Syria: We’re Not the good Guys

It’s too easy to be cynical about politics and politicians, and so when something out of the ordinary happens, we often dismiss it. This week’s British parliamentary vote against joining an American attack on Syria was historic, and to be celebrated. It established both that Britain can be independent of the US, and that we can step back from a war that seemed inevitable.

Until the vote, the whole situation stank of the 2002-2003 period during which Bush and Blair concocted their illegal attack on Iraq. Back then, we could see that the war was unnecessary. We could see the lies being created before our very eyes (Brits at least – Americans took several more years to realise they had been scammed). We knew, at least six months before the war that the decision had already been made. We marched in record numbers, but it was futile: Blair dragged us into the war against our will. He destroyed his political career as a result, but earned himself millions in “consultancy” fees from those who had benefited from the war.

Now, for the moment, our democracy has proven it can stand up against war-greedy corporations, the demands of the US Empire, and the need for military and intelligence “communities” to justify their own dubious and expensive existences. However cynical we may be about our democratic representatives, we should applaud and support them at this moment. The vote against war was a brave moment for Parliament.

“But”, comes the response, “what about the people of Syria”? It’s an important question, and a hard one to answer, but while considering the answer, we should remind ourselves of some important facts.

1. We’re Not The Good Guys

This is hard for Europeans to recognise, and even harder for Americans, who live in a propaganda bubble that North Korea would be proud of. It’s a mantra we need to remember. We (the West) are the bad guys. In the past few centuries, we have committed crimes and atrocities beyond count.

The three biggest warmongers today – UK, France, USA – are the worst of the worst, and have been for decades (in America’s case) or centuries (in the case of Britain and France). At the very least, tens of millions of people have been slaughtered by these three nations in their self-serving grabs for power and resources. We shouldn’t be distracted by the fact that the centre of Western power has moved from Paris and London to Washington. It’s the same imperialistic drive, the same European tribal instincts and allegiances at work.

These three powers between them have chewed up the rest of the planet. From India to Algeria, Colombia to Lebanon, Vietnam to Indonesia, Guatemala to Iraq, we have directly or indirectly caused misery on a global scale. There is only one significant moment in modern history where we have been on the right side: World War II. That was the exception, not the rule – and even then, we were hardly squeaky-clean. WWII set the stage for American imperialism. Better perhaps than German imperialism, but not to its millions of victims.

One more time: we’re not the good guys. Whoever should be leading an intervention to help the Syrian people, it should not be us. Sending Britain, France and America into Syria is like sending child rapists to run a nursery.

2. We Don’t Do Humanitarian Intervention

A brief look at modern history will kill the idea that we are prepared to spend billions of dollars in warfare for the good of foreign civilian populations. There are minor exceptions: interventions in African conflicts are cheap in dollars and lives, and these are easy to win because any opposition will be poorly trained and armed. The UK’s intervention in Sierra Leone was against a few thousand hungry gangsters holed up outside Freetown. France’s interventions in Ivory Coast and Mali were quick and easy. All three of these interventions were designed to support existing leaders against rebels, not to change regimes; and they were self-serving too, preserving old colonial ties.

Besides these, our behaviour speaks for itself. The biggest war since WWII has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we have left the UN to deal with that, despite slaughters and reports of 50 rapes per hour taking place at times. Ditto in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands were killed. Our “allies” in Sri Lanka are reported to have slaughtered 40,000 Tamils in 2009, and herded hundreds of thousands more into camps. Mass rape is reported. We tut-tut and keep trading with them. Our new friends in Burma are averting their gaze while nationalists slaughter and rape members of the Rohingya Muslim minority. And we line up to sign oil deals there.

While we invaded Iraq to “deal with the evil dictator Saddam”, we continued to partner with leaders who were as bad, or even worse. While Saddam was torturing and killing his own people, the British ambassador Craig Murray was warning that in Uzbekistan, the leader Islam Karimov was boiling dissidents to death. Murray was fired for criticising a friend of the war on terror.

3. Syria Is Next To Iran and Israel

Amidst all the Syria noise, you might have forgotten that for the past decade or so, Iran has been “months away from developing a nuclear weapon”. The war party has been trying to justify an attack on Iran (one of the world’s biggest oil producers) for many years. Even world-class neo-con liars have found it hard to persuade anybody that a war on Iran might be necessary. In 2008, as he was leaving office, Bush was still trying to persuade the public that Iran was a threat. An attack on Syria would at the very least destabilise Iran, which is already suffering from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on its doorstep. A friendly regime in Syria would provide another good launch point for a future attack on Iran.

Meanwhile, Israel would love to see its Middle Eastern enemies weakened and broken. Israel is still occupying the Golan Heights, Syrian land that was taken and occupied during the 1967 war. Israel appears to have no intention of letting the land return to Syria, and a weakened Syria would allow Israel to finalise its land grab. In reality, this is already happening: in February this year, Israel granted an oil-drilling license in the Golan Heights to a US company with links to Dick Cheney, one of the chief gangsters involved in the Iraq war. This is an illegal move: international law does not recognise the land, or the oil, as belonging to Israel.

