In the Senate and at the G-20:

Obama’s Agenda: Push the Syrians to Slaughter Each Other

by Larry Everest | September 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


September 6, 2013. Over the past week, the Obama administration has aggressively stepped up its public campaign in the U.S. and abroad to attack Syria, as the debate and struggle within the ruling class and among the population broadly has intensified.

Three days after announcing, on Saturday, August 31, that he would not attack Syria before consulting with Congress (even though he claimed the right to do so without authorization), he met with Senate leaders. Later that day a resolution in favor of attacking Syria narrowly passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The next day, Obama departed for the G-20 Summit* in Moscow where he vigorously lobbied world leaders—and world public opinion. This coming a week before the debate is expected to sharpen further: the full U.S. Congress will take up the issue when it returns to session on Monday, September 9. Obama is scheduled to give a nationwide address about Syria on Tuesday night, and the full Senate is expected to vote on Wednesday on attacking Syria.

But in the arguments Obama made to the Senate, and to the rulers of other global powers at the G-20, the real agenda of U.S. imperialism (and its allies, including Israel) is coming more into focus. It seems to involve encouraging the horrific slaughter of Syrians by both sides in the civil war until both sides are decimated, the population is crushed, and all leading to better conditions—from the perspective of U.S. imperialism—to install a regime that will be subservient to its agenda in the region. But as we have seen over and over in the past few decades, what the rulers of the U.S. intend to accomplish with their invasions, interventions, covert actions and wars has frequently unraveled with unintended results for the imperialists themselves and ongoing horrors for millions.

Obama argues that attacking Syria is necessary as a matter of conscience, international law, and concern for humanity. The U.S. claims it has definitive intelligence that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad murdered 1,400 Syrians on August 21 in a chemical attack, therefore military action is demanded to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again, and to make sure international agreements banning chemical weapons are enforced. “...[in] the face of such barbarism the international community cannot be silent.”

Many doubts and questions have already been raised about the accuracy of U.S. claims, from a number of quarters. But whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons or not, the history of U.S. actions in Syria and the Middle East in particular shows that U.S. actions are not dictated by an iron-clad adherence to international law and conventions; in fact, this history is littered with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed when it has served U.S. imperialist interests—including facilitating or directing the use of chemical weapons.

A few examples among scores that could be cited: the U.S. facilitated the murder of tens of thousands of Iranians with chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war (by helping to supply Iraq with the technology and materials needed for making chemical weapons, and by directly providing Iraq with targeting intelligence). The U.S. has used chemical weapons repeatedly in Iraq—including depleted uranium ordinance (massively in southern Iraq in 1991) and white phosphorous (in Falluja in 2004). The U.S. has not only repeatedly violated its own system’s international law, human rights agreements, conventions, and norms (think torture from Guantánamo to Baghram to Pelican Bay, drone strikes, and massive spying), it is doing so again in this very instance by declaring it has the right to wage war on a country which poses no threat to it, and without UN authorization.

What Has Been Revealed About the U.S.’s Real Motives and Objectives

The Obama team’s own need to win over other elements of the ruling class (and to train the population to see things through the lens of the U.S. empire) has forced them to spell out some of their actual motives amidst the fog of pre-war rhetoric and propaganda—and it’s not about humanity, it’s about imperialism and U.S. control of the Middle East.

For example, on September 3, when Obama met with Congressional leaders, he stated that attacking Syria “gives us the ability to degrade Assad’s capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region.” (emphasis added) .These are imperialist geopolitical objectives—not humanitarian objectives.

The resolution passed later that day in the Senate stated: “It is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria.” (

Here, it is worth turning to the trenchant point Bob Avakian makes about what the U.S. really brings to the world when it talks about “democratic” government:

“The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” (BAsics 1:3)

Obama’s words and the Senate resolution point to the real reason war is being prepared NOW, and it's not about chemical weapons. It’s because the momentum in Syria’s civil war has shifted in favor of the Assad regime and against the “rebel” forces—out of which the U.S. has been working over the past several months  to bring forward a regime. So the U.S. is facing the prospect that the Assad regime could prevail, and since the Assad regime is aligned closely with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a victory or significant advance of the Assad forces would be a significant setback for U.S. moves to isolate, weaken and perhaps attack Iran—which it sees as a major challenge to its domination of the strategic Middle East.

