When historians record the U.S. war with Russia, the events of this past week may look like a road sign that went unheeded. The bombing of Syrian forces, which Washington has called “accidental,” indicates a new level of recklessness in U.S. policy, escalating the war against Bashar al Assad’s government and inching closer to direct confrontation with Russian forces. We must recognize this road for what it is, the path of the U.S. empire toward Armageddon.
First we must dispense with the lie that the Pentagon and State Department were unaware that Syrian troops, not fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS), held the military base overlooking the airport at Deir ez-Zor. As many as 90 Syrian government troops were killed and more than 100 wounded when U.S. planes attacked the base last Saturday. Differing accounts time the attack as lasting between about a half hour and an hour. Officially, while the Obama administration issued an apology to Damascus for the attacks, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) significantly offered no apology, instead releasing this statement:
“The coalition air strike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.” It went on, “Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit, officials said. The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned.”
The credibility of this statement is directly undercut by a report by an anonymous Centcom official who told the New York Times that U.S. surveillance aircraft had monitored the Syrian army units “for several days” before the attack. According to the Times, “The attack went on for about 20 minutes, with the planes destroying the vehicles and gunning down dozens of people in the open desert, the official said. Shortly after this, an urgent call came into the American military command center in Qatar. . . The call was from a Russian official who said that the American planes were bombing Syrian troops and that the strike should be immediately called off.” Nevertheless, the official said, the attack continued for several minutes.
Even without this inside leak that reveals the U.S. knew exactly who its target was, it strains credulity to claim, as the Pentagon does, that despite its sophisticated surveillance aircraft and satellites it mistook a Syrian army force that had been in place on the site for years for an ISIS camp. Far from striking ISIS, in fact, the air attack provided cover for a raid that saw ISIS overrun and take possession of the strategic position.
The deadly airstrike—which included British, Australian and Danish aircraft in concert with U.S. planes—sends a threatening message not only to Assad but, pointedly, to Russia, which is allied with Syria and whose forces are in the country. The U.S. attack severely undermines the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement and, in its recklessness, suggests a willingness to engage the Russian military itself. Significantly, the attack comes amid an alarmingly strident escalation of bellicose anti-Russian rhetoric from the Hillary Clinton campaign, the mass media which is that campaign’s mouthpiece, and much of the top brass of the Pentagon, who recently have made clear their stark differences with the Obama administration over the ceasefire and the Joint Implementation Group collaboration with Russia, which was scheduled to start only two days later, on September 19.
It takes no great powers of penetration to see that the U.S. military establishment, in the service of U.S. imperialism, is aiming at war with Russia. From Washington’s military activity in Syria, to the military encirclement of Russia by NATO and the U.S.-influenced government in Ukraine, to the preparation of the American public via a steady stream of propaganda, the signs of a coming war are big as billboards. It is a war that promises cataclysmic destruction, and only the irrationally insular military and irrationally impersonal forces of imperialism could bring it about. Tragically, those are precisely the powers that are guiding events.