23 June 2015

PBS/Frontline: Obama, Syria and ISIS

PBS's Frontline is a good programme when it comes to covering topics like the prison system, banking and domestic politics. But it is all but worthless when it comes to covering the foreign policy of the United States or any international event that touches on American interests. It's hard to find one that doesn't concern the empire thus severely limiting the scope of a show like Frontline.
This was abundantly clear in the recent documentary 'Obama at War' which dealt with American policy regarding Syria and the rise of ISIS.

The episode was dominated by a ubiquitous American bias. It was little more than an exercise in question begging. Never for a moment is US hegemony even questioned, the right of the United States to interfere in the affairs of other nations, to demand the toppling of governments and to wage war when and where it wills.
The documentary utterly failed. It provided no context for the events taking place in Syria, no explanation of demographics and how they play a part in the conflict. There's no discussion of the minorities fearing a something akin to genocide if the Assad regime were to fall.
The documentary never addresses the fact that many scholars and Syrian citizens believe democracy won't work in Syria. Only egocentric and chauvinistic Americans believe that democracy is universally applicable to the world. Even international figures who would like to see this reality would admit Syria has no foundations for it. There are many sociological conditions Americans take for granted that simply do not exist in other contexts, especially ad hoc multi-ethnic countries created by Imperial powers in the wake of World War I. You can't create an ad hoc society. It doesn't work that way.
The documentary didn't address why there are social tensions to begin with. The fact that people took up arms against the state is never questioned. The Assad regime is hardly worthy of praise but anyone who thinks of taking up arms against a state would do well to truly consider what they are doing, consider the cost... not to themselves, but to all the others who will be dragged into it and suffer the consequences of their actions.
Considering the American narrative is bathed in such blood and glorifies it I suppose it's not likely many will understand or be likely to think in those terms. Americans themselves have forgotten the 'ugliness' of our own revolution and fail to understand that 4 million colonials spread out over a massive area resisting the 18th century British Empire is different than a revolution in a smaller state with a population in the tens of millions. When you add in modern military technology and problems with resources such as food and water the equation changes dramatically.
Ask an Iraqi if life was better before or after the war. There's no love lost for Saddam but compared to what the Americans brought on them, and the subsequent fallout from the annihilation of their society, the vast majority would rather live under a dictator than deal with the raw reality of democracy imposed on a society that was bound together by force, corrupt institutions and a total absence of common identity and trust.
An examination of these matters would have revealed the danger of destabilizing countries like Syria and Iraq. The Assad regime is committing a genocide? That word gets thrown around pretty flippantly these days. By that criterion the United States has committed several since the end of World War II.
As previously mentioned what about the 'genocide' that would occur if the Sunnis took over, let alone ISIS?
Frontline provided no context for ISIS. The documentary is like a giant John McCain propaganda piece. War and bombing are moral duties not to be questioned. Wait! I thought PBS was supposed to be liberal! As if often the case the labels 'liberal' and 'conservative' are often little more than Establishment nuance and that is painfully clear in this documentary.
Yet it must be asked what about the moral duty and responsibility for the destruction of Iraq? I'm not speaking of just 2003 and after. This all began back in 1991. A million and a half Iraqi's died during the period of 1991-2003 and almost another million have died since the days of 'Shock and Awe'.
So now, where did ISIS come from? It comes from a society that had no basis to begin with, years under a dictator and annihilation at the hands of an empire. Blood begets blood. Slaughter begets monsters.
Assad uses phosphorus? Cluster bombs?
Are they serious? What about the United States and Israel? Both nations have been accused of war crimes by the international community for using the very same weapons.
Has Assad used Chemical weapons? I'm sure he has. Saddam used them and was aided in using them by the United States. It was fine as long as he was using them against Revolutionary Iran.
Of course we could speak not only of phosphorous and cluster bombs but Agent Orange and other defoliants which are utilized as and function as chemical weapons. This did not end with Indochina. Just ask the people in Columbia.
And then of course there's perhaps the most horrid of all, at least in the long term... the American use of Depleted Uranium. We have yet to appreciate the full scope and fallout (no pun intended) of this most toxic of weapons. We'll be reading those reports twenty years from now... maybe. The reports out of Iraq were long ignored. Much to the chagrin of the Establishment, the Internet has helped to change the information game.
The US has no moral authority on these issues and the same must be said for PBS and Frontline.
It was indeed horrid and not a little moving to see the pictures of dead women and children. It was tragic, but why wasn't Frontline showing these same types of pictures when it was Iraqi and Afghani women and children killed by US forces and bombing? Why don't they show some of the pictures that are available after a drone strike on the Pakistani border? They're much the same.
The whole documentary was an exercise in frustration. Obama's legacy? His place in history? Obama's legacy is one of shame, not because he didn't bomb but because he has in so many ways perpetuated the Bush agenda. Instead of 'change' he represents a toned-down version of John McCain and his demonic lust for killing and war.
Obama inherited numerous all but impossible situations. Have they been made worse? In some cases there is no solution. Is he to be criticized for failing to put 'boots on ground'?
As Christians we should pray America closes its bases and brings all of its legions back home.
Would American troops help the situation or make it worse? It might 'seem' to help temporarily but the long-term outcome is already all too clear.
US interventions have destabilized the Middle East and it is close to spiraling out of control. The United States cannot afford to permanently occupy these nations and yet that's what it would take to keep them stable. This is precisely why the United States has all too often been happy enough to back dictatorial and authoritarian regimes. It's cheaper.
Conservatives try to make political hay of this and demand permanent bases and the expansion of the military footprint. To pay for it they now have a reason to argue for the cutting of social programmes. It's disingenuous and sinister on both sides of their coin. If successful, and they have not been without some success, then they kill two birds with one stone. They expand the military empire while scoring political victory on the domestic front.
The Assad regime is not like Mubarak in Egypt or even the Shah of Iran. Those were dictators who represented the majority. When the government represents something akin to a minority coalition threatened by the potential of a radicalized and violent regime... the existing regime, in this case Assad, will fight to the death. This is why the Sunnis in Iraq continued to fight. They had everything to lose.
Frontline wants us to ponder...has Obama hurt American prestige?
As a Christian I can most certainly say...
Let's hope so.
But it's not the moral question of the hour.
We are to pray for the peace of Babylon. We are not to pray that Babylon succeeds in its evil designs and machinations. Ultimately a US withdrawal and a contraction of imperial ambitions will be better both for the world and domestic society.
Will it destroy the fictional/fantasy narrative of America, the greatest nation in the world, 'where at least I know I'm free'?
God willing. There's nothing worse than a lie and if breaks the power of the horned lamb/ false Church that speaks like a dragon and teaches us to worship the Beast, all the better.
No doubt this has been yet another negative rant and diatribe. Though if I had praised the criticism of Obama I would be considered wise, erudite and restrained. But please remember this the next time someone tries to suggest PBS (and NPR) are 'liberal'.
Would you have watched it and not caught the pro-American bias?
PBS and NPR are liberal in certain aspects but they hardly represent the Leftist perspective. As Christians we are necessarily counter-cultural and antithetical to the existing system. If the Left offers honest and astute criticism we can utilize it even if we cannot as a whole embrace their worldview, its false utopia and its dismal solutions.
But what we absolutely cannot be is socially conservative, patriotic, nationalist or bourgeois. Though many equate these values with Christianity they are in fact antithetical to the faith presented to us in the New Testament.

All that said I will continue to watch Frontline and for the most part enjoy it.