Since Obama’s latest speech on the upcoming US war against ISIS there has been a flood of commentary, some of it very cogent and some of it alarmist in the extreme. Based on reports from experienced investigative journalists and scholars, the US war against ISIS clearly runs the risk of inflaming the violence in the Middle East further and heightening the threat of terrorism. In order to grasp these realities an honest appraisal of the origins and development of this conflict must be made, admittedly an ambitious task in a media culture drowning in misinformation and deceptive insinuation. Below are just a few basic points that are worth bearing in mind as the Obama administration escalates this assault.
- The US is not bombing Iraq to “fix” anything but to sustain US regional hegemony.
A common criticism of the US attempt to bomb ISIS is that it will not “fix” the situation in Iraq and Syria. This argument is extremely misplaced for two reasons:
- The US, as the world’s leading military superpower, is primarily concerned with consolidating economic and political control over other countries, therefore “fixing” situations is only relevant insofar as it secures these goals. Additionally, US policy has absolutely no relation to human rights (see: Israeli occupation of Palestine). In fact, a study was carried out in 1979 by Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky which revealed a correlation between US aid and human rights abuses.
- There is a diplomatic record that reveals that the US, quite apart from playing a constructive role in negotiations, has actively worked to undermine a peaceful resolution to this conflict. Flyntt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s commentary is particularly instructive on this count. The US role in prolonging the Syrian Civil War has stimulated the rise of ISIS and other retail terrorist organizations that turned the civil war from a conflict internal to Syria to a grave regional security threat.
- Aerial Bombing Does not Reduce Terror But Encourages It
Numerous reports have been published showing that drone warfare (the Obama administration’s favorite mode of terror) accelerates the threat of terrorism. This is most clearly shown in the US drone campaign in Pakistan where, according to Fawaz Gerges’ Obama and the Middle East, terror has not only increased due to drone strikes but Obama has been informed that it has this effect. The fact that the Obama administration is able to casually disregard this well documented fact shows that the reduction of terrorism is not a strategic priority for US policy makers.
It also must be noted that bombing other countries without UN authorization is an act of military aggression and a serious war crime. Much of the legal discourse over this bombing has confined itself to whether or not Obama will seek Congressional authorization. International authorization matters as well. That this is omitted in conventional narratives suggests that many media commentators have become comfortable with the US status as a rogue state.
- The Idea that Certain States are Too “Evil” to Work with is Diplomatically Backwards and Politically Dangerous
In addition for being responsible for a great deal of the diplomatic sabotage as it relates to the Syrian Civil war—the US distorted the meaning of the Geneva I communiques so that Assad would be forced to step down—this moralistic stance flatly contradicts official US policy.
The US has a long and sordid history of backing brutal regimes from Saudi Arabia, to Israel, to Egypt and Bahrain. To suddenly feign outrage over human rights violations illustrates a level of hypocrisy that exceeds even regular levels of duplicity (an impressive feat).
For example, the US was perfectly willing to cooperate with Bashar Assad when they kidnapped Canadian national Maher Arar and sent him to Syria to be tortured. To embrace Assad when he commits acts of torture at the behest of the US but to shun him when his cooperation is vitally needed to deal with a regional crisis further reinforces the notion that the US is primarily concerned with sustaining regional hegemony.
As Murtaza Hussain has astutely pointed out in a recent article for The Intercept, the US must work with Iran, and other regional actors, if they have any serious hope of ameliorating this violence. Hussain observes, “Rather than reflexively satisfying an emotional need to ‘do something’ in the face of atrocities committed by ISIS against American citizens, a policy of coalition-building across ideological lines could potentially eliminate the group and perhaps begin to heal sectarian divisions in the region.”
Multilateral initiatives of this kind will not emerge without concerted public pressure to force Washington elites to abandon their unilateral and ultra-militaristic policies. Doing this will create the necessary space for peaceful alternatives to be pursued.
In an incredible display “democratic” values, the servants of power in the free press have managed to induce the necessary amounts of fear and trauma among the American public to get them to support this latest bombing. CNN has published a poll showing approximately 70% of Americans see ISIS as a threat to the United States.
This conclusion is not supported by the judgment of the FBI which has declared that ISIS presents “no credible threat to the US.” Nevertheless, the hysteria of the corporate press and many members of Congress have drowned out this verifiable fact. It’s quite amazing that the unprecedented propaganda offensive that preceded the Iraq war did not motivate those who support this current assault to be more skeptical of these efforts to frighten the American public.
The role of political party tribalism also must not be discounted here. It is not uncommon for so-called liberal Democrats to support criminal wars because a Democrat is carrying out the crimes. The large support for drone strikes among liberals is a graphic example of this unsettling reality.
The insularity of imperial culture is particularly pernicious in its ability to filter out the viewpoints and opinions of those who reside in the outer reaches of empire. Throughout all the reports on the US bombing of ISIS one would be hard pressed to find any reference to the most current public opinion polls in Middle East.
The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project is informative in this domain. Of the nine countries in Middle East and North Africa polled, all of them, with the exception of Israel, look at the US unfavorably. Similarly, all the countries polled oppose drone strikes (Israel being the exception again for obvious reasons.)
It’s not known if the civil war in Iraq and Syria affected these numbers but they certainly merit attention as they serve as a vigorous refutation of Obama’s nauseating homages to American exceptionalism or as he put it in his latest speech: “the endless blessings” which obligate us to take on an “enduring burden.” Perhaps the people of the Middle East can conceive of another “enduring burden” recently recognized as the “greatest threat to world peace.” Another statistical irrelevancy.
There are many more dimensions of this conflict —the role of the Gulf States in supporting ISIS, the significance of the Turkish-Syrian border, etc. — that are worth exploring and will undoubtedly increase in complexity as the Obama administration deepens its involvement in the region. What’s most important is that we not lose sight of the Iraqis and Syrians who are sure to suffer the most if the lawless policies of the Obama administration are allowed to be carried out unimpeded.