(Part I of this was here.)
Citizens here in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world have had ample chance, in the 12 years since 9/11, to see the results of U.S. military actions– in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya and (a little covertly), in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. In none of these cases have the results been anything that anyone can take pride in, to say the least.
Americans (outside the Washington Beltway) are not stupid. We have seen all these terrible outcomes… outcomes, that is, that have been terrible for our fellow-humans who are citizens of those targeted countries– but also, terrible because of the way they have helped to make the world a much more unstable and terrifying place and to further deepen the hatred for Americans in many parts of the world. The U.S.’s profligate use of military power in all these situations in the past 12 years has ended up being quite counter-productive in terms of making the word a better, safer place for Americans (and others.) And somehow, finally, an increasing number of Americans are seeing that this has been so.
Two years ago, on September 10, 2011, I wrote:
I believe that today, more Americans understand the futility and damaging nature of wars– all wars– than did ten years ago. But still, far too many of our countrymen and -women remain susceptible to arguments like those made in favor of the military “action” or military “intervention” in Libya earlier this year.
That was two years ago. Since then, a lot more Americans’ eyes have been opened as to the counter-productive nature of war– whether in Libya, in Afghanistan, Iraq, or (I hope) anywhere else in the world.
We definitely heard some of that during the meeting we had with Rep. Robert Hurt here in his district office in Charlottesville, on Thursday. And he told us, then, that the calls he’s been receiving on the Syria issue have been running “overwhelmingly” against the idea of a U.S. military attack. This is great. This is new. This is the result, in part, of new great awakening of Americans on issues of war, peace, and security. It’s the result, too, of the patient work of everyone in the anti-war movement who has kept on steadfastly organizing and making their (our) case even throughout the past 12 years of the crazy American wars.
There are three main groups of people here in the United States who, as of now, don’t see things this way. They are:
- Leaders of the military-industrial complex and their flaks.
- AIPAC (the America Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the leaders of some other prominent pro-Israeli organizations.
- Some liberal hawks.
Okay, let’s take the liberal hawks first, because they are the smuggest and the least well informed.
For example Samantha Power, speaking at the Center for American Progress Friday. She really is a prime example of a true believer– someone who has worked so hard to convince other people of the correctness of her views that in the process she has inoculated herself against any capacity for self-doubt and any ability to give fair consideration to any evidence that might challenge her viewpoint. (I believe that she and John Kerry are both in this situation right now… Interesting that both of them, at various previous points i their lives, were skeptics of the claims of the warmongers… But no more, no more.)
After Powers’ CAP speech, true to the above observation, she reportedly refused to allow any questions from the audience…
Anyway, during the speech, she made two fairly terrifying allusions:
(1) By degrading Assad’s capacity to deliver chemical weapons, we will also degrade his ability to strike at civilian populations by conventional means… In this instance, the use of limited military force can strengthen our diplomacy – and energize the efforts by the UN and others to achieve a negotiated settlement to the underlying conflict.
(2) If we cannot summon the courage to act when the evidence is clear, and when the action being contemplated is limited,… [then this will] give a green light to outrages that will… eventually compel us to use force anyway down the line, at far greater risk and cost to our own citizens. If the last century teaches us anything, it is this. Thank you so much.
So in the first of these statements, she’s saying, “We’re going to bomb the Syrian government until it and its backers on the Security Council submit.” And in the second she’s saying “Waaaa! If you don’t let us bomb a little now then we’re going to have to bomb a whole lot more later. So there!”
This is scary stuff, indeed.
* * *
On the subject of the evidentiary basis for the made-inside-Beltway “assessment” that Pres. Asad’s forces used the chemical weapons that on August 21 killed either 1,400-plus– or, a considerably smaller than that– of Syria’s people in eastern Damascus, the caveats voiced by the former U.S. intel and national-security professionals in the VIPS organization should certainly be given fair weight. So should Gareth Porter’s early analysis of the administration’s public presentation of its case. Most importantly, though, we should note– as Rep. Alan Grayson did in today’s NYT piece–that the administration has done nothing to share with the public any of the evidence on which it bases its claims.
