Open Letter to Supporters of Syria Airstrikes

“They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” – US Vice President Joe Biden in a 2014 speech at Harvard University

“Six weeks later, I saw the same officer, and asked: ‘Why haven’t we attacked Iraq? Are we still going to attack Iraq?’ He said: ‘Sir, it’s worse than that.’ He said – he pulled up a piece of paper off his desk – he said: ‘I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we’re going to attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years – we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.'” – US General (Retired) Wesley Clark in a 2007 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco

“I am aware, of course, that people will have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services, but this is what they are telling me, the British Prime Minister, and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture that they paint is one accumulated over the last four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative. It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population, and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.” – Tony Blair in the House of Commons, 24th September 2002

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” – George Orwell

Millions of British citizens along with hundreds of their elected representatives have come to the conclusion that the UK should extend airstrikes upon Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria. In order to make an intelligent decision on anything, it is necessary to examine all relevant information in an honest and neutral manner, particularly when the decision could lead to lost lives.

Are you aware of all the facts – current and historical – on the ground in this extremely complex scenario? Can you honestly say that your decision is based on airtight information presented to you in an unbiased manner from your media sources?

No honest person can answer yes to either of these questions, given the hostility of the region to journalists and the enormous amount of propaganda (misinformation and disinformation) floating around on all sides.

There must therefore be a significant element of doubt; yet despite this, you have made a decision to support air strikes. That is like throwing an unknown clear liquid onto a fire, hoping it is water. Considering that deaths of innocent people you have never met may occur on an industrial scale as a result of your support, I urge you to think again based on the following considerations.

In the introduction to the (highly recommended) book The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire, Julian Assange writes [emphasis in bold mine]:

[] Journalist Dahr Jamail [] draws on a wide range of WikiLeaks materials to argue that the United States had a deliberate policy of exacerbating sectarian divisions in Iraq following its invasion and occupation in the belief that the country would be easier to dominate in such circumstances. The consequent devastation is documented in painstaking detail using WikiLeaks materials, including US cables, Congressional Research Reports dating between 2005 and 2008, and the Iraq War Logs from 2010.

Jamail pays specific attention to the ‘Sahwa’ movement – the US-sponsored program of counter-insurgency that was implemented to respond to the growing influence of al Qaeda affliates among Sunni Iraqis disaffected by the Shia-dominated US-client government of Nouri al-Maliki. The United States paid large numbers of Iraqis to defect from the Sunni insurgency and instead fight against al Qaeda, on the promise of receiving regular employment through integration into the Iraqi military.

As Jamail argues, the failure of the Maliki government to honor this promise saw huge numbers of US-trained, US-armed and US-financed – but now unemployed – Sunni militants return to the insurgency, eventually swelling the ranks of the former al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, which in 2014 became known as ISIS, or the ‘Islamic State’.

Across Iraq’s northeaster border, in Syria, the cables also describe how the scene was set for the emergence of ISIS. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, warmongers in the media have demanded the Western military pounding of Syria to depose Bashar Al-Assad – presented, in typical liberal-interventionist fashion as a ‘new Hitler’. The emergence of the Islamic State, to which the Assad government is the only viable counterweight within Syria, has thrown this propagandistic consensus into disarray. But US government designs on Syrian regime change, and its devotion to regional instability, long pre-date the Syrian civil war, as is demonstrated in the cables.

It is clear that US intervention and policy – with the help of the UK and others – in Iraq paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State. History (though – tragically – not history lessons) is littered with examples of the disastrous consequences of interventions by outside powers. In coming to a decision to support air strikes in Syria, you have discarded this fact as unimportant or irrelevant.

It gets worse. As reported by investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, ‘a declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Bashar al-Assad’.

Ahmed continues:

The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.”

According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the “Syrian opposition”  —  which included al-Qaeda in Iraq  — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated “Salafist Principality” as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.

