Saturday 8 April 2017

"Doing Something" about Syria

"Something has to be done!" goes up the cry every time an abominable war crime surges over the newswires, but the question has to be what and how. Throughout yesterday, following Donald Trump's bombardment of the Syrian government airfield apparently used for the chemical attack on Idlib province, we saw implacable foes of the White House freak show rush to back up the US administration. "Today was the day Trump became the president" went one egregiously arse licking headline, and all of a sudden the investigation of the dodgy links to Russia, and the awful domestic programme are compartmentalised and held in abeyance. Colour me surprised? Not in the slightest.

Let's get one thing out of the way with first. The attack on Khan Sheikhoun in which at least 80 people were killed did happen. It's not some fakery cooked up by the bureau for dirty tricks at the State Department (which, under Trump, barely has budget enough for staples let alone elaborate ruses). Just because it might be convenient as it directs the media spotlight away from Trump and his troubles doesn't mean it must be a US conspiracy. If you look at any Western government during the last seven years and the difficulties besetting them, the distraction of air and missile strikes has and always will appear to be convenient. Nor is it a hoax perpetuated on the ground by rebel factions, most of which are now little more than ragtag and bobtail outfits with Kalashnikovs. The mode of delivery and the multiple sources for the story point to its being true. So let's knock the conspiracy theorising on the head now.

The key question in time like these is how to enforce "accountability". We know that the White House and 10 Downing Street are compromised as enforcers of international law. That no one has been sacked, let alone charged for supplying weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia as the former engages in chemical attacks of its own and the other presides over famine in Yemen is disgusting. How governments with great ugly question marks hanging over their repeat and unaccounted-for interventions in the Middle East are expected to apply the law always cruises under the radar of sundry Officially Concerned politicians and pundits. This matters because why it might not concern the people who matter here, hypocritical rhetoric and action certainly does matter to those who live there. Worried about winning hearts and minds? A dose of introspection would be most welcome.

Even if we put that out of our minds, we have to consider whether Trump's missile strikes are the means for enforcing the chemical weapons "red line". If he was genuinely moved by this outrage and wanted to help, then why not rescind his ridiculous attempts to enforce a travel ban? If this was about degrading the capacity of the Syrian air force, then why does the Shayrat airfield runway remain undamaged? And, while it might have been essential to notify Putin to get Russian personnel out of dodge (who after all wants a wider war?), it's naive to assume that the courtesy call's information wasn't passed on to the regime, which was then able to quickly shift some of its assets. The regime says nine people were killed, but these were civilians hit by missiles that fell short of the target or went awry - though these claims come with the necessary caveats. What then was the purpose of this escapade? A punishment that has done nothing to curb the military capacity of the Assad air force, but put on a show of liberal interventionism that has won Trump new friends. It's almost as if the response to Thursday's outrage was contrived this way. And it's reasonable to conclude that Assad and Putin are of like mind.

Meanwhile, the bloody grind and morass that Syria has become carries on. "Doing something", which is how this is being justified, should not be an excuse for doing anything.


Lidl_Janus said...

Because someone will bring this up, I will.

Boffy said...

I agree that the attack happened, but the most likely cause of the effects of chemicals, as even one uS military advisor has said is that Assad's bombs hit a chemical weapons dump that rebels were sitting on, and had placed in a civilian area, as is their habit.

I don't think its a conspiracy, just good fortune for the US State Department, CIA etc. who have been at war with Trump, and who were able to utilise it for their own ends. Its precisely because Trump has been undermining the State Department, CIA and had Flynn chucked out at Defence that these elements of the US state would want to utilise such an event to undermine him, and rein him in, especially as his crew are gradually being whittled away by the state apparatus.

I expect the British state will grind away at the forces of Brexit, in the UK government, over the next few years in just the same way.

But, back to Syria, you are right, whoever was responsible, bombing Assad is not the answer. It will result only in the same chaos as in Iraq and Libya, because the facts are that the so called moderate opposition is a fiction constructed by western liberals to justify their intervention. Those forces do not exist in any real sense, as Iraq and Libya demonstrated. The real power lies with the gangs of armed men, and there are so many conflicting gangs that only a strongman leader can exert control at a national level, which is why Bonapartist and militarist regimes arise in such places in the first place.

Liberal interventionists should decide whether they want to intervene effectively, which means that they would have to become colonialists, settled into ruling directly themselves for the long haul, or else they should keep their moralising to themselves because their attempts to "do something" for the sake of doing something always end up making the situation worse, because they cannot face reality, and come to terms with the fact that the real world does not match their fantasies of how it should be.

Anonymous said...

There are many questions as to whether the Assad regime would wish to alienate Trump's regime and I'm not saying the airfield attack by the USA was justified. But your post claimed that the airfield was left 'undamaged' and then linked that to an article that states: "The photos show the aftermath of nearly 60 cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase in Homs, a city in western Syria. Captions indicate a mix of damaged and completely destroyed aircraft shelters." To say the airfield was left undamaged IS fake news...

Jeremy Corbyn (Parody) said...

Big fat Tom Watson's arse licking yesterday was appalling. Deputy leadership contest. Now.

Anonymous said...

Like most of the liberal left you seem to swallow the mainstream media's line with little question. Haven't the last few years taught you anything? Assad has NOTHING to gain from a chemical attack and EVERYTHING to lose. The Rebels have BOASTED of their own chemical weapons on their Youtube videos. Making chlorine isn't difficult BTW. As for Trump, he knows perfectly well that Assad didn't make this happen. The attack of the airbase was targeted at the American public, America's fawning "allies", and their craven and willfully ignorant mainstream media, to show them he's not Putin's bitch.Putin knows this too- it won't make any real difference to US/Russian relations. It could still have been a good deal worse if Killary had been in power.

