Another lesson is that leading human rights organizations are sometimes not to be trusted. Although groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch often produce high-quality independent reporting on important issues, including hard-hitting analyses of U.S. human rights violations, too often their reporting is colored by an agenda that advocates military intervention based on the relatively new international doctrine of "responsibility to protect," or R2P.
Also, the Syrian case study teaches us that the United States is sometimes more interested in finding a justification for intervention than it is in finding the truth about war crimes. While the U.S. government was more than willing to seize on any and every possible piece of circumstantial evidence tying the sarin attack to the Assad regime, now that considerable evidence is pointing to a different culprit, suddenly the moral outrage over the tragic deaths of hundreds of civilians is nowhere to be found.
As John Kerry said last August, after watching the videos of the chemical attack, he found it "really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us."
"As a father," he said, "I can't get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget."
But now that the actual evidence about the horrendous war crime doesn't fit into the narrative that had been promoted by Washington, the silence is deafening and the evidence is duly ignored, all of which leads to a climate of impunity for the war criminals who were most likely responsible for the Aug. 21 attack.
The greatest lesson though might be that the initial reaction of the American people to the Obama administration's push for war against Syria was the correct reaction. Regardless of political stripes, Americans were overwhelmingly against U.S. military intervention, which many pundits ascribed to being "war-weary," but what antiwar activist Medea Benjamin called instead being "war-wise."
Perhaps Americans are just weary of being manipulated into unnecessary, costly and potentially disastrous interventions based on lies, obfuscations, selective intelligence and shameless, manipulative appeals to conscience and morality.
*Nat Parry is the co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. [This story is cross-posted at Essential Opinion.]