The US viewed IS as a ‘strategic asset’ and therefore made no effort to halt its expansion. When you made your decision to support air strikes, were you aware of this policy that has directly led to the emergence of the IS nightmare we are faced with today? Should you really be trusting the words of US officials and those of their allies (chiefly the UK) when this report clearly demonstrates their double dealing? What else were you unaware of when you pledged your support?

In learning about IS and how and where it gets its oxygen to survive, the last thing you – and the families of the victims of the Paris attacks in particular – may want to hear is that a NATO member nation and professed ally of the West in fighting terrorism is in fact deeply involved in aiding the Islamic State in the hope that it will help bring about the removal of President Assad. A large number of serious allegations, published in international and reputable sources, have been made about Turkey.

Some samples [see original for sources]:

An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014: “Most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), produced a statement from the Adana Office of the Prosecutor on October 14, 2014 maintaining that Turkey supplied weapons to terror groups. He also produced interview transcripts from truck drivers who delivered weapons to the groups. According to Kiliçdaroglu, the Turkish government claims the trucks were for humanitarian aid to the Turkmen, but the Turkmen said no humanitarian aid was delivered.

The Daily Mail reported on August 25, 2014 that many foreign militants joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq after traveling through Turkey, but Turkey did not try to stop them. This article describes how foreign militants, especially from the UK, go to Syria and Iraq through the Turkish border. They call the border the “Gateway to Jihad.” Turkish army soldiers either turn a blind eye and let them pass, or the jihadists pay the border guards as little as $10 to facilitate their crossing.

Britain’s Sky News obtained documents showing that the Turkish government has stamped passports of foreign militants seeking to cross the Turkey border into Syria to join ISIS.

The BBC interviewed villagers, who claim that buses travel at night, carrying jihadists to fight Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, not the Syrian Armed Forces.

A senior Egyptian official indicated on October 9, 2014 that Turkish intelligence is passing satellite imagery and other data to ISIS.

According to Jordanian intelligence, Turkey trained ISIS militants for special operations.

An ISIS commander told the Washington Post on August 12, 2014, “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals.”

On September 13, 2014, The New York Times reported on the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Turkey to crack down on ISIS extensive sales network for oil. James Phillips, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues that Turkey has not fully cracked down on ISIS’s sales network because it benefits from a lower price for oil, and that there might even be Turks and government officials who benefit from the trade.

According to Diken and OdaTV, David Cohen, a Justice Department official, says that there are Turkish individuals acting as middlemen to help sell ISIS’s oil through Turkey.

Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu claimed on October 14, 2014 that ISIS offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep are used to recruit fighters. On October 10, 2014, the mufti of Konya said that 100 people from Konya joined ISIS 4 days ago.

Seymour Hersh maintains in the London Review of Books that ISIS conducted sarin attacks in Syria, and that Turkey was informed. “For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: “Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.” In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey.

According to an op-ed written by a YPG commander in The New York Times on October 29, 2014, Turkey allows ISIS militants and their equipment to pass freely over the border.

Military action, with all the risks of escalation and mass civilian casualties, must surely always come as a last resort, when all other options have been tried. When you made your decision to support airstrikes, did you consider the fact that first seriously cracking down on Turkey’s evident support for IS might severely curtail its capabilities?

It is likely that the mass media, as the major source of information on the situation, will have profoundly affected your decision. Have you noticed, though, that every time a tragic event occurs that can be tied to Syria or Assad (and any other target du jour) in some way there is an almost instantaneous and concerted campaign from all major outlets, including the ‘liberal-left’ newspapers like the Guardian, urging intervention? Just two months ago it was poor little Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy washed up onto a beach, that triggered an avalanche of calls for the same. [Note: while some newspapers may officially oppose intervention (with varying degrees of qualification) in editorials, the net effect of running dozens of pro-intervention articles in opinion sections is more significant].

I wrote an article about these calls at the time and urge you to read it in full because almost all of it remains relevant now, but the article concluded [see original for sources]:

The corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention.

Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government.

Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).

