Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations (Article 1, Res GA on the Definition of Aggression)
“This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” Madeline Albright, former US secretary of state, on the US television in 1996, when asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying
“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” Donald Trump, April 2017
It is no small irony when a US president calls on civilized nations to help in the US’ grand efforts to end the Syrian war and terrorism of all kinds. These actions include, but are not limited to, invading and destroying states, torturing prisoners, bombing sovereign countries, arming and training terrorists, killing civilians and carrying out drone terror. Pursuing its humanitarian mission, the US, in its most civilized manner, dropped 59 tomahawk missiles on the Syrian air base, proclaiming the attack as “very decisive, justified and proportional” with “a huge humanitarian component”. As usual, the US rose to the occasion and took the role of the world policeman without any prior consultation with the international community.
The attack “was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act”, that is a chemical attack in Idlib, which was attributed to the Syrian government almost immediately after it happened and without any investigation on the ground. Western politicians and media went into a frenzy and outrage, with the propaganda machine working tirelessly to depict a ruthless dictator terrorizing his people indiscriminately and thus prepare the ground for the upcoming ‘humanitarian’ intervention.
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council thereafter served as a platform to attack Russia and Syria as warmongers who have “no interest in peace” according to Haley, representative of the state that has been continuously waging war for more than a quarter of a century. The US ambassador further wondered, “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” In this regard, the US set a high benchmark: more than half a million Iraqi children died between 1991 and 2000 as a result of the UN sanctions, most enthusiastically imposed by the US and the UK. As sanctions alone were not enough, Iraq was also bombed on a daily basis – whenever it would please the imperial masters. Moreover, according to the Iraq Body Counts estimations, there are more than 170 thousand documented civilian casualties in Iraq since the 2003 invasion; with as many as 200 civilians killed in a single strike by the US-led coalition in March this year. Consequently, the activists raised the alarm, warning that “1,000 civilians have died this month alone in strikes by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria”.
While the UK ambassador to the UN was busy declaring Assad as “the greatest criminal of all”, the Saudi Arabia was committing war crimes in Yemen with the blessing of imperial powers and ignorance by western media. Due to the keen support of the US and the UK, Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen resulted in the killing and injuring thousands of civilians, bringing the country to the edge of the humanitarian catastrophe. The same actors that were so fast in condemning Syria in the harshest of manners, are surprisingly silent and untouched by the death of innocent Yemeni children. The friendship between the US and Saudi Arabia is stronger than ever, even in the light of reports that Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest source of funds for Islamist militant groups. Nothing too shocking, taking into consideration that the US and its Gulf allies hold the most responsibility for arming Islamist militias fighting the Assad regime and thus prolonging the war.
By carrying out unexpected and unilateral attack on Syria, the US set a dangerous example, violating all unwritten rules established since the missile crisis in 1962. Nevertheless, the leaders of the ‘free world’, including Australia, the UK, the EU and Israel, rushed to support Trump, joined by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both harsh opponents of the Syrian regime. Russia, Iran and China opposed the attack, with Russia condemning it as an act of aggression and a breach of international law.
A practice well known to the US, already found guilty of breaking the international law and the obligation not to violate national sovereignty by the International Court of Justice in 1986, for supporting the contras in Nicaragua. The US bluntly refused to recognise the court’s jurisdiction, claiming that the ruling regime was a Soviet puppet. If it seems that the US reasoning dramatically differs from the one of the rest of the world, it is because they can “see further than other countries into the future”, seeing “the danger here for all of us”. The US is therefore not left with any other choice, as Albright concludes, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation.”
Its humanitarian endeavours and far-sightedness ‘compelled’ the US to use the force time and time again: 1991 invasion of Iraq; 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia; 2001 invasion of Afghanistan; 2003 second invasion of Iraq; 2011 intervention in Libya. The US has always used humanitarian pretexts in order “to carry out regime-changing operations in pursuit of the United States’ global geostrategic interests”. The attack in Syria does not differ much from their past practices. The official reason to launch the strike was the alleged usage of prohibited chemical weapons by the Syrian government, however, the actual motivation is much more complex. The main impetus was the change of regime in Syria and the consolidation of hegemonic position of the US in the region. It was a message to Russia and its allies, that President Trump is more than willing to use force, unilaterally if needed and without much regards to established international norms. The indispensable nation is in its rights to break the law, should the circumstances require so; that does not, however, apply to the rest of the actors (unless they have the US sponsorship).
The US is playing a dangerous geopolitical game, upsetting the international order and challenging established norms and rules. In the age of nuclear weapons, such reckless and unpredictable foreign policy presents a true danger and can cause unthinkable destruction. But that does not seem to worry the warmongering western elites and media, who applauded the US’ unilateral and illegal attack on a sovereign state. Riding on a wave of its military ‘success’ and moral high ground, the US dropped the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan only days after a ‘tremendous’ triumph of Syria operation. The deed succeeded in escalating already extremely tense situation and to demonstrate US’ military power, mainly to Russia, China and North Korea. The effect it had on the country it hit, is of no importance – everything is allowed in what it appears to be an open season on the Middle Eastern countries. Spreading the democracy and freedom to the ‘uncivilized’ world is indeed a dirty, violent and bloody business, enriching the elites and the war industry, while the poor are the regrettable collateral damage of the crooked system. Not all innocent lives matter and not all crimes are equal – it all depends on who pulls the trigger.