Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels is a terrible mistake

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Deciding to arm Syrian rebels is a mistake – the tragic consequences of which will be felt in the United States for years to come.

I do not want to criticize President Obama for deciding to take some action regarding Syria. However, I am not sure it serves U.S. interests, nor do I think it supports the cause of international human rights – something the United States believes it should stand up for. In deciding to arm Syrian rebels, who in fact did the president agree to help?

There are several groups that characterize and comprise the rebels who are fighting against Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad. The first is the Free Syrian Army, a group composed of former army members who defected early on to carry out the resistance. This group also claims to be non-sectarian, meaning they do not claim to be fighting for any particular ethnic or religious sect.

The second major faction in the rebel camp is the Syrian Liberation Front and the Syrian Islamic Front. Although probably smaller than the Free Syrian Army, this group is sectarian, fighting for Islamist ideology. Islamist means fundamentalist or extremist – the label the United States generally reserves for the real bad guys.

The last group is the Jabhat al-Nusra, and although the smallest of the three groups it probably is the fiercest and – one other important detail the media rarely illustrates – its members have pledged
allegiance to al-Qaida and the group is composed of many former members of the Iraqi insurgency.

Let us reflect on this last point: One of the groups fighting the Syrian government is composed of members of the insurgency in Iraq that already have waged combat against U.S. forces; seek to destroy the United States; and have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, the group responsible for the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and which is our sworn enemy.

WHY DO I EMPHASIZE this last point? Because it is worth pausing and asking: Exactly which of these three groups is Obama arming? What are the chances that our arms shipments arrive in the hands of the Islamist sect of the resistance, or worse, in the hands of those who pledge support for al-Qaida, many of whom already are responsible for the deaths of American service members in Iraq?

Could you imagine just a few years ago that the United States, just finishing its major security operations in Iraq, would be responsible for funding those same elements in Syria? Further, let us remember how the United States has fared when it decides to fund and arm those who are opposed to American interests and the American way of life: Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 1980s, and the elements that would comprise the Taliban in their war against the Soviet Union. How did that work out for us?

Yet, here we go again.

I am not saying that the United States should do nothing. Obama should have acted with great vigilance at the start of the Syrian civil war. But now, the situation is grave and dangerous, with human rights abuses occurring on both sides. At this writing, the United Nations and other nongovernmental human rights organizations report that up to 100,000 civilians have died in the fighting. How bad is that number? Well, as you read this, someone else has been slaughtered. This is a stunning, tragic and, unfortunately, all-too-familiar consequence of dirty civil wars and ethnic violence.

But should we arm one group over another, especially when the group we side with is just as guilty of violating the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Absolutely not. Obama is making a mistake that will haunt the United States and its international legitimacy and reputation for years to come.

What atrocities are the rebels responsible for that makes arming them morally irresponsible by the United States? Just a few should suffice.

First, it is the rebels who are responsible for tearing the heart out of a Syrian solider and eating it. What horror this is. Yet this type of person is the type of person the United States could be funding and arming. Second, the Islamist groups fighting in Syrian have no doubt, even though it is not often reported in the American media, declared a war against the Christian population in Syria. Bishops, priests, monks and laypeople alike – Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic – have disappeared, and been harassed and killed. On July 2, CNN reported that it obtained footage of the rebels beheading a Catholic priest in Syria. The Vatican has confirmed this tragedy.

THESE ARE ONLY a couple of examples of rebel abuse, but there are thousands more committed by the rebel camp. Yet, this is the group your tax dollars could help fund and arm. I repeat: Your tax dollars are going to fund and arm rebel groups that are the sworn enemy of the United States, and that are responsible for gross violations of human rights.

It often is said that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. This is careless thinking when Enemy “A” contains links to al-Qaida and Enemy “B” is being helped by the Islamic Republic of Iran, who is perhaps one of a small number of states that pose a possible existential threat to the United States’ strategic interests. Further, the Syrian government is being backed by Hezbollah, considered to be a terrorist group by the United States.

