Syria: Beyond the Myths and Half-Truths! THE DEADLY SINS OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY . . .
Posted on April 23rd, 2017

“The American myth is of free will in its simple, primary sense. One can choose oneself and will oneself, and this absurdly optimistic assumption so dominates the republic that it has bred all its gross social injustices.”– John Fowles, Daniel Martin, 1977.

For a man well known as much for his tenuous link with the truth – as for his own admitted life-long proclivity for ‘pussy-grabbing’ at will – Donald Trump’s response to Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s observation that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ‘a killer’ was so disarmingly truthful it left O’Reilly feigning total ignorance “of any government leaders that are killers”.

For once, it seems, Trump told it like it is when he countered: “We’ve got a lot of killers,” in response to O’Reilly’s claim. “What do you think . . . you think our country’s so innocent?”

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That just about sums up in short order the reality about American foreign policy as well. To be sure, what Trump said certainly falls into the category of ‘a well-known secret’.

Author Ron Jacobs noted that “wars against terrorism and the terrorism of war leap from newspaper pages and the screens of computer devices. Television talking heads put forth their version of events; versions mostly dependent on the corporate and financial masters they serve. Truth is lies and lies are truth.

Most recently, wrote Jacobs, bloody attacks on civilians by US forces in Iraq and Syria have been dismissed by most western media as mistakes while an equally bloody attack on Al-Qaeda linked forces in the Idlib province of Syria resulting in several dozen deaths from some kind of poison gas has been used as a rationale by President Donald Trump to order the Pentagon to launch fifty million dollars worth of missiles at a Syrian air base.

“In other words, despite the lack of objective non-partisan evidence, the US used this bloody incident as a rationale to attack a Syrian military base, aware that such an attack could lead to a longer and even deadlier war. It is another case where the truth might well get in the way of US dreams of hegemony; two other such examples include the fabricated ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ incident that led to the long and bloody Vietnam War and the deliberate falsification of WMD evidence that ultimately led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

When considering this latter sentiment and the positions of those who endorse it, one has to question why they are so intent on removing Assad and his government, noted Jacobs. “A new book by Stephen Gowans does a good and thorough job providing answers to this question. Given the current perception of Syria’s President Assad as the reincarnation of the devil and Saddam Hussein (a perception based on the actions of his military in the current conflict and fanned by western media), reading this book with an open mind may be out of the question for many people. However, its contents provide a historic and political context to the murderous war currently destroying the nation of Syria.”

Titled Washington’s Long War on Syria, Gowans’ text begins with the observation that the conflict between Damascus and the West (led by Washington) did not begin in 2011 with the events known as the Arab Spring. “That history began decades earlier with the creation of the Ba’ath parties in Iraq and Syria: their nationalization of industry and oil, their wealth re-distribution and modernization efforts and their demand for a political system based on politics and Arabism, not religion, tribe, or ethnicity. Furthermore, Gowans points out how Washington tried to exacerbate those differences. The point, as the current situation in Iraq makes crystal clear, was to divide and conquer.”

In the chapter titled ‘Regime Change’, Gowans notes Palestinian scholar Edward Said’s 2003 comment that the US would not stop its intervention in the Middle East until the entire Arab World was ruled by pro-American regimes, then details a little known anecdote about US attempts under President Eisenhower to assassinate communist and Ba’athist politicians in the Syrian government. The person assigned to carry out this plan was none other than Kermit Roosevelt, one of the masterminds behind the US-orchestrated overthrow of Iranian President Mossadegh and his replacement with the US client Shah Pahlavi in 1953.

Roosevelt’s plan was eerily similar to the events which unfolded in 2011 in Syria, noted Gowans, adding: “Although the plan fell through, there is a reason US citizens are not aware of this history. If they did know, it is perhaps less likely that they would support their government in its interventions in Syria and elsewhere around the world.”

The reasons the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are opposed to the Baathists lies primarily in their opposition to the party’s secularism. When the Syrian regime tried to change the requirement that the Syrian President had to be Muslim, the Brotherhood rioted for days.

In the aftermath of those riots, no reconciliation ever occurred. In addition, the fact that the Assad government has been perceived as primarily Alawite (whom fundamental Sunni Muslims consider to be heretics) is another reason the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups are opposed to the Ba’ath regime. Naturally, the US and other western governments, intent on weakening Ba’ath rule, have attempted to use these differences to their advantage.

Gowans provides a reasoned, at times quite partisan, defense of the pan-Arabism project that once represented the hopes of millions across the Middle East. As his history tells it, it was a project founded on principles that included anti-imperialism, the ownership of the region’s resources by the people of the region and the fair distribution of those resources amongst all the people, and a secular approach in the realm of politics.

As Gowans also points out, the desires embodied in this project were counter to the designs of Washington and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. Consequently, it was doomed to be in the bombsights of those governments almost since it began.

When President Barack Obama demanded formally in the summer of 2011 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, it was not the first time Washington had sought regime change in Damascus. The United States had waged a long war against Syria from the very moment the country’s fiercely independent Arab nationalist movement – of which Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad were committed devotees – came to power in 1963.

Syria remains the only nation left of the original nations that made up the pan-Arabist project. This explains why the Syrians who support Assad’s defense of his regime against Islamist and imperial enemies are so adamant in that defense. They know that if he loses, their fate will be as bad, if not worse than that endured by the people of Egypt and Iraq.

Washington had waged long wars on the leaders of the Arab nationalist movement – Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Syria’s Assads, often allying with particularly violent forms of political Islam to undermine its Arab nationalist foes.

Washington’s Long War on Syria not only provides a counter-narrative to the popular western version of the Syrian protests, but more importantly, a history and discussion of western intervention rarely heard in western media. If there is only one lesson learned from reading this book, it is that Washington decided decades ago that its plans for Pax Americana would be better served if the government in Syria was one that did its bidding. Once that decision was made, Damascus would be the seat of a government with a target on its back.

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