Heck, back in February 2003, even Colin Powell treated the U.S. and world publics with more respect than that. This present lot (Obama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, and Co.)? They just tell us all, “Trust us!”
* * *
AIPAC. Ah, AIPAC. Back on August 31 when Obama made his surprise announcement that he would be taking his case for the military attack on Syria to the U.S. Congress, one of the first things I tweeted was “Having Congress debate
#syria openly will force #AIPAC 2 show hand. Interesting.” And thus it has transpired.
And not just AIPAC. As Mairav Zonszein has shown, the ADL, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee and several other “big-Jewish” institutions have all joined with AIPAC in leaping into the business of lobbying for this war on Syria.
Of course, as former AIPAC staffer MJ Rosenberg and others have convincingly shown, on most issues (including, perhaps on Israel) these organizations do not represent in any ways the actual views of Jewish Americans. But they do have one big thing going for them: They are capable of mobilizing, at the drop of a hat, huge amounts of money for the endless re-election campaigns in which Members of Congress must participate. See MJ’s great blog post yesterday showing how this happens.
From this perspective, the massive influence that AIPAC has on Capitol Hill is a testament not to the power of Jews in American politics as much as it is to the power of money in American politics. And on this Syria issue, AIPAC is likely not alone among the big funding/lobbying organizations. Quite likely, the also-huge funders of the MIC are also lobbying hard in favor of an attack on Syria. But we just do not see them at work as much at this point.
In that same blog post, MJ noted, quite correctly, that,
AIPAC is taking an incredible risk by making an unprecedented full court press to get the bomb Syria resolution.
Never in its history has it gone all out to achieve passage or defeat for anything not directly related to Israel. And, because Congress is snugly in its pocket on Israel issues, it rarely needs to fight.
The Syria vote will be the test. AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war. Congress makes the decision and its members are now in intense fund raising mode for the 2014 primaries and general election. When AIPAC visits in the next week or two, it will make the case for war with Election 2014 clearly looming overhead.
This makes Rep. Alan Grayson’s recent statements about AIPAC all the more pertinent. On Democracy Now! on Friday, there was this intriguing exchange between him and host Amy Goodman:
GOODMAN: … that issue of AIPAC’s role in lobbying congressmembers now and senators around a strike on Syria, can you talk about its presence in the House?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, AIPAC has issued a statement saying that they’re in favor of an attack. And many other organizations have done the same, and many other organizations, even more organizations, have done a statement saying that they’re against it. But at this point it’s not relevant, because the public is engaged, the public is paying attention, the public is against this, and the public is adamantly against this. All these organizations sort of fall to the wayside when the public weighs in. There are now both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have reported that their emails and letters and phone calls to their office are running more than a hundred to one against this. People are against it. They’re adamantly against it.
As MJ also noted yesterday:
… now AIPAC’s doings are all over the media. It is the lobby publicly pushing Congress to approve war with Syria. If Congress says no, AIPAC looks like a paper tiger and it will know that the chances of getting war with Iran are nil.
I’m praying (it’s Rosh Ha Shana) that Congress votes NO. We can stop two wars.
Well, I’m praying that same thing, too. Honestly, I think we have a chance to prevent both these (American) wars before they happen. Whether we do so or not, though, there will still be two big issues that need to be resolved:
- How can well-meaning people inside and outside Syria bring to an end the terrible conflict there that has caused so much destruction (and has provided the kind of war-degraded social environment that is, as I have long argued, the only environment in which large-scale atrocities are ever committed– as they have been, in many instances, in Syria, and by anti-regime as well as pro-regime forces)… and how can people act to bring healing and all the much-needed dimensions of reconstruction back to Syria?
- How can the American people and government start to build a new kind of relationship with that 95% of humanity who are not U.S. citizens, in which American leaders no longer assume they have any “right” or “responsibility” to police the rest of the world, and in which human equality, the rule of law, and the use of nonviolent means of resolving differences can once again emerge as the guiding principles of international behavior?
Big tasks. But first, we have a lot more work to do to Stop the Attack on Syria.