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Why Assad Isn't 'Our Son of a Bitch'

Assad was our son of a bitch when the U.S. government needed him. Then he outlived his usefulness.

DonkeyHotey/FlickrDonkeyHotey/FlickrWhile Franklin Roosevelt may not have said that Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza "may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch," he probably thought it—just as other presidents have had similar thoughts about myriad brutal rulers. So if the U.S. government has forced the American people to support useful dictators, why is it trying to overthrow Syria's brutal president, Bashar al-Assad, whose enemies—Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and the Islamic State (the ambitious al-Qaeda offshoot)—are also self-proclaimed enemies of America?

This question merits discussion in the establishment media, yet instead of discussion we get a parade of retired generals and CIA analysts, along with terrorism "experts," who insist that to defeat the Islamic State the U.S. government must end the Syrian civil war by ousting Assad. (That's a responsibility for the U.S. government?) In light of the catastrophic U.S. intervention in Iraq and Libya, isn't Assad's overthrow more likely to help the violent jihadist groups, principally the Islamic State? After all, in 2012 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency acknowledged that American, Turkish, and Gulf state attempts to isolate Assad were leading to a radical caliphate.

To put this into a larger context, it's worth noting that the U.S government worked with Assad in the past. Syria was one of many countries to which the George W. Bush administration outsourced torture services in its "war on terror." Outsourcing torture has a negative ring to it, so the administration called it extraordinary rendition (just as torture became enhanced interrogation). In a sense, then, Assad was our son of a bitch when the U.S. government needed him. Then he outlived his usefulness.

Why? The short answer is Iran.

The longer answer is that the U.S. government has been willing to play footsie with violent anti-Western jihadist organizations in order to undermine regimes it does not like. It used jihadists against secular pan-Arab regimes, such as Nasser's in Egypt, and it did the same against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan—attracting Osama bin-Laden. (Jimmy Carter's national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski bragged about it.)

Post-9/11, the U.S. government has tilted toward violent jihadist organizations in order to harm Iran and its friends. But overthrowing Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who had suppressed the Shia Muslim majority, predictably brought an Iran-friendly regime to power in Iraq, and the American military enabled Shia militias to rid Baghdad of Sunnis. Thus Bush's neoconservative brain trust had no reason to support regime change in Iraq unless Iran and its friends Assad and Hezbollah in Lebanon were next on the hit list. And they were.

With Saddam out of the picture, the U.S. government, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel could warn of the menacing "Shia Crescent" from Tehran to southern Lebanon (plus Yemen). Saudi Arabia, home of Sunni Wahhabism (the ideology of bin Ladenites), hates the reemergence of Shia rival Iran as a major regional power, and Israel wants, among other things, to undermine Hezbollah, which protects southern Lebanon from invasion and ate Israel's lunch in 2006. So Saudi Arabia, its Gulf partners, and Turkey (which wants to defeat the U.S.-backed Kurds) help violent jihadists against Assad (the moderate opposition was known to be a "fantasy"; the Assad opposition was violent from the start), while Israel and the U.S. government also weaken Assad while conducting covert war and facilitating terrorism against Iran. (The Iranian nuclear program is a bogus part of this campaign. Israel is the nuclear monopolist in the region.)

Iran is portrayed as being on the march to regional conquest (or beyond), but that's ridiculous. It, like Russia (another neocon bogeyman), has long been Assad's Shia ally, the Houthi movement in Yemen has little to do with Iran, and Hezbollah arose against Israeli brutality in Lebanon. Assad's secular regime (like his father's) has not bothered Israel even though the self-identified Jewish state annexed Syria's Golan Heights, seized in the 1967 war. But being an ally of Iran and Hezbollah is enough for Israel to want to destabilize Syria.

All this adds up to an American, Saudi, Turkish, and Israeli preference for violent Sunni jihadists, the sort of people who attacked the Twin Towers and Paris, as the lesser evil—regardless of what Obama, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton say about the Islamic State.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr

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  • Vulgar Madman||

    He's Russia's son of a Bitch.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    And once again, the central lesson is ... mind your own business. What these nuts do is none of our business until they attack our country directly, and they have their hands full fighting each other for supremacy over sand and afterlife virgins. The few who have attacked us domestically have done so in response to all our meddling -- taking sides in their internal affairs, siding with one or the other in local wars, overthrowing regimes in favor of our own sons of bitches, drawing borders and establishing countries for our reasons without regard to their loyalties ....

