By Michael Drohan
On Saturday, April 7, 2018 a gas attack on the city of Douma in Syria, was reported. Douma is a suburb of Damascus formerly controlled by two jihadist factions, Jaish al-Islam( Army of Islam) and al Nusra Brigade. Both of these jihadist groups are supported by the Saudi Arabian Government. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was informed of the attack and it immediately set in motion the process for sending a team to Syria to investigate the alleged attack. The OPCW reported on April 17 that their team had reached Beirut and were on their way to Syria. The Syrian Government and the Russian Federation had given the green light early in the week of April 9-14 for the investigation to go ahead.
However, the US Government and President Trump came to the judgment that there was an attack and that it was conducted by the Syrian Government on its own people. As yet no determination had been made by any objective body such as the OPCW as to whether there was a gas attack or who had possibly perpetrated it. During the week of April 9-14, a barrage of tweets, attacks and threats directed towards the Syrian government, preceded an assault of 107 cruise missiles on supposed chemical weapons facilities in Syria by the US, France and the United Kingdom the night of April 14th.
Many sources report, however, that since 2014, at least, there have been no chemical weapon facilities in operation in Syria and that the US claims are insincere. The US pretence in regard to the cruise missile attack is that it is a humanitarian intervention to defend and preserve human life. However, the government and President Trump has deemed Syrian victims of that country’s civil war as unwelcome even to visit the US. This is the substance of the so-called Muslim ban of 2017. In fact, only 11 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the US in 2018 thus far.
On the face of it, the April 14 missile attack on Syria bears all the marks of an international crime. It was an attack on a sovereign country which had never attacked or threatened to attack the US. In response to a question about the legality of the attack on Syria, General Mattis declared at a press conference on April 14 that Article 2 of the US Constitution gave the President the authority to conduct the attack. This hardly bears examination, however. Article 2 declares the President to be Commander in Chief of the military and Congress only has the power to declare war. This is according to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
In point of fact, Congress for some decades now has failed to execute its duty and seems to have abdicated its responsibility. Since granting President G.W. Bush the Authority to use Military Force (AUMF) in 2001, every subsequent President has made the presumption that this act is still in force.
Few, if any, believe that humanitarian impulses guided Trump to war in Syria. It is hardly a coincidence that Trump’s missile blasts came in the same week that his legal fixer, Michael Cohen, had his offices and residence raided by the FBI in search of documents related to Trump’s dealings with the porn star, Stormy Daniels. It was also the week that James Comey brought out his new book on his firing by Trump as head of the FBI. It is not too far-fetched to conclude that the principal intent of the missile attacks was to blow Comey and Stormy Daniels off the airwaves and the press. This was a tactic employed by President Clinton in regard to Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, and the debased level to which foreign policy has been reduced in the age of Trump.
The situation in Syria is tragic. Since 2011 when the first uprisings of the Arab Spring took place in Syria, its people have suffered unimaginably. There are at least 4 million Syrian refugees wandering around the Middle East and parts of Europe. A similar number are internally displaced. There are many countries fighting proxy wars in Syria: the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, France and Turkey to name a few. Each has their own, often different, agenda. The victims are the Syrian people. This latest foray by the Trump administration only adds to the suffering of the Syrian people. President Trump hardly knows where Syria is on the map and is only guided by animus towards Muslims, Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah and by efforts to hide his tawdry life with porn stars and playmates.
Michael Drohan is a member of the Editorial Collective and of the Board of the Merton Center