What we are witnessing in Syria is a deadly ethno-religious civil war – one side with links to al-Qaida, whose No. 1 enemy is the United States; the other side with links to Iran, whose No. 1 enemy is the United States. Our best option is to stay out of this war before we make matters worse, and damage our strategic interest. However, something must be done to protect international human rights. Something must be done to protect the civilians of Syria and its Christian population.

What is to be done? Perhaps rather than arming one terrible group vs. the other, we should demand – and, more, support – the United Nations’ peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations in the area. Most importantly, we should be spending our money in humanitarian relief for those being killed, tortured and victimized by this hellish violence.

We must make a stand for human rights. Arming al-Qaida is certainly not that stand.

(The writer is an assistant professor of political science, and associate director of the Knowledge Integrated program, at Georgia Regents University Augusta.)

Comments (12) Add comment
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Fundamental_Arminian
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Fundamental_Arminian 07/14/13 - 04:02 am
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U.S.-backed persecution of Middle East Christians

    Second, the Islamist groups fighting in Syrian have no doubt, even though it is not often reported in the American media, declared a war against the Christian population in Syria. Bishops, priests, monks and laypeople alike – Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic – have disappeared, and been harassed and killed. On July 2, CNN reported that it obtained footage of the rebels beheading a Catholic priest in Syria. The Vatican has confirmed this tragedy (Dr. Craig Douglas Albert).

Thanks for mentioning the persecution of Christians in Syria. Should we be surprised that our administration, which is hostile to Christianity here, wants to aid groups that are suppressing it overseas?

It's not well known, but Russia's opposition to our administration's intervention in Syria stems from Vladimir Putin's desire to ease the persecution of his Christian brothers and sisters there. Although Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is nothing to brag about, Syrian Christians realize they are better off under him than they would be under the al-Qaeda sympathizers our administration favors.

http://global.christianpost.com/news/vladimir-putin-vows-to-defend-chris...

Should we also be surprised that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, whom our administration supported, suppressed the Christian vote in Egypt?

http://global.christianpost.com/news/muslim-brotherhood-kept-christians-...

afadel
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afadel 07/14/13 - 07:02 am
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Event about Syria's Revolution/Civil War on Aug 11, 3pm

A free, open to the public screening of the 1-hour long documentary film THE SUFFERING GRASSES: When Elephants Fight, It is the Grass that Suffers, directed by Iara Lee. Discussion to follow.

Sunday, August 11, 2013, 3:00 pm, Headquarters Library, 823 Telfair St., Augusta, GA 30901, 3:00 pm. Ground floor, turn to the right before going through the book detectors at the library’s entrance. Admission is free and open to the public.

http://csrapeace.org/2013/06/13/sun-aug-11-3-pm-the-suffering-grasses-sy...

deestafford
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deestafford 07/14/13 - 08:34 am
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The writer is right on target in this well written column.

Perhaps, and I say perhaps, if we had got involved early on we could have kept the radicals from becoming part of the rebels. That is one theory I have heard. I'm still not sure of what is in our national interest in this fight.

One thing that is interesting is the strong backing from John McCain on arming the rebels. At this point, I sort of flavor Sarah Palin's comment of let them fight and have Allah sort it out.

obama's lack of back bone was shown again when he did not get involved early if he was going to get involved. This man is weak when it comes to making timely decisions as shown by his waiting on his decision as to a surge in Afghanistan and his long overdue decision on the Keystone pipeline. He just doesn't want to accept any accountability or responsibility on anything that may stick to him politically. He lack of a leadership background is evident everyday.

