America’s Disastrous Proxy Wars: Syria is the Latest
Wayne MADSEN *| 17.10.2015 | 00:00
Ever since the decisive military victory by the Allies over the Axis powers in World War II, the United States has fought an alternating series of all-out military campaigns and proxy wars. The Korean War resulted in a stalemate with North Korea, therefore the United States decided to engage in a series of low-level proxy wars in Cuba, the former Belgian Congo, Tibet, Laos, and Indonesia using client states and mercenary armies.
In the mid-1960s, not content with the low-level proxy war it was fighting in South Vietnam that relied on U.S. military «advisers» and local forces, the United States committed over a half million troops to «fight communism» in Southeast Asia. The decision came on the heels of an all-out U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, one of America’s largely-forgotten acts of military aggression. The Indochina War was a disaster for the United States, one that is remembered by scenes of U.S. helicopters evacuating in great haste its diplomatic and military personnel from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon in 1975.
After the Vietnam debacle, America returned to the concept of fighting proxy wars against what it considered to be an expansionist Soviet Union. America propped up guerrilla forces in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua. America’s obsession with a invented non-existent threat resulted in the United States supporting, through a proxy war against Vietnam, Cambodia’s ruthless Pol Pot dictatorship, which, although communist and pro-China, was a sworn enemy of Hanoi. American support for Pol Pot resulted in the genocide of at least a million-and-a-half Cambodians. America’s proxy war against Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua using contra mercenaries included the illegal mining of Nicaraguan harbors and the targeted assassinations of Nicaraguan officials.
The CIA’s various proxy mercenary armies would have other consequences for the United States, a process known in the intelligence community as «blowback». The Cuban mercenaries were directly linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Watergate scandal. The Nicaraguan contra mercenaries were a key element in the Iran-contra scandal that nearly drove Ronald Reagan from office.
The CIA’s arming of and recruiting for Afghanistan’s Islamist Mujaheddin helped create the Taliban and Al Qaeda and transformed one Osama Bin Laden from a little-known son of a wealthy Saudi-Yemeni construction tycoon to the greatest terrorist figure the world had known since Carlos the Jackal. Before his untimely death in 2005, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who had overall responsibility for and access to the most secret files of Britain’s MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service, wrote that «Al Qaeda» was nothing more than a CIA computer database of Arab jihadist recruits, trainees, mercenaries, financial backers, and weapons suppliers designed to keep replenishing the ranks of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan.
After its proxy wars in Afghanistan and Central America, the United States returned to the concept of all-out military invasions. The successful U.S. invasion of tiny Grenada in the Caribbean in 1983 provided an impetus for Pentagon planners who advocated swift military action. This renewed policy culminated in the 1989 invasion of Panama and the 1991 invasion of Iraq, the latter resulting from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The invasion of Panama resulted in the overthrow of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, however, his incarceration in an American prison on CIA-linked drug smuggling charges helped increase anti-American feeling throughout Latin America. The United States permitted Saddam Hussein to remain in power in Baghdad and would use the 9/11 attacks of 2001, blamed on America’s one-time Afghanistan client Bin Laden, to justify the «shock and awe» invasion and occupation of Iraq.
After America failed to defeat the Taliban and its jihadist allies in Afghanistan and after Iraq fell under the control of a Shi’a-led government in Baghdad linked to Iran, the United States decided, once again, to return to the concept of a proxy war. In the case of «Arab Spring» rebellions against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, this resurrected policy of the proxy war saw the United States ally with its old friends from Afghanistan in the 1980s, Al Qaeda and its offshoots, some of whose mercenary recruits declared the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq and made no secret of their intention to extend their self-proclaimed caliphate from Indonesia through the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa to Spain and the Balkans.
