NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Conflict in Syria is a Civil War


    Lawrence Wilkerson: Those pushing US intervention in Syria are not humanitarian; want a "back door" to Iran -   March 18, 12
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Audio

      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook




    I support the real news because they deal with real issues, not meaningless articles and sound bites - Gary
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making."

    Transcript

    Conflict in Syria is a Civil WarPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington.

    In Cairo today, the Arab League announced that they think that what Assad is doing in Syria amounts to war crimes, crimes against humanity. Qatar has called for armed intervention. So has Saudi Arabia. And they've both called for arming the opposition. On the other hand, many people are suggesting this is a lot about the ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the West, and the situation's not so simple, and that what is really emerging is in fact a civil war in Syria.

    Now joining us to give us his take on what U.S. policy towards Syria should be is Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He's the former chief of staff of Colin Powell, and he now teaches at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. Thanks for joining us.

    COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Paul.

    JAY: So, Larry, first of all, so much conflicting information coming out about what's really going on in Syria. I mean, as best as you can, what do you think is taking place?

    WILKERSON: Putting it all together—the Arab League report, journalist reports out of the country, my own knowledge of the region, and experts' views, which are passed to me from time to time, including several people who served lengthy tours in Damascus when we had better relations with Syria, I would say it is a civil war. I would say there are assets, formidable assets, not least of which is the military, on the side of Bashar al-Assad, as it were, and there are some significant assets on the side of what is being called loosely (and I say that loosely) the opposition—there are probably multiple parts to the opposition, just as there were in Libya. So it is, I think, a civil war.

    And then you follow up from that determination and you say, what's the geography, what's the demography, what's the military circumstances, what are the surrounding countries, and so forth, and you begin immediately to see that this ain't Libya, this is extremely different from Libya—perhaps being like Libya in one aspect, and that is that in eastern Libya, you may know, most of al-Qaeda who killed our troops in Iraq came from. So there are that potentialities with regard to Syria, too, there are those potentialities. Iran is there big-time, too.

    So, much of the talk you hear from people like John McCain (who borders on being insane these days), it comes not from a desire to do something about the humanitarian situation such as it is in Syria. It's a backdoor into Iran, because Iran's IRGC is supporting with weaponry and with advice and so forth the Syrian government, Bashar al-Assad. It is also supporting him with technical means, like how to block the internet and other social media and so forth. So this is a backdoor for John McCain into Iran.

    It is a very different situation, though, militarily. They have very sophisticated air defenses. We would lose a lot of airplanes and a lot of men and women were we to strike with air power. Air power probably would not do all that much, except kill a lot of innocent civilians who are caught up in this civil war. It's a very different situation. I agree with the Pentagon, which is, I think, officially and unofficially advising extreme caution here in terms of listening to people like Senator McCain and doing something about the atrocities, such as they are.

    JAY: Now, it used—Larry, it used—.

    WILKERSON: I think the atrocities, too, are occurring on both sides. I think the opposition is probably as guilty of killing innocents and killing people in the government as the government is of killing innocents in the opposition or associated with the opposition or actual opposition fighters. The Arab League report sort of gives you that. But no one wants to listen to the Arab League report, and certainly the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar and other places, as you mentioned, don't want to listen to it, 'cause for them this is a game of power, this is a game of diffusing their own people's attention away from their own monarchies, this is a way of fighting Iran. At the heart of all this, Paul, you keep coming back to Persia, you keep coming back to that regime in Tehran that the Saudis and the Israelis, not because they present an existential threat, but because they present a power rivalry, want to have put down.

    JAY: Now, of course, caught in the middle of all this are peaceful protesters in Syria, who are not these forces being harmed by the Saudis and others. There's a flow of arms coming in, including, I think, from Iraq, who—.

    WILKERSON: Two sides in Iraq, I'm told: one side Muqtada al-Sadr, the other side Maliki. So you've got Iraq supporting both elements in—or the opposition and the government in Syria.

    JAY: And, of course, the people are caught in the midst of all this, 'cause they're—I think at the core of this there were legitimate, ordinary, honest protesters against a dictatorship, who are now caught in the midst of all these conflicting interests. But I want to go back to something—.

    WILKERSON: [incompr.] Paul, those are the people that I was calling innocents, because I think you're absolutely right, and I think that probably, if you would sit down and count, you'd probably find that includes the majority of the Syrian people—maybe not some of the segments of the elite or some of the segments of what I would call almost al-Qaeda-like elements, but it certainly, I think, includes the majority of the Syrian people. And that's what is the true shame here.

    JAY: Now, it used to be rather clear, innocent or in fact not, civil wars are civil wars and external powers are supposed to stay out of them. It used—you know, whether they did or not, whether they followed the law—and in many cases or most cases they didn't. The external powers have always fished in troubled waters. But at least it was fairly clear in international law that you would stay out of civil wars. Now this rubric of humanitarian intervention seems to be wiping away this whole basic concept that if you want to have world peace, you don't meddle in internal affairs of other countries. What do you make of this humanitarian intervention?

    WILKERSON: This is something that Madeleine Albright, Samantha Power, and a number of other individuals have pushed. I mention those two because they both held formidable government office. Madeleine, of course, is ambassador to the United Nations and then secretary of state, and Samantha is a major member of President Obama's National Security Council staff. It's people like that who have begun to bring this to fruition.

    I'm not—I have mixed emotions about it, because, let's face it, I'm a realist, and I think there are some conflicts in the world that just ought to, as Edward Luttwak said at one time, be allowed to end and be allowed to—one side to achieve victory. You're going to have a lot more sustainability, a lot more stability, and a lot more endurance in the government that results if that is the case, and one hopes that it's a more democratic government rather than not. It's, I think, very difficult to intervene in a civil war. It's very difficult to intervene in a civil war that's being conducted in a land that's extremely difficult to get to militarily, and that's Syria as opposed to Libya.

    And I always bring up the analogy of our own war, which was the most painful one in our history—600,000 dead, and on both sides, brothers, sisters fighting each other and so forth. And England was messing in our civil war, and before the Battle of Antietam (which dissuaded them, I think), was thinking hard about coming in on the southern side. Imagine, if they had, what we would have thought in Washington. This is not precisely the same circumstances, of course, but it is a situation of civil war that I think ought to come home to Americans.

    Let this thing be handled by the Syrians. Let this thing be handled by people who are more contiguous, if you will, who have more dog in the fight, rather than interfering, and especially interfering with military force. I'm not saying that we shouldn't provide humanitarian assistance, support the ICRC, and all the other things that we can do that would be positive, but military force just in my view should be ruled out—at this time, anyway.

    JAY: And what are you hearing from the Pentagon in terms of your sources, and where are they at on this?

    WILKERSON: I think the cooler heads in the Pentagon—and that's the majority of them—are presenting these matters to the president. Of course, they're contingency planning, as they have to, in case the president tells them to do something—they will do it, they will do it to the best of their ability. But I think their advice right now is, probably, this is a really hard nut to crack and I don't think you want to get out your nutcracker.

    JAY: Thanks for joining us.

    WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

    JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting