Syria: Our Moral Obligation?

Syria: Our Moral Obligation?

by Robert Salaam


As America marches off toward war while the world watches and decides they’re going to do, I can’t help but feel the same unease I felt in the weeks leading up to the Iraq war. Many analysts foretold a long drawn out campaign that would cost US tax payers billions of dollars and leave us little in return for the costs of both blood and treasure, and they were right. Yes Saddam Hussein was a bad man, yes he was a dictator and yes he brutalized his people, but was it really our duty to do something about it? Although many would like to pretend that Saddam Hussein’s ouster was decades ago, its difficult to deny the pattern that the America uses as a pretext for war. First you have to have the laser focused vilification of a sole leader in order to pacify the American citizen’s mind into believing that the leader who must go is as close to being the anti-Christ as we’re likely to get, next you have to paint a picture that gives the American public hope that there are rebels eager to replace the evil at the top thereby filling the power vacuum and likely poised to build the upcoming utopia over the ruins of the former dystopian wasteland, the last and most important step on the path to war if to promote the illusion that an actual plan exists that somehow has every eventually figured out in order to quell the wayward minds that haven’t drank the kool aid and are on the fence. The agents carrying out this Orwellian style strategy is none other than the corporate media who keep replaying the same song on every station: Assad is a bad man, his dictatorship is brutal, he’s persecuted his people and may very well be responsible for using chemical weapons against civilians. All horrible stuff yes, but I ask myself as I did in 2003, why America to the rescue? When did we put on a cape and tights?

It’s not that I don’t feel for the innocent lives that have been taken as a result of a civil war that has seen atrocities committed on both sides. It’s not that I don’t believe that something should be done to put an end to the death and destruction in Syria. What troubles me as it becomes increasingly clear that America will attack Syria is that eerie feeling that the chemical weapons are being used as a pretext for something much larger, complicated, and maybe more nefarious than we may ever know. Or at least until the next Snowden, Manning, or Wiki leaks incident. Like the Iraqi people under Saddam, the Syrian people under Assad have been suffering for quite some time. The Syrian civil war has caused thousands of casualties and millions have fled the conflict as refugees. The US government aside from a stump speech here or there, or some motivated activists, have said and done little in the way of truly helping the Syrian people. Even then I’m not saying it was our obligation to intervene, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking this upcoming war is about the Syrian people, because it’s not. Otherwise, the drumbeat and march to war would have reached this level of fervor well before the chemical attack.

Though I’m not an expert on foreign relations or international law, I like many other concerned American citizens do not want to see another Iraq. When you listen to Secretary Kerry, President Obama, and many other representatives and pundits, they make it all seem so easy. Bomb some facilities, take out some targets, and then all will be well in Syria, or at least that’s what we are being led to believe. The problem now is the same problem as it was in 2003, once you drop the bombs, then what? How long before we have to send in the troops for some contrived reason like “securing the weapons of mass destruction”? Once the troops are on the ground, what will be their rules of engagement? Are we so naive to expect the Assad regime to sit back and allow their bases to be blown to bits and to have American troops within their borders? Even if we capture all the team America photo’s of bombs blasting in air and troops riding into Damascus with little resistance, there still is the issue of what happens next? Do we recall Paul Bremer? Or do we try to figure out who’s in charge of the opposition and hand them the keys to the kingdom, hoping beyond hope that they haven’t been infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, who by the way, isn’t beyond using America as a means to an end? What if Putin is right and the Assad regime wasn’t behind the chemical attack after all? Al-Qaeda is not a friend of innocent Muslim civilians and would without hesitation slaughter them by the thousands if it meant furthering their agenda.

Unless there is a miraculous awakening of the American consciousness, this Syrian war is coming and the sad part is that it seems we haven’t learned anything since the last “Red Line” that was crossed. The discussion we as Americans need to be having right now is about our role in the world. The idea that we are some benevolent, police force, for the globe is not only ridiculous on the premise, but it’s never been true. We’ve always “intervened” when it was in “our” interests and never acted in good faith toward the suffering of those who could use our interference the most. We’ve been stuck in agenda, ideology, and policy that for the most part has done us more harm than good every time we prop one government up over another, give billions of aid to our “allies” in so-called hostile regions, and invaded countries under the auspice of stopping atrocities and righting wrongs. Maybe it’s time for America to stay out of other’s conflicts? Would it really hurt to try something different? Besides, I’m certain there are more than a few domestic issues that can use our billions of dollars.


Please visit Robert Salaam’s American Muslim blog where you will find many of his thoughts.  Robert Salaam served his country as a United States Marine.


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