Disastrous policies often raise the question of whether the policy makers at fault are stupid or evil. The scales tips toward malevolence whenever the guilty parties evince a basic grasp of the reasons why their schemes are calamitous.
For example, Washington’s Syria policy has been a slow motion train wreck. And the “train engineers” keep barreling down the same collision-course track, full steam ahead. Yet they see quite clearly what they are crashing into and why; they have betrayed as much time and again for years.
Hillary Clinton pushed for escalation in Syria as Secretary of State. Yet in February 2012, when a CBS reporter pushed her for not escalating fast enough, she argued:
“We know al Qaeda [leader Ayman al-] Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al Qaeda in Syria? (…) If you’re a military planner or if you’re a secretary of state and you’re trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable: we don’t see that.”
A month later, President Barack Obama told a neocon who was similarly impatient:
“When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict — the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”
And in June of 2012, Obama scolded yet another hawk at CBS News:
“When you get farmers, dentists, and folks who have never fought before going up against a ruthless opposition in Assad, the notion that they were in a position to suddenly overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy. And I think it’s very important for the American people — but maybe more importantly, Washington and the press corps — to understand that.”
Then in September, Obama tried to assure libertarian journalist Ben Swann that:
“We’re not going to just dive in and get involved with a civil war that in fact involves some elements of people who are genuinely trying to get a better life but also involve some folks who would over the long term do the United States harm.”
While dropping these little gems of anti-interventionist wisdom, the actual Syria policy the administration simultaneously pursued flew directly in the face of them. Billions of tax dollars were spent on training, weapons, and materiel for an opposition whose “moderate” component both Obama and Clinton admitted were non-viable. And most of that spending ended up greatly benefiting the “ruthless, highly trained jihadists” “who would over the long term do the United States harm” that both Obama and Clinton warned about.
One group of these jihadists became so strong that, in June of 2014 it added northwestern Iraq to its Syrian conquests and named itself the Islamic State.
Even that highly specific horrible outcome was foreseen in the imperial halls of power. This was revealed by the recent release of a 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report that had widely circulated in the upper echelons of foreign policy.
The report recognized that extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS were, “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” And it predicted that supporting the Syrian insurgency would create “the ideal atmosphere” for the group now known as the Islamic State or ISIS “to return to its old pockets” in Sunni Iraq which would present “the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality” in the region. The report added that:
“…this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
Even after the projected “Salafist Principality” was realized in ISIS’s declaration of a “Caliphate” (which Obama then declared war on), the administration has continued to this day its mad support for the extremist-dominated Syrian insurgency. Yet administration officials also continued to spell out exactly why such a policy was insane.
In October 2014, Vice President Joseph Biden said:
“The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was — there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers …
And what my constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies — our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Recently the bloody, intractable US-perpetuated war has drawn in Russia, which, in support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, has begun a bombing campaign against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the CIA-trained jihadists fighting alongside them.
Rather than withdraw while Russia kills avowed enemies of America, Washington has responded by increasing its support for the extremist-dominated insurgency. The administration has also again rediscovered its own arsenal of anti-interventionist arguments which it is now hypocritically deploying against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.
Obama lectured Putin that the Syria crisis cannot be solved by “a military solution alone.” This comes from an administration which refrained from bombing the Syrian regime only after begrudgingly accepting a diplomatic arrangement proposed by Putin, and which has stubbornly insisted on the non-starter of “Assad must go” as a necessary condition for any peace deal. “We’re willing to negotiate! Just step into this prison cell in the Hague first, and then we can talk.”
In fact, there was even a time when “Assad must go” was not a non-starter for Moscow, and that still was not good enough for Washington. It has recently been revealed that Russia proposed that Assad could step down as part of a peace deal way back in February 2012 (the same time that Hillary was pretending to oppose an alliance with al-Qaeda).
But the US, Britain, and France were so confident that Assad was on the brink of being overthrown militarily, that they ignored the offer, holding out instead for an untrammeled “victor’s peace.” This belligerent intransigence condemned millions of Syrians to homelessness and hundreds of thousands to the grave.
What was that again about pig-headed reliance on “military solutions alone,” President Obama?
A joint statement from the US, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Britain also condemned Russia’s intervention, warning that:
“These actions constitute a further military escalation and will only fuel more extremism and further radicalization.”
This is hilarious, coming from the Western powers which abetted the rise of ISIS and other extremist groups by supporting jihadist groups in Syria and Libya and by submerging much of the Muslim world in war and chaos. It is doubly hilarious coming from Turkey and Qatar, which have aided the most radical groups even more directly.
And it is triply hilarious coming from Saudi Arabia which itself is an extremist, despotic theocracy that beheads apostates, crucifies protesters, pours billions of petrodollars into the global dissemination of radical Islam, is now waging a sectarian war on a desperately poor neighboring country, and has spearheaded the coalition to fund and foment jihad against Shiite powers since 2007. More than 50 Saudi clerics responded to the Russian intervention by calling for an international jihad against Russia and any other allies of Syria’s secular government.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter warned Russia against intervention:
“Because it will only inflame, I’ve used the phrase ‘pour gasoline’ on the civil war of Syria.”
Again, this is precisely what US intervention has done to Syria, as well as much of the rest of the Muslim world from Mali to Pakistan for over a decade.
And establishment mouthpiece Politico reported that:
“U.S. intelligence officials warn that Russia’s military intervention in Syria has stirred the wrath of Islamic radicals who may retaliate by staging terrorist attacks inside Russia…
‘There are very public calls on social media by terrorist groups to attack Russian targets,’ said Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. ‘It could very well result in a renewed focus on attacks in the Russian homeland.’”
As Chris Rossini pointed out, this threat of “blowback” is precisely what Ron Paul has been trying to warn America about his entire career. In 2007, he characterized the 9/11 attacks as blowback from our foreign interventions in a famous exchange with Rudy Giuliani. Millions of decent Americans were swayed by Dr. Paul, but the power elite in Washington remained oblivious. So the American Colossus has continued to swagger and stagger from one interventionist disaster to the next, making enemies of the American people with every blundering step.
Lt. Gen. Bob Otto of the US Air Force also offered Russia a blowback warning, and flavored his with crocodile tears over civilian casualties:
“We believe if you inadvertently kill innocent men, women and children, then there’s a backlash from that. We might kill three and create 10 terrorists. It really goes back to the question of are we killing more than were making?”
This warning by a US Air Force official came mere days after US/NATO planes bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing several “innocent men, women and children” for the sake of getting at Taliban terrorists purportedly hiding within.
If entertainment-addled Americans need a frame of reference, they might think of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. In that film, the tyrannical “Capitol” bombed a hospital to try to kill visiting “terrorist” rebels, including Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the rebel movement. The rebel leaders then exploited outrage over the hospital massacre to whip up even more support for the anti-Capitol insurgency. Don’t be surprised if the Taliban is similarly able to exploit the Kunduz bombing to drive up support and membership.
And to understand the extent to which our own government is perpetrating terrorism in the name of fighting it, recall that in The Dark Knight, the horrifying apex of the Joker’s campaign of terrorism on Gotham City was also the bombing of a hospital. The main difference is that the Joker at least gave warning and only blew up the hospital after it was evacuated. Unfortunately for Doctors Without Borders and their patients, they fell prey to an even more ruthless villain.
General Otto’s warning also came mere days before The Intercept reported on a classified leak that, among other revelations, disclosed that 90 percent of the victims of recent American drone strikes in Afghanistan “were not the intended targets” of the attacks.
Permission to speak, Lt. Gen. Otto, sir: how many terrorists do you think were created by the 90 “collateral” murders committed with your drones for every 10 “terrorists” killed?
For another Hollywood reference aid, consider the 1984 movie The Terminator. In the future world of that film, the human resistance against the world-conquering artificial intelligence called Skynet lived under skies infested with drones called “Hunter-Killers.” Perhaps to avoid a copyright lawsuit, USAF and the CIA have instead opted for the synonym “Predator” for their own aerial robotic assassins (at the risk of running afoul of yet another Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the 80s).
The humans resisting Skynet—like the humans today resisting the US empire in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia—were hunted from the sky by clockwork killers that could rarely be reached with weapons, and that could never be reached with entreaties. In the movie, the resistance responded by desperately striking at the ultimate source of their terminating tormentors. If that element of the story concerning human motivation seems plausible to you, don’t be surprised if victims of the American drone wars similarly lash out against the homelands of the Western powers that are sending the drones.
But of all the finger waggers, President Obama packed the most hypocrisy into a single sentence when he solemnly intoned that:
“…an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population, is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.”
Mr. President, do you mean like how your administration along with Iran are propping up the hyper-sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad (along with its head-drilling paramilitary death squads) that has been trying so brutally and ineptly to pacify the Sunni population of Iraq that they were driven into the arms of ISIS?
Or, Mr. President, do you mean like how your administration is propping up the kleptocracy of warlords and child rapists ruling Afghanistan that has been trying so brutally and ineptly to pacify the Pashtun population that they are being driven back into the arms of the Taliban?
