In 2014, the Syrian Embassy in Washington was forced to close its doors. This left a gap in the information the Syrian government could provide to the public. A recent search by the writer for information sources directly from the Syrian government proved troublesome. It reminded the writer of how important the information war is, and the manner in which a nation targeted for destruction by the United States is often muzzled in the process. That led to a review of recent actions against the Syrian government and parallels with countries whose governments the United States was instrumental in overthrowing.
What is in the cards for Syria? We can look to the playbooks for Belgrade (Serbia), Baghdad (Iraq) and Tripoli (Libya) for clues. All three cities were bombed. The US would not alter a policy or strategy that was so successful at dismantling centers of power, no matter how legitimate these centers of power may have been.
In the last two or three days, it appears that the U.S. has sent a very public signal that it controls a portion of Syrian territory and that it will shoot down any aircraft that attacks American special ops forces working in these regions. The pretext for the presence of U.S. forces is the war against the universal enemy, ISIS. Any attempt by the Syrian government to defend its own territory and expel the American military operatives there could form the pretext for an all-out attack by the U.S. military on the Syrian government, even though this government is an entity recognized by the United Nations, a fact that would prohibit any military action against it without a specific U.N. resolution calling for the same. Such a resolution is wanting at the time of this writing.
So what are the telltale signs that a terrifying strategy of "shock and awe" is in the works for Damascus? The following stages have been either fully or partially implemented or can be anticipated from the emerging pattern, similar to the manner in which the governments of countries cited above were toppled through U.S. intervention, either overt or disguised.
Step one is to demonize the head of state slated for removal, or at least to craft a narrative in which the head of state is made out to be the "worst of the worst." Generally, thinly substantiated cries of outrage that the head of state is guilty of abusing its citizens are broadcast through official press conferences, think tank opinion-makers, and then, media outlets. "Killing his own people" is one of the famous crafted complaints against a head of state that is often widely disseminated through the agency of U.S. government officials and experts. For example, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevich was charged at the International Criminal Court of perpetrating a massacre, although he was exonerated just recently by that same court. The proceedings were undoubtedly made less urgent by Milosevic's death while a prisoner before the court. Saddam Hussein was allegedly guilty of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction--nuclear weapons, to be specific--that it was later established did not exist. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya was accused of "killing his own people" and the war waged against him by NATO sought justification through a UN resolution that fell short of calling for his removal or the bombing of Libyan government facilities. These later steps were taken by NATO outside of UN approval, and hence, illegally. The preliminaries of the technique so effective against Gaddafi have been applied to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who, U.S. government officials assert "must go" because of alleged and un-adjudicated crimes ascribed by the United States government to this head of state. By asserting the authority to say which national leaders must go, the United States is stating its contempt for national borders and national sovereignty, and is flaunting norms of international relations between states that have been established over thousands of years.
The second step is to silence all news outlets, particularly those connected with the government to be overthrown. The Radio Television of Serbia headquarters was bombed by NATO, and 16 of its staff were murdered in the action. The Syrian Embassy in the United States was closed in 2014. The website for that entity no longer exists. It is that much more difficult to obtain the Syrian government's viewpoint as a result, not to mention the psychological effect of shutting down an embassy--a step just short of severing diplomatic relations and declaring war. The US government will make any and all efforts to see that the Syrian government's voice is completely shut down. The US media, which acts as a PR agency for the US government, will fully cooperate with this effort by broadcasting only the U.S. State Department viewpoint. The victim must be gagged and its hands tied behind its back before it is ruthlessly and cruelly dispatched. Nations do have a right to have their viewpoints disseminated for the same reasons that individuals do.
The Third great objective is to set up a new government that is to supplant the government being toppled. The purpose of this measure is to deprive the current government of any legal standing that it could use to charge the aggressors with international crimes or to defend its territory. This effort was particularly transparent in the case of Libya, where country by country withdrew its recognition of the Gaddafi government and switched to one formed by so-called "rebels." Even Russia fell into line on the Libyan debacle in recognizing the new government, however belatedly.
In the fog of war created by these efforts, those who oppose military conflict with Syria in both the United States and throughout the world are induced to feel helpless, as if the policy has already been set and they have no voice in shaping it. Of course a portion of U.S. society will be swayed by U.S. propaganda efforts, but often not a critical portion. The purpose of the information barrage is to make the opposition feel powerless, that its efforts will be to no avail, and that the official policy has been set, whatever the support or non-support it enjoys. The impression to be given is that the measures all have popular support, and that to debate the issues would be unpatriotic and misguided, even if the majority of citizens recognize the ruse. The state works on the principle that each of us knows not what the person next to us is thinking. This uncertainty breeds isolation and helplessness, the end product that the state desires.
The narrative that justifies the next step--a total "shock and awe" conquest of the capital of the nation under siege--is finally laid down, and all future actions look for justification through the official narrative and the almost universal support it has received in the press, no matter how bogus or full of holes it may be. The truthfulness of any of the charges crafted to support the invasion/occupation of Damascus, for example, would be superfluous, as they are only a means to an end. The charges are merely invented along with the supporting narrative, and no hard evidence is required. However, to be clear, in the case of the sitting Syrian government, the U.S. State Department narrative asserts that 1. Assad has killed his own people; 2. He has set off a civil war that has allowed the universal enemy ISIS to control much of Syria and thus pose a threat to the rest of the world; 3. Therefore, any action against trans-border ISIS can only be stopped by toppling the current Syrian government, which is the cause of the proliferation of ISIS. This narrative can be reverse engineered to reveal the malicious role the US has played in trying to topple the Syrian government and fomenting instability in the Middle East.
The final step is to apprehend the demonized head of state and all government officials, or to hunt them down and murder them, or capture them for show trials, or to force them into hiding. This can even extend to the immediate spouse and family members of the head of state. The idea behind such measures is to make it so that no legal standing exists for a challenge of U.S. actions. All vestiges of the previous government must be eradicated, and only the puppet government established with the help of the U.S. should be recognized. It is through this puppet government that U.S. military conquest can be rubber-stamped and at least be given the the thinnest veneer of legality. Some of our readers might remember the manner in which Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was demonized and deposed, while court cases over bogus charges against him of an extravagant nature were eventually thrown out. These machinations, including a hullaballoo over Mrs. Marcos's shoe collection, were artifacts of the imagination of the U.S. diplomatic corps or the Central Intelligence Agency. The propaganda barrage in the aftermath of the overthrow of a head of state is a campaign that requires careful management.
In light of the pattern of action taking form against the Syrian government and its people by the United States, it is likely that a highly illegal and malicious "shock and awe" campaign over Damascus, of the sort carried out over Baghdad, will be deployed. Hundreds of thousands of people, even millions, could die. Many millions more could be wounded, and a great and ancient city will be destroyed. Can it be stopped?