Jim Bovard urges Trump to open the files to provide activism ammo for the vast numbers of Americans who vehemently oppose forever wars.
By James Bovard
The American Conservative
How many Syrians did you vote to kill on Election Day? Thanks to our perverse political system, the answer will be revealed over the next four years if the Biden administration drags the U.S. back into the Syrian Civil War. But there are steps that President Donald Trump can take in his final months in office to deter such follies.
Syria was not an issue in the presidential campaign and there were no foreign policy questions in the two presidential debates. That won’t stop the Biden team from claiming a mandate to spread truth and justice via bombs and bribes any place on the globe.
The Biden campaign promised to “increase pressure” on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad – presumably by providing more arms and money to his violent opponents. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris declared that the U.S. government “will once again stand with civil society and pro-democracy partners in Syria and help advance a political settlement where the Syrian people have a voice.”
Northeastern University professor Max Abrahms observed, “Every foreign policy ‘expert’ being floated for Biden’s cabinet supported toppling the governments in Iraq, Libya and Syria, helping Al Qaeda and jihadist friends, ravaging the countries, uprooting millions of refugees from their homes.”
Syria policy has long exemplified the depravity of Washington politicians and policymakers and the venality of much of the American media.
The same “Hitler storyline” that American politicians invoked to justify ravaging Serbia, Iraq and Libya was applied to Assad by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013. Once a foreign leader is irrevocably tagged with the scarlet H, the U.S. government is automatically entitled to take any action against his nation that would purportedly undermine his regime.
Every side in the Syrian civil war committed atrocities, but the Obama administration acted as if there was only one bad guy.
Trump attempted to extract the U.S. from the Syrian conflict, but his sporadic, often unfocused efforts were largely thwarted by the permanent bureaucracy in the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies. Considering the likelihood that the Biden administration will rev up the Syrian conflict by targeting Assad, recapping how America got involved in this mess to begin with is worthwhile.
President Barack Obama promised 16 times that he would never put U.S. “boots on the ground” in the four-sided Syrian civil war. He quietly abandoned that pledge and, starting in 2014, launched more than 5,000 airstrikes that dropped more than 15,000 bombs in Syria.
Lying and killing are often two sides of the same political coin. The U.S. government provided cash and a massive amount of military weaponry to terrorist groups seeking to topple the Assad regime. The fig leaf for the policy was that the U.S. government was merely arming “moderate” rebels — which apparently meant groups that opposed Assad but which refrained from making grisly videos of beheadings.
U.S. policy in Syria became so bollixed that Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels openly battled CIA-backed rebels. The U.S. government spent billions aiding and training Syrian forces who either quickly collapsed on the battlefield or teamed up with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or al-Qaeda-linked forces.
Federal law prohibiting providing material support to terrorist groups was not permitted to impede Obama’s Syrian crusade. Evan McMullin, a 2016 presidential candidate, admitted on Twitter: “My role in the CIA was to go out & convince Al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us.”
My role in the CIA was to go out & convince Al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us.
— Evan McMullin ?? (@EvanMcMullin) August 15, 2016
Most of the media outlets that shamelessly regurgitated the George W. Bush administration’s false claims linking Iraq to Al Qaeda to justify a 2003 invasion ignored how the Obama administration began aiding and abetting terrorist groups. The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan lamented last year that those who warned that the U.S. government “providing money and weapons to such rebels would backfire… were smeared as genocide apologists, Assad stooges, Iran supporters.”
A Turkish think tank analyzed the violent groups committing atrocities in Syria after the start of the Turkish invasion in 2019: “Out of the 28 factions, 21 were previously supported by the United States, three of them via the Pentagon’s program to combat [ISIS]. Eighteen of these factions were supplied by the CIA.”
American policy in Syria has been incorrigible in part because most of the media coverage of the conflict has been like a fairy tale that sometimes showcased our national goodness. Trump’s finest hour, according to the American media, occurred when he launched missile strikes on the Syrian government in April 2017 after allegations that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.
MSNBC host Brian Williams gushed over the video footage of the attacks: “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan groused that “praise flowed like wedding champagne—especially on cable news.”
That wasn’t the only time that top-tier media celebrated carnage. Later in 2017, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius proudly cited an estimate from a “knowledgeable official” that “CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.”
Ignatius did not reveal if his inside source also provided an estimate of how many Syrian women and children had been slaughtered by CIA-backed terrorists.
