The Syrian Hoax

by Harry Browne

March 3, 2005         

Once again the Bush propaganda machine has swung into action, inciting America to believe there’s a terrible threat to the world’s future — a threat that must be destroyed, by force if necessary.

And that threat is Syria.

Syria has 13,000 soldiers in Lebanon — impeding the burning desire of the Lebanese people to be free. "Freedom is on the march," thanks to all those people the U.S. military killed in Iraq, and we must act now to be sure that nothing stops the great march.

According to the propaganda machine, the Syrian troops in Lebanon are a threat to democracy, and so the White House is demanding that Syria withdraw its troops immediately.

And there’s more: it’s common knowledge that the Syrians were behind the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon has left office, and the Lebanese people are cheering in the streets — demonstrating that they want nothing to do with Syria — as well as protesting the assassination of Hariri.

In addition, Condoleezza Rice says she has "firm evidence" that the Islamic Jihad militant group in Syria helped plan the recent Tel Aviv suicide bombing. She went even further: "There is firm evidence that Palestinian Islamic Jihad, sitting in Damascus, not only knew about the attacks, but was involved in the planning, . . . And so the Syrians have a lot to answer for."

Finally, the U.S. State Department just released its annual report on human rights abuses in all the countries of the world (except the United States), and the story of torture and other crimes in Syria is a mile long.

The indictment of Syria is lengthy and frightening. Obviously, Syria is a living hell, a threat to peace in the Middle East, and a rogue state that supports terrorism.

So load your gun and let’s get ready to kill some more bad guys.

On the Other Hand . . . 

If the mainstream press and TV news channels were to get their information from somewhere other than the U.S. government, they might help us to understand that the situation isn’t as black and white as the Bush administration is trying to make it out to be.

Yesterday (March 2nd) I listened to National Public Radio and heard the Syrian ambassador to the United States in an extraordinary interview.

Here are some of the things he said . . . 

Regarding Rice’s demand that Syrian troops leave Lebanon immediately:

Actually, if anyone with a sense of fairness would look at the history of our presence in Lebanon, you could easily tell that we had 42,000 troops in Lebanon 10 years ago, and we started a series of withdrawals and redeployments. Today, we have only 13,000 troops, and they — all of them are outside major Lebanese cities. So we have done this in the past, and we have explicitly said that we will continue doing this. . . . 

And we have repeatedly said on the record in the past three years, not because of this pressure now, the moment the Lebanese government will ask us to leave, we will leave. And we are leaving, absolutely.

Regarding Rice’s statement that she had "firm evidence that Palestinian Islamic Jihad sitting in Damascus not only knew about the attacks, but was involved in the planning":

This is extremely disappointing. First, let me say that we condemn what has happened. Second, Syria is providing every possible political support to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, so that he can enhance the peace process. There is a window of opportunity for peace in the Middle East. We are actually supporting his efforts. Mahmoud Abbas has said something 180 percent contradictory to what Secretary Rice has said. He said there is no evidence whatsoever linking Syria to that attack.

We feel disappointed because this is reminiscent to the series of accusations that used to be leveled against Iraq before the invasion on Iraq.

As to terrorist groups based in Syria:

What we said to the Americans in the past two years — and now I am repeating this, on the record — is "The moment you bring us a shred of evidence that anybody, anybody is doing this, we will act upon it." I will repeat: "We will act upon it."

But the problem is they never come to us and tell us, "Look, this is what we have." They only go to the media and say, "We think that this is happening," or "We believe that this is happening out of Damascus." Now we do not allow this. We do not believe this is happening, but we do not stop here. We tell our American counterparts, "Whenever you want to really find a solution to this problem, come and discuss it with us. Show us what evidence you have, and we will act upon it."

You can hear the interview free of charge, or you can order a written transcript for $4.95.)

I must remind you that 90% of what we know about foreign affairs is information that has come from the U.S. government. That’s where CNN, Fox TV News, ABC, NBC, CBS, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and almost all the rest of the American media get nearly all their information. And we’ve seen plenty of evidence that the Bush administration has no qualms whatsoever about spreading disinformation to further its political programs.

So What’s Doing in Syria & the Rest of the Middle East?

What, then, do we really know about the march to freedom and the Syrian threat?

1. There are 13,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon. There are 150,000 American troops in Iraq. Which is more of an invading, occupying army?

2. The Syrian troops in Lebanon are all in the countryside — ready to help restore order if needed, but generally out of sight of the Lebanese people. The American troops in Iraq are all over the place — killing insurgents and civilians alike while devastating cities like Fallujah.

3. There are no reports of Lebanese insurgents fighting the Syrian troops, while there are daily clashes between Iraqi insurgents and American troops.

4. As Pat Buchanan has pointed out, it would make no sense for the Syrians to have assassinated the Lebanese ex-Prime Minister — since they had to know that they would automatically become the #1 suspect and bring the wrath of Bush down upon their heads.

5. Even as Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon in 1991, President George H.W. Bush was proudly listing Syria as a member of the coalition of nations fighting Saddam Hussein.

6. The Bush administration, as usual, won’t negotiate anything with anyone. The Bushies prefer to make accusations in the media, assert that they have evidence that no one ever gets to see, and incite Americans to hate another nation of human beings.

7. The claims that recent democratic developments in Arab countries prove that the Bush doctrine has succeeded are as premature as the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Lincoln. I’m not aware of a single country in the Middle East in which the citizens have one iota more liberty than they did three years ago. All we’ve seen are tiny baby steps toward democracy — meaning that some people might get the opportunity to vote on who will officiate in their police states, just as the citizens of Iraq got to vote under the Hussein regime.

8. The TV pictures of a Lebanese crowd celebrating the fall of the pro-Syrian Lebanese government no more demonstrate the attitudes of all Lebanese than do the TV pictures of U.S. pro-abortion rallies demonstrate that all Americans (or even a majority) are in favor of abortions.

9. Despite the State Department’s human rights report of torture and other ghastly conditions inside Syria, the U.S. government has sent some of its "War on Terror" prisoners to Syria for interrogation — and, presumably, torture. And not one American politician is embarrassed by the contradiction.

Once again, the Bush administration has cried "Havoc!" and is gearing up to unleash the Dogs of War.

And if we’re smart, we won’t believe a word of it.