The corporate-owned media, particularly in this case newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, have a vested interest in endless war, in that not only does conflict drive up fear, increasing clicks as people seek information and therefore generating enhanced ad revenue, but it also keeps their own advertisers happy.

Media watch group FAIR explains:

One way or another, a military-industrial complex now extends to much of corporate media. In the process, firms with military ties routinely advertise in news outlets. Often, media magnates and people on the boards of large media-related corporations enjoy close links—financial and social—with the military industry and Washington’s foreign-policy establishment.

The Guardian and other newspapers play it smart. The straight reporting is generally of a high quality, but they leave it to op-eds, editorials and other comment pieces by regular or guest columnists to advance any agendas they may have. The ‘Comment Is Free’ section in the Guardian frequently features pro-interventionist articles with – of course – a few dissenting voices thrown in as figleaves. As readers expect the same level of fact-checking in the straight reporting from their Pulitzer-Prize winner to apply in the comment pieces, a lot of misrepresentation and even outright lies can slip through the net.

Take, for instance, a recent article published in the Guardian written by Dan Jarvis MP, who was among the initial names raised as a possible contender for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election, and may one day replace him if Corbyn is ousted.

In his article outlining his qualified support for airstrikes in Syria he wrote:

They [the Paris attacks] underline how Islamic State hates us for who we are, not for what we do.

This is pure propaganda, red meat for the revenge-hungry masses, a statement wholly unsupported by any facts that demonstrates enormous ignorance – wilful or otherwise – of Western foreign policy and the devastating effects it has had on the Middle East. He might as well have channeled Bush’s ‘they hate us for our freedoms’ speech.

Later he wrote:

[] we should be using our economic power as well as military resources. Isis is trading like a state, so we need to follow the money. That should include economic sanctions, cutting off the finances and targeting the human trafficking operations that fund its bloodshed.

He only mentions human trafficking as the source of IS funding, when in fact an enormous amount comes through illicit oil sales (with secret links to British companies) and also extortion of ‘taxes’ from residents and businesses under IS control. The link provided by Jarvis leads to a New York Times report that makes it clear that human trafficking is just one of many sources of funding, but certainly not the primary one. By citing only this one activity, Jarvis makes clear his agenda is to influence people’s emotions over the issue. An honest analysis would have cited oil or extortion revenues, but that would lead to the obvious question: instead of bombing, why not crack down on the oil trade?

This is a relatively minor point but such intentional misrepresentation is rife throughout comment pieces, with facts declared as truth based on spurious or nonexistent evidence or statements from ‘official sources’. The comment pieces allow the Guardian and other newspapers to disavow responsibility for the bias and inaccuracies put across in those sections with the boilerplate ‘these are the opinions of the author alone’ disclaimer. They also allow for overblown, mawkish nonsense that really has no place in serious analysis.

In deciding to support airstrikes, have you considered the possibility that you have been misled by this false information? Don’t the demonstrated vested interests of the corporate media raise the possibility that you’re being led around by the nose to reach a desired viewpoint?

Have you not noticed the pattern that every time a tragedy occurs, maximum advantage is taken of it for intervention? Don’t the manifest humanitarian disasters that have resulted from the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya present an urgent need for caution as we prepare to plunge into another conflict? Do you not think it is possible the government are opportunistically playing on your understandable desire for ‘something to be done about IS’, knowing full well the outrage generated by the Paris attacks? Do you really believe there are no other options and that we are at the last resort stage?

It is important to remember that the removal of Assad is routinely presented as part and package of the proposed actions against IS. Since when did democracy mean that outside powers install a new leader? Why not instead allow the Syrian people to decide their leader in free elections?

In making his case for airstrikes, David Cameron made a number of unfounded claims that should set off alarm bells ringing for anyone who remembers Tony Blair’s rush to invade Iraq. In particular, Cameron’s claim of ‘70,000 moderate fighters’ already seems destined to be the new ’45-minute warning’. Twelve years on from Iraq and we all now know about the outright lies told by top government officials that were uncritically reported in the media. Are you really going to fall for it again? Is it not just possible that Cameron might be trying to earn a place at the table to divide up Syria for British corporate interests if Assad falls?

