With tough talk and crocodile tears for those killed in the chemical attack, President Obama made a tactical retreat from his insistence on an immediate attack on Syria. Though he left the attack option on that table, this retreat should be seen as a victory for those who oppose a new U.S. war on Syria.
The Tuesday, Sept. 10 speech took place in the context of the near total isolation of the warmaking Obama administration at home and around the world. The British parliament voted down Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to back the U.S. president. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed it as did virtually all traditional U.S. allies. No support was forthcoming from forces ranging from the Arab League to Pope Benedict XVI.
Every national poll on Syria demonstrates overwhelming majority opposition to yet another U.S. war. Overnight, a new antiwar movement is emerging in the U.S. and around the world. Aware of this mass antiwar sentiment, the U.S. Congress was poised to vote against Obama’s proposal, an action that would make the president the first in the modern era to be essentially reprimanded by the U.S. legislature.
With no immediate options before him, Obama was compelled to at least momentarily jump at Russia’s proposal that Syria put its chemical weapons into international safe keeping. The Syrian government, while accepting this proposal, nevertheless continued to insist that it did not use the chemical weapons and had no intention of doing so. To date no U.S. government agency or the United Nations team on the site has refuted this position. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that it was too late for the facts – too late for any UN report.
With nothing but circumstantial evidence that the chemical sarin gas attack was used by the Syrian government, Obama’s speech assumed this as fact and the basis for attacking Syria.
The U.S. record is replete with similar false allegations to justify war, from the Vietnam era Tonkin Bay “incident” that proved to be fabricated by U.S. spy agencies, to Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” that were “proved” to exist by the Bush administration.
History demonstrates that U.S. pretexts for war are invented with impunity and with monstrous results. Four million Vietnamese died in that 10-year war along with 57,000 U.S. soldiers, many still suffering from the poison chemicals employed by the U.S. 1.5 million Iraqis died decades later; no “weapons of mass destruction” were ever found.
The U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein regime, with the approval of the U.S., employed sarin gas against the Iranian people in that eight-year war that took the lives of more than one million Iranians and Iraqis.
The international chemical weapons convention prohibits the production, storage, and use of chemical weapons. If Obama was truly concerned about chemical weapons in the region, why is he not calling for the destruction of all chemical weapons – those owned and used by allies as well as foes? This would then apply equally to the Syrian government, rebel forces, Israel, and the Egyptian military – none of which have signed the convention - and of course, the U.S., which does not adhere to international conventions and has used chemical weapons with impunity.
The U.S. government has no political, legal or moral standing to use force against any nation. The warmaking would-be cop of the world has an unbroken record of imperial interventions that have murdered millions to advance the interests of the elite few, not those of the vast majority.
The incredible revelations of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning should suffice to caution everyone that the U.S. "national security state" will use any and all measures to advance its interests and that these "interests" have nothing in common with those of the American people.
Yet the Obama administration has not abandoned its imperial objective in Syria – to put into place yet another government subservient to the corporate objectives of the U.S. one percent.
The most remarkable and revealing statement in Obama’s speech was his assertion that “for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements -- it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them.” He goes on to say: “Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used…. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”
This incredibly arrogant and dangerous statement of a self-appointed American ‘exceptionalism’ means that the U.S. has the right and the “burden” of acting militarily in American interests because the U.S. alone (and possibly some of our chosen allies) has ideals and principles, always of the highest order, and for the betterment of humanity.
What hypocrisy and what bald-faced lies. The 70-year record of the United States of bringing death, destruction, and domination to the world is not something Americans can be proud of. Many Americans are recognizing this ‘essential truth’ and recognizing that only we, the people, have the power and obligation to end the horror perpetrated on our planet.
The U.S. antiwar movement must seize this likely temporary moment in history to deepen its opposition to war against the people of Syria. We have won some precious time to organize a massive movement to compel the government to bring the troops, warships, and planes home now. We must continue to demand:
No U.S. War on Syria! U.S. Hands off Syria! No New U.S. Wars! Bring the Troops and War Dollars Home Now! Money for Jobs, Education and Health Care Not War!
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