Did Sergey Lavrov just save the world?
If there ever was a time to give prayers of thanks, it’s now…
Barack Obama’s march toward war seems to be coming to halt, at least for now, since Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s brilliant diplomatic move to outflank it by calling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s1 bluff, when the latter said that the U.S. would consider not attacking the Assad government if it relinquished all its chemical weapons to international control.2
In a recent online exchange with a former associate, I argued that Lavrov very well may have saved us all from World War III; my former associate was skeptical of this. While I understand his reasons for being so, I nonetheless believe that there is an inclination among many to prematurely dismiss warnings of world war as hyperbolic or even alarmist. I am not convinced that we should be so dismissive of such claims. From looking at the situation, one could easily see a very real danger that world war could break out as a result of Obama’s foolhardiness on Syria. (My reasons for this are explained below.) And, even though situations did not get nearly as tense as they did during the infamous 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (probably the closest mankind has ever come to a thermonuclear world war), there is no reason to tempt fate and wait and see if things really will get that heated—a tempting that Obama’s attack on Syria would surely do. The appropriate response to such a potential danger is to do as Lavrov did, and nip it in the bud.
But why was it that the majority of the educated populace did not see this looming danger? Why is it that there were no round-the-clock urgings from all quarters—from the citizenry, from the media, from the academe, from governments—calling for not only the President of the United States to back down on his threats toward Assad, but also for his removal from office for even daring to make such a dangerously irresponsible threat? (Although, in all fairness, there were sizable demonstrations against the attack waged in Washington, DC and elsewhere.)
It is ironic that the notion of a Third World War is such a common subject in our pop culture—think of how many popular movies are based on an apocalyptic premise, like Dr. Strangelove, Akira, X-Men: First Class, and the original Planet of the Apes series, for example—but yet when the danger of the real thing happening does confront us, so much of our population becomes impotent to mobilize against such a threat. Perhaps some are so pessimistic and think it inevitable. Perhaps some are so misanthropic that they welcome such destruction. Perhaps some are too self-absorbed and focused on “living the moment” that they don’t care about the future of mankind.
Although we are indeed fortunate that people like Lavrov are in positions of power to intervene effectively when such dangers arise, we should nevertheless ask ourselves—and I certainly include myself in this—if we had really done our part in recognizing and intervening against that danger as well.
One thing that much of the American electorate did at least do is contact members of Congress and express vehement disapproval of another war in the Middle East. What follows is a letter I wrote to my Congressional Representative and two Senators arguing as to why they must vote against any resolution that grants the Executive the power to go to war in Syria (a vote that will probably not have to take place now, thankfully). I post it here in order to educate those readers who were ignorant of the stakes that were facing us these past weeks. Footnotes have been added.
Dear Sen./Rep. xxxxxxxxxx:
I wish to firmly urge you against approving any plans for military intervention in Syria. Some of the reasons for this are thus:
1. U.S.-LED INTERVENTION RISKS TRIGGERING A REGIONAL, OR EVEN A WORLD WAR. Even though the Administration of our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has argued that actions like bombing a country with aircraft or cruise missiles does not constitute actually going to war, any thinking person can see that this is a ridiculous defense that offends not only the definitions of war outlined in international law,3 but common sense, as well. Even Gen. Dempsey has said that any use of military force in Syria would be an act of war.4 Furthermore, Dempsey and other active-duty and retired military officers have also warned that once we start intervening militarily in Syria, it will become impossible to guarantee that such an intervention will remain at the “limited” and “surgical” level promised by the President and Secretary of State. These warnings also stress that we cannot exclude the possibility of needing boots on the ground, once the ball starts rolling.5 Anyone with experience in armed conflict knows that war is an unpredictable beast that can escape the control of even the most foresighted commanders, and Syria is no exception.
If our nation goes to war in Syria, what will be the intended and unintended consequences? Upon closer scrutiny, the Syrian Civil War looks less like a civil war, and more like a proxy war between regional forces, with Iran and Hezbollah backing up the Assad regime against the rebels, who in turn are financed and backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.6
If the US intervenes against the regime, how will these different forces react? How will Israel under PM Netanyahu—which has already bombed Damascus and is anticipating any excuse to attack Iran—react?7
Not only will a regional war be a major threat to the economic security of most nations of the world, as the Middle East supplies 25% of the world’s oil, but a conflict of that magnitude could also draw in Russia and China to intervene militarily on the regime’s behalf, as well. Commentators on the current strategic situation have pointed out its parallels to the build-up of geopolitical tensions that precipitated the First World War.8 One major difference being that the First World War did not involve rival powers which had large stockpiles of nuclear and thermonuclear arms.
