On Syria, Egypt and propaganda

The drums of war beat in Washington and London. Cameron has abandoned his holiday (he is always on holiday when something’s afoot), and Obama leads the call for action to bomb Syria. Yet various polls conducted show that the majority of the British and American public is sensibly opposed to another US-led intervention in the Middle East.

The media has been telling us for nearly a week now of an alleged chemical weapons attack on the capital, and has replayed again and again scenes and images of children in the throes of death, dead children, and masked civilians among the rubble and ruin of Damascus. All awful – none would deny. The United Nations has even drafted in weapons inspectors to the country. The clamour to take action against Syria is scarily reminiscent of the clamour to attack Iraq over their alleged harbouring of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is clear that Hans Blix and his inspection team could find no evidence of WMD, and the effects of the needless invasion of that country are starkly ingrained in the British and American public’s conscious. It is 2003 all over again – we are entering into a conflict based on falsehoods and mistruths.

This month we have already seen absolute proof of atrocities in Egypt. The militaristic government, installed by a coup in the summer, has engaged in terror on its own civilians and staged a number of bloody massacres. Where is the West’s reaction to this flagrant and proven abuse of power? There will be no warships or submarines aimed at Egypt, no cruise-missiles will fall on Cairo, and few will call for the overthrow of these known and undisputed mass murderers. Yet, with Syria – where it is unclear whether president Assad’s government has used toxic gas to poison its citizens, or whether it was the Syrian ‘rebels’ (not just Syrians – an alliance made up of foreign mercenaries, Sunni extremists and at least one cannibal), or whether even toxic gas has been used at all – politicians and the political media alike call for an immediate response. Where is the reasoned analysis and interpretation of events? Where is the evidence to suggest Assad is guilty, or should we just presume he is? The propaganda machine is in full swing. Politicians and those in the media normally unfazed by such actions have succumbed to it.

The massacre of innocent Syrians and Egyptians is abhorrent, but neither is less tragic than the other – no matter the method of killing and destruction. Assad is just a figure in the collective Western opinion. Who can claim to know much of this man, who, like his wife Asma al-Assad, was educated and medically trained in Damascus and then London? He is not Saddam Hussein, nor is he some posturing, sputtering dictator of some failed nation, and surely intelligent enough not to provoke the United States into the Middle East for the third time in three decades.

The problem with violence is that it is often met with more violence. An American-European attack on Syria will supposedly “send a message.” Exactly what sort of message will it send? No one can claim to know the extent to which any attack will have, nor of its ultimate consequence. The Syrian Army is large and well-trained and could exact further terrible massacres of its own people, and, given the chance, Western intervention will be the catalyst for this, do absolutely nothing for the Syrian public, and cause untold damage to Syrian posterity.

Oppose this war. Write to your MP, or even the Prime Minister (not that you will receive a response), and do not vote Tory in the next election.

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