Almost none of us are paying attention to the major war in the world today—and if we are, probably have no idea what it is really about. What does this say about our personal and societal progress?

There once was a country where the leaders enjoyed playing tricks on the public, and could always count on its friends in the “media” to play along. The joke was to tell the public the same old lie again and again, and see if anyone ever stood up to protest. The government knew that the public would put up with almost anything unless it involved pulling away the plate in front of them or shutting off their television.

Short of that, they would tolerate anything—while ignoring warnings that they were being had—because the popular culture had convinced them that “politics” was boring or somehow unfashionable and unworthy of their attention. Those few who prided themselves on being oh-so-informed were the biggest victims of all, because they were not sufficiently vigilant about their sources of information.

Hum That Tune

Most people in the United States today would agree that the Vietnam War was a debacle. Hundreds of thousands died, the other side won, and now thousands of Americans visit the place and come back with stories about the incredible graciousness of people on the bad end of seven million tons of American bombs.

Flash forward four decades. Only a portion of the American population understands that the Iraq war was a trick—that it was never about Al Qaeda, or WMD, or furthering democracy. (For more, see this and this)

Unfortunately, our ability to learn lessons is severely constrained. It still seems to require that we be tricked—and only years later discover we have been had.

Thus, few have yet realized what Libya was actually about (hum this tune: money money money money…muh-ney!). Only because of the death of the US ambassador and a brouhaha over its handling by the Obama administration, does anyone give even a second’s thought to that war, in which the United States was a major participant. The American media has yet to wake up to what actually happened there, and why. (If you’re curious, see pieces WhoWhatWhy ran at the time, here, here and here)

Few also have any idea that Afghanistan, the country we were told was so poor that the only possible reason to go in there was for security and humanitarian reasons, turns out to be, in terms of natural resources, one of the richest places on earth.

Now, virtually nobody in this country is paying serious attention to the US and its allies’ tacit invasion of Syria. How often do you hear your friends and associates heatedly discussing this war?

Based on this pattern, we can reasonably assume that nobody will tune in to Iran until the war is actually on. In which case, all we will be asked to do is “honor our brave men and women in uniform.” And we will do so, utterly ignorant of why they fight, kill and die. Just as the soldiers themselves remain unaware.

While You Were Talking About the Mayan Calendar…

We Americans tend to turn to one “super-narrated” media story at a time. So we rarely catch the bits and pieces that fly by but together form a shocking tableau.

Here are some developments over the past weeks, to catch you up.

The US and its allies are getting ready for war. According to the French weekly Le Point, France is preparing to send in special forces, to be joined by others from the US, UK and other NATO countries.  

As if to confirm this, the German paper Suddeutsche Zeitung tells us that NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a Dane but as always in the pocket of NATO’s heavyweights, is trying to get foreign ministers of various European countries comfortable with the idea of intervention in Syria. Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic are among those apparently resisting this inexorable force.

Letting someone like Rasmussen take the lead is an old trick. The US and Britain, sometimes with France or another country in league, prefer using surrogates to very gradually acclimate other countries to the inevitable. They start with some humanitarian point which may not even be a real one—the idea that Syria is imminently going to gas its own people in order to cling to power. Once there is any kind of agreement on any point, then the objective is to gradually move the marker down the field, and before anyone realizes it, there you are at the end zone.

Another trick is to get a surrogate country, such as Turkey right next door, to “take the lead.” Soon, there are provocations which we are told threaten Turkey’s sovereignty or safety. Then we need to “help the Turks” who are, after all, our allies.

So it comes as no surprise that the US is deploying hundreds of troops and two Patriot air-defense missile batteries to Turkey to guard against “potential threats” from Syria. Now, let’s think about this logically. The president of Syria is struggling to stay in power and he’s looking to attack other countries? Countries far stronger than he is? Countries whose allies would immediately retaliate against Assad, guaranteeing he would be driven from power and probably killed?

To drive home the idea that it is Turkey’s fight, and that the US is just concerned for its well-being, Secretary of Defense Panetta has been dispatched to very publicly visit bases over there.

Just to ensure that Assad’s back is truly against the wall, and to prompt him to take desperate measures (like using chemical weapons), the UK is drawing up a plan to provide military training to the Syrian rebels, along with naval and air support. Asthe excellent UK paper The Independent notes with skepticism not seen in its American counterparts:

Britain, France and the US have agreed that none of their countries would have “boots on the ground” to help the rebels. The training camps can be set up in Turkey. However, the use of air and maritime force would, in itself, be highly controversial and likely to lead to charges that, as in Libya, the West is carrying out regime change by force.

Furthermore, any such military action will have to take place without United Nations authorisation, with Russia and China highly unlikely to back a resolution after their experience over Libya where they agreed to a “no-fly zone” only to see it turn into a NATO bombing campaign lasting months.

The plan will also draw accusations that the decision to station NATO Patriot missile defence systems at the Syrian border, at the request of Turkey, was, in reality, to camouflage intervention.

Obama, in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, recognized the Syrian opposition coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.” And Assad recognized the Occupy movement as “the legitimate representative of the American people in opposition to the oligarchically-dominated regime in Washington.” (Actually, we made up the last claim—but you get the ridiculousness of Obama making that determination.)

Meanwhile, over in Bahrain, where the people truly hate the Western-backed regime, neither Obama nor Walters talked about the long prison sentence for a real “legitimate representative” of the Bahraini people—a prominent human rights activist. Were top journalists willing to discuss the news in context, we might soon sense a double standard when it comes to concern for democracy and freedom.

