Disregarding cruel lessons of Iraq War, Trump launches attack on Syria

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013. robertvbridge@yahoo.com
Disregarding cruel lessons of Iraq War, Trump launches attack on Syria
Donald Trump pledged to take a different approach to Syria than his contender, Hillary Clinton. Yet following a chemical attack on a Syrian town, the US commander-in-chief didn’t wait for an investigation, opting for bombing Syria’s military instead.

On Friday, the world awoke to the bracing news that the US had opened a cruise missile attack on a Syrian Army base in Homs, killing at least five Syrian military personnel. What makes this news so deeply disturbing is that Washington, once again, has ignored Congress and declared itself judge, jury and executioner when dealing with an international crisis. Emperor, if you will.

It also saw the Trump administration give the benefit of the doubt over a whodunit event to the very individuals known to be affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Perhaps Trump should consider writing a new book and call it, “The Art of the Royal Screw-up”?

Does Empire require evidence? 

Before any investigation into Tuesday’s chemical attack in Idlib Province had begun, Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, did something truly remarkable. Holding up photographs of the deceased Syrian children killed during the chemical attack, Haley – without a shred of evidence to support her claim – passed judgment as to who was to blame.

“Look at those pictures,” Haley implored of her audience. “We cannot close our eyes to those pictures. We cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act. We don’t yet know everything about yesterday’s attack. But there are many things we do know.

“We know that yesterday’s attack bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. We know that Assad has used these weapons against the Syrian people before….We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low, even for the barbaric Assad regime.”

In a court of law, if Haley were acting as prosecutor and presented that sort of empty, emotion-filled evidence, she would have been laughed out the door.

Moreover, since we are talking about terrorist-connected rebels with a reputation for chopping off heads and destroying priceless works of art just for kicks, it defies logic that the Trump administration would exclude these demented individuals from the suspect’s list and place the blame on Assad. Unless, of course, that is the conclusion it wants the world to accept without further consideration.

To add insult to injury, by bombing the Syrian military’s major airport in Homs on nothing more than hearsay, Washington actually lent assistance to the terrorists' cause. But don’t expect anybody, least of all the mainstream media, to point out such glaring inconsistencies. We’ve all been down this dangerous road before and the script is a familiar one, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing.

Anyone feeling déjà vu?

Haley’s presentation was uncannily similar to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s call for military action against Saddam Hussein almost 15 years ago.

On February 5, 2003, Colin Powell delivered a passionate plea for military action against Iraq, whom the Bush administration had accused – wrongly, of course - of harboring weapons of mass destruction. The most memorable part of Powell’s speech was when he held up a fake vial of anthrax before the Assembly, inviting his listeners to imagine what would happen if Hussein unleashed this terrible contagion against the West.

Just like Nikki Haley, Powell provided his audience with lots of raw emotion - the necessary gravy of any moving speech - but emotion alone should never be considered a viable substitute for physical evidence.

At the same time, across the Pond, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose political legacy has been reduced to shambles due to his fawning willingness to be “Bush’s poodle,” actively supported the findings of a “sexed up” intelligence dossier incriminating Hussein of harboring chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.

"We must ensure that he [Saddam] does not get to use the weapons he has, or get hold of the weapons he wants," Blair warned his countrymen.

At the same time, Hans Blix and his team of UN weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq, finding absolutely nothing to support the apocalyptic claims being made back in London and Washington. Trump was a bit smarter in this regards. He never gave nosy weapons inspectors the chance to examine the crime scene before delivering, like the mighty Thor, his lightning bolts from the sky. 

In the end, despite fierce opposition from the Russian, French and German governments, as well as some of the largest protest movements in recent memory, Washington got its war and the Iraqi people got hell on earth for no good reason whatsoever.

Colin Powell, meanwhile, went on to express regret for his UN presentation, saying in an interview that it "will always be a part of my record." 

Fast forward 15 years and we still find so many people willing to be moved by theatrical props as opposed to solid proof. Admittedly, only the most callous person could look at photographs of murdered children without deep emotion and sorrow. But photographs alone are not enough to prove guilt, and I would suppose that Nikki Haley and the Trump administration are fully aware of that. 

Washington's arrogant refusal - once again - to calmly wait for the results of an international investigation before taking action shows they are more concerned with proceeding with the primary agenda than discovering truth. And that primary agenda, despite recent claims to the opposite, seems to be the removal of Bashar Assad from power.

There is one last thing to mention here - the keystone, if you will - that allows these veritable war crimes to happen in the first place. That would be the Western mainstream media, which has become more of a protagonist for military operations than any Pentagon spokesperson.

Media mania

In the run up to the Iraq War, the New York Times published a series of articles by Judith Miller, then a respected, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, which reinforced the idea that Iraq was working to build up a bubbling stockpile of WMDs. That story, based on the 'evidence' provided by a totally unreliable character, Ahmad Chalabi, was revealed as bogus only after the US was happily bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age.

Today, here is the best US commentators can muster when their leaders go on the warpath:

“President Donald J. Trump was right to strike at the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using a weapon of mass destruction, the nerve agent sarin, against its own people,” Anthony J. Blinken cheer-leaded in an opinion piece in the New York Times. “Mr. Trump may not want to be “president of the world” but when a tyrant blatantly violates a basic norm of international conduct … the world looks to America to act. Mr. Trump did, and for that he should be commended.”

I find it amazing that the first positive media piece that I've seen on Trump since he was elected president comes on the heels of a severely misguided military adventure, based on zero evidence.

However, the New York Times is certainly not alone in its zeal for agitating on the side of military conflict. 

Today, after years of hand-wringing over its past trespasses, the entire Western media apparatus is riding high in the saddle, practically fomenting for military escapades, whipping leaders like horses into action, which is of course the exact opposite of what it was designed to do. This dangerous tendency has evolved from the days of the Bush administration, and now seems to work hand-in-glove with the military and government.

In 2014, Dan Froomkin of the Intercept provided some good insight into how the media was seemingly goading Barack Obama into military action.

“Pundits and reporters are seemingly competing for who can be more scornful of President Obama … gleefully parsing Obama’s language for weakness, and essentially demanding a major military assault — while failing to ask the tough questions about what if any good it could actually accomplish.”

“In a nation that considers itself peaceful and civilized, the case for military action should be overwhelmingly stronger than the case against,” Froomkin rightly advised. “It must face, and survive, aggressive questioning.”

It is quickly proving to be the tragedy of American politics that this insane rush to war is no longer controlled by the people, or questioned by the media, but rather is something that is declared – unilaterally – by the President, who more resembles a Roman Caesar than a democratically elected official. 

These American war games, endorsed by a mendacious media, and largely ignored by a marginalized, misinformed public, must be brought to heel before the dogs of war are unleashed, never to return home again.

@Robert_Bridge

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