Syria conflict – what can NZ do?

We learned yesterday, that President Obama is deciding whether to ‘intervene’ in the conflict in Syria. He is expected to take the issue to Congress and has positioned US military personnel ready for strike at any time.[1] In fact, Israel have also deployed their Iron Dome for an imminent attack. [2]

I’ve written on Syria in the past, and back then I was as confused as I am today.[3] The conflicting accounts of what is happening on the ground is still up in the air (figuratively speaking).

We have independent media telling us that the violence is perpetrated by Jabat Al Nusra (Al Qaeda affiliate) who have infiltrated the FSA. On the other hand, the corporate media reporting that Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian Arab Army are detonating chemical weapons at large against their own people.

There are reports that the chemical weapons were supplied by Saudi Arabia and were accidentally detonated by FSA during transportation as they did not know how to handle the weapons properly.[4] And other accounts, suggesting that the weapons were purposefully detonated from strategic government locations by the ‘brutal and irrational’ dictator despite the UN investigations team being in the region at the time.[5]

Syrians are blogging, such as  Darth Nader who writes:[6]

The Syrian revolution is a revolution that began as a struggle for self-determination. The Syrian people demanded to determine their own destiny. And, for more than two years, against all odds, and in the face of massive repression and destruction from the Assad regime, they persevered.

In the course of the revolutionary process, many other actors have also appeared on the scene to work against the struggle for self-determination. Iran and its militias, with the backing of Russia, came to the aid of the regime, to ensure the Syrian people would not be given this right. The jihadis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and others, under the guise of “fighting the Assad regime,” worked against this right as well. And I feel the same way about any Western intervention.

Others suggesting that arguments claiming that the US are fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda in resisting Assad, are disingenuous since if we abhor drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia – we’re also on the same side as Al Qaeda.[7]

Jason Hirthler on Counterpunch provides an outline for how President Obama’s decision will play out, I reproduce it here for your convenience:[8]

The model calls for Obama to undertake a series of anti-democratic and pro-war actions that will be reformulated as pro-democratic and anti-war:

First, he’ll ignore the people that elected him. He’ll cite some moral platitude from a posture of deep anxiety—the man of peace forced to confront the need for noble violence. His wrinkled brow will slowly morph into the steely eyed gaze of determination—the defender of liberty come to rescue the hapless Syrian proles. He’ll wave a flag of universal human rights, declare that actions have consequences, and point a heavy finger at Bashar al-Assad. Just nine percent of the American population want this. But Obama will be too transfixed by his moral crusade to take notice.

Next, he’ll ignore Congress. This is the formal equivalent of ignoring the people. But unlike laughing off a Reuters poll, disregarding the entire legislative branch of government will require some nuanced prose from the Department of Justice (DOJ). No problem. For the Libyan war, the DOJ asserted that the provision of guns, drone strikes, missile launchers, and other weaponry didn’t collectively amount to “hostilities.” Hence there was no war. Hence no need to bother with Congressional approvals.

 Feeling more confident by the day, Obama will then ignore the United Nations. He and deputy John Kerry have already said it is too late for U.N. weapons inspectors in Damascus to investigate the new claim of chemical weapons abuse. They offered a smattering of nonsense about “corrupted” evidence, despite the fact that sarin can sit in the soil for months. In any case, the U.N. could normally be relied upon to roll over in the General Assembly and Security Council on war authorization, but for the annoying presence of Russia, finger poised above the veto button, awaiting for the Obama administration to ask the Security Council legitimate its belligerence. Russia, of course, is itself hiding behind a façade of shocked innocence, saying it was fooled by America on Iraq in 2003 and won’t be fooled again. This, too, is sophistry.

Then he’ll bomb. Missiles will be fired from the safety of the Mediterranean or the comparative calm of high clouds. The missiles will target heavily populated areas in Damascus, much to our great leader’s great regret. Images of wailing Muslims will dot the airwaves. NGOs will assemble lists of the collateral dead. The refugee count—already at one million—will climb toward two. And Syria, part of the cradle of civilization, will begin to resemble Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya in its kaleidoscopic mix of blasted infrastructures, sectarian slaughter, rampant abuse of women, genetic deformities in the birth population, and the steady buzz of Predators and Reapers policing the carnage from the sky.