4. What’s The Big Deal With Chemical Weapons Anyway?

Obama’s stipulation that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be the last straw is weird and arbitrary, and reminds me of nothing more than Bill Hicks’ “pick up the gun” sketch. The line appears to have been drawn solely for the purpose of claiming it had been crossed. I don’t know whether Assad has used chemical weapons or not: the man seems perfectly capable of doing so. But likewise, the US is perfectly capable of telling massive lies in order to justify new wars, as demonstrated in both Vietnam and Iraq.

To use chemical weapons would be horrendous, but far less so than many acts of the US, British and French empires. Assad would also have to excel in evil to beat the murderous behaviour of the US in Iraq and so many other places. America is now known to have supported Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran, and used vast amounts of depleted uranium (and perhaps other substances) which have led to many birth defects in Iraq. In other words: even if Assad is a murderous bastard, several recent US presidents have been far worse. Whatever Assad has done, to allow a US attack could only make things worse at every level.

So What Now?

The Syrian civil war is a reality. Mankind only has one tool to deal with such situations: the United Nations. It may not be perfect, but we have nothing else. The UN must be empowered and trusted to do whatever it can to help refugees, protect civilians and try to end the conflict. The American, British and French should stay as far away as possible – except, possibly, to supply resources to a UN peacekeeping operation. There is no quick and easy answer to Syria, and a US attack is not even an answer at all – it would be fuel added to the fire. Bullying the UN Security Council into backing yet another US war is not the same as allowing the UN to deal with the situation.

And if the West truly has billions of dollars to burn, peace can be bought far more cheaply than a war which can only increase instability in the Middle East, and lead to more terrorist attacks both there and here.

The US is trying to broaden and continue its endless, pointless war on terror. We can be proud that the British Parliament has just made that task a little more difficult. Obama wars are no better than Bush, Reagan or Nixon wars. At least if America goes to war against Syria, this time we can try to ensure they go alone, and are exposed as the gangsters they are, and have been since the 1950s.

9/11 Tweetathon

9/11 is one of the most significant events to affect America in the past few decades; and yet so few Americans seem to understand why it happened, or know anything about the events leading up to it. On September 11 last year, I posted one tweet per hour throughout the day on the subjects of 9/11, terrorism, the so-called “war on terror”, and world events in the preceding decades that played a part in building up global anger towards America.

I’d like to thank @dbudlov, a twitter user who has collated my 24 tweets into one block, and regularly reposted them to Twitter; here’s the whole set of tweets, with extra notes added in italics.

1) In memory of the almost-3,000 innocents, killed in New York by morons 9 years ago

2) 16 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. None were Afghan or Iraqi
(It’s amazing that Bush/Rumsfeld ignored this point, and most commentators still do. The attackers weren’t a mix of “Muslims” or “Arabs” – they were almost all Saudis, as is Osama bin Laden).
3) Most of the hijackers were Saudis. In 2001, the US had 10,000 troops in Saudi Arabia (fighting which war?)
(Let’s ask again: more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, what legitimate reason did America have for a military occupation of Saudi Arabia? Wouldn’t Saudis be a little… well, pissed off, to be under foreign occupation?)

4) Al Qaeda originated in Saudi Arabia, the world’s #1 oil producer, friend of America, and creator of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam
(So… blame Afghanistan, right?)

5) On Sep 11 1973, the elected Chilean govt was overthrown by the army with help from the CIA. Around 3,000 people were later killed
(Coincidentally, America took part in an illegal attack against a democratic government on September 11, 28 years earlier. You couldn’t make this stuff up…)

6) The Taliban were never involved in the 9/11 attacks, although this was never made clear by the Bush admin.
(By blurring different groups with distinct ideas and aims, the neo-cons created the illusion of a powerful enemy, intent on attacking America. Mixing up Al Qaeda, a Saudi terror group, with the Taliban, a fundamentalist Afghan group, was part of this propaganda exercise.)

7) Iran’s last elected govt. was overthrown in 1953 by a UK/US-backed coup. Which kinda explains why Iranians don’t trust America
(Iran has never attacked another state in modern history. On the other hand, America has been repeatedly involved in destabilising Iran, and creating propaganda about Iran being a “threat”. Iran also has the 4th biggest oil reserves; these facts are probably related.)

8 ) The only chemical weapons used in the Iraq war were deployed by US forces in the city of Fallujah http://bit.ly/cC3Dsb
(Ironic huh? Given that “Saddam’s WMDs” were the reason given for attacking Iraq… click the link above to read about the aftermath of using chemical weapons in a city of 300,000 people.)

9) Around half of Americans wrongly believed Saddam was involved in 9/11. The Iraq war claimed at least 97,000 civilian lives
(If you’re going to support a war, shouldn’t you understand why the war is happening first?)

