The American People: You Fooled Us Once…

You know what they say:  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

The American people have learned the hard way that U.S. politicians in both political parties, and the generals and defense contractors they work for, will do almost anything to keep the defense dollars flowing.

That includes deliberately lying to the American people about things like Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

If there is a sense of déjà vu overwhelming the country at the moment, it’s because the drum beats of war against Syria sound eerily similar to the drum beats of war against Iraq.

The big difference, however, is that Saddam Hussein was likely a far greater mass murderer than Assad… and George Bush actually went out of his way to persuade virtually all of our allies, and almost every Democrat in Congress including Hillary Clinton, to go along with his military adventure.

The one person he couldn’t persuade was the pope:  Pope John Paul II remained steadfastly opposed to the attack on Saddam Hussein… just as Pope Francis today is steadfastly opposed to escalating a civil war into a wider regional conflict that could engulf the entire Middle East.

The reason is simple:  Under international law and the principles of just war theory, there is zero justification for the U.S. government to attack a sovereign country in the midst of a civil war… especially when both sides in the conflict have been accused of horrendous atrocities.

1.  It is not an act of self-defense;

2.  There is no reasonable expectation of success;

3.  All other means of putting an end to hostilities have not been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

4.   The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to a new war in the Middle East; and.

5.  There is a very strong likelihood that an attack against Syria will produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated.

Concerning the last criterion, proportionality, Pope John Paul was surely prescient.

Observers disagree about the numbers, but the number of Iraqis killed in the Iraq War ranges from 110,000 (Associated Press) to as high as 600,000 (the Lancet).  The Iraq Body Count Project estimates between 110,937and 121,227 civilian deaths.

trap 2That’s an awful lot of “collateral damage,” as the generals like to call children blown to bits by cruise missiles and drones.

On a purely practical level, moreover, lobbing a few cruise missiles at Syrian targets won’t have any significant impact on the war itself.  If anything, it will only strengthen Assad’s position.  It’s purely political theatre, an act designed for Obama to “save face” after he imprudently declared a “line in the sand.”

That’s why critics rightly suspect that the cruise missiles will be only the first stage… and that, despite Obama’s promises to the contrary, the cruise missiles will inevitably be followed by American “boots on the ground.”

Well, no more U.S. teenagers should die so Obama can act like a tough guy.

As Time Magazine put it, Obama was elected, in part, to put an end to the era of perpetual warfare that George Bush and the neo-cons foisted upon the American people.

Yet now Obama has morphed into the Assassin-in-Chief who believes that his status as commander of U.S. forces gives him the right to execute without trial anyone, anywhere in the world, including U.S. citizens, the CIA deems maybe a possible terrorist.

No, the American people are finally waking up.

Just as they have been outraged to discover the almost pathological spying the U.S. government conducts on its own citizens, so, too, they are no longer willing to give the politicians and generals the benefit of the doubt when it comes to war.

They are asking hard questions this time… and the politicians and generals don’t have ready answers.


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Robert Hutchinson studied philosophy as an undergraduate, moved to Israel to study Hebrew and earned an M.A. degree in Biblical studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible. He blogs at

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