No public debates on Syria, please, we’re American!
On Thursday, the British subjects of Her Majesty the Queen were treated to a lively, no-holds-barred debate in the House of Commons as to whether the UK should participate in a military strike on Syria over the suspected use of chemical weapons. One day later, the “free” American people were treated to a monologue performance by Secretary of State John Kerry, who practically confirmed that military action against Damascus was a foregone conclusion.
The display of 'free speech' between these two political systems
could not have been more striking.
“We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed, and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods,” the all-knowing Kerry said, reading an 18-minute, prepared speech on Friday. (And no, he didn’t take any questions from reporters.)
And that was pretty much the extent of the American “debate” on Syria: The White House rolled out an “unassailable” intelligence report, and this is supposed to silence all debate and dissent on the matter. The American people, denied the opportunity to hear an honest political debate on whether to jump into another war, have no other recourse - much like the Syrian people - but to wait and see what happens.
This is becoming a very disturbing trend: The only time the American people really have an opportunity to hold a democratic debate on the question of military adventures is after the boots have already hit the ground. This type of backwards behavior is nothing more than a pale shadow of democracy, speaking out on a subject when the words no longer carry any weight.
On the other side of the Atlantic, while America was still fast asleep, British PM David Cameron suffered a “humiliating defeat” in the Commons following a riveting parliamentary debate that permitted a number of colorful opinions – even the most radical – to be voiced.
“It’s absolutely evident that were it not for the democratic
revolt…against this war the (fighter jet) engines in Cyprus would
now be revving and the cruise missiles ready to fly this very
weekend,” railed George Galloway, Respect Party MP on
Galloway, who reminded his audience that the Syrian president was once an overnight guest at Buckingham Palace, asked if it would really be in the interests of the Syrian government to launch a chemical weapons attack in Damascus “on the very day that a United Nations chemical weapons inspection team arrives in Damascus?”
It is exactly these kinds of questions that need to be articulated in the United States before we start another debacle in the desert. After all, Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has given exceedingly polite interviews with the likes of Barbara Walters to get his views across, does not seem like the type of individual who would intentionally destroy his international reputation at the exact moment he needs it the most.
Following the House of Common’s narrow 285-272 vote not to join in an attack on Syria, British media noted it was “the first time a British prime minister had lost a vote on war since 1782.” However, Cameron should be applauded for respecting the will of the British people and accepting his defeat with honor.
To better understand the twisted mentality behind America’s impulsiveness to jump into military conflicts, here is what Charles Krauthammer had to say on the British vote.
“This is a complete humiliation for the Obama administration,” Krauthammer wailed on Fox News. “Who's the main ally in the world who has been with us in every trench for the last 100 years? The British. And now the British have voted against us.”
But wait: The British did not vote “against us.” They voted in the interests of the British people, which I suspect is what generally happens during every parliamentary session. It is seriously doubtful that British MPs get voted into office on the basis of how they supported their American brothers and sisters across the pond. Clearly, there remains an influential part of the US punditry class that continues to pledge allegiance to George W. Bush's mad maxim, "You're either with us or you're against us."
Krauthammer, and others like him, is dropping rhetorical smoke bombs to cover up the real travesty gripping the heartland: The total and complete absence of open and transparent democratic debate on matters related to war and peace.
Yet, according to Kerry, any public deliberations involving the findings of the intelligence report would risk leaking “sources and methods.” In other words, it is considered more dangerous to discuss our intelligence findings (perhaps a simple video of the rocket launches?) than it is to start another war in the Middle East. Thus, following this impeccable logic, the bulk of the Syrian intelligence “will only be released to members of Congress.”
Once again, the American people are being asked - or rather forced - to place their complete faith and trust in our leaders to make the right decisions behind closed doors. In other words, “open military operations, closed democratic procedure.” Welcome to the New World of US foreign policy. The American people, however, have been burned by faulty intelligence reports once before and would be foolish to let it happen again.
In February 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell
controversially shook a vial of 'anthrax' on the floor of the UN
as he attempted to build a case for war against Iraq and its
(non-existent) weapons of mass destruction. One month later,
George W. Bush gave the imperial nod for a full-scale invasion
against Iraq, a disastrous conflict that resulted in the death of
hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Following this
fiasco, the American people should expect nothing less than a
fully transparent hearing on any future military entanglements.
However, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, much like the Bush administration he condemned on the campaign trail, sees no reason why he needs congressional approval, not to mention a British-style public debate, on the question of attacking Syria, a sovereign state.
As Voice of America reported: “Pressed about calls for congressional authorization, White House spokesman Jay Carney Tuesday indicated the president believes consulting with congressional leaders is enough.”
Meanwhile, on Friday a sixth US warship quietly slipped into the Mediterranean, joining up with five US destroyers armed with cruise missiles that could soon be directed against Syria as part of a "limited, precise" strike.
Perhaps this is what they really meant by “democracy in action.”
Robert Bridge, RT
Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which examines the dangerous consequences of extreme corporate power in the United States.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.