What Was the Trigger for Violence in Syria?

If the base upon which an edifice is arranged is defective, then the edifice will topple when the base crumples. In the case of the violence raging in Syria, western governments inimical to the Syrian government have blamed the violence, through their monopoly media organs, on the Syrian government security apparatus using lethal force to put down unarmed domestic protestors. If this depiction is false, if it is disinformation, then the subsequent killing and the millions of refugees displaced by the violence is a monstrous crime — a crime for which western governments and their media bear criminal culpability.

Given the lethality of the crimes being perpetrated against Syria, it is a must that people of conscience scrutinize monopoly media skeptically (or better still abandon it. Other than being aware of the lies, why willingly subject oneself to disinformation?). ((E.g., read Whitney Webb, “Al Jazeera, CNN & BBC Cover Up Genocidal Crimes of US – Backed Syrian Rebels,” Mint Press News, 19 April 2017.))

One must also be aware of imperialist reverberations within purportedly independent media. I wrote of one example of this recently concerning the “independent” Democracy Now!

There are plenty of people who do combat the disinformation and for no pecuniary profit. One of them is Robert Roth, a former assistant attorney-general for New York (1981-1991) and Oregon (1993-2007), who has prepared a booklet What’s really happening in Syria (available for download here) that debunks much of the western corporate/state media disinformation on Syria, beginning with Syrian president Bashar al Assad being a “brutal dictator” who is “killing his own people.” (p 1) One often hears or reads of leftists criticizing the US aggression against Syria, but many feel the need to add that Assad is horrible, brutal, or they don’t support the dictator Assad — all this without providing evidence to support their allegations. It seems very infrequent that similar addenda are voiced by pundits when describing American or other western “leaders.” How is it the master criminals behind the war on Iraq, George Bush and Tony Blair, still enjoy the perks of post-political life rather than sit in a prison cell?

Iraq was portrayed in the monopoly media as a civil war, and the same depiction is being applied to the fighting in Syria. On page 2, Roth nixes the notion of a civil war in Syria. Describing in-fighting as occurring in an enemy country is a method to distract from the fact the country is being invaded by outside forces. The fighting in Iraq was monotonously described as a Sunni-Shia sectarian war by monopoly media, despite it being a US war of aggression, a genocide, a war which saw the US-UK employing a divide-and-conquer strategy.

In “Part 3: Divide et Impera” of our 7-part series, “The Imperialist Violence in Syria,” BJ Sabri and I wrote:

The violence in Syria is not an accidental product of uncontrolled events, is not a result of a civil war, is not because the Syrian state is ruled by despotic elites—but it is a result of a combined American-Israeli geopolitical strategy to install a new Syrian regime at the order of Tel Aviv and Washington. Syria, therefore, is not but another link—after Iraq, Libya, and Yemen—in the US and Israeli quest to dismantle the Arab system of nation, and to end the Palestinian Question permanently.

What’s really happening in Syria counters the monopoly media narrative of peaceful, unarmed protests against the Assad government, citing figures such as Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who was murdered in Homs, Syria in early 2014 who depicted protestors as violent and with negligible support from Syrian people. (p. 5) The author likens this flashpoint to the US-orchestrated destabilization in Ukraine, albeit there are many other recent examples including Venezuela, Honduras, and Haiti.

Quoting Robert Kennedy Jr, Roth notes that this is not the first US attempt at a CIA-backed coup in Syria, as an earlier elected president, Shukri-al-Quwatli, was ousted and replaced by Husni al Za’in (p. 6). This is a perennial ploy by the US, and several examples spring immediately to mind: Syngmann Rhee in Korea, Ngo Dinh Diem in South Viet Nam, the Shah in Iran, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Iyad Allawi in Iraq, Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, etc. The US is presently staunchly supportive of Middle Eastern dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, the Palestinian Authority and has an unwavering friendship with the overtly racist Israeli government. Conclusively, the US has zero moral currency to speak to democratic values or to carry out “regime change.”

The ongoing policy of “regime change” exposes another moral lacuna for which the US is, indeed, exceptional among nations: overthrowing governments contravenes international law.

As the former assistant attorney-general points out in his booklet, a change in government is not desired by Syrians. The 2014 Syrian election was open to international observers; it had a 73.4% turnout that garnered 88.7% support for Assad. (p. 10) Whatever objections there are are mitigated by the fact that even if 100% of Syrians had voted, Assad would still have had a clear majority.

That support for Assad was evident immediately following the so-called revolution against the Syrian government, as on 29 March 2011, 6 million Syrians marched in support of the Assad government. (p. 11)

So what about the so-called trigger for the so-called civil war in Syria? Roth quotes from an article by Prem Shankar Jha, a journalist and author based in New Delhi, India: “Who Fired the First Shot?“:

Was there a spontaneous protest and was it peaceful? … Syrians I talked to in October 2012, and resident diplomats concurred, that there had been no spontaneous popular upsurge against the regime in Syria, and that the civil war was a fructification of plans for regime change that had been hatched much earlier and brought forward because the opportunity provided by the ‘Arab Spring’, and western liberals’ ecstatic response to it, was too good to miss.

If the “spontaneous protest” was not the trigger, then what was? Writer Stephen Gowans lectured to a much earlier timeline for the violence in Syria, captured in the title of his recently released book Washington’s Long War on Syria.

It is established that the US lied about the Tonkin Gulf Incident vis-à-vis North Viet Nam; that the US and UK concocted a lie about Saddam Hussein having weapons-of-mass-destruction; that contrary to the US government report about the East Ghouta chemical attack, it was not carried out by the Syrian government; and the most recent release of gas in Khan Sheikhoun being disinformation from the Trump administration. These lies were all repeated uncritically by the monopoly media. How many lies must be told before one starts doubting the source of the lies?

What’s really happening in Syria is important in that it is a mini-primer that calls into question the trigger and entire rationale for the violence that was unleased in Syria. Imperialism is merciless. Imperialism is an institution; it is entwined with capitalism. But there are people who are behind the institutions: western corporations, governments, militaries, and their media. These people have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Syrians on their hands.

War crimes demand prosecution.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.