Skip to content Skip to footer

Shifting Syria Threats

How do you assess disproportionate harm when this entire assault on Syria is disproportionate and premised on undefined threats?

(Image: Military strike via Shutterstock)

The US is under pressure to respond to allegations of war crimes in connection with its air strikes on Syria. But how do you assess disproportionate harm when this entire assault is disproportionate and premised on undefined threats?

Local residents in the village of Kafr Deryan recently video taped bits of a Tomahawk missile at the site of a strike that they say killed at least two men two women and five kids September 23.

Only the US and UK have Tomahawks so Human Rights Watch is asking the US to investigate. The group is further demanding that international law be obeyed and strikes be avoided that might have a disproportionate impact on civilians versus the expected military advantage.

Now I’ve always been skeptical of international laws of war. They tend to coddle the conscience and imply war can be made kind. But the problem here is even more specific. Even when Barack Obama launched his bombing campaign he made no claim of self defense. At that time, remember, American intelligence had concluded that ISIS posed “no immediate threat” to the U.S. so-called “homeland.” In his speech, launching the attack, the president said exactly that.

The no-threat story was front page news. Many officials and terrorism experts quoted at the time believed that the actual danger of ISIS had been distorted by hours of alarmist TV.

An anti-terror analyst with the Rand Corporation was quoted by the New York Times, saying “It’s pretty clear that upping our involvement in Iraq and Syria makes it more likely that we will be targeted by the people we are attacking.”

And still the campaign was launched. All that history’s worth remember because now officials and the press are full of talk of a brand new supposed threat, dire enough to merit the US assault. The Khorasan Group: supposedly a pack of Al Quaeda veterans whom the Administration say do intend to target the US.

Frankly, when it comes to threats to the President’s “homeland” at least, a far greater threat seems to come from American vets — the disturbed veterans of the US’s own wars. No Al Qaeda vet has so far managed to open the front door and run through the White House with a knife.,

Still, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made it sound scary when he said “In terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

Scary, Until you remember, that that’s not saying much.

The point is, proof of claim doesn’t seem to be required for the US to bomb and kill; nor even any evidence of military advantage.

In that Syrian village, it’s the reverse. There, the Department of Defense says it has no credible proof of civilian deaths, despite video and eye witness reports. They do, on the other hand, claim that several strikes have “disrupted an imminent attack against the US and Western interests.”

To all those who imagined the presidency of phantom threats was over with the departure of George W. Bush, that’s over. The one threat that is very real is that the US public will be terrified by all this and the killing and dying will escalate.

The “F” Word is a weekly commentary . Watch “The Laura Flanders Show” in full, on TeleSUR English or at This week: Gar Alperovitz on “America After Capitalism”. To tell me what you think, write [email protected].

​​Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.

Truthout is widely read among people with lower ­incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.

We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so — especially now, because we have just 2 days left to raise $33,000 in critical funds.

We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?