Over the last few weeks I have been sent by email or seen on Facebook many appeals calling for “International Action” in Syria. They have come from organisations such as AVAAZ, Amnesty USA but I have even seen one from Occupy Melbourne. Those appeals have been posted by people I consider to be progressive. Many of these people would definitely consider themselves anti-war and would have opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the U.S. and the “Coalition of the Willing”.
These calls for unspecified “action” are providing the ideological and moral cover for what increasingly looks like the inevitable armed intervention eg WAR by the West and its Middle Eastern Proxies in Syria.
It is clear that the U.S. and it allies want regime change in Syria but it is clearly nothing to do with protecting civilians. The real agenda of the U.S. and its allies is the replacement of the Assad Regime with a Western friendly Sunni regime. This would help the U.S. in two ways. It would further isolate Iran. If regime change occurs in both Syria and Iran then U.S. hedgemony over the oil rich Middle East will have been achieved. This will come at the expense of their two great power rivals Russia and even more importantly China who both have important links with Syria and Iran. It is part of the global context of the rising tensions and competition between the U.S. and the rising China.
Military intervention in Syria risks turning what is already a bloody sectarian civil war between Sunni’s and Shia’s into a broader regional conflict that could easily draw in both Israel, Western powers and the Sunni versus Shia Middle East. Given the broader global tensions between the U.S.and China and Russia it is not inconceivable that this conflict could be the start of World War Three. The situation currently in Syria is comparable to the powderkeg of the Balkans prior to World War One.
The calls for “International Action” seem to be occurring with a sort of weird historical amnesia. Most recently they are ignoring the experience in Libya. The brutal regime of Gaddaffi faced a similar first peaceful and then armed uprising. Calls for humanitarian intervention to prevent “a massacre” then occurred. Then NATO intervened with a so called no-fly zone that escalated to thousands of bombing sorties and “advisors” on the ground. In the subsequent conflict thousands of Libyan civilians were killed including many directly by NATO. Atrocities were committed by both Gaddaffi and anti-Gaddafi forces culminating in Gaddafi’s extra-judicial torture and killing. Since then under the Libyan Transitional Council torture and killings have continued unabated. A recent Amnesty report details some of these crimes. http://www.amnesty.org/zh-hant/node/29746 Meanwhile Libyan’s oil contracts have been divided up between the former colonial powers of Europe and the U.S., whilst locking out China.
Have proponents of “humanitarian intervention” by the “Friends of Syria” forgotten that the same arguments were wheeled out for invading Iraq. That Saddam was a brutal dictator is beyond question but doesn’t anyone still seriously believe the war was conducted to protect Iraqi lives. Does the fact that up to 1 million Iraqi’s have paid for the war with their lives not undermine this argument? Does the fact that several post Saddam Iraqi government have practiced torture not undermine this argument?
What about the fact that the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies continues to be justified on the grounds of protecting civilians. Even as the U.S. kills thousands of Afghans through bombing, drone attacks and night raids.
Given all of this it shocks me deeply that people committed to peace are falling for the trap of supporting yet another U.S. led war on the grounds that it will protect civilians.
If the track record of the last ten years was not enough then how about we examine some of the states that make up the “Friends of Libya”. How about Saudi Arabia who has one of the poorest most undemocratic records of government on earth. They even sent troops to Bahrain last year to shoot and kill to help put down the democratic uprising there largely led by the Shia community. How about the Egyptian Junta – do I need to say anything about them. Even Turkey, although it is a democracy, has a very poor record in suppressing the rights of its Kurdish minority Then there is the former colonial powers of Britain and France who have a long and bloody history of carving up the Middle East and who have been busy occupying Afghanistan for the last ten years. To think that this collection of countries has been moved into considering action in Syria to save the lives of civilians in a democratic uprising would be laughable if the situation was not so serious.
Make no mistake, what is happening is a tragedy. Innocent civilians are being killed in this conflict, however military intervention by the West and its proxies is not the answer. If the anti-war movement and progressives in this country can be corralled into supporting continual imperialist wars by each new round of propaganda about civilians who need help without any analysis of the context and who and why intervention is occurring then we are in deep trouble.
All people of peace should condemn the violence by the Assad regime but not call for yet another military intervention that can only result in death on a grander scale in Syria and potentially a much wider war. The anti-war movement in Australia needs to develop quickly an understanding of how the world is being dragged by the rivalry between the U.S and China into very dangerous waters. Given our place in the alliance and the potential for us to be on the frontline of any war with China this is doubly important for the Australian anti-war movement. .