By John Kaufman
On the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I (the war that failed, as all the others have, to “end all wars”), President Donald Trump reportedly ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase known as Al Shayrat. It is the view of The Pacific blog that this action is detrimental to the cause of achieving the end of war and the fleeing of refugees in Syria and all the Middle East.
Last night, Mr. Trump issued a statement from his Florida resort concerning the missile strikes. According to Trump,
“It is in this vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons . . . Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria. And also, to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”
Exactly how Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is a threat to U.S. national security Trump did not explain. The U.S. itself has failed to meet the deadline for destroying all of its chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.
And the Trump administration fails to see the moral contradiction in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria” by launching 59 missiles that will only add, in one way or another, to the slaughter and bloodshed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting this morning that 7 Syrian soldiers of the regime forces were killed in the cruise missile attack. SOHR also reports that a military jet (not sure if Russian or Syrian) fired a missile at ground targets in southern Idlib province, the first such airstrike after the U.S. missile attack.
So as not to lose sight of the fact that the U.S.- led International Coalition has been bombing (and sometimes killing civilians) in Syria for awhile now in “Operation Inherent Resolve”, SOHR reports that a Coalition airstrike near Al-Raqqah today killed 5 people from one family, including 2 women. This brings the total of civilians killed by the International Coalition (the overwhelming number of airstrikes are conducted by the U.S.) in March and April of this year in Syria to 204, according to SOHR, which says it has “documented” the casualties from these “escalated strikes.” The SOHR report of civilian casualties caused by the International Coalition in March and April includes 32 children and 34 women.
So to justify this missile strike as a “humanitarian” response to the use of chemical weapons is not convincing. Far more innocent people are killed in this war and every war by conventional weapons. And Trump has long downplayed the brutality of the Assad regime and even told Obama not to bomb the Syrians back in 2013. Instead, this seems more like an opportunistic/political action on the part of the Trump administration to distract from ongoing investigations, Congressional failures and White House disruption and attract a more sympathetic political/journalistic response. How well this missile attack will work to bolster Trump’s popularity at home and abroad remains to be seen.
Hopefully, liberals and Democrats, at least, will not fall prey to war fever and back the missile attack and a broader Syrian war out of a sense of patriotic duty.
Peace groups are beginning to speak out. Here’s the press statement of Peace Action titled “The U.S. Shouldn’t Bomb Syria”:
“Only a political solution can end the carnage in Syria, and escalating U.S. involvement to include direct military confrontation with the Syrian government would undermine the prospects of a negotiated settlement. It would also risk retaliation against U.S. troops stationed in Syria, and could dangerously escalate tensions with Russia and Iran. Furthermore, Congress has not authorized the use of military force against the Assad government, which should be a prerequisite to any military action.”
And here is part of a co-authored piece by Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink that appeared on the World Beyond War.org website even before the missiles were launched. Wright and Benjamin provide an alternative to more war:
“Instead of more bombing, the Trump administration should pressure the Russian government to support a UN investigation into the chemical attack and take bold steps to seek a resolution of this dreadful conflict. In 2013, the Russian government said it would bring President Assad to the negotiating table. That offer was ignored by the Obama administration, which felt it was still possible for rebels it supported to overthrow the Assad government. That was before the Russians came to the rescue of its ally Assad. Now is the time for President Trump to use his “Russia connection” to broker a negotiated solution.”
Firing off missiles is dramatic and easy to do, but it won’t likely force the Assad regime to capitulate and walk away or make the Russians cease their support for Assad. The attack will merely intensify the resolve for war by all parties. Only the long, hard work of diplomacy has any chance of immediately curtailing the killing and eventually bringing a sustainable peace to the Middle East.