‘Staggering’ violence: The direct consequence of Western regime change ops

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
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Almost 13 years on from the so-called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, a new UN report has documented the continuing ‘staggering’ violence suffered by civilians in Iraq.

According to the report, at least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 wounded between January 2014 and October 2015, while another 3.2 million people were internally displaced due to violence.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has said the death toll in Iraq may even be considerably higher.

It is hard to get one’s head round the suffering the people of Iraq have endured since Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the carnage that engulfed the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

“We’ve moved on from the Iraq war, but Iraqis don’t have that choice,” wrote the great John Pilger in 2013.

Yet the very obvious link between the invasion of 2003 and the ongoing violence in Iraq today is something we’re not really supposed to mention.

The reality is that Iraq did not see hundreds of thousands of people killed in the years before 2003, but it did in the years following. So it does seem quite reasonable to infer that something quite important happened in 2003 which led to the huge increase in violence. And that ‘something’ is unlikely to have been Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup Final win against Southampton.

John Pilger writes how three years before the invasion of Iraq he drove the length of the country ‘without fear’. “On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence. Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda - like Pol Pot's "jihadists" - seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of ‘Shock and Awe’ and the civil war that followed.”

It’s not only in Iraq that ‘staggering’ violence has been unleashed by the US and its allies’ regime change ops.

Libya six years ago enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free for all citizens. Electricity was free too. A bursary, worth $5,000 was given to all mums with new born babies. It was also a very safe country for tourists to visit. In 2005, with UN sanctions lifted, it returned to cruise ship itineraries.

In 2007, it received one million ‘same-day’ visitors.

In 2010, cruises along the coast of Libya were listed in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Six of the Best’ Exotic Cruises feature.

A year later though, the NATO bombs started to fall in pursuit of ‘regime change’ and Libya’s days as a safe place to live, work and visit were over. Muammar Gaddafi’s warning that many of the so-called anti-government rebels were extremists linked to al-Qaeda was dismissed as the ravings of a madman. 

But it wasn’t the ’mad’ Gaddafi who was telling lies in 2011, but the regime changers in suits.

Like Iraq, Libya post-regime change, is a country where violence has become a part of daily life.

Earlier this month, around 60 people were killed and over 200 injured in a bomb attack on a police training centre in Zliten. In November, UNICEF expressed concern over the impact that armed-conflict related violence was having on Libyan children- saying that 270,000 children in Benghazi alone needed some form of support.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British citizens against all travel to the country which was listed as one of the ‘Six of the Best’ places to cruise just six years ago.

“The situation throughout the country remains dangerous and unpredictable,” the FCO says. “Fighting continues in many parts of Libya. It can be unclear in some areas which faction has control…..There is a high threat from terrorism. There are continued attacks across Libya including in major cities, leaving significant numbers of people dead or injured. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals….”

What a truly great job of ‘liberating’ Libya David Cameron and William Hague did!

Syria was also a safe place to live, work and visit before the West’s regime changers got going.

“Despite being depicted in the Western media as a land full of terrorists and similar nasties, Syria is really a safe country to travel in. It is quite safe to walk around at any time of the day or night, which is more than can be said for most Western countries”- these words come not from a SANA press release - but the Lonely Planet ‘travel survival kit’ to Jordan and Syria of 1987. As for being worried about crime, the guide told us “Theft, or more precisely the lack of it, has got to be one of the most refreshing things about travelling in Syria… Your bags will be quite safe left unattended virtually everywhere.”

I travelled around Syria in 1999 and never once felt threatened or in danger. I met some incredibly kind and hospitable people - but no terrorists. As for the lack of theft, I left a bag full of valuables on a table in a canteen at Tishreen University in Latakia, and as my friends assured me, it was still there, with all its contents intact, when I came back.

In 2006, Mary Wakefield, deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, travelled to Syria and like so many others, was pleasantly surprised with what she found. “Assad's Ba'ath party is a long way from Saddam's. It has lifted the ban on internet access and mobile phones, and ordinary Syrians seem free not just from fear, but from regular Western misanthropy as well,” she noted.

