A Peace Option for Syria that is So Crazy It Just May Work

john-mccainBetween the constant War As Viagra updates by the likes of Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and the non-interventionist talk of the likes of Sen. Rand Paul (which make such a violent person appear to be pacifist. Do not fall for it) — both voiced as the only options by the dialog on national media — we see two vacillating positions in regards to international peacekeeping and particularly to Syria‘s current situation: Bomb it to hell or leave civilians up to their own devices.

Neither of these options are preferable for the Syrian people caught between Assad’s oppressive and violent regime and the rebels — which, as most rebel groups tend to be, can be as relentless as the ruling classes. We may also be aware that military intervention always kills more civilians (and, for some strange reason, hospitals and news agencies are among the first raided – ostensibly on accident) and that it puts the interfering power in a position to control the next ruling class of oppressors (as we’ve seen throughout Latin America, Iran, South Vietnam, etc).

But the possibility that neither the US’s two political parties nor their official stenographers have raised is to assist bringing Assad to the International Criminal Court at the Hague to be tried for war crimes. And why is that? Because we have no credibility when it comes to this route of peace and justice. The US, in fact, has little credibility when it comes to such things. Partially because of the racist and classist system of criminal justice that we have established in our own country which unduly and gravely punishes poor, Black, and Latino people. But also because we refuse to allow our own leaders and systems to be interrogated for the same crimes that we decry every other (politically, militarily, economically expedient) murderous regime for.

While White conservative American Christians were pushing to hunt down Joseph Kony for his war crimes — several years after Ugandans already had, thankyouverymuch — they were absolutely silent about, if not outright endorsing, George W Bush’s own crimes against humanity. These war crimes include, first, leading us to a deadly, regime-changing, imperialist war that cost us 800 billion dollars and is responsible for killing a million Iraqis (mostly civilians) in addition to displacing many more millions — on deliberately false charges. And second, breaking United States and international laws in torturing alleged terrorists (many of whom were themselves civilians). For this, he and all of his friends have been granted immunity.

What is deeply frustrating, however, is the fact that President Obama’s administration opened up the back door to keep Bush and others from his administration free from trials. In doing so, Obama kept up a dangerous precedent (most famously alluded to by former VP Dick Cheney) that US presidents should not be subject to international laws regarding wartime actions — whether sitting or retired.

In this, we break loose the idea that there can be peace through law. Instead, the first option that the US relies on now is the first option of all conquering, colonial empires: that only violence can quell violence. So, we protect innocent civilians by firebombing them?

Or, we can act without so much hubris and decide to participate in a substantial and cooperative manner with the international community in a way that may be more stabilizing for the common person — and that would prevent such atrocities.

But then it’ll be harder to place our little puppets all over the world and practice torture when it’s expedient.

Such a toss-up…


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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  • Let Facts Be Submitted To a Candid World

    The most powerful act any individual can perform is to bear accurate witness.

    On Friday, John Kerry stood up to bear accurate witness as to what transpired in Syria, based on US Intelligence.

    So far so good.

    Now what?

    Now the US — having clearly observed Assad engaging in crimes against humanity — is obliged to act by taking the evidence to the International Court, there to indict and try Mr. Assad and his participating lieutenants on war crimes, under the aegis of International Law.

    This is how the US, being a leader among civilized nations and a leader in the practice of the Rule of Law, demonstrates how a civilized nation operates in accordance with the Rule of Law, as it applies to international law governing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    This is how a Nobel Peace Prize Winner demonstrates how state-sponsored violence is answered with non-violence, under the Rule of International Law.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

    • Allen

      Great, try him and find him guilty. Who will take his place? How will we be sure the rebels will accept the new regime?

      • mickey

        how do you know you will live until tomorrow? you just don’t know

      • The beauty of establishing such a precedent (and this would assume that the US would be ready to follow suit itself for its own war criminals – so, yes, a big a** assumption) is that it continues. The next power is also judged by the same standards. And the next, and the next.

      • Most likely yet another psychopath. World history reveals that there is endless supply of power-hungry psychopaths who seek political power and who have no compunction about staying in power by means of state-sponsored violence.

    • Kris

      That is all well and good, but tell me, how do we make sure that Assad is punished if found guilty? While the international community is trying him, he’s free to kill as many more of his people as he wishes. If we base this war crimes trial on the precedents that come before, such as Nuremburg or the trials of war criminals from the collapse of Yugoslavia, then Assad needs to and should be in custody first. Look at what happened in Sudan. Omar al-Bashir was indicted, tried and found guilty inabsentia, but still has free reign to commit genocide against the people of Darfur.

      If a person breaks a law, whether it is burglary or the violation of International Treaties, they almost always are taken into custody before they are tried.

      • Now we come to the next big issue in assessing the functionality of the Crime and Punishment Regulatory Mechanism that humankind adopted some 4000 years ago.

        There are multiple issues here. You raise one: How to punish the guilty.

