Donald Trump’s attempt to present himself as the defender of Syrian civilians is deeply hypocritical, writes Kara Bryan
The US attack on a Syrian air base in response to alleged use of banned nerve agent Sarin by Bashar Al Assad against against civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, has sent shock waves across the political landscape.
The Kremlin has condemned what it called ‘American aggression’ in the absence of a comprehensive investigation and has warned that the US strike will do significant damage to relations between Russia and the US.
The heinous chemical attack in the Idlib province of Khan Sheikhoun killed 74 people and injured 557 on Tuesday. The Syrian government has so far denied responsibility for the attack.
Are we seriously expected to believe that Donald Trump was so concerned by the plight of victims of the chemical attack in Idlib that he is directing his war ships to destroy the Syrian air base responsible? This from a man who wanted to bar all Syrian refugees from entering the US recently.
It's far more likely that he calculates it will not do him any harm to persuade his critics that he is not ‘Russia’s man in the White House’, given the widespread media coverage his alleged feckless collusion with the Kremlin has received.
But this is quite a U-turn considering his pre-election isolationist rhetoric.
The President repeatedly criticised the potential for American military involvement in Syria, tweeting in 2013, ‘We should stay the hell out of Syria, the rebels are just as bad as the current regime.’
He helpfully clafiried just a few months later that if the US continues to be ‘stupid’ and goes into Syria, it would be 'shoot first and ask questions later!’
Downing Street issued a statement on Friday confirming that the US had taken military action against a Syrian air base, which the US believes was used to launch a chemical attack earlier this week, saying it ‘fully supports’ the action as an ‘appropriate response.
Dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from US war ships in the Mediterranean targeting Al Shayrat air base in central Syria in the early hours of Friday morning. Syrian state media have claimed the assault claimed the lives of seven people, four of them children.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gleefully welcomed the attack as a ‘strong and clear message that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.’
This is some considerable hypocrisy from a man condemned by Human Rights Watch and numerous other human rights groups: under his tutelage the Israeli government fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas including hospitals and even a United Nations school during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09, which culminated in the deaths of some 759 Palestinian civilians.
But the US also lacks the legal and moral authority to attack Syria. The US itself has a long illustrious history of using chemical weapons against civilian populations and its use has been far more deadly with infinitely more fatalities than what Assad stands accused of.
Let's not forget, the US dropped 20 million gallons of chemical weapons including Agent Orange on Vietnam and neighbouring countries between 1962-1971, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives, ecology and food supplies.
Vietnam estimates some 400,000 people where killed or maimed, not to mention half a million birth defects that directly resulted from chemical warfare. The Red Cross estimated that over a million people have health problems related to the US use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam war.
The US used massive quantities of white phosphorus in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, killing both insurgents and civilians. In some cases, it indiscriminately fired in the air to illuminate enemy positions at night. White phosphorus burns bodies, melting flesh away from bone.
It littered Iraq with depleted uranium in 2003, and tested chemical weapons on residents of poor, black neighbourhoods in St. Louis in the 1950s. A comprehensive list of American atrocities using chemical weapons is just too long to cite in a single article.
The airstrike is intended to send a message to Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin, but in reality it is merely a demonstration of the boundless arrogance of a nation that has ordained itself as the world’s policeman. As John Pilger wrote, ‘The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.’
American exceptionalism is exceptional hypocrisy: the Alzheimer’s of the political memory. America has started more wars and dropped more bombs than any other nation on Earth. Martin Luther King said 1967, ‘the US is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’ – and it is more true now than ever.
Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War
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