Published on Thursday, April 17, 2003 by the Long Island, New York Newsday
Threats Against Syria Have a Familiar Ring
by Sheryl McCarthy
I could hardly believe it when Donald Rumsfeld said the words. Not only was he accusing Syria of harboring escaped officials from Saddam Hussein's government. He also had intelligence information, he claimed, that showed Syria has been trying to develop chemical weapons.
Syria may well be guilty of harboring fugitive Iraqi officials. U.S. troops recently captured Saddam Hussein's half-brother Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, a former government official and alleged master of torture, near the Syrian border. But chemical weapons? As Yogi Berra reportedly once said: "It's beginning to look like déj ... vu all over again."
Baghdad had barely been secured by U.S. troops and the looting hadn't even stopped before the Bushies were making warlike noises at the Syrians. Picking up the refrain that "there are chemical weapons in Syria," President George W. Bush, fresh from a weekend at Camp David, warned the Syrian government that it "needs to cooperate" with the United States and its partners by not harboring supporters of Hussein's government. This prompted Syrian political analyst Mohammed Aziz Shukri to reply: "Who, in the name of heaven, does he think he is? Is he the god of this Earth?"
Even the president's mild-mannered press spokesman, Ari Fleischer, joined in the tough talk, telling the Syrians they need to "ponder the implications of their actions" if they're harboring Iraqi officials and "should think seriously" about any plans to develop chemical weapons.
It's possible that Syria has some illegal chemical weapons. The problem with this administration is you never know. It's been caught in so many lies already that it's astonishing that it's using the same old lie to drum up a campaign to intimidate Syria.
Remember why we went to war with Hussein? He was supposed to be haboring this huge, hidden stash of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons that could have been unleashed on us at any time. But after a month-long war, no weapons have materialized. The Bushies claim they're there, and that in time they will be unearthed. But when U.S. soldiers tore up an ammunition plant near Karbala this week, digging up a supicious dirt mound where they thought some forbidden weapons might be hidden, all they found was more dirt.
By the time the war was two weeks old, the Bushies had stopped talking about weapons of mass destruction and had switched to talking about liberating the Iraqi people. They changed the whole premise for the war in mid-course, yet hardly anyone called them on it. And now, without so much as a drum of sarin gas or a container of anthrax having been found in Iraq, the Bushies are accusing Syria of trying to develop chemical weapons. If you can dupe most of the public and the press once, why not try it again?
Syria? Rumsfeld claims the country gave aid and equipment to the Iraqi troops during this war. The harboring of officials from Saddam Hussein's government is certainly reason to be upset. But there is also Syria's deep and abiding hatred of Israel, and its support of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, which have bitterly opposed Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is something that has worried the United states for a long time.
At a time when the United States is flush from its victory over Iraq, it looks supiciously like the Bushies are stepping forward to flex their muscles and enforce their idea of the new world order by wagging their fingers at Syria. It's "straighten up, or what happened to Iraq could happen to you."
These people are out of control, and someone should order them T-shirts, reading, "The U.S. Rules!"
This may feel good to the Bushies, but it doesn't feel good to most of the rest of the world. Nor did most Americans think we went to war for this. After Syria, whom will the United States go after next? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Until every country in the Mideast is under our thumb? There probably won't be an actual war with Syria. But this administration's motives stand exposed.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.