what's left

Western Leaders Fear-Monger to Mobilize Support for Air-Strikes on Syria

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By Stephen Gowans

One of the roles of leading politicians and top officials of the state is to enlist public support for policies which serve the goals of the upper stratum of the population from whose ranks they sometimes come and whose interests they almost invariably promote. When these policies are at odds with the interests of the majority, as they often are, the mobilization of public consent is possible only through deception. The deception is carried out through prevarication, equivocation, and fear-mongering, crystallized into misleading narratives which the mass media can be reliably counted on to amplify. So it is that Western officials have ramped up a campaign of deception to provide a pretext for military intervention in Syria to combat ISIS but which may very well serve as a Trojan horse to escalate the war on the Syrian government.

The foundations of the campaign were laid in March, when US officials began warning that Islamists bent on launching strikes against Europe and the United States were massing in Syria. [1] The campaign kicked into high gear with ISIS’s territorial gains in Iraq and the organization’s beheading of US journalist James Foley. Now US officials say they are contemplating air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.

To justify the possibility of an air-war in Syria, US officials employ nebulous language about safeguarding US “security interests,” but neglect to spell out what those interests are or how they’re threatened. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel calls ISIS an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding that ISIS “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” [2] Hagel doesn’t say how ISIS is a threat to even one US interest, let alone all of them, while his elevation of ISIS to a threat “beyond anything that we’ve seen” is transparent fear-mongering. Clearly, ISIS’s brutality in Iraq, its beheading of Foley, and its ability to seize and control territory, have been no more shocking than what has transpired in Syria, where ISIS and its fellow Islamists have carried out equally bloody displays of depraved cruelty, while seizing and controlling sizeable swaths of Syrian territory, amply assisted by members of the US-led Friends of Syria.

Hagel also invokes 9/11, suggesting that ISIS “is more of a threat than al Qaeda was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.” [3] Invoking 9/11 invites the conclusion that without airstrikes on Syria to eliminate ISIS, that an attack on the United States on an order greater than 9/11 is a serious possibility, if not inevitable. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, also points to 9/11 to buttress the case for airstrikes, noting that “The attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, cost $1 million. Today, we estimate the Islamic State has several billions.” The obvious conclusion Fabius wants us to draw is that ISIS will launch thousands of 9/11s. [4] The implied conclusion, however, is no more credible than the implied conclusion that the United States is on the brink of vaporizing the planet because it now has a nuclear arsenal that is vastly greater than the tiny one it had when it atom-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Capability does not necessarily equate to motivation or action. What’s more, the “FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from the Islamic State militant group.” [5]

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered his own contribution to the emerging campaign of fear-mongering. Dempsey observed that ISIS aspires to absorb “Israel, Jordan, Kuwait and Syria into its caliphate.” [6] This is manifestly beyond ISIS’s capabilities, and merits no serious discussion. Dempsey nevertheless adds that if ISIS “were to achieve that vision, it would fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways.” [7] This is tantamount to saying “If Haiti had an arsenal of 200 thermonuclear weapons and an effective anti-ballistic missile defense system it would certainly threaten us in many ways.” What’s important here is the word “if.” If Barack Obama was a woman he would be the first female US president. If ISIS has the capability of absorbing a large part of the Middle East into a caliphate, it would be a threat to US control of the Middle East. But ISIS does not have this capability. Still, even if it did, it would not be a threat to US security, but to the security of Western oil industry profits.

For its part, The Wall Street Journal suggested that James Foley’s beheading was reason enough to warrant US airstrikes on Syria. [8] Yet beheadings, carried out by ISIS and other Islamists in Syria, and those carried out by US-ally Saudi Arabia against its own citizens, have hardly galvanized Washington to action. Washington’s Saudi ally “beheaded at least 19 convicted criminals since Aug. 4, nearly half of them for nonviolent offenses, including one for sorcery.” [9] These beheadings have been passed over by Western leaders in silence. They certainly haven’t been invoked as a reason to launch air strikes on the Saudi tyranny.

Also passed over in silence by the same Western states is the brutal, misogynist, medieval character of the anti-democratic Saudi regime, one of the principal “Friends of Syria.” In contrast, The New York Times reported that “The president and his top cabinet officials have all denounced the Islamic State as a medieval menace,” adding that US “Secretary of State John Kerry said the group should be destroyed.” [10] What the newspaper didn’t point out was that Saudi Arabia is just as much a “medieval menace” yet no US president or secretary of state would ever use this language to describe their ally, nor, more importantly, undertake a campaign to eliminate the medieval regime. This underscores the reality that Washington bears no animus toward medieval menaces—not when, as in the case of Syria, they operate against the government of a country targeted for regime change, not when they govern a source of immense petrochemical profits on terms favourable to Western oil companies, and not when, as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, they fight against a progressive, pro-Soviet government.

Washington’s campaign to mobilize public opinion for air strikes on Syria, then, has nothing whatever to do with eradicating medieval menaces. Nor has it anything to do with preventing the rise of a caliphate in the greater part of the Middle East, since ISIS hasn’t the capability to accomplish this aim. Even if it did, the rise of a caliphate is a matter for the people of the Middle East to decide, not Western powers. Lastly, until ISIS achieved startling territorial gains in Iraq, Washington was perfectly willing to allow, indeed, even to foster (what it now calls) “the cancer” of ISIS to “metastasize” throughout Syria. It expressed no apprehensions then about ISIS launching 9/11-style attacks on the United States, and did nothing to stop the flow of money to the anti-Assad group from supporters based in countries that make up its Friends of Syria (read Friends of US Imperialism) coalition. Warnings of an ISIS-engineered 9/11-style attack are, therefore, pure fear-mongering.

