Joe Biden Goes to War

Dave Lindorff

Empires rot from within, and Joe Biden, our current imperial Commander in Chief, just added to the stinking pile of rotting garbage that has been piling up and festering in the US since the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Well, here we are just over a month into the new Joe Biden presidential administration and he’s already launched a bombing attack in Syria. That seems to be a required action for presidents these days, certainly dating back at least to the Barack Obama administration.

Biden personally ordered the bombing of a border crossing point between Syria and Iraq where two ”Iranian-backed militia” are supposedly said to be getting supplies from Iran, claiming it was a “defensive” action in response to attacks by those militias on American military personnel in Syria.

This is the most outrageous of justifications possible. US military personnel are illegally operating in Syria, a sovereign state that has not invited them in, and that indeed has called repeatedly for them to leave the country. That is as opposed to Iranians who are in Syria by invitation of the Syrian government.

To accept the “Biden doctrine” for bombing a country and killing people there, would mean that the US thinks it has the right to go to war in any of the 90 or more countries where the US has military bases or military personnel “posted” or even, one must suppose, where the US has dispatched special forces to engage in military action without invitation, as in Niger or Yemen. All that’s required is for one US soldier in any of those places to be “threatened.”

This is not justified war. It is a justification for the law of the jungle.

As Francis Boyle, an international law specialist at the University of Illinois puts it,

“It reminds me of the ‘defense’ the lawyers made for the Nazi leaders before the Nuremberg Tribunal from 1945-36: that the entire World War II was a war of self-defense of the German Reich as determined by the Nazi government and that no one had standing to complain otherwise.” He adds, “Of course the Nuremberg Judgement made quick work of that argument by ruling that what is a war of self defense can only be determined by an international tribunal. Several Nazi leaders were then hanged for their crimes against peace.”

Don’t expect to see Joe Biden face impeachment for his maiden war-crime venture in office. A bloodthirsty Congress in which Democrats and Republicans alike are eager to have a justification to shovel more hundreds of billions of dollars into the maw of the already hugely bloated US War Department is not going to hold it against Biden for stoking another fire in the Middle East, which is always good for winning support from the yahoo crowd of Muslim-haters in the US.

US presidents have long ago realized that as long as they can fight wars around the globe from the air, ideally by pilotless drones or cruise missiles, but if need by piloted aircraft, and can keep US casualties and prisoners to an acceptably small number, they can get away with almost everything and anything, and even win plaudits for showing “toughness.”

The problem of course, aside from the moral rot caused by operating a global military empire and slaughtering millions of civilians in the name of “protecting Americans,” is that all this bombing eventually goes wrong and leads to greater involvement, when the victims of American militarism start striking back and then the US has to escalate its involvement lest it appear to be “losing” or showing a “lack of resolve.”

That of course is why the US has been fighting and losing a war in Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest nations, for 20 years: It cannot win, but if it admits that and leaves, it will have “lost” and will presumably suffer irreparable harm to its reputation for toughness and power.

Syria is on course now, in the new Biden administration, to see expanded US military involvement again. It’s also a country where, unlike in Afghanistan, there is of course a grave danger of bumping into the Russians, who are in Syria at the behest of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad — in other words, legally — along with Iran.

Much is being made in the mainstream corporate media of the embarrassing position of Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki, who in tweets called out President Trump for “illegally” bombing and launching cruise missiles at Syrian targets in 2017, but who now is defending her boss, Joe Biden, for doing the same thing. In a decent world, Psaki would quit her post in disgust at this act of illegal war by Biden, but instead she’s dutifully claiming that his attack was justified by “threats to American personnel.”

Much of the corporate media as always, focuses on the wrong issue: Should a president be required to obtain Congressional approval before attacking another country? The totally flawed assumption is that if Congress says it’s okay for the US to attack another country, it’s okay and all legal. That is simply not the case. Would the US say it was okay for the Russian Army to invade and occupy Ukraine if the Russian Duma approved such an action, based upon Ukrainian military attacks on Russian advisors operating in the country’s secessionist Donbass region? I think not!

Most of the world accepts the idea that attacking another country is only legal if the attacker is under “imminent threat of attack itself” or if the UN Security Council has approved an international military intervention. Military forces of a foreign country are only permitted legally to operate in another country at the invitation of that country’s government, as is the case with Russian military forces in Syria.

The US has been engaging in this illegal military stuff for so long that most US citizens don’t even realize that US military actions around the world have all been warcrimes since the Korean War (which at least had the legal excuse, however flimsy, of having won a Security Council vote supporting “international” action on the peninsula).

It’s fine to say that President Trump was a fascist, and that he stirred up a hornets’ next of brown-shirt violent armed thugs around the country and eventually even incited them to invade the US Capitol building. He did that. But a president who commits war crimes with impunity as Biden has just done before even submitting his first budget proposal or finishing filling his cabinet, isn’t really all that much better.

Unless we get a peace movement mobilized and call the Biden administration to account for this initial act of US imperialism on his watch, we can be sure this penchant to turn to force of arms by default will metastasize and destroy any hope of progressives for action on critical issues like climate change, student debt, fixing Social Security funding, health care reform, combating the Coronavirus Pandemic and tackling the issue of income inequality and so many other pressing concerns.

Empires rot from within, and Joe Biden, our current imperial Commander in Chief, just added to the stinking pile of rotting garbage that has been piling up and festering in the US since the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.