The Barbarians are Coming

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm – who died in October – observed that the unprecedented brutality of the 20th century showed that people could learn to live under the most intolerable conditions. This made it difficult to grasp the extent to which – and certainly by 19th century standards – there has been a return to barbarism. A characteristic and eerie phenomenon of our time is the absence of a sense of history. Young people grow up in a permanent present disconnected from a public past. In this atmosphere a western plot to decimate a Muslim civilian population – using pseudo- religious fanatics armed with chemical weapons – is simply the new normal.

Professor Francis Boyle, critical jurist and human rights activist is clear about the threat the erstwhile American republic poses to civilisation. He says the US government is an ongoing criminal conspiracy responsible for wars of aggression, crimes against peace and humanity and war crimes outlawed under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment and Principles. It has also breached the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Regulations and the US Army’s own code, Field Manual 27-10 of 1956 in regard to torture, enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings and extraordinary renditions. Further crimes involve the use of “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs and drone strikes.

The profile suggests warnings of a terrifying and impending human catastrophe in Syria should be taken seriously. They follow the US claim that Syria possesses chemical weapons and will use them in desperation against western sponsored rebels and civilians. The story is now embedded in mainstream news and the popular imagination. It parallels the propaganda peddled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The fabricated WMD threat was used as a justification for a “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq in March 2003. With their mission accomplished US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair generously admitted they had made a “big mistake”.

Comparisons with regime change in Libya are instructive. As in Syria it took a long while for the west to formally identify the “democratic” opposition it had been covertly supporting. Meanwhile both the Libyans and Syrians complained – to no avail – that they were being blamed for massacres conducted by Islamic extremists and groups connected to Al Qaeda. The mainstream media paid little attention. Its job was to make the case for military intervention and carpet bombing.

In all three cases the UN has either helped give the imperial adventure a veneer of legality or looked the other way while the US cobbled together organisations like the Friends of Syria through which to channel support for its proxies. The Free Syria Army which leads the insurgency claims to have been formed by defectors from the Syrian army. There’s no doubt, however, that western security agencies have been on the ground organising the resistance – as they did in Libya. Moreover there are numerous accounts of the deployment of weapons and Islamist fighters from Libya to Syria.

In February US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton admitted, “We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region, Al Qaeda, Hamas and those who are on our own terrorist list to be sure, supporting, claiming to support the opposition.” In July, The New York Times revealed that money and arms from Saudi Arabia had helped the Free Syria Army ethnically cleanse some 80,000 Christians from their homes in the Homs province. It said Washington had been aware since at least June 2011 of Al Qaeda’s penetration of Syrian opposition forces but still supported Saudi Arabia’s plan for destabilising Syria.

Syria is a resolutely secular state; Saudi Arabia’s obsession is spreading its state religion, Wahhabism, described by a US security advisor as “the prototype ideology for Islamic extremist and terrorist groups”. The aim is to annihilate Syria so that Iran is isolated and easier to topple. There are occasions when America has to distance itself from its Al Qaeda ally, at least in public. The US recognised the recently formed Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

But it was forced to admit that the Syrian rebel group, Jabhat al-Nusra, the most powerful part of the coalition, was linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq. A stream of videos documenting atrocities like the machine gunning of bound prisoners by the rebels has made it difficult to conceal their terrorist credentials.

By most accounts the scene is set for NATO to bomb Syria into submission. But Professor Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalisation, says using chemical weapons as a pretext for military intervention is not the objective. Syria unlike Iraq and Libya is not a pushover. Syria has advanced air defence capabilities equipped with Russian missiles as well as significant ground forces. Despite US-NATO military superiority, an all-out military operation is risky. Instead a gruesome final solution using private mercenary companies may be on the cards.

CNN has reported that the US and some of its European allies are using defence contractors to train Syrian rebels to secure chemical stockpiles. The training taking place in Jordan and Turkey involves monitoring and securing chemicals, handling weapons, managing sites and materials. Contractors are also on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to survey some of the weapons sites. Chossudovsky says this means that opposition terrorists – including the Al Nusra front, the most effective western financed and trained fighting group – will actually be in possession of chemical weapons. This is a complete change from August last year when the Pentagon announced plans for destroying chemical stocks to keep them out of the hands of opposition jihadist rebels. The Syrian government’s reaction is revealing. It said it feared that the US or its allies could provide terrorist groups with chemical weapons and then blame the Syrian government for using them.

Moreover the rebels could easily be provided with chemical weapons from western stockpiles through the contractors involved in the training programmes. These could be deployed to kill people in droves. President Bashar Al Assad would be blamed for the carnage and the Syrian government would collapse.

Chossudovsky says although this is a diabolical strategy it cannot be overlooked in a situation in which direct military action is ruled out. “We are not suggesting that this option will inevitably be carried out. What we are saying is that the option of chemical weapons in the hands of the rebels which could potentially trigger a humanitarian disaster is on the US-NATO drawing board.”

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