Back to the future: US deception about Syria

01 November 2015 9:45 am

Earlier in the week I wrote about the alarming similarities between the US involvement in Syria to Vietnam.

Almost on cue, President Obama ordered up to 50 special operations troops to Syria. It wouldn’t be major ground operations, he said. They would be there to coordinate local ground forces in the north of the country and other non-specified “coalition efforts” to counter Islamic State.

What’s alarming here is the deception. As Bloomberg’s Eli Lake and Josh Rogin point out, the president has repeatedly insisted Americans would not be engaged in combat operations when the reality is quite different.

“America's special operations forces have been engaging in these kinds of missions for several months, particularly in the Kurdish-controlled provinces in northern Iraq. And the special operations forces have already built up an extensive infrastructure to support these activities,’’ they write.

“According to U.S. and Kurdish officials, the U.S. now runs an operations center in Irbil staffed by a special operations task force whose work is so classified its name is a state secret. The task force has worked in recent months to identify and locate senior leaders of the Islamic State and participated in the mission last Thursday, in which a member of the Army's Delta Force was killed freeing prisoners from an Islamic State prison in Hawija. The president has repeatedly insisted Americans would not be engaged in combat operations.

“The secret U.S. military presence in northern Iraq doesn't end there. Highly trained American special operations forces known as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, who help paint targets for airstrikes of Islamic State vehicles, camps and buildings, also operate in northern Iraq… Finally, according to these officials, there is a contingent from the Marine Special Operations Command in charge of training Kurdish counter-terrorism forces fighting against the Islamic State.”

And if all this sounds like a depressing cases of déjà vu, it is. During the Vietnam War official policy maintained that there were no Americans in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia when in fact the US government was conducting a secret war,

As with Vietnam, this has been implemented by the President, bypassing Congress and the public

At the end of their piece, Lake and Rogin, Lake and Rogin say the US conducts its foreign policy now with one strategy: it lies.

“Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told us Tuesday: ‘There are things that our special forces are involved in that the public is not always aware of.’ He added: ‘It goes with the territory. It’s the way our government is set up. There are operations that take place. The president as we know can make findings.’ Corker, who as chairman of his committee is often briefed on sensitive intelligence and missions for U.S. special operations, told us he was concerned about the extent of the special operations in Iraq. ‘I don’t think Congress is always even close to fully knowledgeable as to what is happening,’ he said.

The bottom line is that the US is now involved in seven wars. Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. The US has military personnel in all these places.

Journalist Aaron Stanley calls it “Vietnam era incrementalism”. Simply add power incrementally to the fight, forget about objectives or strategy, ensure the enemy matches you, and victory is never achieved.

What’s alarming here is the complete lack of accountability and the secrecy. It marks an enormous shift of power away from Congress to the Executive Branch. The result is not an end to American wars. They are continuing and proliferating through unaccountable and covert means. The result: widespread bombings, the confrontation between the US, Russia, Iran and Gulf States, and the creation of millions of refugees.

The claim that Obama has restored order to the world is just a lie.