I was nauseated and repulsed to see John Kerry's testimony of 3 September at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Syria. Kerry made a slickly disingenuous case for US bombing raids and missile strikes against Syria, endlessly reiterating (although at one point rather suspiciously fumbling) President Obama's now very familiar and oft-repeated mantra that the proposed intervention will be "proportional, limited and will not involve boots on the ground." In other words what Kerry and Obama are seeking to sell to the representatives of the US public is that they can have their cake and eat it -- they can feel morally virtuous about punishing a dictator for his alleged use of chemical weapons without actually having to get American hands dirty or risk American lives.
This is madness wrapped up in deception cushioned by cowardice and driven by evil. Once the US starts sending in its bombers and firing its missiles and killing hundreds or even thousands of innocent Syrian civilians in "unavoidable collateral damage" then American hands will be dirty and American lives will be put at risk by the inevitable backlash that will follow. Kerry, Obama and others in the pro-intervention camp are also lying to the American public by creating the illusion that their supposed "proportional and limited" intervention will actually be effective in reducing the risk of chemical weapons being used again in Syria, by any of the warring factions, in the future. The opposite is in fact the case. To add more missiles and bombs to the horrific, chaotic, crazed situation that presently prevails in Syria can only make that situation more horrific, chaotic and crazed and make it more likely that further horrors will be perpetrated, perhaps by the regime or perhaps by the smorgasbord of Al-Qaeda-linked "rebel" groups who have reportedly committed as many as 40,000 foreign jihadists to the civil war in an attempt to overthrow the Assad regime and replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic state. Watch this short (7-minute) interview with Mairead Maguire, a genuine Nobel Peace Prize winner. Unlike President Obama who won his Nobel Prize for making a few fancy speeches, Mairead won hers for years of peace activism in Northern Ireland, risking her life every day. As a young journalist I was privileged to travel around Belfast with Mairead in 1977 and witness her courage in action and she shows that courage again in speaking out in favour of peace and against US military intervention, following her recent visit to Syria and the Lebanon:
Mairead draws specific attention to another key point in all this. The forces that will be empowered by the proposed American strike on Syria are undoubtedly those very jihadist, fundamentalist, terrorist forces that America claims are its most deadly enemies. What is the hidden logic in such an action? I say hidden because I see no overt or obvious logic in it other than this lemming-like charge to "punish" Assad for using chemical weapons. The proper and legal way to proceed involves a little more care and caution. First deploy the full resources of the UN system to establish the facts unequivocally as to whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons or whether the attack was perhaps the work of others. Second, if the UN Inspectors conclude that the Assad regime did use chemical weapons then reach a decision at the Security Council as to the appropriate international response. Third implement that response with full international backing. Any military intervention by the United States ahead of the full report from the UN weapons inspectors, and ahead of a Security Council resolution is illegal in international law and can only add to the further deterioration of sane and reasonable behaviour in the world.
Finally there IS a humanitarian disaster in Syria and in its neighbours which are now playing host to MORE THAN TWO MILLION REFUGEES. If the US, France, the UK and other rich and powerful countries REALLY wish to help the people of Syria then the first thing they should be rushing to do is to help those millions of refugees with massive, generous, unstinting support. Sadly I do not see this happening. The refugees continue to suffer in inadequate camps with minimal international funding while the US focusses all efforts and attention on the rush to more war, more bombs, more missiles, more killing and more chaos.
Unlike their government, I believe that the American people want peace. I can only hope and pray that they will make their voices heard in the days ahead and insist that sanity, love and decency prevail.
Let us have a rush to peace, a rush to provide food, water, medicines and shelter to the millions who are suffering, a rush to love, a rush to understanding, and not, ABSOLUTELY NOT, a rush to war.
I write this from Turkey at the beginning of a three week trip to this suffering region which in Mairead's words is witnessing a proxy war by outside forces. I agree with her absolutely that the world must stand up against it.
Additional background here:
and here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/03/syria-kerry-hagel-strikes-senate
and here: http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/6/syrian-rebels-used-sarin-nerve-gas-not-assads-regi/
The latter report, on a possible earlier use of nerve gas in Syria bears careful reading.
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