Bipartisan Murder

Biden continues Trump's murderous sanctions and wars in the Middle East; policies universally supported by Democrats and Republicans who take turns exporting US imperialism.

SYRIA is the key to the Middle East. Bordering Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and with access to the Mediterranean Sea, for millennia Syria has held unique geopolitical and strategic importance in the region. The war taking place there since 2011 has been sold by virtually every news outlet in the West as being strictly a civil war, part of the popular uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’. The reality couldn't be more different.

As General Wesley Clarke points out in 2007 there had been an agenda to take out “seven countries in five years” among them Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran; to replace their governments with ones favorable to Washington DC.

Five years already before the “Arab Spring”, a 2006 cable from the United States embassy in Damascus published by WikiLeaks shows how the US was looking at various threats, both real and exaggerated, that it could exploit in order to destabilize the Syrian government.

The US and its allies Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar began funding and arming various militias inside Syria, funneling weapons and supplies to them in order to overthrow the Syrian government. Efraim Halevy, former head of israel’s intelligence service the Mossad, even admitted in an interview that Israel had provided aid to Al Qaeda fighters just because it was advantageous for Israel to see the Syrian government fall.

PBS recently did an interview with Abu Mohammad al Jolani, a terrorist leader in Syria's north-western Idlib during which he expressed no intent to fight with the US, despite having a $10 million bounty on his head. The article goes on to mention how former Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US’ former Special Envoy to Syria, confirms that al Jolani's organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a rebrand of Al Qaeda, was a “an asset” to America's strategy in Idlib.

For those of you who know your Cold War history that should come as no surprise. The United States funded, trained and armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of 1979-1989, who went on soon thereafter to form Al Qaeda, something the CIA now casually brags about on Twitter.

To cover up the undeniable role played by foreign governments, to this day the mainstream media portrays the war on Syria as a grassroots uprising by "moderate rebels”— the overwhelming majority of whom just so happen to be rebrands or affiliated with Al Qaeda and other jihadist elements.

Despite the efforts of the entire Western propaganda machine and a dozen nations ganging up against Syria, their gamble for regime change has failed thus far: Syria has taken back most of its territory from ISIS and other foreign-backed terrorists, and now boasts even stronger ties with its allies than before. Take for example Russia’s naval port in Tartus, established in Syria in 1971 as part of an accord with the Syrian government, providing it access to the Mediterranean Sea. A decade ago, at the start of the war, the port was practically crumbling, Ten years later in 2021, it’s been completely renovated, upgraded and fitted with state of the art ships. 

While some argue the main goal behind the war in Syria was to build the Qatar-Turkey pipeline which would deliver gas through Syria to Europe, undercutting Russia’s market share, I think the larger objective for the United States has mostly been regime change and to remove the “thorn” in israel’s side. Syria refuses to recognize israel and has no official ties with the Zionist occupation. The two have been at odds with each other for the last 73 years; not just since the start of the occupation of Palestine in 1948, but also the capture of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and consequent illegal annexation. Syria is also allied with Russia, Iran and supports the various liberation movements of its neighbors including the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, collectively dubbed the “Axis of Resistance”– a twist on George Bush's “Axis of Evil".

Seeing how the regime change strategy through various terrorist and armed groups has failed in Syria, the United States is now occupying Syria’s vital breadbasket region, where most its crops are grown, as well as the oil fields in Deir Ezzor and Hassakeh provinces in East and North-Eastern Syria.

After Trump openly admitted “we're keeping the oil”, we also saw in August, 2020 then Secretary of State Pompeo admit to Senator Lindsay Graham during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that a US firm would be “modernizing Syria's oil fields”, which is a nice way to say “plundering”.

Graham can be heard gloating about the brutal Caesar Act sanctions imposted by the Trump administration. Indeed, in addition to stealing Syria's resources, the United States turned is also starving the Syrian population with siege warfare. These Caesar sanctions announced by Trump and kept by Biden serve no purpose other than to tighten the noose on the Syria's population. Syria’s economy has collapsed, its currency in free-fall and nearly 60 percent of the population is now food insecure in a country which used to be self-sufficient and a net exporter of wheat. The US shamelessly states that its goal is to deprive the Syrian government, and by extension the Syrian people, of one of their most valuable resources (oil accounts for around 25% of government revenue) desperately needed to fund public infrastructure and social programs, with 90% of Syrians now living in poverty. They pretend that sanctions only affect the politicians but it's the civilians who are suffering.

