It is about time the citizens of the United States stop falling for the same magic trick: the call to arms in response to some moral panic of the ‘immoral’ foreign world. Across any stage, domestic or foreign, our thieving magicians continue to use a rather boring act that distracts and deceives the audience while they make their move to steal their prize. Whether the prize is oil, trading partners, or other precious resources, the result is the same: a destabilized and wounded country victimized by U.S.; intervention and a bewildered and docile U.S. audience.
On the foreign stage, there are two major illusions cast by our magicians to set the stage for intervention: the defenders of democracy who need to save a country from their own corruption, or the defensive hero fighting against inherently evil radical extremists.
With Vietnam, the Red Scare set the stage (a favorite at the time) and the full intervention was not achieved until then-President Johnson used the practical joke of ‘Gulf of Tonkin,’ where a small, poorly armed Vietnamese ship supposedly clashed with a whole fleet of armed U.S. ships, as the punchline (Piascik 2015). The phantasmagorical spectacle of the radical ‘terroristic’ Middle East set the stage for the War on Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan, and now seemingly the unlawful attack on Syria in response to a chemical attack by Assad on his own people (Bernish 2017, Cohn 2014, Piascik 2015, ICISS 2001, Starr and Diamond 2017, Datoc 2017).
Aside from Trump ordering an international attack without approval from Congress, arguably violating the U.S. constitution, he also violated international law (Starr and Diamond 2017, ICISS 2001). The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty delineates what constitutes the authority to launch an intervention (including military intervention) on another country, including the following:
“The Security Council should in all cases be sought prior to any military intervention action being carried out. Those calling for an intervention should formally request such authorization, or have the Council raise the matter on its own initiate, or have the Secretary-General raise it under Article 99 of the UN Charter… the Security Council should deal promptly with any request for authority to intervene where there are allegations of large scale loss of human life or ethnic cleansing. It should in this context seek adequate verification of facts or conditions on the ground that might support a military intervention” (ICISS 2001, 12).
Not only did the Trump administration not consult the UN Security Council, but they acted with no substantial evidence nor confirmation that the chemical gas attack even occurred, or if it was potent chemical weapons used by the Syrian government if it did happen (Bennis 2017, Bernish 2017, Taliano 2017). Hence, Trump had no authority to lead such an attack.
It is even more peculiar if we look at the details – on the verge of coming to peace, there is very little motive for Assad to launch an attack, especially on his own people (Datoc 2017, Bernish 2017). Additionally, why would the U.S. react now, when the same poorly evidenced chemical attack was alleged to have occurred in Syria in 2013 (Bernish 2017, Parry 2017)? The incident in 2013, contrary to popular media coverage, was found to be false when no sarin was found in the accused sarin-laden rocket nor did it have the mobility range to come from the Syrian military base (Parry 2017).
Recent developments have shown that there is some evidence that the Rebels were behind the attack, which would be damning to the U.S. because how would the Rebels get their hands on sarin gas without a provider? (Manfredo 2017). Regardless of the reasoning, the outcome far outweighs the cause, all while violating national and international policy.
Considering the motifs of our magician’s tricks in the Middle East, it would not be a far stretch to think that the U.S., rather than Assad, could be behind the ‘attack’ or are at least using it as a ruse to intervene. Along with the similar subterfuges for intervention, the motive is also blatantly oil, and as we’ve seen with the Ukraine, the motive is also to ‘Balkanize’ countries near Russia for the Neoliberal agenda (Bernish 2017, Nazemroaya 2017, Todhunter 2017). The Neoliberal agenda to re-organize the Middle East, and create trading partners with the help of NATO, would give the U.S. access to Syria’s resources.
It would also enable a divide and conquer strategy, which would give the U.S. military advantage against Russia and their allies. If one was not asking for a war with Russia, preparing for one sends the message strong enough – something the U.S. has been actively participating in since the Bush administration in spite of warnings from Putin. In the couple of days after the U.S. bombing, there is some evidence to suggest that Trump spent $80 million on these bombs for symbolism: to perhaps prove that he is different from his predecessor, Obama, or even to help refute the popular controversy that he is ‘in bed’ with Putin (Newmani and Hosenball 2017, Parker 2017).
The difference between the previous acts and this one is that our magicians have become sloppy with the same old sleight of hand trick. As was the case with the War on Iraq and Afghanistan which required much planning and training – from creating and allowing conditions for Osama bin Laden to come to power, and then supporting his destabilization of the Middle East countries – the Syria trick is barely believable; unbelievable enough that even some leading voices on the Right do not believe Trump’s Syria-excuse (Bernish 2017, Taliano 2017).
With the surprising reaction by the Right Wing, the careless blundering in the pursuit of oil and Neoliberal objectives will hopefully begin to disillusion the citizens of the United States. In fact, perhaps we are finally reaching some clarity about U.S. politics, which William Domhoff (2000) documented years ago and Calvin Exoo (2010) hinted at in his critique of the war in Iraq.
We are under the illusion that U.S. politicians are interested in policies for the sake of improving the nation, that we are a multi-party democratic system, and that the political sphere is relatively separate from the media sphere and the corporate sphere. In reality, Exoo (2010) demonstrates that politics and policy are very much colluded, incestuous, and if not completely eclipsed with the corporate sphere, including the corporate media. Thus, there are no checks and balances left, aside from the formal notation of the law, which we have seen has not reined in the actions by our politicians, or we would have put Bush and perhaps now Trump on trial for war crimes.
This concept, is further supported by Domhoff (2000) who demonstrates that there really is no room for democracy in the U.S. – that ultimately, we are not even a two-party system of Democrats and Republicans because even the most successful liberal agendas have only been successful due to support from moderate conservatives. Even Neoliberalism is simply repackaged conservatism. Conservatives, by definition, opt to conserve the status quo through deregulated markets and decreased taxes, the agenda that supports corporations.
Thus, we live in a conservative, corporate single-party system.
Inadvertently, Trump has begun to reveal the magicians behind the curtains, setting a new stage that perhaps the Left, if acted upon quickly enough, can play a new trick of substantial structural change.
Adrienne L. McCarthy
Eastern Kentucky University
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