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Courage to Name It?

by Berry Friesen

(Oct. 10th update below)

It was only a few weeks ago—September 3rd—when we saw that photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf on a Turkish beach.

Since then, something historic has happened.  No, I don’t mean the half-million refugees who have entered Europe (though that is important), but Russia’s very public embarrassment of the empire.  By mounting a serious assault on the mercenaries fighting in Syria, Russia has revealed both what a joke the US attacks have been over the past year and how deeply invested the US-led empire is in terrorism.

For at least ten years now, the empire has been actively planning to replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with someone who would follow the imperial script.  (I’ve previously written about this here, here and here.) The United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, the United Kingdom and France have spent billions on this project. ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra (whatever name the mercenaries go by in their shifting alliances and name-changes) are the results of those investments.

Russia is causing it all to go up in smoke.

But more than Syria is at stake.  By exposing the fact that the empire wants to protect some of the head-chopping terrorists, Russia has undermined the narrative that has fueled the empire’s game plan ever since 9/11.  This not only threatens the strategic potential of those terrorist groups in the years ahead, but also weakens the legitimacy of the entire imperial agenda.  We—the taxpayers of the US, Canada, Australia and Europe—cannot avoid the fact that we are being scammed.

Moments of such unvarnished clarity do not come often.  As people of faith, we dare not waste them.  If we fail to name what we are seeing—a partnership between the empire and Sunni terrorism—then we become complicit in the cynicism that blesses this evil.

My point isn’t to celebrate what Russia is doing.  Rather, it is to draw our attention to what we have for too long denied:  the war on terror resembles a criminal extortion racket. The empire strengthens terrorism, uses terrorism and attacks terrorism—whatever suits its purposes at the moment—as a pretext for global domination.

Already, the mainstream media are trying to cover up this embarrassing fact.  Gone are the reports of atrocities committed by al-Qaeda’s various offshoots in Syria; now it’s all about the “rebels” fighting Assad and the power-hungry Russians targeting the more “moderate” elements.  References to Syrian “freedom fighters” will be next.

Why this duplicity?  If the empire is so evil, why doesn’t it simply use its unchallenged surveillance and military capabilities to do whatever it wants?  Because it craves legitimacy—the moral approval of the people it claims to serve.

Despite its overwhelming coercive power, the empire will not endure if the moral depravity of its violence is revealed.  This is the “judgment” brought into the world by Messiah Jesus, the light the darkness will never put out (John 3:19).  So the empire does what it can to retain our trust and moral support.  The empire calls it “strategic communications;” the Bible calls it deception.

Those of us who follow Jesus have a special responsibility at a time such as this.  It’s scary to name the empire's deception, I know.  But in Jesus we have seen a faith in YHWH that gave him (and gives us) uncommon courage.  Now is the time to exercise it.

Oct. 10th update:  The Pentagon announced October 9th that it will increase its direct support (including arms and air support) to established "rebel" groups in Syria that are willing to fight ISIS. This will strengthen the forces fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, lengthen the war and greatly increase the risk of a direct confrontation in Syria between Russia and the empire.

Under a plan developed by former CIA director David Petraeus, the CIA secretly trained 10,000 Islamic mercenaries to defeat the Syrian army and overthrow the elected government of Syria. Nearly all of these CIA-trained mercenaries ended up fighting in units associated with al-Qaeda.   Officially, the US government has until now kept its distance from these CIA-trained forces because of their links to terrorism.

Now, at the insistence of the CIA and in response to Russia's entry into the war at the invitation of the Syrian government, the veil has been lifted and the Obama Administration expects the American people to willingly go along with the repackaging of terrorists as "rebels." What this means, of course, is that the US has changed sides in the war on terror.  And that the suffering of the Syrian people is about to get even worse.