For anyone who’s even vaguely followed the situation as it developed in Syria over the past two years, and in particular the international community’s response to it, it must seem somewhat irrelevant at this point which side in the conflict is actually guilty of using the deadly chemical weapons that have been the cause of such international panic and alarm. This is especially true so far as the United States is concerned. If you’ll recall, it was as early as May when the U.S. began to discuss openly whether or not it would provide guns and ammunition to the Syrian “rebels”, whoever they may be (American officials assure us that the Free Syrian Army are a “moderate” bunch; you be the judge of that). This allegedly came in response to earlier reports of sarin gas being used on civilians back in April. Since that time there has been yet another instance in which sarin gas was used as a “weapon of mass destruction” (pardon the phrase), killing up to 1,000 people in Damascus. And yet evidence indicating which side in the struggle is responsible for using the weapons is as unclear now as it was back in April, with different intelligence agencies reporting different things. Each time reports of the toxic chemical’s use have emerged, the United States and its Western Imperial allies immediately pointed the finger at the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, first declaring it “likely” that his government was responsible for the attacks, but hesitating before stating it as a fact. During the past week, however, U.S. officials have greatly stepped up their war rhetoric by asserting, as both Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry have, that there is absolutely “no doubt” that it was Assad’s government behind the attacks. The evidence supporting such a claim is circumstantial at best, and the reasoning behind such arguments usually fall along the line of “the Syrian opposition does not have the capacity to carry out an operation of such magnitude.” And yet the initial investigations of specialists from the United Nations seemed to have a different view, one which was formed from actual on-the-ground intelligence, and came just short of implicating the Syrian rebels as being the party responsible for the sarin-gas attacks. These U.N. inspectors take their jobs very seriously and have been extraordinarily busy for the past months compiling evidence to be presented before the United Nations. The United States has made it clear, however, that it will dismiss whatever conclusion the U.N.’s report comes to, which is not all that surprising considering allegations that the U.S. has been trying to undermine and even sabotage the inspectors’ investigation at every turn.
Not only the American people, but the entire world at large has become rather skeptical of the United States’ government any time it purports to have “evidence” sufficient enough to justify an attack or invasion. This is especially true because the memory of the Iraq War weighs heavily on the entire world’s conscious, and everyone remembers what happened the last time U.S. “Intelligence” declared with absolute “certainty” that a foreign government had gotten its hands on and intended to use “weapons of mass destruction.” Perhaps Russian president Vladimir Putin had this in mind when he suggested that the United States should present before the United Stations whatever evidence it had that Assad’s government was responsible for the Damascus attacks before taking such drastic measures like launching air missiles into the heart of the country. His exact words were, “I’d like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future causalities.” These calls by the international community for the U.S. to assess whether or not military involvement will in the end be worth the enormous cost seem to have fallen on death ears, with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stating that the U.S. Military is basically “ready” to strike as soon as President Obama gives the order.
If there’s one nation that stubbornly refuses to learn from its past mistakes, however, it’s the United States of America. It seems we still haven’t fully learned much from when we shamelessly armed, trained and funded the mujaheddin during the 1970’s and 80’s. The mujaheddin of course were a group of armed ‘rebel’ fighter terrorists whom the CIA trained in some of the most lethal tactics imaginable all for the purpose of whacking off Officers of the Soviet Union stationed in Afghanistan. Little did anyone suspect at the time that spreading such terror overseas would come back to bite the U.S. in a big way when members of mujaheddin broke out from under American control and became the founding members of both the Taliban and al Qaeda. The most famous of these men was a native of Saudi Arabia named Osama bin-Laden. Aiding and abetting these terrorists, which by all accounts Osama bin-Laden and al Qaeda were, culminated in the horrific events of September 11, 2001, when 3,000 Americans tragically perished in attacks on the World Trade Center orchestrated by bin-Laden himself. Shortly after these events took place, a passionate preacher and a firm believer in the cause of social justice, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, delivered a bold and fiery sermon to his congregation in a brave attempt to shed light on this truth. Later, in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, Wright and his sermons would be demonized because of his one-time close relationship with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. In the most famous of these sermons, Wright, a veteran of the Vietnam War, took critical aim at the United States’ Imperialistic foreign policies and hypocritical support of brutal dictatorships, decrying the ways in which the U.S.A. “bombed Hiroshima; we bombed Nagasaki; and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye… and now we are indignant, because the stuff we’ve done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards! America’s chickens have come home to roost… Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant… An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised.” That wasn’t all he said that was deemed “controversial”. More than a year later, in opposition to the invasion of Iraq he preached, “Governments lie. The government lied about bombing Cambodia… The government lied about the drugs for Contra scheme orchestrated by Oliver North. The government lied about a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and a connection between 9-11-01 and Operation Iraqi Freedom… Governments lie!” In other words, the good Reverend is making the point that the United States government is far from being a reliable source to turn to when it comes to making decisions about what is or is not morally justifiable in times of war. After all, the U.S. has the distinguished dishonor of being the only nation to have ever dropped an atomic bomb on a foreign civilian population, not once but twice (Hiroshima and Nagasaki). In fact, ever since those bombs were dropped there’s hardly been a time in which we haven’t been at war. The reasoning behind this is surprisingly obvious: there are simply too many institutions that have a vested financial interest in ensuring that we remain in a state of perpetual warfare. The oil companies, the weapon manufacturers, the military contractors – all of them stand to immensely profit from the further expansion of war. Without further conflict their industry and therefore their wealth would cease to expand. These wealthy corporate interests approach war the same way they’d approach running a business, doing whatever it takes to keep the money flowing into their pockets. That is what is meant when people speak about the “military industrial complex.” The United States Military is an industry, and in this industry those who call the shots view American soldiers the same way a rich CEO views day laborers – as expendable and replaceable.
