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Supporting Al-Qaeda during the anniversary week of 9/11

Published time: September 09, 2013 10:39
AFP Photo / Pool / Chris Pedota

In a twist of irony that has escaped mainstream commentators, during the week of 9/11, the US is considering a course of action that will empower Al-Qaeda, i.e. bombing Syria.

As terror expert Evan Kohlmann put it, “two of the most powerful insurgent factions in Syria are Al-Qaeda factions.” Kohlmann is an authority on the subject, having worked as a consultant in terrorism matters for the DoD, DOJ, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies. 

Regarding the prospective strike on Syria, Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at The Council on Foreign Relations, warns that “American and allied cruise missiles would be to the benefit of the Al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting Assad—the same militants whom US drones are attacking regularly in places such as Yemen.” 

According to Bloomberg, speaking off the record with military and intelligence officials within Obama’s own administration, “among the primary concerns expressed were that the main beneficiaries could be groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda.”  

Assad is a secular leader, which is one of the reasons he is hated by Al-Qaeda. Bombing the secular regime he represents makes it easier for fundamentalist challengers like Al-Qaeda to seize power. Such transfer of power, from secular regimes to religious extremists, is not without recent precedent. In Iraq, the US overthrow of secular leader, Saddam Hussein, enabled an Al-Qaeda organization (AQI) to emerge in Iraq in 2003. As the head of UN weapons inspections in Iraq points out, AQI “didn’t exist in the country until after the invasion.” Now the US wants to participate in the Syrian conflict—the very same conflict that’s provided a sanctuary for AQI leaders.
On the topic of Iraq, the US intelligence community expected the invasion of Iraq to increase the likelihood of terror attacks against the US. As a letter from CIA Director George Tenet to the Senate Intelligence Committee chair revealed, it was anticipated that Bush’s invasion of Iraq would lead to “much less constrain[t] in adopting terrorist actions”. The intelligence community was correct; according to a study by research fellows at the NYU School of Law, terror has increased by over 600% following the invasion of Iraq.

Rebel fighters prepare explosive devices to be used during fighting against Syrian government forces on September 7, 2013 in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor (AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanavoa)

Now the US intelligence community is anticipating that a strike on Syria would, as previously stated, “be…to the benefit of the Al-Qaeda-linked militants.” We can only hope they’re wrong this time around.
If we had an authentic democracy—rule by the people—an attack wouldn’t happen, because strong majorities oppose intervening in Syria. Polls conducted by Reuters almost daily between May 31st and September 3rd indicate without exception that a strong majority of Americans are opposed to intervening in Syria, even if Syria used chemical weapons. Similarly, a poll conducted by the BBC shows that, in the UK, “71% of people thought Parliament made the right decision” to reject military action against Syria. Two thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t care if Parliament’s decision harmed UK-US relations.

Another poll shows that a stunning 80% of Americans believe that Obama should seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria. The Obama administration has interpreted this rather narrowly, having scheduled a congressional vote, but still insisting that Obama has the right to attack Syria “no matter what Congress does”, as Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly remarked. Obama said the same thing, albeit somewhat more tactfully: “I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization”.

The polls pertaining to the prospective strike on Syria differ significantly from those regarding the US and UK support for the Iraq War. Back in 2003, a series of polls found that a majority of Britons supported the invasion of Iraq; Americans at the time supported the invasions by even larger majorities.

Simply put, there’s less support for a strike on Syria than there was for the invasion of Iraq—and we know how well the Iraq War turned out.

Yet public opinion and the threat of provoking terror attacks are not persuasive to the unfathomable wisdom of the Obama administration. As John Kerry said, a strike on Syria “is of great consequence to…all of us who care about enforcing the international norm with respect to chemical weapons.” Apparently Kerry is more concerned with international norms than international law, since attacking Syria without a UN Security Council resolution would violate the latter. In Obama’s words, the Security Council is “paralyzed”—meaning it won’t do what he tells it to do.

Matthew Waxman, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, observes that, “despite treaties outlawing chemical weapons use, there is no precedent for using military intervention as a response to violations.”
To be fair to the Obama administration, we should listen to what US leaders have to say about chemical weapons; they’re experts on the matter. In Iraq alone, they used white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions, which coincided with an explosion of birth defects documented by a recent study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. According to an Al Jazeera journalist, incidences of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah surpassed those that followed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, WI, USA, where he edits whiterosereader.org. He can be reached via email at kenneth.klippenstein@gmail.com or on Twitter @kenklippenstein