A century ago President Woodrow Wilson muscled his way onto the world stage to help divvy-up scraps of the Ottoman Empire while proclaiming the right of self-determination for all peoples.
Except brown peoples like Syrians, who were obviously unqualified for self-rule. Or Russian peoples, who, in the course of human events, had revolted against a monarchy and “self-determined” a try at communism. Wilson sent 13,000 U.S. troops to Siberia in 1918 to kill revolutionaries, trying to make the world safe for hereditary autocracy.
The current war in Syria is only the latest ugly chapter in this story.
John Rash thinks otherwise (“The world fails to save Syria’s citizens,” Oct. 26). The war in Syria is the fault of those “murderous,” “merciless,” “homicidal” Assads.
Never mind that President Dwight Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan greenlighted an (ultimately unsuccessful) CIA/MI-6 plot to murder Syrian leaders in 1957 because they might lean communist. And never mind the U.S. and British overthrow of Mossadegh of Iran in 1953, plus multiple attempts to murder Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Never mind that Syria, as noted by William Blum in his book “Killing Hope,” just wanted to be left alone: “Syria was not behaving like Washington thought a Third World government should. For one thing, it was the only state in the area to refuse all U.S. economic or military assistance.”
Never mind that after adoption of its first socialist, secular constitution in 1973, Syrian civilians were targets of terrorist attacks from 1976 to 1982 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who wanted religious rule. When Hafez al-Assad ended the attacks by attacking the city of Hama, with high civilian casualties, he was labeled a butcher of his own people by the United States.
Never mind recently declassified CIA documents from 1986: “We believe widespread violence among the populace could stimulate large numbers of Sunni officers and conscripts to desert or mutiny, setting the stage for civil war.” Hmmm.
Never mind the illegal 2003 Israeli bombing of a facility near Damascus that it alone claimed was a terrorist training camp, or its 2007 destruction of a half-built nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour, showing the world that Israel can run secret nuclear programs, but Syria can’t.
Never mind President George W. Bush and the Congress enacting sanctions in 2004 claiming that Syria was sponsoring terrorism, developing unconventional weapons, and not helping the U.S. conduct its fraudulent war-of-choice in Iraq. Missing were sanctions affecting U.S. energy companies, which remained free to pump Syrian oil.
And never mind, as Time magazine reported in 2006, Bush collaborating in 2002 with Assad-junior to kidnap and torture Syrian-born Maher Arar, a Canadian tourist on his way home from Tunisia: “He stopped to change planes at JFK Airport. … FBI agents … ordered him deported to his native Syria — even though he was traveling on a Canadian passport. He was flown on a chartered Gulfstream jet to Jordan and driven into Syria. … After days of beatings, Arar wrote a false statement saying he had been trained at a terror camp in Afghanistan.”
Released after a year in Syrian prisons, Arar sued the United States. The lawsuit was dismissed on national security grounds. An exhaustive Canadian government report found Arar blameless.
Bush’s sanctions on Syria after his CIA rendered citizens of other countries there to be tortured might be considered bad form.
Never mind, as the Guardian newspaper reported in 2011: “Extraordinary rendition dates back to the Reagan years … .In the words of former CIA agent Robert Baer: ‘If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria.’ ”
Canadian Stephen Gowans’ book “Washington’s Long War on Syria” describes basic U. S. tactics: 1) Imposition of “free enterprise,” wanted or not; 2) Suppression of secular Arab nationalism and socialist economies, both emphatically affirmed in Syria’s 1973 and 2012 constitutions; 3) Weaponizing the Muslim Brotherhood and its violent, Sunni spawn, the Mujahadeen, al-Qaida and ISIS; 4) Alliance with Saudi Arabia, a dictatorial regime of bloodthirsty tyrants espousing Wahhabi doctrine that Arabs should kill each other over who was a legitimate successor to Mohammad.
There is zero basis in any law for the U.S. to invade Syria, to bomb Syrian cities, or to “save” Syrian oil. Rash’s narrow outrage solicits legitimate tears for baby Sama in Aleppo, but ignores decades of U.S. criminal foreign policy and ignores the hundreds of anonymous baby Samas in Raqqa, blown to bits during America’s 2017 bomb-rape of that city of 200,000.
It’s been a century since the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars,” fittingly monikered by the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells. It’s time for a new nickname: “the war to spawn endless war.”
Syrian citizens never had a chance.
William Beyer is a writer in St. Louis Park.