THE WHITE HOUSE (FinalCall.com) – After a week in which President Barack Obama and his chief foreign policy and defense advisers steadily beat the drum for war against Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack, Mr. Obama put his plan to attack Damascus on hold Aug. 31, pending a vote in Congress on any U.S. military action.
The announcement, in a Rose Garden address which was delayed for 37 minutes to allow the noise of a protest demonstration outside the White House to subside, postponed what had appeared to be an imminent cruise missile strike by U.S. forces.
“A respectable sized group of ANSWER Coalition protestors chanted outside WH grounds,” and could be heard inside, White House Pool Reporter Aaron Stanley announced via a White House Press Office e-mail alert, 15 minutes before the President finally stepped out of the Oval Office to announce his retreat from the brink of war.
The U.S. is obliged to respond militarily to the alleged Aug. 21 attack on a Damascus suburb—just miles from the hotel where UN weapons inspectors were staying, investigating another alleged chemical attack—said Mr. Obama. That attack reportedly killed 1,500 civilians, including 426 children.
“This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security,” Mr. Obama said. “It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”
The UN inspection team departed from Damascus the same day as Mr. Obama’s remarks, and promised a detailed report in about two weeks, based on its visits to the attack sites and testimony from victims.
“Obama, hands off Syria!” 500 protesters from the International ANSWER Coalition, CODE Pink, Veterans Against the War, and other groups chanted for the better part of 3 hours on Pennsylvania Ave. outside the White House gates, pausing only to hear speakers condemn the threatened U.S. war policy.
“Today as we demonstrate in front of the White House, there will be similar protests all across the United States, in London also—all across the world in fact,” ANSWER Coalition organizer Brian Becker told the crowd. “In New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, all over the United States, the American people are telling President Obama, telling the government that we oppose any bombing strike on Syria.
“The United States government does not have the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. They have no right. In fact, the United Nations charter—and the U.S. government is a signatory and a member of the UN—says the only time a member state has the right to carry out military action is in self-defense,” he continued.
“The Obama administration’s entire presentation on this issue is very simple. They’re saying to the American people: ‘Don’t worry. Don’t think about it too much, because all the bleeding will be done by Syrians. We will not put quote “boots on the ground”—which is a euphemism for saying American soldiers will not be killed or wounded. They’re saying to the American people, ‘We can carry out this action, and all the bleeding will be done by Syrians.’ ”
If there was a chance that American troops would be sent into the country, the protest demonstration would be tens of thousands of people, Mr. Becker said, “Because the depth of opposition is so great. But he’s promising the American people: ‘Please don’t do anything. Don’t do as you did during the Iraq war. Don’t do as you did during Vietnam. Because we the Obama White House; we, the John Kerry State Department, promise you, no Americans will bleed. All the bleeding will be done by Syrians.’ ”
That Mr. Becker said is “the logic of empire, the logic of imperialism, the logic of the great bully,” which is at the same time putting forward cuts in funding for teachers and nurses, education, and housing, and health care.
The current drumbeat for war sounds hauntingly like other U.S. escalations, all of which were based on lies told by top administration figures to the American people and to the world. “As I listened to John Kerry yesterday,” Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam said to the rally, “it sounded like a rerun of Colin Powell at the UN.
“Colin Powell said, ‘What we know, and this is the evidence,’ and so forth, and he walked through it in front of the entire world, and it was an absolute lie. And because of that lie, 4,800 young (U.S.) military persons lost their lives in the debacle in Iraq. And to this very day as I stand here, Iraq is in complete chaos,” Mr. Muhammad said.
Protesters carried signs pointing out that as early as 1898 when the Spanish-American war was launched, it was based on the false accusation that the U.S.S. Maine was sunk in the harbor of Havana, Cuba by the Spanish navy. The Vietnam War was escalated after a false report that the U.S.S. Maddox was attacked in the Gulf on Tonkin by the North Vietnamese navy. And similarly, the sign read, Syria did not use chemical weapons in 2013.
“It’s almost impossible to conceive of why Syria, who had urged and invited the UN weapons inspectors—chemical weapons inspectors—to come to Syria, that on the very day they arrived, 10 miles from where they were in Damascus, that the Syrian government would fire sarin-neurotoxin nerve gas,” Sarah Flounders of the International Action Center told WPFW-FM radio in Washington following a protest demonstration Aug. 29 outside an Army recruiting office in New York City. “It’s beyond comprehension as to why or how such a thing would take place.” The IAC was one of the organizers of the national demonstrations held on Aug. 31.
“But it is known that the rebel forces—the U.S. funded and armed rebel forces—who have such a record of murder and torture and rape, and child soldiers, have themselves been arrested with neurotoxin sarin gas, in Turkey, by the Turkish government, back in May. Twelve members of the Syrian rebel forces were arrested with four and a half pounds—which is actually a great deal—of sarin gas, the very gas that they say was used.
“In January,” Ms. Flounders continued, “the British Daily Mail reported that Syrian rebels were planning a chemical attack that would be blamed on the Syrian government and that would be used as a pretext for U.S. intervention.
“And that report was based on leaked military contractors’ e-mail. So there is every reason in the world to know that the Syrian rebels who are completely losing on the battlefield, and have minor and shrinking support from any section of the population, would not be the ones who would fire this gas, because they need the pretext. They desperately need U.S. intervention on their side, and they feel that it’s the only thing that could turn the war,” said Ms. Flounders.
In addition to the rising tide of public opposition to U.S. “imperial” intervention yet again in an Arab-Muslim country, a decision by the conservative-dominated British Parliament late Aug. 29 to withhold support for Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to support the Obama plans, also may have cooled the administration’s thrust for war.
In this country, both liberal and conservative Congressional critics—weary of past administration deception in the run-up to war against Iraq—may have influenced the administration’s decision to strike Syria. Congress reconvenes after its summer recess on Sept. 9, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised a vote on a non-binding administration draft resolution would be held that week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hastily planned hearings during the recess, before the Congressional session resumes.