By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune
Someone asked me to find war lies during the past few years. Perhaps they had in mind the humanitarian pretenses around attacking Libya in 2011 and Iraq in 2014, or the false claims about chemical weapons in 2013, or the lies about an airplane in Ukraine or the endlessly reported Russian invasions of Ukraine. Maybe they were thinking of the "ISIS Is In Brooklyn" headlines or the routine false claims about the identities of drone victims or the supposedly imminent victory in Afghanistan or in one of the other wars. The lies seem far too numerous for me to fit into an essay, though I've tried many times, and they are layered over a bedrock of more general lies about what works, what is legal, and what is moral. Just a Prince Tribute selection of lies could include Qadaffi's viagra for the troops and CNN's sex-toys flag as evidence of ISIS in Europe. It's hard to scrape the surface of all U.S. war lies in something less than a book, which is why I wrote a book.
So, I replied that I would look for war lies just in 2016. But that was way too big as well, of course. I once tried to find all the lies in one speech by Obama and ended up just writing about the top 45. So, I've taken a glance at two of the most recent speeches on the White House website, one by Obama and one by Susan Rice. I think they provide ample evidence of how we're being lied to.
In an April 13th speech to the CIA, President Barack Obama declared, "One of my main messages today is that destroying ISIL continues to be my top priority." The next day, in a speech to the U.S. Air Force Academy, National Security Advisor Susan Rice repeated the claim: "This evening, I'd like to focus on one threat in particular--the threat at the very top of President Obama's agenda--and that is ISIL." And here's Senator Bernie Sanders during the recent presidential primary debate in Brooklyn, N.Y.: "Right now our fight is to destroy ISIS first, and to get rid of Assad second."
This public message, heard again and again in the official media echo chamber, might seem unnecessary, given the level of fear of ISIS/ISIL in the U.S. public and the importance the public places on the matter. But polls have shown that people believe the president is not taking the danger seriously enough.
In fact, awareness has slowly begun spreading that the side of the Syrian war that the White House wanted to jump in on in 2013, and in fact had already been supporting, is still its top priority, namely overthrowing the Syrian government. That has been a goal of the U.S. government since before U.S. actions in Iraq and Syria helped create ISIS in the first place (actions taken while knowing that such a result was quite likely). Helping this awareness along has been Russia's rather different approach to the war, reports of the United States arming al Qaeda in Syria (planning more weapons shipments on the same day as Rice's speech), and a video from late March in which State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked a question that a good ISIS-fearing American should have had no trouble answering, but which Toner found too difficult:
REPORTER: "Do you want to see the regime retake Palmyra? Or would you prefer that it stays in Daesh's hands?"
MARK TONER: "That's truly a -- a -- um -- look, I think what we would, uh, like to see is, uh, the political negotiation, that political track, pick up steam. It's part of the reason the Secretary's in Moscow today, um, so we can get a political process underway, um, and deepen and strengthen the cessation of hostilities, into a real ceasefire, and then, we . . . "
REPORTER: "You're not answering my question."
MARK TONER: "I know I'm not." [Laughter.]
Hillary Clinton and her neocon allies in the Congress believe that Obama was wrong not to bomb Syria in 2013. Never mind that such a course would surely have strengthened the terrorist groups that brought the U.S. public around to supporting war in 2014. (Remember, the public said no in 2013 and reversed Obama's decision to bomb Syria, but videos involving white Americans and knives won over a lot of the U.S. public in 2014, albeit for joining the opposite side of the same war.) The neocons want a "no fly zone," which Clinton calls a "safe zone" despite ISIS and al Qaeda having no airplanes, and despite NATO's commander pointing out that such a thing is an act of war with nothing safe about it.
Many in the U.S. government even want to give the "rebels" anti-aircraft weaponry. With U.S. and U.N. planes in those skies, one is reminded of then-President George W. Bush's scheme for starting a war on Iraq: "The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
It's not just rogue neocons. President Obama has never backed off his position that the Assad government must go, or even his highly dubious 2013 claim to have had proof that Assad used chemical weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry has compared Assad to Hitler. But it seems that dubious claims of someone possessing or using the wrong kind of weaponry don't quite do it for the U.S. public anymore after Iraq 2003. Supposed threats to populations don't inspire raging war fever in the U.S. public (or even support from Russia and China) after Libya 2011. Contrary to popular myth and White House claims, Qadaffi was not threatening a massacre, and the war that threat was used to start immediately became a war of overthrow. The burning need to overthrow yet another government fails to create confidence in a public that's seen disasters created in Iraq and Libya, but not in Iran where war has been avoided (as well as not in Tunisia where the more powerful tools of nonviolence have been used).
If U.S. officials want war in Syria, they know that the way to keep the U.S. public on their side is to make it about subhuman monsters who kill with knives. Said Susan Rice of ISIS in her speech, which began with her family's struggle against racism: "It is horrifying to witness the extreme brutality of these twisted brutes." Said Obama at the CIA: "These depraved terrorists still have the ability to inflict horrific violence on the innocent, to the revulsion of the entire world. With attacks likes these, ISIL hopes to weaken our collective resolve. Once again, they have failed. Their barbarism only stiffens our unity and determination to wipe this vile terrorist organization off the face of the Earth. . . . As I've said repeatedly, the only way to truly destroy ISIL is to end the Syrian civil war that ISIL has exploited. So we continue to work for a diplomatic end to this awful conflict."
Here are the main problems with this statement: