What The Record Shows: Nothing Good Has—or Will—Come from U.S. Imperialist Intervention in Syria or Anywhere Else

Revolution Newspaper | June 20, 2013

The U.S. is increasing its intervention in Syria. The Obama administration recently announced it will begin arming some forces fighting against the current Syrian government of Bashir al Assad. The U.S. says it is getting more deeply involved in the war in Syria for humanitarian reasons—to help the Syrian people, stop the killing and prevent the use of chemical weapons. These are lies—and the basic facts about the results of U.S. interventions over the last 12 years, since September 11, 2001, prove it—and show beyond any doubt that U.S. actions are motivated by imperialism, not humanitarianism, and bring nothing but horrors for the people.

U.S. Invasion and Occupation of Afghanistan

Afghan villagers gather near a house destroyed in a U.S. raid, June 2012. Photo: AP

The U.S. attacked Afghanistan on October 6, 2001, and then invaded and occupied the country. They called it "Operation Enduring Freedom." In reality, it's been "operation enduring nightmare for the Afghan people." This war is still going on—the longest in U.S. history. U.S. bombs, missiles and bullets have killed thousands of Afghani men, women and children. Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. From 2009-2012 alone, nearly 30,000 non-combatants were killed or wounded—10 times the number killed on 9/11. From 2004-2013, 2,000 to 3,000 have been assassinated by U.S. drones in Pakistan. Tens of thousands have died or suffer due to displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, and crime resulting from the war. After nearly 12 years of U.S. occupation, Afghanistan remains one of the most bitterly impoverished countries on earth, with life expectancy of 49 years. Less than half the people have access to clean drinking water.

The U.S. crimes have strengthened reactionary Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan—as they have in Iraq, Libya, Syria and across the region. The situation of women is worse thanks to military assaults, malnutrition and lack of health care, and putting into power reactionary Islamist warlords who enforce extreme anti-women practices in every realm of life. One activist says, "Women are 'free' to beg in the streets under the cover of the burqa; they are 'free' to resort to prostitution to feed their families; they are 'free' to commit self-immolation as the only way out of the cycle of humiliation, destitution, and despair."

U.S. Invasion and Occupation of Iraq

U.S. Marines pass bodies of Iraqi civilians killed in the U.S. assault on Fallujah, 2004. Photo: AP

The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 19-20, 2003 and then occupied the country until December 2011. President George W. Bush said the U.S. went to war to liberate Iraq and "free its people." In fact this war and occupation resulted in over 120,000 Iraqis killed directly in combat, and between 600,000 and 1.4 million directly and indirectly due to the destruction and disruption of water, power, healthcare systems and food production. It's estimated 4.2 million have been injured and another 4.5 million driven from their homes. The U.S. actions have fueled reactionary religious fundamentalism. It empowered a tyrannical Shi'ite Islamist regime and encouraged its ethnic cleansing and murder of thousands of Sunnis during the 2006-2008 civil war. Today torture, illegal detentions and executions are widely carried out by the Iraqi government the U.S. backs. Women's legal status is worse now than under Saddam Hussein. Iraq's secular constitution has now been replaced with one based on reactionary Sharia law with separate, unequal laws for women. Women's rights advocates report "a spike in 'honor killings,' forced veiling, and a growing tolerance for beating women into subordination," and that "violence against women has also been systematic...orchestrated by some of the very forces that the U.S. boosted to power."

Threatening War and Imposing Sanctions Against Iran

Aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in the Straits of Hormuz, near the coast of Iran, in November 2011. Photo: AP

Over the past decade, the U.S. and Israel have escalated their military threats against Iran and imposed harsher and harsher sanctions. They claim sanctions are a peaceful, or diplomatic, alternative to war.  This is a lie: sanctions are a form of war against an entire population—a real weapon of mass destruction that is already imposing enormous suffering and death on the Iranian people—literally murdering babies and other vulnerable sections of the populations. And sanctions are part of the arsenal of imperialist aggression—bullying and weakening an adversary and preparing for a possible war.

Sanctions have crippled Iran's ability to pay for urgently needed imports—including medicines—and halted many shipments. In addition, many drugs and needed chemicals for making medicines are being embargoed. "Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for hemophiliacs," Guardian UK reports. The head of Iran's Hemophilia Society said, "This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights." The director general of Iran's largest pharmaceutical firm said, "There are patients for whom a medicine is the difference between life and death."

The Obama administration knows sanctions are impacting the people—including helpless babies. In fact, they've admitted that the whole point of sanctions is to cause suffering and discontent among Iran's population, in order to pressure or collapse the Islamic Republic: "The Obama administration sees economic sanctions against Iran as building public discontent that will help compel the government to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official," the Washington Post reported.

Intervention in Syria

Syrian refugees line up for water at Za'atari Camp in northern Jordan. Photo: IRINnews.org

The U.S. increased its military, political, and diplomatic intervention in Syria in the fall of 2011, months after the March 2011 Syrian uprising began. It called for Assad to leave; its allies armed the Syrian opposition; it has imposed international pressure and sanctions on Syria. What has this intervention by the U.S. and its allies accomplished so far? It's helped fuel and prolong a horrific, reactionary slaughter. Nearly 100,000 Syrians have been killed, one million more driven from the country, and another four million driven from their homes inside Syria. According to human rights agencies, both sides in the conflict—including the forces the U.S. is seeking to cohere and shape into a new regime—have carried out kidnapping, torture, and summary assassinations of their opponents and civilians. Tens of thousands in Syria have died, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

The current situation is a humanitarian crisis on top of already existing humanitarian crises. Tens of thousands of people who fled Iraq during and in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and occupation ended up seeking refuge in Syria. Today they are being forced to flee again, back to Iraq, where they face conditions the UN describes as "high rates of unemployment, dismal basic services and ongoing sectarian strife." What little possessions they fled Iraq with have been lost, and they are being pushed back out of Syria traumatized, desperate, broke, and homeless.

What does the U.S. decision to directly arm some anti-Assad forces have to do with alleviating this humanitarian nightmare? Nothing. So why should anyone expect this, or further imperialist involvement, would do anything other than more of the same—fueling a slaughter?

What the Record Shows—Beyond a Shadow of Doubt

U.S. wars and interventions have led to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of deaths, and many more millions have had their lives shattered. This basic fact is systematically covered up, ignored and lied about by the imperialist media. In NO instance were people better off after U.S. intervention than before. In NO instance did U.S. intervention—or outright invasions—lead to a more just or more liberated society than before the U.S. took action. In NO instance was the U.S. even aiming for that; all its actions have been motived by imperialism—the domination and control of regions for global exploitation.

This article was published on revcom.us in the June 20, 2013 issue.