You must ask yourself if you really do wish to go down in history (or what could be left of it following a potentially thermonuclear world war) as voting to give an American President the authority to launch a strike that could be the start of World War III.
2. THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION IS COMPRISED OF ISLAMIST MILITANTS AFFILIATED WITH AL-QAEDA. Although the Secretary of State has insisted that the majority of the rebels are “moderates”, actual reports vary as to how unified the various contingents fighting Assad are in replacing his regime with something resembling a modern national democratic republic. U.S. and European intelligence sources have told news outlets that extremist groups like the Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Nusra Front make up the hard core of the opposition.9 Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell has warned that Assad’s overthrow will make Syria a haven for Islamic extremism.10 Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (a Democrat) and Congressman Ted Cruz (a Republican) have both said that intervening against Assad would, by default, make us “Al-Qaeda’s air force”.11 Additionally, you may also have seen circulating around the internet some of the photos of alleged US servicemen masking their faces with signs cards stating that they will refuse to fight for the same forces they are fighting against in Afghanistan.12
Former representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is one of the few Democrats with enough integrity to oppose Obama’s warmongering.
Even though Assad, like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi before him, may be a brutal and merciless thug who deserves nothing less than to be removed from power and tried at a war crimes tribunal, he is still the head of a sovereign state, and, like those other two dictators, his government has provided his country with a certain civic infrastructure and national stability. Once that infrastructure is destroyed, sectarian strife and lawless warlords replace it, resulting in chaos that could last decades, and making the Syrians even worse off than they are under Assad. Indeed, a similar scenario has already been ongoing in Iraq. Libya is not too much better off. It seems to already be happening in parts of Syria where Assad has lost control.
Additionally, when examining the various sides invested in this conflict, one also has to keep in mind that the Assad regime has granted a certain amount of protection to the Alawite, Shiite, and Christian minorities in the country. These minorities are reportedly already being brutally targeted by the Sunni radicals fighting against the regime,13 and if these forces are successful in replacing the Assad regime, what is to prevent them from carrying out such atrocities on a larger scale?
How can you vote to give the Executive the power to rush to war when it apparently has not even formed an adequate strategy that takes these severe complications into account?
3. ASSAD’S SYRIA POSES NO THREAT TO U.S. SOVEREIGNTY, SECURITY OR CITIZENRY. This fact prompts the obvious question, “Then why should we go to war in Syria?” Why should we ask our servicemen and women to go into harm’s way—a result that will surely come about should the “limited, surgical strike” fail and/or trigger a wider conflict—for a civil war among Syrians (and, as noted previously, a proxy war among regional power players)? The majority of the American public, it seems, is understandably against a war in Syria primarily for these reasons.14 The fact that members of Congress who do not have sons and daughters in the military—the overwhelming majority—can vote to send the sons and daughters of others to kill and be killed in a country that poses no threat to us is not only hypocritical, it’s also criminal.
In fact, because Syria is no threat to the US, and the Obama Administration has made it clear that it will skirt international law and not seek approval from the UN Security Council, a strike on Syria could very well fit the definition of a “war of aggression”—which was deemed a war crime by the Nuremberg Principles.15
4. THERE IS NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE THAT ASSAD USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS. The Secretary of State claims that the Administration has air-tight intelligence that it was the Syrian Army, under orders from President Assad, that killed the civilians in the Damascene suburbs. There is no other possible culprit, he argues, as it is only the regime that has chemical weapons.
