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.

Feel free to reproduce any blogs by Dr Staggenborg without prior permission, as long as they are unedited and posted or printed with attribution and a link to the website.

For other blogs, please contact the author for permission.

Saturday, August 27, 2016



While Americans are justly concerned about the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria, they must be careful whose narrative they accept before deciding what we should do about it. Both sides have been responsible for civilian deaths and torture, but we are only being told one side of the story, and a distorted one at that. Though readily apparent to anyone who wants to look at the facts, the American role in the violence is never clearly spelled out. For instance, famous "humanitarian" Nicholas Kristof has been on the bandwagon arguing for US military intervention. It’s only right that the plight of Syrians he is highlighting should be put in proper perspective.

In his latest article, Kristof makes an emotionally powerful appeal for Obama to take in Syrian refugees. However, in doing so he compares the violence in Syria with the Nazi attempt to conquer the Western world. The truth is that the Syrian conflict, though often called a “civil war,” is actually a case of a sovereign nation defending itself against an invasion of foreign terrorists sponsored by the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies.

The US government claims the right to topple the government of Syria for its own purposes, regardless of the effect on the civilian population. The claim of “humanitarian intervention” is unjustified either by the facts or international law. The effort is being led by a known al Qaeda affiliate, a fact not well concealed by claims about a mythical “moderate rebel” faction. It makes no sense to blame the resulting carnage on a government that is defending its sovereignty against a ruthless and brutal enemy.

Kristof’s implied comparison of Assad to Hitler might be written off as a bad analogy, except that, almost as an afterthought, he chides Obama for not doing “more to end the slaughter.” Since taking in more refugees would do nothing to ease the conflict, he must be referring to his previous arguments for a no-fly zone (here and here).

“Establishing a no-fly zone” means attacking the Syrian military. That’s an act of war. Since neither we nor any NATO ally has been attacked by Syria, it would constitute another illegal war of aggression, much like Iraq. Vietnam might be a better comparison, since both involve baiting the targeted country, as the US did in the Gulf of Tonkin. There, as in Iraq, we went to war based on lies. Or perhaps Libya is the closest comparison, since the NATO attack on the Libyan people and government forces started with a no-fly zone. Although that war used the legal fig leaf of a UN resolution, a Syrian no-fly zone would not. Having been fooled into supporting one illegal NATO war, Russia and China will not support such a resolution again.  If NATO acts unilaterally, it will be even more blatantly illegal than the attack on Libya. The results would be at least as disastrous.

A major difference between Vietnam and Syria is that Russia has combat troops in Syria. An attack could be construed as an attack against Russia, which is legally in the country at the request of the Syrian government. The US recently threatened to do just that when the Syrian Army bombed separatist Kurdish forces, with which US Special Forces were illegally embedded.

Clinton and other neocons seem unconcerned with the possibility of sparking a war with a nuclear-armed power. They are calling for a no-fly zone or even more aggressive actions. Trump would be under intense pressure to abandon his no-regime-change position and do the same. No one in the foreign policy establishment appears willing or able to question the groupthink under which it is operating.

Few in Congress seem to understand that most of the official statements coming from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community reflect a distorted, one-sided view of the conflict that ignores the facts, international law and common sense. It’s our job to educate them and demand that the government attack the real roots of the terror in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Washington itself.


  1. I have a dear Syrian friend whose family has been part of the nonviolent resistance to Assad from the beginning. She points out that it's common for outsiders to see this as a battle between Asad and ISIS. However, the brunt of the casualties have been civilians, attacked from all sides by Asad, ISIS, and Russia. The nonviolent resistance is still operating now, and creating grassroots governing and care structures trying to meet human needs in horrendous circumstances. And knowing that tomorrow they may face barrel bombs delivered by government planes.

    Rick your analysis seems to ignore this sector in egregious ways. Would you please comment on this?

    1. I am a little confused by your comments. I don't know ANYONE who believes that the conflict in Syria is "Assad v ISIS." As Steven points out below, it is far more complex. When you look at the killing done by the "moderate" rebels as well as those who are acknowledged terrorists, both domestic and foreign, it is hard to accept the assumption (for that is all it is) that government forces are responsible for the majority of deaths.

      Assad has no wish to slaughter his own people. He is working with the nonviolent resistance, and has to some extent since before the protests started. Since it has started, that has been a much more concerted effort. There is a huge difference between them and the "rebels" who want to overthrow the government violently with US help. If your friend cannot seem to tell the difference, I have to wonder if he or she is being honest with you.

  2. Well, first of all your source ("dear Syrian friend") is anecdotal in nature. More important, however is your slip when you state, "the brunt of the casualties have been civilians, attacked from all sides by Asad, ISIS, and Russia." You've left out the US, the "Free Syrian Army" terrorists, al Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra, Turkey and Israel's role.

    Your analysis, OMNI Center, leaves out those very, very important sectors which seems quite a bit more egregious as those sectors are instigating regime change or, by what most people would know it, a terrorist coup d'etat.

    1. Thanks, Steven. I agree completely.

      I assume that OMNI is genuinely concerned about the humanitarian tragedy in Syria. If so, I hope that he or she will help spread the word that it would not be happening without the complicity of the US in providing arms and other support to the foreign terrorists paid for by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies. If the US wanted it to end, it could do it with a phone call to King Salman.

  3. You once again are able to see through the group think that has been guiding our foreign policy for almost a century. If you challenge their thinking you get attacked for being naive or worse. Your remarks are cogent, well reasoned and objective. Theirs "we good them bad". Every time a boogie man falls, they create another.

    1. Thanks, Mike. You may be pleased to learn that the editors of the Eugene Register-Guard agreed. They published it last week.

      It's not the NYT, but we break through the corporate media blockade where we can!