Is War on Syria Veering Off-Script?

When the U.S. government readies for war, there is a well-worn script. A “bad” guy is defined; some act of perfidy is alleged despite murky evidence; politicians and journalists express righteous outrage; a confused public is dragged along. Except that the war on Syria may be veering off-script, says Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is — to the extent we’re not numb — profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.

But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomes President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Into the Capitol Hill arena, the Obama White House sent Secretary of State John Kerry to speak in a best-and-brightest dialect of neocon tongues. The congressional hierarchies of both parties — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Boehner, Eric Cantor — are on the same page for an attack on Syria. And meanwhile, the U.S. mass media have been cranking up the usual adrenalin-pumped hype for war.

More than 10 years ago, American media outlets were filled with breathless idolatry of the latest U.S. weapons poised to strike Iraq. Now, the big TV networks are at it again starting to hype the Pentagon’s high-tech arsenal that’s ready to demolish Syrian targets. Of course the people at the other end of the weaponry aren’t in the picture.

The Media Education Foundation has just posted a two-minute montage of coverage from MSNBC, Fox and CNN idolizing the latest Pentagon weaponry for use in the Iraq invasion a decade ago — as well as Walter Cronkite doing the same on CBS during the Vietnam War. As a present-day bookend, a CNN clip from a few days ago provides a glimpse of how little has changed (except for slicker on-screen graphics).

But the usual agenda-building for war may not work this time. The first week of September has stunned the military-industrial-media complex. It began with a familiar bellicose call for action from the President, seconded by leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill and echoed by mass media. And yet by the end of the week, grassroots opposition had interrupted the war momentum.

Senators and members of the House are being overwhelmed with anti-war messages via e-mail, fax and phone. People are rising up to demand that Congress vote against launching a war on yet another country.

Whether Obama would actually abide by failure to gain congressional “authorization” to attack Syria is by no means clear. But our immediate task is to create such a failure.

This is a pivotal juncture of history in real time, an “all hands on deck” moment to exert enough public pressure to prevent a war-on-Syria resolution from getting through Congress. Such an outcome would thoroughly delegitimize any order from Obama to attack Syria. In the process, we would make real progress against the masters of war.

There’s an antidote to the repetition compulsion for war. It’s called democracy.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information about the documentary based on the book is at

4 comments for “Is War on Syria Veering Off-Script?

  1. Awake Sister
    September 10, 2013 at 21:51

    It is insanity to argue that killing more children (and children will die if we bomb Syria) will avenge the deaths of those other innocents. And where is the proof that Assad unleashed the latest chemical assault. There are apparently some reports that the evidence indicates that Assad’s forces were surprised at the attack. This all stinks to high heaven.

  2. MadBeck
    September 8, 2013 at 15:22

    So “Judea” has ordered its puppet the USA to attack, attack. I hope this time all our voices, all our e-mails, has some effect on our bought-and-paid for Congress. Let the Israelis take care of their own dirty work themselves. America for America! I like that, OH.

  3. rosemerry
    September 8, 2013 at 15:16

    In the hierarchy of the USA there seems to be only stoneheartedness. In Iraq they spent twelve years enforcing massive cruel sanctions on the people, claiming to hate the leader that the USA had supported for decades before turning against him. Then came invasion, occupation and complete destruction of a formerlay advanced and cultured society.
    In Syria, there were five years of terrible drought leading up to 2011, with farmers demonstrating and begging for assistance. The tyrant that the USA had long worked with, including sending terrorist suspects to be tortured by his harsh methods, reacted against these and other protestors, trying to stop them by force.The USA did not help those in trouble in 2011, but encouraged mutiny and foreign fighters, hardly a way to solve humanitarian difficulties. The USA had been asked for humanitarian help in 2008, but had refused. As in Somalia, the US actions always make the situation worse for the people.

  4. OH
    September 8, 2013 at 11:43

    America for America, American money for America, American military for America, no war except where it makes sense, no war to help Al Qaida, no war to help AIPAC.

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