And if the U.S. is perceived as unable to respond forcefully to Assad’s defiance, that damages the U.S. imperialists’ global “credibility”—the U.S.’s ability to impose its will by force or in other ways, and it would strengthen the regional position of the U.S.’s principal adversaries—Iran, Syria, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as well as global rivals like Russia.

Of particular concern is the U.S. fear that not attacking Syria after a real or purported use of weapons of mass destruction, would signal Iran that the U.S. and its allies are not serious about preventing it from attaining nuclear weapons capabilities. The issue for the U.S. here is not eliminating all nuclear weapons, but preserving the U.S.-Israeli regional nuclear monopoly and military predominance, which would be undercut if Iran was even seen as having the ability to build a bomb.

The Necessities Driving the Global Imperialist Superpower

Overall dominance over the Middle East region, home to 60 percent of the world’s energy reserves and the geographical crossroads between three continents, has been a central pillar of U.S. global predominance for over six decades. As imperialist strategists have stated in moments of candor over these decades, dominating the Middle East means dominating the global oil market, which means having a whip hand over all powers dependent on that market or that oil, as well as the global economy; and it means controlling key trade routes and choke-points, as well as prized military-strategic real estate.

When the U.S. grip on the region seemed to be in danger of eroding, George W. Bush seized on the September 11, 2001 attacks to launch a war—in the name of “combating terror”—to recast the whole area and solidify the U.S. imperial position. This recasting / reshaping has not gone as planned. Afghanistan turned into a quagmire. Iraq did not become the hoped-for springboard for U.S. ambitions. Both wars and other U.S. crimes savaged millions of lives, fueled regional rage, strengthened reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, and destabilized the region. The Arab Spring erupted in early 2011 and further shook the state structure and Middle East order. Over this decade-plus, the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran, with its ambitions of being a regional power and its mission of Islamization, has become a particular nemesis for the U.S.

In this context, Syria’s complex civil war has drawn in contending regional powers: the U.S. and its allies including Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia on one side, and Iran, Syria, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah—all with backing by Russia—on the other. The U.S. rulers view any strengthening of Iran and its allies as dangerous and unacceptable.

Compare the U.S. silence and inaction to a thousand-plus civilians being massacred by Egypt’s brutal military dictatorship to its hyped-up outrage in response to roughly the same number reportedly being killed in Syria. The point is the U.S. is determined to shape the course of the “Arab Spring” in accordance with the needs and imperatives of its empire.

What Responsibility Does the U.S. Bear for the 100,000 Syrian Deaths So Far ... and What Will Obama’s War Lead to Now?

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, imperialist strategist Edward Luttwak wrote:

“At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests. ... There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw. By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies. Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning. This strategy actually approximates the Obama administration’s policy so far.”

Luttwak is speaking truth here—it does seem that the U.S. strategy in Syria to date has been to give encouragement and political support to the anti-Assad forces and to politically and economically weaken the Assad government, while not intervening decisively and aiding the victory of either side. U.S. actions have helped draw out the Syrian civil war and thus contributed to its horrific human toll—an estimated 100,000 dead and two million refugees. So the U.S. already has Syrian blood on its hands.

Obama’s apparent plans to degrade Assad’s capabilities, while gradually strengthening the rebels so that Assad could eventually be forced from power (without Syria imploding), would be simply a further “recalibration” and continuation of that heinous policy. This is akin to the U.S. strategy in the Iran-Iraq war: working for the weakening and mutual destruction of both sides, a strategy that contributed to the war’s toll of some one million dead and wounded.

So the U.S. rulers’ own words and own plans make clear: any U.S. attack on Syria will inflict even more horrors on the Syrian people. Nothing good can come from it. Anyone with a conscience and a shred of humanity should oppose such a criminal action.


*  At the G-20 Summit, those opposing a military strike without UN authorization included Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Germany and South Africa, while only Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey supported the U.S. [back]



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