New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Saving Syria?

September 03, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

What We Can Do Instead of Waging More War

by David Swanson

Evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” is “no slam dunk,” U.S. officials are saying this time around, reversing the claim made about Iraq by then-CIA director George Tenet.

Opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Syria is growing rapidly in Europe and the United States, drawing its strength from public awareness that the case made for attacking Iraq had holes in it.

A majority in the United States, still very much aware of Iraq war deceptions, opposes arming the “rebel” force in Syria, so heavily dominated by foreign fighters and al Qaeda. And a majority opposes U.S. military action in Syria.

But that public opinion is only just beginning to get expressed as activism. With Republicans more willing to actively oppose a war this time, and some Democrats still opposed, there’s actually potential to build a larger antiwar movement than that of 2003-06.

What discouraged an attack on Syria has been the public uproar that was created back then over the disastrous attack on Iraq. The nation of Iraq was destroyed.  Millions of refugees still can’t safely return. As with every other humanitarian war thus far, humanity suffered, and the suffering will last for ages. While the damage done to the United States itself doesn’t compare with the damage done to Iraq, it has been severe enough to make many a near-sighted potential war supporter cautious.

The problem with attacking Iraq was not that the vast stockpiles of weapons were fictional.  Had every claim been true, the war would have remained illegal, immoral, and catastrophic.

Were it true that the Syrian government really chose the moment of the U.N. inspectors’ arrival to use chemical weapons, launching a U.S. war on Syria would still hurt the people of Syria — who are overwhelmingly opposed to it, regardless of their level of support for their government.

A regional or even global war could result.  The U.S. military is planning for such scenarios, as if preparing for the apocalypse while igniting it makes the action less insane.

A war of supposed humanitarian philanthropy should consider the value to humanity of the rule of law.  Launching a war in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, and the U.S. Constitution hurts the rule of law.

A war of beneficial generosity should consider other possible medicines that lack the deadly side-effects of war.  For example, the United States could easily stop supporting and arming abusive dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt, not to mention the horrors inflicted on Palestine by Israel.

A so-called good and noble war against the evil of chemical weapons should probably be launched by a nation that doesn’t itself use chemical weapons.  Yet, the United States used white phosphorous and napalm as weapons in Iraq, not to mention such internationally sanctioned weapons as depleted uranium and cluster bombs — weapons the United States also sells to other governments regardless of their human rights records (including a big shipment of cluster bombs now headed to Saudi Arabia).

A humanitarian and just war should perhaps show equal concern for those humans killed with any kind of weapon.  Bombing Syria would inevitably kill significant numbers of people.  Isn’t that a problem even if they’re killed with the “right” kind of weapons?

Both sides in the war in Syria have killed large numbers of people.  We have heard as many serious accounts of the rebels using chemical weapons as the government.  Should indisputable facts establish that both sides have used those forbidden weapons, surely the proper response will not be to bomb both sides.

By joining in this war, on the side of an armed opposition dominated by people with no concern for democracy or human rights, the United States will make itself more hated in the region than its previous military actions already have.  While this war has nothing to do with defending the United States, it will in fact endanger it.

Here’s what should be done instead: Pressure Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and Turkey to stop arming one side, while pressuring Russia and Iran to stop arming the other.  Insist on a cease-fire.  Support U.N. inspections of the evidence of crimes by both sides.  Provide humanitarian aid to Syria, Syrian refugees (now fleeing in greater numbers as the U.S. threatens to attack), and others suffering in the region.  Support nonviolent democracy movements.

And why stop there? End the occupation of Afghanistan, which we think of as “ending” but which is still twice as large as when President Obama was elected.  Stop arming brutal dictatorships and calling the weapons “aid.”  Close Guantanamo and other lawless prison sites.  Halt U.S. drone and other missile strikes worldwide.  Bring U.S. troops home from 175 nations.  Spend 10% of the U.S. military budget providing the world with clean drinking water, food, and assistance in sustainable agriculture and energy.

