Tuesday, 18 June 2013

It's a heartache - Obama's 'gun pragmatism' on Syria

"This was a tale of two President Barack Obamas, the one with
high dreams and the one who must deal with grubby realities."
Mark Mardell, BBC
As President Obama performs his political 'rock star' role at the G8 in Belfast, swooning the assembled schoolchildren with appeals for peace and reconciliation, it might seem almost heretical to question either his 'good heart' in proclaiming social harmony or the 'heavy heart' with which he confronts the world's wider troubles.
Obama's 'high-dreaming' side, as BBC North America correspondent Mark Mardell divines it, is 'loaded-down' with the heaviness of having to deal with "grubby realities" like the conflict in Syria.
So much for understated crises around the globe and America's own grubby dealings in those realities. 
Yet, quite how, we may ask, is Mardell able to 'intuit' such understandings of Obama's 'conflicted psychology'? The answer, we may suppose, lies less in Mardell's abilities as a psychologist than his role as a safely-conditioned establishment journalist.
When it comes to Western leaders, particularly media-adulated ones like Obama, the presumption is always of benign and thoughtful motive, even if ultimately proven to be 'mistaken'.
But, as with those who led the slaughters of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama's actions over Syria suggests little room for doubt or error: beyond the hype and 'psychology', his decision to send substantive weaponry to opposition forces in Syria is a straight act of calculated warmongering.
The White House statement in defence of this line is, predictably, long on interventionist rhetoric and brazenly short on convincing evidence.

As noted by News Unspun:
"This points to no conclusive evidence but is rather a re-hash of previous claims, only this time the claims seen in the news over the last few weeks are prefixed with 'our intelligence community has high confidence in'."
Besides various sceptical observers and chemical weapons experts, Anthony Cordesman, a leading security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, has declared that: "the ‘discovery’ that Syria used chemical weapons might be a political ploy." 

In hawkish mode, Cordesman still insists on America being free to advance its own interests through such aggressive engagements. Yet, his frankness on the surreptitious means of doing so tells us much about the falsity of Obama's 'heartfelt' persona.

It should take little serious scrutiny to realise Washington's tortured pretext for this most dangerous escalation; it's a device of the flimsiest kind, almost entirely endorsed or passively accepted by a quiescent, rationalising media.

Again, here's Mardell with the 'heavy-heart' reading:
"He wants to avoid getting embroiled in another Middle East war and to avoid the US dictating outcomes in the region, but he doesn't want Syria to spiral further into chaos or President Bashar al-Assad to continue in power."
Though reluctant to be "embroiled" or seen to be "dictating outcomes", Obama, we're to believe, is being forced to act through concern over Assad's 'power and chaos'. There's no discussion of how Obama, Nato and the Saudi/Gulf states have wantonly fed such chaos through their determined removal of Assad, all in advancement of their own geopolitical and sectarian interests.  

In a prior servile piece, Mardell gave eager amplification to Obama's 'clarity' on chemical weapons:
"The basic news from the White House is pretty clear - they are now sure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against the rebels. That crosses President Obama's red line, and changes his calculus."

"This is a very hard call for Mr Obama. He knows his country doesn't want to get caught up in another war. However, many in the West see this as a simple contest of right and wrong. It also has aspects of a regional Sunni/Shia civil war that could spiral out of control.

He almost certainly feels that such involvement would in the end not enhance the name of the US in the region.

But there are pressing humanitarian arguments to stop this now and to make sure those the West sees as the good guys win, before Islamic militants claim victory.

Mr Obama is at the helm of the country to which the liberal interventionists look to provide a lead. It is worth noting that you don't hear the same cries of "something must be done" from Brazil, China or Sweden.

But many politicians in Britain and France still feel a heavy imperial burden to use their well-honed militaries to re-make the world." [My italics.]
Even Kipling, unsurpassed in such burdensome mission, would no-doubt have approved of Mardell's 'heart-rending', liberal words.

What Mardell routinely avoids saying is simply that more arms to the conflict will kill more people and prolong the misery. Alert to this reality, the UN have urged that no more weapons be entered into the conflict.

Yet, dutifully, Mardell can only reiterate Obama's 'heavy heart' in doing so. Writing on Twitter, he asks:
@BBCMarkMardell via Twitter
USA will give military assistance to Syrian rebels. But is Obama's heart really in it ? http://t.co/XlaCdMJZ45
Further evidence of such craven apologetics can be seen in this revealing exchange between Media Lens Editor David Cromwell and Mardell (ML message board, 17 June 2013):
Hello Mark,

I hope things are good with you, and thanks for your latest blog at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22900710

You write:

'The basic news from the White House is pretty clear - they are now sure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against the rebels.'

Especially post-Iraq, no responsible journalist should write, 'they are now sure'. How can you possibly tell without mind-reading powers? By all means, report that the White House 'asserts' or 'says' or 'claims'. This is not a trivial matter of semantics. Wouldn't you agree?

