President Trump has stated his intent to withdraw US troops from Syria on several occasions since March 2018. Each time politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, supported by the corporate-controlled media, have, based on US imperial interests, vehemently challenged the withdrawal proposal. These folks also based their opposition to withdrawal on their supposed concerns for the Syrian Kurds. Unfortunately they have shown far less concern about the welfare of Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis, Afghanis and Palestinians among many other populations suffering terribly due in part to US actions.
It is a telling commentary that few of the so-called elite US political/military/media leaders have raised any concerns about the immorality and blatant illegality of US interventions in Syria and elsewhere. These elite act to advance their own interests and the short-term interests of the US empire, actions that are really counterproductive in the long term. They believe the US can violate international law with impunity since they view it as being the exceptional nation. How has our nation descended to this immoral level?
The US corporate media has played a major role in this descent as it keeps the US public ignorant or misinformed about foreign affairs. For example, few Americans understand that the US and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have long wanted to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad whom they viewed as an ally of Iran.
U.S. General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, said that when he was visiting the Pentagon a few weeks after 9/11 he was told of a plan to take out seven nations (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) over five years. The US failures in Iraq certainly changed the timetable.
This US goal regarding Syria was also openly discussed back in 2005 in an interview with President Assad by CNN host Christiane Amanpour. She said: “Mr. President, you know the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader. They’re granting visas and visits to Syrian opposition politicians. They’re talking about isolating your diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling. What are you thinking about that?”
In late March 2007 McClatchy News reported the George W. Bush administration had instituted a campaign months earlier to isolate and embarrass Assad. Some officials feared that the campaign’s goal was to destabilize Syria and possibly to overthrow the Syrian leader.
In 2011 the Washington Post reported that WikiLeaks provided US State Department cables showing US funding began as early as 2006 for forces inside and outside Syria working to oust Assad. The funding was allocated for this work until at least through September 2010. Clearly the US was hardly an innocent bystander, but was meddling in the internal affairs of another nation, something that it condemns when another country is even rumored to do it here.
As stated above, the US was not alone in its desire to oust Assad. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel also wanted to seen Assad gone for their own reasons. In particular, Qatar was angry was Assad’s 2009 rejection of a pipeline from Qatar reaching to the Mediterranean via Syria. The US also saw that this pipeline and Qatari gas could be used to lessen European reliance on Russian natural gas and thus weaken Russia.
A dissolution of Syria would also fit well with the Israeli goal (the Yinon Plan) of breaking up surrounding Arab nations into smaller states that don’t present any challenge to Israel’s goal of regional hegemony.
Besides military means, the US has used groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Syria and elsewhere (e.g., Ukraine and Venezuela). For those not familiar with NED, in 1991 NED’s first president, Allen Weinstein, said: “a lot of what we’ve do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”.
More detail about NED was provided by Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld who remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas: “Since , the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of ‘democracy’ – actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics – in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly ‘authoritarian’ governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies.”
During its war crimes in the Middle East, including the illegal effort to oust the Assad government, the US has shown little to no concern about the welfare of the Arab populations who have suffered incredibly. In addition, the fighting has devastated Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria as well as the hopes for a decent life for their populations.
It’s past time for the US elite to renounce US imperialism with its immorality, crimes against humanity, killing and destruction and to pay reparations to its victims. The US must also stop being a rogue state and join the community of nations.
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics, having taught at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. Since his retirement in 1991, he has been an activist for peace and social justice.