As the U.S. stepped up its by now defunct “red-line” rhetoric against the Assad regime in the aftermath of the chemical massacre that took place in Ghouta, so-called “anti-war” crowds around the world made sure to remind us of what had taken place in 2003. To them, any limited military strike against the Assad regime would be all too similar to the “Shock and Awe” campaign and ground invasion of Iraq. Syria was just another war being sold in a WMD pitch, and the people were lied to once more. Obama had become Bush Jr. and Kerry even more so like Colin Powell, united under a simple slogan: “WMD Lies.” However, Assad’s huge chemical stockpiles were not a mystery, and things took a very different turn when he took up the offer to hand them over. As a result, no action was taken and by now Kerry even saw it fit to applaud Assad’s supposed compliance. It’s very hard to compare an intervention that didn’t take place and might never happen to a war that did. Of course, you could believe that it didn’t happen because of the anti-war stance that many people took.
Whatever the case, the entire political circus did not take off as a result of the presence of these weapons, but of their use in Ghouta and the Assad regime’s responsibility for using them. That these facts are considered to be just more lies by such crowds is not surprising, but to insist on the comparison with Iraq based on that assumption is amazing. For Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons too, on an even larger scale, but this was 15 years before the war in question. The first Gulf War followed a few years later in response to the invasion of Kuwait. This lead to the establishment of no-fly zones and U.N. inspectors roaming around the country. It did, however, not lead to regime change until the second war. If anything, it is the wrong war in Iraq that any would-be action in Syria could be compared to.
Not much was going on any longer in 2003, quite different from today’s Syria. For today, there is no war to be started or resumed in Syria. Such a war, in the form of genocide, ethnic cleansing and urbanicide committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people, has been taking place continuously for the past two and a half years. Any strikes on the part of the U.S. would have come in the midst of the daily airstrikes, bombardments by missiles and countless of other massacres that Assad is responsible for. Those who genuinely oppose war must recognize it first, and oppose whoever is primarily responsible for it next. Only then may further objections be considered credible.
Some might have a genuine concern for Syria not to turn into the horror that Iraq became after 2003, but this is borne out of unawareness of the state that the country is in today. Indeed, Iraq has not seen the kind of destruction that can now be found in over half of Syria. Iraq’s total as well as daily death toll during the worst days of the war have long been surpassed by Syria, while today’s daily terror and a thousand deaths a month, as horrible as it sounds, would in fact be a major improvement for a country where thousands die every month, where a third of the entire population has been displaced, where hundreds of thousands are missing or imprisoned and who are either dying or dead, and where hundreds of thousands more injured or wounded.
Ignorance may be an excuse, but to willfully ignore the culprit and his accomplices and speak apologetically about them while at the same time protesting and demonizing anyone else’s attempts to stop them is disingenuous. This is not opposing war, it’s opposing war being waged on their team and nothing but booing their opponents. “Hands off Syria” and “No war on Syria” are slogans that befit the free Syrian people in their demands against the Assad regime and its Khomeinist allies, more befitting the genocide-deniers would be “Hands off Assad” and “No war on Assad” instead.
The attack on Iraq in 2003 was part of the so-called “war on terror” which came in response to the attacks on 9-11 two years before. Certainly no less relevant than the WMD story were the alleged links with Al-Qaeda, the main enemy in that war. This time around, Al-Qaeda is part of the “anti-war” argument which maintains that any military action against the Assad regime would in fact help them, to which conspiracy theories are attached about Al-Qaeda already being directly helped or even operated by the U.S. and its allies, not to mention the outrageous notion that Al-Qaeda is responsible for this revolution or has at any point become part of it or a dominant force within of it. What remains remarkable is that a war in which Al-Qaeda is supposedly going to be supported against a regime is being compared to a war that was started because a regime supposedly supported Al-Qaeda. In fact, there was a time in which the Assad regime was threatened by the U.S. as it stood accused of aiding and abetting Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and it’s no longer secret that they have.
The second war in Iraq is actually one of the wars that is the least comparable to the U.S.’ supposed “war on Syria” which never happened. But if it would have taken place, many other interventions would have made a better compare: Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90’s or even Libya recently. These were interventions that came in response to acts that actually took, something that would be comparable to military action in response to the Ghouta chemical massacre, rather than the second part of an intervention that started over a decade earlier. They could then argue how these acts were fabricated lies and part of the conspiracy, as would be the case of Syria. Then again, it wouldn’t be as effective as pointing to Iraq and shouting “WMD Lies!”