An ar­ro­gant au­to­crat’s abortive sur­gi­cal strike on Syria

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Yu­ram Ab­dul­lah Weiler An­a­lyst and jour­nal­ist

“It’s not the cigar, stupid. It’s the cruise mis­siles launched to cover the shame.”

— Christo­pher Hitchens

On April 14, 2018, the United States at­tacked the sovereign Arab Repub­lic of Syria with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion or provo­ca­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Britain and France. It is dis­heart­en­ing, but un­sur­pris­ing, to see the Wash­ing­ton regime is back to col­lud­ing with its colo­nial con­spir­a­tors, all of whom lack the moral for­ti­tude to forge an in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy di­rec­tion for them­selves. In­stead, the once-mighty Euro­pean pow­ers ap­pear re­signed to fol­low the dis­as­trous di­rec­tion set by the United States, like so many rail­cars cou­pled to a de­railed lo­co­mo­tive that is fly­ing off the track.

It seems when­ever the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment of Syria man­ages to get an up­per hand against the al­pha­bet soup of mer­ce­nary forces funded by the Wash­ing­ton-Tel Aviv-Riyadh axis of ag­gres­sion, a “chem­i­cal at­tack” con­ve­niently oc­curs, the blame for which is in­evitably placed on Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. Con­cur­rent with Syria’s progress in rid­ding it­self of these west­ern-backed ter­ror­ists, U.S. pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has found him­self en­meshed in an ex­pand­ing web of in­trigue woven around an in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­ing con­ducted by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller into cer­tain im­pro­pri­eties, which may have been com­mit­ted by mem­bers of his in­ner cir­cle dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign.

And then there are the rev­e­la­tions that the for­mer New York real estate de­vel­oper and re­al­ity TV show pro­ducer had an en­counter in 2006 with a cer­tain lady of ques­tion­able re­pute named Stephanie Clif­ford, aka Stormy Daniels. While years of math­e­mat­i­cal train­ing may have in­flu­enced this writer’s per­cep­tion, nev­er­the­less I think I see a pat­tern here: when a U.S. pres­i­dent is be­sieged with charges of cor­rup­tion, in­com­pe­tence and dal­liance, he or­ders a mis­sile at­tack on a be­nign for­eign coun­try to de­flect at­ten­tion from him­self and his un­sa­vory predica­ment.

Sim­i­larly, back in 1998, for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Wil­liam Jef­fer­son Clin­ton stood ac­cused of hav­ing had an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with aid Mon­ica Lewin­sky,

which was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by spe­cial coun­sel Ken­neth Starr. In or­der to de­flect at­ten­tion from the sor­did mat­ter, Clin­ton launched a cruise mis­sile at­tack on the Al-Shifa phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal fac­tory in Su­dan under the pre­text of re­tal­i­a­tion against the coun­try for hav­ing con­nec­tions to Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. The claim by the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion was that Al-Shifa was pro­duc­ing VX nerve gas.

Now, over 20 years later, an­other U.S. pres­i­dent has pla­gia­rized this theme for the same rea­son: to di­vert pub­lic at­ten­tion from an al­leged ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with a woman who has re­fused to re­main silent de­spite the hush money paid out to her by Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, who him­self is the tar­get of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This time, of course, the pre­text for the mis­sile bom­bard­ment was an al­leged chem­i­cal at­tack in Douma, in the eastern Ghouta re­gion. The tar­get, once again was a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search fa­cil­ity in Barzeh, the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and Chem­i­cal In­dus­tries Re­search In­sti­tute, which spe­cial­ized in can­cer medicines. Trump even used Ge­orge W. Bush’s “mis­sion ac­com­plished” slo­gan af­ter the deed was done.

The par­al­lels be­tween these two lethal es­capades are un­canny. Clin­ton was ac­cused of hav­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair; so is Trump. Clin­ton launched a cruise mis­sile at­tack on a Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try, which had not at­tacked or in any way threat­ened the U.S.; Trump fol­lowed suit. Clin­ton’s at­tack de­stroyed a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal plant; ditto for Trump. In both cases, the pres­i­dents claimed pro­duc­tion and use of chem­i­cal war­fare agents jus­ti­fied the at­tacks.

Now, the U.S., as a mem­ber of the United Na­tions, had agreed to “re­frain in their in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions from the threat or use of force against the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity or po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence of any state,” as is stated in the United Na­tions Char­ter. Two mis­sile at­tacks to­tal­ing 162 mis­siles would ap­pear at a min­i­mum to con­sti­tute “use of force” in vi­o­la­tion of the U.N. Char­ter, and could be con­strued as an act of war. In­ci­den­tally, the U.N. Char­ter, rat­i­fied by the U.S. Sen­ate in July 1945, con­sti­tutes a bind­ing agree­ment under in­ter­na­tional law and the U.S. con­sti­tu­tion. Of course, this is merely opinio juris, since U.S state prac­tice is fre­quently con­trary to cus­tom­ary in­ter­na­tional law.

