Turkey, Syria and the hypocrisy of US imperialism — Bill Van Auken

Turkey, Syria and the hypocrisy of US imperialism – World Socialist Web Site

From the Bush administration’s launching of the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 through to the Obama administration’s backing of a war for regime change in Syria a decade later, Washington has continuously draped its predatory policies in the Middle East in the false banners of “human rights” and “democracy.”

Such claims have been thoroughly refuted, in the first instance, by the immense human suffering and oppression wrought by US militarism in the region. It is estimated that the US “liberation” of Iraq cost a million lives, turned millions more into refugees and lay waste to the country’s infrastructure and social institutions. In Syria, the promotion of a sectarian civil war by US imperialism and its allies has claimed more than 80,000 lives, while again producing millions of refugees and ravaging an entire society.

Equally revealing is the collection of allies upon which Washington depends to pursue its strategic and profit interests in the Arab world. They are overwhelmingly reactionary monarchies that ruthlessly suppress any opposition within their own country: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan. These US-allied champions of democracy employ beheadings, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and religious obscurantism and persecution to sustain their parasitic dynasties.

Now, the social upheavals in what is arguably Washington’s most important regional ally have torn to shreds the phony democratic pretenses and exposed the hypocrisy of US policy in the region.

The Obama administration has lent tacit support to the brutal repression unleashed by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against hundreds of thousands of young people, workers, professionals and other Turkish citizens who have taken to the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and scores of other cities across Turkey. The crackdown has left at least five people dead, sent some 5,000 people to the hospital and resulted in the arrests of thousands more.

The White House and the State Department maintained a discreet silence in the wake of the brutal assault on peaceful demonstrators in Taksim Square on June 11. As heavily armed riot police unleashed tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades against the protesters, injuring hundreds, no one in the Obama administration uttered a word about human rights or democracy.

A week earlier, the White House spokesman Jay Carney had issued a mealy-mouthed statement affirming Washington’s platonic commitment to “freedom of expression and assembly,” while warning protesters against “provoking violence.”

After making it clear that Obama would make no statement nor would he speak to Erdogan about the repression, the spokesman concluded: “Turkey is a very important ally. And look, all democracies have issues that they need to work through … I think that we continue to work with Turkey on a range of issues—as a NATO ally and as a key player in the region—and we look forward to doing that.”

In calling Turkey a “key player in the region,” Carney was obviously referring to its role as a safe haven and forward base for the Islamist militias that Washington has unleashed on Syria. Foreign fighters from as far away as Chechnya, the Balkans and Western Europe are funneled across the Turkish border; Turkey also hosts a CIA station that coordinates the flow of billions of dollars in money and arms provided by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fuel the slaughter across the border.

Washington thus hypocritically claims that its war for regime change in Syria is driven by its horror at Assad’s repression of armed Islamist opposition groups, but supports Erdogan’s repression of peaceful protests that could interfere with US war plans.

None of this gives pause to the collection of pseudo-left organizations—from the International Socialist Organization in the US to the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and the Left Party in Germany—who have lent their support to the imperialist war on Syria, proclaiming it a “revolution.”

The events in Turkey and Syria, however, are intimately connected. Erdogan’s participation in the US-led war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is immensely unpopular with the Turkish people. Polls indicate that between 70 and 80 percent of Turkish citizens oppose this intervention.

There is widespread concern that the war being promoted by Erdogan in Syria will engulf Turkey itself. Twin car bombs killed 50 people in the town of Reyhanli on the Turkish border last month, followed by the arrest in the same region of 12 members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, who initial reports said had a quantity of deadly sarin gas.

The Turkish government’s war policy is particularly unpopular among Turkey’s major religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Alevis. Erdogan’s backing for Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist fanatics in Syria is an extension of his domestic policy of imposing Islamist social policies in Turkey. His decision to name a new bridge over the Bosporus Strait after a 16th century Ottoman sultan who slaughtered tens of thousands of Alevis heightened these concerns.

In a more fundamental sense, the Turkish developments mirror those within the United States itself, with the turn towards militarism and intervention abroad feeding the growth of attacks on democratic rights and police state measures at home. In both countries, both foreign and domestic policies are pursued in the interest of ruling corporate and financial cliques at the expense of the broad masses of working people.

The moral charades performed by the Obama administration and its pseudo-left assets about “human rights” and “democracy” in Syria are, as the case of Turkey makes clear, completely hypocritical. They are designed to deceive the public about the criminal nature of Washington’s escalating campaign of military aggression to secure US hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia—a campaign that threatens to drag the people of Turkey, the entire region and beyond into a bloody conflagration.

The struggle for the democratic and social rights of working people in Syria, Turkey and throughout the planet can be conducted only on the basis of the independent political mobilization of the working class in struggle against imperialism and the capitalist profit system.

Bill Van Auken

Human Rights Investigations on Syria and the Use of Chemical Weapons

Syria and the use of chemical weapons « Human rights investigations

The text of the letter from the White House to John McCain and Carl Lewin, reproduced below, makes it clear that the Obama Administration has, despite media reports, not been able to confirm the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Rather than stating this clearly, the administration uses a form of words which will inevitably be misconstrued by the media, including the formulation that “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small-scale in Syria.” This formulation was, immediately and predictably, interpreted by news agencies as the Syrian regime has “probably” used chemical weapons and the effect was backed up by “US spies” telling wired.com blood tests in Syria came up positive for sarin.

The background to the administration’s letter is a situation where the CIA has been illegally aiding in the delivery of over 120 military cargo flights to insurgents in Syria, much of which is finding its way into the hands of Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusrah. Al Qaeda is using the Syrian conflict as a major recruiting tool, aided by the helpful provision of communication equipment by the UK and other governments, but is also looking to gain control of chemical weapons production facilities.

Commentators such as Peter Beaumont in the Guardian have, understandably, pointed to the infamous speech by Colin Powell to the United Nations, where he laid out a false justification for military action based on mobile bio-labs.

In this case, the US administration is probably being a bit more subtle in its use of intelligence, bolstering its propaganda campaign and deflecting attention from the dire humanitarian consequences of its own conduct in Syria, which includes playing with fire by helping Al Qaeda and its allies.

The White House
April 25, 2013

The Honourable John McCain
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator McCain

Thank you for your letter of April 24 regarding the situation in Syria and the allegations of chemical weapons use there. I am responding on behalf of the President, and want to offer a prompt response to your question: “Has the Assad regime- or Syrian elements associated with, or supported by, the Assad regime – used chemical weapons in Syria since the current conflict began in March 2011?”

At the President’s direction, the United States government has been closely monitoring the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. We have kept the relevant committees of Congress fully informed of our assessments on this issue, consistent with our statutory obligations. Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin. This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example, the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions. We do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. Thus far, we believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons, and has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people.

Because of our concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria, the President has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States of America. The Obama Administration has communicated that message publicly and privately to governments around the world, including the Assad regime. We have also provided information and equipment to the region to help protect Syrians and support humanitarian workers in their life-saving work. However, precisely because the President takes this issue so seriously, we have an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria. That is why we are currently pressing for a comprehensive United Nations investigation that can credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what took place. We are also working with our friends and allies, and the Syrian opposition, to procure, share and evaluate additional information associated with reports of the use of chemical weapons so that we can establish the facts.

Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making, and strengthen our leadership of the international community. The Obama Administration will remain in close consultation with you and the Congress on these matters. In the interim, the Administration is prepared for all contingencies so that we can respond appropriately to any confirmed use of chemical weapons, consistent with our national interests. The United States and the international community have a number of potential responses available, and no option is off the table. In response to the deteriorating situation in Syria, we have also dramatically increased our humanitarian assistance and our support for the opposition to bring about the political transition that the Syrian people deserve.


Miguel E. Rodriguez
Assistant to the President
Director, Office of Legislative Affairs

Identical Copy Sent to The Honorable Carl Lewin

Letter transcribed from original

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