What’s Behind Washington’s Recent Behavior?

Over the past two months, the United States has quietly extended its illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria and Pakistan. The attacks, according to the official U.S. legal definition, constitute “international terrorism” and unlawful “acts of war.”

But despite there being no dispute or debate about the U.S. responsibility in the attacks, the White house and Pentagon have refused to comment on them. Instead, they have been consistently leaking information to unnamed “senior U.S. officials” who relay the bipartisan party line to the outlets of mass media for regurgitation and reiteration.

I think that Washington’s political reaction to its own policies in Pakistan and Syria can be understood on the basis of six reasonable and coinciding points.

1) Elections: The power structure wanted to avoid any new debate over delicate issues of war and foreign policy on the eve of the presidential elections. Both Obama and McCain could’ve stood to drop in the polls or lose electoral support in the weeks before the election. Both candidates were obviously given gag orders by their respective parties—neither candidate ever spoke directly about the U.S. attacks on Pakistan and Syria.

It should be noted though that prior to the U.S. assaults on Pakistan, President-elect, Barak Obama, made it clear that he would support such unilateral strikes. Coupled with his unwillingness to denounce or even acknowledge the U.S. terrorist attack on Syria, it is reasonable to conclude that he supports these policies.

2) Opposition: Without a doubt, Washington wants to extend its wars into Syria and Pakistan. This being a touchy subject, Washington wanted to act, more or less, dictatorially. By refraining from issuing official statements from the Pentagon and White House and by not announcing or declaring what amounts to being a new policy of carrying out additional wars and aggression, they are able to avoid mobilized public opposition and objections from congress, who are more susceptible to pressure from their constituencies compared to the state department, which is largely unaccountable to the public.

3) Testing the waters: By leaking articulated propaganda and information regarding the U.S. strikes to the media through “unnamed” and “anonymous” U.S. officials, the state department, indeed the entire power structure is able to test the reactions of liberal educated opinion. If those educated and privileged enough to have some sort of voice and standing in our society can be counted on to support the terrorist actions of the state or at the very least, to not object, the future bodes well for an open and all out expansion of U.S. wars to several countries in the Middle East.

4) Denial is bad PR: It is obvious why the state department could not openly discuss or announce the U.S. attacks, but why then did they bother leaking information to the press? Aside from testing the attitudes of elite opinion, leaking information to the press was an important PR move. Several nations around the world have issued statements about the U.S. attacks on Pakistan and Syria. Everybody knew who was responsible for them. Totally ignoring these facts would appear to be an act of denial, signaling weakness and cowardice. More importantly, adopting a public relations policy akin to denial does not serve the greater purpose of the extracurricular attacks, which is to sow the seeds for much larger expansions and wars.

Better yet, the state department can count on the media to base its entire coverage of the respective events on its own testimony with its own justifications. From this standpoint, there was nothing to lose by leaking information to the mainstream media outlets.

5) Retaining the benefits of terror: Even more disastrous though than a short or long term PR blunder would be for the U.S. government and military to not be able to retain some of the most fruitful benefits of its terror and aggression. As the unnamed senior officials enlightened interested readers and journalists, the violent U.S. assault on Syria was meant to be a “warning” designed to “goad” Syria into adopting policies favorable to the US and its interests in the region. The strikes on Pakistan have been largely motivated by similar aspirations. The Pakistani government will continue to lose support from its population so long as it proves itself to be weak and easily violated by deadly American attacks.

Sending messages of violence aimed at coercing governments into adopting certain policies not only has the benefit of potentially terrorizing them into submission, but it also helps the United States establish and maintain its credibility as a lawless and ruthless thug in the international arena who won’t hesitate to kill children with impunity if that is what it takes to achieve certain political or ideological goals.

The mainstream American media coverage of the U.S. attacks has mostly consisted of quotes from the unnamed state department officials and military analysts. The reports have relied exclusively on information from U.S. officials while additional commentaries in the reports simply reinforce the ideological assertions and justifications handed down from government spokesmen. The media’s complicity in these crimes makes them significantly responsible for not only the recent U.S. reign of terror in Pakistan and Syria, but also partially responsible for the prospect of new American-led wars throughout the region.

What we can expect

The seeds are being sown at this very hour for more aggression and war in the Middle East. The elections are over. The waters of educated and articulate opinion have been successfully tested. The media has yet again proven itself to be properly subordinated to state power.

Washington has long wanted to be able to open its war theaters past the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan in order to crush resistance to its occupations and to destabilize and reconstruct the region for the purpose of expanding strategic U.S. control, dominating oil politics, and strengthening Israel’s aggressive military position.

The U.S. also wants to teach Iran, and other independent nations, an imperial lesson in international affairs: ‘Don’t challenge U.S. power because we will punish you. We don’t care about international law or your national sovereignty. You will be next if you insist on defying our orders.’

