By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Apr 11, 2017 - 1:26:50 PM
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Analysts warn against military action in Syria, its possible motivation and consequences
WASHINGTON—Just 11 weeks into his presidency, with his administration in a tailspin, faced with plummeting approval ratings, and suffocated by FBI and congressional investigations into his campaign’s ties with Russian intelligence agents, President Donald J. Trump changed the political subject by ordering a U.S. missile attack on Shayrat military airfield in Syria on April 6.
“United States intelligence indicates that Syrian military operating from this airfield were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in southern Idlib Province, Syria that occurred on April 4.” Mr. Trump informed House Speaker Paul Ryan in a letter April 8.
The stage was set. Chinese President Xi Jinping was with the president, at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for critical trade talks when Mr. Trump announced that a Tomahawk Cruise missile attack had been launched from warships in the Mediterranean, this without prior Congressional authorization, or notification.
With this military strike, just two months into his term, Mr. Trump demonstrated to his domestic detractors, to his Chinese guest, and to the world at large that he could take decisive—albeit potentially illegal—military action, while conducting delicate diplomatic affairs at the same time. Some in Congress complained.
“The U.S. strikes in Syria last night, conducted without Congressional authorization, represent a dangerous military escalation into the Syrian civil war and are without legal justification,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “But by illegally bombing a sovereign nation, President Trump has intensified an already dangerous and unstable conflict without a long-term strategy or an appropriate authorization from Congress.”
Mr. Trump claims it was the sight of dead babies on television which prompted him to reverse a pledge to stay out that was made just two days before the decision to strike. “Why didn’t sight of babies killed by U.S. bombs in Mosul (two weeks before) provoke the President to order a halt to the U.S. bombing, because “beautiful babies were being killed?” Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies asked in an interview.
“It does sound like an emotional reaction that was later created around a useful strategic moment when we know we’re going to get a lot of support,” Ms. Bennis continued. “The ratings are down in the basement—ratings of less than 35 percent supporting Trump.
“In 2012 he said the same thing about President Obama. He Tweeted out: ‘Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate’ The notion that you can go to war in response to your best guess of who was responsible and your personal outrage about it is an abomination. What we’re looking at here is completely illegal action on the part of Trump,” said Ms. Bennis.
But why would this president “care about chemical warfare on children in Syria when children in Flint, Selma and Dothan are victims of state sanctioned chemical warfare from lead?” civil rights veteran Ruby Sales posted on social media, “He and his party has stood solidly for it,” Ms. Sales continued.
Dr. Gerald Horne, Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, agrees. “Then there’s the legal question,” Dr. Horne said in an interview. “It violates the UN Charter. There was no question of self-defense, for example. The Congress in the United States has the right to make war, and certainly it violates the Constitution.
“You may recall in terms of chemical weapons, that Seymour Hersh, the independent journalist did an analysis of the August 2013 episode in Syria involving chemical weapons and came to the conclusion that it was fundamentally the rebels backed by their foreign allies. Given the fact that there has been no investigation of this episode, and given the fact that the Pentagon-witness Iraq—has oftentimes been wrong with regard to who has certain kind of weapons and how they were used.”
Others, outside of the Trump administration question the certainty that the chemical gas attack was actually carried out by Syrian government forces. “The prime minister of Canada just said, ‘We need a United Nations investigation,’ ” Ms. Bennis said.
“And the journalists pressed him, and he would not say ‘Obviously, the Assad government did it,’ because there’s nothing obvious about it. Certainly, it may have been the Assad regime, but there’s lots of evidence of why that may not have been either, so, we just don’t know yet,” Ms. Bennis continued.
“The U.S. government has a history of blaming other countries for the ‘mischief’ made by the United States,” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said in Chicago Feb. 26, 2017 in Part 2 of his Saviours’ Day Address: “Have No Fear For the Future: The Future is Ours.”
“The foreign policy of our government is involved in ‘the meddling’ of the affairs of others. And yet, when they do this they will charge the other country with being ‘the peace breaker.’ The Holy Qur’an gives us insight into The Mind of an Enemy who is making mischief, then claiming that he is a “peace maker”—but he is, in reality, a Mischief Maker!”
The U.S., the Muslim leader pointed out, had long ago targeted seven Muslim nations as a part of the Pentagon’s scheme for “regime change in seven Muslim countries in five years. So the American government and Congress gave them money to destabilize that area of the world.” At one time the countries—including Iraq and Libya which have already been destabilized, as well as Syria, Sudan, and Iran—referred to themselves as “The Resistance and Steadfastness Front,” because they refused to recognize Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
Mr. Trump’s decision to reverse his isolationist, “America first” views in favor of intervention into a civil war in a Middle Eastern country may have been intended for domestic consumption as well as international impact.
“Then there is the question of harming relations with Russia, which might be quite frankly at the heart of the matter,” said Dr. Horne. “As is well known, the investigators are on the trail of Mr. Trump because of his supposed pre-November 2016 ties to Moscow, and what better way to wrong-foot the investigators and throw dust in the eyes of the public, than to ruin relations, or at least to harm the relations with Moscow.
“Fundamentally the Trump foreign policy is incoherent, and more than that, is quite dangerous,” Dr. Horne continued. “Former critics are now applauding him. The liberal interventionists are happy, because they’re always happy when there’s a war going on, particularly if the conflict has Moscow on the other side of the table, in order to pump up Donald J. Trump’s plummeting poll ratings.”
It was also unclear April 10, at Final Call presstime, what the next U.S. steps would be in the conflict with Syria.
Such as how U.S. and Russian aircraft would coordinate strikes against ISIS in Syria and in Iraq and how the two sides would avoid any confrontation or error that could escalate tension between the two nations.
United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke strongly April 7 and in the days that followed, speaking of U.S. determination to act on its own while blaming Russia in part for the attack and calling for Moscow to cease its support for regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“For six years, the world has watched as the Syrian government and its leader, Bashar al-Assad, have terrorized its own people. It has murdered hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. It has broken international law and violated numerous UN resolutions. It has committed criminal acts that shock the conscience of all humanity. The international community has repeatedly expressed its outrage,” she said April 7 at the United Nations.
“Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia would have his back. That changed last night. … Now, while the Syrian regime is responsible for the chemical weapons attack, it is not the only guilty party. The Iranian government bears a heavy responsibility. It has propped up and shielded Syria’s brutal dictator for years. Iran continues to play a role in the bloodshed in Syria. The Russian government also bears considerable responsibility. Every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him. We had hoped the Security Council would move forward, but Russia made it known, as it has done seven times before, that it would use its veto once again, covering up for the Assad regime,” she said. “The United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. Those days are over. But now we must move to a new phase, a drive toward a political solution to this horrific conflict. We expect the Syrian regime and its allies to take the UN political process seriously, something they have not done up until this point.”
Meanwhile the government of Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, was among states that expressed support for President Trump’s actions. Israel also voiced its approval. “In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement. “Israel ... hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile a slight majority of Americans voiced early approval of the military strikes because they believed the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime was immoral, according to a CBS News poll. But the poll added, there was reluctance for presidential pursuit of military action beyond the missile strikes, saying Congress should authorize any further actions.
“Few Americans are willing to see the U.S. get involved in Syria beyond the use of airstrikes. Only 18 percent would want ground troops. Half of Republicans would limit involvement to either airstrikes or diplomacy, and Democrats largely would focus on diplomatic efforts,” CBS News reported. (Final Call staff contributed to this report.)