical weapon attack Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria suggesting that the rebels, rather than the government,  had used chemical weapons. The independent  Del Ponte, after lengthy investigations, interviews with victims and doctors,  made a cautious statement suggesting the rebels may have been responsible. The US/UK brushed aside such counter-arguments. And shortly after the announcement of the UN inspections rebels returned to the site of a previous chemical attack and murdering locals,  Hague made no condemnation of them or accuse them of killing potential witnesses and interfering with a crime-scene.

Nevertheless, the US/UK/French position is that the "burden of proof" lies with President Assad to prove his innocence. We, of course, had the exact same obligation placed upon Saddam Hussein in demanding proof from his regime that it did not possess any WMDs and proving a negative is rather problematic. The hawks find a precedent for  a “legal, humanitarian” war without a UN mandate against Syria in the 1999 Kosovo war, a NATO 78-day bombing campaign much of it against civilian infrastructures like bridges and the infamous bombings of the Serbian TV station and the Belgrade Chinese embassy. Many of the victims were women and children. After seven weeks of the bombing at least 1,200 civilians had been killed and 4,500 injured.  The US/UK created a spurious theoretical “right to protect” in an effort to get around the UN Charter in order to clear the way for wars whose final purpose is regime change. It was again used to good effect to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

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