Western policy in Syria is bankrupt. But that doesn’t stop the aerial attacks, reports Mike Phipps
The US has been bombing Syria for over a year. Russia began this September, as did France. Turkey has strafed targeted ISIS positions in the country and Israel has also conducted air strikes on Syrian military installations. Canada has been bombing Syria since April and Australia since September. Jordan began a year ago as did Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. That’s eleven countries in total.
Britain’s Parliament voted two years ago not to bomb Syria, but a recent Freedom of Information request by Reprieve revealed that UK forces had in fact been bombing the country for some time, as well as carrying out Drone-based assassinations there. Parliament is likely to be given another opportunity to debate aerial bombardment sometime in the autumn although, given the way the last vote was subverted, a No vote is unlikely to constrain the government entirely.
Why do so many countries feel the need to bomb Syria? Western interventionists claim this is all part of the war on the unspeakable ISIS, yet this is evidently not the full story given the US’s stated commitment to regime change in the country.
Aerial bombardment is a form of warfare that enshrines global inequalities. The lives of western armed forces are too valuable to risk on the ground. Casualties could generate popular opposition at home, forcing withdrawal. Bombing from the air, by contrast, entails less risk for the aggressors but significantly increases the danger to local civilians – ’collateral damage,’ in military jargon.
The recent US bombardment of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, causing 22 deaths, underlines this. Despite the fact that the organisation had notified the US, NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical co-ordinates – before and again during the attack – to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital, it suffered a sustained bombardment. In a contemptible attempt to obfuscate the circumstances leading to this war crime, the US changed its explanation four times.
US double standards are all too apparent in the Middle East. While highlighting the crimes of the Assad regime in Syria in dropping barrel bombs on its own civilians, it turns a blind eye to the thousands of civilian casualties its ally Saudi Arabia has inflicted through its bombing of Yemen. In one atrocity in September 2015, 130 people attending a wedding were massacred. Over 500 children have been killed since the air strikes began. The Saudis are also using US-supplied cluster bombs which are banned in most countries.
US attacks on ISIS have also killed many innocent civilians – 20 in one incident alone in September in Raqqa, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The idea that the US bombing campaign will act as a deterrent to ISIS recruitment is risible. In the first month of US bombing last year, ISIS recruited 6,000 new fighters. Over 4,000 coalition air strikes later, ISIS continues to advance in Syria.
On October 9, the US finally killed off its $500 million programme to train Syrian rebels. Last year, the Pentagon asked Congress to fund a programme that would train 2,300 rebels to fight the Assad government. In the end, it managed to train only 60. It’s hard to see where US strategy goes next. But one constant is continued bombing. And Britain may soon be officially joining in.
Syrians have endured four years of civil war, resulting in four million refugees. To live in peace – is that too much to ask? Three years ago, according to a recent Guardian report, Russia proposed a peace settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents that would have included President Assad stepping down. But, according to the former Finnish President and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, who was involved in the discussions at the time, the US was so confident that Assad would soon be violently overthrown that it rejected the proposal. theguardian.com…west-ignored-russian-offer…
Progressive journalist Asa Winstanley observed recently: “Western powers seem to have a deliberate policy of not decisively backing one side or the other. The longer the Syrian civil war goes on, the less of a threat that Syria, Hezbollah and Iran are to the Israeli occupation. Embarking on a new or renewed bombing campaign in Syria will not help the situation, and will almost certainly make things worse. It will definitely create more refugees.” middleeastmonitor.com…western-bombing-is-only-helping-isis
The Stop the War Coalition is calling on people to lobby their MP to oppose the bombing of Syria. It takes two minutes – and might save countless lives. See stopwar.org.uk…stop-the-bombing-of-syria-now-lobby-your-mp-now