When Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize, thousands of young Norwegians protested, but they were not surprised at the choice. The prize committee has long been run by hardline, pro-American Cold warriors. Let’s not forget they gave Henry Kissinger the prize, as well as Menachem Begin and Anwar Saadat. Soon after Obama got it, he escalated the drone attacks and sent 10,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan. Bush released more prisoners than him from Guantanamo. Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous US presidents put together. Then there is the question of state terror, taken to new heights by arrogating to himself and all future presidents the power to order the execution of any US citizen (or anyone else deemed to be a danger) at home or abroad. The surveillance state, which he defends without any sense of shame, has revealed that the US and its allies in Europe use technology to spy on their citizens to levels that dwarf the Stasi of East Germany during Cold War times. The halo around his head was linked mainly to his skin colour and the fact that he was a more ‘human’ leader than Bush, which made it easier for the vassal states in Europe to do his bidding without arousing too much anger from their respective citizenries. I pointed out soon after his election that he was the most inventive apparition of the Empire.
All this has now worn off. The Emperor’s clothes are no different from those of his predecessors. He serves Wall Street and the defence industry as assiduously as most other presidents. Like Bush and Clinton before him, he is slavish when it comes to defending Israel, its assets and interests in the Middle East. Even as I write, news bulletins are reporting joint US-Israeli missile tests in the Mediterranean. So his desire to bomb Syria should not come as a surprise to any serious observer. Over the last few months, the regime had been consistently pushing the rebels back and recovering small and large towns. This is the primary reason for the planned assault.
The plan has been delayed by the decision of the British parliament—itself the result of a convoluted voting process that took everyone by surprise—to give this particular war a miss. Given Britain’s status abroad as Washington’s bloodshot adjutant, the vote had a global resonance. “What?” American citizens asked each other. “Our most loyal follower, deserting us just before the strikes? What does it all mean and shouldn’t we be debating the issue ourselves?” Obama’s language in interviews was no different from that of Bush. He actually said that the reason for the planned assault was that these chemical weapons “might be used against the United States”. By whom? By Al Qaeda etc. Excuse me? Aren’t they on your side in this particular conflict and isn’t the real aim of the strikes to strengthen their side against the regime in this depressing and ugly civil war? Despite the rhetoric, the British vote forced Obama to delay the so-called surgical raids. Meanwhile, in France, the other war-loving state, 64 percent of public opinion is opposed to the war. French intelligence hurriedly produced dossiers (leaked to two Le Monde journalists weeks ago), presumably supplied by Mossad, with which they have close links. The Israelis are desperate to knock out Hezbollah, the only movement in the region that has fought them to a standstill.
Obama may not want to impose regime change himself, but he’s quite happy to let the tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO pillar Turkey) do the business for him. Were they to succeed, the chaos in the region, not to mention the body count, would far exceed that created in Libya after ‘liberation’. We still have no accurate figures for the casualties caused by six months of NATO bombs in that country, but they vary from 10,000-30,000. The authors of that war are busy cooking up another. What has helped Syria is the backing of Russia and Iran; the Chinese, too, have made it clear that they would not allow the UNSC to be used as a fig leaf in this particular case.
I’ve been saying for months now that a political solution is possible. It was the western-backed opposition that refused to talk. Now it might be too late, though if Washington wanted a peaceful solution it could, with Russia, impose one. This would mean a break with Al Qaeda and similar outfits, but surely that would be a step forward. The notion that toppling the regime will lead to peace, bread and democracy is a sick joke. Just look at what’s happened in Egypt. There is no organisation in Syria either that can take a popular uprising to the next level. None. The Muslim Brotherhood is the dominant force, together with groups further to its right. To expect anything from these organisations is to live off illusions and later complain that they have been betrayed.
(Tariq Ali’s book, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, is published by Verso)
I read Tariq Ali's column (American Roulette) with great interest. I thought I'd never agree with Ali, but he is totally right in this case. Why does the US want to fight a war that can only help the Muslim Brotherhood? It is rather insane. The US must work with states such as Russia, even Iran, and work towards a negotiated settlement and let the Syrians be.