“Throughout Syria, passers-by paused to say ‘welcome’ and invite me in for mint tea - no furtive looks, no soviet-style reluctance to be singled out.”

A fascinating glimpse of everyday life in pre-war Syria was provided by the BBC/Open University series ‘Syrian School,’ which screened in 2010. “Syria is a country where, from poetry to politics, you can have an intellectual debate. You can re-imagine the world there in a way that we seem to have lost in the West, where even the credit crunch hasn’t dented the orthodoxy of Liberal Capitalism, where “The X-Factor” seems now to have become the cultural pinnacle,” wrote the BBC‘s Max Baring.

With its secular government Syria - like Iraq and Libya - was a bulwark against al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups. In 2006 the Syrian authorities foiled an attack by Islamist militants on the US Embassy in Damascus.

The US expressed gratitude, but we know from WikiLeaks that secret plans for regime change in Syria were already being hatched.

Under the guise of the ’Arab Spring’, regime change in Damascus would be pursued by funding and arming violent rebels hell-bent on overthrowing President Assad.

The Syrian government did put forward a new constitution in 2012 which ended the Baath party’s forty year monopoly on political rule and genuine moderates embraced the political reform process. But the regime changers continued to pour petrol onto the fire. In 2013, Britain and France pushed other EU members to lift the arms embargo on the so-called Syrian rebels'.

© Anis Mili

In 2015 the UN estimated that 250,000 people had died in Syria’s war - with more than 11 million people forced from their homes.

Today, travelling around Syria simply isn’t an option for Western tourists. The country where you could walk around safely ‘at any time of the day or night', is now far too dangerous.

The FCO advises against 'all travel' to the country.

Meanwhile the Department of State “continues to warn US citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that US citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.”

Syria, like Iraq and Libya, has been engulfed by ‘staggering’ violence directly attributable to the actions of the Western regime changers, and their regional allies.

If these countries had been left alone, it is inconceivable that violence of the scale we have witnessed would have occurred. The governments might have been authoritarian ones which were intolerant of dissent, but the reality is that daily life for the majority of the citizens in the countries concerned was better than it is today. Acknowledging that doesn’t make one an ‘apologist for dictatorship’- just someone who doesn’t try to spin chaos and carnage as ‘success’. In any case, there’s no doubt that some of the crimes of the governments that were targeted for ‘regime change’ were exaggerated, or in some cases even made up by the neocon war lobby. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations found no evidence to back up the NATO claims that Gaddafi ordered his forces to commit mass rapes in 2011.

Saddam’s notorious ’people shredder’ was never found and of course those WMDs which we were told could be assembled in 45 minutes didn’t show up either.

And here is Amnesty's annual report on Syria from 2010.

It’s hardly impressive, but it’s interesting to compare it to the Amnesty report from the same year on Saudi Arabia, a strong western ally.

If you supported ‘regime change’ in Syria on human rights grounds then logically you would have to support the same in Saudi Arabia, whose record on human rights was worse. But the Western regime changers and ’democracy promoters’ weren’t calling for the toppling of the government in Riyadh, showing the hypocrisy of their position.

The foundation of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which we’re now told is the biggest threat to Western civilization, was a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq, and its growth was a direct result of the regime change plans for Syria.

In the words of John Pilger: “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity.”

WikiLeaks revealed how in 2010, the US rejected an offer from the secular Syrian government to work together against extremist groups like IS.

Far from wanting to defeat IS, the regime changers welcomed its rise.

In August 2012, a declassified secret US intelligence report discussed the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, saying that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

The refugee crisis which hit Europe in 2015 was directly attributable to regime change ops too. If Iraq, Libya and Syria hadn’t been targeted, we’d still be able to visit those countries safely as tourists. Most important of all, the people in those countries would still be able to go about their everyday lives without the fear of being blown to kingdom come, or beheaded, for having the ‘wrong’ faith.

All things considered, the regime changers have an awful lot to answer for. So it's hardly surprising, given the blood that’s on their hands, that the warmongers try and maintain the deceit that the ’staggering’ violence in Iraq, Libya and Syria is nothing to do with them.

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