AL JAZEERA COLUMN: The US’ War of Words Against Syria

The US war of words against Syria is marred by hypocrisy and a lack of realism.

You’d need a team of linguists to tease out the internal contradictions, brazen hypocrisies and verbal contortions in President Barack Obama’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but…”

The “but” belies the preceding phrase—particularly since its speaker controls the ability and possible willingness to enforce his desires at the point of a depleted uranium warhead.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people,” Obama continued. One might say the same thing of Obama’s own calls for dialogue and reform in Iraq and Afghanistan. Except, perhaps, for the fact that the Iraqis and Afghans being killed are not Obama’s “own people”. As you no doubt remember from Bush’s statements about Saddam Hussein, American leaders keep returning to that phrase: “killing his own people”.

Now the Euros are doing it. “Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country,” British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement.

If you think about this phrase, it doesn’t make sense. Who are “your” own people? Was Hitler exempt because he didn’t consider his victims to be “his” people? Surely Saddam shed few tears for those gassed Kurds. Anyway, it must have focus-grouped well back in 2002.

“We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way,” Obama went on. “He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Here is US foreign policy summed up in 39 words: demanding the improbable and the impossible, followed by the arrogant presumption that the president of the United States has the right to demand regime change in a nation other than the United States.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera English.


  • War by its very definition is hypocritical. I am not a pacifist, but I see very clearly the utility of this belief. As you stated, Hitler didn’t kill “His people.”

  • We have to do SOMETHING….but we can’t actually do ANYTHING…..what shall we do Ted? Syrians need to do this themselves, and if the deaths of their protesters are going to have ANY meaning at all, all we can do is leave the situation alone. A collapse in Syria will definitely make the middle east a very interesting place.

  • Ted,

    Aren’t you applying a double standard by saying that the Assads should be entitled to retire to a luxury villa with a Swiss bank account full of their stealings while saying that W. should be prosecuted for his war crimes?

    If “change we could believe in” included sending Bush to the same kind of Federal prison as anyone else for kidnapping and torturing people, then his presidency would have ended in a standoff between Blackwater mercenaries and the DC police. Perhaps there would have also been a Whiskey Rebellion-like uprising of the yahoos currently making up the Tea Party to support him. We would have a literal Confederacy of dunces on our hands. Its sad that we have dropped to the level of a banana republic where the most implausible part of this scenario is Bush being held to account.

  • Well, the saying goes, don’t cast stones inside your glass house. How do we have any right to tell other countries how to behave?

  • @BillyMac

    It stands to reason that if we demand that a ruler of a country must “go”, then we have to allow him a place to actually GO. And that means allowing him to retire to a country willing to take him in.

    This new policy of handing the ruler over to his enemies for lynching or sending him to some “international court” sets a precedent: it decreases the ability of the United States to build and maintain allies. Why would anybody want to be a puppet of the US for any length of time knowing what would happen to them in the end?

    But instead we actually pretend that the ruler is congenitally bad rather than the fact that he was doing our bidding when he earned the people’s wrath, and we treat him according to this pretense. It really serves no purpose to our interests and is really quite insane.

  • Susan,

    When was Gaddafi doing our bidding?

    • When he paid off the Lockerbie relatives and gave up his nuke program, for example. The US also used Gaddafi as an Arab intermediary.