“Violence brings one thing
More and more of the same”
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Bomb The World
I’m fairly sure all those ideological opposed to military intervention in Syria want to see an end to innocent people dying. In fact, one reason for our opposition is the fact that intervening will simply lead to more suffering both in the short-term and in the long-term.
The case for intervening as a result of ‘evidence’ of the use of chemical weapons is incredibly shaky at best. In a war situation like this, the images and videos we see are almost impossible to verify. Jumping to conclusions based on such information is therefore dangerous and irresponsible (something that Western nations have, nonetheless, done before). Perceptions of reality depend very much on where we get our information from and who we choose to believe. Although the mainstream media bombards us with awful images that we wish we could change, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that we are receiving the full story, or the correct story for that matter. It is not ‘heartless’ not to respond to innocent deaths with military action. Quite the opposite. It takes real resolve and strength to stand for a peaceful solution.
NATO members are politically supportive of the Syrian rebels and, as rebels have been accused of using chemical weapons, a NATO intervention would potentially be in favour of the perpetrators of such attacks. If the UN could broker peace talks and send independent, apolitical support in order to ensure peace, that would be much better. United, international action intent on genuinely reaching a peaceful solution would be great. However, the Western nations have refused to encourage genuinely productive dialogues, as such dialogues would almost certainly not be in their own economic interests. As a result, we once again see warmongering and Western nations planning to ignore international law: not because it is wrong but because it doesn’t suit them. For example, the UN has not dived into the conflict for clear reasons, such as the fact that, in May this year, UN investigator Carla Del Ponte said evidence pointed toward rebels using sarin. The UN rarely jumps into a conflict without sufficient evidence, and has no real reason for making up evidence to suit its own interests (like the US and its allies have tried to do on many occasions in the past).
In addition, the ability of foreign intervention to change governments almost never works in the long term. Such interference only breeds more hatred or division. Look at Iraq or Afghanistan, for example. While caring citizens may wish to see the standard of living of others around the world increase, the fact is that people need to take control of the destinies of their own countries. Foreign intervention can both delegitimise opposition (if legitimate in the first place) and cause more deaths than would have occurred without interference.
“What can we do to stop the suffering, then?” My answer would be that we can make sure we don’t vote for governments that intervene in the sovereign affairs of other nations. At the very least, we could not vote for hypocrites who turn a blind eye to offences if they are committed by their allies but otherwise become ‘holier than thou’. At the very least, we could ask for consistency, and that our governments either intervened everywhere when something bad happens or intervene nowhere. Sending weapons to oppressive governments just because they suit the business interests of the elites shows the clear bias in the world today. It shows that these businesses are the ones with the real power. Not only should there be opposition to foreign intervention, but opposition to our own corrupt political system – governed primarily in the interests of a self-serving elite. Instead, however, we get distracted by the blood and gore shown on our TV screens.
In a similar way, we get distracted from the facts of history, believing that we are somehow the higher moral power. Have the UK of the USA ever condemned Agent Orange in Vietnam, for example, responsible for killing or maiming 400,000 people, and “leaving 500,000 children born with birth defects as result of its use”? If we are so against chemical weapons, why do we conveniently choose to ignore the fact that the “US military sprayed nearly 76 million litres of material containing chemical herbicides and defoliants mixed with jet fuel in Vietnam” or that Winston Churchill was “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”? The argument for war based on the use of chemical weapons is just a smokescreen for the real reason for the West intervening in Syria, which is that it is a country friendly with Iran, Russia, China, Palestine and Lebanon, and unfriendly towards that most faithful ally of the USA – Israel.
The ruling classes want to distract us from objective assessment of evidence in the present and reflection on what has happened on the past. They want to create the image that they are intervening for humanitarian reasons and not for financial or geostrategic reasons. They would like us to believe that utopias have now been created in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we have been the bringers of peace and democracy to these ‘uncivilised terrorist training camps’. They would like us to believe the same about colonialism, that we brought culture, infrastructure, and civilisation to countries throughout the world, failing to mention the exploitation, robbery, and native blood shed in the process. Many people may be far from the critical reasoning needed to see through the smokescreen generated by the economic elites governing the world, but the number of those who can see through it is growing by the day.
“What about the innocent children dying?” Yes, indeed. But are these children the only ones suffering? Or are they just on our minds because the media has decided it wants them to be our prime focus? If we’re going to talk about the injustice of children dying and suffering, what about all those around the world dying from hunger and curable or preventable diseases every day as a result of neoliberal economic policies? Our omnibenevolent global economic order that, of course, can do no wrong, forces ‘developing’ countries to cut public spending drastically in order to receive loans which only to benefit national or international elites. Once again, the question comes back to consistency. If we genuinely care about protecting innocent children from death and injustice, should we not intervene throughout the world? Or should we simply stop allowing multinational corporations and financial bodies, based in the West, to exploit ‘developing’ nations? We cannot afford to take on the role of global saviour but we can take responsibility for the actions of companies based on our soil. In the long term, such political change would save thousands and millions of lives. That change at home is the best thing we can do to improve the world.
“What if your country was suffering from a civil war?” I wouldn’t expect any foreign country to come and intervene. In fact, I would oppose it. Movements usually lose legitimacy if they can’t find significant support within their own country. Such has been the case with Syrian rebels. Even some initially opposed to Assad have realised that the alternative seems much worse. If we lived in a world of international solidarity and respect for international law, maybe this conflict would have been solved much sooner. We don’t, however, live in that world yet. Our current world sees the USA getting away with ignoring judgements against it from the International Criminal Court, its presidents getting away with war crimes, and its government constantly plotting against and undermining foreign governments that do not share its views on how the global economy should be run. If my country were suffering from a civil war, I would want the international community to help broker peace, not to fan the flames of the conflict.
In summary, funding and arming of the rebels must stop. They must not believe that there is more value in fighting than in negotiating a peace settlement. There must be peace talks, and Syria’s allies must be involved in these talks. If there is Western military intervention, which seems more likely than not, this must be vehemently opposed and we must not forget those involved in the warmongering. Neither must we let ourselves, our children, or our grandchildren, forget the lessons of history. Only by learning from the past will we truly be able to change our future.