Yours not to reason why;
Yours but to do and die. —Alfred Lord Tennyson
George Santayana is perhaps the most over-quoted man in the history of the written word. The quote in question is of course his admonition that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The philosopher and social critic probably never actually wrote or said this but the sentiment has always been embraced by those afraid of great men and great movements making the same tragic missteps that have plagued human history since the beginning of time. It is easy to take the quote at face value, and it is an almost impossible proposition to prove or disprove. But what if we turn its logic on its head…What if those who are tasked to remember the past refuse to do so? What if they refuse to acknowledge that the past even happened? What if they are not condemned by impartial fate and bad study habits but by a deliberate pursuit of into the future the ideas that have always benefited those in power over those without it?
Today President Barack Obama has committed the US to arming the rebel forces fighting the Assad regime. The regime has “crossed” the dreaded and media lionized “red line” marking the use of Chemical weapons against the rebels fighting his regime. 150 people have been confirmed killed by chemical weapons used by the Assad regime. And while my heart goes out to these poor people who died at the hand of this brutal dictator they are only 150 0f the at least 93,000 (and probably much higher) who have died since the war began in 2011. This is put into better perspective when we realize that the UN has confirmed that the rebels, principally the Free Syrian Army and the Islamist groups that support and fight with them, have also used chemical weapons against their foes. No one has clean hands in this horrid war but we have decided once again that a dictator in the middle east with scary weapons is not to be tolerated.
The irony of course is that Assad was up until the mid to late late 00’s one of the USA’s biggest allies in the region. The current President Assad and his father in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were supported by the CIA and the US government. Of course Assad is also supported by Iran and Islamists in Lebanon and this fact is not lost on a defense establishment on the Left and the Right that despises the Iranian regime and would like to see Israel strengthened at their expense. The European Union, or what is left of it, has dropped its arms embargo against the Syrian Rebels and now plans to send weapons along with the USA. Russia of course remains the lone holdout in favor of the Assad cause. At least they are honest about their naked ambitions in the region.
So once again the US prepares to arm an insurgency movement against a dictator they (The USA and Europe) helped to create and maintain. The insurgents themselves are not consulted, we have “connections” in the FSA and in the Syrian opposition in exile who let us know that we are wanted and indeed required in Syria. The US media has of course, with few exceptions, jumped on board the war-wagon and made the FSA and the Islamists and Kurds they work with look like the undisputed heroes in the conflict. We are told by sages like John McCain and Eliot Engel that the rebels are to be trusted and we must do everything we can in order to destroy the man we helped create, Assad. There is much to profit from war in Syria; the weapons manufacturers will be raking in cash hand over fist and the “think tanks” and “peace organizations” will once more have attention and money lavished upon them to deal with the inevitable conflagration that will result. It is also worth noting that the oil monopoly known as the Sunni “Gulf States” (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar) will be very pleased with a change of leadership, or at least continuing Shi’a/Alawite chaos in the region. Who benefits from a western intervention in Syria? Far too many people, and that is the real problem.
We have a system where those who are given, or who take, power over military matters of life and death make decisions in the dark and after consulting with their corporate masters. As long as this is the case the “right” to remember and apply the lessons of the past to future action will always err on the side of conflict and war. The small group of men and women who run our system have much to gain and little to lose in a full on war in Syria. It will not be their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who fight and die supporting the rebels in Syria. The people will not be the ones who benefit from the booty that comes from any conflict the West tales part in. It will be the same plutocrats and politicians who will be pontificating and laughing all the way to the bank. Eugene Debs said regarding another war in another time “War makes possible all such crimes and outrages. And war comes in spite of the people.” We are told that the best way to prevent conflict, or rather conflict that would inconvenience or scare westerners, is to arm those who we have decided are the ‘good guys’. This idea that guns and bullets equal peace is not new. It has been with us since at least the Mexican War and has led us into conflict after needless conflict from Korea to Panama to Iraq. War is peace. Peace is, out of necessity, war.
Rest assured it will not end with “arming the rebels” . It never does. This is how every American war begins. Those arms will not be arriving in Syria alone; they will come with CIA and military “advisers” who will train and assist them in their fight. This will put them in the middle of the conflict and in harms way. As soon as one of these “advisers” is hurt or dies we will up the ante and spiral into yet another self-justifying imperialist adventure in Asia.
So what is to be done? There are few options available to us besides civil disobedience, continued reasoned debate, protest and strike. We will do what we always do when we are forced to fight for the elites a conflict we do not want or understand. We must take back the political system that allows for such war mongering. We must dismantle a political system that sees both parties benefiting from endless conflict and gives unlimited power to a few greedy, ill-advised and foolish individuals and corporations. If we do not create a new system divorced from corporate and political control and power we will continue to fight “wars for peace” that have no real point besides profit and no end to be seen. If we go to war once more we only have ourselves and our complacency to blame. Santyana’s erroneous quote will only be put to rest when we, the People and Workers of the World, Unite against war and in favor of true peace!