The debate over Syria in the US, such as it is, seems to center around whether chemical weapons were used in Ghouta and by whom. The Obama administration says it is convinced that they were used and that the Syrian government did it and that this justifies military action against the Syrian government, though what that action will be and what it seeks to achieve has not been clearly articulated. Furthermore, even if what they say is true, that does not make a US attack on that country legal.
But not everyone is convinced that the US has made its case. In fact, there is a great deal of skepticism all over the globe because as usual, the US simply says, “We have the evidence. Trust us.” Anyone who takes the word of the US and UK governments at face value on matters of war, given their appalling history, is gullible to a dangerous degree. In fact, these two governments have shown themselves to be such liars that they need to meet a higher bar of evidence than what would normally be required. In fact, only an agency completely independent of the US and UK governments can claim any credibility.
Suppose the UN inspectors do report that chemical agents were used. What then?
It may well be true that the Syrian government has the chemical weapons and the ability to deploy them. It is the question of motive that raises questions. From all reports, they were already winning, at least slowly, the war against the rebel forces. They knew that Obama had drawn a ‘red line’ on chemical weapons. The UN inspectors were already in Syria and near Ghouta. So why would they use these weapons at that time and at that place? It just does not seem rational.
On the other hand, the rebels had every motive for using them as a ‘false flag’ operation to draw the US into the war and bolster their own fortunes. The weakness of the case against the rebels is that it is not clear that they have the capacity to manufacture these particular agents and deploy them in the manner shown.
Juan Cole says that there may be a third option that is plausible.
Then Obama’s own intelligence links cast doubt on whether President Bashar al-Assad had actively ordered the chemical weapons attack of August 21, which seems more likely the action of a local colonel who either went rogue or made an error in mixing too much sarin into crowd control gases. The Ministry of Defense seems to have upbraided him.
So if it turns out that a lower–level Syrian military official was responsible and has been reprimanded, where does that leave the US government? I am certain that it will not change US rhetoric in the least and that they will continue to blame the Syrian government by saying that those at the highest levels must be held responsible for the actions of those below them, even if those actions were not ordered at the highest levels..
The fact that this will be a double standard will not faze them in the least because Obama has shown himself to be perfectly comfortable as a hypocrite. After all, the US government is the first to wash its hands of responsibility for any criminal actions taken by its agents, as we can see from the war crimes committed by it in its various wars. Even though people as high as vice president Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were the architects of the torture program run by the US, no high level official was ever punished for that or for the atrocious acts committed at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo, and elsewhere because Obama speciously declared that in those cases “we must look forward, not backward.” How convenient!
It has long been the practice of the US government that it decides what it wants to do for various reasons that it may or may not share with the public wholly or in part, and then manufactures the case for it, lying if necessary. If they can get the UN on board with its action, then the UN is hailed as a force for good. If the UN fails to go along, it is condemned as useless and a waste of money. If the US can get some allies to go along, then it tries to claim multinational legitimacy. If that fails, then it claims that the responsibility to uphold high moral principle has to be borne it alone.
That is the brutal reality of US foreign policy.