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We Need To Talk About the National Defense Strategy, Part I: Syria

by | Nov 8, 2020

We Need To Talk About the National Defense Strategy, Part I: Syria

by | Nov 8, 2020

Who remembers voting for all this brinksmanship with China and Russia?

It’s time we had one of those “national conversations,” we’re incessantly admonished to have by teachers, feds and talking heads. Only this conversation should be about the National Defense Strategy.

Indeed, Trump’s new war, namely against Beijing and Moscow, has been declared, though not by the proper authority, yet declared nonetheless. Worse, this war of all wars has bi partisan support.

Way, way back in 2018, the Donald Trump administration announced it was shifting overall defense priorities over from what they call “counterterrorism” to “great power competition,” with Russia and China.

So many relish saying Trump hasn’t started any new wars but this isn’t that kind of a war. This is a Cold War, this war was already being waged; Trump, since taking office, has been ceaselessly heating it up in various unprecedented ways.

The disorienting smoke grenade thrown by the intelligence community to obscure this plain reality, and compromise people’s judgment on all sides, is the baseless myth of Trump as Putin’s puppet, the White House dwelling sycophant to assorted, targeted “dictators.” (the “dictator” smear is never applied, however, to his pal Bibi Netanyahu who presides over an imperialist, apartheid state, and has been shown far more deference by Trump than even previous administrations).

Russiagate consumed the liberals’ souls and regrettably, it got over on much of the so-called left. It’s customary to hear songs of praise for a new right wing that’s ostensibly seen the light on the war issue, and yet they have not substantively opposed MAGA’s unprecedented military buildups and aggressions against China and Russia; (let alone the escalations and unspeakable brutality towards Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, a global drone policy more deadly than Obama’s, etc.). There are many libertarians too who look at Trump’s foreign policy through rose colored glasses and still paint him as an “anti-neocon.” This notion deserves to be debunked.


Syria was virtually destroyed by the American hegemon. This was done with ample support from the British, the French, the Turks, Israelis, Saudis, Qataris, etc. in a devastating proxy war, attempting to overthrow the Assad government. The aforementioned states sent and backed al Qaeda death squads there to wreak unimaginable havoc. The US, namely the CIA under Operation Timber Sycamore, and its allies spent more than a billion dollars, getting half a million people killed, and creating millions of refugees.

Russia decided to intervene, to defend an ally, Syria, where they have maintained a base for decades, and thankfully prevented Obama’s would’ve been invasion and bloody, Iraq style war.

Thus, Putin defiantly short-circuited the neocons’ and Charles Krauthammer’s Unipolar Moment.

Consequentially, this treasonous US regime change/proxy war policy, benefited Iran, along with Hezbollah, as they were further empowered having formed a great bulk of the fighting force that defeated the infamous ISIS caliphate. The so called “Islamic State” was knowingly cultivated by the U.S., and its allies. In 2012, the DIA was well aware, of this latent byproduct of the CIA’s al Nusra mujahedeen strategy. Together with the Russians and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), they pummeled and drove the assorted al Qaeda affiliates into their ultimate retreat into the Idlib province. ISIS still exists, though to a much lesser degree. However, in pockets south of Idlib and Aleppo there’s recently been some heavy fighting between the remaining ISIS and the SAA.

The fact that the neoconservatives’ war on Assad, and his Shi’ite allies, blew up in their face, and really benefited Iran and further battle-hardened Hezbollah, in and of itself, shouldn’t phase Americans one bit. The less al Qaeda and ISIS around, the better. We don’t need to be involved at all in that war, on either side, for or against Ayman al-Zawahiri’s men. In any case, we shouldn’t have provoked the Axis of Resistance’s reaction by launching the covert war in the first place. Those who did ought to be held accountable.

However, this development, viewed as a failure by the war party, is a major stick in the craw of the neoconservative, foreign policy establishment. Robbie Martin, the neocon researcher, has shown this cabal is all too adept at infecting the broader journalistic culture with propaganda. They have become increasingly capable of adapting to cultural changes and exploiting them to turn collective, domestic screws. They are the “Blob’s” radical imperial extremists. The “Blob,” is now a  commonly used term but it was originated by Ben Rhodes, a former Obama advisor. Daniel Larison, foreign policy critic, has said the phrase, “…refers in part to the tendency towards groupthink, aggression, and interference in other countries’ affairs among foreign policy pundits and think tankers.”

