Abdul Sattar

Beyond the battlefield

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The attack on Syria has raised important questions about the effectiveness of international laws; the utility of democratic norms; and the silence of the UN over the illegal military strikes carried out by three of the world’s ‘most civilised states’ – France, the UK and the US.

The missile strikes on the purported chemical weapons factories flies in the face of tall claims made about the sanctity of global laws and the sovereignty of nation-states. The strafing of Syria has evoked fear among pacifists across the world. Many of them are now being haunted by the spectre of another conflagration that might engulf the entire region and push the Arab state into the lap of death and destruction.

Although US President Trump has announced that the mission has been duly accomplished, hawks in his administration are demanding follow-up strikes. This could infuriate Bashar al-Assad’s allies and trigger a new conflict in the Middle East.

Around 70 million people were killed during the great massacre of 1939-45; three million civilians lost their lives in the Korean War; and seven million others died during the invasion of Vietnam. At least 2.4 million Iraqis died in the 2003 invasion and around 500,000 Syrians have been slaughtered over the last seven years. As if these conflicts and casualties weren’t enough, the US and its poodles across the Atlantic have opened up a front that may lead to a terrible conflict. This is being done to avenge the killing of 75 people who were allegedly killed by Bashar al-Assad in a suspected poison gas attack.

No court in the world can punish people without finding concrete evidence against them. Even an iota of doubt can exonerate a suspected criminal. Those who are guilty are always afraid of evidence and create obstacles in the path to finding the truth. But in this case, the ‘dictator Assad’ invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international watchdog on chemical and biological weapons, to visit Douma, the site of an alleged gas attack. His ‘tedious acolytes’ in Moscow, Beirut and Tehran have also supported the move.

The US and its Western allies have no concrete evidence that lethal weapons were used in Douma. They are solely relying on the intelligence agencies of their countries. These are the same agencies that had churned out concocted stories about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which led to an illegal invasion that wreaked devastation in the country.

In the same way, warmongers in the power corridors of Western capitals came up with unconfirmed reports of the chemical attack as well. For instance, American Defence Secretary James Mattis told Congress that the US is still looking for “actual evidence”. But even without this ‘actual evidence’, the secretary believes that there was a chemical attack. Does this imply that the world should blindly accept what Mattis believes rather than wait for what the evidence suggests?

French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country had proof that chemical weapons – at least chlorine – were used last week by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But why is he reluctant to share this proof with any international body? Why hasn’t the evidence been presented before the UN? If Macron is reluctant to reveal this crucial evidence at a global forum, he can at least present it before his own parliament.

A spokesperson for Britain’s prime minister said that her cabinet believed there was a strong likelihood that Assad’s regime was responsible for the chemical attack. But 10 Downing is also reluctant to discuss this likelihood with its own parliament. What is preventing France and the UK – the bastions of democracy and freedom – from openly discussing this evidence against Assad in their own parliaments. This clearly indicates that the leaders of both countries are sceptical about the quality of the evidence.

If the West cannot share such proof with its own people, then it should have at least waited for the outcomes of the OPCW team’s visit to the affected site on Saturday. But it seems that Western leaders were in a hurry. They carried out the attack, which is equivalent to hindering the team’s inspection.

No crime in the world can be understood without gauging the intention of the criminal. Many people in the world are questioning why Assad would gas his own people at a time when he is already very close to victory. His imminent victory is said to have prompted Trump to announce the withdrawal of American troops from the war-ravaged country just a few days ago. Damascus knows very well that any such attack would only invite the wrath of the international community. It is not only Russia and the pro-Assad elements that are raising such questions, but some quarters in Western capitals are also posing tough questions. For instance, a retired British general dared to challenge the narrative of Western warmongers during a live show. Strangely enough, the general was cut short by the anchor in a country that has championed free speech.

The question is: if Damascus is interested in using these lethal weapons, then why would it have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention under a US-Russian deal a few years ago and agreed to hand over its declared stockpile of 1,300 tonnes of toxic weaponry and dismantle its chemical weapons programme under international supervision. No one with basic commonsense can understand the logic given by Western countries over why Assad would commit a folly – especially since he is riding on the wave of a victory.

Those in the region must remember that the fire of war in Vietnam also inflamed Laos and Cambodia. The death and destruction in Afghanistan did not spare its neighbouring countries. Riyadh, Tehran, Moscow, Beirut and Baghdad have the same lesson to learn.

One fails to understand why the West needs to bomb a country back into the Stone Ages after every three to 10 years. Has the long history of wars, conflicts and skirmishes in European countries and North America turned their ruling elite into bloodthirsty creatures? Or, is war a means to divert attention from domestic problems?

When Bill Clinton was mired in scandals, he bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. Neo-conservatives took a tough line on foreign policy to avoid criticism on their business deals. After these missile strikes, the attention on inquiries against Trump seems to have been diverted towards Syria. The French and the British ruling elite are facing stiff resistance over austerity and benefit cuts. They would, therefore, also benefit from this attack.

But such violations of international laws by the three most powerful countries in the world should not go unchallenged. The members of UN have a moral duty to prevent the West from waging yet another war. If they do not stop such military strikes in the future, these powerful states would be encouraged to turn it into a full-fledged invasion.

Anti-war movements should mobilise the people and thwart Western powers from turning Syria into the relics of an ancient civilisation. Those in favour of democracy in the West should demand an end to this politics of war, death and destruction. Human rights activists across the world should not only speed up their efforts to eliminate the use of biological and chemical weapons, but also seek a complete denuclearisation of the world. Viewers in Western states should boycott the corporate media, which has been drumming up support for wars and invasions. Only a coordinated effort on a global scale can rein in the warmongers sitting in the power corridors of London, Paris and Washington.

Courtesy The News

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