In late August, early September 2013, the United States nearly went to war with Syria. According to veteran investigative Pulitzer Prize journalist, Seymour Hersh, the Obama White House set September 2 as the date for a “monster strike” on Syria, which was to include devastating bombing raids of military and civilian infrastructure by B-52 bombers and other aircraft. This planned strike, which never materialized yet which has since been kept “on the table” by the administration, was Obama’s response to the two-and-a-half years long civil conflict which had engulfed Syria in a seeming endless cycle of death and destruction.
This planned “humanitarian intervention” or “humanitarian war” was given justification as “Assad is killing his own people.” Specifically, the White House accused the Assad regime of carrying out the August 21 large scale chemical attack against civilians of Ghoutta, on the outskirts of Damascus. The argument for war, based on the supposed crossing of the chemical weapons “red line” previously set by President Obama, would by the end of August hinge on Assad’s alleged use of “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
That the world was about to witness, once again, a U.S. led intervention against a Ba’athist government based on charges of WMD was an irony not lost on many commentators. The untold story of why Obama backed down, while deferring to a Congress which never even got to the point of holding a vote, was the American people’s taking to the streets in defiance of the White House’s logic of “Assad must go” via overwhelming strike power of the U.S. military.
In this moment—the first such moment going back to the Vietnam War, the common people brought Washington’s war plans to an abrupt halt. This in spite of mainstream media’s preparing the people and rallying the public for war with the non-stop airing of images of what was said to be Assad’s unique brutality against women and children, and the frequent parading of pro-intervention pundits on news shows declaring the moral outrage of “doing nothing.”
The Washington war machine failed as the people, for even a brief moment, took back the republic’s foreign policy. This was a moment of triumph for what Senator Wayne Morse called “the people’s foreign policy.”
Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, a lone voice of caution during a decade of war hysteria, spoke on a Face the Nation episode circa 1964, about his voting against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and general opposition to entering Vietnam:
Questioner: Senator, the Constitution gives to the President of the United States the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy-
Morse: Couldn’t be more wrong! You couldn’t have made a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy, that foreign policy belongs to the President of the United States, that’s nonsense-
Questioner: To whom does it belong, then, Senator?
Morse: It belongs to the American people, and our Constitutional fathers made it very, very, clear.
Questioner: Where does the President fit into this in the responsibility scale?
Morse: What I am saying is under our Constitution all our President is, is the administrator of the people’s foreign policy. Those are his prerogatives, and I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy-
Questioner: You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy.
Morse: Why do you say that? Why, you’re a man of little faith in democracy if you make that kind of statement. I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you’ll give them.
Questioner: It isn’t a lack of faith, Senator-
Morse: And my charge against my government is we’re not giving the American people the facts.
Now, in September 2014, the United States stands ready once again to bomb inside Syrian territory. The stated objective continues to be the bringing down of the sovereign Syrian state. As Senator Morse demanded decades ago, the American people must have the facts.