The ongoing intervention in Syria and the humanitarian rhetoric

Today (November 25th) a Cornell University panel is taking place on the crisis in Syria. The purpose of the panel is to discuss the events on the ground on Syria and questions of U.S. foreign policy as they relate to those events.

More precisely, the presentations promise to raise “multiple questions of humanitarian aid and intervention.” And so we should be to the point. We object both to the framing of the panel and to its participants’ claim to speak for Syrian society, and we affirm that the U.S. government has neither the legitimacy nor the competence to interfere in the affairs of a people far across the world, ensnared in a brutal proxy war for which the so-called international community bears so much of the culpability.

The selection of panelists is troubling, although perfectly reflective of this theme of “intervention” — a euphemism for aggression. Wasif Syed has written, “The US should supply arms, ammunition, and logistical support to the opposition, beyond what Saudi Arabia and Qatar currently are providing.” Radwan Ziadeh, a member of the Syrian National Council, a Qatari-funded diaspora opposition group with zero credibility on the ground, has called for “a credible promise of force,” insisting that the “international community has a responsibility to intervene.”

Furthermore, we strongly object to posing the question of “interventionism” as though intervention is not ongoing, as though it does not originate in the United States themselves. A recent civil society report from an institution accountable to Syrian society – the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR) – notes that 63 percent of the responsibility for the ongoing violence “is related to external actors.” Among those actors, we would highlight Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and behind them, the United States – because those are the actors whose policies we can, either indirectly or directly, affect.

The U.S. anti-war movement brilliantly resisted the push for outright full-scale intervention. But that does not exhaust U.S. involvement in this disaster. It was foreign-backed violence which destroyed any early promise which existed amidst the small protests which took place around the country in February, March, and April 2011, turning them into an alibi for U.S., Saudi, and Qatari-backed mercenaries to rip apart Syria.

It has been extensively reported in mainstream media sources that US forces are on the ground in Amman as well as in Turkish border regions. Without question they are funneling weapons to the insurgency, transporting and training fighters, and in general pouring petrol on the fire. To raise “questions of intervention” is to elude the very real intervention which the U.S. and its client states are currently carrying out, and whose effects have been ruinous.

This intervention is tantamount to a proxy war, not merely against the “Assad regime” but against the country – its urban fabric, its economy, and above all its people, all of which have been shattered by this ongoing and criminal war, which the U.S. has been willfully provoking and promoting. As the SCPR’s report notes, “Syria has lost decades of human development achievements since the beginning of the conflict,” with unemployment now close to 50 percent, the country rapidly deindustrializing, and life expectancy plummeting.

U.S. and Gulf interference – that is to say, intervention – has encouraged and arguably incited the militarization of the rebellion in Syria. The 130,000 working class dead in Syria are indeed mostly combatants. That hardly makes them any less victims. For they are dead not because of a natural disaster, but a social one, one which the U.S. has played a part in stoking.

This panel actively takes the responsibility out of US citizens’ hands, by framing it as a technocratic question of conflict management from a beneficent U.S. government. This framing is not only inaccurate, it also deliberately obscures the real issue. The question we should be asking ourselves is not, should we intervene? Because we already have.

To call for intervention against this tableau as a way to “halt the suffering” is akin to attaching a leech to a man bleeding to death – with the apology that further blood loss may solve the problem.

Instead, we should be talking about offering massive reparations, including directly from the US arms industry – lobbyists linked to Raytheon and other arms firms have advocated directly for intervention in Syria, never mind their bankrolling of and profiting off of Obama administration policies of permanent war.

Indeed, if a humanitarian intervention is needed, it should be through the revocation of the corporate charters of the criminal U.S. arms conglomerates.

We understand that not all of those involved with crafting the panel were aware of the positions of the majority of the panelists. For that reason, we invite our friends concerned with the resolution of this crisis, and interested in hearing from those linked to the genuine left opposition in Syria, to build an event with us that might in some small way contribute to a resolution of this brutal and tragic conflict, now near on entering its 29th month.


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