Syria, Libya, and the Selective Memory of the Jingoistic Mainstream Press

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Syria, Libya, and the Selective Memory of the Jingoistic Mainstream Press

Long-time New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has penned an op-ed advocating more US military aggression in the guise of humanitarianism—because we are after all exceptional, and as such exempt from the lessons of (very recent) history.

His article, titled “Obama’s Worst Mistake,” is not about any of President Obama’s numerous human rights violations; rather, it is about one of the few things for which he can and should be applauded: Resisting immense pressure from his advisors to bomb the Syrian government.

“I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran,” Kristoff writes, “but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy.”

Since this is the New York Times, the “legacy” Kristoff speaks of is not quite the same legacy the rest of the world is familiar with. He presumably does not interpret Obama’s terroristic drone war as having “cast a shadow” over that legacy, nor Obama’s intensification of the war in Afghanistan (still not over), nor Obama’s proposal to spend $1 trillion upgrading and modernizing our massive nuclear arsenal in clear violation of international law, nor Obama’s casual dismissal of Israeli war crimes, nor Obama’s decision to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, nor Obama’s repeated military provocations of Russia (e.g. positioning “defensive” NATO missiles in Eastern Europe), nor Obama’s decision to topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the horrific consequences of which are still unfolding, etc.

These facts are unfortunate for the mainstream liberal narrative; they don’t dovetail with the notion that Barack Obama is a dedicated agent of peace and justice, and so they clearly have no place in Kristoff’s article. But I digress.

The Syrian civil war, according to Kristoff, “is a crisis that cries out for American leadership, and Obama hasn’t shown enough.” His only qualification before going full-jingo is to say that it is unknown whether the hawkish line on Syria espoused by Hillary Clinton and many others “would have been more effective.” Indeed.

It’s worth noting another omission at this point, namely that the Obama administration has prosecuted a quasi-clandestine intervention in Syria from the very beginning of the conflict, when they decided to illegally funnel weapons to Islamist rebels through the Turkish border. Again, this fact contradicts Kristoff’s assumptions and is therefore ignored; standard disinformation tactics.

After quoting “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright, who contends that the US “can do many things to create security in selected areas, protect and stabilize those safe zones and allow them to rebuild their own country even as the conflict continues in other parts of the country,” Krisoff defers to the opinion of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright—best known for asserting that 500,000 dead Iraqi children was a price worth paying in order to cripple Iraq’s economy in the ‘90s—who argues that the US has an obligation to establish “humanitarian areas” in Syria.

No consideration is lent to the fact that taking this course of action—carving out “humanitarian areas” and so forth—presupposes violating Syrian sovereignty, a major crime. Once again, inconvenient and ergo unimportant.

The pretext for dissolving Syrian statehood is of course Assad’s reputation as a savage dictator who deliberately kills his own civilians with “barrel bombs” and chlorine gas. And while Assad clearly has the blood of thousands of people on his hands (he’s fighting an all-out war against suicidal religious fanatics, after all), any condemnation from the West is hypocritical and ultimately meaningless. Furthermore, there’s no getting around the reality that a defeat for Assad is a victory for ISIS and al-Nusra (read al-Qaeda), a circumstance no non-Wahhabi could possibly desire.

And while Kristoff and his fellow disinformationists maintain that they are not necessarily calling for air strikes against the Syrian government—they merely want to provide relief for the besieged civilians, they say—that line doesn’t wash with recent history.

In a 2011 op-ed titled “The Case for a No-Fly Zone,” Mr. Kristoff—surprise, surprise—argued in favor of US humanitarian intervention in Libya, where, according to Western propaganda, Muammar Gaddafi was massacring civilians with helicopters and distributing Viagra to his soldiers so that they might terrorize the population with mass rape. Both charges were unsubstantiated, but that didn’t faze the likes of Kristoff, who assured us that intervening “at the request of Libyan rebel forces” (secular and democratic, no doubt) was the right thing to do.

Concluding his column, which relies on quotes from US government and military officials, Kristoff dismissed nonintervention in Libya as essentially a policy for wimps: “So let’s remember the risks of inaction—and not psych ourselves out. For crying out loud.”

Contained in that statement is the long-held doctrine of American Exceptionalism, according to which the US, owing to its unique nobility, has not merely a right but a moral responsibility to meddle in the affairs of other countries. Curiously, this moral imperative only applies to conflicts from which the US stands to benefit, whether by containing an official enemy or controlling lucrative markets. And if things go awry? Well, perhaps it was a mistake, but our intent being benign as it was, we can’t really be faulted. So what if a couple hundred thousand people were incinerated? Move on.

It should be said that the UN Security Council did indeed authorize a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians in harm’s way. The Security Council did not, however, authorize NATO to function as the air force for the rebels, which it promptly did, overwhelming Gaddafi’s security forces and creating a power vacuum of which ISIS and other jihadists have taken full advantage. The result is terror on a massive scale.

And herein lies the most significant omission from Kristoff’s recent column on Syria: no mention is made of his prior support for “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, or the widespread destruction engendered by that policy. All is forgotten.

In fact, the US is now conducting regular airstrikes in Libya, without Congressional approval. There have been already been over 40 airstrikes since August 1. Moreover, the Pentagon recently confirmed, following repeated denials, that a “small number” of US troops are currently stationed in Libya to help combat ISIS. Boots are officially “on the ground,” in other words, and not only US boots. French boots are there as well, much to the chagrin of many Libyans, who recently protested their illegal presence with signs that said “Get your hands off Libya” and “No French Intervention.”

All of which is entirely predictable for anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. The result is the same every time. Regime change doesn’t work. It fosters chaos and terror. It destroys societies, countries, regions. And yet the lesson is unlearned, or simply ignored, by both the US government and its media representatives, raising questions about whether they actually desire a better outcome in the first place. We know that carnage and mayhem is good for the weapons industry, those purveyors of death and destruction, and what’s good for the weapons industry is good for the Pentagon, which now receives more than half the discretionary budget. To call it a conflict of interest is a radical understatement.

Meanwhile, college graduates drown in debt and millions of Americans scarcely have enough money to feed themselves, much less access quality medical care. Environmental catastrophe looms. But these are issues for another day, evidently; perhaps when the US is all out of Hitlers to overthrow, or when “liberals” who think like Nicholas Kristof cease to dominate the political discourse. Not holding my breath.

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