The Empire at Work

by Berry Friesen (September 20, 2016)

The war in Syria, now well into its sixth year, has brought death, injury and displacement to millions of Syrians.  It has been waged since the very beginning by mercenaries trained and/or equipped by a US-led coalition that wants to carve up Syrian territory and overthrow the legitimate government.

You thought Iraq and Libya were horrible?  Syria is worse.

Recent events there provide yet a deeper look into this mechanism of evil. Here are the highlights.

1. During early September, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov negotiated a multi-stage “cessation of hostilities” agreement to prepare the way for an end to the war.  The first stage began September 12.  It called for a week-by-week ceasefire between Russia’s ally (Syria) and the US ally (“moderate” rebels trying to overthrow the Syrian government).  It also made provisions for humanitarian relief and required “moderate” rebels to separate themselves from terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda that have invaded Syria.

2. The Syrian army complied with the ceasefire; the “moderate” rebels continued to attack Syrian government positions and remained embedded in al-Qaeda held areas alongside al-Qaeda fighters.  Some humanitarian aid was delivered, but not nearly enough.

3. Throughout the week of September 12, US military leaders criticized the cessation of hostilities agreement and expressed doubt about complying with the second stage of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, which requires US-Russia cooperation in targeting and attacking al-Qaeda and Da’esh (Islamic State).

4. On September 17, US-led fighter planes based in Iraq attacked Syrian army forces defending the Deir Ezzor airbase in eastern Syria from a siege by Da’esh.  Nearly 100 government troops were killed and many more were wounded.  Within ten minutes of the US-led air attack, Da’esh fighters attacked and routed Syrian government positions.  As a result of this incident, the city of Deir Ezzor (civilian population of 150,000) is in grave danger of being overrun by Da’esh.

5.  US officials have claimed the attack on Syrian forces was a mistake, but the facts suggest otherwise.  The attack focused on a strategic position the regular Syrian army had held constantly for months, usually under drone surveillance.  Though Da’esh forces were all around, US air power had not been deployed against those forces for two years. Under such circumstances, it is simply not credible to call the attack a mistake, especially not during a ceasefire agreement in which the US had agreed to coordinate with Russia all efforts against Da’esh.  Rather, it appears the attack was designed to force Syrian forces out of another eastern Syrian city, thereby clearing the way for the further carving up of Syria and a Salafist entity in the east.  See this MoonofAlabama commentary for more. (Sept. 21 addition:  see also "Attack on Aid Convoy" by Felicity Arbuthnot.)

6.  On September 19, the Syrian government announced it would not extend the ceasefire beyond the initial week because rebel fighters had not complied with their side of the agreement.

7.  Also on September 19, a convoy of trucks reportedly carrying humanitarian assistance was destroyed in in al-Qaeda-controlled territory.   Western media widely reported that the convoy had been destroyed by an air attack and blamed Syria and Russia. Russian officials have denied the accusation, noting that while the destroyed convoy showed ample evidence of fire, there was little evidence of an air attack.  Though the details remain murky, there is a substantial possibility the entire incident was contrived to rally Western opinion against Syria and its Russian ally.

What are we to make of all of this?

First, the Obama-Kerry attempt to phase down the war against Syria has failed.  The war will continue into the administration of Clinton or Trump.  If Clinton is elected, she will escalate imperial attacks on Syria and heighten the chances of hostilities between the empire and Russia. If the inexperienced Trump is elected, Pentagon and CIA leaders are still likely to have their way, especially given Trump’s inexperience and belligerence.

Second, President Obama has lost control of the military and CIA, each of which actively sabotaged the Kerry-Lavrov agreement and refused to follow Obama’s direction. For more on this, see Mike Whitney’s “Rogue Mission.”  (Sept. 21 addition:  see also "Was It Mutiny?" by Glen Ford.)

Third, within Western news coverage, there is not a word about how the empire is attempting to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria by equipping and training mercenaries to fight with al-Qaeda or Da’esh.  There is not a word about how US officials are resisting Russian overtures to cooperate in defeating al-Qaeda and Da’esh.  There is not a word about how the Syrian government provides protection and support for the millions of Syrian people internally displaced because of the violence of jihadist fighters. What we hear instead are reports designed to demonize the Syrian government and demonstrate the empire’s great humanitarian concern.

This is how international aggression and brutality is laundered and made morally acceptable to the Western public.  For more, see Finian Cunningham’s “Why US Had to Kill the Syrian Ceasefire.”

When we watch television news, listen to National Public Radio or read the headlines on our little screens, the empire’s propaganda engages us with a proposed transaction: give me your credulity and trust in exchange for a tale of humanitarian concern and justice.   Because we Americans naturally want to think of ourselves as good people, many of us eagerly accept the empire’s proposal.

But it’s the devil’s bargain.  Haven’t we seen enough to know that by now?