What is really at stake in Syria? Natural gas or Sarin?

picture of a victim of the poison gas attack in Syria. Image from Daily News.

Fair warning–the links on chemical weapons include some graphic photographs. 

I’ve always suspected that our moral outrage about Syria’s alleged use of poison gas against its own people was not the real reason the US is spoiling for a fight in that part of the world. Let’s face it, the US has very little justification for moral outrage at this point. Everybody’s seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib, everybody knows that we used torture under the Bush administration and (thanks to our current POTUS) we’re blowing up kids and first responders with our drone strikes, and the world is aware that we’re in the ugly business of force-feeding the Guantanamo prisoners, most of whom are not guilty of any crime we can charge them for.

And chemical weaponry is one of the big issues in our hypocrisy. We helped Saddam Hussein develop his stockpile of such weapons during his war with Iran, and we displayed no moral outrage when he used those weapons on civilians. Of course, we couldn’t get too upset publicly–it would have re-opened a bunch of unanswered questions generated by the Iran Contra affair, and the Kurdish civilians were part of a separatist movement by a minority population in Iraq that also abuts the country of Turkey, a NATO ally. Turkey has also been quietly persecuting the Kurds for years, and probably was very happy at any Iraqi attempt to tamp down their independence movement. Moreover, our other chemistry use on the battlefield is a huge can of worms–depleted uranium and white phosphorous weapons have lead to birth defects of catastrophic levels (we used WP and Napalm in our assault on Fallujah, in violation of international law). And our Agent Orange defoliant, sprayed by the ton in our war in Vietnam some forty years ago, is the unfortunate gift that keeps on giving.

So why do we want a war there? Or to be more precise, why are we helping foment a war there? I’m not going to defend Assad or his regime, but there are plenty of people in this world who do despicable things that we leave alone. More to the point, our interventions in the Arab Spring haven’t worked out so well–Egypt isn’t in a peaceful state, and Libya isn’t a ‘normal’ place either. And let’s face it– Iraq is in a state of civil war, brought on by our invasion and our lack of understanding of the religious divide between Sunni and Shia. It’s as if we invaded Northern Ireland without understanding that the Catholics and Protestants don’t really like each other there.

Best explanation I’ve read so far is here. You can actually stop reading this blog for a moment to go over and look at this. This falls in place with so much else going on, I should’a figured it out. Syria doesn’t want to build a pipeline that would help Qatar move its natural gas to market in Europe. Without a pipeline, Western Europe is stuck buying from Russia, Syria’s ally. And Russia doesn’t want to see a new pipeline either–its monopoly of the natural gas supply to Europe is a far more effective tool for control of Western Europe than its millions of Soviet troops were during the Cold War.

BTW, this brings me back to reporting I did for Sex and Politics regarding the push to build LNG facilities on the East Coast. Those efforts are in turn part of the political pressure to open up vast stretches of the US for fracking. The state of the US empire depends on Europe being able to find a plan B for fossil fuel energy. For John Kerry, that means they have to get off Russia’s natural gas and go to ours. And this gives the lie to the nostrum that we’re fracking natural gas to keep prices low here– once the US can get LNG facilities up and running, companies can export to Europe, where it will fetch upwards of four times what they get for it here. Expect prices to go up to European levels.

Just sayin.

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