Interview with Australian political scientist Binoy Kampmark

 

Binoy-Kampmark

Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: Australian university professor and political scientist Binoy Kampmark believes that the United States and its allies have been looking for an excuse to launch a military strike against Syria for many years, and the recent allegations that the government of President Assad has used chemical weapons against the civilians has given them the pretext.

“Emails released by WikiLeaks via the security firm Stratfor show discussions in December 2011 taking place between officials of France, Britain and the U.S. contemplating military action against Syria. What is required there, claims the message, is some humanitarian catastrophe to tie it in and justify the intervention,” said Dr. Binoy Kampmark in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

Dr. Kampmark says that the U.S. doesn’t truly care for the rights of the people of Syria and its calls for humanitarianism are duplicitous and hypocritical.

“Even if it were shown that Assad’s forces did it [use of the chemical weapons], it would not, on its own accord, justify a punitive strike against Syrian targets in the name of broader humanitarian principles. This would be cruise missile humanitarianism, far more dangerous than the moral assertion of protecting civilians,” he said.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark is an Australian political scientist who was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He writes extensively for various publications, including CounterPunch, Counter Currents, Dissident Voice, and Eureka Street.

Kampmark lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne in law and politics. He is running for the Australian Senate with the WikiLeaks Party as Julian Assange’s running mate.

Q: The United States and its allies are now trumpeting for war on Syria on the allegations that the government of President Assad has used chemical weapons against the civilians in the Ghouta district of Damascus. However, a Reuters report as well as an independent report by an AP journalist and some other independent sources confirm that it was not the government, but the rebels, who used the chemical weapons which were already handed over to them by Saudi Arabia. What’s your viewpoint? Is this allegation a justifiable cause for war on Syria?

A: There is a body of evidence on both sides about the strike and the fact that the rebels might well have deployed such weapons cannot be ruled out.  Even if it were shown that Assad’s forces did it, it would not, on its own accord, justify a punitive strike against Syrian targets in the name of broader humanitarian principles.  This would be cruise missile humanitarianism, far more dangerous than the moral assertion of protecting civilians. Any such intervention will have an unwarranted impact on backing one side over the other, whatever objective stance supposedly being taken by the Obama administration and its allies.

Q: It has been claimed by the foreign-backed terrorists that the Syrian government has dropped “napalm” bombs on a school playground in northern Syria which is considered as an incendiary material. In 1980, the United Nations declared the use of napalm gel in densely-populated civilian areas a war crime. The United States used this material several times in the 20th century. The napalm bombings of Japan in 1945 killed at least 330,000 Japanese citizens. The US also dropped nearly 400,000 tons of napalm bombs on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos between 1963 and 1973. Why should the use of chemical weapons be legal and justifiable for the United States, but illegal and unacceptable for the others?

A: There are two movements here, an international legal movement governed by such treaty law as the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Poisonous Gas Conventions, and the policy movement of selectively interpreting the deployment of such weapons. There is an acceptance that the deployment of such weapons is unacceptable in international law and by international jurists. The debate about such weapons as napalm or for that matter, cluster bombs, shows how selective interpretations of cruelty, let alone legality, can be. The fact is that such weapons do violate international law, and in the absence of an enforceable legal structure to punish its offenders, we are simply going to see more of the same. Note that the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 purposely excluded carpet bombing as part of the indictment largely because the Allies did so with such merciless dedication during WWII. It all lies in the definition and application.

Q: Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the United States to present its alleged evidence showing that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the civilians to the Security Council. However, the Washington officials apparently don’t have access to such evidence as it’s non-existent. Do you think that these allegations are being leveled against the Syrian government simply because there’s no other excuse to put pressure on it or get rid of it?

