16 September 2013

On the Case for War

It's been a while since I've added anything to the blog; really, I only ever do this when I'm incredibly angry at something. This post started life as a facebook status update that got out of hand, so here it is, in its entirety. Enjoy.

I never thought that ten years after protesting against, and later watching helplessly, the invasion of Iraq, I would find myself supporting the idea of another US intervention in the Middle East.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not in any way convinced that the US government has the best interests of the Syrian people at heart. And no, I don't think that the invasion of Iraq was anything but a transparent ploy to either influence the global oil market/settle daddy's old scores/take the American people's attention away from the War on Terror's total failure/increase US influence in the Middle East. But it's not the same thing.

Iraq was crushed in the first Gulf War; its military and any remaining ability to create WMDs was eroded to nothing by a decade of brutal sanctions that killed its people and strengthened Saddam's regime. The UN weapons inspectors took care of the rest, and Iraq complied with their demands, so much that Hans Blix, head of the UN inspection teams reported that the country had no more WMD capability. The US went in anyway, and created the cluster**** that remains to this day, seen in weekly bombings and acts of religiously-motivated murder. Also, embarassingly enough, no WMD were ever found, by ANYONE, in the ten years since.

But Syria is not Iraq ten years ago. And the WMD argument is bull. It doesn't matter that the UN inspectors confirmed the use of Sarin gas in Al Ghouta. It doesn't even matter that chemical weapons were deployed in the first place, or by whom.

What matters is that Assad needs to be stopped, and anything that stops Assad regaining his grip on power and initiating an inevitable campaign of ethnic cleansing against those who opposed him (much like his father did in the 80s) is a good thing.

Yes, intervention will cause deaths and suffering, but in case you haven't noticed, over 100,000 Syrians are dead. I read an article in the Guardian* quoting the figure of 8 confirmed massacres carried out by the Syrian army (Not the rebels, the actual national army). Two million Syrians, half of them children, are now refugees. Suffering and massacres are not some sort of far-off possibility for the Syrian people, but a daily reality for many. This is happening as we speak.

Assad is not the rightful leader of Syria. He's a tyrant; an un-elected president for life who was bequeathed the presidency by his father, who was also president for life, who seized power after a military coup (after which he sold out and eliminated his co-conspirators, but that's a story for another time). His rule is about as legitimate as Kim Jong Un's.

Some people hail Assad's Syria as a bastion of Arab power, beset by western conspiracies. Yet none of these people mention the uncomfortable fact that despite sharing a border with Israel, and being bombed by the Israelis, who also occupy part of the country, Assad has never actually done anything to help the occupied Palestinians, save for offering fiery rhetoric. In fact, the only country Syria has invaded recently was Lebanon.

Also, if he's such a fan of Arab nationalism, why is he in bed with Iran, and why does he have Russian military bases in his country? How is Russian imperialism different to US imperialism?

On that note, why is Putin, the guy who two years ago was practically treated like the antichrist among Arabs, now our chosen saviour? Have we forgiven the second Chechen War and all the deaths that resulted from it, when only recently we were calling him a monster? Do you really believe that Russia and China are interested in the feelings and sovereignty of the Arab people?

So, is the price of "halting US imperialism" going to be paid by innocent Syrians who continue to suffer into the third year of a horrific civil war, the consequences of which will be borne by generations to come? A civil war that is causing ongoing suffering, that will fuel more hatred and cause more deaths the longer it goes on?

Do you feel better that the killing is continuing because at least the "US imperialist machine" has been beaten back? That democracy has prevented nations from going to war? Is it really worth it?

So yeah, the situation is dire. And no, there is no easy way out. Yes, more people are going to die. But if satan himself wanted to take out Assad, I'd gladly sell him my soul. Because you know what? When a nation's army starts systematically killing their own people, the people they are sworn to defend, then there's something very wrong going on. In the case of Syria, that's why so many Syrian military soldiers and commanders defected in the first place. And no, it's not as neat as evil regime vs good rebels. The rebels are responsible for their share of atrocities.

But the fact is, the rebels are ragtag groups fighting for their own ends. The national army is supposed to be held to higher standards, and yet there they are, massacring civilians and shelling them indiscriminately. So no, you cannot equate one to the other. You're a standing army, goddammit! You don't get to play the "War is ugly, so shit happens" card!

And finally, what is up with that brain-dead argument that if the US intervenes, they're supporting Al Qaeda? An idiotic perversion of logic being touted by people I hold (or at least held) in such high esteem, like Robert Fisk and George Galloway. Let me get this argument straight: if two sides find themselves fighting against the same enemy, then they're now somehow in bed with each other? Or do they somehow absorb each others' values through some mystical bellicose osmosis? This is logic worthy of GW Bush's famous statement: "If you're not with us, then you're against us"!

Well, the Nazis banned smoking in public spaces. Does that mean that if I don't want some tactless jerk blowing second-hand cancer into my face, I somehow want to round up ethnic minorities into concentration camps? What sort of moral relativism are we espousing here? How does this even make sense?

Well, there you have it. One person's barely educated analysis of the situation. If you wanna argue, please do. Let's have something logical. You bring your proof, and I'll bring mine. If you're just going to attack me for being a traitor to the Arab cause, then please explain why you're not off fighting to free Palestine and are instead hassling me.

*I can't seem to find the story, but here's a link to the Huffington post. The story was carried by AP: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/syria-massacres_n_3905323.html

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