On Syria, Don’t Trust Our Warring Policymakers

James Bovard, August 29, 2013

baghdad-bombing

As of this moment, Obama is lurching towards piously slaughtering Syrians. The Washington Post noted this morning that the administration “disdains Assad request on inspections.” In other words, it is important to start the killing before the evidence is in. Obama declared yesterday on the PBS Newshour that the evidence was definite linking the Assad regime to the chemical weapons attack. However, an Associated Press story this afternoon reveals that numerous U.S. intelligence officials declared that there is no “slam dunk” linking the regime to the attack.  But will the lack of evidence deter Obama from commencing to kill in the name of justice?

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Future of Freedom Foundation in April 2011 during the last time that Obama was blasting an Arab country into democracy and freedom. (The photo above is from the 2003 US attack on Baghdad.)

The Absurdity of Trusting Foreign Policymakers

by James Bovard

The United States is attacking Libya on the basis of vague hopes that peace will triumph after the Allied bombing ceases. There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether a few hundred cruise missiles will beget harmony in the Libyan desert. But one of the biggest mistakes would be to assume that U.S. government policymakers understand what they are doing.

The American media have already uncorked “surprises,” such as the facts that the Libyan opposition is more of a ragtag mob than an army and that Qaddafi’s opponents include some organizations officially labeled as terrorists by the U.S. government. One gets the impression that the Obama administration’s masterminds did not notice those details prior to charging into this civil war.

The latest follies are part of a long bipartisan tradition. In the decades since John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, foreign-policy makers have become Washington’s leading con men. Even though Whiz Kids and Dream Teams have dragged America into one debacle after another, the media and politicians still defer to the latest batch of “Best and Brightest” professors and appointees.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on little more than a few phrases backed up by almost boundless ignorance. Paul Bremer, the chief of Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority, admitted in his memoirs “that he didn’t know anything about Iraq when stepping down from Kissinger Associates to become America’s proconsul,” Georgetown University professor Derek Leebaert observed in his new book, Magic and Mayhem. Adam Garfinkle, who worked as a speechwriter for both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, said in 2007, “No one in a senior position in this administration seems to have the vaguest notion of modern Middle Eastern history.”

The Pentagon’s recent record is not much better. The U.S. military floundered in Iraq and Afghanistan because, as Leebaert notes, “the army not only forgot everything it had been bloodily taught about counterinsurgency in Vietnam, but in Vietnam, it had forgotten everything it had learned about counterinsurgency in Korea as well.”

Cluelessness is a constant in U.S. foreign-policy making. In 1967, the Pentagon ordered top experts to analyze where the Vietnam War had gone wrong. The resulting study consisted of 47 volumes of material exposing the intellectual and political follies that had, at that point, already left tens of thousands of Americans dead. After the study was finished, it was distributed to the key Johnson administration players and federal agencies, by whom it was completely ignored, if not forgotten. New York Times editor Tom Wicker commented that “the people who read these documents in the Times [in 1971] were the first to study them.”

U.S. foreign-policy makers perennially talk as if the world is a clean sheet that they can mark up as they please. Shortly before Obama’s televised speech on March 28 on Libya, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters, “We don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent. We don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent.” Rather than being a high-minded resolve, that attitude practically guarantees that the U.S. government will repeat the same mistakes in perpetuity.

Foreign policy has been a long series of blunders, in part because the American media tolerate deceits by high-ranking government officials. “Presidents have lied so much to us about foreign policy that they’ve established almost a common-law right to do so,” George Washington University history professor Leo Ribuffo observed in 1998. From John F. Kennedy’s lying about the Bay of Pigs debacle in Cuba; to Lyndon Johnson’s lying about the Gulf of Tonkin resolution; to Richard Nixon’s lying about the secret bombing of Cambodia; to Jimmy Carter’s lying about the shah of Iran’s being a progressive, enlightened ruler; to Ronald Reagan’s lying about terrorism and Iran-Contra; to George H.W. Bush’s lying about the justifications for the first Gulf War, entire generations have come of age since the ancient time when a president’s power was constrained by a duty of candor to the public.

WikiLeaks has revealed that U.S. foreign policy is far more deceptive than the Beltway portrays it. From Hillary Clinton’s machinations to heist the credit card numbers of foreign diplomats, to the U.S. government’s prodding Ethiopia to invade Somalia, to the covert supply of arms to the Yemen government, charades have come fast and furious. Much of the American political establishment has reacted as if WikiLeaks violated government’s divine right to delude the governed.