Recall that a study by the Pulizer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found that ‘following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq’ with ‘at least 935 false statements[from top government officials] in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses’.

Cameron is keen to stress that British weapons are extremely accurate, meaning that civilian casualties will be kept to a minimum. His Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, claimed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Britain’s Brimstone missiles are so accurate that no innocents have been killed in a year of bombing IS targets in Iraq.

The Daily Mirror reports:

Mr Fallon said he has to personally approve any target selected for air strikes, and intelligence allows him to distinguish between terrorists and “people in headscarves selling shoes.”

He then made an astonishing claim about the accuracy of RAF strikes.

“The RAF have been striking with the permission of Parliament in Iraq for over a year now,” he said. “And our estimate is that there hasn’t yet been a single civilian casualty because of the precision of their strikes.

Back in the real world, human rights group Reprieve made a study of ‘precise’ US strikes that found 41 men were targeted but 1,147 people were killed:

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.

In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.

Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.

If you still support air strikes after reading all of the above, it is possible that you are incapable of seeing the clear agenda of the corporate media and Western government officials to win over public opinion by means of deception, just as they did in the run-up to the Iraq disaster. It means that you have decided that ‘something has to be done’, despite the fact that there are other options besides bombing the IS strongholds that also contain hundreds of thousands of civilians, any number of whom may be killed and who may suffer greatly when vital civilian infrastructure (read about the recent Medecins Sans Frontiere strike here) is destroyed, whether by accident or design.

It means that you believe – against all reasonable logic – that these strikes will defeat IS, despite the fact that IS has been bombed for years and has only become stronger. You believe that this will somehow not exacerbate the refugee crisis that has already reached levels comparable to those during the Second World War. You feel that the slaughter of completely innocent people, including kids, toddlers and babies, the ones you shed so many tears over washed up on the beach or in Paris, is ‘worth it’ (like former US Secretary of State Madelaine Albright) to defeat IS because you believe (erroneously) that other avenues have not been and can not be attempted to deal with this crisis. These assertions go hand in hand with support for airstrikes – you can not have one without the other.

If you’re OK with this, I suspect little else will sway you. Perhaps cost?

According to Sky News, each 6-hour Tornado mission costs £210,000. As for the payload, 4 Paveway bombs cost £22,000 each and 2 Brimstone missiles cost £105,000 each. Therefore if a Tornado is sent out on a 6-hour mission and it drops all of its payload, it would cost £508,000.

That can pay for one of the following:

◾20 Paramedics
◾20 Police Officers
◾20 Teachers
◾19 Nurses
◾18 Firefighters
◾18 Junior Doctors

[Based on the average salary of each profession for one year.]

If any of these arguments have raised an inkling of doubt in your mind that you might, by supporting these strikes, just be making yourself complicit in the completely unnecessary murder of yet more innocents, please write to your MP today, put pressure on celebrities and other high-profile figures to speak out, and inform other people who may be unaware of the facts as best you can.

IS thrives on sectarian division and conflict. The US and the UK need instead along with Russia and other influential powers like France and Germany to put pressure on the key regional states involved in this proxy war to work toward a negotiated settlement, and to put serious pressure on the gulf states who fund terrorism for their own geopolitical and economic ends. Turkey must also be reined in as a key enabler of the ability of IS to commit atrocities. The illicit oil trade and flow of fighters across the border at the very least can be readily stopped with real political will. These actions must be seriously attempted before military action can be considered, and there is still time to do so.

In a recent article (that you should read) Jürgen Todenhöfer wrote:

Is it really so hard to see that the attempt to defeat terrorism with wars has failed? That we have to rethink the war on terror? That we have to finally start treating the Muslim world as true partners, and not as a cheap petrol station we can raid when we feel like it? Bombing civilians will recruit new terrorists. Again and again.

Is it really so hard?

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Originally published: (The 99.99998271%)


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