It’s time to put to rest the notion and myth perpetuated by the corporate media that Barack Obama had a “hands off” approach to the Syrian conflict. According to a Council on Foreign Relations estimate, Obama dropped over 26,000 bombs in 2016 — almost half of which fell in Syrian territory.
Last year, 12,192 bombs were dropped in Syria by Obama. Iraq came in a close second place with 12,095 bombs. Altogether, the peace prize-winning president dropped at least 26,171 bombs in seven countries throughout the last year.
By all means, these are conservative estimates regarding Obama’s use of force in the Middle East. As noted by Zenko and Wilson:
“In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.”
This means the number of actual individual bombs dropped in Syrian territory may be much higher.
Despite this, the hawkish corporate media has continued to advance the claim that Obama has had a “hands off” approach to the Syrian conflict, presumably suggesting he could have taken the guns blazing approach that George W. Bush took in Iraq in 2003.
The only way the mainstream media can continue to claim Obama had a “hands-off” approach to the Syrian war is to ignore a number of glaring facts.
First, the United States helped instigate the Syrian civil war to begin with; its orchestration dates as far back as 2006. According to Wikileaks, the U.S. establishment wanted to provoke Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to overreact to the threat of violent extremists crossing the border into Syria, similar to what was done to Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s. A cable leaked by Wikileaks dated December 2006, authored by William Roebuck, at the time chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus stated:
“We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.” (emphasis added)
Secondly, under Obama’s administration, the United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars arming and training Syrian rebels. However, the United States’ monetary contribution is not the only money that has flowed to the Syrian opposition, as Obama’s stalwart ally, Saudi Arabia, is responsible for providing most of the funding. The CIA delivers most of the training. Realistically, the U.S. spends about $1 billion a year aiding and assisting the rebels in Syria.
In 2014, PBS ran a report in which they interviewed Syrian rebels who were trained at a CIA training camping in Qatar. One of the fighters admitted they were being taught to finish off soldiers alive after an ambush – a potential war crime and ISIS’ standard operating procedure.
Further, the United States knew ISIS was a threat to the Assad regime, and according to a leaked audio of Secretary of State John Kerry, they hoped this would force him to negotiate with the Americans. This fell through, according to Kerry, when Russia stepped in and began bombing in Syria in the hopes of propping up Assad. A declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report also stated:
“The West, Gulf Countries and Turkey [Who] support the [Syrian] opposition…There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime…”
According to International Business Times, the U.S. spends about $11.5 million a day conducting operations in Syrian territory. Coupled with the findings above from the CFR that Syria was bombed the most heavily in 2016, it must be said that Obama’s approach to Syria is actually the most “hands-on” out of any country in the Middle East. Let’s not forget that these bombs actually targeted regime troops at one point, paving the way for a timely ISIS offensive.
Further, targeting these troops was no “accident.” Obama has been looking to bomb the Syrian regime for years now. In 2013, he vowed to punish Assad for alleged chemical weapons attacks, even when the evidence on both major attacks appeared to indicate that the Syrian rebels had been responsible for them (all the while these rebels still received support from Obama.) The proposed air strikes fell through as the United Kingdom’s parliament voted not to join the U.S.’ ambitions. Not only that, but Congress also looked set to join their British counterparts before Russia intervened quite convincingly to broker a diplomatic agreement.
In 2014, Obama found backdoor access into Syrian territory by purporting to bomb ISIS in Iraq, which would eventually lead them to bomb Syrian territory due to ISIS’ large Syrian component. Since then, he has clearly not been holding back on dropping ammunitions in Syria, despite the fact he has no cause for self-defense against Syria and has no UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Syrian territory – the only legal means in which another country can wage war against a sovereign nation.
It realistically cannot be realistically said that Obama has taken a “hands off” approach to Syria. If anything, the peace prize-winning president only had a “hands off” approach to fighting ISIS directly on numerous occasions, sitting back and watching as the terror group forcibly took a number of strategic cities in Iraq and Syria. However, one could make the argument that this was all part of a broader strategy to force Assad’s removal, as indicated by John Kerry’s leaked audios.
By these standards, George W. Bush also had a “hands off” approach to the Iraq war in 2003.