The American establishment, having sown the dragon’s teeth in Iraq, is working hard to manufacture consent for more war. Obama’s administration last month became the fourth in succession to bomb that broken land, and has now added Syria to the ever-swelling list of states whose sovereignties it has unlawfully breached by force.
This latest display of aggression—not to mention the rhetoric around it—is reprehensible for many a reason. First of all, the intervention seems to constitute a crime of aggression under the Rome Statute. It has not been authorised by any resolution of the UN Security Council, although, predictably enough, this fact has received scant attention from the corporate media.
Secondly, the intervention confirms a shift in outlook which would have been unthinkable a year ago, when politicians and pundits were in the business of painting Bashar al-Assad as the preeminent threat to the West. Now, the very same voices are calling for a rapprochement with the Syrian regime, and the fighters they armed, trained and lauded as ‘rebels’ last year are become jihadist ‘monsters’. Despite appearances, this shift is not down to mere capriciousness. It cannot be explained on humanitarian grounds. Nor can it be justified on the basis that the so-called Islamic State poses an imminent threat to the United States, or anywhere else: the FBI and the DHS have attested to that. Instead—and in this much Obama was superficially correct—there exist serious concerns about US and Western interests in the region. But more of that later.
Thirdly, there is the coalition of Arab states which the Americans assembled for the purpose of bombing Syria. One assumes that such a coalition was sought by Washington to forestall the usual questions. For instance, why should it fall once again to the United States to act unilaterally, with violence, against a perceived threat that is nowhere near the United States? Moreover, exactly what and whose interests is the Obama administration so eager to protect? The American government is plainly of the belief that, by acting in partnership with a group of Syria’s neighbours, it can evade these and similar questions. But it is Washington, and not its Arab allies, which is coordinating the air strikes on Syria and Iraq. It is Washington, therefore, which is the principal in this bombardment. And it is Washington, then, whose global hegemony is being reasserted in these latest developments.
At any rate, a cursory look at the cast of this coalition will reveal its absolute moral bankruptcy. The governments of Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can broadly be described as authoritarian family affairs. They have frequently and brutally repressed the impulse for democracy which exists among their subjects. All the while, they have enjoyed considerable Western support. The regime in Saudi Arabia, Washington’s close ally and the biggest recipient of British arms, is particularly grim, and of course no stranger to beheadings itself. Together with Qatar, it has been reliably accused of funding and arming groups including IS.
And when one considers—as the corporate media generally doesn’t—the role of the invasion and occupation of Iraq (and therefore that of the West) in bringing all this chaos about, one is outraged that the United States, the United Kingdom and the monarchies of the Gulf can present themselves as the defenders of humanity.
The fourth issue concerns the real rationale for intervention. We must not be hoodwinked into believing that our so-called representatives are acting on humanitarian grounds. There can be no argument that the crimes committed by IS, as described in the corporate media, are horrific and contemptible. But we must not fall again for that stratagem, employed repeatedly by politicians and pundits, which, with the aim of producing both fear and consent, swears that an ‘Official Enemy is uniquely Evil… just prior to an attack on that enemy’. Such a stratagem was used with success against Saddam and against Gaddafi; it was used less successfully against Assad a year ago. In this case, it will not wash, partly because the conflicts in Iraq and Syria have, as Medialens write, been ‘characterised by appalling violence on all sides’. But there is also the small matter of oil.
What we must realise is that the incorrigible bloodlust of the West is a feature built in to the global capitalist economy. It is, quite simply, an unavoidable consequence of a system whose thirst for accumulation—for profit and resources—can never be slaked. Between them, ExxonMobil and Chevron hold almost 1.3 million acres in Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of the oilfields in that very same, embattled region have been taken over by IS. There does exist, then, as Obama said, a threat to Western interests in Iraq. It is just that those interests belong to the enormous corporations which pay legislators tens of millions of dollars per year to help secure their capital abroad.
And so, as we in the West hurtle towards another war, one which we are told will last for years, one that we ‘cannot opt out of’, it is worth remembering who stands to benefit. Not the civilians in Syria, but the manufacturers of the high-tech munitions which have begun in earnest to kill them. Not the people of Britain, or of the United States, but the hollow men who claim to represent them as they do the bidding of elite interests.