'By attacking Syria, Trump and the Republican Party have started down a dangerous, slippery slope'
President Trump has submitted a letter to Congress, explaining his decision to bombard the Syrian airbase. He cited the "vital national security and foreign policy interests" of the United States as the reason for taking action.
RT: In his letter, Trump wrote: "I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States." Is that true, do you think?
Charles Ortel: I think he believes he acted in those interests. The argument would run if we assert that the Syrian government is indeed responsible for dropping banned chemical weapons, he would argue, and his people might argue, if there are indeed those weapons still present in the theater, they pose a dire threat to US troops not just in Syria but in neighboring countries as well. You could see him making that argument. But of course, it really is incumbent upon him and allies to now demonstrate that that is indeed what in fact happened. It is not enough to say that a plane flew over a village, and because a plane flew over a village and ordnance came out of it, that that ordnance was chemical weapons
RT: Do you think the Congress will push back and ask for the evidence?
CO: I think Congress is already starting to push back and for Mr. Trump and his people it is a very dangerous and slippery slope. The US has not had in recent history an unblemished record of trotting out evidence and then entering into military conflict. We could start with Iraq, but you might go further back and look into how we toppled the situation in Iran. How we toppled the situation in Afghanistan. How we toppled in Libya. And now how we may try to topple in Syria. We don’t have a great record in going down those routes and having those efforts actually serve American and Western vital interests. I think we are in a very dangerous moment here. I believe some on the right and some on the left are actually beginning to ask the type of tough questions that deserve thorough answers.
President Obama was open to actively considering using military action following an apparent sarin attack…back in 2013. But being a constitutional lawyer, he decided to go to Congress first. Congress did not give him that ‘ok’ and President Putin, to his credit, took advantage of this extra time to put together an agreement which had hoped to deter future conflict along these lines… Ironically, Trump himself was condemning Obama for even considering going unilateral and he is doing it himself. - Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at University of San Francisco
RT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US strike plays into the hands of terrorists. Two radical Islamist groups in Syria have issued statements welcoming the US strikes. Does this back up what Lavrov said?
CO: It would certainly appear to. I am hearing multiple reports that people who have been on the situation from our side are deeply disturbed by the abrupt shifting in approach here. And after all, the US and Russia, although our relations have been strained, were cooperating in Syria, and making sure to the best of our abilities that we were not going to go after one another forces inside Syria. Clearly, Russia is deeply stuck in there. Clearly, Russia has a point of view. I think we need to get to the hard evidence. And if it can’t be presented to the public it certainly should be shared with Rex Tillerson when he visits Moscow next week. Let’s see this hard evidence. Let’s see the proof that banned chemical weapons were used here. One thing that is surprising to me, as a layman, are the videos that we saw in America here of the first responders dealing and trying to wash off the victims made little sense to anybody who knows anything about sarin gas. You can’t try to help victims of sarin gas without wearing gloves and serious protective equipment, which they were not wearing.
Trump is playing on the heartstrings of people concerned about the humanitarian crisis… But he is not concerned about Syrian children whatsoever... This is about asserting American power and asserting American hegemony. This is very much about domestic political consumption and getting the elites on his side. - Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at University of San Francisco
RT: Going back to Donald Trump's letter to Congress, he wrote that the military action was to "promote the stability of the region and avert a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe." Is that a likely outcome? Is there another motive?
CO: I would be speculating, but I think the theory is that Donald Trump and his team would like to accomplish a lot more than his predecessors and bring about greater stability to this troubled region of the world. I don’t think we should be rushing into any type of conflict, two days seems to me a little short and while I do admire much of what Donald Trump and his team have done, he is not somebody who himself is deeply steeped in national security and military issues. Nor is Jared Kushner. Nor are some of his key advisers. I think this is a very serious place we found ourselves in. I hope that the major powers can show restraint here as difficult as a situation is. And I hope Russia and the US can sit down and look each other face to face and get to the bottom of what really did happen and if we made a mistake, we need to pull back and adjust course.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.