On September 19th, the Senate approved the arming and training of moderate Syrian rebels to combat ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the extremist group responsible for the recent beheadings of British aid worker David Haine and American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Understandably, there is opposition to this strategy from members of both parties. ‘Many Republicans argue the strategy isn’t tough enough to defeat ISIS; many Democrats worry the plan could drag the United States into another long military engagement.‘ It seems it may be very possible the U.S. is choosing between the electric chair and lethal injection. How do we know we are not arming future enemies and terrorist?
Not to say that people opposing the ruling class should never receive support. Some of the worst regimes have eventually been overthrown due to the actions of folks with the guts to stand up and say ‘no.’ For example, the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s current ruling party was once seen as a threat to the past apartheid governing body. Haiti’s Toussaint L’Oveture, also known as Black Napoleon, was responsible for the slave revolt that liberated Haiti and was considered a rebel by the French. The British once viewed Mahatma Gandhi, who has become a worldwide symbol for nonviolent protest, and his famous hunger strikes as rebellious. Let’s not forget the good old United States of America’s fight for emancipation started with acts of defiance against England. In a September 2013 interview for the World Post, a Syrian refugee and army colonel who defected to the Free Syrian Army fighting President Bashar al-Assad, stated that the army was originally formed to defend the Syrian people and their homes from an unjust government.
The question is how can the U.S. be sure they are arming those defending their homes and not the extremist with beliefs that come close to those of the Taliban? Furthermore, there is no guarantee these arms will not end up in the wrong hands. Washington has a dreadful track record of being manipulated by thugs and charlatans in other countries masquerading as allies. There are various reports stating that the Reagan administration armed Afghan rebels, ‘mujahideen against Russia during the 1980’s…a decision that ended up strengthening radical Islamic forces. Reagan administration officials even misconstrued the term “mujahideen” itself as “freedom fighters,” when it really meant “holy warriors”—a very different connotation that should have alerted U.S. policy makers.’ Well guess what? Mujahideen alumni later turned up in extremist and terrorist movements such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, you read right, the United States quite possibly could have created the same Osama bin Laden they hunted down and killed in 2011 for ordering the 911 attacks. According to a NBCNews.com article,’ the U.S. armed Islamic extremists in Afghanistan during the 1980s…Bin Laden was the heir to the Saudi construction fortune who, at least since the early 1990s, used that money to finance countless attacks on U.S. interests and those of its Arab allies around the world.’
Some other examples of the U.S.’ less than stellar involvement with rebels in other countries includes:
- Partnering with rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, leaving the country in a chaotic and unruly state and leading up to the murder of the American ambassador and three members of his staff.
- U.S. Involvement in Latin America can be traced back to the 1980’s and includes supporting, arming and training of the anti-communist militia groups in various countries like Argentina, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
- Aiding Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s takeover by military coup in the 70’s, which later ended with Pinochet’s arrest as a war criminal for the mass murder and torture.
- U.S. military support for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, remembered for the genocide of nearly 2 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979.
- From 1974 to 1975, the U.S. armed anticommunist groups, UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola and FNLA (National Liberation Front of Angola) against the Soviet Union. However, in 2002, new information about American involvement in the African country questioned whether or not communism was even a threat when America entered Angola.
Declassified American documents seem to overturn conventional explanations of the war’s origins. Historians and former diplomats who have studied the documents say they show conclusively that the United States intervened in Angola weeks before the arrival of any Cubans, not afterward as Washington claimed. Moreover, though a connection between Washington and South Africa, which was then ruled by a white government under the apartheid policy, was strongly denied at the time, the documents appear to demonstrate their broad collaboration.
In conclusion, history tells us again and again things can go from bad to worse when it comes to arms deals with rebels. Guns, violence and military force leaves countries war torn and the people, innocent civilians and soldiers, are left behind to clean up the mess that often includes no clear governing body and poverty; thus leading to continued restlessness as people try to survive and empower themselves. Additionally, putting ammunition in the hands of an angry and emotional group with nothing to lose, whether ally or enemy, does not seem like a very wise decision. It should be no surprise, when the offspring who grew up in the midst of war become adults that not only hate countries like the U.S. but make it a mission to destroy the countries they believe demolished theirs. Regardless of the history, the United States cannot be expected to be a sitting duck and self-defense is eminent and thus we are responding to ISIS’ chilling actions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just put all the opponents in a ring and let them box out their differences? We can only hope that one day the world can eliminate wars and actually find a civil way to resolve disagreements. Not! Open any history book and you will see the sad truth is that war has been around forever.