Trump's Attack on Syria: A Murderous Immoral Criminal Action
April 14, 2018
David Swanson / World Beyond War & Prof. Michael Clarke / BBC World News
As the US and UK governments continue to discuss their potential response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma in Syria, what could military intervention achieve? The critical military virtue of surprise has long since disappeared. Syrian forces have had more than two days to move their aircraft and other military assets. Why take all the risks of escalation with Russia and the prospects of unintended consequences that normally follow? What strategic purpose can be served by this?
Statement on Syria
David Swanson / World BEYOND War
(April 13, 2018) -- "Donald Trump has just committed a murderous immoral criminal action and sought to depict it as law enforcement," said David Swanson, the director of World BEYOND War, a non-profit global organization opposed to all warfare.
"Congress has sat on its hands, failed to cut off funding, and failed to move on impeachment. It is to be hoped that those Congress members who said such an attack on Syria would be impeachable will at least find the decency now to act after the fact."
"Trump may have acted just in time to prevent any reports from inspectors weakening his propaganda," said Swanson. "This is a disturbing replay of the 2003 attack on Iraq, which Trump supported at the time, condemned on the campaign trail, and has now imitated.
"But it is critical for us to reject the nearly universal pretense that proof of use by Syria of chemical weapons, just like proof of WMD possession by Iraq, would somehow constitute legal or moral grounds for committing additional criminal actions -- potentially far more serious actions that risk confrontation between nuclear armed governments.
"While the New York Times tells us that Trump has acted to 'punish' Assad, using what Trump calls 'precision strikes,' such strikes have a long history of being anything but precise, and the people dying have a habit of not being their nation's leader.
"No court has authorized Trump to punish anyone, of course, and the claims of Secretary of So-Called Defense Mattis that attacking Syria is 'defensive' can hardly pass the laugh test with even the most war-prone lawyers.
"This criminal action is a blatant violation of the UN Charter and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, both of which Congress, likewise, prefers to ignore in order to focus on its own supposed power to authorize such crimes.
"And yet the same Congress will not stand up and defend that power, but rolls over on Yemen so pitifully that Trump could expect no consequences from Capitol Hill for his latest outrage. If an AUMF could legalize this action, the fact remains that there isn't one that even remotely claims to do so.
"Trump takes us for fearful children when he resorts to the tired propaganda of calling a foreign leader an 'animal' and a 'monster,' and pretending that war made against a country is somehow actually made against only an individual. In reality, of course, the bombs always kill people depicted (sometimes accurately) as having suffered under the rule of the 'monster.'
"The fact is that Syria, its opponents, the United States, Russia, and other parties active in Syria for years now have killed many thousands of people using murderous weapons of war. That a relatively small number of people may have been killed with chemical weapons (weapons in the possession of multiple parties in this war) is no more or less murderous than the ongoing mass-murder by respectable bullets and bombs.
"The use by the United States in recent wars of white phosphorous, napalm, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and other notorious weapons is no more grounds for some foreign self-appointed global savior to bomb Washington, than any events in Syria are grounds for Trump's latest flaunting of his apparent impunity.
"Trump mocks all of humanity with his claim to be praying for peace while imposing war. Will humanity continue to roll over and take it? Will the United Nations begin to do its job? Will the people and parliaments of Britain and France rise to the occasion? Will the people of the United States pursue strategic and escalating nonviolent action arising out of this weekend's events? We shall see."
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook
Syria: What Can Western Military Intervention Achieve?
Prof. Michael Clarke / BBC World News
(April 12, 2018) -- As the US and UK governments continue to discuss their potential response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma in Syria, what could military intervention achieve?
The critical military virtue of surprise has long since disappeared for the United States and its allies in the strikes it is planning against Syrian military facilities.
Indeed, Syrian forces have had more than two days to move their aircraft and other military assets into Russian bases at Latakia, Tartus and Khmeimim, where they will be within the protective bubbles of Russia's highly capable S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
The Syrians have emptied their infantry bases and dispersed as much of their armed forces as possible, in anticipation of incoming Western missiles.
The Russians will undoubtedly try to protect their bases, if attacked, so the situation is fraught with superpower brinkmanship and the danger of accidental conflict. For Western military planners the two greatest questions are what can they achieve militarily in this situation, and what strategic difference can it make?
With Syrian forces forewarned, dispersed and under Russian protection, Western strikes will have to concentrate on Syria's fixed military facilities -- bombing runways, destroying buildings and capital equipment where it remains in place.
Western attacks will probably try to destroy Syria's military command and control system, possibly with bunker-busting bombs and deep penetration warheads. They are likely to try to dismantle the military infrastructure that Syria has effectively rebuilt since 2015.
More ambitiously, and also more risky, the United States might declare a longer-term policy of revisiting these targets to keep them out of use and have Syrian aircraft bottled up inside their Russian bases -- in effect trying to operate a quasi "no-fly zone" in Syria, at least for a while.
Last year when the US struck President Assad's Shayrat airbase in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian air force made sure it was seen to be back in action within a day. The US will be determined that this does not happen again, which is why we can expect this to be a more prolonged air campaign with repeated attacks on key sites.
What strategic purpose can be served by this?
It certainly won't make any immediate difference to the civil population of Syria, who have suffered so much at the hands of their own government, and the multitude of rebel, terrorist and guerrilla groups, some of whom have intimidated, as much as they have represented, them. And President Assad is unlikely to relent in his determination to consolidate his hold on the country.
So why take all the risks of escalation with Russia and the prospects of unintended consequences that normally follow?
On its own, military force is meaningless. It has to be part of a political strategy and in this case the strategy is about bigger issues than Syria itself and only offers a long-shot hope for the Syrian population.
The first objective is to push back against the increasing "normalisation" of chemical weapons being used in wars of any kind.
The taboo against them has been surprisingly strong since the end of World War One. The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 has been one of the most effective disarmament measures in modern history. Syria is a signatory to it.
In 2013 President Obama claimed he would uphold that taboo as a "red line", but then didn't. And despite firm denials from the Assad government, there is an abundance of evidence that Syrian forces, with Russian connivance, have been using chemical weapons against their own people on a regular basis ever since.
Many Western politicians feel that -- with all the moral grey areas of this situation -- they cannot sell the pass on this issue yet again. It has become a test case for the international rule of law, which is under severe pressure on many fronts.
Beyond that, some argue effective military action would represent an acceptance that Western powers have got to get back into the game of Middle East politics at a time when the region is melting down.
The campaign against so-called Islamic State (IS) was always a geopolitical sideshow, and Western influence on what has been happening from Lebanon to the Yemen has been in steep decline.
Of course, it is tempting, and understandable, for Western leaders to want to leave it all alone. But while they took their eye off the ball fighting IS, the future of the area was being determined by Iran, Russia and partly also by Turkey.
The calculation is whether long-term Western interests are served better by involvement than indifference to a constellation of powers that is sliding out of control.
And the hope for the Syrian population is that an effective military campaign could possibly push President Assad back into negotiations so that the war might end with something more humane than a vicious victory.
Using military force is never easy, but it can only be effective if it is part of a coherent and realistic political strategy.
About this piece This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation. Professor Michael Clarke is a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (Rusi), and associate director of the Strategic Studies Institute.
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