The US have reportedly obtained intelligence that proves that it is Assad’s forces who’ve been using the chemical weapons based on the location of the deployment of these weapons. The US have decided that despite a UN investigation in Syria to ascertain the truth, that it is unnecessary because they have the evidence they deem necessary to ‘punish’ Assad and his army. Notwithstanding, that the real victims will be the Syrian people themselves.[9]

While nobel peace prize laureate Mairead Macguire insists that 70% of the Syrian people support Assad because they’d rather resolve the conflict through peaceful non-violent means and a democratic election and not through a violent and bloody revolution.[10] She also indicates that there are non-violent peace groups working towards this end.

From her interview, its clear that while many Syrians may support the regime, that support is not directly related to support for Assad, rather support for the peaceful process of elections.

What can we take from all this information?

We need to ask is there any moral justification for interfering in the Syrian conflict?

In my view, the answer is no. A bombardment by the US and its allies as a punitive measure against Assad will not fix the issues in Syria, and it is illogical to claim that we must intervene for the protection of innocent’s when their safety cannot be guaranteed by such intervention.

I am also baffled as to why intervention is apparently only justified when chemical weapons appear. The effects of chemical weapons are atrocious, and I am not defending their use – by whoever used them, my point is that whether the weapon is chemical or not, weapons are used to destroy human lives.

I note the hypocrisy in the US using incendiaries such as white phosphorous in Iraq [11] and its endless support for the Israeli Army who used such weapons against the people of Gaza.[12]

The conflict in Syria began as an internal revolution. The issue has become highly complex due to the infiltration by counter revolutionaries. 

Many argue that this is a proxy war,[13]and on the information available and the history of US intervention, this lends a great deal of support to that argument. Surely, we would do better to work with the people of Syria to help resolve their issues through the provision of aid, asylum and resources to assist with their plight for self-determination?

Our governments appear steadfast on bombing and sending in military stealth to save the people of Syria, when in fact, they will kill many and displace many more in the process.

The Middle East is under immense pressure to house, feed and keep safe from conflict and violence millions of refugees from Syria and also other troubled countries such as Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Egypt.

I feel like the least countries like ours could do is open up asylum (beyond our current ‘quotas’) and/or aid to those refugees and work with them to help fulfil their needs. Surely, we could find it our hearts and minds, to offer a safe place to take refuge and assist them to return to their homes (if they wanted to) and when they decided it was safe for them to do so.

Because in my view, our protectionist attitudes in limiting the number of refugees and asylum seekers we will accept into ‘our borders’ and not offering the relevant or adequate assistance to such persons is a hideous admission of our lack of compassion and humanity for the horrific and adverse circumstances of others.

I understand, that assistance through helping Syrian’s overcome their struggle from abroad may not be the best answer – especially in the struggle for self-determination, but its surely more humane than letting refugees starve or live in substandard conditions in camps while their homes and their livelihoods are destroyed. 


[2] Bloomberg Netanyahu says Israel prepared as Obama Syria stance criticised: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-01/netanyahu-says-israel-prepared-as-obama-syria-stance-criticized.html

[4] Alan Jones Channel Obama in panic mode after FSA chemical attack admission: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mZZFOq0C3ng

[5] 21st Century Wire ‘Chemical Weapons’ media propaganda in US, UK is designed to hide the truth in Syria: http://21stcenturywire.com/2013/08/22/chemical-weapons-media-propaganda-in-us-uk-is-designed-to-hide-the-truth-in-syria/

[6] Darth Nader On Interventions and the Syrian Revolution: http://darthnader.net/2013/08/27/on-interventions-and-the-syrian-revolution/

[7] The Human Province An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists: http://humanprovince.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/an-open-letter-on-syria-to-western-narcissists/

[8] Jason Hirthler The Banality of Empire on Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/30/the-banality-of-empire/

[9] See above n 1.

[10]21st century Wire Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Reveals Truth About Syria

 http://21stcenturywire.com/2013/07/10/nobel-peace-laureate-mairead-maguire-reveals-truth-about-syria/

[11] Pentagon justifying incendiary arms use  in New York Times (2005) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/17/international/17phos.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[12]Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza in The Guardian (2009) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/25/israel-white-phosphorus-gaza

[13] For a definition see Proxy war on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_war

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