Our options are not to do nothing or to bomb Syria into the sort of disaster created in Iraq.  There is an alternative that benefits Syrians, makes us safer, and costs less in money, lives, and morality.

David Swanson is the author of War Is a Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at and, works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization, and hosts Talk Nation Radio. Among his many publishing venues, Swanson is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision.

0 Comments to “Saving Syria?”

  1. jkelvynrichards says:


    The USA are masters of intervention in the organization of other countries. The US administration has learnt how to control other countries without appearing to be involved at all.
    For example, the USA is closely involved in the militarization of Egypt. For the last 50 years Egypt has received billions of military aid from the USA. The USA has successfully built up the armed forces and supported the military governments of Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia, and others.
    For those countries that are seen to be strategically important, the USA has provided training and funding. US Armed Forces are stationed in at least 150 out of 192 countries in the world. Various programmes of education, and training, are operated by the US government in 100 countries. The CIA and the NSA are known to be present in many countries providing help for the official and unofficial agents of government. A recent scandal has emerged where it is reported that these agencies have been spying on the Presidents of Brazil and Mexico; and many others, I am sure!
    At the moment the USA want to intervene in Syria without invoking the open hostility of Russia or Iran or Turkey or Israel. It had hoped to do this in association with the UK. But such military intervention was vetoed by the British Parliament.
    At the moment, the Syrian government is reported as being involved in killing citizens by using chemical weapons. It is certainly actively involved in bombing the residences of its citizens. These actions are deemed to be contrary to international law.
    The USA may choose to organize its forces to target Syria with stand off strikes, firing missiles from destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at Syrian bases.
    The USA may identify ‘no-fly zones’ and eliminate any hostile aircraft.
    It may want to render secure all chemical weapons sites in Syria. Of course, this objective assumes that the US forces know where these sites are. If so, they could easily set up ‘drone strikes’ as well as missile strikes. If not, the whole campaign would be a ‘military lottery’, leading to the death of many citizens, raising hostility against the US! And inviting intervention by Russia.
    Taking action against chemical weapons would lead to the imposition of sanctions against those countries that supply the chemicals to Syria. This could be problematic if the suppliers are companies from the USA, UK, EU, China, Russia – all countries about to meet at the G20 at the week end.
    The USA could organize action with the UN to protect refugees. At this time millions of Syrians are living in camps along the Syrian borders. US forces could set up buffer zones intended to protect the refugees. The buffer zones could be used as bases from which to take action against the Syrian government forces for the maltreatment of its population. The buffer zones would become targets for these forces and the death toll would rise.
    The resolution of situations in Syria is made more difficult as a result of the opposition of the peoples of the Western Allies to any form of direct military action. Having been embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, people do not want to start again in Syria. As a result the leaders of the allies have had to focus on strategies of non-intervention, and devise policies of conflict prevention.
    The latest development has been the request by President Obama to the House of Congress in Washington DC to debate and vote on the military action against Syria. If Congress follows the Houses of Parliament in Westminster and vetoes any such action, then the President will be seen to be following the will of the voters, a majority of which do not want to pursue more battles in the Middle East.
    It is clear, from the recent assertions by President Assad of Syria that if you are not with him, then you are against him. Negotiations are unacceptable to him as indicating support for al-Quaeda, and all other rebels.
    It seems to be coming clearer that the Alawite minority, led by President al Bashar, prefers that all potential enemies are displaced and made refugees in all neighbouring countries. If you are a member of a minority, numbering only 3 million out of 24 million, then it would seem to be to your advantage for as many of the majority communities to move out……say 6/7 million Sunnis.
    The movement of masses of people out of Syria seems to me to be sufficient justification for action to be taken to protect the refugees and provide maximum resources for humanitarian aid. Why not talk with the Syrian government and organize aid? And not waste money in bombs and weapons! All the G20 countries should work with the Red Crescent and the Red Cross to help all displaced people to gain water, food, medical help, sanitation, tents, shelter and protection and peace!


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