The West doesn't care if Syrians die. This scorched-earth policy is advantageous to US and Western interests because it keeps Syria in a constant state of chaos and helps israel create a buffer beyond just the occupied Golan Heights, but also more generally as Syria is now unable to defend itself, defend its neighbors, and subject to regular airstrikes which the world lets israel carry out with impunity. 

While Secretary of State Blinken uses his own kids in some deranged comparison to pretend he cares about Syrian children he and Biden are completely fine keeping Donald Trump's “Maximum Pressure Campaign” of sanctions going. According to Syria's oil minister around 90% of Syria's crude is now under control of the US. Syrians wait in massive queues as they experience fuel shortages and lining up for bread. Sanctions are a modern adaptation of siege warfare, just as ruthless and deadly.

Both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to imperialism and their fealty to corporations. There is no difference among them in that regard except in decorum. After Trump bombed Syria in April 2018, over an alleged chemical gas attack in Douma later revealed to have been staged, then Senator Kamala Harris questioned the “legal rationale” behind the strikes. Some Democrats criticized Trump saying it was a breach of constitutional powers– but none of them fundamentally questioned whether these alleged chemical attacks had even taken place to begin with. The team of scientists sent by the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons hadn’t even arrived in Syria yet to determine what had happened. Democrats only issued mild statements of rebuke while simultaneously cheering on Assad was being “punished”– which goes to show their objectives fundamentally remain the same, no matter who is in power.

Biden's bombing of Syria

After Joe Biden became president his first military action was to bomb Syria. Naturally, bombings takes priority over campaign promises like the $15 minimum wage or $2,000 checks he lied about. Biden's supposed “justification” for bombing Syria on February 25th, 2021 was that he was acting in self-defense to protect the United States. This is of course an absurdity; Syria is not a threat to the United States nor has it attacked the United States– if anything it's the other way around. Nevertheless, it doesn't matter that Biden blatantly lies in his letter to Congress, everyone knows this is merely a cover story in order to comply with the War Powers Resolution (notifying Congress of military action and citing defensive measures if no prior Authorization for Use of Military Force exists).

When Biden bombed Syria he claimed to have targeted “Iranian backed militias”- the same excuse that Israel gives when illegally bombing Syria almost on a weekly basis. When I spoke to Professor Max Abrahms on my television The Communiqué he said the bombing was likely more about sending a message to Israel rather than Iran; a show of support from Biden that the Zionist occupation could still count on the new administration's support.

When corporate media and Western politicians say “Iranian backed militias” what they're referring to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF / PMU) or Hashed al Shaabi in Arabic. The PMU is made up mostly of various Iraqi brigades, consisting of different religious and ethnic groups, despite claims that they're exclusively Shiah– although even then I struggle to understand how that would give the US or Israel the right to kill them. The popular forces are united under one banner to fight terrorism and occupation. Of course the United States can't have you realizing they're a resistance movement because then people would rightfully ask “resisting what?” and that's of course the United States, illegally occupying Iraq since 2003. The PMU also celebrated major victories in defeated ISIS and Al Qaeda, taking back the major city of Mosul in 2016. Although the US and its illegal occupation like to take credit for that (so they can justify their presence) that victory is not theirs. As a matter of fact, the United States not only helped create Al Qaeda and ISIS but Trump's assassination of General Soleimani and PMU commander Abu Mahdi was celebrated by the very terrorists who had come to fear them. While the US claims to fight terrorism it's actively helping terrorists by killing their biggest enemies. And now of course Biden follows in Trump's footsteps, proceeding to bomb the PMU. I wonder how many will break the situation down like that for you on the evening nows? Let's be clear on something: I don't care if the target was an empty barn in Syria - he has no right to bomb anything there nor in any other country.