Governments routinely bury information that undermines their power grabs and war is the biggest power grab of them all. We cannot expect the Obama administration to be more prudent on Libya than the Bush administration was on Iraq, or the Clinton administration was on Kosovo, or the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon administrations were on Vietnam. Americans cannot afford to assume that this war is smarter than it seems.

** On Twitter @jimbovard




44 Responses to “On Syria, Don’t Trust Our Warring Policymakers”

  1. [...] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum [...]

  2. USA government seems determent to help Al Qaeda to yet another country and the weapons and other resources that come with it . They blamed Assad 3 months ago , when proof pointed finger in the other direction , instead of jailing the lot of the Free (non) Syrian Army representatives running around in USA and Turkey … they promised them more aid ? and now as a reward for doing it again , they will bomb Syria , so these jokers can kill , rape , slit throats of whomever is left standing in Syria with the blessing of the good old US of A ..or should it be US of O

  3. Obama knows what he's doing… Using al-Qaeda as mercenary terrorists may be shortsighted; but make no mistake: Obama knows what he's doing and has been deliberate and methodical this entire time. This is what top Obama "officials" have said so far:

    1. There was a so-called "chemical weapons attack" in Syria on August 21st evidenced by Youtube videos allegedly showing "images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms" –according to John Kerry.

    2. Although it hasn't been established which specific "chemical weapons" ("CWs") were actually used (if any), it's "undeniable" the "regime maintains custody" of" the unknown 'CWs' in question. Moreover, it's "known" the so-called "rebels" simply do not have access to the unknown CWs allegedly used on August 21st… So, by process of elimination, the "Assad regime" is responsible and, by extension, President Bashar al-Assad is personally responsible for the alleged CW attack(s) on the 21st, and for the subsequent Youtube videos posted on the internet which should "shock the conscience of the world"–according to John Kerry…

    3. Even though there are currently UN Inspectors on the ground in Syria, right now, conducting an ongoing "investigation" of the August 21st events, the ongoing UN 'investigation' apparently began "too late to be credible."–according the Obama 'officials'; however, the Youtube videos showing " images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms" are conclusive and seemingly sufficient to serve as a pretext to fire ballistic missiles into a sovereign nation and kill people.

    4. It's necessary to fire ballistic missiles into Syria in order to prevent Syria from using CWs in the future–weapons which, if they exist, are specifically designed to serve as a "deterrent" against military attacks and/or foreign invasions from outside.

    Needless to say, all of this is transparently absurd and even juvenile…but it's not so much about what they 'say' as it is what they 'don't say'….

  4. There is no mention by US, UK, and France 'officials' of the March 19th CW attack on Khan al-Assal outside of Aleppo which killed members of the Syrian Arab Army along with civilians…the attack on Khan al-Assal which the Syrian Government initially requested the UN investigate in an independent and unbiased fashion–an independent UN "investigation" deliberately stalled by the US, France and the UK–the attack on Khan al-Assal which Russian specialists proceeded to investigate themselves due to the stalled UN 'investigation'…a Russian investigation which produced an actual 80 page detailed 'report' (a bit more 'credible' than Youtube videos) submitted to the UN, with Russian officials concluding:

    "It was established that on March 19, the rebels launched an unguided Bashar 3 projectile towards Khan al-Assal controlled by the government forces,"

    And further:

    ——–

    The (Russian) ambassador said the results of the analysis indicate the Bashar 3 rocket "was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin." He said the samples indicated the sarin and the projectile were produced in "cottage industry" conditions.

    The absence of chemical stabilizers, which are needed for long-term storage and later use, indicated its "possibly recent production," Churkin said.

    "Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal," Churkin said.

    "According to information at our disposal," he said, "the production of Bashar 3 unguided projectiles was started in February 2013 by the so-called Bashar al Nasser Brigade affiliated with the Free Syrian Army."

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57592880/russ

    ——–

    Khan al-Assal is, in fact, the original reason why the UN inspectors were even in Syria at the time of the August 21st attack in the first place; yet Khan al-Assal is never mentioned by Obama "officials" as if it never even happened while, at the same time, they continue to maintain it's simply 'impossible' the so-called "rebels" carried out a CW attack at any time anywhere in Syria…

  5. U.S. foreign-policy makers perennially talk as if the world is a clean sheet that they can mark up as they please. Shortly before Obama’s televised speech on March 28 on Libya, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters, “We don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent.

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