President Obama’s rather unfortunate choice for Secretary of State, John Kerry, apparently feels that his appointed status as spokesperson for the United States on issues of foreign affairs also gives him the moral standing to declare what constitutes an “moral obscenity”, a rather misguided statement considering his country’s own history of attacking foreign sovereign nations. The world’s foremost Military Empire decrying “large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided would never be used at all” seems rather hypocritical to say the least. To bolster his case against Syria, Kerry cited the visual evidence which has widely circulated throughout the social media-sphere, visual evidence which is indeed horrifying. The existence of such videos, regardless of how tragic they are, still in no way indicates which side is guilty of using sarin gas. I think it’s fair to say that neither side in the ongoing Syrian Civil War is above resorting to such tactics (although the Assad regime certainly had more to lose by doing so, considering that they were winning the war). Despite all the “moderate” claims, the Syrian opposition’s ideology has proven rather difficult to pin down so easily. This is largely due to the fact that there isn’t a single unified Syrian Rebel army, but rather a coalition of different anti-Assad militias often acting on their own. Foremost among them is the Free Syrian Army, which itself consists of many different brigades (these are the so-called “moderates”). Then there’s the al-Nusra organization which has been almost unanimously described as a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda. Reports have emerged recently that there are conflicts between the two, with the al-Nusra extremists alienating quite a few members of the more “moderate” Free Syrian Army. But even in the case of the Free Syrian Army, which has been described as a “loose franchise of defectors and armed civilians fighting Assad’s regime”, it’s hard to detect anything resembling moderation. Of the many different brigades which have formed under the F.S.A. banner, none are as prominent as the Farouq Brigades. The 27-year old commander of one such brigade, Abu Sakkar, achieved world-wide notoriety last May when an outrageous video of him emerged online, much to the horror of all those who supported providing arms to the Syrian opposition. To this date neither John Kerry nor any other U.S. official has addressed the video, nor has “moral outrage” been expressed at the content of it. In the video, Shakkar can be seen standing over the dead corpse of a pro-Assad soldier who’s clearly just been slaughtered. He then proceeds to lean down towards the body and, with a knife in hand, slices open the dead man’s torso and rips the very heart from his chest. Sakkar’s comrades-in-arms are heard cheering him on as he triumphantly boasts, “I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! God is great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!” Abu Sakkar then proceeds to do just that, putting the slain soldier’s heart to his mouth before taking a huge bite out of it. Contrary to what was stated in a subsequent interview he did with TIME Magazine, one which attempted to humanize him, this was not just some isolated incident of barbarity on his part. Sakkar had earlier been identified firing make-shift rockets into the homes of Lebanese villagers and posing for photographs with the dead corpses of Hezbollah militants. It’s no surprise then that his brutal acts of savagery have become a symbol for all those who oppose offering military aid or financial support to the Syrian rebels. This was made clear in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s response to the comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the most recent G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, comments in which Cameron suggested those supporting Assad’s regime had the “blood of children on their hands.” The quick-witted Putin countered that such an accusation leveled by the neo-conservative Prime Minister reeked of hypocrisy, saying that “one does not need to support people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies and eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support? Is it them you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years.” A flustered Cameron attempted in vain to offer a rebuttal to this uncomfortable truth, delivering a line that was absolutely astonishingly disingenuous. “The Syrian opposition,” he declared, “have committed to a democratic pluralistic Syria that will respect minorities, including Christians.” This assertion couldn’t be any further from the truth, as only a few short weeks ago Rebel forces murdered a group of Christian civilians en masse outside the town of Homs. Reuters even reported that quite a number of Christians have actually “joined the pro-Assad forces, fearing for their future were the president to be toppled by rebel forces increasingly led by radical Islamist brigades, some with links to al Qaeda.” There goes David Cameron’s credibility, assuming he had any in the first place.
