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On the Side of Terror

By tonyrussell - Posted on 07 October 2013

  “Congressman, you have a noon meeting with a group of peace activists who want to talk with you about your position on Syria.  And I should warn you that there are some TV vans down in the parking lot.”


“Ouch!  I’m meeting with some big donors at 11, another group of donors at 1, I didn’t have breakfast, and it’s already 10:30.  That doesn’t leave much time to prepare, Sally, but I think I’ve got this Syrian thing down pat.  I’ll just run through some talking points with you right now to make sure I’ve got them straight.  I can ask the peace group for their input, listen to them for a while, make my statement, and fake the rest of it.”


“Okay.  Shoot.”


[Congressman, adopting a solemn tone]  “Syria is the newest battleground in the War on Terror.  Al-Qaeda organized the bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Like a cancer, it has spread its evil influence throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and now Syria.  It is number one on our list of terrorist organizations around the world. We cannot permit this menace to go unchecked.  We have fought terrorism in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now we will not rest until we have eliminated the al-Qaeda movement in Syria.   [Pauses]  How’s that sound?”


“Uh, it sounds great, Congressman, just great.  One small correction, though, right at the end.”


“What’s that?”


“Well... in Syria, we’re supporting the al-Qaeda faction, not fighting against them.”


“What!  Are you sure about that?”


“Positive, sir.  The opposition to President Assad is now largely dominated by violent jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.”


“So this isn’t part of the War on Terror?”


“Apparently not, sir.  If it is, we’re now on the side of Terror.”


“Okay.  Scratch that.  How the devil could a thing like that happen?  It makes no sense!  What is the reason we’re so hellbent on attacking Syrian government forces, then?”


“The administration claims that Assad’s use of chemical weapons crossed a red line, sir.”


“What red line was that?  Who drew a red line?”


“President Obama says the world drew a red line when countries signed a treaty banning chemical weapons.  But ‘the world‘ didn’t decide to launch an attack on Syria for using them--just the U.S.  Which would make this a first.  So far there has never been a country that simply took it upon itself to attack another country for using chemical weapons. ”


“Well, regardless of who drew the red line, we should have the President’s back on this one.  The use of chemical weapons is horrible, inhumane, and a clear violation of international law.  That’s my position.”


“I think everyone agrees that chemical weapons are abominable, sir.  But there’s a complication with that approach that you might want to consider--well, several of them, actually.”


[Glancing at his watch, getting a little tense as he feels time slipping away]  “Can you give me a simple version of the complications?”


“I’ll try, sir. You mentioned that the use of chemical weapons is a clear violation of international law.  But if we were to attack Syria, that would also be a violation of international law, because Syria hasn’t attacked the U.S., and the UN Security Council hasn’t authorized the U.S. to carry out an attack.”


“So you’re saying it would be hypocritical of us to claim Syria violated international law, and then go ahead and violate it ourselves?”


“I did my best to avoid using that word, sir.”


“What are the other complications?”


“Well, we knowingly supplied Saddam Hussein with materials to make chemical weapons during their war with Iraq, back during the Reagan  administration.  So our hands aren’t exactly clean on the chemical weapons issue.  And our own forces used white phosphorus and depleted-uranium munitions when we attacked Iraq.”


“Sounds to me as if you’re saying we’re being hypocritical again.”


“I don’t know what to say, sir.  You asked me to lay out the facts.  That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”


“Okay, okay.  But the facts certainly aren’t very helpful.  Any more complications?”


“A rather large one, I’m afraid.  The opposition forces in Syria also have chemical weapons, and may have used them.  Reports are also emerging that they have carried out bloody massacres, executed prisoners in cold blood, raped women, beheaded babies, and buried villagers with their throats cut in mass graves.”


“They what!?  And these are the people we’re supplying and supporting?”


“Yes, sir.”


“And you’re sure of these things?”


“The facts seem to be well established, I’m afraid.”


“Damn it!  I listen to our intelligence briefings, I read the White House press releases, I saw John Kerry praise the opposition in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I pay attention to what Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner have to say.  So why is it that all of this stuff you’re telling me is news to me?”


“Uh, I really can’t say, sir.”


“Do you suppose it’s classified for national security purposes?”


“All of this has been widely reported in the world press, Congressman. There are even videos of some of these things on YouTube.”


“Listen, the White House and our congressional leaders need to get this information right away.  Type it up with footnotes and references, and draw up a cover letter over my signature.”


“Um, begging your pardon, but I’m pretty sure they already have this information.”


“What makes you think that?  Maybe they don’t read the world press or watch YouTube.”


“Maybe not, sir, but with the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on gathering intelligence, and with the NSA’s monitoring of e-mails, phone calls, computer searches, and the like for foreign embassies, the UN, governments around the globe, and everyone else you can think of, surely they’re aware of these things.”


“But there must be some mistake!  How can you explain these... discrepancies between the values we’re claiming and the actions we’re taking?”


“I’m afraid I can’t, Congressman.  I don’t make policy or speeches.  I just work here.”


“Well I’ll tell you one thing, Sally.  I don’t care what the leadership says, I’m meeting with the peace group in a little over an hour, with TV cameras running, and there’s no way in hell I’m going out there to come down on the side of a bunch of extremist, undemocratic al-Qaeda war criminals.”


“At this point, Congressman, I’m probably supposed to encourage you to do the cautious, politic thing.  But the truth is, sometimes you make me remember why I actually voted for you myself.”


© Tony Russell, 2013

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