Paris terror: History won’t forgive if West doesn’t learn lessons now

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 14, 2015. © Christian Hartmann
If the recent horror visited upon Beirut and Paris, as Islamic State/Daesh seeks to broaden its war against civilization, does not succeed in re-focusing the mind of the West when it comes to its role in the Middle East, then nothing will.

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For far too long Western governments and ideologues have performed the modern equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns when it comes to the conflict against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and everything it represents. The nadir in this fiddling came just hours after the suicide bombing of southern Beirut, in which 43 people were killed and over 200 injured, with the public display of triumphalism by British Prime Minister David Cameron in response to the US drone strike which killed British IS executioner, Mohamed Emwazi (aka ‘Jihadi John’), in Syria.

In the mind of the British prime minister the killing of this one man, undertaken without the permission, cooperation, or compliance with the Syrian government, was elevated to the status of a major military achievement and victory. In truth it merely highlighted the absurdity of the West’s refusal to coordinate with those engaged in seriously combatting this medieval death cult, and without whose efforts its black flag would now be flying in every part of Syria and all over the region. In other words, it is Russia, Syria, Iran, the Kurds, both in Syria and Iraq, and the Lebanese resistance organization Hezbollah who are taking the fight to IS and Al-Qaeda. The United States, Britain, France up to now have played a subordinate role at best, while at worst hampering the aforementioned governments and forces in their obstinate refusal to heed the necessity of cooperating and uniting with them.

If not now, hopefully in years to come historians and chroniclers of this conflict will pay due homage to the tenacity and courage of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its Hezbollah ally, both of which have held the line on the ground against the forces of hell over a sustained period. This courage was exemplified most emphatically with the recent breaking of the siege of the Kweires airbase in Aleppo province, where Syrian troops had managed to hold out against the jihadists surrounding it. Throughout that time they were supplied with regular airlifts of food, medicines, ammunition and other vital supplies, enabling them to hang on. Their determination in doing so until the siege was finally broken as part of the recent ground offensive mounted by the SAA and its allies, in conjunction with Russian air support, marks just one in a catalogue of heroic actions undertaken by troops whose refusal to break over long years of brutal conflict deserves to be universally acknowledged.

Likewise, Hezbollah has committed thousands of its fighters to Syria, hundreds of whom have been killed with an unknown number wounded. The reasoning behind it entering the conflict is eminently sound. If Syria were to fall then it would only be a matter of time before groups driven by a genocidal hatred of Shia Islam would try to move against them and the Shiite community of Lebanon, leading to Lebanese society being torn asunder.

The SAA and Hezbollah, along with the Kurds of the PKK/YPG, who staged a heroic defense of Kobani on the Turkish border in 2014, along with Iranian volunteers and troops, are the forces on the ground fighting and dying on a daily basis to halt the progress of a medieval death cult, which is intent on turning not only Syria but the entire region into a mass grave.

U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968 © Wikipedia

While historical parallels can never be symmetrical, they can help us place current events in a context befitting their enormity. When it comes to the Syrian conflict we can introduce two such parallels without any fear of contradiction. The first is in characterizing IS/Daesh as a modern incarnation of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s, which emerged from similar conditions of chaos and destabilization as Islamic State has done. On that occasion those conditions brought about the extension of the US bombing campaign in Vietnam into Cambodia – known as Operation Menu - beginning in 1969 under the Nixon administration. Declassified documents later revealed that the US was bombing Cambodia even earlier under the previous Johnson administration.

Regardless, the monster that emerged to take over the country in 1975, the Khmer Rouge, embarked on a genocidal campaign of wholesale slaughter, torture, and carnage until they were crushed by the armed forces of the People’s Republic of Vietnam in 1979.

The other discernable parallel when it comes to Syria is with the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. This is a conflict that also held wider international consequences, involving the major powers as the dark cloud of fascism descended over Europe. While the Nazis, busy arming and preparing for their war against civilization across Europe, used the conflict in Spain as a testing ground for the pilots of a reconstituted and modernized Luftwaffe, along with Mussolini’s Italy deploying men and materiel in support of the Spanish fascist forces led by General Franco, thousands of volunteers from all over Europe and the US arrived to aid the Republican side, fighting to restore the legitimate Spanish government to its rightful place.

As with Syria today, Russia (then the Soviet Union) was the only major power to support Spain’s legitimate government, while Britain, France and the US sat on their hands, following a policy of a plague on both their houses. The result of this hand wringing was to bolster the confidence, strength and determination of Hitler and his fascist allies, which as history records plunged Europe into an abyss of barbarism the likes of which the world had never seen.

Sadly, when it comes to Syria, up to this point the West has failed or refuses to learn the essential lessons of those prior conflicts involving genocidal movements and ideologies. The horror visited on Paris confirms that it can no longer afford to.

If it continues to history will not forgive.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.