A: Emails released by WikiLeaks via the security firm Stratfor show discussions in December 2011 taking place between officials of France, Britain and the U.S. contemplating military action against Syria. What is required there, claims the message, is some humanitarian catastrophe to tie it in and justify the intervention.  This has striking similarities to the pressures placed on implicating the Bosnia Serb Rebel forces over the Markale killings that took place in Sarajevo in 1994. Initially, suggestions were that the Bosnian Serbs, not Bosniaks, were responsible. Subsequent accounts suggest that the shells could not have been fired by Serbian origins.

Q: The U.S. government has contested that there were children killed in the chemical attack that took place in Damascus on August 21. Does the United States really care for the lives of children? If so, then why did it keep silent on the death of hundreds of Gaza children in the Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009 massacre in Gaza) or the suffering of the Iranian children exposed to different threats as a result of the economic sanctions which deny them crucial medicine and foodstuff?

A: Humanity, and the general idea of humanitarianism, is a trick that is played when needed in the evangelical nature of U.S. interventionism. The dead child, killed by a dictator, is a convenient advertising symbol for cartoon book morality. It is High Noon and the necessity for moral engagement. Such morality is only convenient and paraded when American interests require bolstering and ennobling for the public. The Syrian intervention pays well to Obama’s liberal constituency, where the liberal class has surrendered to what is perceived to be necessary militarism. We saw this with President Clinton’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.

Q: U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a limited attack against Syria in the coming days. The Syrian people don’t know what it means, but they surely know that President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Does a peace advocate really encourage military adventures around the world which will surely claim the lives of innocent people? Doesn’t President Obama’s decision to attack Syria without the UNSC permission show the political nature of the Nobel Peace Prize, meaning that it is given to someone who does not deserve it, at least in recent years?

A: Tom Lehrer claimed about the Nobel Prize that satire became obsolete after former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger won it for his “peace talks” with North Vietnam. His North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, rightly refused it. It is axiomatic that the war monger will also be a peacenik when required.  Obama is appealing to that paradoxical strand of cruise missile leftism – wage war when necessary, make peace when required. In a sense, the classic example of this paradox is U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who won the prize for his involvement in helping end the Russo-Japanese War. Yet this was the same person who said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. He did find it awkward, but he could not say no to the then prize money of $40,000 to help fund his family pursuits.

Q: You know that the House of Commons disagreed with the participation of the British government in a military campaign against Syria. This is a great disappointment for the United States as its main ally in Europe has publically snubbed it this way. What’s your viewpoint regarding this unprecedented rift between the United States and Britain which has come to surface so ostensibly?

A: The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is still attempting to forget a war front with his cabinet and his own party, though he will not get House of Common’s backing. The waters have been affected by Iraq, and war fatigue has prevented Britain from being totally convinced by any military effort in Syria. It remains to be seen whether France, which did not suffer the ignominy of the Iraq conflict, follows the same way, though given its recent interventions in Africa and in Libya, Washington may be more optimistic to get them on board. The reality, however, is that the U.S., probably with Israeli assistance, will see a unilateral strike as possible even in the absence of ‘like-minded’ support.

Q: What’s your prediction for the future of crisis in Syria? Will the military intervention lead to the destabilization of the country? How will the other players in the region, such as Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon take action in response to a military aggression against Syria?

A: I am not privy to a crystal ball, but I am privy to the historical record. Such interventions end badly. There is no such thing as a “surgical” strike, one calculated to remove a symptom or a cavity. Weapons have no psychological, ethnic or nationalist sense. International policeman have no bearing on the ground, sense for locality, notably in civil conflict. The U.S. is a true colossus, powerful, but clay-footed and fighting with one eye, adjusting stakes in a regional conflict, and propelling catalysts in unpredictable ways. The Iraq intervention in 2003 opened up several fronts in the ‘war’ on terrorism rather than closing them. It militarized the Middle East against the U.S. and U.S.-friendly interests. Any such intervention will also give Russia a pretext for heavier involvement, given its current naval interests in the country, while also forcing the Saudis, Qataris and even Turks into the fray. The consequence here will not be a client state subservient to U.S.-Western interests, but a Sunni state backed by Saudi-Qatari interests.

This interview has been originally published on Fars News Agency.