Despite Horrific Repression, the U.S. Should Stay Out of Syria

The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways the United States could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, “What we can do?”

The short answer, unfortunately, is not much.

This is hard for many Americans to accept. We have a cultural propensity to believe that if the United States puts in enough money, creativity, willpower, or firepower into a problem that we can make things right. However, despite the desires of both the right-wing nationalists and liberal hawks, this isn’t always the case.

Stephen Zunes

Foreign Policy In Focus, United States

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The irony of Muslim terrorism

It is truly a sad state when the group affected the most by the current climate following the Boston marathon bombings have to wait for an outsider to speak some sense on their behalf. It is not that Muslims lack the capacity to express themselves and engage in an intellectual dialogue. But when the rhetoric all over the media continues to assert the label “radical Islam” whenever these events and their like are discussed, being a Muslim is equated with at the very least being suspicious.

What makes it worse is that radical comes from the Late Latin, meaning “roots”. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term radical means, “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root; of or relating to the origin”. In other words, what is being said is that the Tsarnaev brothers and anyone else who allegedly gets involved in terrorist activities are the ones who are properly practising the root teachings of Islam. This makes it highly problematic that Muslims have embraced such terminology as they try to defend their faith and community from being stigmatised and defined by these acts.

Moreover, the manner in which Tamarlan Tsarnaev has been supposedly “radicalised” into an “extremist” form of Islam gives the impression that he was really being a practising Muslim in the extreme sense. Thus further embedding the idea that Islam is the problem, which is a simpleton’s conclusion.

Mohamed Ghilan

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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Political corruption and the ‘free trade’ racket

In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free trade.

There is some ground for this attitude. Certainly, the US has benefited enormously by being able to buy a wide range of items at lower cost from other countries. However, this does not mean that most people in the country have always benefited from every opening to greater trade.

And it certainly does not mean that the country will benefit from everything that those in power label as “free trade”. That is the story we are seeing now as the Obama administration is pursuing two major “free trade” agreements that in fact have very little to do with free trade and are likely to hurt those without the money and power to be part of the game.

The deals in questions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both being pushed as major openings to trade that will increase growth and create jobs. In fact, eliminating trade restrictions is a relatively small part of both agreements, since most tariffs and quotas have already been sharply reduced or eliminated.

Dean Baker

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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A post-history strip tease

Conceptually, post-history cuts all corners. The flow of history is degraded as fake. Simulacrum trumps reality. We see history repeating not as tragedy and farce but as a double farce; an overlapping example is jihadis in Syria weaponized just like the former “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan in the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad conflating with the Western gang in the UN Security Council trying to apply to Syria what they got away with in Libya; regime change.

We also have history repeating itself as cloning; neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics beating the West in its industrialization game – in terms of speed – while at the same time repeating the same mistakes, from the mindless excesses of an acquisition mentality to no respect for the environment.

It goes without saying that post-history buries the Enlightenment – as favoring the emergence of all sorts of fundamentalisms. So it had also to bury international law; from bypassing the UN to launch a war on Iraq in 2003 to using a UN resolution to launch a war on Libya in 2011. And now Britain and France are taking no prisoners trying to bypass the UN or even NATO itself and weaponize the “rebels” in Syria.

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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Hungry for freedom in Guantanamo

The Guantanamo Bay prison is a glaring manifestation of the political indecision which the United States has experienced since President Barack Obama’s first day in office. While his second term is unlikely to deliver much of the “change” he had so industriously promised, skeletal men continue to sink into utter despair at the American gulag at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

Many, if not most of the 166 people currently imprisoned in Guantanamo are innocent – even by the standards of the US government as it continues to violate the Geneva Convictions and US laws regarding prisoners’ rights during armed conflicts. In fact, 86 of the Guantanamo detainees have been designated for release, but lack of resolve on the part of the administration, obstacles by Congress and a general lack of interest in the plight of these men, has left Guantanamo a human-rights abomination that is still open for business 11 years later.

Ramzy Baroud

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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Field of nightmares

Chalmers Johnson’s book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire was published in March 2000 – and just about no one noticed. Until then, blowback had been an obscure term of CIA tradecraft, which Johnson defined as ”the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people”. In his prologue, the former consultant to the CIA and eminent scholar of both Mao Zedong’s peasant revolution and modern Japan labeled his Cold War self a ”spear-carrier for empire”.

After the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991, he was surprised to discover that the essential global structure of that other Cold War colossus, the American superpower, with its vast panoply of military bases, remained obdurately in place as if nothing whatsoever had happened. Almost a decade later, when the Evil Empire was barely a memory, Johnson surveyed the planet and found ”an informal American empire” of immense reach and power. He also became convinced that, in its global operations, Washington was laying the groundwork ”all around the world… for future forms of blowback.”

Tom Engelhardt

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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Black and White and Red All Over

“Americans refuse to be terrorized,” declared President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. “Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week.” Believe that, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

The Boston bombings have provoked the most intense display of law enforcement and media coverage since the 9/11 attacks. Greater Boston was in full lockdown: “a ghost town,” “a city in terror,” “a war zone,” screamed the headlines. Public transit was stopped, a no-fly zone proclaimed, people told to stay indoors, schools and universities closed, and hundreds of FBI agents pulled from other pressing investigations to focus exclusively on the case — along with thousands upon thousands of other federal, state, and city agents equipped with heavy weapons and armored vehicles. It all came close to martial law, with all the tools of the security state mobilized to track down a pair of young immigrants with low-tech explosives and small arms who failed to reconcile their problems of identity and became suspected amateur terrorists.

Scott Atran

Foreign Policy

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