Wednesday, September 04, 2013

US credibility chasm

President Obama wants to bomb Syria. If we don't, he says, the credibility of the USA is on the line.

Too late.

  • America jacked up its war in Vietnam under Lyndon Johnson based on false information about an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that was fabricated. Fifty thousand Americans and three million Vietnamese died on the battlefields, most of them Vietnamese civilians. US credibility was dealt a mortal blow.
  • Donald Rumsfeld--who now calls Obama's Syrian strategy feckless and ineffective--provided Saddam Hussein with the chemicals to manufacture the gas that killed so many Iranians and Kurds in the 1980s. US credibility? With whom?
  • The US went into Somalia under Bill Clinton as was booted out by ragtag fighters--so much for US credibility.
  • The US did nothing about the genocide in Rwanda, despite several potentially effective nonviolent actions that were available. Whoops, another loss of American credibility.
  • In what was the most feckless and ineffective unprovoked military attack, invasion, and occupation conducted since the debacle in Vietnam, Bush Junior, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and company lied their lying heads off and propped up Colin Powell and Condi Rice to show how diverse their lying could be--all to justify an utterly unjustifiable attack on Iraq. US credibility has never been lower on Earth.

What might we do to begin to regain US credibility? The very short list of good beginnings:

  • We might begin to support international law by joining (yes, late, but better than never, and especially important now) the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court, with the majority of nation-states (122 of 193) signed and ratified. We hear Obama and Kerry trumpeting about international law and yet they are not leading the US into compliance by bringing us into the ICC, thus ignoring the proper enforcement mechanism--whomever is using chemical weapons anywhere is subject to prosecution in the ICC. Senegal was the first to join in 1999 and Côte d’Ivoire signed and ratified just last February, so this would be a good time. On the other hand, since Syria has not attacked the US and since the UN Security Council has not authorized any military action against Syria, Obama and Kerry would be possible defendants in the ICC courtroom if they do get their way, so they might join the likes of Henry Kissinger in opposing the ICC, since it means they could be arrested for violations of international law. 
  • We might support nonviolent Syrian civil society efforts by cutting off all arms transfers (sales, aid, gifts) and military training to the region. No one in the region believes in US peace-seeking credibility when they see arms flowing to everyone from the US, whether directly or via US arms recipients in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, etc. The US government could be featuring the voices of Syrian civil society, rather than sucker-punching them by first going military in Libya (thus scaring Assad while concomitantly emboldening violent insurgents in Syria).
  • The US State Department should be using diplomacy and honest mediation, calling for a peace conference to bring in all parties to discuss possible settlements. This can never happen if we are threatening military aid or action.
  • Time to be careful with US politician/major media xenophobia, which is a direct threat to US credibility.

So, yes, US credibility is on the line. We should be moving to rescue it with helpful nonviolence, not further undermining it with destructive tactics. Here's a credible threat: attacking Syria is potentially an impeachable offense. Turn this around, President Obama.

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