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Weissman writes: "'In war, truth is the first casualty,' wrote the poet, but he missed two nuances. The lies fly faster with 'humanitarian wars' and the good intentions inevitably fall flat."

Free Syrian Army rebel trying to save his friend's life, November 2012. (photo: Reuters)
Free Syrian Army rebel trying to save his friend's life, November 2012. (photo: Reuters)

Don't Trust Humanitarian Wars

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

25 June 13


n war, truth is the first casualty," wrote the poet, but he missed two nuances. The lies fly faster with "humanitarian wars" and the good intentions inevitably fall flat.

Nowhere do these rules apply more than in Syria, where a widely misunderstood civil war has killed nearly 100,000 people and driven 1.6 million refugees abroad. As I wrote last month, the Obama administration started lying on this one as early as April 2012, when the CIA secretly began helping the Qataris and Saudis supply Sunni rebels in Syria with Libyan and other arms.

Far from helping victims, Obama was continuing former vice president Dick Cheney's strategic alliance with the generally anti-democratic Sunni-led nations in their regional competition with Shia Iran and their effort to control their own Shia populations.

The alliance also has a fascinating economic side, which spills over into everything else. One of the world's largest producers of natural gas, the Qataris, have been talking for years about building a pipeline from the Gulf through Syria to Turkey and the European Union. This would compete directly with Russia's pipelines, which helps explain at least some of what's at stake here. "Pipelinestan," as the delightful Pepe Escobar calls it, is not the whole story, as some have tried to make it. But a major pipeline that would completely change Russia's relationship with Europe is not chopped liver either, least of all to Moscow, Washington, and the NATO allies.

The other key participants are the Israelis, who seem of mixed minds. Over many years, they have learned to enjoy the stability that Bashar-al-Assad and his Shia Alawites have brought to Israel's northern border with Syria. But Tel Aviv has now staged two airstrikes near Damascus and is growing increasingly concerned that Lebanon's Shia militia are becoming too militarily effective in Syria. If Assad lost power, or Hezbollah got too strong, or the nuclear-armed Israelis needed Saudi Arabia to free up airspace to help them bomb Iran, they could well move even closer toward a de-facto alliance with the Sunni bloc.

As the headlines over the past few days attest, the alliance is once again on the move in a very confusing way. Having painted himself into a corner over the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, Obama has agreed publicly for the first time to arm the Sunni rebels in Syria. But the rebels are losing their war to Assad, Hezbollah, and Iranian military units. So, the allies are again moving anti-tank and other arms from Libya to the rebels. As yet, no direct evidence points to the CIA, but Bill Keller, the former managing editor of The New York Times, happily gives Obama credit for making the weapons flow "with a wink and nod from the U.S."

"These things don't happen without America's permission," explains one of his Syrian sources, a logistics coordinator for a rebel unit.

Coming to the Syrian war, Keller had expected "a reaction of rolled eyes, too-little-too-late and thanks for nothing." Instead, what he found was "a surprising surge of optimism, a sense that something has changed – specifically that America is inching toward a more serious engagement."

As he did for Judith Miller's War in Iraq, in which he played a major role as her boss, Keller again favors military intervention, presenting it as a great-power necessity and humanitarian imperative. I fully expect that he will have to apologize again. But, Keller is absolutely right on one point. Whether or not the new whiff of faith he and the Sunni rebels now feel for America is justified, he thinks the president should tell us.

After all, who is Obama trying to fool more than the large majority of Americans who, unlike Keller, have repeatedly said that they do not want another war? What exactly is the new policy?

In line with his general lack of what Stephen Colbert calls truthiness, Obama is not telling. He is instead having it both ways. He has agreed publicly to provide only light arms to the rebels while standing up against Secretary of State John Kerry's vociferous demands to bomb Syrian airfields. He has let the CIA do the heavy lifting in the shadows. And he has identified himself with the Pentagon's caution about yet another war and the impossibility of giving serious arms only to supposedly "moderate" rebels.

"I have been cautious about the application of the military instrument of power," said Pentagon chief of staff General Martin Dempsey. "It is not clear to me that it would produce the outcome [that most of us desire]."

There is nothing hard to grasp about any of that. Most Americans do not want to go to war and they do not want either the radical Shia or the radical Sunnis to win. But, fully in character, Professor Obama won't sell that understanding to his fellow citizens just in case he decides to change his mind.

How in hell do you run a democracy that way? But whoever said that American foreign policy is run democratically? At least not yet.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+13 # Activista 2013-06-25 12:35
Factual and informative synopsis what is really happening in Syria -
Compare this to mass media war propaganda/lies and see what pathetic state is US "democracy" in.
Hole (permanent wars) from which we will never climb out ...
"Secretary of State John Kerry's vociferous demands to bomb Syrian airfields .."
+16 # Milarepa 2013-06-25 13:10
A mess is a mess. Nobody can 'straighten it out'. The only constant is that people, many people, are dying and many more wounded and suffering.
+8 # Lolanne 2013-06-25 16:04
Quoting Milarepa:
A mess is a mess. Nobody can 'straighten it out'. The only constant is that people, many people, are dying and many more wounded and suffering.

One more constant: we can be sure there is NO truth in anything we hear out of DC.
+1 # acomfort 2013-06-25 23:06
"One more constant: we can be sure there is NO truth in anything we hear out of DC."

