By Steve Max
Was the brutal attack in Paris just one more irrational bloody act by a demented sect, or was it more in the line of an act of war, a type of war where causalities on all sides are overwhelmingly civilian? If it was an act of war, what are its origins?
A recent headline said: “France Launches First Airstrikes Against Syria.” You probably think that it announced the French retaliation for the brutal ISIS murders in Paris. It didn’t. The date was September 27th, 2015. After the Paris shooting, French President Hollande said “This is war.” He apparently didn’t mean that it was the start of a war. That had already happened. He must have been describing what war is – you hit them with whatever you have, and they hit back with whatever they have. That’s war, and countries that engage in it expect at the outset to sacrifice a certain amount of their civilian population. ISIS is an exception, as it has virtually no civilian population. It hijacks Iraqi and Syrian civilians who, if they aren’t killed by ISIS, are killed when bombs fall on ISIS,
The New Yorker magazine reports that ISIS made it clear: the mass murder is retaliation for being bombed. “As long as you continue to bomb us, you will not live in peace,” a bearded IS militant said in a video claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks. “You will even be afraid to go to the market.” While horrified, we should not be surprised.
The history of these awful events goes back much further. Said the Guardian (UK),” France, the former colonial power after the Ottoman Empire broke up, has been one of the most outspoken western powers on Syria from the start of the crisis. Two years ago France was pushing for military action against Assad. . . .” Two months later, France announced that it was starting weapons shipments to Syrian rebels. “Despite being one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fiercest critics, France has until now resisted arming the rebels, fearing that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist militant elements fighting in the country. . . . According to British defense consultancy IHS Jane’s, up to 10,000 jihadists from all over the world are fighting alongside the rebels in Syria as they try to overthrow the government. However, there are also jihadis who are fighting to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state.” France 24. 9/20/13.
Of course, the role of France in Syria is miniscule compared to that of the U.S., which has been trying to install a pro-American regime since the 1950s and has armed and bankrolled the Syrian opposition. The U.S. claims to be able to distinguish between arming moderate militias and arming extremists, although it has been noted that if they have guns, they aren’t moderates. We are seeing both a terrorist and a refugee crisis that was manufactured in the West as a result of the mistaken view that the U.S. and its allies can change any regime at will.
The Irish Times put it well, saying, “But ultimately, the chaos in the Middle East – and by extension the attacks in Paris – are the result of George W. Bush and Tony Blair’s mendacious, disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq. High-ranking Baathists from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services, though secularists, joined forces with the jihadists who fought the occupation of Iraq. . . . Al-Qaeda in Iraq bred the even more extreme offshoot, IS. There’s a straight line between the radicalization of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader imprisoned a decade ago in the Americans’ Camp Bucca, and France’s present torment.”
Of course, knowing the roots of the crisis is not the same as solving it. The first step, in my view, is to end the Western-sponsored war against Assad and unite all forces in Syria willing to fight ISIS. The next could be ending the ongoing threats of an invasion of Iran. Yes, we can bomb ISIS, but we can’t bomb an idea or seven guys with guns who live next door. A new ISIS will spring up if the present one goes. Peace and an end to imperialist regime change is the only solution.
Steve Max is a DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy.
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