Road to Armageddon via Damascus
By Ian Williams
In more than the geographical sense, this is the road to Armageddon as well as to Damascus. It really is a road to war without end. We can but pray - for a conversion to sanity in the White House. NEW YORK, Apr 15, 2003 -- Months before the "Deadline Pundit" was launched into a waiting world, and right up to the start of the war, I was continually asked, "Do you really think there will be a war with Iraq?" - asked by nice people who could not bring themselves to believe that the United States is currently ruled by a bunch of warmongering fundamentalists whose contact with reality is strictly tangential, based on prayer breakfasts, occasional briefings from Ariel Sharon and misnamed think tanks where strings of disconnected prejudice pass for thought.
I now have similar gloomy expectations of being proven right when I say that the U.S. will soon be on the road to Damascus, with no conversion required. Indeed, it was almost light relief to hear George W. Bush, with the customary "What? Me? Think? look on his puckered brow, aver that Damascus was harboring Ba'athists. Wow! And I hear you meet the occasional Republican in Washington if you are not too picky about the company you keep.
At least it proves that the CIA is out the loop inside the Beltway, since a quick glance at the CIA fact book would let Bush know that the Ba'ath Party has been ruling Syria for many decades. It remains to be seen whether Damascus is stupid enough to put up Saddam Hussein in the Hafez Al-Assad retirement home for Ba'athist failures. But if stupidity were a criterion for regime change, then George W. Bush would have to go.
Even so, it's déjà vu all over again. Syria is harboring weapons of mass destruction, fugitives from Saddam's regime and it supports "terrorists" as defined by Israel, with whom it has neglected to sign a peace treaty. It has troops in Lebanon, even if the West and Israel cheered when they went in. It is furthermore a repressive regime - indeed, as someone may even be telling Bush now -- a Ba'athist one.
Add up the charge list being built up against Syria, and spice it with the White House's pious denials that any invasion is intended, and the conclusion is inescapable that the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force (and doubtless the Coast Guard, too) will soon be in Syria.
What should clinch it is that Tony Blair told the House of Commons that there were no plans to invade, which is pretty much what he was saying about Iraq, even as hundreds of thousands of British and American troops were being sent there in full knowledge they would launch their attack by the end of March, regardless of what the U.N. said or Saddam Hussein did. A denial by Blair is as conclusive as hearing Ariel Sharon call for action against Damascus.
The threats did not just begin last week with the accusations that Iraqi leaders had fled to Syria, or that they had hidden the weapons there. Although of course they have redoubled since Baghdad fell. We mentioned months ago Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton's pledges of action against Syria, and of course the telling detail that he made the promise to Ariel Sharon. Bolton is of course on the record that the U.S. should ignore international law whenever it looks inconvenient.
But all this begs the question of whether there is any legal justification whatsoever for any American attack. In case we have forgotten, the official excuse for invading Iraq was to enforce U.N. resolutions. The only U.N. resolutions about Syria are those that order Israel to withdraw from Syrian territory in the Golan Heights.
But the intellectual acrobats of the White House circus troupe will have little or no difficulty jumping through that one. And they do not have to worry about public opinion. If the White House moves now while the U.S. media are still cheering and the body bag quotient is totally obscured by occasional POW rescues, American domestic opinion will follow, mesmerized by the allegations of terrorism.
Should we care? As we pointed out about Saddam Hussein, the Syrian regime is indeed tyrannical, ruthless, has a little bit of an obsession with nasty weaponry – and is more than a little stupid. After all, what type of rat jumps on a sinking ship, which is effectively what Bashar Al-Assad did when he abandoned his father’s long time feud with Saddam Hussein and started helping him?
However, the abandonment of even the thinnest U.N.-blue fig leaf is a very ominous move. Syria has not been demoralized by 12X years of sanctions, and its army is likely to see any U.S. invaders, correctly as it happens, as surrogate Israelis. Knowing that they were next, would the Iranians stand on the sidelines? In more than just the geographical sense, this is the road to Armageddon as well as to Damascus. It really is a road to war without end. We can but pray - for a conversion to sanity in the White House.