The U.S. and its allies are escalating the war fever against Syria. Not only do they claim to have “discovered” another “massacre” by the government, but they are also trotting out the much discredited charge that Syria possesses — and will use — weapons of mass destruction.
The latest “massacre” supposedly occurred on July 12 in the village of Tremseh near the Syrian city of Hama. Some mainstream press headlines bellowed that Syrian government forces and alleged pro-government militia had slaughtered as many as 220 people indiscriminately.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed “outrage.” On July 13, she said — without evidence — that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is deliberately murdering innocent civilians and that history will judge the United Nations Security Council if it fails to act.
Although she did not mention the countries by name, Clinton directed her warning at Russia and China, which have blocked previous efforts by the imperialist West to impose sanctions on Syria using the Security Council. Other U.S. allies such as Britain, France and Turkey dutifully followed with their own denunciations.
The day after the alleged massacre, the ultraright-wing Fox news reported on a Pentagon leak to the press of an “intelligence report,” which claimed that “elements within the Syrian regime transferred some amount of chemical agents, possibly including sarin nerve gas, to the Homs region” of Syria.
However, as the actual facts were uncovered, the initial “charges” were found to have no basis in fact.
On July 14, a U.N. observer team visited the battle site in Tremseh and arrived at a strikingly different conclusion. It found that what had been called a massacre was more likely “an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons.” (New York Times, July 14)
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that has contacts in Syria, said that it had confirmed only 103 victims’ names; 90 percent of them were young men. There were no women’s names on the list. The Syrian National Council, the main umbrella opposition group in exile, published an initial roster of 20 names, mostly men between 19 and 36.
The videos posted on the Internet have shown the victims to be young men of fighting age. Another one, said to show a group of reinforcements being sent to Tremseh, also showed a group of young men in civilian clothes carrying their personal weapons.
This contradicted the story given by Col. Riad al-Assad, based in Turkey and the ostensible leader of the Free Syrian Army. He told Al-Jazeera on July 12 that there had been no opposition fighters in the town. (New York Times, July 14)
The U.N. report substantially supported the Syrian government’s account, which claimed that mainly rebel fighters were killed, with only two civilian casualties.
The truth is that Syria is engaged in a civil war, one that has been fomented and exacerbated by the U.S. and its allies. The International Committee of the Red Crossreinforced this truth when it declared that the fighting in Syria ”meets its threshold for an internal armed conflict” — their term for an official civil war. (Reuters, July 14).
President al-Assad openly declared that Syria was at war on June 26. The ICRC outlined the rights and responsibilities of the warring parties in the conflict.
Weapons of Mass Distraction
As in the run-up to the war in Iraq, the U.S. has now dragged out the charge that Syria possesses weapons of mass destruction, specifically chemical weapons, including sarin and VX nerve gas. This was the gist of a Pentagon leak accusing Syrian officials of taking chemical weapons out of stockpiles for a nefarious purpose. The Pentagon claims that the “intelligence” about the chemical weapons was received a week earlier, making the timing of the story’s release even more suspicious.
The Syrian government officially denies having chemical weapons or moving any about. However, there is nothing in international law that would prevent Syria from developing and stockpiling such weapons. Syria and seven other countries, including Israel, never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Although it denies having chemical weapons, al-Assad’s government maintains that it would be justified in obtaining them, given that Israel and the United States both hold a large number of weapons of mass destruction.
In a rather astounding statement, the U.S. warned Syria not to let their reputed chemical weapons fall into the hands of the very rebels that Washington is arming and supporting.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, traveling with Clinton in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said, “We repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons.” She added, “The international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation.” (Reuters, July 13)
Masses don’t want war
Curiously, neither President Barack Obama, nor his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, has made any public comments about the recent developments in Syria.
This may be at least partially explained by a March 15 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. It found strong public sentiment against U.S. intervention in the fighting between Syrian government forces and anti-government groups. A similar percentage opposes bombing Syrian troops. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said the U.S. does not have a responsibility to be involved in the Syrian conflict.
It is no surprise that most people in the U.S. and around the world oppose U.S. intervention. However, the anti-war movement in the U.S. cannot rely on polls alone to prevent war. A similar Pew poll, conducted before the war against Libya, found that 63 percent opposed U.S. intervention. Even the public misgivings of then U.S. secretary of defense, Robert Gates, did not prevent the U.S. from aggressively pursuing its imperialist interests.
Progressive and peace-loving people around the world must redouble their efforts to stop the war against Syria.