No one wants to be manipulated into war. So why do we keep letting it happen?
Official Washington and those associated with it have misrepresented the facts numerous times in the service of military actions that might not otherwise have taken place. In the Middle East, these interventions have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilians, brought chaos to Iraq and Libya, and led to the expulsion of a million Christians from communities where they have lived since biblical times.
The most famous of these episodes, of course, was the U.S. government’s assurance to the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which formed the basis for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The government also insisted Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda, bolstering the call to war. Of course neither was true.
But even before that there was the first Iraq war in 1991, justified in part by the story of Iraqi soldiers reportedly dumping babies out of incubators to die in a Kuwaiti hospital. The 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador cleverly lied to a set-up congressional committee. The Christian Science Monitor detailed this bizarre episode in 2002.
There were also the lies about the Iraqi army being poised to invade Saudi Arabia. That was the ostensible reason for the U.S. sending troops to Kuwait—to defend Saudi Arabia. Writing in the the Los Angeles Times in 2003, Independent Institute fellow Victor Marshall pointed out that neither the CIA nor the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia as probable, and said the administration’s Iraqi troop estimates were “grossly exaggerated.” In fact, the administration’s claim that it had aerial photographs proving its assertions was never verified because, as we later learned, the photos never existed. The Christian Science Monitor also reported on this in 2002 ahead of the second Iraq war.
America attacked Iraq in 1991, bombing and destroying that nation’s irrigation, sanitation, and electricity plants. (See here regarding Washington’s knowledge of and planning for the horrific mass contamination of Iraqi drinking water.) Then we blockaded reconstruction supplies for nine years while some half-million children died of disease and starvation. We blamed it all on Saddam, although we controlled Iraq’s money flows through the UN food-for-oil program. Fortunately, we have a rare admission by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes about what was done.
Before that, there was the Kosovo war when America attacked Serbia on the basis of lies that 100,000 Kosovans had been massacred by Serbs in suppressing their civil war. This led to massive American bombing, brutally destroying much of that nation’s civilian infrastructure and factories, including most of the bridges in the country, and all but one of those over the Danube River. The Americans imposed peace, then expelled most Serbs out of their former province. Subsequently there was the mass destruction of hundreds of ancient Christian churches and the creation of a European enclave now filled with Saudi money that sponsors Wahhabi education, with its rote memorization of the Koran and its 13th-century hatred of Christians.
More recently there was the British, French, and American attack on Libya in response to lies that Moammar Gaddafi was planning to massacre civilians in Benghazi. The U.S. destroyed his armed forces and helped to overthrow him. Widespread looting of his weaponry subsequently filled black markets in Asia and Africa and contributed to the ability of Boko Haram terrorists to sow chaos in Nigeria and parts of Northern Africa. Masses of African refugees have been flooding Western Europe ever since, traveling through Libya. Some of those weapons also made their way into the hands of the Islamic State, which overran parts of Iraq and Syria.
Most recently we had cable news inundating us with stories of a new poison gas attack in Syria. The “news” came from rebel sources. The American Conservative has published a detailed analysis by former arms inspector Scott Ritter questioning the evidence, or lack of it, that the Assad regime initiated the attack. The former British ambassador to Syria also cast doubts on the poison gas attack and its sources from rebel organizations.
It doesn’t make sense that Assad would use poison gas just as Trump was saying that he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. It does make sense for the rebels to have staged a set up to get America to stay and attack Assad. This happened before in the summer of 2014 when President Obama nearly went to war over similar accusations. Only after asking Congress to vote on the matter did he decide against the attack because Congress wasn’t interested. Some congressmen’s mail was running 100-to-one against bombing. It was a welcome reminder of why Washington doesn’t want actual votes on starting wars: because most Americans don’t want more Washington wars.
Investigative journalists Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry expertly poked holes in the veracity of that 2013 attack. Other reports suggested that Syrian bombs unleashed poison gas the rebels had been storing in civilian areas. The New York Times finally published in December 2013 a detailed report that expressed doubts about its earlier conclusion that the 2013 “red line” gassing was carried out definitively by the Syrian military. False flag operations to goad America into war, it seems, can be successful.
After all the hundreds of thousands of innocents abroad killed by America and the human misery caused because of clever U.S. and foreign manipulations, one would think we might pause before attacking Syria and running the risk of killing Russians who are advising the Syrians. That could ignite an entirely new kind of war with a nuclear-armed Russia—all without congressional approval.
Obama, whose policies were predicated on the view that Assad must go, seemed to think Syrians would live happily after in some magically sprouting democracy. To believe this one would have to ignore the prior examples of Iraq and Libya. Nor do these war party advocates seem in the least concerned about the 10 percent of Syria’s population who are Christians, many of whom would surely by massacred after any overthrow of Assad.
Further, the so-called Free Syrian Army is a hodgepodge of rebel groups that include many Islamist radicals. With funding from fundamentalist Saudis and Turkey, they took over from more liberal forces early on. It’s worth noting also that Turkey provided the black market for ISIS to sell Syria’s captured oil.
Going back a hundred years there were the clever British lies that helped coax America into joining the Allies in World War I. England controlled the trans-Atlantic cables and most of our “news” about the war. That intervention resulted in the Treaty of Versailles instead of a compromise peace between Germany and England/France that would have prevented the wreckage of Europe out of which came the rise of communism and Nazism.
For an analysis of the risks of accidental nuclear war, see my 2017 January Publisher’s Report, in which I once wrote about how Osama bin Laden’s ultimate aim was to get Russia and America to destroy each other. It still could happen, triggered by false atrocity stories, cable TV’s 24-hour hyping of any and every threat, and Washington’s propensity to believe lies—and sometimes perpetrate them—to promote wars.
Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.