A recent report in the London Telegraph is emblematic of the lies Washington tells, and the means by which they give these lies circulation:
“Despite mounting fury from the Syrian rebels, who are seeking assistance for their efforts to overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the White House has refused all requests for heavy weapons and intelligence support.
“Syrian lobby groups in Washington, who only a few weeks ago were expressing hope that the Obama administration might give a green light to the supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, said they had now been forced to “take a reality pill” by the US government.
“The Telegraph understands that the Syrian Support Group (SSG), the political wing of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), recently presented American officials with a document requesting 1,000 RPG-29 anti-tank missiles, 500 SAM-7 rockets, 750 23mm machine guns as well as body armor and secure satellite phones. They also asked for $6m to pay rebel fighters as they battle the regime. All their requests were rejected.
“’Basically the message is very clear; nothing is going to happen until after the election, in fact nothing will happen until after inauguration [Jan 2013]. And that is the same message coming from everyone, including the Turks and the Qataris,’ said a Washington lobbyist for the group.”
Let’s unpack this one: To being with, the US is already arming the rebels, the Telegraph to the contrary notwithstanding. As the Washington Post recently reported:
“We are increasing our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, and we continue to coordinate our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing,” said a senior State Department official, one of several U.S. and foreign government officials who discussed the evolving effort on the condition of anonymity.
“The U.S. contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable.”
See here, here, and here for similar reports. The official definition of “nonlethal aid” is something I’m waiting to learn of — State Department officials refused to answer when I called and asked — but it’s a moot point, since we’re “coordinating” with Qatar and the Saudis, who have no qualms about degrees of lethality.
Yes, I know, you’re shocked — shocked! — the US government is lying through its rather sharp teeth: why, it’s absolutely unprecedented!
Yet that isn’t the most telling aspect of the Telegraph piece: after all, the rebels are getting their arms from somewhere, and reports that they control more territory than anyone thought indicate arms shipments — whatever their origins — have been substantial and the pace is picking up. While the US may be taking pains to make sure their fingerprints won’t be found on the weapons flowing into the hands of Syria’s rebel army, with its links to Al Qaeda, the governments of our Gulf allies are less fastidious about such matters.
Everybody knows the US is backing the rebels to the hilt: they might as well rename themselves Hillary’s Hellions. No, what’s significant here is the floating of the ridiculous idea the Obamaites are afraid of the political consequences of arming the rebels, and openly intervening, because this is a presidential election year.
The assumption is that Obama and the Democrats will have to pay a political price for intervening in Syria’s civil war — but to whom will the price be paid? Republican hawks, led by John McCain and Lindsay Graham, are harrying the administration for not intervening more strenuously and openly, while Mitt Romney — while not yet calling for airstrikes, per McCain and Graham — criticizes the White House’s “paralysis” and calls for openly arming the rebels, rather than doing it under the table.
As for the prospect of Obama alienating some of his supporters on the left-wing of the Democratic party: this didn’t happen when it came to Libya, and I doubt intervening in Syria would deflate the President’s enormous credibility in those quarters, where identity politics long ago displaced anti-imperialism as an ideological priority. “Humanitarian” interventionism is today the default foreign policy agenda of the liberal-left, with only old-fashioned Marxists dissenting.
This presidential election season will not differ from any others in recent history when it comes to foreign policy issues. As Garet Garret, a conservative journalist of libertarian leanings, put it in 1952:
“Between government in the republican meaning, that is, Constitutional, representative, limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other hand, there is mortal enmity. Either one must forbid the other or one will destroy the other. That we know. Yet never has the choice been put to a vote of the people.”
While there are some in both parties who question some aspects of our globalist foreign policy, the interventionists control the leadership. Indeed, that is one of the main benefits of having two state-privileged parties and draconian ballot access laws that exclude all others — it’s far easier to establish and maintain a stranglehold on just two parties than on multiple competitors in the electoral arena.
I’ve often referred to the “burden of empire” in this space, and this is usually calculated in terms of the cost in blood and treasure. But get a load of what Abdulbaset Sieda, who heads up the Syrian National Council, has to say:
“We want for America and the Western countries to carry out their responsibilities. With regard to America, specifically, we would like to say to President Obama that waiting for election day to make the right decision on Syria is unacceptable for the Syrians.
“We cannot understand that a superpower ignores the killing of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians because of an election campaign that a president may win or lose. That’s why we are saying there is work that must take place at the Security Council.”
Americans have no right to think of themselves: this is “unacceptable for the Syrians.” As for what the American people think — well, they don’t matter. The US and its allies must “carry out their responsibilities.”
Responsibility — to whom, and for what? The implication is clear enough: we must bear moral responsibility for anything that happens anywhere on earth. The burden of empire is not just material, it is also ethical — a “responsibility to protect,” as the lefty-internationalist apologists for the Libyan debacle would have it. Lost in all this, of course, is the US government’s responsibility to protect the people of their own country, whose interests — and very lives — are needlessly endangered by our reckless foreign policy.
Floating a story about how the administration is resisting increasing pressure to intervene in Syria is a good way to deflect attention from what they are in fact doing right at this moment to overthrow a foreign government. That they are mounting this increasingly overt effort to benefit a movement with clear connections to our supposed Enemy Number One, Al Qaeda, may rile some conservatives, but probably not enough to the point of making a big deal about it. So Senor Sieda needn’t worry: thanks to our “democratic” system, this administration will pay no political price for meddling in the Syrian mess. If the rebels did indeed present the administration with a wish list of weapons, and it isn’t being delivered in a timely manner — well, pieces like the Telegraph story may speed up the process.
One interesting aspect of the Telegraph piece is that it cites at least three separate anonymous “Syrian lobbyists” as saying this and that, but one wonders: who is paying all these lobbyists? And how much money is changing hands in Washington in the effort to push us into war? The Obama reelection campaign’s decision to “globalize” their fundraising efforts puts the question front and center: will foreign interests — the Saudis, the Qataris, the Israelis — buy themselves another Mideast war? Sure, only American citizens can donate to our election campaigns, but it is easy to enough to get around these restrictions by utilizing American stand-ins and indirect payments to nonprofit “advocacy” groups.
If war with Iran would mean a regional or even a new world war — World War III — then Syria is a 21st century version of the Spanish civil war. The Spanish conflict was a dress rehearsal for the main event, in the course of which various “militias” fought one another for control of the Spanish Republic, while the Axis-backed forces of Gen. Francisco Franco and his Falangist party eventually prevailed. There were those in this country who wanted to support the Loyalists, as supporters of the pro-Communist Spanish Republican government were called, but in that event we might very well have wound up with Spain behind the Iron Curtain after the end of World War II. Likewise, in Syria today, in our effort to ally with radical Sunnis in a holy war against Shi’ite Iran, we risk handing power to those who would be more than happy to bite off the hand that fed them.