Capitol Hill has been worse than useless on Syria. When Trump announced plans to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, the House of Representatives condemned his move by a 354 to 60 vote.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blathered, “At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who was elected after lying to voters by claiming he fought in the Vietnam War, said he felt “horror and shame” over Trump’s action.
Congress showed more outrage about a troop pullback than it had shown about the loss of all the American soldiers’ lives in pointless conflicts over the past 18 years.
Foreign policy “experts” are Washington’s most respected con artists. It will be no surprise if Biden appointees repeat the same too-clever-by-half routine of the Obama years, bankrolling terrorists to torment a nation ruled by someone who Washington disapproves of.
If the Biden administration commences bombing Syria to topple Assad, Americans would be naive to expect to learn the facts from cable news or their morning newspapers. Syrian children who die in U.S. airstrikes will be as invisible as Hunter Biden’s laptop in the vast majority of American media coverage. The media will also continue to ignore the slaughter of Syrian Christians, one of the largest and least recognized victims of the civil war.
The best hope to prevent a new round of mistakes, lies, and atrocities is an epic disclosure of prior U.S. mistakes, lies and crimes in Syria. There is an old saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. For U.S. policy in Syria, what is needed is an acid burn that permanently sullies the reputations of any government official involved in creating, perpetuating or covering up debacles.
Any U.S. government official involved in arming the “moderate” rebels deserves to be ridiculed in perpetuity.
The vast majority of records on U.S. intervention in Syria are likely classified as military or national security secrets. But the president is authorized to disclose as he chooses. Perhaps what is needed is a WikiLeaks-style massive dump of documents with only the names of innocent Syrians redacted.
Almost 20 years ago, Washingtonians were riveted by the last-minute pardons that Bill Clinton uncorked until almost the final moment of his presidency. Trump could do the same thing with deluges of disclosures on Syria and other quagmires until the moment that Biden leaves his basement for swearing-in.
If blanket revelations are not possible, then selective disclosures with high entertainment value would include the cozy ties between federal agencies and journalists and think tanks who won official favor by shamelessly recycling official lies.
Revealing the strings that foreign governments pulled to propel or perpetuate U.S. intervention could vaccinate Americans against similar ploys in the future. The Israeli government admitted last year (after years of denials) that it had long provided military aid to radical Muslim Syrian groups fighting Assad.
With the Obama administration’s approval, the Saudis poured massive amounts of arms and money into the hands of terrorist groups fighting the Assad regime. Both the Israeli and Saudi military aid made the Syrian assignment more perilous for American troops. Other governments helped sow chaos and carnage in Syria while the Obama administration pretended that the main or sole problem was Assad.
Sweeping disclosures could also enable Trump to settle scores with appointees who subverted his policies. Trump appointed a Never-Trumper letter signer, Jim Jeffrey, as his special envoy for Syria. Last week, Jeffrey explained how he and others thwarted Trump’s efforts to disengage in Syria: “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.”
The actual number was far higher than the 200 Trump thought would be left in the country. The charade on troop deployments was a “success story” for Jeffrey, Defense One noted, because it “ended with U.S. troops still operating in Syria, denying Russian and Syrian territorial gains.”
But denying “Syrian territorial gains” to Syrians was not the policy Trump touted. Washington Post reporter Liz Sly savored the charade: “US officials have been lying to Trump – and the American people – about the true number of US troops in Syria in order to deter him from withdrawing them, according to the outgoing Syria envoy. Trump thinks it’s 200.”
Sly added two laughing emojis after that line. (No word on whether the Post will add laughing emojis to its “Democracy Dies in Darkness” motto.)
Opening the files on Syria would provide the ammo for activism by vast numbers of Americans who vehemently oppose new wars. In August 2013, Obama was on the verge of bombing the Assad regime after allegations it had used chemical weapons.
A vast outcry against intervention, including a dramatic protest outside the White House while Obama was making a Saturday speech on his Syrian plans, temporarily deterred further U.S. escalation (beheading videos were the Aladdin’s Lamp for interventionists). There is far more evidence of the folly of U.S. intervening in Syria now than there was in 2013 and probably more folks today ready to raise hell.
America can no longer afford to cloak its foreign carnage in the shroud of good intentions. There is no transcendent national interest that justifies pointlessly killing more Arabs in Syria or elsewhere. Americans need to scoff at those who portray keeping U.S. boots on foreign necks as a triumph of idealism.
James Bovard is the author of Lost Rights, Attention Deficit Democracy, and Public Policy Hooligan. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard.