    Gak! And soon will come the neocons proclaiming themselves as libertarians, but .... but ... there's always a but when it comes to oxen, like the idiot who thinks Daesh is worse than Boko Harem and thinks both are worse than, say, China or North Korea or Venezuela and therefore any of our business.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    You guys are just posting Richman blog posts?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Something wrong with that? You don't call out other repeats and reposts?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Are you the Sheriff of Reason, on the lookout to find consistency in my complaints?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I couldn't have complained if you hadn't complained first. Does that make you the sheriff and me the sherrifff?

  • Suicidy||

    If he's the Sheriff of Reason, then I want to be the Robin Hood of Reason. Except on Saturday nights. Where I will be the sultry bitch.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Most or all of Richman's articles here are reposted from his blog.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Richman's offended again that the US pols do not find the ayatollahs theocratic regime to be warm and fuzzy.

  • Suicidy||

    He loves that theocracy so much. Even though they would execute him without a second thought. Which is pretty twisted.

  • Spinach Chin||

    "Russia (another neocon bogeyman)"

    Wait, so now even the threat from Putin is a" bogeyman"?

    FFS, if people like Richman ran the world, all of Europe would be behind the Iron Curtain by now.

    It's an absolute FANTASY to blindly insist that total non-intervention is a sufficient policy to ensure we won't be attacked.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    It is more fantastical to think that one nation of 300M can control a world of 7B.

    It is bizarre to think that intervention in other countries is good libertarian policy. If YOU, individually, want to go fight Muslims, go ahead. But you have no right to steal anyone else's money or enslave anybody else to fight your battles for you.

    If you think your neighbor is being beaten up by a home invader, go ahead an intervene, that is your right, and you may consider it your duty. But you don't have the right to steal anyone else's money to buy the gun and body armor for you, nor to force anyone else to help you.

  • Suicidy||

    Yeah................you're one of 'those'.

  • Spinach Chin||

    Wow, that's some spastic level insanity.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    It is also complete bonkers to think you can attack other people, intervene in their domestic problems, redraw their borders, steal their resources, and kill them, year after decade after century, and get absolutely no blowback.

    You claim you have to attack them because they are attacking ... their neighbors? Yet you can't see their side, that you directly attacking them is cause for them to be upset.

    You, sir, are an obliviot.

  • Suicidy||

    You strike me as the sort that would come across some woman being brutally raped and beaten, and do nothing to help. Saying 'not my problem'. Then being offended when someone suggests just maybe otherwise.

    But then, some people turn isolaTionism into a religion.

  • Spinach Chin||

    Nice strawMEN.

    The point is, sometimes people want to kill you DESPITE your actions.

    How would you have handled Hitler, smart fella? Left him alone.

    Fuck's sake, you idealists are pathetic...

  • Michael Price||

    "Wait, so now even the threat from Putin is a" bogeyman"?"
    What threat is that? At worst he wants to take part of the Ukraine, which last I checked, was not essential to US security.

  • HenryC||

    Hezbollah arose because the Palestinian authority had not been successful in destroying Israel. This is not in response to Israeli brutality, but the lack of military victory over Israel and the non destruction of the Jewish State. That is what the Palestinian populace has wanted since Israel was formed. Over 80% of the Palestinian populace put the destruction of the Jewish state above the two state solution.

  • Suicidy||

    As does Sheldon. The extermination of Israel is his greatest aspiration. Pretty fucked up, as he is a Jew.

  • Number 2||

    I came upon this drivel a day late. So Bush removed Saddam to create a power vacuum that would be filled by Shia governments that would give Obama an excuse to demand the removal of Assad as a pretext for turning Putin into a bogeyman? Huh?

    Whatever you are on Sheldon, please share it.

  • kleptowit||

    I think Bashar Assad's mother was on good terms with Charles DeGaulle

  • Jason Vick||

    Assad was son of a bitch
     when the U.S. government needed him. Then he outlived his usefulness.

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