Shortly after Biden's bombing of Syria, Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation calling for the repeal of the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. Note that the 2001 AUMF is missing– unsurprising as it's the template Congress has used for two decades to invade, bomb and ransack the planet in the name of "the War on Terror”. Of course they wouldn't repeal that AUMF. Biden is now on track to violate the Afghanistan peace deal signed under Trump, after drawing down the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, with a complete withdrawal set for a deadline of May 1st. Right on cue, the US claims that the Taliban aren't holding up their end of the deal- hence why the US can't leave just yet, continuing to impose conditions on their departure as if Afghanistan belongs to them. Naturally, the media provides cover for the longest war in US history, repeating without question or scrutiny Biden's claims that a withdrawal “can't be rushed” after occupying Afghanistan for almost 20 years. CNN also made the case that this is now about women's rights- as if the United States cared about women when it displaced millions of them in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria. We're now made to believe that occupation is emancipation. The poor white man's burden, freeing the world through bombs, sanctions and occupation.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats have largely chosen to side with him on the issue while others, including so called “progressives” like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez have remained completely silent despite criticizing Trump for bombing Syria in 2018, calling him a ‘mad king’. This really shows you where their allegiances lie and how far their “progressivism” extends. The so called "left-wing” of the Democratic Party is about as “progressive” as you can get when you stay silent about Biden bombing Syria, ballooning the war machine to an outrageous $753 billion, and violating the Afghan peace deal in order to maintain a 20-year occupation. War pigs. All of them.

A template for war

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 and 2002 passed by Congress formed the legal basis with which Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, the AUMF of 2001 broadly authorizes force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”. This ambiguous language essentially gives the president a blank check to conduct military strikes anywhere and has been distorted and manipulated by every president since in order to expand the “War on Terror” into 19 countries. Trump in his usual absurdity even cited the 2002 AUMF to try and justify his assassination of General Soleimani in January, 2020. Of course, Congress won’t ever go after him for that, despite all this talk of how Trump posed a unique danger to US democracy, let alone any other sitting or former president. Never forget, Nancy Pelosi refused to impeach George W. Bush and admits as late as 2019 that she knew George Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction and still chose to ignore calls to impeach him over a war that displaced and killed millions of Iraqis.

The constitution clearly says that the president is the commander-in-chief of the United States’ Armed Forces, however, that the power to declare war resides with Congress. Although the president can respond to imminent threats, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 stipulates that the president must notify Congress in absence of a declaration of war or prior statutory authorization. Consultation and follow ups with the Legislative branch are a must and the entire point of the resolution is to limit the Executive’s reach in matters of war. 

If Congress has already issued an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), presidents will operate within that framework and cite it to justify any action they take. What presidents have often done is to abuse this and distort its legal interpretation e.g. Bush’s crimes in Iraq, Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani. On the other hand, if Congress hasn’t issued an AUMF, like in the case of Biden’s bombing of Syria, then the president will simply cite self-defense as the justification– which is exactly what Biden did– even if it isn’t true. In either case, whether an AUMF has been issued or not, it seems Congress allows presidents to proceed unchecked– because Congress agrees with their imperialist agenda. 

One mustn’t forget that even in the case when Congress issues an AUMF and agrees with the president’s military action: US law does not supersede international law. For example, just because the US Congress voted to invade Iraq does not mean that this invasion was morally or legally justifiable.

While Biden cites Article 51 under the United Nations as the United States’ right to self-defense, one has to wonder how Article 51 would even begin to apply in this context. Syria has not attacked the United States, nor are the two nations (at least officially) at war. Moreover, if the targets were so called “Iranian-backed militias”, the same rationale still applies. These bombings also violate Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter which asserts Syria’s sovereignty and prohibits use of force against other member states. Some legal scholars might go on to argue that self-defense under Article 51 only applies against other states, not “militias”. Some might also question how the United States can argue self-defense when its very presence in Iraq is illegal to begin with; the result of an illegal invasion in 2003? At best Biden’s pretext for bombing Syria is dubious, and at worst downright illegal and outrageous. I think most rationale people can clearly see it’s the latter.

Indeed, no matter who is in charge, the warmongering remains the same. Obama, Trump, Biden have all maintained George Bush's neoconservative wars, his creation and expansion of the electronic surveillance start, his Department of Homeland Security and the post-9/11 world crafted by the Bush-Cheney regime. You won’t see many Democrats or Republicans voicing support to repeal the AUMF anytime soon. War is a racket, and the United States excels at it. It’s no accident you have a revolving door between Washington D.C. and the private sector, and that the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is a former board member of the weapons manufacturer Raytheon. At least there's diversity right? Now that the Treasury and Office of Foreign Assets Control, whose sanctions kill millions, is being run by Janet Yellen, its first woman ever, everything is fine. That's what counts, right? Or that Alejandro Mayaorkas, the first Latino man to head the Department of Homeland Security, continuing to separate children, placing them in the same camps and appalling conditions as Trump and maintaining construction on Trump's racist border wall (which all of a sudden Democrats have no issue with). What a diverse brand of imperialism: Uncle Joe's Rainbow Coalition Death Cult®.