Perspective, Syria and Beyond

by lizard

In the frequent posts these last two weeks, maybe something has been missing. There have been a few things coalescing, so I’ll do my best to piece some stuff together.

First, I’d like to start with legitimate concerns that the most recent and most deadly alleged chemical attack is a Gulf of Tonkin event constructed to force US intervention. This is from AP’s The Big Story, Doubts Linger Over Syria Gas Attack Responsibility:

The Obama administration, searching for support from a divided Congress and skeptical world leaders, says its own assessment is based mainly on satellite and signals intelligence, including intercepted communications and satellite images indicating that in the three days prior to the attack that the regime was preparing to use poisonous gas.

But multiple requests to view that satellite imagery have been denied, though the administration produced copious amounts of satellite imagery earlier in the war to show the results of the Syrian regime’s military onslaught. When asked Friday whether such imagery would be made available showing the Aug. 21 incident, a spokesman referred The Associated Press to a map produced by the White House last week that shows what officials say are the unconfirmed areas that were attacked.

The Obama administration maintains it intercepted communications from a senior Syrian official on the use of chemical weapons, but requests to see that transcript have been denied. So has a request by the AP to see a transcript of communications allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for a chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks.

Later in the same article, a discrepancy in the casualty count is cited:

The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in 12 locations mostly east of the capital, an estimate close to the one put out by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. When asked for victims’ names, however, the group provided a list of 395. On that list, some of the victims were identified by a first name only or said to be members of a certain family. There was no explanation for the hundreds of missing names.

In Ghouta, Majed Abu Ali, a spokesman for 17 clinics and field hospitals near Damascus, produced the same list, saying the hospitals were unable to identify all the dead.

Arguing body counts is gruesome. Does it really matter how many people experienced violent spasms and choking until they died? I traded a few tweets between jhwygirl yesterday that touches on this lack of humanity. She asks (in two tweets):

Does humanity include a moral obligation?

or is our conscience only required to keep us from shopping at walmart. Atrocities of chemical weapons are too big, so ignore?

My response was (and is) to filter atrocity into the geopolitics of the situation. The corpses are numbers, and when they become more, like pictures, then it’s just propaganda. That is how I try to insulate myself from the horrific scenes of mass-casualty gassing.

In the comments of the post A War the Pentagon Doesn’t Want? a portion of a comment from feralcatoffreedom pointed me to a commonality that caused her husband to change his attitude toward the plight of the Syrian people:

And, by the way, when my rancher husband found out about their drought and depleting their wells, he changed his attitude. Around here, water is everything and we are making decisions on selling cows based on that. It helped him to see a Syrian farmer as somebody like him.

That is a very timely observation. Not long after that comment, I ran across a link to a Moyers piece looking at precisely that angle, titled Drought Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War—Is It One of Many Climate Wars to Come?. Here is how Francesco Femia describes Syria’s drought:

Francesco Femia: Essentially, a massive, five-and-a-half-year drought. From 2006 to 2011, 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced, in the words of one expert, the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago. That, on top of natural resource mismanagement by the Assad regime — subsidizing water-intensive wheat and cotton farming and unsustainable irrigation techniques — led to a large amount of devastation.

There are some quite frightening numbers. Herders and farmers in the north and south had to pick up and move. Nearly 75 percent of farmers in the northeast suffered total crop failure. Herders in the northeast lost around 85 percent of their livestock, which affected about 1.3 million people. That was happening before the civil war in Syria broke out.
Many international security analysts were saying, right up to the day before protest broke out in the small rural town of Daraa, that Syria was immune to the Arab Spring and to the grievances that other Arab publics had brought to bear on their leaders. And that clearly wasn’t the case.

For more, here is another conversation with Francesco Femia, from a piece titled Climate Change: Secret Inflamer of the Arab Spring.

Instead of putting the social unrest of the Arab Spring in its proper context of global climate change, the sparks have been fanned and exploited for geopolitical advantage. And the flames of hyperbole exposed more confirmation of Godwin’s Law when Kerry proclaimed this is our Munich moment:

Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats on Monday that the decision whether or not to authorize a military response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s use of chemical weapons was a “Munich moment” for the United States, Politico reported.

Democratic sources on the 70-minute conference call told Politico that Kerry called Assad a “two-bit dictator” who will “continue to act with impunity.” The secretary of state urged lawmakers to support President Barack Obama’s decision to use force against Syria in the form of “limited, narrow” strikes, reminding them that Israel would back a U.S. military response, according to the sources.

John fucking Kerry. Here are some other things this botox monster said over forty years ago in his testimony to the Senate on April 22nd, 1971:

In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to use the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

The president will speak to us on Tuesday. Sometime early next week there will also be congressional votes. Maybe we can all try to remember that, regardless of what is said by our vacuous leadership, we have more in common with the people being killed in Syria than with the leaders of competing nations positioning themselves to leech more blood and treasure from their people.

  1. JC

    There’s a great article at Truth-Out looking at other political elements in Syria not representing the traditional binary story that we’ve been reading in the mainstream:

    “As the US intensifies its push for military intervention in Syria, virtually the only narrative available swings from the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad to the role of Islamist elements within the resistance. Further, where dissent with the US position appears, much of it hinges on the contradiction of providing support for Al Qaeda-linked entities seeking to topple the regime, as though they represent the only countervailing force to the existing dictatorship… The network of unarmed, democratic resistance to Assad’s regime is rich and varied, representing a vast web of local political initiatives, arts-based coalitions, human rights organizations, nonviolence groups and more.”

    We’re definitely getting the Syria for Dummies version of the story in the MSM, which gives the public very little perspective on the true state of politics there.

  2. Just one article I found on water in Middle East. And wouldn’t you know, it has to do with dams. My neighbors are in a huge water rights fight with neighbors they thought were friendly. But when it comes to water, family, tribe comes first. Another newcomer here just lost a water rights battle. It’s interesting that our former governor worked over in Saudi Arabia after graduating as a soil scientist. I believe he worked on irrigation systems. But just like around here, there is just so much water under the earth. Sucking it out to grow crops is what is creating a 2nd Dust Bowl in Nebraska and Oklahoma and in the Middle East. So lots more people with lots less food and water sitting next to a hostile Israel. What could possibly go wrong? We need our representatives like the Secretary of War, John Kerry to negotiate a ceasefire and act like an adult not some adolescent 8th grade bully. He needs to act more like a ditch rider than a vigilante.

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