There’s an ominous sense of déjà vu as the U.S. prepares to attack Syria: dubious WMD claims, intense pressure from self-interested lobbies, a compliant mass media, a disregard of popular opposition, even a rush to remove UN investigators. This repeat of Iraq-2003 indicts U.S. democratic institutions, says Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
If you ever doubted the erosion of popular democracy in the U.S., the next few weeks should set you straight. The simple fact is that the voting population is the main “constituency” of politicians only at election time. Right now it is reported that approximately 60 percent of that constituency does not want the U.S. to attack Syria.
However, it is not election time. In the post-election period, the politician’s real constituency becomes special interests, some of which are rich enough and influential enough to substitute their own parochial interests for the interests of the nation. There are a bunch of them which are now anxious for an attack on Syria.
The media is presently rife with reports that the U.S. government, along with other countries like the UK and France, operating with the blessing of the so-called Arab League (which has become little more than a front operation for the Gulf Arabs), are going to militarily strike Syria in just a matter of days.
This will be done to supposedly punish Damascus for the alleged use of chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war. U.S. government officials keep saying they are sure the Assad government carried out this attack, but where are they getting their information? Well, that is rather shady.
Washington won’t really say, but one can guess at the most likely sources. These might well be: (1) the rebels fighting against the Damascus regime (a great source of disinformation), (2) Israeli and Saudi “intelligence” (the Israelis have supplied Washington with supposedly genuine communication intercepts “proving” the chemical attack was ordered by Damascus), and (3) “independent medical personnel” in the area who have allegedly blamed the Syrian government.
Like the rest of the U.S. government’s sources, these medical accusers have not been named, and as far as I can determine, the only reliable source of this kind, the organization Doctors without Borders (DWB), has said that they cannot pinpoint the source of the attack.
Even though all of these sources (with the exception of DWB) are prejudiced against the Assad regime and would not hesitate to censor, alter and outright fake evidence, Washington is “sure enough” of the Syrian government’s guilt to position naval vessels with cruise missiles off the coast of Syria. The capacity of those missiles to kill civilians is as great or greater than any weapon in the field in Syria.
If this all sounds familiar, it is because it is roughly the same scenario played out by the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. In that case, the “weapons of mass destruction” that President George W. Bush and his cronies told us about for months on end turned out to be products of the administration’s overwrought imagination. This is not the kind of precedent that builds confidence in the D.C. policy makers.
If this military intervention does take place (probably right after the UN weapons inspectors leave the country), it will confirm not only the strong influence of special interests (the usual suspect here is the Zionist lobby) but also the corruptive consequences of that influence on the entire foreign policy making process.
That Obama can be brought to repeat the fatal stupidities of Bush so soon shows that all reference to peace and security as a goal for the nation are gone and the groundwork for future 9/11s is being laid with stubborn disregard for past mistakes.
The average citizen is not going to know what is going on except through the mass media, and we know that most of these outlets will, de facto, follow a conventional government line. Journalistic investigation of policy formation, at least among the mass media, is in abeyance in this country.
For that insight you have to go to such Web sources as Consortiumnews, Truthout, Media With a Conscience and Counterpunch, among others, and only a tiny percentage of the population does so. So mass public opinion is readily manipulated and managed.
Is our situation in this regard as bad as some of the countries we scorn for having no free speech and no “independent” media? Maybe not. However, that is because our politicians and bureaucrats have found subtler, less blunt ways of filling our brains with propaganda.
Who knows? President Obama, like his predecessor, might be the biggest true believer of them all in this latest story involving “weapons of mass destruction.” In this case, someone apparently used them, but Washington probably doesn’t really know who, and, in the end, probably doesn’t care.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.