I Like Ike—After the Fact

Truth be told, without public outcry, one cannot expect a Walters or an Obama to do very much to reverse the inevitable, even if they wished to do so.

The economy of the United States (like that of its allies) depends on unending military intervention and alleged new threats. Just check the statistics on the enormity of the military and military-related contracts to the private sector. How many companies might go under without All-Sparta-All-The-Time? For a sampler, see this article in the Dallas Morning News, headlined “North Texas economy relies on military contracts, so cuts would hurt.”

Of course, the gravy train should, theoretically, come to a halt once every independent regime is eliminated. But places like Afghanistan and Libya (and Iraq and once-ally Iran) have a tendency to turn against the West, and so the money is likely to keep flowing to America’s “military-industrial complex,” an insatiable entity which a former-general-turned-president warned us about half a century ago.

Evidence of this is found in a recent, little-noted development in which Iraq, “liberated” at great cost by the United States, freed Musa Ali Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah commander who was directly involved in the death of five American soldiers. As former American diplomat Peter Van Buren writes:

…in summation: U.S. invasion fails to achieve our national goals at the cost of some 4900 American lives, ally Iraq releases a known killer under Iranian pressure and the U.S. is left with the grisly option of droning his ass to death because that’s all we really can do anymore, lash out like some giant of a kid frustrated at his own failings.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, whose motto might be “the first to figure things out—after the fact” shows why the Western money establishment loves these interventions: money. It recently published a piece about how Americans who helped Kosovo get its independence from Serbia are back there getting a piece of the action as entrepreneurs.

For a reminder of what a mess Westerners can make in these places, especially in installing faux “help-the-people” initiatives designed to justify further intervention if needed and to protect investments, see this WhoWhatWhy piece on the American University of Iraq.

War Propaganda R Us

The main and most important thing has always been to keep the uninformed base clueless and distracted, a la Fox News, and the “thinking liberals” imagining they understand what is going on.

Thus, expect more like this piece in The Atlantic headlined “It’s Time to Think Seriously About Intervening in Syria”:

If Assad is indeed more secure than the conventional view suggests, then the inevitable question is whether it is time to consider more “robust” responses to the Syrian regime’s outrages….Opponents of international intervention argue that the Syrian opposition has not asked for such action, but their non-consent could be changing, given what living (or not) at the mercy of the Assad regime looks like. The opponents also claim that intervention in Syria is likely to be harder than it was in Libya. On a technical level, the argument is specious. There is nothing in the Syrian arsenal that would pose an undefeatable threat to Western aircrews. That’s not to suggest that undertaking military action in Syria would be a “cakewalk,” but relatively recent Israeli incursions into Syrian airspace suggest that in terms of force protection, the risks are minimal……

This was written by Steven A. Cook, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (them again!), the corporate world’s favorite convocation of “deep thinkers.” Cook is the “Hasib J. Sabbagh fellow” .

The Hasib J. Sabbagh Chair in Middle East Studies was established in 1994 to recognize Hasib Sabbagh’s many and enduring contributions to Middle Eastern peace efforts and to the advancement of interstate cooperation among different ethnic and religious groups.

Apparently, an enduring contribution to peace efforts is to launch an invasion.

We’ll leave the last word to Stratfor, the often-wrong, fee-based newsletter for corporations and other entities looking to understand how to play the game:

Find out how the U.S., Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia will vie to become the next major international influence in the new Syria: subscribe and save 63% on a one-year Stratfor subscription!

Another newsletter, Intelligence Online, which unlike Stratfor is based in Europe and seems less wed to feeding power centers what they want to hear, says:

The Syrian rebel forces’ new unified military command is dominated by individuals bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Officers considered too secular have been shut out.

Those not in lockstep with the religious majority almost always lose out in these uprisings. In Egypt, minorities have been suffering greatly—and as this shows, have been kept out of the new political process in that country.

In Syria, we now see Armenians fleeing the fighting, worried about their place in a future society dominated by Islamists.  One might think that Christians in the West would be concerned about their brethren in Syria, but few Christians in high places have stood up and addressed the folly of the rush to  remove Assad at all costs.

And it gets worse. The rare “mainstream” US news organization that gets it more right than wrong, McClatchy News Service, reports how the West finds itself trapped between unappealing enemies and more unappealing friends. The Assad regime (maybe, just maybe) is getting help from folks tied to Iran. Meanwhile, perhaps the leading element in the coalition to overthrow Assad turns out to be Al Qaeda-in-Iraq folks – that is, veterans of the anti-US insurgency….in Iraq.

Preferred Methods of Murder

Today, the New York Times is reporting about Syria’s use of cluster bombs, horrible packages of multiple bombs that send misery indiscriminately in every direction. This will undoubtedly be cited as another reason to warrant intervention to remove the Assad regime.

Do you wonder if Syria is alone in using this vicious method of suppression? Putting aside for a moment the innocent people routinely killed by supposedly “surgical” American drones, you may wish to see these fascinating charts on who does and does not use cluster bombs. Look at both charts. The first shows the signatories to a treaty to halt use of these especially evil munitions. You won’t find the United States there. You will find us on the second chart—which lists those countries that have not signed such an agreement. And you will find check marks under the columns indicating that our country has produced, stockpiled, and used cluster bombs – whose main purpose, remember, is to kill as many civilians as possible in a broad impact area.

The Times headline reads: Syria Unleashes Cluster Bombs on Town, Punishing Civilians. One wonders how huge populations in Vietnam would have described the carpet bombing visited upon them by the U.S. The United States, of course, was just trying to put down a revolution.

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  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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