And by “stuck in a quagmire,” do you mean like how you just reneged on your campaign promise to withdraw from Afghanistan? How you have condemned 10,000 American sons and fathers to continue beyond your own presidency to occupy the country historically known as “the Graveyard of Empires” in what is already the longest war in American history?
By “stuck in a quagmire,” are you implicitly threatening to swamp Putin’s Russia by continuing to flood the Syrian quagmire with jihadists, in the same way that Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Saudi Arabia swamped Soviet Russia by flooding the Afghan quagmire with jihadists in the 70s and 80s? You might be thinking of how Brzezinski bragged that:
“The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
If that is the line of your thinking, Mr. President, you should also consider the following.
When asked in 1998 whether he regretted having “given arms and advice to future terrorists,” Brzezinski dismissed concern over “some stirred up Moslems” as inconsequential compared to the geo-strategic gains thus achieved.
Well three years after that interview, followers of one veteran of the US-fomented Afghan jihad named Osama bin Laden killed upward of 3,000 Americans.
And weeks after that, the 9/11 attacks drew America into its own Afghan quagmire in a war that rages to this day against the Taliban, which was itself founded by “stirred up Moslems” from Brzezinski’s Afghan quagmire for Russia.
And another two years later, that was followed up by an invasion and occupation of Iraq. Amid the chaos of that war, still another recruit of Brzezinski’s Afghan jihad named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi arose as a leader of the Sunni-based insurgency. Fed by war, Zarqawi’s formerly two-bit terrorist outfit grew into al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually split off into the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda branch now leading the US-backed insurgency in Syria) and ISIS (the terrorist organization that has established an Islamic Caliphate over eastern Syria and western Iraq).
As William Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth:
“That we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor.”
Time and again the US empire’s “bloody instructions” in the Afghan jihad have “returned to plague the inventor” and the inventor’s subjects. Mr. President, don’t be surprised when your own “bloody instructions” in Syria similarly blow back in American faces.
From presidents to cabinet members to congressmen to spies to military officers to neocon scribblers, hawks throughout the war machine can sound like doves when it serves them. To paraphrase Prince, this is what is sounds like when hawks coo.
Hawks can express the dangers of blowback as well as Ron Paul. They can lambaste and lampoon the folly of siding with jihadist insurgents as well as Justin Raimondo.
They can even predict as well as Scott Horton the particular shape of the blowback from siding with jihadists. (The year after the DIA’s prediction of a“Safalist Principality” bestriding Syria and Iraq, and a year before it came true with ISIS’s declaration of a Caliphate, Horton similarly forecasted ISIS establishing in that same territory “Osama bin Laden’s ridiculous Islamofascist caliphate in real life.”)
If some warmongers weren’t so busy starting and perpetuating wars, they could moonlight as columnists for Antiwar.com. (Sorry guys, but it’s entirely a labor of love. If you want to stay rich, you’d better stick with Lockheed and Sheldon Adelson.)
The ready ability of foreign policy makers to mouth anti-war arguments when it suits them confirms, if it wasn’t already blindingly obvious, that it is far more than mere stupidity and incompetence behind the bloody conflicts and manmade disasters that wrack and are wrecking our world. Some deadly serious evil is afoot too.
And that realization has an important upshot: namely, that proponents of peace should not waste our precious time and effort petitioning our overlords and warlords with reasoned arguments and moral suasion (except facetiously as I do above). Such pleas will fall on deaf ears, closed minds, and stone hearts.
Instead, we should reserve appeals to prudence and justice for our fellow subjects. When enough hearts not corrupted—and minds not clouded—by government power are swayed, then we can all join together, not to argue, but to loudly demand that the wars must end and the empire must be abolished NOW.
Together we can show them that the voices of genuine doves can do far more than just coo.
Also published at Medium.com and DanSanchez.me.
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- The US Government’s Not-So-Secret Support for al-Qaeda and ISIS
- Flytrap to Breeding Ground: How America’s wars produced a terrorist infestation
- Mass-Producing Huddled Masses: Refugees from the Footfall of the American Colossus
- Playing with Fanatic Fire: How the Saudis (and the U.S.) have Perilously Exploited Radical Islam in their Pursuit of Power
- Frankensteinian Hubris: Bush’s “Redirection” and the Rise of ISIS
- Where Does ISIS Get Those Wonderful Toys?: From Uncle Sam, the Bruce Wayne of Jihad, and his Cronies
- The Real Head-Drilling “Butchers” of Iraq: Were not Chris Kyle’s Archenemies, but his Beneficiaries