This article is from The American Conservative.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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None of this is secret if one bothers to search the Internet to find stories such as this, or this short video “The Covert War on Syria”.
65,000 new military officers are, with advise and consent of the Senate are beought in every two years. How are these supposed to earn stars and bars without illegal unconstitutional undeclared wars?
Defund all illegal unconstitutional undeclared wars. U.S. Representatives who fail to do so need removal.
To James Bovard:
Great idea and, as usual, well presented.
Only cursory allusion to Israel, though. I find myself wondering if your editors censored what you know so well and what should be an integral part of any attempt to enlighten readers about the main factor driving what the U.S. has been doing in Syria. It is a rather clear case of Washington doing Israel’s bidding. Even the NY Times, on one bright shining morning (Sept. 6, 2013), made that clear when its Jerusalem bureau chief reported what she hear from senior Israeli officials about Israeli [and of course, lemmingly, U.S.] objectives in Syria.
That day the headline of the lead article “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria” provoked little more than a yawn. But those readers who read down the column, and were familiar with NYT usual coverage of Israel, were in for a shock.
With more dogs of prolonged war about to let slip out of the kennel, Jodi Rudoren, then NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief — to her credit — sought informed views on Israel’s objectives for Syria. Rudoren got unusually candid responses from senior Israeli officials, when she asked them about Israel’s preferred outcome in Syria. Rudoren minced few words in reporting Israel’s view that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war was “no outcome”.
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
Three years later Obama he told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg how proud he was at having resisted strong pressure from virtually all his advisors to launch cruise missiles on Syria in Sept. 2013. Obama waxed eloquent that he had for once not adhered to what he derisively called the “Washington Playbook” (in this context, read “U.S.-Israeli Playbook”). Instead, Obama chose to take advantage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to get the Syrians to surrender their chemical weapons for destruction, verified by the U.N., aboard a U.S. ship configured for such destruction.
Let’s hope Biden remembers all that, AND how it took only five months for the neocons to scuttle the emerging trust between Putin and Obama by mounting the coup in Ukraine and then demonizing Putin for his JFK-Cuban-missile-crisis-type response.
This is crux of the problem, if you were to speak these truths in the UK you would be called antisemetic.
I just can’t see how things will ever change when AIPAC and other related lobby groups have so much influence
in Capitol Hill.
Thank you, Ray. That needed saying. This quote too is all-telling of the morality structure of this Israeli-induced quagmire:
‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
The above quote illustrates why and how the U.S. and Israel find such ease of comity in the misery they both inflict on mostly innocents.
Pure Madeline Albright re: the 500,000 murdered by sanctions Iraqi infants and toddlers: “We felt it was worth it.”
Do tell, Maddie, do tell….
“Once a foreign leader is irrevocably tagged with the scarlet H, the U.S. government is automatically entitled to take any action against his nation that would purportedly undermine his regime.”
…..and sanction anyone or nation who doesnt follow suit…
Here is good idea that will not happen, just as so many good ideas fail in America.
Trump has been quite servile towards Israel’s interests.
And what was the Syrian horror really about?
Bulldozing part of Israel’s neighborhood in a 1960s-style “slum clearance” project. Only this project took 600,000 lives and continues taking them.
it is hardly likely Trump would act against what Israel regards as its interests as he leaves office.
Please note how he has illegally kept troops in the NE to deprive Syria’s government of oil revenue for reconstruction. The US troops are also working on encouraging the local Kurds to fight the national government.
The US is also very active in discouraging the return of refugees that Russia encourages to help rebuild the country.
This war was not a civil war. That was a façade for a hybrid war on a beautiful and historic place, one Israel hates.
Nailed it, this was never a civil war. I thank the Russian Govt. and others that have help the Syrian people in the fight to save their country.
Sadly biden will continue the endless wars
The truth must always be kept well hidden.
Yes, the archaic
so-called “Military Industrial ( original draft Congressional ) Complex [ modern, current construct: Military, Industrial Surveillance, Security State – M.I.S.S.S. ] did accrue some financial benefit.
But, that “benefit” was the magician’s distraction, deception and misdirection away from the real party and people to whom accrued the benefit.
The Zionist colonial, settlement entity, Zionists, Christian Zionists, and Neo-conservatives were and are the true beneficiaries of so-called Middle East Policy.
Always have been and always will be.
A short history:
Did it start with:
“A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”
First neocon report calling for Iraq invasion. Delivered to Israel in 1996.