Best wishes

David Cromwell

Dear David, all good here and hope you are well. I accept you have a point - i dont know for certain what is in their minds, only what they say. But I think we see Obama in a different way - (and may be i am attempting a mind reading trick again !) - I think he wanted to make sure the evidence was rock solid before publishing it because of the faulty iraq intelligence and the huge damage it did. Which is why the USA lagged far behind other countries in saying this. I dont think he is looking for an excuse to act - i think he is very cautious about the evidence on its own merit, but also because he doesn't want to get sucked in. Although in the end the US might act i really think Obama is different - pragmatic in the national interest but not a liberal interventionist in the classic sense - why i think that is, you may see from the last paragraph of the blog. I think merely portraying Obama as weak because he wants to avoid the military option is misunderstanding his world view - he's not a hammer and has some understanding of what it is like to be a nail.

But I accept there is a world of difference from what i suspect, or think, and what i know and take you point about the bare assertion.
Mark Mardell .."say they are sure" would have been better.

Hello Mark,

Glad things are good with you – I’m fine too, thanks. Thanks for kindly responding and providing further comment. It’s good that you see and accept my point: ‘ “say they are sure” would have been better.’

You also say in your email:

‘But I accept there is a world of difference from what I suspect, or think, and what i know and take you point about the bare assertion.’

It’s not so much the difference between what you suspect and know. The point is surely not to take at face value what governments say; especially given the deceptions that paved the way to the Iraq war. It’s common on BBC News – as elsewhere – to see journalists tell the public: ‘The White House is sure’, ‘Washington believes’, ‘Obama thinks’ and so on. History shows that often ‘there is a world of difference’ between what governments say they ‘believe’ or are ‘sure’ about, and what is true. Maybe you can take a journalistic lead in pushing back against this propaganda line of ‘what Washington believes’. Don’t be the middleman dishing it up to the public, garnishing it with BBC gravitas. Why not use your influential position as the BBC’s North America editor to challenge and scrutinise more thoroughly?

‘I think we see Obama in a different way...’

Who is the ‘we’ here? You may choose to see Obama in a different way from past US leaders. But then, that is your personal opinion and surely not the stance of an impartial journalist with an objective understanding of history and realpolitik.

Best wishes

David Cromwell
In another damning indictment, Media Lens co-editor David Edwards exposes the Guardian's repeated complicity and preferred viewing of Obama:
"Despite all of this, a Guardian editorial offered a strikingly different judgement. Noting that Obama had decided to authorise military aid on the basis 'that Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition', the editors commented:
'That use is an outrage and is against international agreements. It adds to the charge sheet against the Assad regime.'
These are among the most shocking comments we have ever seen in the Guardian. Despite the indisputable fraudulence of US-UK claims regarding Iraqi WMD, an equally staggering litany of lies on Libya, and despite the existence of gaps and doubts so reminiscent of Iraq 2002-2003, the Guardian is willing to quietly endorse the latest claims on Syria – 'Assad' clearly has used chemical weapons and that use should be added to the charge sheet against him. Once again, when it really matters, the Guardian editors are on-message, on-side and boosting war propaganda."
Obama's arms pledge, alongside ending of the EU arms embargo, takes us yet another alarming step towards an all-out Western attack on Syria, now most likely facilitated by an impending no-fly zone and ultimate Libya-style aerial bombardment.

Besides provoking Russia, it now draws every other regional state into a direct war crisis.  Thus we see the compliance of Egypt and Jordan, now in effective coalition with the US/Nato and Saudi/Gulf axis.

Alongside Lebanon and Hezbollah's increasing involvement, we also see Iran's responsive decision to send 4000 troops to aid the Syrian government, providing a further Western excuse to continue hostilities against Tehran.

Nor is the election of 'moderate' Iranian president Hassan Rouhani likely to lessen the threatening actions of the West, either in relation to Syria or sanctions-battered Iran itself. And how predictable to hear Obama, Cameron and Hague now requesting Rouhani to 'prove' his 'liberalised credentials' through diplomacy while the West pile weaponry into Syria.

Likewise, Israel's tactical desire is for ongoing warfare, greater destabilisation of Syria, and eventual humbling of Iran.

Contrary to the 'reluctant missionary' message from the BBC and other power-serving media, Obama is deeply and energetically mired in all these dark manoeuvrings.    

While Mardell waxes lyrical about Obama's 'pragmatic' considerations, the mass shifting of arms to the Syrian opposition and, inevitably, jihadist, forces - "because guns are currency" - has created terrifying new prospects for more mass civilian deaths.

Already responsible for criminal drone strike killings and prolonging the agony of Afghanistan, Obama is also now directly to blame for promoting intensified murder and suffering in Syria. 

But, then, Mardell, the Guardian and so much of our 'heart-searching' liberal media "see Obama in a different way".

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