by Robert C. Koehler Common Dreams September 5, 2013
This is the time, as the next war strains to be born, amid the same old lies as last time, amid the same urgency and pseudo-debate and pretensions of seriousness:
The government of Syria has crossed a “red line.” It has used poison gas, killing hundreds of innocent people and committing a heinous war crime. And suddenly, clear as a bell, we have good vs. evil. Our only course of action, President Obama and his spokespersons tell us, is to “carry out a punitive strike against the Syrian government.”
This is the abstraction of warspeak, which summons a deeply satisfying mythology of righteous vengeance while making the action sound so clear and logical. President Bashar al-Assad committed a “moral obscenity.” It’s up to us to punish him by firing off some Tomahawk missiles. There’s no messiness in this action, no possibility of disastrous consequences, no hint that our intelligence might be compromised, no wink at our hypocrisy or past failures, and certainly no dead civilians — no random innocents lying just as still in the wake of our rain of thousand-pound warheads as those Assad may have killed in his alleged act of moral obscenity.
War, of course, always starts out like this: as bright and hopeful as the sunrise. It’s almost beyond belief to me that we can have such a clean, bloodless national conversation about a new war in the Middle East while the old wars continue to fester and our moral wounds still haunt us. The image of George Bush on the aircraft carrier in his padded flight suit, proclaiming “mission accomplished,” is one the 21st century’s most bitterly ironic icons.
Yet we’re about to bomb Syria — engage, if Obama gets his way, in some “intervention-lite,” as Simon Jenkins of the Guardian put it. This will almost certainly trigger not good behavior but furious retaliation, alienating not just Syria but its allies, including Iran and Russia. How will the U.S. respond when one of our “enemies” strikes back at us? There’s no telling how far it could go.
Almost as blatantly MIA in the media and political discussion about attacking Syria over possible poison gas usage is any acknowledgement of the hypocrisy of our moral outrage. Think Agent Orange and napalm, white phosphorous and depleted uranium, among many other toxic substances we have thoughtlessly unleashed on “the enemy,” innocent civilians and our own troops in the wars of the last two generations. How many red lines have we crossed? How many lies have we told maintaining the harmlessness of these poisons? How many unborn babies have we poisoned over the years? How many square miles of Planet Earth are uninhabitable because of our righteous battles for the good of humankind?
This is the early part of a longer article by Robert Koehler.