This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I made the case in a recent article that President Obama may be very craftily offering resistance to the pressure he is getting from powerful forces to attack Syria. That push toward war continues despite widespread opposition among Americans.  Powerful and dangerous individuals who helped put him in office would regard retreat as a betrayal.  Obama nevertheless took the chance of asking Congress to debate the issue, giving antiwar activists time to mobilize to put pressure on Congress to consider the possible consequences of thwarting the clear will of the People.  In an earlier article, I argued that the growing anger at the willingness of the President to fight wars not supported by Americans and the failure of Congress to challenge this abuse of Executive power is spurring a rapid growth in awareness and action not only by traditional antiwar activists but the general public. There are indications that Obama may be working in other ways to keep public opinion against intervention even while making the case for war.

The growing antiwar sentiment provides a unique opportunity to educate the American public about the implications of the War of Terror for them.  It is in reality a war on democracy, benefiting only transnational corporations that dictate foreign policy and that profit from wars for corporate Empire, leaving the taxpayer with the bill. Whether by design or incomprehensible blindness, Obama has given us a chance to tie the phenomenon of endless war to the failure of the democratic process, the abridgment of constitutional rights and the growing economic pain of average Americans.  The last is the ultimate source of anger of those who do not normally give a thought to the fact that the US has become a war-based economy.  If we succeed at making war an issue on these grounds, the antiwar momentum over Syria has the potential to become a larger movement against fascism and war itself.

There is another issue that this fight can bring to the fore. It is one that some very dedicated people have been working on for decades. Increasing awareness of the issue has been hard because of a corporate media blockade, strong resistance in both parties to discussing it and prevailing attitudes of Americans.  That issue is the role that Israel has had in promoting war throughout the Mideast. The problem isn't that Israel is the tail wagging the dog, as some claim. The view that Israel dictates US foreign policy is naïve but understandable. AIPAC and other unregistered Israeli lobbying groups have tremendous influence over members of Congress whose foreign policy decisions are based on what position is most likely to help or at least not hurt their chances for re-election.  That was shown by the numerous standing ovations that Netanyahu got from both sides of the aisle when he spoke before a rare joint session of Congress. This was an unprecedented chance to influence American opinion just a few months before the 2012 election. It occurred after a very public quarrel with Obama regarding "acceptable" conditions for taking part in what, had they been agreed on,  would have led to sham negotiations much like those that have recently taken place.

The support of the illegal attack by Democratic and Republican leaders Pelosi and Boehner is not entirely due to pressure from AIPAC of course, but it does show that these poodles of the imperialists fear their real political masters more than voters.  Although lobbying efforts by the Israeli government were mostly behind closed doors, AIPC and other unregistered Israeli lobbyist groups have loudly and publicly called for an attack on Syria. Interestingly, these demands came only after Obama launched a media blitz that highlighted how an attack on Syria would serve Israel's perceived strategic interests.  That is to say, the interests of the right wingers in Israel who are determined to create a Jewish state "from the Nile to the Euphrates," encompassing parts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey, most of Syria and all of Lebanon and Jordan. This is described in the now-infamous Oded Yinon Plan, a right wing nightmare vision of Israeli conquest that can only be realized by brutal war and occupation far beyond the largely hidden areas where Palestinians who remain in Occupied territory are already struggling for personal and national survival.

I am sure it would be a bit hard for American supporters of Zionism to accept that a nation that they believe to be the only hope for the long-term survival of the Jewish people is in fact seriously debating whether or not to take by force lands whose seizure they can only justify by claiming it is "God's will." That is not the only reason given for their policies of expansion in historic Palestine, but "national security" cannot justify permanently militarizing not only Palestine, the Golan Heights of Syria and parts of the UN-recognized territory of Jordan but if the Yinon Plan is realized, much of the rest of the region. It is not hard to imagine the chaos that would result from the attempt, since it is happening right now. Destabilizing Syria is a major part of the plan. If Americans do not resist the policy of their government blindly supporting a nation that is using its military to accomplish their objectives, we may all soon find ourselves involved in WWIII. That could result in the use of Israel's undeclared arsenal of hundreds of atomic weapons.

Ironically, the next objective in the Yinon Plan, which not coincidentally benefits US energy interests at the expense of Russia, is ending the threat of Iranian influence in the region. One has to wonder if that was not the real reason Netanyahu appeared before Congress at the height of the debate about whether the US should attack Iran at Israel's urging. We should recall that Romney essentially promised to do whatever Israel told him to do, as the US Senate did in passing legislation pledging US military support should Israel decide to attack unilaterally.

Iran, for all the faults of its theocratic government, has served to provide a basis of support for resistance to both Israeli and US imperial ambitions by aligning itself with Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Little noticed by Americans who pay little attention to Mideast affairs until their government claims it needs to fight another war, Lebanon is being prepared for destabilization next.  That is why the European Union, after years of resistance, recently declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, submitting at last to the demands of the American and Israeli governments. As with Syria, it was based on flimsy evidence of terrorism which was rejected initially by all responsible parties for months.

Since promoting sectarian violence is at the heart of the Yinon Plan, Lebanon is an obvious target. There has been an ongoing struggle for decades between right wing Western-supported Christians, Sunnis with shifting alliances and a Shia minority which the political and military arms of Hezbollah have given strength and influence. While the military wing (which is legal under the Lebanese constitution) did engage in Iranian-supported violence in the past, they have largely eschewed that as their political party has gained influence. However, the US and Israel continue to demonize it and appear to be staging false flag terrorist attacks through Sunni mercenaries (as in Syria, Iraq and Libya) to turn Sunni against Shia in Lebanon.

There is of course much more to the story, but this is enough background to understand the significance of the decision by the Obama administration to emphasize the fact that Israel is the prime direct state beneficiary of an attack on Syria, assuming that it is not destroyed in the melee that would certainly follow.  It was clearly not the intent of the Israeli government to be seen as urging the US to attack a neighbor that had not threatened either nation. It was also not the desire of the Israeli lobbying groups that sent out press releases only the next day calling for a strike. Obama clearly forced their hand.

This may have been the result of advice from military and intelligence officials who began to be much more vocal about the dangers of aligning our interests with those of Israel around the time that Netanyahu showed the unmitigated chutzpah to try and interfere with a US presidential election.  That would explain why Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Michael Dempsey told Obama that there is no reason to rush to a decision on an attack, because the same objectives could be achieved a month from now, if the American people do not succeed in stopping it. Given Obama's appearance of eagerness to rush to war, it is remarkable that he chose to publicly share this view, initially expressed privately.

We cannot know for sure what Obama's intent was, but we do know that he has given us a golden opportunity to educate Americans about the differences between the goals of the current right wing government in Israel and those of the US and its interest in being regarded as a force for democracy and justice rather than merely the latest Empire that is about to destroy itself through hubris.

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