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Monday, August 20, 2018

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American airstrike violates Syrian sovereignty


Bombing Syria is not a new trend for the West, as evidenced by this protest in 2015. | Courtesy of David Cameron.

For the past seven years, the United States and other foreign powers have been tearing away at the flesh of Syria, and just when it seemed they could dig no further, they reached the heart: Damascus.

The United States has no moral high-ground to bomb any country for any reason when we continue to subject our indigenous population to land theft by mining and petroleum conglomerates, our black population to tear gas and violence, and our Arab, South Asian and Muslim populations to constant surveillance.

On April 13, updates flooded the television screens and timelines of millions of people internationally. Damascus and several other Syrian cities were being bombed by France, the United Kingdom and the United States over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. A similar reason prompted the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The violent occupation that followed was terrifying.

The stakes could not be higher, and America’s amnesia could not be deeper.

Syria has been in a civil war since 2011. The war quickly turned into an anti-government movement, which was co-opted by other movements that created a wide range of factions that were financially and militarily backed by foreign powers, from Turkey to the UAE.

Syria’s long-standing dictatorship fought back against these groups, but innocent Syrian civilians were caught in the crossfire, creating a massive refugee crisis.

The United States has played a damaging role in Syria since the civil war began, which is no surprise given the history of the imperialist giant. In militarily backing different rebel factions, the goal was and continues to be to overthrow the Syrian state. The historical parallel to the U.S. role in Afghanistan, in backing the Mujahideen against the former Socialist Afghan government and the chaos that later ensued is evident.  

While the nations are different, the goals are identical and the methods are similar.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was set to visit Syria one day after the bombing, April 14, and arrived after the event to carry out their inspection of the findings. There could be a number of reasons for why the three nations decided to launch their missiles before an independent investigation could be carried out. 

French President Emmanuel Macron claims he has evidence that the Syrian government carried out the attack. However, the report states that “it was very likely” the government carried out the attack, which is not a direct link but an intelligent estimation. Despite this lack of direct evidence, Macron carried out French assistance with Napoleonic vigor.

The tripartite attack on Syria is based more on allegations than on actual evidence. The Syrian government has been a violent actor in this war, with their long history of oppression creating the contradictions for why it began, and they have often gone over and above their stated aims when they claim to take back territory from various rebel groups.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is far from innocent. Still, an independent investigation should have been carried out before any international response.

President Trump claims the bombing is in response to a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government against Syrians in Ghouta. Trump’s sudden call to action driven by concern for Syrians is bogus considering in 2018 alone, only 11 Syrian refugees have been granted residence in the United States. Trump’s apparent compassion ends at the airports and on the shores of the United States.

Trump could have pushed for this attack because of several political reasons, whether to divert from his own scandals or to distract attention away from Israel’s massacres of peaceful protesters in Gaza, given his close relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For Trump, the attack is just as much a distraction method as it is part of a larger U.S. goal to destabilize Syria.

This is best expressed in the words of revolutionary writer C.L.R. James: “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”

If the United States actually applied the same standards around the world, then why haven’t we bombed Saudi airfields for dropping white phosphorus on the people of Yemen or Israel for dropping the same chemical weapon on Palestinians?

The answer is obvious. We don’t bomb our allies when they commit war crimes. That privilege is only reserved for our enemies.

Destabilizing Syria will undermine any attempts at reconciliation and a peace process. As long as the United States chooses to bomb them instead of providing aid, this civil war will continue to spiral into anarchy.

This bombing was not only cruel but unconstitutional. It was done without congressional approval. Trump’s undemocratic actions are unsurprising, especially considering his statement afterwards, echoing the words of former president and war criminal George W. Bush: “Mission accomplished!”

No matter where readers stand on the Syrian civil war, there is no reason for the U.S. to involve itself through armed force or militarily-backing of any side given how much we have already fanned the flames.

While there are plenty of reasons to critique the roles of the Syrian government, the European Union, Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey and member nations of the Gulf Coordinating Council in the destruction of Syria, there is no excuse to cause further damage and cause further conflict when the United States has the ability to help end the civil war.

Opinion columnist Brant Roberts is a history senior and can be reached at [email protected].  

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