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 07/14/13 - 08:45 am
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We should stay out of this
Unpublished

We should stay out of this conflict- PERIOD. We need to fully get out of our recent conflicts and regroup for a while before sticking our nose somewhere else it does not belong.

carcraft
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carcraft 07/14/13 - 01:29 pm
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Obama dithered and wasted

Obama dithered and wasted time. We do need to stay out of it because the rebels are mostly fundamentalist now! Russia and Hezbollah are backing Assad and are going to have a cresant of power in the middle east. On a stragic global scale the US has lost. The people of Egypt have renounced us and the Muslim brother hood has denounced us. It is amazing the Obama managed to position the US to be distrusted by both sides!

soapy_725
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soapy_725 07/14/13 - 10:21 am
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Not if you are the King of the World. Antichrist, embodied.
Unpublished

Not if you are the King of the World. Antichrist, embodied.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/14/13 - 07:20 pm
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Good Column

I see a few weaknesses in there, but overall this is a good analysis and a good column. Obama is having a hard time reconciling the neo-cons and the Muslim Brotherhood.

KSL
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KSL 07/14/13 - 07:51 pm
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Let me put it succinctly

Anything Obama decides is a terrible mistake!

KSL
129553
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KSL 07/14/13 - 10:03 pm
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Obama is so stupid, he

Obama is so stupid, he doesn't know which of his puppeteers to listen to at this point.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/14/13 - 10:15 pm
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Come on, people, nobody ever

Come on, people, nobody ever knows the secret deals that ALL of the Presidents make with these foreign countries.

Until a couple of years down the road, when it all comes to light, and then people dither about it on blogs- which doesn't change any of it.

KSL
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KSL 07/14/13 - 10:36 pm
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corgi

That was my defense of Bush. We don't know what they as presidents know. What bothers me is the two-faceness of supporters. It is okay if my guy is doing this, which I complaned about when it was your guy.

Also, I do have a problem with Obama's administration taking the Patriot Act to this degree. He is reminding me of a dictator or an African warlord.

KSL
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KSL 07/14/13 - 10:55 pm
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By the way We have been gone

By the way

We have been gone after by the IRS twice since the election of Obama. Neithr time had we done anything wrong or owed additional money. We, just had to suffer the aggrevation. The IRS people we dealt with were quite kind and helpful. We blame the poltical lackeys right under the top.

KSL
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KSL 07/14/13 - 11:13 pm
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Not saying they are picking

Not saying they are picking on us because of my comments here.
Orthe email I get from concervatives.
But there has been an increase in picking on self-employed people. You know, the ones who hire people, providing jobs.

Fundamental_Arminian
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Fundamental_Arminian 07/15/13 - 10:06 am
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Carcraft

You say, "Russia and Hezbollah are backing Assad and are going to have a cresant of power in the middle east." The different players in the Middle East have different motives.

Hezbollah is a Shia Muslim organization, and the Alawite sect, which Assad belongs to, is part of Shia Islam. That is why the two support each other. Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill II, who are Christians, favor Assad and Hezbollah because Shi'ite Muslims don't persecute Christians so badly as Sunni Muslims do; besides, Syria's Christians prefer Assad.

Our president wants to help Sunni Muslims, especially Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Saudis. An article at the link below, offers an interesting theory for our president's pro-Sunni agenda.

    Now why would a nice, clean-cut community organizer like Barack Obama favor Sunnis? The most powerful Sunni entity on earth is Saudi Arabia. In 1988, the principal adviser to Prince Walid Bin Talal (a Saudi who was one of the world's richest men) named Khalid Al-Mansour took extraordinary measures (including fundraising) to help Obama get into Harvard Law School. We know this due to the testimony of powerful lawyer Percy Sutton who wrote a letter on his behalf. Percy Sutton had been the late Malcolm X's lawyer (as a side note, Malcolm X had become a Sunni shortly before his assassination). Under pressure, Sutton later claimed that he had mispoken, but it's easier to believe that he was "Cory Bookered" into recanting than that he misspoke in such a detailed way.

http://www.examiner.com/article/could-this-be-why-obama-favors-sunnis

Our president's foreign policy has been disastrous for Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians. Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill II rightly recognize that it will be disastrous for Syria's Christians, too.

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