Watching the President’s speech last night, I was interested in hearing if he was going to offer anything new when it comes to countering the influence of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham) and what if anything the United States should do to combat this extremism. It became rather clear to me early on though that the country is being led into yet another attempt to bring “regime change” to another sovereign nation. While President Obama compared the coming airstrikes in Syria to the airstrikes that have been launched in Yemen and Somalia during the last four or five years, perhaps a more apt comparison would be what was done to the nation of Libya in 2011. Interestingly, while the rise of ISIS in Iraq can almost certainly be blamed largely on the American invasion of 2003 and subsequent 7 years of occupation, less recognized is the fact that the U.S./NATO-led toppling of Muammar Gaddafi played a huge part in leading to the crisis in Syria that spiraled out of control immediately after. I will be touching on this last point in detail in the week to come. But for now I want to make several points regarding the President’s speech:
He mentioned “radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain” which “come from the Middle East and North Africa“, but fails to mention how the toppling of Gaddafi in Libya that he and NATO were so instrumental in bringing about directly contributed to the spread of terrorism throughout North and West Africa.
“…these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide.“
“…we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.”
Here’s the thing about that: It is Arab states, as well as Iran, which have been at the forefront of combating ISIS. Perhaps nobody wants to defeat ISIS more than Assad. The Syrian army under President Bashar al-Assad along with the Lebanese Hezbollah militia are perhaps the only forces standing in the way of complete a ISIS victory in Syria. They have achieved this despite having the West, the U.S., the Saudis, and Israel all against them. But because Syria and Iran maintain their independence without bowing to Western corporate interests, they are considered America’s true enemy #1.
“Across the border in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress, again, to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”
It’s difficult to even make sense of the many contradictions here. For starters, the Syrian rebels have been receiving arms and training, though some of it indirectly, for many years now. Money has been endlessly funneled to jihadist groups through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others, and on top of the that the CIA oversaw the transfer of weapons looted from former Libyan leader Gaddafi’s stock pile as they were put into the hands of rebels flooding into Syria since at least 2012. (I’ll be touching more on this next week) The Free Syrian Army, which Obama continually calls “the moderates”, was never a very strong or cohesive force to begin with. Jahbat al-Nusra was mostly at the forefront all throughout 2013. So when the President says “we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition”, it’s important to remember that the weapons going to this “Syrian opposition” have largely ended up in the hands of none other than ISIS or al-Nusra. If he means that we are going to build up this so-called “moderate” rebel force, then he is essentially saying we are going to go in and create a new army. That’s another way of saying this is another exercise in “regime change”, an imperialist strategy that fails every time, from Vietnam to Iraq. With this statement, it is apparent the target is still Assad. Is the U.S. forever doomed to repeat the same failed strategies of “nation building” over and over again? As far as his asserting that the Assad government “will never regain the legitimacy it has lost”, that is for the Syrian people alone to decide, not the leader of the American Empire.
“…we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who’ve been displaced… We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.”
Tell that to the Palestinians!
“Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq, sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition…”
The “assistance to the Syrian opposition” is one of the main contributors to the rise of ISIS.
“This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”
Nothing could be any further from the truth. See, for example, what we did to freedom fighters in Vietnam and pretty much all of Latin America.
“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years…”
It’s hard to see how these cases could be classified as successes regardless of the context. In Yemen in particular there have been numerous cases of innocent civilian lives being taken out by our drones. If anything those strikes have only created more resentment against those who carried out the bloody attacks.
“Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression and in support of the Ukrainian people’s right to determine their own destiny. It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity and tolerance and a more hopeful future.”
This has to be some of the biggest crock of bull I’ve ever heard. America mobilizes the world against terrorists? When and When? And supporting a coup to oust the democratically-elected President of Ukraine hardly amounts to “support of the Ukrainian people’s right to determine their own destiny”. Far from it! Not to mention it was the Russians who were instrumental in getting Assad to agree to turn over all chemical weapons in his possession, while America wanted to rain down missiles on the country. “…it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world…” Now come on! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
“From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.”
I don’t know about Europe, but I’m willing to bet much of the “Middle East” and Africa must curse the day we brought all this “freedom, justice and dignity” to their lands, especially since our corporations have plundered their resources so that corporate CEOs can get much richer at the expense of the people who dwell in these respective regions. As for “freedom, justice and dignity” constituting “values that have guided our nation since its founding”, this isn’t true now nor has it ever been true. This nation was founded on genocide, enslavement, theft, capitalism and imperialism. It’s time we quit telling ourselves otherwise and face up to the truth.
As of this moment there are already 1,100 Special Forces soldiers operating in Iraq. For an entire generation, it isn’t even possible anymore to dream about an America that isn’t perpetually at war. They’ve never known any different.