Sunday, 15 April 2018

Yet Another Illegal War

British government's clearly have not learned the lesson of the illegal war in Iraq in 2003. Theresa May, has learned some lessons, but the wrong ones. She learned the lesson of Cameron, in 2013, of the danger of going to Parliament to seek approval, and thereby risking the humiliation of not getting it. So, as she has done over Brexit and other issues, she chose the route of the authoritarian, and simply ignored Parliament, denying it of a say. That may have had short term tactical benefits, but will have longer-term costs. She learned the lesson of Blair and the Iraq War, by quickly publishing the legal grounds on which she launched the war on Syria, but Blair had good reason for not doing so. It is that the grounds can then be challenged. The legal grounds on which May says she has gone to war in Syria, is basically to relieve an immediate humanitarian crisis. It is clearly bollocks, and exposes her straight away to the charge of engaging in an illegal war, and the potential, therefore, that UK military personnel might be subject to war crimes charges. But, the use of such a justification, has much wider implications.

Humanitarian Intervention

The idea that bombing Syria is an act of humanitarian relief is ridiculous. It is made even more ridiculous by considering a number of other facts. 

  • The supposed chemical attack in Douma occurred on 7th April. A week earlier.
  • Britain has reneged even on its minimal commitment to take in humanitarian refugees from the Syrian conflict.
  • Britain provides the Saudi regime with weapons, and military advisors, which are used to inflict a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the same weapons have been provided by the Saudis to the various Islamist groups fighting in Syria, including Al Nusra, which is backed by the West, and which has been shown itself to have used chemical weapons, including the use of Chlorine gas.
  • There are more than a dozen similar conflicts across the globe where humanitarian crises exist, including that inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians, and yet there is no suggestion that the answer to these humanitarian crises in any sense resides in bombing the places where those crises are being endured! 
But, the short-term convenience of using this ridiculous claim of humanitarian relief has wider ramifications. If Iran, or Russia, or some other power, for whatever strategic reason, decided to use this argument to launch air strikes against Saudi Arabia, to provide humanitarian relief to the Yemenis, suffering a humanitarian crisis, then Britain and the US would have little to complain about. Similarly, if Iran or some other power were to launch air strikes against Israel, to provide humanitarian relief to Palestinians, being murdered every day on the border, by the IDF, then again the US and UK could have little to complain about. After all, the US and UK complain that they have been pushed into this action because Russia has vetoes resolutions at the UN Security Council, but for more than half a century, the US has routinely vetoes each and every UN Resolution that was in any way critical of Israel. The US has vetoed UN Resolutions critical of Israel, 43 times! 

When NATO invaded Kosovo in 1999, to provide support for the murderous, criminals of the KLA, who had provoked ethnic conflict in between Kosovan Serbs and Albanians, it led to an ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Serbs, and prepared the ground for Kosovo to be separated from Serbia. It created a precedent, which allowed Russia to use the same argument for intervening in South Ossetia, in 2008. 

The Tory apologists, including the Tory media have tried to justify the government's action, and its abandonment of any pretext of democratic accountability by a number of equally spurious arguments. They tried to argue that there was not time to recall parliament. Nonsense. The chemical attack, if there was one, occurred on 7th April. If it was fine to wait a week before responding to it, why could parliament not have been recalled during that period, and why could any such action have not waited another few days, given that parliament is back tomorrow, and the OPCW have started their investigation in Douma today? 

They have tried to argue that what has been undertaken was only a limited, precise surgical strike, and not an act of war. Niall Paterson on Sky News today, argued against Richard Burgon that this was not an act of war, for example. Really? So, if tomorrow, some other country launches 120 Cruise Missiles against Britain, will Paterson say, “Oh never mind, its not an act of war”?! Incidentally, on believing the word of the state, according to the Russians 70 of the 110 missiles were shot down, whereas according to the US/UK/France, none of the missiles were shot down. If that is the case, then its surprising that 110 successfully delivered cruise missiles, “shiny, new and smart” caused such relatively little damage. 

They have tried to justify the action by claiming that there were no civilian casualties. That's like saying that a drunk driver should get off in court, because although they were driving drunk, they managed not to kill anyone on their way home! The fact is that although the action was clearly intended to be an exercise in public sabre rattling, and the Russians appear to have been told in advance where and when the strikes would occur, to try to avoid Russian casualties, in such cases, such events do occur. For goodness sake, there have been plenty of examples of “friendly fire” where troops fighting on the same side have been killed. There has already been around 200 Russian mercenaries killed in Syria, by strikes undertaken by the US and its allies. Moreover, the bombing of supposed chemical weapons storage and production facilities makes the claim of humanitarian assistance even more ridiculous, because surely the likely consequence of any such bombing is to release dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere, water courses and so on, with devastating effects on local civilian populations. If chemical weapons are to be destroyed, it should be done safely and systematically, as the joint action of the Russians and US did in 2013.

The Dialectics of War

Tim Marshall speaking on Sky News today decried the idea that this action was going to lead to World War III, but his analysis fails to understand what is really going on. It is formalistic, and fails to understand the dynamic and dialects of war. When yesterday, I wrote that World War III had started, I clearly did not mean that the US/UK/France were about to start shooting at each other, and dropping bombs and missiles on one another. The process and dynamic of war simply does not operate in that way. Ask someone when World War I started, and they will say 28th July 1914. Similarly, ask someone when World War II started, and they will say 1st September 1939. However, the truth is that both of these world wars actually started long before then. The world wars were, in fact, a series of regional conflicts, that became embroiled and entangled, with conflicting and combining interests resulting in a series of shifting alliances, which was then combined into a more or less global conflict. 

The First World War could potentially be traced back to 1905, with the Russo-Japanese conflict. It certainly encompasses the Balkan Wars. Similarly, World War II did not start on 1st September 1939. The foundations of it go back to Japanese expansion into China in the 1920's and 30's, the Japanese adventures in Mongolia, which were halted by Zhukov at Khalkhin Gol, not to mention Italy's adventure into Abyssinia, Germany's expansion into Austria, Czechoslovakia, and their support for Franco in Spain etc. 

The lesson of all these instances is not that, which the liberal interventionists proclaim, which is what they have argued in relation to Hitler's expansion into Czechoslovakia, the failure to intervene in Spain etc., that its necessary for liberal democracies to intervene at an early stage to oppose dictators – the same argument has been put forward since the 1930's by the petit-bourgeois Third Campists – but is the very opposite. The lesson is that when the working classes of these countries fail to oppose their governments, when they allow them to get away with the idea that they are intervening, for humanitarian purposes, they have already lost their moral purpose; they have abandoned their historic mission, and tied themselves irretrievably to their own ruling class, and thereby to its own class interests. 

The foothills of World War III could probably be traced back to the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam having been the US's front man in the Gulf, in its proxy war against Iran, had failed to deliver. He was set up. The US Ambassador told him that his argument with Kuwait, over the latter supposedly stealing Iraqi oil, was not concern of the US, were he to take action over it. The rest is history. The working-class in the US and Europe failed to hold their governments to account, as they asserted their right to flaunt international law, and to invade a sovereign state without themselves being attacked. Flush with that success, and with the USSR an increasingly distant memory, and the Eussian economy on its knees following the implementation of Hayeckian and Friedmanite economic theory, the US and its allies began to press home their advantage in strategically weakening a still heavily nuclear armed Russia. 

The EU pushed East, expanding into the former Warsaw Pact countries, moving ever closer to the Russian border. NATO contrary to the assurances it had given to the Kremlin also expanded Eastwards right up to the Russian border, in the same way that Germany had done in the 1930's. Of course, when the USSR had dome something similar in the 1960's, by placing missiles on Cuba, it was forced to remove them, under threat of starting World War III, by John F. Kennedy. The US also formed a string of alliances with various dictators in the former Soviet Republics on Russia's southern flanks, having no concern about humanitarian relief for their peoples from the dictators who boiled their opponents in oil. 

By 1999, NATO was also confident enough to wage an actual military campaign against Russia's long time allies in the Balkans, in Serbia. But, in order to do so, they required a pretext of humanitarian intervention. The US had been a long time ally of Osama Bin Laden, who was financed and supplied to provide the forces to fight the USSR in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was then enlisted to make contacts with the KLA. At that time they were just a small criminal gang, but with CIA funding, and training they were able to begin organising attacks on Kosovan Serb villages, which then provoked ethnic conflict between Kosovan Serbs and Albanians who for decades had lived peacefully side by side. As the ethnic conflict escalated, it had the desired effect for the KLA, of provoking a military response from the Serb dictator Milosevic, in defence of Kosovan Serbs. That provided the pretext for NATO to begin bombing Serbia. 

According to British General Michael Jackson, the US told him to get to Pristina airport and stop the Russians taking it, even if he had to fire on them to do so. Jackson refused, recognising that to have done so would have led to an open conflict with Russia. He told Wesley Clark,  

"I'm not going to start the Third World War for you". 

The fact that the working classes of the US and Europe failed to hold their governments to account for these actions, and indeed that the leaders of some of those working classes, were the governments that undertook the war (the fact that some Third Campist groups supported them in doing so, is rather irrelevant, as these groups are themselves irrelevant) is the dynamic that has created the conditions for the gradual slide into World War III. It enabled those same imperialist powers to wage war on Iraq, with disastrous consequences, and then to wage war on Libya with even more disastrous consequences, and the only reason they have failed to do the same thing in Syria, is the fact that the Russians already had military bases there, and the Assad regime had support from Hezbollah in Lebanon, whilst the disastrous adventure in Iraq had led to thousands of Jihadists flooding into Iraq and Syria, so that a multi-faceted civil war was opened up. Instead, the US and its allies channelled their support for anti-Assad forced via their Gulf allies, and via covert means using the CIA and other intelligence services, and special forces acting covertly across the Turkish border into Syria. 

As it becomes increasingly clear that Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have effectively won this war, and as Turkey starts to draw closer to Russia, thereby cutting off some of the possibility of continuing that covert action across its border – indeed Turkey has its own battle to fight against the US's Kurdish allies in Syria – the US and its allies need other means of intervening in Syria, if only to maintain a condition of chaos there, so as to prevent a Russian/Iranian/Syrian and Turkish alliance from obtaining a strategic foothold from the waters of the Gulf through to the Mediterranean. Moreover, given the Chinese backing of the Iranians, any such restoration of stability in Syria, could result in rapid economic reconstruction financed by Chinese investment, a resolution, and example of nation building that the US and its allies have everywhere failed to achieve following the destruction caused by their wars. 

In terms of the dialectics of war, there is a point where this process of conflict across a wide area becomes a transformation of quantity into quality. The fact that the US/UK/France were prepared to risk open confrontation with Russia, in launching this attack on Syria, is an indication that such a point has been reached. It does not mean that it is irreversible. When a ball starts to roll down a hill, the roll starts at the top, not at the point where it has picked up such a degree of momentum that it cannot be stopped. 

1 comment:

Norman Pilon said...

"If that is the case, then its surprising that 110 successfully delivered cruise missiles, “shiny, new and smart” caused such relatively little damage."

Indeed. And that also causes me to wonder about whom or what it is that is being targetted. The 'Assad Regime,' and by implication Russia, or the Syrian people as such?