Saturday, 24 February 2018

In Syria We Have No Morals - Only Interests

I strongly support a ceasefire in Ghouta. But then, people like me strongly support ceasefires unconditionally anywhere, in all circumstances. Sadly, that’s where we differ from many Western leaders and media, with admirable exceptions.

Calls for ceasefires from Lebanon 2006 to Gaza 2014 and from Yemen to Raqqa and Mosul, have fallen on deaf Western ears, regardless of the human suffering. In fact, in Raqqa, the US went as far as to reject such calls as it would “give ISIS time to regroup”, the slaughter of women and children evidently “being a price worth paying”.

Ironically, civilians are always in the frontline of wars “for civilisation”. Bombing them anywhere is criminal according to international law. But, no matter how the lofty intent, war always, always, comes down to obliterating families in their homes, killing their children, and then either “regretting” it happened, or claiming to have done everything possible to avoid it, or ignoring it altogether.

The evidence clearly demonstrates that Western leaders and, for the most part, Western media, consider civilians – men, women and children - just as expendable in pursuit of war aims as the supposedly more brutal Russians and Syrians. When analysed objectively, there is not the slightest difference in modus operandi. No official or journalistic sophistry can disguise that. It’s appalling that us news consumers who depend on journalistic objectivity for truth are subjected to reporting and analysis unable - or unwilling - to disentangle itself from its national perspective.

Everything that is happening in Ghouta already happened in Raqqa when the US and allies bombed the hell out of it. The same in Mosul. While Western media reported this, it generally did so with comparative coldness, suggesting civilian casualties were a sad inevitability in the war against ISIS. We did not get a bomb by bomb account of civilian causalities like we did in Aleppo and do in Ghouta. No “last doctors in town”, no Banas.

So, it is reasonable to ask are The West’s calls for a ceasefire in Ghouta genuinely humanitarian or are they merely to hold up the Syrian Arab Army’s mopping up of rebel areas? The West has shown beyond doubt that it wants to fight ISIS everywhere - except where ISIS is fighting the Syrian Army. In fact, Western intelligence and its allies have provided ISIS with weapons, finance, medical treatment, refuge. Everything in fact ISIS needed to fight the Syrian Army. People calling for ceasefires here but not ceasefires there don’t have cessations as their primary purpose. A child’s life in Gaza, Lebanon or Yemen should be just as important as a child’s life Raqqa, Mosul, Ghouta, Aleppo.

Why then such selective humanitarian concern? Why, to its disgrace, did the West reject demands for ceasefire in Mosul or Raqqa when the civilian population was being bombed, often with white phosphorus. Why are some children expendable and others sacred? Why are some bombings good, and some bad? Why are some weapons (such as cancer-causing White Phosphorous) used without much judgement from the ‘moral’ Western media and others (barrel bombs) cried out to be the embodiment of evil? Is White Phosphorous really any more discriminating than Barrel Bombs? Any more child-friendly? A civilian family having White Phosphorous dropped on it is no more likely to survive than one with barrel bombs falling on it. Yet, Western media seems to love the soundbite quality of “barrel bombs”, a phrase spat out by “moralistic” media types, as opposed to even mentioning White Phosphorous.

Go on. Do a count in major Western articles on the words “Barrel Bombs” and then on “White Phosphorous”. While you’re at it, count how many times Western media and officials called for a ceasefire in Raqqa and Mosul and then compare it to the amount of times they called for ceasefires in Aleppo and Ghouta.

The explanation for the disparity you will find of course is Geopolitics. See, if civilians, women and children, thousands of little Banas, are dying in the pursuit of strategic aims desirable to the West, then they are done for, abandoned to their fate, a fate barely reported. Whereas if civilians are dying while states resist Western Geopolitical aims, then these are sainted, sacred beings, whose every second of suffering is unbearable to our leaders and their broadly supportive media. Sadly for Syrians, the frontline of Geopolitical struggle, the battle for access to essential resources necessary to project power between the two strongest powers in the world, Russian and The US, currently cuts through their neighbourhoods.

You’ll not find much reference to “Geopolitics” in Western media reporting of Syria. You see, Geopolitics can explain a lot. And truthful explanation is not in the interests of the powerful nations of the world. Geopolitics provides a colder, more rational objective analysis of events in context of how states throughout history have behaved and why and, therefore, are likely still to do so. Usually they are vying for position, seeking advantageous access to resources.

If you have faith that nations intervene for humanitarian reasons you’d be better saving your faith for the Tooth Fairy. They are never doing anything for moral reasons. As former imperial British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston famously said, using an expression repeated through the ages from De Gaulle to Henry Kissinger, “We have no friends – only interests”. He could have as easily said, “We have no morals – only interests”. Indeed, our current leaders would be more truthful if they said the same thing now. Dressing up the slaughter of innocent women and children as a crime we’d never commit - and that we seek to stop for moral purposes - is shameless cynicism, an insult to our intelligence and, an immoral crime. But, thanks to a largely complicit media, our leaders get to do this again and again and again. A truly objective, fearless and effective media might just say one day, “hey, haven’t we been here before? Do we really want to go there again, and again, and again?”

I have no time for the way the Syrians and Russians are so cheaply discarding human life in Ghouta. But any notion that we in the West are any different is naivety beyond reason. We kill just like they kill. If you are genuinely humanitarian  then you'll have no problem condemning Western or Russian bombing of civilians. If you chose to condemn one side's bombing while excusing the other's bombing, then you are not a humanitarian objector. You are a participant.  

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