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Dublin: 11°C Monday 8 August 2022

Julien Mercille: Liberals are wrong to cheer on Trump's bombs

Boosting humanitarian aid and taking in more refugees would be more effective in alleviating suffering, writes Julien Mercille.

Julien Mercille Associate professor, UCD

HERE WE GO again. The US is bombing the Middle East, and everybody’s cheering.

But consider this. Last year, the US dropped 26,172 bombs on seven countries: Syria got 12,192 bombs, Iraq 12,095, and Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan got the rest.

In 2015, the US dropped a total of 23,144 bombs. And one could go on and on.

What about Tomahawk missiles?

Trump fired 59 at Syria, but there’s nothing new to this. Since 1991, US and UK forces have used the missiles multiple times. A sample:

  • 288 missiles on Iraq in 1991
  • 330 on Iraq in 1998
  • 50 on Afghanistan in 2001
  • 725 on Iraq in 2003
  • 124 on Libya in 2011
  • 47 on Syria in 2014

Just imagine the complete hysteria in the West if those numbers had been launched by Russia.

What has been the result of all this bombing?

More destruction and more terrorism. Iraq is destroyed. Syria is destroyed. Libya and Afghanistan too. Destroying Iraq has contributed to making Syria an even bigger mess and led to the emergence of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), one of the most savage terrorist groups out there.

ISIS came out of the destruction caused by the Iraq War. Some Iraqi insurgents who later became ISIS leaders were incarcerated and radicalised in an American prison in Iraq called Camp Bucca for a few years during the occupation, as the Washington Post has reported.

Also, the invasion of Iraq increased terrorism sevenfold globally, as a New York University study found. Clearly, bombing other countries fosters a terrorist response.

But the West is still gung ho about bombing

EU leaders agreed with Trump’s strike, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande agreed, even Canada’s supposedly progressive Justin Trudeau said he “fully supports” the strike. And of course, Hillary Clinton also supported it, calling on the military to destroy Assad’s air fields.

Likewise for liberal commentators, examples of which are given in the video clips here.

Perhaps the most orgasmic description of the strikes came from Brian Williams on MSNBC, who described the strikes as such:

We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US Navy vessels… I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen, ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons’… they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.

The New York Times ran a piece entitled “On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First”. Here in Ireland, Fintan O’Toole wrote that “Trump did the right thing” by bombing Syria.

What are the other options?

Those who oppose military solutions are always asked: “But what would you do instead?”

For a start, it is important to avoid bombing and to keep the military out of it. If that had been done in previous years, a lot of the problems we face now may never have arisen.

Then, the key is to negotiate with Russia and the other parties involved. Diplomacy and negotiation are the only ways to address problems in Syria. Sure, that won’t be easy since we have three megalomaniacs in the room: Trump, Putin and Assad.

But deals can be struck. In 2012, Russia did propose such a deal that would have removed Assad and basically solved the crisis. Was Russia sincere in its offer? We don’t know, because the US rejected it out of hand without even trying.

Aid and refugees

Also, boosting humanitarian aid and taking in more refugees would be very effective in alleviating suffering as well, as aid groups have outlined. But Trump proposed to cut aid budgets and tried to implement a ban on Syrians coming into the US.

Now if all that is still not convincing to liberals, they should try to answer the following questions: What do you do when the US invades Iraq and kills hundreds of thousands of people like it did recently? In that case, is Iraq entitled to bomb Washington and New York “to send a message” that those war crimes won’t be tolerated? If not, why not?

Some might say that “chemical weapons are worse than anything”. Yes they’re horrible, as shown by the pictures of the 70 people killed, including children.

But is this worse than the US airstrike that killed more than 200 people in Mosul a few days ago, one of the worst US bombing of civilians in 25 years? And is it worse than when Israel kills thousands of Palestinians, hundreds of which women and children (here and here)? Should Trump bomb Israel “to send a message?”

No, he shouldn’t. And it’s the same thing for Syria.

Julien Mercille is an associate professor at University College Dublin. Twitter: @JulienMercille.

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About the author:

Julien Mercille  / Associate professor, UCD

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