It is to be hoped that you will read this piece. Perhaps that should be put differently: it is hoped that we will all be alive on the day that this piece appears — or is intended to appear.
The reason for concern that we might not be around much longer is the Trump tweet of April 11 threatening Russia in offensively belligerent terms that it must refrain from attempting to defend Syria from Washington’s promised missile blitz.
His words chill the spine. It is barely believable that a US president could announce to the world that “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Trump is spoiling for a fight and has no idea what he’s setting in motion. (He has obviously no idea what a “smart” missile is, for a start.) He is trying to force Russia into a corner — and Russia will not be forced. If he engages in illegal military action against Syria by firing missiles at it and in so doing damages Russian bases or equipment in Syria, there will be most serious consequences.
There could be a nuclear war.
Exactly a month ago, on March 13, CNBC reported that General Valery Gerasimov, Russia's Chief of the General Staff, said Russia had reliable information about militants preparing to falsify a Syrian government chemical attack against civilians. In this event “the US would use this attack to accuse Syrian government troops of using chemical weapons. He added that the US would then plan to launch a missile strike on government districts in Damascus.” What he predicted has come about, save for the fact that the strikes (as at the moment of writing) are yet to take place.
General Gerasimov was absolutely clear that should the fabricated chemical attack be executed, and if the US did strike Syria, and if “there is a threat to the lives of our military, the Russian Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures both over the missiles and carriers that will use them.” This statement was not covered in Trump’s Fox News daily intelligence briefing, and the only reaction from the Pentagon was to send CNBC a message saying that Russia should “stop creating distractions.” There was no question of asking Russia for information about the falsified chemical attack that was being planned. Nor was there any suggestion that there be constructive discussion about means to lower tension.
So now the United States is planning to attack Syria, a state with an elected government that is under grave threat from rebel forces and Sunni Islamic extremists who, if they managed to conquer the country, would slaughter every member of every other Islamic sect and all the almost million Syrian Christians who are protected by the Assad government — an embarrassing fact that is kept very quiet indeed by Western governments and their media.
Syria has permanent representation in the United Nations. It is acknowledged internationally, albeit it most resentfully by many in the West, as a sovereign state.
The first Purpose of the United Nations Organisation is “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.” The emphasis is on “peaceful means”, a condition that was ignored by the United States when it engaged in its wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and its current clandestine combat operations in countless countries.
There is no question of the US engaging in “peaceful means” in Syria, whose government it intends to destroy, and its latest justification for attacking the country is the yet-to-be-proved chemical attack on a city in which Syrian forces had already overcome the crazed militants who had occupied it for so long. There was no reason whatever for the Syrian government to use chemical or any other weapons in these last stages of its impending victory over the Islamic fanatics.
The Charter of the United Nations mandates that “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” But the United States has decided to again attack Syria without any such approach.
The United Nations Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” There has been no indication that the United States would be acting in self-defence by attacking the State of Syria, and the UN Security Council has not approved any such action against it. A US missile strike on Syria would be totally contrary to international law.
On April 11 US naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean included the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook along with an unknown number of cruise-missile equipped submarines, likely including the USS Georgia. But however many missile capable vessels there are, their precise locations are known (even the submarines) by Russia, which has the Mediterranean well and truly covered, and if the US ships’ missiles kill Russians in Syria, there will be retaliation. It would be impossible for Russia to refrain from taking action against the country that killed its citizens, knowing well that they were in the targeted locations.
Even Trump must know that a missile blitz on Syria that involved the death of Russians would be vastly provocative.
Trump’s military parade friend, French President Emmanuel Macron, has not yet made up his mind whether to join in Washington’s anti-Russia missile strikes on Syria, and it seems that British Prime Minister Theresa May will be forced to put the idea to a democratic vote in the House of Commons, where it will assuredly be defeated. And nobody else in Europe favours the idea of going to war with Russia.
Trump is on his own in threatening that he’s going to missile blitz the Syrians, and the hell with Russia. His bizarre tweet “Get ready Russia,” because the missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” has caused alarm in Washington and has shown the world that he is verging on the psychotic. If he does kill Russians, he will learn that this is not a wise thing to do, because Russia is not going to accept such action and will probably destroy a large and expensive missile-firing US navy ship. What then?