In light of the above, we ought to ask whether, once launched, a US air-war in Syria will expand its target list from ISIS to Syrian government forces? Is the campaign to mobilize public support for an air war against ISIS in Syria a Trojan horse to escalate the war on the Assad government, and on a broader level, against the interlocked Hezbollah-Syria-Iran resistance against US domination of Western Asia?

1. Eric Schmitt, “Qaeda militants seek Syria base, U.S. official say”, The New York Times, March 25, 2014.

2. Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, “U.S. isn’t sure just how much to fear ISIS,” The New York Times, August 22, 2014.

3. Dion Nissenbaum, “U.S. considers attacks on ISIS in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2014.

4. David Dauthier-Villars, “France calls for action to cut off ISIS money supply”, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2014.

5. Eileen Sullivan, “FBI: No credible threats to US from Islamic State,” The Associated Press, August 22, 2014.

6. Mazzetti and Cooper.

7. Mazzetti and Cooper.

8. Nissenbaum.

9. Rick Gladstone, “Saudi Arabia: Executions draw rebukes”, The New York Times, August 21, 2014.

10. Nissenbaum.

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Written by what's left

August 24, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Posted in ISIS, Syria

6 Responses

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  1. I think you’re correct. The western powers want Syria to resemble Libya.

    ajmacdonaldjr

    August 25, 2014 at 12:32 am

  2. The evidence is circumstantial, but all known facts from funding IS by Saudi Arabia via Kuwait to the significant logistic help from Turkey suggest that IS is a covert US operation. IS fighters suddenly are able to handle armored personal carriers, tanks, self propelled artillery, nobody asks where they learned to do that. Other people need month of training to use this weapons. The fall of Mosul, the sudden dissolution of the Iraqi army, that looks like a typical CIA operation, who may have bribed the high ranking officers of the Iraqi army with suitcases full of banknotes. They did such things during the US occupation of Iraq, when they organized the “uprising.”

    mato48

    August 25, 2014 at 5:19 am

  3. I fear the deceptions involved here go much deeper. The cacophony of fearful outrage from the entire Western MSM over the video of the ‘beheading’ of James Foley is a case in point because, whatever else it may show, it certainly does NOT show an execution. I have to wonder if that obvious fact is not behind the British police caution that to view or download it may constitute an offense under UK terrorism legislation too – part and parcel of efforts to restrict its potential viewing audience as much as possible – because nobody who DOES watch it can possibly believe it to show what the media, in a disciplined chorus of outraged hatred, says it shows. Also, I have noticed that latterly the BBC has adopted the following form of words “… a video of an apparent beheading”. But of course the meme is already so firmly embedded in the public psyche that such subtle word-play to avoid outright lying is of no consequence. Job done – yet again.

    For sure, as a ‘Qui bono’ exercise, the whole video episode is manna from heaven for the advancement of the US agenda in Syria and the ME generally; which begs some serious questions (which naturally will be neither asked nor answered) as to the provenance of the video.

    Leaving aside the squeamishness of Western sensibilities in such matters, it also begs the question: which is worse, to have your head cut off with a knife,sword, axe, whatever – or blown off with a bomb?

    Wikispooks

    August 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm

  4. Excellent summary and allusions, Stephen. There’s little doubt that the Americanised West wishes it could conduct air strikes on ‘selected targets’ inside Syria. However, Russia still has a battle-ready naval flotilla close enough to Syria to nip any ‘Western foolishness’ in the bud, And that flotilla can be amply protected by Russia, from Russia. My guess is that Western air strikes in Syria will only take place if Putin and Assad request them and approve of each target on a case by case basis. And the World’s Second ex-Superpower will never agree to placing its (dubious) expertise at the disposal of a pseudo-Enemy.

    Neil M

    August 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm

  5. Steven

    A brilliant piece as always. I am wondering is there a leftist org. with this position on the US vs ISIS:

    “The unquestionably revolutionary character of the vast majority of national movements is as relative and peculiar as is the possible revolutionary character of certain particular national movements. The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary or a republican programme of the movement, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement. The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism; whereas the struggle waged by such “desperate” democrats and “Socialists,” “revolutionaries” and republicans as, for example, Kerensky and Tsereteli, Renaudel and Scheidemann, Chernov and Dan, Henderson and Clynes, during the imperialist war was a reactionary struggle, for its results was the embellishment, the strengthening, the victory, of imperialism. For the same reasons, the struggle that the Egyptians merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the struggle that the British “Labour” Government is waging to preserve Egypt’s dependent position is for the same reason a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origin and the proletarian title of the members of the government, despite the fact that they are “for” socialism. There is no need to mention the national movement in other, larger, colonial and dependent countries, such as India and China, every step of which along the road to liberation, even if it runs counter to the demands of formal democracy, is a steam-hammer blow at imperialism, i.e., is undoubtedly a revolutionary step.” – Stalin

    Cause all I get by browsing the leftist websites is some sort of academic neutral position on the matter, and a tendency to involve the PKK into the picture as a progressive force although they do not fight the imperialists, and have stationed their military troops in Iraqi Kurdistan just next to the US oil platforms without any intention of seizing them or attacking the imperialists.

    Red Eye

    September 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    • Not that I’m aware of, but if there were, the organization would have to conclude that ISIS “weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” Does a caliphate in the Levant weaken, disintegrate and undermine US imperialism? The answer, I think, depends on the degree to which the caliphate is independent of US imperialism, or serves its goals. Political Islam has, at various times, and in different places, been an ally and tool of imperialist powers, and at other times and other places an opponent. One might argue that ISIS is concurrently a tool of Western imperialism in Syria and against it in Iraq.

      what's left

      September 18, 2014 at 10:15 pm


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