In 2013, the world stood at the precipice of a global war. The US President Barrack Obama had his finger on the trigger. He was enraged by the chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria, which he squarely blamed on the regime of the besieged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Different schools of thought argued that the source of chemical weapons was not the Assad regime, and pointed a finger at the Western-backed insurgents who until this day are fighting to oust the Russian-backed President Assad.
Back in 2013, America was on the brink to bombing Syria to ashes. For several years earlier, the US and its allies had failed to effect regime change in Syria. The Ghouta episode appeared like a wonderful excuse to cut corners to the envisaged rendezvous of victory by the US and its allies.
But, alas!, Russia pulled a diplomatic coup by electing to preach negotiations instead of brinkmanship.
The results were satisfactory to both Washington and Moscow. To a certain extent to the under-siege President Assad, too, whose choices had become visibly whittled down.
The way forward was that Russia and the US will oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. Indeed, that happened soon afterward. However, the lingering question remained: Who really was behind the Ghouta chemical attack? The question persisted in the wake of Syria’s torrent of denials, supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In fact, it is thanks to Russia that to this day, President Assad remains in power, disputed as that power may be.
Years later, a new study conducted by Rootclaim has found that actually, the Ghouta chemical attack was never carried out by the Assad regime. Instead, it was the ghastly work of the insurgents hell-bent on discrediting a regime they sought to replace with themselves, with the support of the US and Western allies.
Rootclaim is described as a “collaborative analysis platform that transforms how people understand complex issues by combining the power and reach of crowdsourced information with the mathematical validity of Bayesian statistics”.
Rootclaim further prides itself in the commitment that “fact-based knowledge should be accessible to anyone”.
As responsibility for the 2013 chemical attack was a hotly contested, political divisive issue, with consensus in the West that the Syrian government was guilty as charged whilst Syria and its allies maintained that the episode was a “false flag” intended to trigger America’s military intervention.
In 2017 Rootclaim undertook the study around the Ghouta chemical attack. In recent months, that study found that 96% of the facts and findings went against the Western consensus.
“This is one of our most certain conclusions,” Rootclaim said in a statement. “The findings are a result of what we believe to be the most impressive independent open-source investigation in history,” said the company.
It said the investigation was initiated nearly a year ago by several volunteers who reviewed all the evidence from the attack and managed to uncover “incontrovertible evidence implicating an opposition faction”.
This is the issue I take with unilateralism in international relations. No matter how powerful and mighty regimes may be, the world remains stronger in its diversity and peaceful co-existence where weaker and smaller nations do not feel susceptible to being coerced in any way by their stronger, powerful counterparts.
Had Russia not engaged the US over the Ghouta chemical attack saga, the Obama administration would have in all likelihood bombed Syria to smithereens. However, it would be folly to think that Russia and other allies of Syria would have kept quiet and folded arms in anticipated defeat.
History teaches us that from July 1914-November 1918 the world experienced a brutal World War1, which erupted following the assassination Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
Its end was sealed with the historic Treaty of Versailles. In its wake, World War 1 left 16 million people – soldiers and civilians alike – dead.
As if the international community had learnt nothing from the destructive nature of armed conflict, two decades later World War 2 also erupted in 1939 and lasted till 1945. It was the biggest and deadliest war in history, having been sparked by the 1939 Hitler-led Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, to which Great Britain and France objected by declaring war against Germany.
The ensuing six years of the international conflict took more lives than the preceding global war, destroyed more land and property around the world in what historians describe as destruction never seen before in history.
An estimated 45-60 million people lost their lives during World War 2, a figure that includes six million Jews who were murdered in cruel Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler’s abominable “Final Solution”, which is today better known as the Holocaust.
So, what lessons of history from the previous world wars have escaped latter-day’s powerful heads of state, particularly those whose foreign policy are premised on the power and might of their military? Methinks not much, if not nothing at all.
Peace-loving people and activists for a multilateral world order often point out the unimaginable destruction that a nuclear-capable international community would pose.
The suffocation of multilateralism from global forums such as the UN is a ticking time bomb for a world that has become divided right down the middle line of geopolitics. There are many examples of the dangers posed by acts of unilateralism.
They include the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the gruesome ousting, killing and rape of Libya’s charismatic leader Muammar Gaddafi ten years ago, the Syrian war whose sole purpose to its orchestrators appear to be nothing else but regime change – the list is long in open-source history literature.
But then again, forewarned is forearmed: Fact is, history has a habit of repeating itself.
Thus it is at historical junctures such as these that men and women of moral uprightness and requisite influence should start talking more and louder against dangerous excesses mainly by madmen who mysteriously make it to the highest offices in the land.
As William Shakespeare puts it in his tragedy, Macbeth: “Such men are dangerous!” The play Macbeth is about “the corrupting power of unchecked ambition”.
The way to a secured future where lesser nations would be respected as equals at international forums is regard for that age-old, noble notion: sovereignty.
In a rapidly changing world order, no nation can go it alone in tackling global challenges. Or cobble together a few like-minded friends and describe that as international consensus. And in my book, no nation no matter how belittled, will fold its arms in the wake of aggression even if the aggressor is a superpower.
The world stands on the brink of a repeat of the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Smaller nations have become capable of causing great harm to the Goliath-like nations. For example, Cuba has survived decades-long American sanctions and blockade.
Venezuela, too, has learned to dodge America’s bullet amid the ongoing economic suffocation of Caracas. Yemen is standing up to the Saudis. Iran is still standing despite unwavering hostility from adversaries. The Palestinians still take to the streets in search of their freedom from Israel.
These are just a few examples of the possible triggers of international conflict. The world better start taking history a little more seriously.