June 15, 2013 by Russ Baker
We told you so.
We first told you, 18 months ago and again here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, that you couldn’t trust the Obama Administration when it began making noises about pushing out Syria’s President Bashar Assad for strictly “humanitarian reasons.” In fact, before that, we told you again and again and again (ok—we’ll stop) not to trust the Obama Administration when it urged intervention in Libya for the very same reasons.
Now, the Obama administration is preparing for war, in an astonishing echo of the George W. Bush administration’s misleading justifications for invading Iraq.
We saw the first little dribble to prepare us in a CNN Breaking News email Thursday, sent out at 5:14pm EST as most Americans were heading home.
Congress has been notified that the United States will acknowledge that Syria has used chemical weapons on a small scale multiple times and a “red line” has been crossed, according to congressional sources.
Friday, when it was clear that this trial balloon had met largely with silence — and certainly with no hail of outrage or skepticism—came the next salvo. Here, again, CNN Breaking News via email (this time, 4:53pm as most folks’s attention was fixed on the weekend):
United States military support for Syrian rebels will include small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons, according to two officials familiar with the matter. The weapons will be provided by the CIA, the officials said.
Oh, and Obama is “considering” a no-fly zone. Where have we heard that before?
Expect the announcement that your son or daughter in uniform will not be home for Christmas to be sent out at 3am Sunday.
No one is likely to demand good hard evidence for the use of chemical weapons. After all, the Bush administration and its lies for war was so…very long ago.
War—What a Gas
None of these military adventures were ever about anything remotely honorable. So, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you just have to get over it. You may feel better believing the system of which you are part has noble intentions, or that the party you prefer is somehow more principled.
The truth is actually pretty simple: no matter which party is running things, globally dominant governments do not make decisions based on humane do-goodism. In the halls of power, decisions are based on a consensus of hard-headed “realists,” whose concerns do not extend to human rights, the safety of women and children and other civilians, or the “self-determination” of non-Americans. “Spreading democracy around world”? Um, no.
In Top Secret National Security Council sessions, no one is foolish enough to raise noble and humanistic objectives. He (or occasionally she) would be laughed right out of the place. No, the talk is all about “national security.” And national security equates with national interest. So when we look for the motives behind the Obama administration’s announcement that it has determined Syria used chemical weapons and therefore crossed an imaginary “red line” which will trigger active involvement in a war against the Assad regime, we must focus on self interest.
Probable factors, almost none of which have been reported by the major media, include
1) the desire to create new bases in the Middle East to watch over the Iraqi oilfields without taking flak for maintaining a permanent presence in Iraq;
2) eliminating one of the last non-Western-dependent pan-Arabists left;
3) getting rid of a regime that works closely with China and Russia; and especially
4) weakening one of Iran’s few and most important allies.
Also, not long before the “spontaneous uprising” in his country, Assad was reaching out to pariah states like Venezuela and Cuba to foster cooperation, including a joint investment with Venezuela in an oil refinery in Syria.
Plus, like Saddam and Qaddafi, Assad had moved away from dependency on the US dollar.
But increasingly, it seems that the primary reason for wanting Assad out is not oil, but gas. In 2011, while Arab Spring was going down, Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a gas pipeline deal. Iranian gas would end up at Lebanese ports before making its way to EU markets. This would substantially relieve Iran of the economic pressure designed to topple its regime.
But it all gets really interesting when you consider the South Pars gas field—the largest in the world —which lies underneath the Persian Gulf and is divided between Iran and a country facing it across the water, Qatar. The latter, a highly reliable western beachhead in a hostile region and a major US military hub, is run by Sunnis, who are of course at the throats of the Shiites who run Iran. If Iran gets a pipeline, it trumps Qatar and the West. On the other hand, if Qatar alone can benefit from the field, it becomes a significant player in regional and even global power.
Qatar has been a great favorite of NATO, contributing its troops in places like Libya to mask what are essentially Western invasions of Arab soil. And of course Qatar runs Al Jazeera, which has not exactly been at the forefront of independent investigative journalism in any of these situations. Israel, with its own agenda on Iran, its own formidable gas discovery—turning it from an energy importer to an exporter—and an alliance with NATO and Qatar, also stands to benefit from blocking the Iranian pipeline.
Human Rights Indeed
Last summer, on the porch of a country store on Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite of Obama and his fans, a “liberal” became enraged when I tried to explain a few nuances about Syria. “You are apologizing for a butcher,” he yelled at me, moving away to emphasize his revulsion.
If Assad is a butcher, he’s long been our butcher. Just as Muammar Qaddafi did the US a favor and tortured people after 9/11, so did Assad. Just as, for a long time, Saddam Hussein was only too glad to do the CIA’s bidding.
This is all forgotten (if it was ever known) by Americans guilty of unspeakable indifference, of having learned nothing at all from a century of nearly constant war.
The war for the hearts and mind of impressionable members of the public goes on. Note the latest dribble (posted late Friday by the New York Times): Obama didn’t want to push the button on Syria, but he succumbed to tremendous pressure:
For two years, President Obama has resisted being drawn deeper into the civil war in Syria. It was a miserable problem, he told aides, and not one he thought he could solve. At most, it could be managed. And besides, he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.
So when Mr. Obama agreed this week for the first time to send small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebel forces, he had to be almost dragged into the decision at a time when critics, some advisers and even Bill Clinton were pressing for more action. Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement.
His ambivalence about the decision seemed evident even in the way it was announced. Mr. Obama left it to a deputy national security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes, to declare Thursday evening that the president’s “red line” on chemical weapons had been crossed and that support to the opposition would be increased. At the time, Mr. Obama was addressing a gay pride event in the East Room. On Friday, as Mr. Rhodes was again dispatched to defend the move at a briefing, the president was hosting a Father’s Day luncheon in the State Dining Room.
This raises lots of questions about Obama, and whether this is a sign of his own weakness, a deliberate leaked sop to his peace-oriented donors and supporters or, in line with something we wrote recently, that the decisions facing the modern American presidency are just too consequential for the establishment to leave them to an ephemeral figure like Obama.
Further raising doubts about the extent to which Obama is “in charge” and operating on behalf of the electorate is the Rhodes factor. As we previously pointed out, the rapid rise of the young, obscure and seemingly unqualified Rhodes from a coffee shop novelist to virtually managing foreign policy for the United States is a strange and disturbing event on its own. The particulars deserve much more scrutiny.
Although admittedly it all is hair-raising, few people here in the USA seem too terribly bothered. Almost all of the media, from rightist outfits like Fox through the great commercial middle to the liberal left opinion media, have been loudly silent on Obama’s decisions on Libya, and now on Syria.
You can bet they’ll be silent on Iran when its time comes. Which it will. Even if—once again— the reasons are fake.
Yeah. We told you so.