In the wake of last week’s cruise missile attack on Syria, there was a joke going around the internet saying that it doesn’t matter who Americans vote for, they always wind up getting John McCain as President of the United States. The humor derives from the fact that the past three presidents all ran for office committed to reducing America’s interventionism overseas but once in office they reversed course and expanded US military commitments worldwide, turning them into facsimiles of John McCain, who has never seen a war he didn’t like.
President Donald Trump’s explicit pledges to avoid expanded engagement in Asia and the Middle East while also fixing the relationship with Russia are by now lost down the memory hole as he has increased troop levels in Afghanistan while, by his own admission, the relationship with Moscow is now even worse than it was during the Cold War. And regarding Syria, his Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Halley has confirmed that the US military will not be going anywhere because certain goals have to be met first. One objective, monitoring developments relating to Iran, is open-ended, implying that it will be impossible to leave for the foreseeable future and suggesting that another Afghanistan-style quagmire is in the making.
Pundits see the process whereby all new presidents turn into hawks as evidence of the pervasiveness of the Deep State in US foreign policy, but as the Deep State operates largely in the open in the United States, it might also be referred to as the Establishment consensus. The persistence of the Establishment view in what has become increasingly a national security state is largely due to the fact that there is little pushback against it. The media is fully on board and Congress, which should be serving as a brake on presumed presidential prerogatives to go to war, benefits substantially from the bloated budgets and other emoluments that derive from American imperialism. Defense and related budgets grow in spite of the lack of any real threat and the public is fed a steady diet of fear by the media and government regarding fabricated threats to US national security.
The combination of government and media lies renders most Americans completely ignorant about what is going in in Syria. First of all, the United States and its allies, who are occupying nearly one quarter of the country, are in Syria illegally. Under international law, attacking and occupying a country that is not directly threatening you without any justifying United Nations Security Council resolution is illegal. It is also a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Trials that followed after the Second World War, which ruled that a war of aggression is the “ultimate war crime” as it inevitably leads to many other crimes. So the United States is undeniably an unindicted war criminal.
That the United States has not been indicted or brought to justice for its crimes is largely due to its political and military power, which few nations choose to challenge, but also because it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and is able to veto resolutions criticizing it. There have been numerous motions condemning American behavior, but none of them have made it out of the Security Council. This is not a confirmation of US innocence but rather a result of the politics that operate at the United Nations.
The United States is also in violation of international law because it remains in Syria without the permission of the recognized and legitimate Syrian government. Iranian forces and those of Russia are present on the invitation of Damascus. The United States is not. The US has also been illegally working to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government, acting in collusion with groups of so-called rebels, some of whom are actually drawn from internationally recognized terrorist groups, violating its own laws regarding providing material assistance to terrorism.
Establishment politics has meant that the United States is now a rogue nation defined by its propensity to go to war. America’s bombing of Syria is illegal, immoral, ineffective and dishonest. It is past time for the United States to pull out its troops and leave the Syrians alone. Americans killing Syrians while hypocritically claiming that it is done to stop Syrians from killing each other is a recipe for disaster.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.