From Kilteevan to Syria ….. CIA John Brennan’s unenviable lot.
The comments of two of our leading media commentators, Eamonn McCann in the Irish Times last week, and Justine McCarthy, in the Sunday Times more recently, about the Gathering event at Kilteevan, which was attended by the CIA chief, John Brennan, along with his 93-year-old father and a brother, were very insulting to both the Brennan family and to the people of this Co. Roscommon village.
Focusing on his CIA role, McCann deplored “the picture of one of the world’s most shameless defenders of murder sitting snug in a Roscommon community centre, singing ballads, sipping pints and toasting the local leprechauns”. Justine was concerned that “forelock-tugging.. .. did take centre stage” and found the “unchallenged sycophancy” disquieting.
I wonder where these same commentators stand today on the burning issue of whether the United States should lead some kind of effective retaliatory military action against the Assad regime in Syria for last week’s slaughter of hundreds of civilians with chemical weapons. Of course, they might claim the jury is still out on who was to blame for that atrocity. Personally, I think the refusal of the regime to allow immediate UN access to the scene of the slaughter tells its own conclusive tale.
Would some US-led intervention be the right thing to do? Clearly we have definitively crossed Obama’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in this conflict. There is now a momentum for action to enforce the beginning of the end of the Assad regime, with all its attendant messiness, and such action would appear to have approval across most of the so-called Western democratic world at least.
Today’s situation is broadly analogous to what faced the West back in 1995 when, having held back for years in the face of the murderous Serbian onslaught on the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, then US President Clinton and the wider NATO alliance felt forced to act after the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by the Serb forces at Srebrenica. That bombing wave did bring that terrible conflict to its eventual end and led to the arraignment of Milosevic and Karadic in the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.
Obviously, there is no neat solution to the current Syrian civil war, overladen as it is by the inter-tribal conflict across the Middle East of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, as well as other tribes, as is the case in Syria. Nor need one be naïve about US concerns for its strategic interests. But even the Russians have been quite mute in their support for Syria following this latest chemical weapons atrocity.
So the Western world especially is now looking to the United States and, yes, to people like John Brennan, to take some kind of decisive military action – mere condemnations are not going to bother Assad or his allies – that might, hopefully, lead to some form of Syrian peace conference.
People like Eamonn McCann and Justine McCarthy might prefer to hold their nose, and to have no truck with John Brennan and his ilk. For my part, I believe their fault-finding with Brennan, and the hapless people of Kilteevan, is both naïve and wrong. Our world is bedevilled by terrorist organisations who observe very few of the Geneva Convention rules of war. The 9/11 atrocity in the United States is the outstanding monument to this reality, and the use of drones instead of feet on the ground is part of the real politik response to this terrorist landscape.
It’s easy, from the comparatively peaceful haven of this emerald isle, to lie on another man’s wound. However, the choices faced by the John Brennan’s of this world are enormously more complex and messy, but sometimes necessary.