[ further reading from different perspectives:
Did it start with:
Did it start with:
“Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they (Palestinians & Arabs) don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace.” – Senator Chuck Schumer’s speech at AIPAC.
8:52 PM – Mar 6, 2018
Did it start with:
Wesley Clark 7 counties in 5 years
Did it start with the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
( The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. )
Did it start with:
The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel (Basle), Switzerland, from August 29 to August 31, 1897.
Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable:
1. The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine.
2. The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries.
3. The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness.
4. Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.
1. Israel consisting of the so -called “Biblical” reality of Israel from East bank of the Nile River, including Cairo, to the West Bank it the Euphrates River, South to
the Red Sea and North to at least all of Lebanon, if not a large part of Turkey and limitless borders as promised by the Hebrew God.
Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 23:31; Numbers 34:1-15; and Deuteronomy 19:8, which claims limitless borders, “And if the Lord thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers; (K.J.V.)
—?Formula adopted by the First Zionist Congress
Did it start with:
Book 5 of the Torah
Attributed to a Moses
So-called: Deuteronomy 20:10-17
King James Version (KJV)
10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16 But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee:
[ Traditionally understood as the words of a “god” as spoke to a Moses delivered before the conquest of Canaan. ]
Why am I wrong?
It might be likened to Washington recruiting, arming and training a bunch of Québec separatists and encouraging them to invade and occupy large swaths of the Maritime provinces and Eastern Ontario because the American deep state recognises that many of the spoils(I mean resources) must be seized (I mean protected), like control of the St. Laurence Seaway, the Grand Banks fisheries and most of the world’s production of maple syrup. If the “moderate” Québécoise can’t get the job done, Washington could always turn to recruiting from among the hard core psychopaths in its supermax prisons. Mind you, this would only be done out of strict altruistic principles to bring freedom and democracy to the locals. And, if they are ungrateful for our meddling (I mean intercession), they can always migrate to Nunavut and live on the dole. Don’t think of it as conquering, ravaging and exploiting another country, consider it more like renovating the place.
Oh So True, Mr Chuckman, so barbarically true… And equally true is that the vast majority of those among the comfortably off who voted in this latest election (laughingly called democratic) really do not give a bugger about what the US, via any of its MICI arms, does to peoples, cultures, societies, countries across the seas… They might as well not exist…and then there are those folks who work for the MIC (clearly no consciences) and those whose pension plans benefit nicely from the manufacture and use of all that materiel…
Why would anyone think declassifying any Syria documents would make a difference.? The 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document, inadvertently released, acknowledged that the “opposition to Assad has been driven by Al Qaida” and that it was likely a Salafist state would emerge, something the US favored because “It would be a valuable strategic asset to be used against Assad” was of no consequence whatsoever. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons engineers report that was leaked revealed that the “chemical weapons attack” that precipitated the launching of scores of cruise missiles against Syria was a false flag and the OPCW itself has been corrupted by the United States. That was a story of immense importance that got zero coverage in any of the media sources relied upon by the American public. The US ostensibly has a “free press” but the fact is, it serves as nothing other than the propaganda arm of the US government. Syria’s best hope is that the Russians make it plain to the US that further intervention in Syria will be met with resistance.
How could anyone disagree with such an article .If reparations for the death of innocents and damage to the country’s infrastructure are out of the question for the perpetrators of this totally useless carnage then the least that could be done is bring the troops home and let the country rebuild . The old saying states ,lead,follow or get the hell out of the way .
The following quote is just one example of the futile battle to stop the juggernaut that drives endless wars.
“Sweeping disclosures could also enable Trump to settle scores with appointees who subverted his policies. Trump appointed a Never-Trumper letter signer, Jim Jeffrey, as his special envoy for Syria. Last week, Jeffrey explained how he and others thwarted Trump’s efforts to disengage in Syria: “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.”
Trump is a complex fellow. In some ways he tried to get and keep us out of quagmires, in other like Iran and now China, he appears to fall in line or even make it worse.
Bovard idea is a great one. Put it all out there. It’s worth a try. Maybe Trump is bitter enough to do it. And maybe his drive for nomalization between the Jews and Arabs might result in unintended consequences that are positive, even for the Palesstinians.
“Declassify America’s Dirty Secrets”
I second the notion!
And while you’re at it the clean ones as well.
Tell the truth so help you god! Because no one else will.
This is exactly why Assange, Manning, Snowden, Greenwald are necessary heroes.
It is also why our government pursues them relentlessly.