Ashutosh Kaul, Toronto
It’s convenient to blame the US and NATO allies for all conflicts in West Asia. One wishes Syria were a democratic country, and not ruled by a despot, a fact that is at the root of the civil war in the first place. Tariq Ali should also look at the role of the oil-rich Gulf nations and ask them to behave as responsible members of the UN and help end the conflict themselves. They have enough resources at their command!
After more than 1,00,000 Syrians dead and two million in refugee camps and many more internally displaced, Ali makes a strong, subtle case for avoiding any Western attack on the country. However, I am intrigued by his last para—that a political solution is available. He thinks a US-Russian deal will save the situation, while not counting in other players like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran etc, ranged along the old Shia-Sunni divide. Maybe he is wrong!
DR, on e-mail
Syria is more complex than it appears. Its civil war is sectarian in nature. Asad’s Alawite Shia regime is being challenged by a Sunni opposition, who have closer links with Al Qaeda and other assorted Islamic radicals. Assad has a history of respecting minorities, and non-Muslims in Syria are among his supporters. If the US plans to oust Assad, it would only help Al Qaeda-backed radicals gain ground in the bruising civil war.
Dipto, New York
Have the Americans not learnt anything from their misadventures in Iraq and Libya? If the Syrians are hell-bent on killing each other, why really should the US wish to interfere? The smart thing would be to sit on the sidelines, wait for the winner, then invite them for tea.
Arun Visvanathan, Chennai
There are no good guys in this war. It's the 30-year war. The best outcome for the rest of the world is not to let anyone claim an outright win.
A.N. Banerjee, Newcastle, UK
It is convenient to blame USA and NATO allies for all the conflicts in the Middle Eastern countries. One wishes Syria to become a democratic country by peaceful means instead of the civil war between two sects of Islam. Tariq Ali should ask the Arab League of Nations and Oil rich Arab countries to become responsible members of UN and solve this conflict themselves without involving West as they ample means and resources if they have the will. Impact of Arab Spring in progressing welfare of all its people is yet to be seen - e.g. Egypt.
If it weren’t so tragic it would be farcical.
"The prize committee has long been run by hardline, pro-American Cold warriors"
Yeah right!! That is why they gave the prize to Gorbachev and not to Ronald Reagan. And they gave the prize to Jimmy Carter whose qualification was he criticized Bush.
Some pro American cold warrior group!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Syria is a lot more complex than it appears. Syria's civil war is sectarian by nature. Assad's Alwaite Shia regime is being challenged by mostly Sunni oppposition who have closer links with the Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalists. Assad has a history of respecting minority rights and therefore non Muslims of Syria are mostly supportive of Assad. If America plans for a regime change in Syria to remove its old foe Assad, it will only help the Al Qaeda backed opposition gain grounds in Syria. That indeed is not a favorable outcome for American interests.
Because of its business relationships with Russia and China, Syria already gets symathetic ears at the UN security council. Taking unilateral action against Syria will be unpopular, whereas getting approval for a military action through UN security council is almost impossible. Even the opinion is divided among other countries about a possible military action. Those countries that otherwise dislike Assad's regime do not want a global unrest and shooting of oil prices following a limited war in Syria. A majority of Americans do not support a war in Syria after seeing the disasters of the Iraq war. So approval from the US lawmakers may not be achieved easily.
On the other hand Assad, is close to America's other foe Iran. Syria is proxy for Iran. If America does nothing after acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons is a red line, it will give a signal about America's inability to take strong action against the errants. This in turn would strengthen Syria and Iran's resolve. Especially Iran can be even more intransigent to go ahead with its nuclear program. A nuclear Iran is against Israel and America's interests.
So the choice is between doing nothing to further strengthen Syria and its backer Iran and taking a punitive military action to weaken Assad's military might somewhat proving America does not isue empty warnings. Even for the latter option any military action unless limited and calibrated can escalate to a region-wise conflict in which America is sucked in and AlQaeda is strengthened at the expense of Assad.
4D-KishoreDasMunshi >> The ascent of obama, his campaign and his two terms has been a farce of first degree.
So has been the ascent of Saint Sonia and her two terms of rule through proxy (MMS) ,the biggest farce in Indian history.
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