The drums of war: an ordinary person’s view
From Prue Plumridge
Yesterday was a tense one not only for our MPs but also for a nation aghast at the prospect of yet another disastrous intervention. The people, it would seem, have spoken and we have for the moment pulled back from the brink. Ed Miliband along with rebel Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have stalled the process until such time as clear evidence is received that Assad and not the rebels are culpable. This is indeed good news. However, although I have no claim to be an expert in these matters of international politics, it is clear from all that I have read that we would be making a serious mistake in getting embroiled at any time in the future.
Justification for bombing Syria has been along the lines of it being an act of humanity to prevent further suffering. Assad and his government have crossed that so called ‘red line’. I have seen many calls over the last few days for intervention based purely on an emotional response to the pain and suffering of others and, of course, quite rightly most people are shocked at such disrespect for life. However I would argue that we should recognise our emotional response, then take a step back and give some thought to what the likely consequences would be before we embark as Robert Fisk says on ‘ the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world’.
I suggest that attacking Syria may well prove even more dangerous and light an already smouldering tinder box. Such action would, in my opinion, further destabilise the Middle East and cause the deaths of many more thousands of people both within Syria’s borders and quite possibly outside too. Just imagine how, as Robert Fisk comments ‘we will be attacking Shia Muslims and their allies to the handclapping of Sunni Muslims’ and whilst we anguish about Syria we neglect to speak about how Palestine is slowly but surely being swallowed up by Israel and its illegal settlements and the rights of a people are being quashed. Egypt is in destabilising turmoil and Jordan is being overwhelmed by thousands of displaced Palestinians. Do we really want at this juncture to add more logs to the fire?
Are we prepared for a repeat of the disastrous interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq which have not become the nice little law abiding, malleable democracies our governments sought (if that, indeed, was what they really wanted)? Our disgraceful involvement on the basis of a lie has simply made the problems worse and led to many thousands of unnecessary deaths both of citizens and soldiers. This year in July over 1000 deaths (the highest in years) were reported in Iraq which is slowly fragmenting along religious/political lines. In Afghanistan the US props up Karzai’s Mafia corrupt government which has stolen much of the US tax payer funded money which has been poured in. A country where occupation forces have bombed and killed thousands of innocent civilians, where 8.4 million Afghans suffer from chronic food insecurity and starvation and where tens of thousands of civilians ‘ have died from displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war’ 1whilst western contractors working there dine on ‘steak and lobster once a week’.2 And I haven’t even mentioned here our meddling fingers in Libya and the consequences of that intervention.
Whilst the US talk about crossing red lines and Cameron about putting a halt to the suffering they forget to mention that they have their own agendas in wanting to depose Assad who has stopped toeing the Western line. We should also remind ourselves that nothing is what it seems. The rebels are no longer just the Free Syria Army. The country has been infiltrated by various external groups which include Al Quaida. Do we really want to support inadvertently the very terrorists whom we have been fighting against since the destruction of the Two Towers in New York?
Being cynical, clearly the issue for the US, French and British has little to do with preventing more suffering as they seem to be suggesting but is likely to be much more political. Robert Fisk in a recent article in the Independent suggests that attacking Syria has nothing to do with Syria and is more to do with harming Iran because Iran is Israel’s enemy and so by default America’s enemy. Or there again we might attribute this sudden interest in the fate of 1300+ or so unfortunate people – given that 100,000 people have already died and there had been 14 alleged chemical attacks previously which they chose not to act on – more to the fact that 80 miles off the shores of Haifa in Israel lies a rather large gas field containing 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Russia’s dominance of the gas market means that they set the price at which gas is purchased by the rest of the world. Think how a pipeline through Syria would make life really easy for the transfer of gas to the West. Now that Assad is no longer playing ball with the West … well you can see where I am going.
And what of the West who is claiming its usual moral high ground? Such hypocrisy. Did we stand up and say no when the US used white phosphorus and left depleted uranium in Fallujah? Did other western governments threaten to intervene in this atrocity? No. Fallujah, where children have been born with horrendous deformities as a result, is a stain on the West and defiles its integrity. In 1988 when Iraq who was then America’s ally used gas against the Kurds we did not assault Baghdad. Whilst we have closed our eyes and walked away their suffering continues. They have become the forgotten ones, the collateral damage. Max Hastings wrote this morning in the Daily Mail Online ‘it is naïve to suppose that sarin gas is any worse for its victims than napalm, cluster bombs, Agent Orange defoliant or white phosphorous, widely used by the Western powers in their wars since 1945. Though President Assad has killed large numbers of non-combatants, so have American drone strikes in Pakistan and the Middle East – and so have Syria’s insurgents fighting against the regime.’ We cannot decry the actions of others and look the other way at our own.
Governments who tout weaponery around the world on behalf of the arms industry deal in death. Its sale has nothing to do with protecting nations or keeping the peace but is more to do with swelling the coffers of the big corporate arms dealers that produce them and bolstering their nations’ economies most shamefully on the back of the brutality of war and violence. On the one hand we accuse foreign governments of human rights abuses and in the next breath we sell them arms that potentially can be used against their people. During the Iraqi and Afghan wars the US outsourced functions that should have been reserved for the military to private contractors who have done exceedingly well out of it. Indeed, one might say that it is in their interests for war to continue in some shape or form simply to keep the money rolling in. As Chris Hedges wrote in Death of the Liberal Class ‘peace and profit are ultimately contradictory’ .
What if, in this week that commemorates the anniversary of the speech of Martin Luther King Jr, we have a dream. Let’s imagine for a moment that we have turned our back on war. Let’s imagine that we take the money that is spent on arms to destroy innocent people and the infrastructure that supports them and we invest it instead on programmes for the benefit of the citizens of the world and our planet to secure a future for our children and our children’s children. Let’s turn that dream into reality and turn our back on the interminable cycle of war which is sucking at our very lifeblood and enriching a minority who don’t give a damn about anything but their profits. Let’s reject neoliberal ideologies which further impoverish people around the world and destroy the planet which sustains us. It’s not a pipedream it is achievable with the will of the people.
Chris Hedges wrote in ‘Death of the Liberal Class’:
Look beyond the nationalist cant used to justify war. Look beyond the seduction of the weapons and the pornography of violence….. Focus on the evil of war. [War] is tragic, wasteful and immoral. [It] begins by calling for the annihilation of the OTHER, but ends ultimately in self-annihilation. It corrupts souls and mutilates bodies. It destroys homes and villages and murders children on their way to school. It grinds into the dirt all that is tender and beautiful and sacred’.
Our voice has been heard let’s not stop there.
1 & 2 Death of the Liberal Class: Chris Hedges
http://r-force.org/blog/?p=119 Syria and Gas: it’s not the one you think