These assertions are contradicted by a great number of reports coming from news outlets, intelligence sources, and UN personnel.16 These sources reveal that the opposition does indeed have chemical weapons. In fact, some retired intelligence specialists have cited the very real possibility that the chemical attack in the Damascene suburbs was staged by the opposition as a way to provoke outside intervention against the regime.17
The Administration’s apparent desire to cherry-pick intelligence in order to rush to war without international approval seems like a bad remake of what happened over ten years ago, which brings us to my final point…
5. THE DRIVE FOR WAR IN SYRIA MIRRORS BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S LIES FOR WAR IN IRAQ. Because the Obama Administration has been unwilling to submit its evidence to review by the UN, and because of the lack of solid evidence backing up their claim that the attack was ordered from the top, it’s difficult not be reminded of the Bush Administration’s willful usage of false intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to argue their case for going to war in Iraq. The previous Bush Administration expected a “cake-walk”, yet the conflict cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, 4,500 U.S. troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands more who have sacrificed their sound bodies and/or sound minds), over $2 trillion, and lasted over nine years. And as mentioned in point two, Iraq has still not established any sort of national stability, and probably will not be able to any time in the near future.
Do we want another repeat of this in Syria—all because of dubious intelligence?
I urge you to deeply consider all of these and other matters before making your decision to allow the Executive the power to go to war. History is watching.
- Notes -
1. I’m almost completely ashamed to admit that I voted for then-Senator Kerry during his run for president back in 2004 against George W. Bush. Although back then, one could claim that he was the lesser evil, his recent contemptible behavior of lying to rush the United States into another war in Southwest Asia calls that claim into question.
2. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s timely Sep. 12 op-ed to the New York Times is especially welcome as an effort to engage not just U.S. politicians, but also her citizenry in participating in a diplomatic solution to both end the Syrian Civil War and avoid escalating it into a larger conflict:
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. … Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression. … If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
3. The 1949 Geneva Conventions Treaty states:
“[T]he present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them…. Any difference arising between two States and leading to the intervention of members of the armed forces is an armed conflict within the meaning of Article 2, even if one of the Parties denies the existence of a state of war. It makes no difference how long the conflict lasts, or how much slaughter takes place.”
4. “Dempsey Letters Make Clear: Any Military Action in Syria is an ‘Act of War’”, unattributed, LaRouchePAC.com, Sep. 2, 2013.
5. “Dempsey Letters…”, ibid.; “Dempsey Hands McCain His Head”, unattributed, LaRouchePAC.com, July 23, 2013.
6. “Could U.S. Military Action Turn Syrian Civil War into a ‘Widespread Regional War’?”, interview with Fawaz Gerges conducted by Amy Goodman, DemocracyNow.org, Sep. 3, 2013.
7. “Iran sends Army into Syria: Revolutionary Guards to help Assad as Israel bombs capital” by Chris Hughes. Daily Mirror, May 6, 2013.
8. “Widespread Recognition that Syrian Intervention Threatens World War III”, unattributed LaRouchePAC.com, Aug. 29, 2013.
9. “Kerry Portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports” by Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart, Reuters.com, Sep. 5, 2013.
10. “CIA’s Morrell Warning about Al-Qaeda in Syria All Over Russian Media”, unattributed, LaRouchePAC.com, Aug. 10, 2013.
11. “Widespread Recognition, ibid.; “Ted Cruz On Syria: U.S. Shouldn’t Be ‘Al Qaeda’s Air Force’” by Mollie Reilly, HuffingtonPost.com, Sep. 4, 2013.
12. “US military sick and tired of war, have no faith in government”, unattributed, RT.com, Sep. 3, 2013
13. Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, “Rebel Killings Are Blamed on Regime”, Executive Intelligence Review, Jun. 22, 2012.
14. “Opposition to Syrian Airstrikes Surges”, unattributed, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Sep. 9, 2013.
15. The Nuremberg Principles declared all “wars of aggression” as a war crime. In 1951, the United Nations’ International Law Commission declared that:
“Aggression is the use of force by a State or Government against another State or Government, in any manner, whatever the weapons used and whether openly or otherwise, for any reason or for any purpose other than individual or collective self-defense or in pursuance of a decision or recommendation by a competent organ of the United Nations”
16. “U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator” by Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters.com, May 5, 2013; “Obama Lies: Syria Rebels and Al Qaeda Do Have Chemical Weapons”, unattributed, LaRouchePAC.com, Aug. 29, 2013.
17. “Obama Warned on Syrian Intel”, memorandum to Pres. Obama signed by Ray McGovern and other members of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, MichaelMoore.com, Sep. 7, 2013.