Syria - on the wrong side of history

"What I said to him [President Bashar al-Assad of Syria] very clearly is that there are things we believe he should do if he wants a better relationship with the United States, if he wants to play a helpful role in solving the crisis in the region. So if President Assad chooses not to respond, if he chooses to dissemble, if he chooses to find excuses, then he will find that he is on the wrong side of history." (US Sec. of State Colin Powell, following a visit to Syria, May 11)

"I made it very clear to the prime minister [Ariel Sharon], like I have consistently done, that Israel's got a right to defend herself, that Israel must not feel constrained in defending the homeland." (President Bush, summarizing his conversation with Ariel Sharon after the Israeli attack on Syria, Oct. 6)

"I am happy to see the message was delivered to Syria by the Israeli air force, and I hope it is the first of many such messages." (Defence Policy Board member Richard Perle, in Israel, Oct. 14)

"We tolerate nuclear weapons in Israel for the same reason we tolerate them in Britain and France. We don't regard Israel as a threat." (A high-ranking administration official, identified by the Guardian as leading US neocon John Bolton)

On October 5th, Five months after Powell laid down the law to Bashar al-Assad, two weeks after Bolton's report and, as the press were reporting that Congress would adopt sanctions against Syria, Israel bombed what it claimed to be a "terrorist training camp" in Syria, ten miles north of Damascus.

Damascus insisted the camp had been discarded seven years ago and seemingly there were no casualties. Syrians, however, have expressed bewilderment at the attack, ostensibly in retaliation for a suicide bomb attack in Haifa which killed 21 people, and for which the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad had since claimed their part in.

Syria, of course, had to be attacked. It was after all a Jenin woman lawyer (Jenin is in Israel, incidentally), who most likely had never travelled to Damascus in her life, who blew up herself and 21 innocent Israelis – a suicide bombing which needed no terrorist camp training. Israel, though, is simply following in the footsteps of the US. Was not Afghanistan the first to bear the brunt of the US retaliation for 9-11, in spite of the fact that 15 of the 16 terrorists known to have hijacked the planes that day were from Saudi Arabia? And was not every attempt made to link Iraq with al-Qaeda, actually hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, despite the fact that Iraq is a secular state and al-Qaeda a militant Islamic fundamentalist organisation.

Typical of the vociferous US neocons is Richard Perle. His quote, above, is from his talk to reporters and delegates at the inaugural "Jerusalem Summit,” on October 21, a gathering of Israelis and mainly American Jewish and Christian analysts and politicians opposed to conceding a Palestinian state. Perle, who was honoured at the event, praised Israel highly for the air attack on the alleged terrorist camp in response to the suicide bombing in Haifa. The Jerusalem Post the following day quoted Perle as saying: "President Bush transformed the American approach to terrorism on September 11th, 2001, when he said he will not distinguish between terrorists and the states who harbour them. I was happy to see that Israel has now taken a similar step in responding to acts of terror that originate in Lebanese territory by going to the rulers of Lebanon in Damascus."

Perle’s sentiments at once reveal, of course, that the Israeli Attack upon Syria could not have happened without the support, or the expected support, of the USA and which came in the shape of the ‘Syria Accountability Act’, and which was finally passed, 398-5, by the House of Representatives on October 16.

The Voice of America reported House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as saying: “We will send a very clear message to President Assad and his fellow travellers along the 'axis of evil.' The United States will not tolerate terrorism, its perpetrators or its sponsors, and our warnings are not to be ignored."

In the weeks prior to the vote, speaker after speaker warned that Syria is the new threat previously posed by Iraq: that it has weapons of mass destruction, some with biological warheads, that it took delivery of Saddam’s elusive arsenal just before the invasion of Iraq in March.

Not so long ago Richard Perle and fellow neo-conservatives, stated in a report exclusively prepared for Benjamin Netanyahu and other radical Israeli Zionists (Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000) that "Israel can shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria... Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which America can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran." In other words, Sharon's script was written by those US neocons more interested in a Greater Israel than the blowback such Israeli military actions against its neighbours would create for the US at home and aboard..

What is apparent is that there are two layers to the Bush administration – the oil baron faction, made up of the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, and a second layer of neoconservatives (Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton etc) who unite a traditionalist domestic agenda with an futuristic, imperialist foreign policy that seeks to benefit from the U.S.'s post Cold War rise as the sole superpower. The neocons promote the "New American Century” philosophy, in which the US pursues its goal of "full spectrum dominance", making use of "pre-emptive" strikes against prospective challengers. A great part of their game plan is to reshape the Middle East, not only to guarantee the security of Israel as a US satellite but to secure future US supplies, and profits from, the region’s oil reserves. Despite the present nightmare their ongoing efforts have created in the region – particularly the Iraqi quagmire – their power goes unchallenged and they continue to promote the idea of regional regime change in US interests. Though highly influential, the neocons do not control the White house as yet and neither is the Bush administration motivated wholly by Sharon’s right wing designs. The simple fact is that Israel is an important regional ally of the US, chiefly in regard to the corporate, military and geopolitical aspirations of the US capitalist elite. Total US domination of Southwest Asia - a politically volatile but oil rich region - would give Washington enormous influence over time-honoured allies it now wants to "contain," and over any potential rivals. To date, Israel has played but a minor part in Bush's “War on Terror” and one would expect the Bush camp to insist it keeps to its occasional walk on role and not impede US designs on the region by escalating anti-US feeling in the Middle East. But globopolitics knows no set rules where profits are involved and you could beforgiven for thinking that any retaliation against Israel would give the US the pretext it needs to escalate its domination of the region viz-a-viz its continuing “War on Terror”.

As for Colin Powell and Co, it is our contention that it is they, the defenders of capitalism, the enemy of the working class who are on the “wrong side of history” – a history characterised by an archaic system of class rule in defence of the interests of a small, privileged minority. Their history is one of murder, exploitation and robbery. Real history, our history, begins when we put an end to their system and with it the wars and misery it spurns; when the resources of the world - that the Bush administration seem to think are theirs by divine design - are the common property of all.