Trump essentially ran against the war in Syria, and is still viewed largely as opposed to it, though he has escalated the war during his whole term. He did officially end Operation Timber Sycamore, after it became so unpopular, in contrast to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s Afghanistan mujahedeen Holy War (which culminated with possibly one million dead). Although after Trump’s decision, reports began cropping up soon afterward that showed the collusion and support for the terrorists shifted from the CIA elsewhere. Israel certainly continued to back al Qaeda in the south for years, Saudi continued supporting their favored terrorists, as NATO member Turkey still does in the northwest in the Idlib province of the embattled country.

Trump and Obama carpet-bombed ISIS there illegally, in civilian populated areas too. Trump has bombed Syria over Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attacks which turned out to be false flags; such as in Douma, where OPCW elements orchestrated a cover up since exposed by whistleblowers.

He’s put troops on the ground, about 600, in fact, embedded with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. These US troops still illegally occupy the northeastern part of the country to “secure” and “keep” the Syrian people’s oil. The deployment is designed to deprive Syrians of their desperately needed reconstruction funds that could come from the modest oil production of which Syria is capable.

Biden says he’d do much the same but with some faux humanitarian, pro regime change, pseudo justifications and more anti-Russian hostility, rhetoric.

Trump actually bombed and killed dozens, maybe hundreds, of Russians there, in a sovereign nation where the former has been invited and where we, the Americans, are the invaders. There are countless confrontations, close calls, and sometimes violent conflict between the US military and the Russian and Syrian troops. At least one SAA soldier has been killed and multiple US soldiers injured in these attacks.

Retired U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, former West Point history professor, and antiwar author has blasted the way US troops have been deployed in this endless war. Trump has them stealing Syria’s oil and risking their lives in unfriendly territory where they’ve illegally invaded and squatted. Sjursen incisively summarizes the chaotic nature of the ill-defined and hare brained mission:

So back to that inevitably future dead American soldier(s). Let us review just what he or she will die for exactly when his or her vehicle accidentally rolls over, aircraft crashes, patrol is bombed, or a futile firefight goes south. Well there’s always the ISIS—defeat sub-mission (disingenuously billed as Inherent Resolve’s inherent resolution raison d’être)—but the caliphate is kaput and the pervading presence of America’s infidel crusaders only justifies the jihadis lingering terror campaign. Then there’s the mission that speaks Trump’s language—protecting the corrupt and illegal concessions of Delta Crescent Energy. In other words staying on in Syria, “only for the oil”—according to the president. Of course, it’s not much oil—only an anemic 24,000 barrels per day—something like 1/500th the daily output of Saudi Arabia. So that by itself won’t do.

Netanyahu has illegally and constantly bombed Syria. In 2019, the BBC said, “Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.”

Israeli bombings have been killing people, including in Damascus, repeatedly throughout the entire MAGA run. Jason Ditz, veteran news editor, reported back in June that, “Israel attacks targets in Syria almost weekly, though they rarely discuss it publicly. The official narrative is that they’re hitting Iran, even when they aren’t, and that more attacks are to be expected.”

These Israeli attacks are never retaliated against. Here’s Ditz again, “Early on Syria often threatened to retaliate for such attacks at a time of their choosing. This has never happened, and in general Syria no longer threatens retaliation as Israel’s attacks have gotten even more frequent.”

Israel gets away with murder, and breaking international law, presumably because Syria, and her allies, are afraid that any retaliation, while justified in national self-defense as well as by traditional just war criteria, would trigger the wider regional war Israel is fostering. For the Israeli and neocon hawks, a longstanding desire for a war pitting the US versus Iran is the goal. Gareth Porter, the great investigative reporter, has written at length on this larger campaign to start said war before Trump leaves office.

In July, Muhammad Sahimi, a Professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, reported on 2020’s long, hot summer of protracted U.S./Israeli covert terrorism against Iran. There were cyber-attacks and sabotage carried out against, among other targets, the Shahid Rajaee Port, the Parchin military complex, and Natanz uranium enrichment facility, “Iran’s main center for manufacturing centrifuges and enriching uranium in Iran.”

On the incessant bombings of Syria during the MAGA reign, Sahimi has said:

For over two years Israel tried to provoke Iran by attacking Iranian-backed Shiite forces in Syria, but Iran has opted not to retaliate. Since the attacks did not provoke Iran to retaliate, and also failed to dislodge Iran’s military advisers and the Shiite forces that it trained, armed, and dispatched to Syria, Israel has seemingly turned to attacking Iran directly within its borders.

