By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Palm Sunday used to excite me because just one week later came Easter with Easter eggs and a once-a-year ham dinner complete with fresh pineapple, refried beans and fluffy Spanish rice. For our $25-dollars-week-earned barrio family from Mexico, the Easter (Pascuas, pah-z-coo-ahs) ham dinner was second in import to our traditional Christmas dinner.
This Palm Sunday I woke up, turned on a news channel to catch up like I do every day and the death of dozens of Egyptian Coptic Christians by bombs during their Palm Sunday services shocked me. This just a couple of days after I cheered-on President Trump who ordered 60 cruise missiles fired off of two U.S. Navy ships in the Med (the Mediterranean Sea) to punish the Syrian Air Force field from where a Sarin gas attack on civilians was launched.
Within hours, the “Caliphate” ISIS thugs in Syria took credit for the bombings and the dozens of deaths. The news videos from Egypt were stunning, as stunning as video of the dozens of U.S. cruise missiles fired on Syria that filled television screens.
I was struck by the language Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used in describing Syrian butcher Bashar al-Assad’s fellow war criminals, the Russians. “Incompetent” is how he described the Russians who shared the air field with Syrians. They had to know the Syrians were using prohibited weapons of mass destruction against people. “Incompetent” or complicit?
Either word defines the Syrian-based, Moscow-run Russian adventure in Syria as an ongoing Russian war crime.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is right on. From his words and President Trump’s orders to bombard Syria’s airborne criminals, can we hope there is a new policy towards the Butcher of Damascus? Can we look forward to a rejection of the failed policy of former President Barack Obama? Under Obama’s policy almost 500,000 Syrians have died at Assad’s hands and millions of Syrians have fled to camps in Jordan or as refugees to Europe.
Attacking the failed Obama policy candidate Donald Trump also campaigned against any involvement in Syria’s civil war. He was heavily critical of any move President Obama made towards enforcing a “red line” on the use of WMD gas attacks by Assad. Candidate Trump beat his opponents over the head about senseless non-productive wars the U.S. fought in the Middle East, in Iraq in particular. He told us many, many times that he was against the Iraq War from the beginning when in fact he didn’t oppose it until 14 months after the March 2003 Bush invasion of Iraq.
Now, he is President of the United States and in charge of foreign policy and the military. So what is the first real exercise of foreign policy President Trump offers? A military bombing to punish rogue antagonistic Syrians of the U.S. and our allies– just like Presidents have done since Jimmy Carter invaded Iran with six U.S. Marine Corps helicopters.
President Ronald Reagan bombed Libya because American soldiers were killed by Libyan bombers. President George H.W. Bush commanded a full blown 100-hour war on Iraq preceded by a 6-month-build-up. President Clinton bombed Iraq as punishment for cease-fire violations after the Persian Gulf War. President George W. Bush launched two separate wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama fled Iraq but had to send Americans back to prevent the loss of Baghdad to radical ISIS. He sent special operation troops (Navy SEALS, Army Delta and Marine Recon/Raiders) to Iraq and Syria.
Now, President Trump bombs Syrian air force facilities and sends U.S. Marines to help eject ISIS from their “capitol,” Raqqa. All he needs now is a real policy on Syria’s Civil War and Bashar al-Assad.
Here are my suggestions: President Trump should declare “no-fly” zones over territories the Assad government doesn’t control. All bombing of ISIS territory should be only by American forces. Refugee camps—safe zones, should be announced protected by Arab ally troops from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States – and our air power. There is nothing Assad can do about this policy; as for the Russians, isn’t the $54 billion President Trump wants to increase our military budget larger than the entire Russian military budget? There is little they can do about this proposal.
Finally, we need NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces to join us in organizing Syrian fighters to fight Assad. There are thousands of Syrians that are refugees in Europe to recruit. We should also offer Assad immunity from prosecution if he voluntarily leaves Syria to live among his stolen billions in Swiss banks.
If Bashar al-Assad doesn’t leave Syria voluntarily then we should see to it that he dies like the children he has massacred — soon. That is the policy I would recommend.
Contreras is the author of THE MEXICAN BORDER: IMMIGRATION, WAR AND A TRILLION DOLLARS IN TRADE and MURDER IN THE MOUNTAINS: WAR CRIME AT KHOJALY both published by Floricanto Press; he formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate