September 5, 2013
In 2003 I had yet to join the US Navy. I was working as an audio producer and fill-in news anchor for a small, nationally syndicated radio news network, so the lead up to the invasion of Iraq is uniquely engraved on my mind. I was even blessed to be invited to a White House press briefing by our White House correspondent during my first ever visit to Washington DC. The bottom line is that I have seen the story played out about a country's WMD possession and use being a catalyst for US invasion before. This time around it is Syria not Iraq. This time around there is a full-fledged civil war being fought in the target country as opposed to relative peace under a brutal dictator.
When the US went into Iraq in 2003, I was very supportive of the operation. I was convinced, due to my own, youthful knowledge of Iraq and by what was being written about Iraq, that it was the prudent action. Now I see the operation in Iraq as having caused more harm than good, if for no other reason than it has empowered jihadists in that country and removed one of the major counter-balances to Iran. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, there has been a sectarian war being fought between Sunnis and Shi'ites throughout the Middle East, and this war is exemplified by the overwhelming tensions between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shi'ite). This is not to say that Saddam was the mitigating factor behind warding off a sectarian war, but rather, that Iraq has become a battle field in that war since his ouster. And now, for the past two years, this sectarian war has moved to and played out in Syria.
Under the guise of the "Arab Spring" the seemingly legitimate protests in Syria were quickly hijacked by Jabhat al-Nusra and other al Qa'ida-esque groups. Fighters were no longer being facilitated from around the Arab Peninsula into Afghanistan and Pakistan, but to Syria, many from Afghanistan, traveling through Iran and Turkey and entering through northern Syria near Aleppo. Estimates about the ratio of jihadist-to-Free Syrian Army forces are as much as 7 to 10, meaning that out of ten fighters engaging Bashar al-Assad's army, seven of them are not part of the FSA but rather some off-shoot of al Qa'ida. When the discussion in Washington was over whether or not to send small arms to the "rebels" many high ranking military officers could not say for certain that these al Qa'ida affiliates would not receive a portion of the support.
So now the US is poised to become the overwhelming air support for mostly al Qa'ida elements in Syria on the basis that al-Assad used chemical weapons (which many believe may have actually been Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons) on suburbs of Damascus on 21 August. The Obama administration is certain that chemical weapons were used, crossing what President Obama has called a "red line" that must be answered with decisive military action against the al-Assad regime. However, the United Nations has not determined who it was who actually used the chemical weapons, and according to President Obama, they are not supposed to. The UK has voted in Parliament not to support any military action in Syria on the basis of WMD use, obviously still simmering over the Iraq operation. France, it has been said, is "with us in spirit" but have yet to detail the extent of support from that "spirit". Unfortunately for Obama, the sentiment of France cannot be trained to fly jets or shoot rifles.
Even more curious, the Obama administration, having emphasized during the 2008 presidential campaign the foolishness of going into a military operation "unilaterally" and without consulting Congress, was about to do just that prior to back peddling over the Labor Day Weekend. Nonetheless, Obama has moved numerous naval ships into the area and still holds that there will be at the least a cruise missile strike on Syria, but first he wants to "consult" Congress where he has the full-throated support of the GOP establishment, among them Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
In the end, Obama is maneuvering the US into the position of providing military support to an insurgency that is predominantly manned by sympathizers of al Qa'ida. Polls suggest that a large majority of the American people do not want to provide military support to the insurgency in Syria, and they are correct not to. The US has ventured from vocal support of elements in Syria that we know very little about, to supplying small arms to these groups, and now to providing cruise missile strikes and air support. This is shortsighted. Keep in mind that it has yet to be determined who it was who actually crossed the "red line".
So just think about that winter of 2002/2003 before the US invaded Iraq. A case was made that a Ba'athist regime was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction while at the same time maintaining relationships with jihadist terrorists and this situation required the military intervention of the US. Before vehemently supporting the notion of intervening in Iraq by the likes of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Harry Reid, and Senator John Kerry, the political party of the man who currently occupies the White House then spent five years discrediting President Bush because of this operation. Now we have a Democrat President telling the American people that a Ba'athist regime is using WMD against its own people, but this time the US bombs will be falling in the unwitting support of jihadist terrorists and the same Ba'athist regime does not have the luxury of passing their stockpiles off to another one.
That is of course, if al-Assad actually was the one who used them on 21 August.
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