Lethal Step Towards War
By Robert Fisk
07 October, 2003
received the Green Light. It came from what is called the Syria Accountability
Act, moving through the United States Congress with the help of Israel's
supporters, that will impose sanctions on Damascus for its supposed
enthusiasm for "terrorism" and occupation of Lebanon.
Speaker after speaker
in the past week has been warning that Syria is the new--or old, or
non-existent--threat previously represented by Iraq: that it has weapons
of mass destruction, that it has biological warheads, that it received
Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction just before we began
our illegal invasion of Iraq in March.
The Israeli lie
about "thousands" of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Bekaa
Valley in Lebanon has been uncloaked yet again. In reality, there hasn't
been an Iranian militant in Lebanon for 20 years. But who cares? The
dictatorial Syrian regime--and dictatorial it most decidedly is--has
to be struck after a Jenin woman lawyer, who has probably never visited
Damascus in her life, blows herself and 19 innocent Israelis up in Haifa.
And why not? If
America can strike Afghanistan for the international crimes against
humanity of 11 September 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis,
and if America can invade Iraq, which had absolutely nothing to do with
11 September, why shouldn't Israel strike Syria?
Yes, Syria does
support Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But in Iraq is based the Mujahideen
Khalq, which bombs Iran, and the Americans have not bombed them. In
Jerusalem exists a government that openly threatens the life of Yasser
Arafat but no one suggests action should be taken against the Israeli
In Jerusalem lives
a prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who was adjudicated to be "personally
responsible" by Israel's own Kahane commission of enquiry for the
massacre of up to 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila
refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. But he is not going on trial for war
Of course, Syria
is going to take the air strikes on the 'training base" of Islamic
Jihad to the United Nations. Much good will it do Damascus. When the
United States cannot bring itself to support a resolution condemning
Israel's threat to murder Arafat, when it will not stop the Israelis
building 600 more houses--for Jews and Jews only--on Palestinian land,
air raids on Syria simply don't matter.
will benefit. Perhaps Lebanon can now be spared Israel's retaliation
for Palestinian violence--unless, of course, Israel decides to strike
a Palestinian "training base" in Lebanon.
No one asks what
these "training bases" are. Do Palestinian suicide bombers
really need to practice suicide bombing? Does turning a switch need
that much training? Surely the death of a brother or a cousin by the
Israeli army is all the practice that is needed.
But no. Yesterday,
we took another little lethal step along the road to Middle East war,
establishing facts on the ground, proving that it's permissible to bomb
the territory of Syria in the "war against terror", which
President Bush has himself declared now includes Gaza.
And the precedents
are there if we need them. Back in 1983, when President Reagan thought
he was fighting a "war on terror" in the Middle East, he ordered
his air force to bomb the Syrian army in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley,
losing a pilot and allowing the Syrians to capture his co-pilot, who
was only returned after a prolonged and politically embarrassing negotiation
by Jesse Jackson. In an era when America is ready to threaten the invasion
of Syria and Iran--part of that infamous "axis of evil"--this
may seem small beer. But Syria itself has seen what has happened to
America's army in Iraq, and is emboldened by its humiliation to avenge
the attacks of Israel or America, whatever the cost.
If America cannot
control Iraq, why should Syria fear Israel?