Trump on Syria: Bombs can never be a humanitarian response to war crimes

The US, its allies and Russia could best help the Syrian people by stepping up genuine humanitarian assistance in response to the refugee crisis, coming clean about their real intentions in the wider region, ceasing arms sales and engaging in a genuine peace process, argues Jim Roche

THE international outrage caused by the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province last week which killed over 80 people, most likely carried out by the Syrian regime, is justified and understandable as are calls that something must be done to end the horrific six year war in Syria.

The use of internationally banned chemical weapons against civilian targets is rightly and widely condemned but why does their definition not include such equally awful weapons as depleted uranium and white phosphorous or even 'conventional' weapons like the MOAB bomb dropped on Afghanistan just this week?

The US Central Command even confirmed it used depleted uranium against Da’esh in Iraq in 2015.

It was also reported to have been used extensively in the 2004 US attack on Fallujah which, a study has shown, has left a legacy of increased rates of infant mortality, cancer and deformed births that are proportionately greater than that those recorded after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs in WW2.

The coalition force’s use of white phosphorous has recently been noted in Mosul and was also used by the Israeli Military against Gazans in the 2008-2009 war, in one case attacking a school where civilians were sheltering.

It’s a moot point as to whether the victims of these attacks would be concerned about the academic and scientific distinction between chemical weaponry and other more 'conventional' forms of warfare deployed by coalition forces.

We should not, therefore, be fooled by Trump’s apparent humanitarian act in bombing a Syrian airbase and his crocidile tears over the killing of children during the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhun.

Since he assumed power the US military has killed over 1,000 men, women and children in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

In his first week as President it is reported a commando raid in Yemen massacred many civilians including women and children.

In an essay entitled Donald Trump’s War Crimes, American Professor (Emiterus) Marjorie Cohen documents other attacks.

During the second half of March alone she cites:

- US aircraft bombed homes, a school and a hospital in Tabqah, Syria, killing 20 civilians.

- A US-led coalition airstrike on a school that was housing 50 families displaced by the fighting near Raqqa, Syria, killed at least 33 civilians.

- A US airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, killed more than 200 people, causing the largest loss of civilian life since the United States began bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq in 2014.”

The UK based NGO Airwars, which monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East, claims that "almost 1,000 non-combatant deaths have already been alleged from coalition actions across Iraq and Syria in March this year.”

Trump cries publicly over Syrian children horribly killed by a gas attack while carrying out equally despicable attacks within Syria and throughout the region, turning Syrian children away from US borders and threatening to expel Syrian migrants from America.

Trump’s airstrike, albeit directed at a Syrian military target, will very likely escalate the Syrian war and prolong the suffering for Syria. It will certainly strengthen Assad’s regime and Russia’s resolve to support it.

Trump has used the horrific chemical attack as an excuse to reassert US influence in Syria and to deflect from the civilian deaths that he has caused in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

He may also be sending a message to other world leaders, deflecting attention from his floundering domestic policy.

There is no denying that Assad’s and Putin’s forces have caused havoc for the entire population but so to have the rebel groups who under Obama’s Presidency were supported by several hundred US advisors on the ground.

Though not as direct an intervention as Putin’s this has, along with the massive arms sales to western proxies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, prolonged the war and the suffering of the Syrian people.

Further military intervention by the US and other western powers in the Syrian war on the alleged pretext of concerns for the victims of the horrific chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun will be cynical attempts by them to get the upper hand on Russia in what has long become a power play of imperial war games with the Syrian people trapped in the middle – a proxy war.

There is no military solution to this horrific proxy war. All bombing and foreign intervention should stop now.


Jim Roche is PRO of the Irish Anti-Movement. he teaches at the School of Architecture, Dublin Institute of Technology.

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