10) Like Iraq, the Vietnam War was started by a lie. An estimated 4m civilians died
(You’d assume the US would have learned something from Vietnam, wouldn’t you?)

11) In the 1980s, Reagan backed terrorist groups throughout Central America, resulting in around 200,000 civilian deaths
(3,000 deaths in New York bad. 200,000 deaths in Central America best-not-to-mention.)

12) In 1988, US missiles took down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 civilians inc. 66 children http://bit.ly/cx5DQw
(Terrorism is bad, m’kay? Except where it’s our terrorism.)

13) 1976: terrorist Orlando Bosch and 3 others with CIA support blew up Cubana Flight 455, killing 73 civilians. He lives in Miami
(Terrorists are assholes m’kay? Except for our terrorists.)

14) 1979 Iranian revolution removed The Shah, America’s torturer, from power. US still seeking an excuse for revenge
(How dare a Middle Eastern country refuse to be ruled from Washington?)

15) The terrorist IRA killed over 3,000 civilians in Britain and Ireland from the 70s to the 90s, with money from American supporters
(NORAID raised money for the Provisional IRA in the US, while the IRA were blowing up civilians in Britain and Ireland. Apparently some terrorism is worse than others.)

16) Both Saddam and bin Laden were American agents who went astray – pick your friends more wisely?
(The US helped bring the Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq via a 1963 coup, and later encouraged and supported Saddam Hussein in his illegal war against Iran. When Saddam gassed Kurdish civilians in 1988, the US response was muted and support for Saddam continued until Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Arab and Afghan mujahideen that became Al Qaeda and the Taliban was supported and trained by the US, partly in Pakistani “madrassas” during the 1980s. The results of US cold war policy in the region are clear today.)

17) Occupations always create terrorists. The US has over 1,000 military bases on foreign soil
(…in over 150 countries. People don’t like foreign troops on their soil – no doubt Americans would also object if it happened to them.)


18) Half a million Iraqi children died under US-led sanctions in the 90s, usually through shortages of medicine
(A total of around a million Iraqis died under the sanctions regime. In hindsight, this was done to weaken Iraq enough to attack it with minimal military resistance. This helps explain why Iraqis were less enthusiastic about the US invasion than expected.)


19) 1,271 Afghan civilians were killed in 1st 6 months of 2010 alone
(3,000 deaths in New York changed the world. Thousands of deaths elsewhere can be ignored.)

20) It’s not about Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or Yemen. The terrorist problems emanate from Saudi Arabia and Israel
(The neo-cons turned America’s post-9/11 fear and loathing against convenient targets, avoiding the 2 sources of most anger and discontent in the region. The Saudi regime is among the world’s most tyrannical, but sits on massive oil reserves. Democracy in Saudi Arabia is a pre-requisite for Middle Eastern peace, and also a threat to US oil interests. Israel is America’s most reliable regional ally, and hence gets away with murder – literally.)

21) The “Saudi royal family” was a creation of the British Empire and later adopted by the US. Oil beats democracy
(As the British Empire collapsed, it appointed puppets to continue maintaining British interests. With the rise of the US Empire, these switched from being UK clients to US clients. If Saudi Arabia had no oil, America would call for democracy there, as it does for Syria and Yemen.)

22) The top Middle Eastern oil reserves and US control: 1) Saudi (check) 2) Iran (in progress) 3) Iraq (check) 4) Kuwait (check)
(The list of oil reserves by country reads like a checklist of America’s foreign policy priorities.)
23) In 2001 Rumsfeld said Al Qaeda had 100,000 followers. In reality, less than 1,000. The lie of the decade?
(The end of the cold war by 1990 threatened the power of the US military, intelligence community and arms industry. A new enemy had to found, whether real or fabricated. 9/11 gave the pretext: a small terrorist group took advantage of lax airline security to carry out a massive terrorist attack. Rumsfeld’s big lie laid the basis for the “global war on terror”. Acceptance that Al Qaeda numbered no more than a few hundred activists would have precluded a military response. The Al Qaeda brand was largely created by the US response to 9/11 – had YOU heard of it beforehand?)

24) The war machine sucks up tax dollars that could create the world’s best health and education systems. Just Say NO
(The “cold war”, the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” were all chosen as pretexts to allow an endless American war. In 1942, hundreds of thousands of US troops were deployed to fight Japan and Germany, but the end of WW2 was a strategic turning point. Rather than bring the troops home, they were kept overseas, and remain to this day: 369,000 US troops are based in over 150 countries, maintaining the biggest empire the world has seen. While the empire drains America’s pockets, it creates trillions of dollars of wealth for America’s richest; the Global American War can be viewed as a massive redistribution of American wealth, from poor to rich. It can happen because Americans allow themselves to be frightened by a never-ending list of new enemies. As European empires collapsed, Europe was able to invest in health, education, transport and housing while America fell behind. Now it’s America’s turn.)