Anonymous said...

2104 Kerry-Lavarov never happened either. Let's get that straight too before the conspiracy theorists get to work.

Robert said...

Agree entirely with Buffy. Intervening effectively in Syria would require ground troops of half a million men to garrison the place effectively. Since Vietnam the draft has become politically impossible which leaves Western imperialism with an air force that is very good at firing large amounts of explosives around. If your problem can be solved by hurling large amounts of explosives around intervention works otherwise it only makes the problem worse.

The Russian approach to Syria is perfectly logical. To them the enemy is Isis, Assad is an enemy of Isis and therefore an ally.

asquith said...

Over time I've become more of a foreign policy realist so I'm against this, what does Drumpf actually hope to achieve by this? Does anyone even know?

The crux of this matter is that Assad is bad but replacing him would be worse, see Saddam Hussein & Gaddafi. As many have observed, the same guff is being trotted out as was about Saddam Hussein's alleged WMDs and the reality is, ordinary working-class Syrians of all creeds want to be left in peace and left alone by Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey, etc.

Yes, I regret the Iranian & Hezbollah presence, but that is only a factor due to the illegal invasion of Iraq which created a vacuum for it. The expulsion of the Jews was one of the worst things the Assads & their predecessors did, it sets a precedent for what Islamic State hope to "achieve" and why anyone with a shard of sense doesn't want any further ethnic cleansing to occur now that Assad has become the lesser of two evils.

"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

Maybe has visited Saudi Barbaria & Bahrain, how exactly is Assad worse or more of a threat to our lives than those unpleasant countries?

I reserve the deepest scorn for halfwits like Paul Joseph Watson who have only just noticed that Drumpf is no better than the neocons. Did they not listen to him parroting the unthinking, anti-Iranian hysteria of the establishment neocons?

Lacking any principles of his own, so long as he gets the trimmings of office he doesn't give a turd which direction policy goes in, and the appointment of people like David Friedman show that he is entirely the creature of the same old neocons in control of the House & Senate.

The assertion that a successful businessman must be a successful deal-making politician, which could only be made by someone entirely ignorant of Italian history, is also refuted by Drumpf's actions.

The silver lining here is that Drumpf's lack of principles may be an opportunity in that if the Dems get their act together, purge the "intersectionality" "activists" and Killary-esque hawks, we have only to wait until 2018 before reasonable people start to set the agenda.

Whether we have that long remains to be seen.

PS have you read this, it's really first-class.

jim mclean said...

A war that has being going on for over 100 years, ever since the UK and France drew straight lines on a map and split that part of the Ottoman Empire for their own benefit. Ibn Saud tried to point out to the British it would never work with so many groups and nomads. All I know is that when the final battle ends the real killing will begin,this is a battle for survival and the UK left haven't a clue. Democracy is a non starter.

Anonymous said...

"Nor is it a hoax perpetuated on the ground by rebel factions, most of which are now little more than ragtag and bobtail outfits with Kalashnikovs."

They are Al-Qaeda affiliated factions, funded by the Gulf states and Turkey. They have the capability to produce chemical weapons and have used toxic chemicals as weapons in the past.

It's very likely a lab for producing chemical weapons or a stock pile was hit by an air strike and toxic gas was spread by the wind.

There is zero evidence of sarin.

The territory that was hit by the air strike is under control of Al-Qaeda, nobody can seriously believe al-Qaeda sources.

Anonymous said...

To say there is "zero evidence of sarin" is untrue.
To say "It's very likely a lab for producing chemical weapons or a stock pile was hit by an air strike and toxic gas was spread by the wind" is a trope for backing statements by Assad and Putin.

Russia has claimed that Syrian jets conducting legitimate strikes had struck a rebel gas weapons facility in Khan Sheikhoun. Major General Igor Konashenkov, from the Russian defence ministry, claimed a “destroyed warehouse was used to produce and store shells containing toxic gas to be sent to Iraq.” The statement carried by Russian state media cited no evidence for the claim (also previously made over alleged chemical attacks by Syrian govt forces in Aleppo) yet said the information was “fully objective and verified”.

20 children and 17 women were among dead civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, killed by “gases that caused suffocation” and other symptoms doctors said pointed to the use of sarin, a nerve agent that paralyses chest muscles. Doctors said victims started to choke, vomit and faint with foam coming out of their mouths, showing symptoms of possible sarin gas exposure. Pin-point pupils and a lack of the odour associated with more commonly used chlorine gas were among the evidence cited for the nerve agent. Hours afterwards, clinics treating the victims were themselves hit by rocket attacks from Syrian or Russian fighter jets.

Reports at ground zero indicated that the plane was seen to be ‘bombing with gas’. There are no indications that opposition forces are capable of manufacturing Sarin and then storing it, as suggested by the Syrian govt and the Russians.
During 2014 UN-OPCW investigators found that the Syrian regime continued to use chlorine, in barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. Syrian government forces were responsible for three examined chemical attacks and at least 53 people were killed in a similar suspected chemical incident in the Isis-controlled town of Uqayribat in December 2016 but the attack received little international attention. Yet the Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) carried a claim from Syria’s foreign ministry that the Syrian Army “does not possess any form of chemical weapons.”

We do know that Syria and the Russians are lying. We do not know whether the rebels are also lying. But the evidence does tend to back what the rebels in Khan Sheikhoun have said.