U.S. unjustly looks to Syria

By Jasir Ghanchi

After successfully overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, it seems that the Bush administration is now eyeing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in neighboring Baath-party controlled Syria. Even before the situation in Iraq has been stabilized, Washington is indicating that unless Syria cooperates, the Syrian people might be the next candidates for American-enforced “liberation.”

But why should the U.S. go after Syria? The administration claims Syria is developing chemical weapons, that it assisted Iraq in its effort to resist the American invasion, that it backs “terrorist” groups such as the Hezbollah and Hamas, and that it’s a dictatorial regime with little respect for human rights. These charges are extremely dubious and they expose the true goals of the Bush administration.

Bush claims that Syria has chemical weapons. There is no proof to back that up; U.S. troops still haven’t come across any of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Syria wants the U.N. Security Council to ban all WMD in the Middle East, and welcomes U.N. inspectors to check if Syria has any WMD. Given the U.S.’s desire to check the spread of WMD, why hasn’t Bush welcomed Syria’s proposal? Is it because Israel, America’s “democratic” ally, allegedly possesses nuclear weapons, even though all its Arab neighbors signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty? It’s often said that Israel’s case is different from that of its Arab neighbors because Israel is an American ally and a democracy. So could a democratic pro-American Iraq also possess WMD?

I don’t doubt that hundreds of Syrians, dismayed at the pounding their Muslim brethren across the border were receiving at the hands of the U.S., crossed into Iraq to fight alongside Saddam’s troops. But what would the Syrian government stand to gain from acting in a hostile fashion towards the U.S. in the defense of a collapsing regime? When Pakistanis were crossing into Afghanistan to aid the Taliban, was the Pakistani government held responsible for the actions of Pakistani citizens? No, it wasn’t; Pres. Musharraf allied himself with America, whereas Bashar Al-Assad refuses to submit to American domination of the Middle East.

The Syrian government’s treatment of political dissidents leaves much to be desired. But Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are as prolific, if not more, in violating their citizens’ human rights as is Syria. Why is Syria being singled out? Again, Syria doesn’t take orders from the U.S. like most of its Arab neighbors do. Bush has no genuine concern for human rights in the Middle East, and the human rights issue is only a political excuse for hostile acts against governments opposed to Israel. Syria’s support for militant Palestinian groups is regrettable, but it must be viewed in the context of Israel’s brutal treatment of a defenseless population. Why is it that Israel is spared even the slightest condemnation despite the fact that Ariel Sharon’s actions have outraged the entire world? These militant groups will disappear once a just peace is established between the Israelis and Palestinians. If Bush continues to look at the world in terms of “good” and “evil” (“good” meaning you are with America, “evil” meaning you aren’t), it will only exacerbate the problems of the Middle East.

The U.S. should disabuse itself of the idea that it’s done a great job in “liberating” Iraq. The disorder and mayhem that has descended upon Iraq is appalling. The U.S. took care to ensure that no harm befell Iraq’s oil fields, but U.S. troops ignored looters ransacking hospitals, museums, and homes.

No one shed a tear at Saddam’s fall, but the U.S. is responsible for what happens next. The chaos that has enveloped Iraq is a direct result of the American military action, and the U.S. must undo the damage that it has directly and indirectly caused in Iraq. Unjustly threatening Syria will only further destabilize the Middle East, and the United States must concentrate on the reconstruction of Iraq and the end of the plight of the Palestinian people.