What the US Airstrikes on Syria Really Mean?


The night is silent just like the sky over Damascus. After all, ruins don’t speak and those which incidentally dare to, are bombed into silence.

Everyone slept finding the night as their only haven from the war-stricken day. Alas, this respite was also withdrawn when a tirade of missiles made their way to a research facility in the town of Barzeh two weeks ago. The neighboring city of Homs was treated with no less brutality either, where two targets were decimated by airstrikes jointly launched by the Allies. Funny term: ‘Allies’. Reminds me of an alliance one of whose members, around 70 years back, decided to launch nuclear bombs and then hailed it as an achievement, only to realize later the malevolence they had given birth to.

Now, of course, I’m not comparing this situation to WWII or the airstrikes to nuclear bombs. However, what is comparison-worthy is the tendency to portray every action not only as a successful one but also as one that will purge the world of all evil. This tendency can be chronologically traced ever since the Second World War. From Vietnam to Falklands, Kuwait to Iraq and Afghanistan to now Syria, lies have been conveniently concocted to derive legitimacy from the public at home.

A huge role in maintaining this legitimacy and disseminating these lies has been played by the Western media itself. Moments of “brilliance” include the British providing its citizens with censored and twisted information regarding the Falkland War to uphold national confidence or the US famously claiming that they had confirmed the presence of WMDs in Iraq when in reality all they managed to find was an excuse to the throne. Following the norm, when it came to reporting these recent airstrikes, the Western media performed its traditional duty.

Far from labeling it an act of imperialism or an attempt to cement Western hegemony in the Middle East, most media outlets have seemed to even shy away from criticizing the airstrikes. Even most of the so-called “left-leaning” newspapers of the West have gone only as far as terming the airstrikes futile but never unacceptable. A day after the strikes, New York Times published an article called “After U.S. strikes, Syria returns to War As Usual” which makes a strong case of how the strikes had no positive impact on the war but never questions their legitimacy.

This legitimacy is in fact, rather subtly reinforced in sentences like “The strikes were not intended to topple Mr Assad, damage the Russian and Iranian allies that support his troops or protect civilians from violence. In fact, they were meticulously planned and executed to avoid altering the overall dynamics of the conflict and keep the United States from getting dragged further in.” [1] It can be clearly seen how the first sentence very rightly discredits the mainstream ideas of why the airstrikes were carried out. However, the second sentence then itself assumes that the US does not intend to get further involved in the conflict. This quintessentially paints the US as the “indifferent actor” which does not want to but is forced to intervene in conflicts abroad.

Such a portrayal has always shown the US as an unbiased, solicited policeman that will come to everyone’s rescue concealing its self-interested, power mongering imperialist self. This image is what has garnered massive support for US actions.

Interestingly though, we saw a glimpse of America’s real intentions when the American Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley told Fox News of the motives behind these airstrikes. Notice how she conceded America’s personal interests in the war: “Haley said the three U.S. goals for accomplishing its mission are making sure chemical weapons are not used in a way that could harm U.S. national interests, defeating ISIS and having a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.” [2] And that is what it has always been about when it comes to the US: eradicating its opponents in a way that it has complete monopoly over the region while also having complete monopoly over morality.

In addition to misrepresenting certain notions, the mainstream media also seemed to shy away from discourses that call the Western allies to account. Out of all these discourses is the much absent discussion on Syria’s sovereignty. Was an unconfirmed chemical attack on civilians a justifiable reason to impeach Syria’s territorial sovereignty? Was the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P) rightfully invoked? What other avenues could have been pursued to reach an effective solution while keeping sovereignty intact? How efficacious have previous airstrikes been to curtail chemical attacks? All these questions remained largely unquestioned in the litany of news reports. Moreover, very few media conglomerates questioned the Allies on the hastiness of their decision. What was so time sensitive that the airstrikes had to happen before OPCW (Organization on the Prevention of Chemical Weapons) could provide proof of the employment of chemical weapons?

Some have apologetically argued how this was done to prevent another chemical attack. I would’ve believed in the ‘hastiness and the secrecy of airstrikes to prevent another chemical attack’ argument had the US President not posted a tweet a day before the airstrikes hinting at one: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! …” [3] I wonder how much time it gave the Assad regime to transfer their chemical firearms from the capital of the country to a less predictable city and how effective the hastiness actually proved to be. Given the circumstance, the Allies portray less interest in destroying the chemical weapons and more in re-announcing their presence in the Middle East.

With these recent attacks on Syria, the Allies once again eye Middle Eastern coronation while the storytellers of the West write hymns to satisfy their conscience. With no intention to die this time, somewhere in the halls of the White House, 10 Downing Street and the Elysee Palace, I can hear Shakespeare’s Cleopatra proclaiming once again: “Give me my robe, put on my crown. I have Immortal longings in me.”

Citations:

[1] Hubbard, Ben. “After U.S. Strikes, Syria Returns to War as Usual.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/world/middleeast/syria-us-airstrike.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=world&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Middle East&action=swipe®ion=FixedRight&pgtype=article.

[2] Chamberlain, Samuel. “US to Hit Russia with New Sanctions after Syria Airstrike, Haley Says.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 15 Apr. 2018, www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/04/15/us-to-hit-russia-with-new-sanctions-after-syria-airstrike-haley-says.html.

[3] Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. “Donald Trump Seriously Contradicts Himself in Single Tweet about Syria.” Metro, 12 Apr. 2018, metro.co.uk/2018/04/12/donald-trump-tweets-attack-syria-soon-not-soon-7461153/.


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