By John Kiriakou
President Donald Trump, just like Barack Obama before him, now seems intent on getting the United States involved in an unwinnable civil war in Syria. Launching 59 cruise missiles against rundown Syrian air bases in the middle of the night is easy enough. But there are consequences to Trump’s actions. And Republican and conservative celebration at this use of force notwithstanding, Trump has put Syria’s Christians (and those in neighboring countries) in jeopardy, just as Obama and George W. Bush did in Iraq.
Neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies took root years ago in Washington. Both parties try to out-hawk each other on military and foreign policy to prove who is tougher, who is stronger, and who is quicker to use military force, even in countries where the U.S. has no obvious vital interests. There never seems to be any discussion about whether military intervention is legal, let alone moral or ethical. And there is certainly never any talk about asking Congress for authorization, despite the fact that failing to do so usually is a violation of the War Powers Act.
Republicans’ knee-jerk support for military intervention in the Middle East, whether it’s Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere, ought to be anathema to any politician who considers himself or herself a “Christian.” It is these interventions that are having the effect of dooming the small Christian communities left in places like Syria and Iraq.
I’m going to make a big assumption here. I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad actually was responsible for launching a chemical attack on Syrian civilians in rebel-held territory last week. Many of my friends in the intelligence community believe that it was an accident. They believe that Assad sought only to drop conventional bombs, but that those bombs hit a facility where chemical weapons were being stored. That’s why Trump can say with certainty that U.S. intelligence agencies were able to track Syrian fighter jets from their bases to the site of the bombing and then back to their bases. But there’s no intelligence – at least none that’s been released – that shows that Assad deliberately dropped chemical weapons on civilians.
The problem for U.S. politicians who fancy themselves Christians, though, is that Bashar al-Assad is literally the only person standing between Syrian Christians and annihilation. It is Assad, like his father Hafez, who have protected Syrian Christians for generations. Syrian Christians make up 11.2 percent of the population, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. But nearly a third of Syria’s 600,000 believers have left the country since the start of the civil war in 2011, pushed out by terrorist groups like ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, according to The New York Times. Before the civil war started, Christians participated in all elements of Syrian society, including as members of parliament, the cabinet, the diplomatic corps, and the business community. They maintained their own court system, they were free to practice their faith in churches and cathedrals around the country, and even the Syrian military was fully integrated, rather than having separate Christian units.
Similarly, in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Christians served in the parliament and cabinet, they practiced their faith freely and openly, and they were successful in business. Thanks to the George W. Bush invasion of Iraq and the subsequent civil war, almost the entire Iraqi Christian community has left for Jordan, the UK, and the U.S.
There is a solution to all of this, but it’s not quick and it’s not sexy. It’s called “diplomacy.” Whether Trump likes Assad’s politics or not, the only way to save the country from becoming a failed state or an ISIS state is to sit at the table with all the stakeholders. Those include Syria, Russia, and, yes, Iran. We are going to have to accept the fact that Assad is not going anywhere. Nor should he. His is the internationally-recognized government of Syria, no matter what Trump and Obama have said. We should respect that and bring him to the negotiating table.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.
(From Reader Supported News)