If Obama and the MSM were to tell the truth . . . Who will be there to believe it?
+4 # stan van houcke 2013-06-25 13:52
read professor James Peck's extensively documented book Ideal Illusions. How the U.S. government co-opted human rights
+5 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-25 13:55
Al CIAda is Facebook, CIA, NSA diversion, funded, armed & fed by the same CIA to create hell. Starting with Obama-bin-Laden (intentional spelling) being funded by Al CIAda to create hell in Afghanistan against the Soviet supported government. Girls going to Afghani schools was too much for the CIA & since then 1,000,000 Afghani's have died in the US supported conflict.
Al CIAda driven hell continues in 80 countries worldwide where the Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Complex of US, Canada, NATO & Israel are arming dissidents to destabilize governments for resource acquisition. A recent NATO sponsored survey in Syria puts support for Assad at 70% of the population.

1) Hunt up sources for each belief which drives us to war, such as patriots like Snowden, Assange, Manning provide

2) engage all parties in 'debate' (French 'de' = 'undo' + 'bate' = 'the fight') with Equal-Time, Recorded & Published Dialogue to find out the truth's mixture of all perspectives. There is no reason for war ever. If you are not listening to both-sides or your media, corporations, military & government are not providing full unaltered versions from both sides, then you know they are intentionally lying to you.
+9 # fredboy 2013-06-25 14:04
As this column describes, there are really two governments: one you see, and one you don't.
+15 # Bezobrazie 2013-06-25 14:16
When is everybody going to realise that the US economy, and that of the "free world" cannot exist without being involved in a war of one kind or another? Refer to Dwight David Eisenhower and his prescience. We would simply collapse as a nation[and indeed, as a world econmy] without the military/indust rial complex working at full blast. Imagine how the unemployment rolls would grow exponentially without military spending. It is very sad, and I, for one, am desperately disappointed in the broken promises of the Obama regime.
+9 # theory≠opinion 2013-06-25 15:15
I'd be happy to imagine that. It would be like the WPA and other programs that got us out of the Great Depression before we got distracted by WWII and the arms race with the "Commies".

But, I think you've hit on a fundamental aspect of the competitive nature of capitalism. What is war but the logical conclusion of capitalist endeavor?
+5 # jwb110 2013-06-25 15:10
Let the people who benefit most provide the arms....The Oil Companies. Let them sell the arms, raise the armies, pay them salaries, and then reap the profits. Not one single America dollar needs to be spent. Not on American soldier needs to die.
You want privatization, well, here it is.
0 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-25 20:53
Jwb, From your other posts, I am sure you jest considering the human suffering of war for corporate resources. In reality each corporation particularly resource extracting industries such as Canada's mining & forestry industries (Canada carries out more than 50% of the world's total business in both of these) each all have large security contingents (armies), which protect their expropriated properties. This is why Canada is the tail which wags the US dog. The Canadian government hasn't until our Conservative government gone so regularly to war for the resources our companies extract internationally . Our corporations coax US & other country's soldiers to fight the hornet's nests which we are striking. Canada has some deep evil strong enough to hide from public knowledge for hundreds of years & international insults.
+3 # gd_radical 2013-06-25 21:34
An old African proverb from which country I cannot recall, comes to mind. "The old men argue and the young men die." Sadly, the updated modern version should now read: "The rich and powerful men argue, and all the rest (humanity)are slaughtered for greed, lust, power, or all three."
+1 # RMDC 2013-06-26 04:55
Democrats wage humanitarian wars, while republicans wage wars of fear and retribution. In the end, they are just the same. The US invades a small nations, blows up its entire infrastructure, kills or destroys about 1/3 of the population, and then the pyschopaths at the Pentagon and White House are happy. The sit in front of their TVs and masterbate while watiching the bombs fall.

Hillary clinton's R2P -- responsibility to protect which was invoked for the slaughter in Libya is just as bad as Bush's "we're gonna get him" -- WGGH.

When will the US stop destroying small nations? Why does the most powerful and weathy nation on earth think it has the right or need to destroy small nations like Syria, IRaq, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, and so many more?

What's wrong with the people who run the US?
+1 # Kwamined 2013-06-26 08:35
Of course, Obambi is a proven drone killer (aka, murderer), so sending arms overtly or covertly to Syrian rebels is not much of stretch.
Thing is, it is obvious that he ENJOYS doing it. ENJOYS making POTUS decisions. ENJOYS killing people. He loses no sleep; claims his grey hairs are not a result of stress.
Obambi left underwater Main Street folks out to twist in the wind after continuously bailing out Wall Street and refusing -- repeat: REFUSING -- to prosecute proven criminals on Wall Street. Such as Goldman Sachs (oops: Government Sachs) + HSBC + all the others. Eric Holder is another house negro for Wall St., on Obambi's orders.
Syria? Why not stir it up? After all, Obambi is POTUS. And he will not feel a thing.
Idiot. Liar. Punk. Thug. Proven murderer of innocents. Obambi is all of these.
When -- WHEN -- will we the American Sheeple elect human beings rather than psychopaths and sociopaths? Killers?
I just flashed on an insight learned in Ghana during Peace Corps:
Anyone who declares his/her intention to run for election to public office should be shot on sight. There is a better model: A person elected -- will he or nil he -- by the community elders. (Go read deeply the research regarding traditional communities before you complain.)
Obambi -- just like Cheney, Shrub II, Holder and Clinton -- is, simply, a shill, an egoist, and a disaster. Not to mention a wimp of very little vision or character. Stall stuff, his so-called environmental plan. God rot him.

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