What we can do

The state department and military will surely continue their deadly and destructive policies in the Middle East if they are not met with mobilized and militant opposition from the public. Because the mainstream press has committed itself to the cause of the state, those of us in the alternative media have an increasingly important task in exposing the dangerous developments in U.S. unilateral strikes throughout the Middle East.

By the time Barak Obama takes office, we need to send his entire administration, along with congress, the clear and uncompromising message that we will not tolerate continued military aggression in violation of international law. We will not sit by idly while the architects of the empire scramble for the pieces of the Middle East while killing thousands or millions of human beings in their path.

Despite what the bipartisan power structure might have in mind, nothing is graven into stone just yet. What happens in the ensuing months will be largely dependent on what we do…or don’t do.

Max Kantar is an undergraduate at Ferris State University. He can be reached for comment at: maxkantar@gmail.com. Read other articles by Max, or visit Max's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 7th, 2008 at 9:04am #

    months ago i`v said that the next country to be atacked wld be syria.
    iran can wait. iran can bite back and seriously.
    iraq, may not ever rise. US will most likely split it in three parts and rule over each.
    troops can then be withdrawn and used against syria. i do not think that US warplotters, planners r stupid and had gone into iraq to win anything the public has in mind.
    people r caught in the dichotomy: lose or win. but that is a mere verbal scheme; the actual goal is control w. eventual little bleeding for the mercenaries.

  2. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 7th, 2008 at 11:54am #

    oh if we cld also have auntie sarah along w. uncle sam. uncle wld be much happier and wld stay home instead going all ove rthe globe. thnx

  3. Arch Stanton said on November 7th, 2008 at 12:35pm #

    “We will not sit by idly while the architects of the empire scramble for the pieces of the Middle East while killing thousands or millions of human beings in their path.”

    Of course “we” will. “We” have sat idly by while the US committed genocide in Iraq to the tune of about a million slaughtered along with tens of thousands in Afghanistan. What difference is a few thousand more corpses going to make now?

    BTW: Obama has stated publicly that he intends to expand the imperial massacre to Pakistan and pour more gasoline on the global bonfire by increasing US military spending and piling additional threats onto Iran (he’ll probably reinstitute the draft as well).

    He’s given “us” his answer. Whining about it to that snake oil salesman will be about as useful as tits on a boar hog.

    BTW2: You know that “international law” is? Whatever the Pentagon and US State Dept. says it is, which is basically a global golgotha for anyone who has a problem with the precepts of War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.

  4. joed said on November 7th, 2008 at 1:09pm #

    “We will not sit by idly while the architects of the empire scramble for the pieces of the Middle East while killing thousands or millions of human beings in their path.”
    gee, seems this author is livin’ on the moon. the people of the us are sick, the society is sick, and they think whining and complaining on the internet is actually doing something to create change. this is actually a form of insanity. if amerikans were gonna’ do anything they would’a done it a long time ago.
    “Over the past two months, the United States has quietly extended its illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria and Pakistan. …”
    “QUIETLY” is quite an understatement! if the author had ever been within 5 miles of a 500 pound bomb detonating he would have used a very different word. i suspose the people murdered by amerika are quiet now. but that is the only thing quiet about what is going on there. BTW, we do have the right to defend our selves family and loved ones against an agressor. AND, nonviolent action is NOT just sittin’ around whining and complaining. see the video, “A FORCE MORE POWERFUL” AND just stop buying stuff. obama is one of the bad guys.
    peace to you and yours

  5. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 7th, 2008 at 1:28pm #

    w. 99% of amers supporting oneparty system, i’ m not exepcting an iota change for better.
    actually, worsening will occur for many nations. but we have that 1% that vigorously opposes uncle sam.
    and we r educating and over decades we may bring the opposition to 2% and not for the sake of change for better but for saying, Not in my name.
    dv is not mainstream. msm stifles free speech. let us not do that by calling people’s conclusuons ” whining”.
    let people write whatever they want. thnx

  6. Ramsefall said on November 7th, 2008 at 8:36pm #


    good suggestion.


    many, likely not Max, don’t realize how irrelevant International Law is to the US, still adhering to the false belief that IL, Nuremberg, Geneva, UN, world opinion, etc. actually means something in Washington. You’d think that 60 years of blatant violation would make it clear that Washington IS indeed IL, “What we say goes”, as Chomsky points out.

    While the US may not be keeping score, other official entities are. When the Empire finally crumbles, and if anything is left of global society by that time, they (the criminals despite their doctrine) may eventually be on the same side of the courtroom as the Nazis, or Pinochet. Things that go around, have a furtive ability to come around.

    Best to all.