Once more into the breach, dear friends

It looks like the Obama administration has gone into full-court press mode to lay the groundwork for taking military action in Syria. The ostensible reason is the allegation that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, a charge that enables the US to preach sanctimoniously of the evil of such an action, conveniently ignoring the many times in the recent past when it was the US that used, or condoned the use, of chemical weapons against civilians on a massive scale.

Ever since president Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘red line’ that would draw retaliation, I felt that that it was inevitable that whatever group that wanted to get the US involved would be strongly tempted to use such weapons. It also makes sense for the Syrian government, which clearly would prefer the US to stay out of the conflict, to avoid providing any pretext for the US to act. Both those factors logically imply that if chemical weapons were in fact used (and even that basic fact has not been conclusively established), it is more likely to have been by the anti-government forces or agents provocateurs with their own agenda.

It is remarkable how the prelude to the invasion of Iraq is being played out again with Syria. We have the ominous warnings of dangerous weapons and the US government acting as if it is certain of the facts without providing any convincing evidence. We have the UN inspectors on the ground who, after some delay, have been allowed by the government to enter the site and investigate. We have the US saying that it is too late for inspections and that the UN inspectors should leave. (The one difference is that this time the UN has refused to leave.) We have a US public reluctant to get involved in yet another country’s internal conflicts. We have the US trying to get a UN resolution to attack Syria and then threatening to bypass the UN if it does not get its way. We have its NATO allies also beating the drums for war. We even have Bush’s poodle and war criminal Tony Blair showing his repulsive head and pushing for war again.

It is just like old times, with just some of the names and faces changed. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, and the rest of that earlier gang of war criminals must feel a sense of vindication and satisfaction that the model they followed has become the bipartisan standard.

So why is the US so eager to attack Syria? Who knows? Just as the reasons for the invasion of Iraq Iraq remain murky to this day and could be due to many factors, so might be the case for the current attack. One factor that should not be discounted is that war tends to be good public relations for a president, that shores up his domestic support when their polls are sinking. Justin Raimondo says that one reason may be an attempt by the Obama administration and its European allies to deflect attention away from the beating they are getting over the Snowden revelations.

Is that too cynical a view? Recall how Bill Clinton bombed a harmless and valuable pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in 1998, falsely claiming that it was a chemical weapons factory, when he was under siege over the Monica Lewinsky affair. History has shown that when it comes to the US government’s motives, you are more likely to be correct by being overly cynical than by giving them credit for acting honorably.

And so we have an irresistible opportunity for Barack Obama to bestride the world like Henry V, to show the world his awesome power that can pulverize anything he wishes to destroy.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

So brace ourselves for more shock-and-awe, more deaths, more war crimes, all in the name of the highest motives. It is ever thus.


  1. says

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead.

    Henry at least appeared on the battlefield and (arguably) had some of his own skin in the game. Our current crop of “leaders” do their leading from air conditioned concrete bunkers, while young men and civilians pay for the mistakes made by old cowards.

  2. Glenn says

    A strong streak of psychopathy runs through every State leadership.

    Assad’s enemies would not be above killing some of their own people to further their glorious cause, no more than the U.S. would not be above killing Americans to the same effect. How else can the American dead in the State’s wars of choice and aggression, in the name of defense, be classified?

  3. left0ver1under says

    So why is the US so eager to attack Syria?

    One look at a map will answer that question. Going through Syria, it’s a VERY short distance (350km) from one of Iraq’s largest oil fields to Israel’s northern border. A trans-Syria oil pipeline there means Iraq’s oil doesn’t have to be moved thousands of kilometres by tanker through the Persian Gulf, Red Sea or anywhere near Iran or Somalia, and the US’s most favoured client state would be supplied directly.

    The US government and military have been working to ethnically cleans people from western parts of Afghanistan for the Trans Afghanistan Pipeline. The invasion and long-term occupation of Syria would be done for the same reason.



  4. colnago80 says

    Actually, Prof. Singham is 100% wrong here. The Obama Administration has been using every excuse at their disposal to avoid getting involved in the Syrian mess. Unfortunately, the problem is that Obama shot off his big mouth last Spring proclaiming that use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be a “red line’. Well, know it’s happened and its put up or shut up time. Unfortunately, failure to respond at this time would encourage other bad actors to ignore US warnings in the future (e.g. Iran). IMHO, a one time strike using cruise missiles won’t do the job of deterring Assad from future bad deeds. And no, I don’t propose the use of 15 megaton bombs or other nuclear devices. That would be vast overkill.

  5. says

    I’m still fascinated by the way that the Israeli airstrikes on Syria were swept under the table. It’ll probably be decades before we know what was going on, and what was hit, and why.

    Increasingly, I realize that Obama is a bonehead. You’re right that the “red line” comment was dumb posturing that painted himself into a corner; totally unnecessary. If Obama was actually the big tough guy he’s pretending to be he could say, “I changed my mind.” But he’s actually such a bonehead that he’s at the end of his presidency and he’s worried about what the chattering class thinks.

  6. jamessweet says

    tl;dr. Don’t you have something to share with us about twerking? I thought you liked to discuss current events.

    (/sarcasm, in case anyone couldn’t tell)

  7. colnago80 says

    I don’t think that it is fair to characterize Obama as a bonehead. Let’s face it, he was handed a shit sandwich by his predecessor, an economic meltdown, two no win wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been making efforts to do something about them. I think his reluctance to get into foreign adventures is commendable. As George Will put it in one of the very few times he said something sensible, after Obama was accused of dithering on Afghanistan, a little dithering would have been in order before marching headlong into Iraq.

  8. Mano Singham says

    I had never heard of this before. It is at the same time shocking but not surprising. Thanks for letting me know.

  9. leper says

    The Pentagon likely wants in, since it’s an excuse to justify their existence. And it’s also a new source of funding that will be unaffected by the sequester.

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