By Scott Taylor
It is interesting to watch how Russia’s increased combat involvement in the Syrian civil war has been matched by the blatant hypocrisy of the Western media.
Of particular note last week was the uproar caused by Russia’s use of massive bunker buster bombs against rebel-held districts of Aleppo. This excessive use of explosive force against densely populated suburbs was immediately denounced as a ‘war crime’ by U.S officials and the usual collection of western media pundits.
No one seems to recall how the U.S dropped bucket loads of bunker buster bombs on major Iraqi cities during America’s illegal invasion to topple Saddam Hussein back in 2003.
At that juncture, U.S Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld actually bragged that the barrage of massive bombs was part of his ‘shock and awe’ campaign aimed at terrorizing Iraqi civilians into submission. In that post-9-11 era in the U.S, nobody spoke of this as a war crime and nobody questioned how state implemented attacks meant to terrorize were morally justifiable.
The Russians are of course bombing in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Strategically this makes sense, as Russia’s only toehold in the Mediterranean Sea is their naval base at Tartus on Syria’s west coast.
That lease would likely end should the Assad regime fall. Therefore Russia has a dog in this fight and a clearly stated objective of propping up Assad.
Not so clear is the role Canada took back in the spring of 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted. John Baird was Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and he quickly sided with the rebels, bellowing, “Assad must go!”
The western media was quick to paint Assad as a hated despot who was ruthlessly suppressing his democracy-loving citizens. In those heady days of the so-called Arab spring, protesters and rebels had toppled the government in Tunisia and Egypt, while Muammar Gaddafi and Assad clung on desperately in Libya and Syria respectively.
The standard media line was that Assad was waging war against his own civilians and ruthlessly ‘killing his own people’.
The problem with that simplistic formula was the fact that the Syrian factions who took up arms against Assad do not consider themselves to be ‘his’ people and were in the process of killing his loyalists. It also soon became apparent that most of the rebel factions opposed to Assad were Sunni Islamic extremists with links to al-Qaeda, and eventually morphing into Daesh (or ISIS). Many of these fighters considered to be regime loyalists are not fighting for Assad so much as they are fighting to block the Sunni extremists from bringing on even greater evil to power in Syria.
It has only been one year since Russia began combat operations to support Assad, but for the previous four years the embattled president managed to cling to power. That means there are still Syrian minority factions willing to fight to prevent Daesh and al-Qaeda from achieving victory.
The same could not be said for the corrupt Afghan regime that Canadian soldiers — along with hundreds of thousands of NATO troops — propped up for more than a decade.
Without all those foreign troops, the Taliban would have quickly defeated the western funded and trained Afghan security forces. With the scale down on U.S and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban have already taken control of roughly 33 per cent of the country. Afghans simply do not want to sacrifice their lives to protect the corrupt regime the U.S. and the west established in Kabul. In pursuit of an unclear objective in Afghanistan, the U.S-led coalition, including Canadian soldiers, killed many Afghans, not all of whom were combatants.
If killing civilians is a ‘war crime’ for the Russians and Assad loyalists, then we are hypocritical to refer to civilian casualties caused by our own and allied military actions as merely ‘collateral damage’.