Listening to music broadcast by a radio station in Damascus evoked a flood of memories from a long ago trip to Syria that included the capital, the country’s second largest port city, Tartus, and the eventful bus ride that took me there. I was there to set up a summer study abroad program for US students that would have included Jordan and Syria, definitely an off-the-beaten path destination in 2000. The program never materialized because of political issues that subsequently began heating up in Israel.
Some of my memories are of the beautiful scenery in and around Damascus and near the Mediterranean Sea, the delicious cuisine, and the friendliness of the people. The fact that I held a US passport did not affect people’s attitudes towards me. They wondered why I was there, what I thought of Syria, and what was really it like in the US, among other questions. (These conversations were in English because my Arabic was limited to a few useful phrases.) I also remember how safe I felt wherever I was.
The Syria of 1999 was a country at peace, a country in which people of different religions got along, were friends, and did business together. That was before the US invasion, occupation, and near-total annihilation of Iraq, a neighboring country, which became a magnet for regional terrorism. That was before the US and other competing geopolitical entities sunk their claws into Syria. I have watched the war there – and the resulting death and destruction – with great sadness and anger. The recent US missile strike is the latest outrage du jour.
The US did what it is so good at, using its military to attack a sovereign country, this time under the pretense that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. (The international community is still waiting for solid evidence to confirm this assertion.)
The US itself has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. Its clients have included a rogue’s gallery of leaders and countries including Saddam Hussein and Iraq, an ally that became a mortal enemy and joined a long and growing list of countries that the US has invaded, waged war on, or otherwise violated.
The US military launched 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles on three (3) Syrian targets at a total cost of $92.4 million. It fired an additional 19 missiles of a different kind at a cost of $26.6 million. (In case you’re counting, that’s a net total of $119 million.) This does not include the many other costs associated with this attack, including, and most importantly, the lives of innocents that were snuffed out, cynically referred to by those firing the missiles as “collateral damage.”
Now contrast this with President Trump’s request to cut funding to the Fulbright program by 71% from $252 million, already a drop in the bucket that is the US federal discretionary budget. This program “has been a powerful force for peace, building relationships and understanding between the U.S. and 165 countries around the world” for more than 71 years. Such are the twisted value and fiscal of the world’s leading rogue state.