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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/25/14

WPost Seeks US-Patrolled "Safe Zone" in Syria

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Cross-posted from Consortium News

The Washington Post's neocon editors have made another strident appeal for President Barack Obama to "abandon his passivity and do something to help" the rebels in Syria, complaining that they "continue to receive far too little help from the United States."

The Post ups the ante by boldly asserting that "Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad ... continues to launch chemical attacks ... in rebel-controlled neighborhoods." Yet, even premier Bashar-basher John Kerry has been more discreet in inching that dubious claim into the public arena.

In effect, the Post's editors on Saturday called on the Obama administration to undertake a "responsibility to protect" -- or R2P -- mission by violating the sovereignty of Syria, i.e., by breaking international law through military action inside Syria's borders to establish and patrol a "safe zone" for the rebels.

Yet, that is exactly the opposite position that the Post took Sunday regarding Ukraine, where the Post condemned Russia for doing anything to deter the coup regime in Kiev from imposing its will on ethnic Russians in Ukraine's east.

As far as we know, all Russia has done to shield eastern Ukrainians from Kiev's recent attacks is to position troops on Russian territory near the Ukrainian border as a deterrent, although some if not most of those troops have now been withdrawn.

Still, the Post called for imposing new sanctions on Russia for not stopping the eastern Ukrainians from rejecting Sunday's elections to fill the seat of Ukraine's coup-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.

It's not enough apparently that Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken in conciliatory terms about the election, saying he hopes to work with whoever emerges as Ukraine's new president. (That appears to be billionaire Petro Poroshenko, regarded as a pro-European pragmatist, who is reported to have won in a landslide.)

Still, the Post demanded more from Putin, insisting that President Obama enforce what even the Post acknowledged was the administration's "expansive definition of what it meant by 'disruption' [of the election], saying it would judge not just whether Moscow's agents tried to stop voting, but whether the government of Vladimir Putin tried to prevent such interference."

In other words, the Post's editors assert that the absence of evidence of actual "Russian meddling" in eastern Ukraine is not evidence of absence, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said. The Post simply repeats the unsubstantiated claim from "Ukrainian government officials and Western diplomats in Kiev that Russia is backing the separatists."

But the State Department's effort to "prove" that Moscow has organized and directed the resistance in eastern Ukraine against the coup regime in Kiev led to a major propaganda embarrassment, the revelation that U.S.-peddled photographic "proof" of the Russian presence was a hoax, albeit after the photos had circulated widely in the mainstream U.S. news media. [See's "NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop."]

Double Standards

So, let's see if we have this straight: If the Russians don't somehow stop the eastern Ukrainians from resisting the imposition of what they see as an illegitimate regime in Kiev, that qualifies as "Russia's meddling," deserving of punishing sanctions. Yet, the Post condemns Obama for not sending surface-to-air missiles to Syrian rebels to shoot down government aircraft and for not creating a U.S.-defended "safe zone" inside Syrian territory.

The Post's editors justify their double standards on international law by looking at the world through a decidedly neoconservative lens. Neocon geopolitical desires always trump international law as well as intellectual consistency. A decade ago, the same Post editors rationalized the invasion of Iraq based on phony claims about WMD.

Now, the new furor over Syria stems from still-unconfirmed reports that Syrian government forces have included chlorine in bombs dropped on rebel areas. Rebels claim that some casualties have resulted though no deaths have yet been shown to have come from the release of chlorine gas, which was not included in the list of chemical weapons that the Syrian government agreed to surrender last year.

Despite the new allegations and the resulting uproar, a key point about chlorine is that it is a largely ineffective chemical weapon. As chemical weapons specialist De Bretton Gordon told Reuters, "Chlorine has a host of commercial uses. Actually, it's not very toxic. Sarin is probably 2,000 to 3,000 times more toxic. You and I can buy chlorine in a shop."

But ineffective or not, lethal or not, real or not, the Post says these chlorine allegations mean that it's time for the United States to go beyond providing light weapons and non-lethal supplies to the rebels and start shipping in sophisticated weapons, which Obama has so far rejected because of fears they could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-connected terrorists inside Syria, who are considered the most effective rebel fighters.

The chlorine gas allegations also have revived neocon hopes about dragging Obama into a U.S. bombing campaign like the one planned but called off last summer. The Post's editorial blamed Syria's "hell on earth" on the fact that Obama "has resisted advice from inside and outside his administration to act."

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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