The question must be asked, with Syrians deadlocked after more than two years of sectarian violence and civil war – and considering that the rebels have received weapons and ammunition at the expense of the American tax payer – why haven’t the Syrian Rebel groups been able to significantly loosen president Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power? The only reason they currently have any prospects of winning at all is because the U.S. got involved, first arming them and now threatening to bombard their country with missiles. It’s exactly the same as with the overthrow of Libya’s revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi. Rebels in that country didn’t have a chance of succeeding until the intervention of the Western Imperial powers under the guise of NATO. In both cases the opposition forces, for whatever reason, could not gather enough support amongst the respective populations they claimed to represent and thus had to ask for foreign intervention if they were to have any hopes of future success. President Bashar al-Assad, just like Muammar Gaddafi in Libya before him, is far from being a Saint (very far from it). Both men are guilty of major human rights violations which cannot simply be swept under the rug. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the enemies of their regimes inside their borders didn’t even have a chance without major intervention from foreign Imperialist governments in the West, and if Assad is to suffer the same fate as Gaddafi, it will likely place him on the altar of martyrdom in the eyes of those opposed to neo-colonialism.
Whether a similar fate is in store for Syria as that of Libya and Iraq only time will tell. Western imperialism is undoubtedly a major force to reckon with, something the people of Libya learned all too well. For over 4 decades the North African nation of Libya stood apart in many ways from other nations in the region, mainly to its strong emphasis on providing social services to aid its people. Under Muammar Gaddafi’s leadership free education and health care was provided for most who resided in the nation’s borders, resulting in some of the highest literacy rates and longest life expectancy rates (the average was 77 years) on the African continent. Women had marriage rights which were quite liberal for a strictly Islamist nation, such as the right to initiate a divorce without the consent of her husband, and the right to hold on to her previous assets once the divorce was finalized. Once Gaddafi made crystal clear his determination to use Libya’s vast oil reserves for the benefit of his own people, he made many powerful enemies in the West. His initial plans to nationalize Libya’s oil reserves and his stern refusal to do business if it was not on Libya’s terms didn’t sit too well with Western oil executives, which is one of the reasons he’s been in American and European crosshairs ever since he led the overthrow of the monarchical regime of King Idris in 1969. (*) When Gaddafi and the revolutionary forces behind him toppled King Idris, it marked the beginning of Libya’s true Independence (as Idris was a Western puppet above all else). Upon ascending to the country’s leadership he banished foreign military bases from within the country’s borders and initiated policies which were more socialist-oriented, allowing the country’s vast wealth to be shared more equally among the nation’s people. From that time on, the United States never really lost its desire to see Gaddafi gone, and the State Department’s frustration with him was apparent in a 2007 cable made public by Wiki-leaks. The cable makes note of a speech the Libyan leader made that the State Department found objectionable, a speech in which Gaddafi said that “oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them – now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.” The State Department official goes on to express alarm over the fact that Libyans are apparently “pursuing increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector that could jeopardize efficient exploitation of Libya’s extensive oil and gas reserves.” This cable makes it abundantly clear that oil was the main motivating factor behind the West’s intervention in Libya on behalf of the rebel fighters. The U.S. and the oil executives it represents saw an opening to get their hands on Libya’s high-quality oil and ran with it.
It should be of little surprise then that from the earliest days of the Libyan rebellions in March, 2011, the anti-Gaddafi forces called for Imperialist intervention into their affairs. They must have realized early on that they did not have sufficient support from the public to succeed on their own. The subsequent bombings carried out by NATO on March 19th were an answer to their call, the first in a series of bombings which would largely destroy the country’s agriculture. The bombing of Tripoli, Libya’s capital, in particular wiped out the lives of more than 1,300 people. A New York Times Business columnist summed up the U.S. imperialists’ position perfectly when he wrote, “A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”
If there was any doubt as to the nature of Libya’s anti-Gaddafi rebels, they should have been immediately put to rest once the Rebel forces took hold of Tripoli. As they ravaged the populous city, the armed rebels quickly set their sights on the Tripoli’s Black residents. Whether these residents were simply dark-skinned Libyans indigenous to the land or migrants from further within the African interior, the rebels made no distinction. In their minds all of them were “mercenaries” who’d been loyal to Gaddafi, and therefore they possessed no rights which they should respect. (**) The Rebels went on a gruesome, brutal rampage through the entire city, torturing and murdering Black people upon sight, raping Black women, and locking away Black men, women and children in segregated cells. The U.N. Refugee Agency, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all documented in minute detail some of these outrageous acts of humiliation and abuse. An investigative piece which appeared in the UK Independent exposed one such instance where the Rebels entered Abu Salim Hospital and slaughtered all the Black patients they could find even as they laid sick in their hospital beds. Homes were plundered and residents mercilessly executed with their hands tied behind their back. The capture of Tripoli, far from being the city’s “liberation”, proved to be a large-scale operation of ethnic cleansing.
Additional scenes of the cruelty (click thumbnails to enlarge):
If after all the aforementioned there should still remain any doubt as to the barbaric character of the anti-Gaddafi rebels, the manner in which their former leader was executed should remove any doubt. After U.S. predator drones and French war planes bombarded Gaddafi’s compound in his hometown of Sirte on October 20, 2011, the Libyan leader sought refuge hiding inside a concrete drain pipe. Whether from the drone strikes or from someone in his envoy tossing a grenade that backfired, Gaddafi sustained severe injuries to the head while hiding, as evidenced by the amount of blood leaking from his gashing head after the rebels discovered him and drug him out the pipe. The rebels had no mercy for their former Head-of-State, stripping him of his clothes and brutally beating him to a pulp while they dragged his naked body through the streets. One of the rebels, as evidenced in the uncut version of a video later uploaded to the internet, grabbed a sharp object and ruthlessly sodomized Gaddafi without any objection from his comrades. According to a year-long investigation published by Human Rights Watch, the violent thrusts from a bayonet repeatedly lunged into his anus caused a “catastrophic loss of blood” which resulted in his death. Gaddafi’s son was subsequently executed as part of a larger mass execution of disarmed Gaddafi loyalists that swept across the small town. These events marked a tragic end a cruel new beginning in Libya’s long history. The formation of the “National Transition Council” propped up by NATO brought an end to any illusions of “freedom” and “democracy” for the Libyan people as a whole.
WARNING!!: The video below captured of Gaddafi’s death in incredibly graphic and disturbing. View at your own discretion:
Again, none of this is being dredged up because I think Bashar al-Assad is somehow a great leader for Syria or even that Gaddafi was great for Libya. There is no doubt that many people governed by their mighty rule had serious, legitimate grievances against those they probably rightly viewed as their oppressors. There are also legitimate reasons for the formation of revolutionary peoples’ movements to overthrow the rule of oppressive dictatorships so that a fairer more just government is ushered in to provide for the needs of all people. In Syria more than any other nation there simply isn’t a “good side” to support in the ongoing “Civil” War that has cost the lives of more than 100,000 people. With that many people having needlessly perished amid this chaos, it’s safe to say that neither side holds a monopoly on bloodshed. And of course, there’s the more than 2,000,000 refugees who’ve been forced to flee the borders of Syria and enter into unknown territory, in a position of having to leave everything which they know and love behind them – perhaps never to see again.
When anti-government demonstrations began sweeping throughout most of the Arab world in 2011 (dubbed by the media as the “Arab Spring”), it was easy for outside observers to assume the rebellions erupting in Libya and Syria was part of that revolutionary wave of economic and political populism. Libya is no Tunisia, however, and anti-Assad forces in Syria are not the same as anti-Mubarak demonstrators in early-2011 Egypt. What took place in Egypt 2 ½ years ago when protesters hit the streets en-masse to remove then-president Hosni Mubarak from power was a truly revolutionary peoples’ movement. (^) The same could not be said of the rebel forces that overthrew Gaddafi in Libya and it cannot be said of the anti-Assad forces currently fighting in Syria. Truly Revolutionary movements must have at their core a desire to ensure the general welfare of all the people residing within their borders, and should never have to be beholden to the foreign interests of Imperialist nations.
* In 1986 the Pentagon, under the Administration of President Ronald Reagan, bombed Gaddafi’s living quarters attempting to assassinate him. Instead of snuffing him out, however, the bombings took the lives of a number of civilians, including Gaddafi’s 2-year old daughter.
** The “mercenary” stereotype of Black people in Libya is the result of a racist propaganda campaign used as a means of inciting Libyan people to join the Rebel cause. By painting a mental image in which the “mercenaries” of Gaddafi were mainly Black, it fed on the racism many in the Arab world have against Africans in general, inciting them to take up arms against Gaddafi and his “foreign mercenaries.”
^ Unfortunately the revolution in Egypt appears to have come up short. Although Mubarak was eventually removed and a national election took place to replace Mubarak’s successor, the winner of that election, Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was forcibly removed by a military coup after barely a year in office.