The Bush Legacy Of War.

Whatever your position on military action in Syria, your decision has likely been influenced by the Iraq War.

In 2003, the Bush administration told the US and the world that the invasion of Iraq was necessary in order to overthrow a sadistic leader; a leader who had used chemical weapons against Iran (with our blessings) and had even used chemical weapons against his own people (we drew no red line then). We were told that there was a growing mushroom cloud over Iraq and that, if we failed to act, that mushroom cloud would likely appear over the US. We were told that the invasion of Iraq would take a matter of days or weeks and that it would pay for itself through the profits from Iraqi oil.

We now know that the Bush administration lied. Even General Colin Powell who made the case before the UN admits that he was given faulty information and misled.

Now many of the same people behind the invasion of Iraq are calling for war with Syria’s Assad. John (the Warhawk) McCain was the first to weigh in, along with his partner in war Lindsey Graham. Former Bush Secretary of Offense, Donald Rumsfeld has also made his opinion known. So has Richard (The Dick) Cheney. They tell us that the reputation of the United States is at stake; that if we fail to strike, our enemies will walk all over us.


Do our enemies not already know that we spend more on our war machine than the next seven nations combined? And most of those are allies. None are actual enemies. Given that fact, it’s hard to imagine that a failure to strike against Assad in Syria will cause our enemies to start assembling their forces off our shores.

Today, our real enemies are small rogue nations and terrorist groups angered by all of our previous missteps, mostly in the Middle East, as the world’s self-proclaimed police force. Some of these enemies are the very people who are trying to defeat Assad. They will not be threatened by any strike against Assad. However, Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran might be.

The consequences of a rushed and ill-considered strike could be devastating. It could provoke Russia and Iran. It could destabilize Syria, much like Iraq. And it could embroil the entire region.

If the Obama administration is determined to send a message to Assad, it is going about it the right way in asking for a vote by Congress. (A strike against another government is, after all, an act of war and only Congress has the power to declare war.) Unlike Bush, the Obama administration should encourage that vote by presenting what we actually know about Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Not just what we think or want to believe.

Once Congress has voted, the US should take a well-substantiated case to the UN. After all, the ban of the use of chemical weapons is the result of an international treaty. We should not go it alone. We should not be rushed into action. We should not be pushed by the warmongers from a few countries in the region. And we should all recognize that, after Bush’s misadventures in Iraq, much of the rest of the world is understandably skeptical.

If the UN does approve military action against Assad, there should be a real coalition. Not some “coalition of the willing” as Bush claimed in Iraq. Any nation that votes for action should be willing to participate. And they should be willing to help pay for it.

Rules Of War?

The assumed response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons raises an obvious question: Where do we draw the line in warfare?

Following World War I and World War II, the world came together at the Geneva Conventions which banned the use of chemical weapons and torture. They also provided for the humane treatment of prisoners of war. The Geneva Conventions did not, however, ban nuclear weapons (the US is still the only nation to use them). They did not ban carpet bombing of cities. They did not prohibit incendiaries that can level cities in a firestorm. They did not ban attacks on food supplies and infrastructure that can turn large populations of civilians into starving refugees. In fact, they did not control many weapons and techniques that are now routinely used in modern warfare.

Why draw the line on one type of weapon of mass destruction while ignoring others? Are unarmed civilians any more dead from a chemical attack than from a remote-controlled bomb? Is it more painful to die from a nerve gas attack than from explosives?

Long ago, many cultures romanticized warfare and bound it by rules of honor. But, with the development of weapons of mass destruction (including automatic weapons, artillery, bombs, chemical and biological weapons, and nuclear devices) today’s warfare has become a glorified video game in which those most at risk are unarmed, innocent civilians.

How absurd that it’s okay to kill masses of people in one way, but not another! How senseless that, although some forms of torture are banned, others are not! How idiotic that we can allow despots in Rwanda and Cambodia to murder tens of thousands, but draw the line in other countries.

Truth is, there has been no real honor between warriors for centuries. No country or culture that willingly participates in warfare has a corner on ethics and morality. The development of ever more lethal weapons has turned today’s warriors into breathing, bleeding killing machines. Is it any wonder, then, that these machines we create have such difficulty adapting to so-called polite society following their service?

What has happened in Syria is awful. But why is a red line drawn at the use of chemical weapons? If we level Damascus and its population with unseen missiles and bombs, is that better than allowing them to be killed by an unseen gas? What will be the outcome of our choosing to participate in this civil war? What will be the benefit?

Personally, I see none.

Saber Rattling In Congress.

Following reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, some in Congress are demanding that President Obama intervene. Even though the use of chemical weapons have not yet been confirmed, some are calling the president “weak” for his failure to respond.

Such knee jerk reactions by the war hawks already have been responsible for far too many wars and far too many deaths.

In 1964, the war hawks used false reports of a North Vietnamese attack on US naval ships to ramp up the war leading to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands. In 1983, the Reagan administration not only turned a blind eye to Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iran, there are indications the US actually supplied the weapons. And, in 2003, the Bush/Cheney war hawks were in such a hurry to invade Iraq, they used false information to convince Congress to vote for a war that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands Iraqis and 4,486 US soldiers.

One would think that, after such obvious and lethal mistakes, our congressional war hawks and media would be much more reluctant to engage in saber rattling. After all, there are far more questions in Syria than answers. Were chemical weapons actually used? Who used them? What are the goals of those opposing Assad? What will happen to Syria if Assad is defeated, especially since it has been reported that the opposition includes factions of al Qaeda? Will the opposition welcome our military assistance? Will the new Syria become an ally?

What will Russia, a long-time ally of Assad’s, do if we choose to intervene in Syria? What will be the impact on the already flammable Middle East since Syria shares a border with Israel?

Given all of these questions, exactly how is the US to respond? Do we provide more sophisticated arms to the rebels, including al Qaeda? Do we create a no-fly zone that may lead to a far more serious confrontation with Russia, and may not even accomplish the goal of overthrowing Assad? Do we bomb military targets in Syria that will almost certainly antagonize Russia? Do we insert US troops on the ground in what could be a more lethal and lengthy war than Iraq?

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, about 60 percent of US citizens interviewed oppose intervention in Syria.  It would seem that ordinary Americans have far more common sense than their saber-rattling congressional representatives.