It is fas­ci­nat­ing that gun-happy Amer­i­cans tend to go non­lin­ear over any per­ceived threat to their “right” to bear arms under Amend­ment 2 of the U.S. con­sti­tu­tion, which, in­ci­den­tally, was orig­i­nally added for the ben­e­fit of slave own­ers who feared a re­bel­lion. How­ever, if we con­cede the two mis­sile at­tacks were acts of war, then there is a clear vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle I Sec­tion 8 of the U.S. con­sti­tu­tion, which, in­ter alia, specif­i­cally states that the U.S. congress has the power to de­clare war. No such con­gres­sional dec­la­ra­tion of war has been passed.

Con­se­quently, in the ab­sence of such a con­gres­sional de­cree, the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, its mem­bers and even the of­fi­cers of the U.S. mil­i­tary could be ac­cused of hav­ing ab­di­cated their duty to sup­port and de­fend the U.S. con­sti­tu­tion. At a min­i­mum, they are in bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of their oath of com­mis­sion, which each of­fi­cer specif­i­cally states: “I, _____, hav­ing been ap­pointed an of­fi­cer in the Army of the United States, as in­di­cated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or af­firm) that I will sup­port and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States against all en­e­mies, for­eign and do­mes­tic .... ”

Nor are U.S. leg­is­la­tors de­mand­ing of their ar­ro­gant au­to­crat an ac­count­ing of this ac­tion in lieu of a dec­la­ra­tion of war. Such no­ti­fi­ca­tion is re­quired by law within 48 hours when­ever U.S. mil­i­tary forces are in­tro­duced by the pres­i­dent:

(1) into hos­til­i­ties or into sit­u­a­tions where im­mi­nent in­volve­ment in hos­til­i­ties is clearly in­di­cated by the cir­cum­stances;

(2) into the ter­ri­tory, airspace or wa­ters of a for­eign na­tion, while equipped for com­bat, ex­cept for de­ploy­ments which re­late solely to sup­ply, re­place­ment, re­pair, or train­ing of such forces; or

(3) in num­bers which sub­stan­tially en­large United States Armed Forces equipped for com­bat al­ready lo­cated in a for­eign na­tion.

So even if one were to ar­gue that two mis­sile at­tacks or­dered by the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent do not con­sti­tute an act of war by the U.S. against Syria under the U.N. Char­ter, and that such an at­tack would not re­quire a dec­la­ra­tion of war by the U.S. congress, then there still ex­ists the le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity on the part of the mem­bers of that au­gust body to de­mand a full writ­ten re­port from the so-called com­man­der-in-chief, ex­plain­ing:

(A) the cir­cum­stances ne­ces­si­tat­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of United States Armed Forces;

(B) the con­sti­tu­tional and leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity under which such in­tro­duc­tion took place; and

(C) the es­ti­mated scope and du­ra­tion of the hos­til­i­ties or in­volve­ment.

None of this has taken place as of this writ­ing, lend­ing one to be­lieve that the mem­bers of congress are pur­pose­fully shirk­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Thank­fully, the “sur­gi­cal strike” ap­pears to have been largely nul­li­fied by Syr­ian air de­fenses. Ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Arab News Agency and con­firmed by the Rus­sian de­fense min­istry, only about one quar­ter of the mis­siles reached their tar­gets. Us­ing Soviet made S-125, S-200, Buk and Kvadrat units, as well as Osa Syr­ian air de­fense sys­tems, the Syr­i­ans man­aged to bring down an amazing 71 out of 103 cruise mis­siles fired at them by axis of ag­gres­sion forces. All mis­siles launched at Da­m­as­cus In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Al-Du­mayr air­base, Bley air­base and Sha­yarat air­base were blown out of the sky; five out of nine fired at Mezzeh air­base were hit; 13 out of 16 shot at Homs air­base were de­stroyed; and seven out of 30 aim­ing at tar­gets near Barzeh and Jara­mani were neu­tral­ized. Un­for­tu­nately, the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and Chem­i­cal In­dus­tries Re­search In­sti­tute in Barzeh was hit.

Given that the United States spends some $600 bil­lion each year on its mil­i­tary, con­sider the hu­mil­i­a­tion of hav­ing 71 out of 103 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles knocked out by Syr­i­ans us­ing 30-year-old Soviet-era anti-mis­sile tech­nol­ogy. Cruise mis­siles are es­ti­mated to cost about $832,000 each, so while Trump locked and loaded $85.7 mil­lion worth of them, he lost about $59 mil­lion. In con­trast, the Soviet-de­signed SA-3 sur­face-to-air mis­sile used with the S-125 sys­tem only costs about $20,300 each. Like­wise, Syria has ef­fec­tively hu­mil­i­ated Don­ald “The Art of the Deal” Trump, too, since by los­ing $59 mil­lion on his high-tech mis­siles, he clearly came out on the short end of this deal.

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