ISIL, in fact, has its roots in the American-led «Sunni Awakening», a neo-conservative contrivance designed in 2006 to provide arms and money to Sunni tribes in western Iraq that were opposed to the Shi’a-dominated U.S. puppet government in Baghdad. However, merely because these tribes were opposed to the Shi’as and Iran did not mean they were opposed to Saudi-funded Salafist/Wahhabist provocateurs in their midst. The only thing the Sunni Awakening managed to do was to awaken jihadism in Iraq, which created the nesting ground for ISIL. The Sunni Awakening and Al Qaeda in Iraq have only the neo-con darling, the sex scandal-disgraced General David Petraeus, the brainchild of the Sunni Awakening, to thank for helping launch ISIL.
Proclaiming it was providing training, equipment, and weapons to an army of «moderate» Syrian rebels, the United States was, in reality, funneling military assistance to the most radical Islamist guerrillas, the core of ISIL that consisted mostly of foreigners recruited from the ranks of Chechens, Afghans, Uighurs, Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis, and Algerians, some battle-tested in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. There are informed estimates that as much as 80 percent of CIA weapons destined for the Syrian «moderate» rebels ended up in the hands of ISIL and its affiliates.
As with U.S. support for the Afghan and «Arab Afghan» Mujaheddin ranks during the Soviet-Afghan war, the financial help for America’s jihadist army in Syria came from the oil-rich Wahhabist potentates of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait. These same oil-rich Wahhabist entities also provided troops, weapons, and mercenaries to combat Shi’a Houthi rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war. In Syria and Yemen, the United States was happy to see the most radical jihadist armies take on Assad and the Houthis, since both were supported by Iran. In essence, throughout the Middle East, the United States was using Salafist, Wahhabi, and jihadist Sunnis to fight a proxy war against Iran and its surrogates.
Top American neo-conservatives, the same ilk that helped propel the United States into devastating direct military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, argued for the U.S. to ally itself with jihadist proxies, including Al Qaeda. The U.S.-Al Qaeda alliance was promoted by former CIA director Petraeus. Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark urged the United States to support existing jihadist groups in northern Syria in establishing a «no fly zone» targeting Russian military aircraft in the region. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter appeared to have taken Clark’s advice when he announced the scrapping of the U.S. «train and equip» program for new Syrian rebel recruits and, instead, concentrate U.S. military support on existing Syrian rebel fronts, many of them jihadist in nature.
Syrian rebel groups, whose links to jihadist elements are well-established, have already received TOW anti-tank missiles and tons of airdropped weapons from the United States. American neocons have even called for the U.S. to supply the rebels with shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.
The United States may still find that its senseless proxy war in Syria might come at a tremendous cost. Syrians forced from their homes by the U.S. support for violent Islamist extremists fighting under the black and white jihadist flags of ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Front, Muhajirin wa Ansar, Ahrar as-Sham, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, Jaysh al-Jihad, and the Khorasan Group.
There is perhaps one resolution to this latest American proxy war that could compensate the people of Syria who have lost the lives of their loved ones and their homes to the U.S.-backed jihadist rebels. In 1986, the International Court of Justice in The Hague dealt with America’s proxy war against Nicaragua that involved the illegal mining of Nicaraguan harbors and arming of the Nicaraguan rebel contras. The court found that the United States violated international law in its proxy war against the sovereign Republic of Nicaragua. Although the United States bellicosely rejected the court’s jurisdiction and judgement against it, even vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling for Washington to accede to the court’s ruling, the court’s decision resulted in a landmark case against nations that engage in proxy wars. The government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the same legal case to make against the United States as did Nicaragua in 1986.
If the United States continues to flout international law and ignores repeated decisions by the International Court of Justice, there are other remedies: sanctions against United States, visa bans on America’s top officials, freezing of foreign assets held by U.S. officials, and the seizure of U.S. aircraft, ships, and other assets on foreign soil until the United States recognizes its crimes against the people of Syria, and, by extension, others affected by the U.S. proxy wars. Other aggrieved parties include the people of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, eastern Ukraine, and other countries and regions targeted by America’s proxy warlords.
Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. Has some twenty years experience in security issues. As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and MS-NBC. He has been invited to testify as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. Lives in Washington, D.C.