Obama and US foreign policy like an episode from “Soap”
Following the recent twists and turns of US government foreign policy, counter-terrorism strategy and human rights advocacy in relation to Iraq and Syria has become akin to watching an episode of an old American tragi-comedy called “Soap”. Among the storylines to be featured in this parody of daytime soap operas, were plot elements such as alien abduction, demonic possession, murder and kidnapping. Each week the viewer was left bewildered and amazed as to what could possibly happen next. Well the White House spokesperson may not have too much to reveal in the way of alien abduction and demonic possession (there is always murders and kidnappings aplenty) however the emerging scripts complete with u turns and double standards from the Obama administration promise to be equally farcical.
Making a mockery of US designated terrorist list
Firstly lets look at the well established US designated Foreign Terrorists Organizations list (FTOs). The US strikes the fear of God into anyone that might be remotely associated with those featured on this list, there are prices on the heads of persons classed as deviant and deadly with the public expected to co-operate and help bring the terrorists to justice. Except, wait a moment, how can this be happening… the US is now allegedly funding and arming a designated terrorist group, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) that they themselves placed on the list?
Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended
- It must be a foreign organization.
- The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)), or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)), or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
- The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
PKK now trying to get off FTO list
The majority of US politicians and American allies have conveniently looked the other way as PKK assisted in the rescue of the Yazidis in Iraq, stranded on a mountainside, “fleeing from Islamic State (IS)”. (They also seem to have blanked out the fact that the war in Iraq initiated by the US and Britain on false information greatly increased sectarian violence, helped the rise of IS and claimed over 1 million lives.) So who holds the US government to account for “unlawfully” providing material support to a terrorist organization? The answer will probably be…. nobody, though if it were an individual supporting a terrorist organization that would be another matter. Confused?… So am I!
If the US government can openly assist a designated terrorist group when it suits, surely this negates the entire list as meaningless and pretty much cancels all American counter-terrorism policy?
The media was also filled with tales of alleged horror in Iraq as we listened to President Obama detail his grave concerns regarding IS committing human rights abuses. On Monday according to Reuters, human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned “appalling, widespread” crimes being committed by Islamic State forces in Iraq including mass executions of prisoners and “ethnic and religious cleansing”. However on closer inspection some of the ghastly images which have appeared in the media in recent days were in fact not of Yazidi being abused but of atrocities committed by the Assad regime in Syria. Which brings me on to the next anticipated storyline from the White House.
Proposal that the US help Bashar al -Assad to fight IS
There are now growing indications of a forthcoming alliance between Washington and the Bashar al- Assad regime to fight IS in Syria. We have just heard President Obama condemning IS and singing the praises of “Jim” (journalist James Foley to most of us) who was beheaded by the organization in response to US foreign policy in Iraq and recent airstrikes. (There is another double standard here too… its “barbaric” to behead people if you are IS, but acceptable practice to decapitate a baby through a US drone strike). However if Obama truly respected the work of James Foley who helped expose the horrors of the Assad regime among other issues, there would be no question of teaming up with the very dictator accused of the most hideous of human rights violations.
The tales of systematic torture in Syrian prisons are some of the worst crimes imaginable. Who could forget seeing the photos of not only adults but children allegedly bound, beaten, burnt, dismembered. Lets us not forget the gassing of the civilian population at East Ghouta in 2013. I was one of those who received the first videos and reports from activists on the ground in Syria claiming the use of chemical weapons and alerted mainstream media. It was hard to comprehend at first what I was seeing just over a year ago as I wrote up my blog to awaken the world to this terrible attack on locals.
Children gassed in East Ghouta 2013
“awoke this morning to messages and videos from Syrian opposition supporters depicting disturbing scenes of an alleged chemical attack on East Ghouta, Damascus with claims it was launched by Bashar al-Assad regime. Initially there was little on mainstream media and a friend who might have been able to check out further on the ground was not immediately contactable. Message with first video read:-
“East Ghouta, Damascas province, 21-08-2013: regime’s chemical weapons attacks on Ein Tarma and Zamalka in the East Ghouta region of Damascus province tonight. According to an eyewitness in East Ghouta, regime forces are now launching missiles at the areas of the attacks in order to prevent rescuers and medical personnel from reaching them”
Max Abrahms states,
“who would have thought Washington would team up with Assad and the PKK as part of the war on terrorism?”
Dr Max Abrahms, assistant head of public policy (political science) at North-Eastern university recently tweeted, “if Assad perceives ISIS as an existential threat, he will tolerate- even secretly welcome- U.S. military assistance.” There is no doubt where US priorities lie, as can be seen in the following statement where crimes against the Syrian people are pushed aside as Abrahms writes,
“from a national security perspective, Washington has a greater obligation to defend American civilians, even if that means working alongside the Alawite dictator. The nature of this cooperation could vary from uncoordinated airstrikes to joint operations. But it’s time for the Obama administration to pick its poison by prioritizing the safety of American civilians over the moral objection of helping out a leader who massacres his own”
Yes indeed politics does make strange bedfellows, but shouldn’t the international community be asking questions where that leaves the US on the issue of morality. Has human rights advocacy becoming so selective that a two tier system is now in operation, one rule for Americans, another for the rest of the world. If morality is to be abandoned, legislation ignored by the state, is this the time when man- made rules no longer count. Will the world forever have to suffer under the US expansionist policy of spreading global “democracy” by any means necessary as the foundations of democracy itself, freedom of speech, truth and justice, human rights and accountability crumble to the point where they barely seem to exist? Is it so surprising then that many around the world are now seeking an alternative system and to the horror of the US and allies gearing up to fight for a long awaited Caliphate.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.