        But there are deeper questions. Does punishment work as envisioned (to change future behavior of the miscreant or others like him)? Is punishment little more than retribution (an eye for an eye) without any meaningful influence on future behavior? Does punishment backfire, increasing the totality of state-sponsored violence under the rubric of law? Are there alternatives to classical punishment that demonstrably attenuate future instances of atrocious behavior?

        This is the point where, in human history, there is a disconnect between modern science and the stories we have told ourselves for the past 4000 years. This is where the rubber meets the road.

        Before we come to your question, “How to punish the guilty,” we must ensure that we have not fooled ourselves with respect to the classical and traditional beliefs we have adopted regarding the deeper questions I outlined above.

        So let me ask you this, Kris: How did you come to your customary beliefs (whatever they are) regarding the deeper questions and the assumptions upon which you arrive at the stage where the residual issue is the means of delivering punishment? If you can demonstrate, with scientific rigor, that the deeper questions have been resolved in favor of the Crime and Punishment Regulatory Model as the Ethical Best Practice, then I will be happy to answer your downstream question about the the best way to deliver efficacious punishment to the guilty.

    • Jim

      I must have slept through the part where Kerry proved Assads guys attacked with chemical weapons. The UN investigators were even prevented, by us, from INVESTIGATING WHO DID IT.

      • As a (now retired) scientist and science educator, I watched closely to see how well Mr. Kerry adhered to the protocols of the scientific method to ensure that the hypothesis he put forward last Friday was the sole surviving hypothesis after rigorously undertaking to falsify each and every conceivable hypothesis on the table.

        I was frankly alarmed and chagrined to observe that Mr. Kerry substantially departed from the protocols of the scientific method, in much the same way as the government had done in previous historic examples in this recurring pattern.

        Modern day humans devised the Protocols of the Scientific Method as our most reliable method for sorting out accurate hypotheses from incorrect ones. Politicians, alas, are notorious for declining to rely on the Scientific Method for drawing conclusions.

        Will this episode prove to be yet another failure of our government to arrive at the ground truth by a trustworthy method?

        Or will this episode mark an historic turning point in our methods and practices for making wise and sensible decisions?

        I reckon the political operatives scripting this drama will go out of their way to depart from the protocols of the scientific method.

        The first duty of a scientist is to array all conceivable hypotheses and then try like the dickens to falsify each and every one of them.

        I have not yet seen any attempt to array the alternate hypotheses or to falsify the one that the Obama administration (and the Military-Industrial Complex) favors.

        And so the meta-question stands before us. We have the Null Hypothesis and the Working Hypothesis, and the challenge to falsify either of them.

        H₀ (Null Hypothesis) – The US rigorously adheres to the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

        H₁ (Working Hypothesis) – The US routinely departs from the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

        This episode now in play will help determine which of the two hypotheses best characterizes the practices of our national governance model and methodology.

      • Matthew Reece

        The past 200+ years weighs overwhelmingly in favor of H₁ being true and H₀ being false.

      • Alas, that is my observation and reading as well.

        I am not particularly sanguine about the present trial with Syria in the spotlight.

        It looks like the US (and the world at large) will once again affirm H₁ and falsify H₀.

        I am vexed, perplexed, and frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable challenge of reversing this unsettling trend, which I consider an unsustainable practice for a civilization that hopes to craft a peaceable and survivable future.

      • Matthew Reece

        Government itself is an unsustainable practice for a civilization that hopes to craft a peaceable and survivable future. It is human nature for power to corrupt and for power to attract the corrupted, so affirming H₁ and falsifying H₀ is all but guaranteed.

      • And thus we come to the challenge that those of us who embrace the disciplines of Systems Science face if we are to point the way to a successor regulatory model to supplant the , erratic, and unsustainable one that the governments of the world have been relying on for the past 4000 years.

  • Pipercat

    Roll eyes or facepalm. Decisions, decisions…

  • Jim

    As a former US Marine with a Purple Heart and a few other pieces of ribbon, I should say that I would trust Assad equally to Bush, Obama or Kerry. All of them think I am just a statistic and a management problem. I am less afraid of Assad than I am of Obama at this point.

  • Charles Vincent

    How about we stay the hell out of Syria and let them solve their own problems so we can go about fixing our problems here.

    • JNWesner

      Charles, I don’t like your suggestion. I prefer to have the family of nations discipline their own. But I’m damned if I can see a way to bring that about. In practice, your way may be the best available option. Drat!

      • Charles Vincent

        The Russians and the Chinese can play parent this time and it seems fitting that they do since they issued edicts on our involvement in the region.

  • Maria DelCoco

    The ICC would be a great way to go, but, it might be up to another nation to do(like one that holds membership in the ICC). Because, unless I’m mistaken the US is not one of those nations. And there would still be Assad free to slaughter his people.

    • Does that non-participation support or refute the hypothesis that the US, as a leader among the civilized nations of the world, believes in, embraces, supports, and relies on the concepts of the Rule of Law as it applies to state actors on the world stage?