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Willful Blindness

by Berry Friesen (October 18, 2015)

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit . . . you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-20).

Nearly every American Christian is familiar with these words from Jesus, but few apply them to the affairs of nations.  Why bother?  We confidently assume the USA is generally a bearer of good fruit.

Along with others whose knowledge far exceeds mine, I expected this assumption to change with Russia’s entry into the war in Syria.  After only a few weeks, Russia’s air attacks have significantly weakened ISIS. The US-led alliance has been bombing targets in Syria for over a year, but until Russia’s got involved, ISIS inexplicably grew ever stronger.

In a similar vein, both the US and Russia claim to oppose terrorism.  But in Syria, the US–led coalition has for several years been arming and training fighters that almost always (and thus predictably) ended up joining al-Qaeda.  Over the strenuous objections of the US government, Russia is attacking al-Qaeda's forces in the same way that it attacks ISIS.

Thus, the pretense and fraud of the US-led effort has become plain to see.

Yet most American Christians are simply averting their eyes.  The thought that the US-led alliance fueled the mercenary invasion of Syria and then used that invasion as an excuse to intervene militarily is simply too awful to contemplate.  After all, 250,000 people have died in Syria as a result of this war; eleven million have been displaced.

Piously changing the subject has become the favorite way to rationalize this willful blindness.  Thus, Russia is accused of “prolonging the war” by supporting the legitimate government of Syria.

Without doubt, Russia‘s intervention will prolong the Syrian government’s capacity to defend itself. On September 30, when Russia entered the war, the US-led coalition was poised to establish a no-fly zone in Syria that would have taken the Syrian air force out of the fight.  The end of Syria as we know it would have followed soon after.

Forgotten in such an analysis is what the mercenaries would do next, after defeating the Syrian government. The mercenaries come from many places: North Africa, Russia, Turkey, Europe, all across Central Asia, western China, the Gulf States. After destroying Syria, they will move on to other targets, most likely selected by the empire, which has inexhaustible resources to pay for such services.

Obviously, Russia must worry about this, even if people living on the other side of an ocean do not.

American Christians are hearing much these days about Syrian refugees. We are exhorted to open our communities to them, reflect on their plight and welcome them with a spirit of compassion.  This is described as doing our share.

But last weekend, F-16 fighter jets of the US-led alliance reportedly attacked and destroyed power stations fifteen miles east of Aleppo. Those stations were part of a grid that powered the water system serving Aleppo and the surrounding area, lifting water out of the Euphrates River, purifying it and then distributing it throughout the municipal system.  As a result of this attack, the residents of Aleppo and the surrounding area lost access to clean water.

Such an attack on the civilian infrastructure of a beleaguered city filled with displaced people is a war crime.

Then today (October 18), F-16 fighter jets of the US-led alliance again reportedly attacked a power plant, this time the facility that provides electricity to Aleppo city.  An estimated two-to-three million Syrians lost access to what little electrical power they had as a result of this second attack..

Such attacks serve no military purpose. But they are likely to force hundreds of thousands of Syrians sheltering in Aleppo to flee the city and become refugees.

What should peace-loving American Christians who care about refugees do?

We simply must admit Russia is not the problem.  The US-led alliance is responsible for the grinding war in Syria, just as it is responsible for the wars in Iraq, Libya and Yemen. These wars are just the beginning; more will follow because this is the way the empire destabilizes and defeats those who try to follow an independent path. Indeed, the shock troops for the coming wars have already been trained, armed and battle-hardened in Syria.

In short, if American Christians want the death and carnage to end quickly, we must publicly oppose the evil within our own government, not Russia’s.