Additionally, in keeping with Trump’s characteristic servility to Israel, the U.S. has recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, which Tel Aviv has militarily, illegally occupied since 1973.

As Dave Decamp, news editor and columnist, wrote recently,

President Trump has arguably been the most pro-Israel president of all time, recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, changing US policy to no longer consider Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal, and the so-called “Vision for Peace” that would essentially formalize apartheid rule over Palestinians.

Trump had the gall to send the vapid, rabid neocon, “ambassador” Nikki Haley down to the UN to practically be a diplomat for ISIS, al Qaeda in Idlib, and elsewhere, covering for their false flags, on numerous embarrassing occasions.

Foreign policy expert, Daniel McAdams, longtime advisor and partner to the antiwar former Congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, eviscerated Haley on many occasions while she was the UN Ambassador. From September 2017, here’s McAdams:

…she decided to opine on the utterly failed six year US regime change operation in Syria. Today, as Deir Ezzor has finally been liberated by the Syrian government from the scourge of ISIS, Nikki Haley chose to go on record defending ISIS and al-Qaeda by repeating Obama’s line that Assad must go.

Ponder this for a minute: Assad has just defeated ISIS in Deir Ezzor. ISIS is the reason the US has invaded Syrian sovereignty and initiated military action. Yet according to Nikki Haley Assad’s reward for wiping out ISIS is that he must be deposed — presumably in favor of US-backed rebels who have been in bed with ISIS for six years!

Is Nikki Haley pro-ISIS? Is she pro-al-Qaeda? Is she evil or just stupid?

You decide.

And now we have the Trump administration’s, bi-partisan supported Caesar Act sanctions, targeting particularly the construction and engineering sectors, crushing the life out of this country by targeting any individuals, of any nationality, for trading with Syria. This imperial legislation uses the big boot of the American empire to thwart the Syrian people in their attempts to rebuild their lives after nearly a decade of total war fomented within from without.

Of course, this is after Israel and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s greatest foreign allies, lobbied the hegemon to help obliterate Syria almost ten years ago. Benjamin Netanyahu, disclosed in Wikileaks’ Hillary Clinton email archive, actually blackmailed Obama into starting this war, threatening to unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear sites and spark his long-desired war mentioned earlier. This endless, disastrous war on Syria has been one of Washington’s conciliation prizes, for itself and the above allies, for the Bush II neocons getting conned themselves by Ahmed Chalabi into the multi trillion-dollar Iraq war II. This was a war where they foolishly installed a theocratic, Shi’ite-Iranian backed government in Baghdad. Of course, all while killing a million people in the process.  This led to the infamous “Redirection” policy, where Bush and then Obama backed Saudi’s terrorist allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, etc.

It’s never enough for the neocons though, whether they’re advising Clinton, Bush II, Obama, or Trump, more American taxpayer money must always be spent, while more people always have to suffer and die overseas. And that makes sense, Andrew Cockburn has been said to have concluded that essentially the neoconservative movement can be best understood as where the military industrial complex meets the Israel lobby. Put into perspective, this characterization helps us clarify why half a million people were slaughtered. After all, Assad “must go.”

This is not what will make America great again. The broad right should use their political power to insist that Trump carries out the full withdrawal he has teased them with for years, not just in Syria but in Afghanistan as well. The left needs to start holding its fake “anti-establishment” types such as Senator, and former Presidential primary candidate, Bernie Sanders’ feet to the fire. Incidentally, Sanders’ 2020 campaign website’s Syria page still basically blames Assad for the war and for the Turkish-al Qaeda-White Helmet false flag chemical weapons attacks. He says in a world of vicious dictators, Assad “tops the list.” He supports the illegal US airstrikes against ISIS he says are “authorized under the current law,” though in violation of International Law, not to mention Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution. He then, most egregiously, insists that the duly elected President of sovereign Syria must be “phased out.”

With political “allies” like this, who needs enemies?

If the U.S. is to ever come home from Syria, a robust anti-war, anti-sanctions, anti-neocon movement is needed. Composed of a principled bunch, and hopefully a politically diverse coalition. If the Democratic Socialist left or the new right is truly antiwar and they want to be taken seriously, they should ruthlessly hold all their politicians to the Ron Paul standard: we just marched in, now let’s just march out.

Connor Freeman

Connor Freeman

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on Conflicts of Interest. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as and Counterpunch, as well as the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96

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