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Marching on to war – again!

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The drums of war are again beating on both sides of the North Atlantic, with Syria being the target this time. In spite of the fact that the vast majority of the citizens in the United States, Britain and France are, from all reputed polls, against yet another military adventure in the Middle East, the political ruling class continues to press ahead with preparations for military incursions.{{more}}

Sadly, this includes the first black President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. Increasingly, almost a hostage to the war-mongers in the US military-intelligence community and to Congressional right-wing elements, Obama found himself trapped into drawing a proverbial “red line”, which if crossed by Syria, in terms of chemical warfare transgressions, would trigger US military response. The horrific events of August 21 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, in which an estimated total of over 1,000 civilians met their deaths by the nerve gas sarin, an attack blamed on the Assad regime in Syria but denied by it, has turned out to be that “red line”.

Immediately, though UN weapons inspectors who are investigating the incident have not concluded their investigations, there were frantic calls by the top leadership in France, Britain and the USA, for “military strikes” against Syria. So confident was British Prime Minister David Cameron, of parliamentary backing, that he cut short his holiday, recalled Parliament and sought its approval. Alas, the people of Britain, still reeling from Britain’s losses in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, acting through their parliamentary representatives, gave a rebuff to Cameron and upset the war plans.

This changed the whole timetable, if not the resolve of those who were prepared, once more, to bypass the United Nations and take international law into their own hands. It is ironic that, as the American people were remembering Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington, fifty years ago, the supposed inheritor of MLK’s legacy, Barack Obama, would be preparing for another military adventure, thousands of miles away from American shores. Ironic, because Martin Luther became a staunch critic of the US war in Vietnam and South East Asia, resulting in some speculation that it was his opposition to this war that led to his assassination.

That the man who inherited MLK’s legacy, should not only be authorising the murderous drone attacks which kill not only terrorists, but innocent civilians as well, but now preparing a military adventure of his own, is mind-boggling. This is in no way to give succour to the Syrian leader, Assad, who has demonstrated his flagrant disregard for human rights and the lives of his citizens. I have no sympathy with such men.

However, the situation in Syria is not a simple one. When civilians are killed on such a scale, our immediate, knee-jerk reaction is to support military action, by the ‘big states,’ of course. Yet, as Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, often the military course can bring even greater repercussions. Saddam was considered so bad, that most of us were glad to be rid of him, war or no war. He, and the Taliban in Afghanistan ended up costing the lives of thousands of American soldiers, young men and women. It has cost the American taxpayers nearly one and a half TRILLION US dollars, $1,468,387,211,883 at the latest count.

Those wars contributed to not just recession in the USA, but world-wide. We are still suffering from the consequences. Already, oil prices have been skyrocketing, just as they did at the height of the Iraqi and Afghan wars. More military conflict in the Middle East will show up on our electricity bills, and the cost of living generally.

It is one thing to cloak oneself in morality in order to justify wars, but when the crunch hits our pockets, the war advocates in FOX and CNN are not going to help to pay our bills.

International affairs can be very complex. Sometimes, those same dictators we abhor and despise, are the ones keeping their nations together. One just has to look at the tearing apart of Iraq and Libya after Saddam and Gaddafi; peace has yet to come. Syria too, a colonial creation of Britain and France, risks being rent asunder into mini-states as a result of the wars and conflict.

Finally, one can’t help but deplore the continued production and stockpiling of these weapons of mass destruction. Why does man want such arsenals? Who profits by the trade in such destructive elements? Why do countries resort to the use of such means of destroying humanity? It calls for renewed campaigns against the production, sale and stockpiling of all these means of mass extermination.

During the Vietnam war, there was a popular slogan and song: “Give Peace a Chance”. It is urgently needed today.

  • Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.
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