Sept. 28 — The U.S. military machine has opened up a new bombing campaign, this one within the boundaries of a sovereign state, Syria, without an invitation from the government in Damascus. Each escalation solidifies the new U.S. war against the people of that region.
The U.S. is bombing under cover of what President Barack Obama calls a “war on ISIL.” ISIL is one of the acronyms used for the organization that calls itself the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Obama admits this war may last years. He makes the dubious claim that it will be waged without U.S. combat troops.
U.S. warplanes and ships began the attacks inside Syria on Sept. 23. This assault had no approval from the U.N. Security Council or even from NATO. Obama’s only figleaf of “international support” is his “coalition” of NATO lackies and Arab monarchies, which are at least as repressive and reactionary as the Islamic State.
The Sept. 23 New York Times reported that U.S. forces unleashed “a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa [in northern Syria] and along the porous Iraq border.”
These “precision-guided bombs” allegedly blew up buildings ISIS used as headquarters, destroyed some equipment and killed some ISIS fighters. Meanwhile, they killed at least eight civilians. Most of the heavy weapons ISIS possesses is U.S.-manufactured, much of it captured in Iraq.
In the following days U.S. warplanes, with minimal participation from U.S. allies, bombed oil refineries inside Syria that were in areas run by ISIS. They also reported that U.S. planes bombed ISIS positions in a battle between ISIS and Kurdish forces going on in the Kurdish region of Syria near the border with Turkey.
The U.S. military named five Arab states — Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that took part in the attacks. Later reports clarified that the Pentagon carried out nearly all the hours-long bombing and rocket attacks. The other states — monarchies and dictatorships that gun down or even decapitate their own civilian dissidents — came along as window dressing for this enforcement of U.S. strategic and economic interests.
Then Washington’s perpetual junior partner came on board. London had earlier joined the U.S. assaults on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. A year ago the British had to hold back from joining a planned U.S. assault on Syria when the British Parliament refused to O.K. it.
This time London joined the so-called war on ISIS when Parliament voted “yes” on Sept. 26 to back the U.S. once again. But it limited this approval to air strikes on Iraq, not on Syria. Australia, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark also joined, but the European powers said they will stay out of the bombing raids on Syria and will supply no ground troops.
U.S. militarism faces contradictions
The emergence of ISIS controlling big areas of Iraq and Syria and challenging U.S. positions has placed Washington in a sea of obvious contradictions that are now debated on talk shows and editorial pages of the corporate media.
One is Washington’s ambivalent relationship with ISIS, al-Qaida and similar groups. The U.S. armed and praised these organizations in the 1980s in Afghanistan and more recently in Libya against Moammar Gadhafi and in Syria against Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia is the home office of al-Qaida’s fundamentalist ideology, and its wealthy rulers fund these groups.
Another contradiction appears when you see the forces in the region that are really fighting with “boots on the ground” against ISIS. There is al-Assad’s Syrian army, which the U.S. has demonized and treated as an enemy.
There is also the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, more well-known for resisting Israeli aggression. And there are the Kurdish guerrilla organizations: the YGP (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) based in the Syrian Kurdish region and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) based in Kurdistan in Turkey. Up to now, the U.S. has defined all three of these groups as “terrorists,” yet they are the main enemies of ISIS.
So far the administration’s plan to get “boots on the ground” consists of having Saudi Arabia train 5,000 fighters from the so-called Free Syrian Army. This seems ludicrous, and would be laughable, unless we remember what Washington does when faced with an unsolvable problem: It makes a bigger problem. In this case, it leads to sending in U.S. troops and its biggest guns.
Stop the U.S. war drive!
It would be a serious error if anyone from the U.S. anti-war movement believed that the U.S. might be doing something progressive by confronting ISIS in that region. All Obama’s claims of rescuing religious minorities, of making a “humanitarian” intervention, of stopping ISIS’s atrocities have already been exposed as pretexts for protecting and expanding U.S. oil interests in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan and for placing U.S. troops and bases back in Iraq.
Obama’s grand “anti-ISIS” alliance is made up of Europe’s former colonial powers, on the one hand, and Arab tyrannies that murder and jail their own dissidents, on the other. Even if you hate ISIS, you have to admit that these states, and especially the U.S. itself, have over the last 23 years slaughtered millions of noncombatants across the region. ISIS has a long way to go to catch up with the U.S. massacres by bombs and sanctions.
One of the most respected revolutionary leaders in the region, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah in Lebanon, argued against Lebanon’s joining the U.S.-led coalition although Hezbollah fights ISIS. Speaking on Sept. 25, Nasrallah noted that the U.S. “is the source of terrorism in the world … is the ultimate supporter of terrorist Zionist entity … fabricated or played a role in fabricating these terrorist Takfiri movements … [is] the side that struck Japan with nuclear bombs, committed atrocities in the Vietnam War, has stood next to Netanyahu in the 50-day-war against Gaza and is not morally eligible to present itself as a fighter of terrorism or as a leader of an international coalition to target terrorism.”
From Damascus on Sept. 24, the Syrian Communist Party issued a statement calling the U.S. bombing a “flagrant violation of international law that violates the national sovereignty of an independent state … under a pretext of fighting terrorist organizations. The same organisations were created in the laboratories of imperialist intelligence circles, [e]specially the British and U.S. intelligence agencies, with active contribution of Zionist circles, to create a pretext for global imperialist intervention and aggression against countries of the region.”
Anti-imperialists in the U.S. should be as resolute as their comrades abroad who, while fighting ISIS on the ground, recognize the reactionary role of the U.S. imperialist coalition and its criminal assault inside Syria.