As Western leaders and major media outlets rushed to back the White House's recent claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its rebel forces—urging increased U.S. "military support" for the rebels—progressive voices emerged Friday to warn against U.S. intervention, which would only escalate the conflict and lead to an even greater loss of life in the region.
Firstly, speaking on Democracy Now! Friday morning, Patrick Cockburn reminded viewers that very similar claims, which proved to be false, were made before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq:
Well, there must be, you know, some doubts about this. You know, they [The White House] say this in a sure voice, but it’s a sure voice which reminds me of what they were saying in 2002 and 2003 about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.
Both Syria and its close ally Russia—who promised to send air-defense missiles to the Syrian government in the wake of Western powers lifting the ban on arms shipments to rebels in the region—denied the accusations Friday.
Alexei Pushkov, leader of the Russian lower house’s international affairs committee, accused the US of fabricating evidence, comparing it to America's incorrect claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003.
“Information about the usage of chemical weapons by [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad is fabricated in the same way as the lie about [Saddam] Hussein's weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq],” Pushkov tweeted.
Cockburn hightlighted the complexities of the conflict, of which the U.S., Russia, and others have already involved themselves in several ways. According to Cockburn, the conflict has become a "proxy war" between several foreign interests vying for power:
Yeah, it already has turned into a proxy war. You can see that with—Hezbollah and Iran were involved, but also the U.S. was—had already combined with Qatar to send weapons. Qatar has sent up to $3 billion to the rebels, 70 loads of flights of weapons, organized by—with the CIA. So, that was already happening. I think one of the—you know, what ought to happen would be to go down the diplomatic road to try and have a ceasefire. I don’t think you can have any solution at this moment in time, because you people are too involved in the war, they hate each other. But they should push for a ceasefire, and then there might be the basis for some talks afterwards. But the decision by the U.S. looks as though it’s going to push this into an all-out and long-running conflict.
Likewise, Phyllis Bennis, Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project, told the Real News Network Friday that "this has been in the works for a while," including recent U.S. troop movements in Syria's neighbor, Jordan.
More recently, just in the last few days, we've seen 5,000 U.S. troops, as well as a group of Patriot missiles, sent off to Jordan on the Syrian border for a long-planned but conveniently timed, let's say, military exercise that's involving troops from a number of countries. But it's quite likely that at least some of those troops and all of the Patriot missiles that are being sent will be remaining in Jordan after the two-week long exercise is over as part of the preparation for a possible direct military intervention.
Bennis went on to insist that there is absolutely no military "solution" in the region—that increased loss in human life is more than likely, as well as a long drawn out occupation:
The problem here, of course, is that they're acting as if there is a military solution in Syria when in fact there is no military solution. And the possibility of negotiations in Geneva, something that the U.S. and Russia jointly have been working towards and calling for, is now looking less and less likely, with moves towards escalating the arms sales on both sides. [...]
It can absolutely get worse. And it probably will, unfortunately. The reality is that civil wars--and this is partly a civil war. It's also now a proxy war. There's actually five separate wars being waged in Syria. But part of it is a civil war. Civil wars, if one side doesn't qualitatively destroy the other, end with negotiated settlements. The question is: do those negotiations begin now, or do we wait until there's another 70,000 or 80,000 or 100,000 Syrian casualties before going ahead with negotiations?
"So, I think once you get entangled in this," Cockburn continued, "rather like Iraq, it’s very different to—difficult to disentangle yourself, and this could go on for years."
Similarly, Bob Dreyfuss, writing for the Nation, described further U.S. involvement as a "slippery slope" that could lead to all out war:
So yesterday the White House decided to send weapons to the rebels. Reading the White House’s statement on the matter, it’s clear that they’re not quite ready to go all in, but that’s the problem with a slippery slope: once you send in small arms and ammunition, next comes anti-tank weapons, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and – oops! – before you know it, you’re bombing Syrian airports and imposing a no-fly zone. [...]
U.S. escalation is certain to make things worse for Syrians, Dreyfuss warns:
Saying “coming weeks” makes it sound as if adding the weapons isn’t all that urgent, but the message is clear: the United States will be arming the Supreme Military Council, and it will get worse.
An unnamed "Western diplomat" told Reuters Friday that the U.S. is considering a no-fly zone in Syria.
"Washington is considering a no-fly zone to help Assad's opponents," one diplomat said. He said it would be limited "time-wise and area-wise, possibly near the Jordanian border," giving no further details.
As many Common Dreams contributors have pointed out in the past, including Bennis, a no-fly zone is synonymous with an aggressive air bombing campaign, which often escalates quickly into a full scale invasion.
"How many civilians would die in that bombardment," asked Bennis recently, "given the widespread presence of anti-aircraft facilities across the country, including in populated areas?"
Watch Bennis on the Real News below:
Watch the Democracy Now! Cockburn interview below: