Godfrey reckons Putin deserves the Nobel more than Obama after the latter's Syria shenanigans
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a news conference in the Kremlin, Moscow PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Convincing Americans that they need to blow up some far-flung part of the world used to involve colorful imagery and comic book language—the kind of stuff that rolled off the tongue and kept rubes awake at night.
These days, it’s a real bummer.
The first US president to get a Nobel Peace Prize for winning an election is having a hard time selling folks on a line that wouldn’t fly in your average middle school playground.
Obama claims that a chemical weapons strike killed lots of kids in Syria this month, but more importantly, it crossed an imaginary red line he drew in the universe on television.
To rectify this situation, Obama began pumping more weapons into the country. But they won’t get there for a long time. So, in the meantime, he wants to drop some bombs on it. Just a few. Not too many. Not like last time. Or the time before that. Or the time before that…
The rubes just didn’t bite, leading some of Obama’s most loyal allies in congress to gripe that (even if he was right) nobody cared.
The president responded by flying into a clumsy process of reverse democracy by lobbying the people to care about what kind of weapons the Syrian army uses to prosecute its miserable civil war.
John McCain, Obama’s deranged former political opponent, has emerged as his biggest advocate.
The old man spent the last six months painting the fractured Syrian rebelsasa band of paramilitary trick-or-treaters. He has insisted (I swear I’m not making this up) that America must give the Syrian rebels guns and aerial support or face an attack… from the Syrian rebels.
Vladimir Putin has tendered the least crazy of bad ideas by proposing that an international force help the besieged Syrian government destroy its own chemical arsenal—a project that sounds about as easy as changing the oil on a moving vehicle in the middle of a tornado.
In the end, none of this is likely to end or even alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. But if Putin ends up sparing them a month of drone strikes in the same summer he saved Edward Snowden from America’s Stasi-like security forces, I guess Obama should consider mailing him his Nobel Prize.
In the meantime, there’s the question of Justice—that blind bitch.
Last month roughly 1,400 Syrians allegedly died breathing poison gas instead of getting peppered by cluster munitions, vaporized by remotely piloted missiles, melted by depleted uranium artillery or shredded by good ol’ hand-fired. 223 rounds.
And that just isn’t kosher.
But I’d like to remind everyone that asking the Pentagon to pull out its moral abacus and appraise someone else’s arsenal is kind of like asking a compulsive gambler for investment advice.
I’ll leave aside the obvious example of Iraq—it’s just too easy. Instead, I’d like to go back to a story from right here in Vietnam.
In 1981 US Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig told the Berlin press corps that Vietnam and Laos were spraying a toxic yellow fungus called “yellow rain” on guerillas hiding in the jungle.
The governments of Britain, France and Canada were the only ones to immediately take these claims at face value for seemingly no good reason.
The basis for Haig’s announcement had come from years of oral testimony submitted by CIA-trained mercenaries, Khmer Rouge cadre and refugees in Thailand.
After Haig’s announcement, the US embassy in Bangkok conducted its own investigation into the yellow rain story and found it baseless. By the time Reagan took office the following year numerous studies had revealed that samples of the “yellow rain” were most likely nothing but bee poop.
Perhaps worst of all, the US made these allegations against Vietnam and Laos roughly six years after prosecuting the most egregious bombing campaign in the history of the world. Then, as now, shoddy cluster munitions and chemical defoliants dropped on Laos and Vietnam were actively maiming and poisoning innocent civilians.
Reagan used the yellow rain myth to end a decade-long moratorium on chemical and biological weapon production and secure $700 million to start ramping up production. Faced with an overwhelming body of evidence that his administration was either stupid or lying, Reagan cited “secret evidence” that he couldn’t show to anyone.
No corroborative US or Soviet documents regarding yellow rain has surfaced to support the fable. But US Army manuals and rags like the Wall Street Journal still refer to a massive Lao and Vietnamese chemical weapons campaign as if it actually happened.
Luckily, that scare took place in a simpler time—a time when the US couldn’t just run around “intervening” all over the world.
The Russians wouldn’t stand for it then. And they may not stand for it now.
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By Calvin Godfrey, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the September 13th issue of our print edition Vietweek)