tv Activists Call for Withdrawal of U.S. Military Aircraft From Syrian Airspace CSPAN August 14, 2017 4:55am-5:59am EDT
>> good morning and welcome to this news conference. my name is norman solomon, i'm a cofounder of rootsaction.org, which is hosting thi >> good morning and welcome to this news conference. my name is norman solomon. 'm a cofounder and coordinator of the online group roots action.org which is hosting this event today. roots action is a cosponsor of the petition campaign calling for, this is a title of the, no u.s. warplanes over syria. together with five other organizations, veterans for peace, dailykos, the nation magazine, world beyond war, and watchdog.net. u.s. government began bombing syria nearly three years ago. that was back in september 2014. since then they killing from many sides has continued unabated. meanwhile, during the last three years, tensions between the world's two nuclear superpowers have escalated. and escalated sharply. meanwhile, during the last to direct military warfare with
each other. when addressing the overall tensions between the united states and russia, former senator sam nunn, who was chair of the senate armed services committee cosigned a letter recently and i would like to quote from it. it called for "urgently pursuing practical steps now that can stop the downward spiral in relations and reduce real dangers," between russia and the united states. and, "reducing military and other rests," yet, those risks continue to accelerate. that is the subject of this campaign and the subject of our discussion here today. on june 19, u.s. and russian planes reportedly flew within five feet of each other over the baltic sea.
also as this summer began, the u.s. military shot down a syrian government jet, after which the russian government threatened to shoot down u.s. planes over syria. more recently on july 30, the "the new york times" reported that between the united states and russia now, except for in relationship to syria, "there is virtually no military to military conversation of the kind that took place routinely during the cold war." and "the times" also said with russian and american forces operating near the baltics and off the coast of europe, the chances for accident and miscalculation are high. "the times" also described the communication between the u.s. and russia about their
activities in syria, as "mutually suspicious and sporadic." what is at stake here, as the united states continues its military actions in syria, including in the skies over syria -- what is at stake includes the real possibility that conflicts in the air could escalate into military clashes between russia and the united states that could spiral into nuclear warfare. so, the petition campaign that is ongoing is focused on addressing this escalating crisis. our petition so far to the u.s. congress and to secretary of defense, james mattis, has gained more than 50,000 unique
signers, and the petition is very straightforward. it says, we urge you to immediately remove all u.s. military planes from syrian skies and keep them out of that country's airspace. today at this news conference, we will hear from four speakers on a wide range of vantage points. former official of the central intelligence agency and a cia whistleblower, matthew ho was a marine who had two deployments in iraq and later became a state department officials. we have a legal authority on international law as it pertains to armed conflict. and author and the director of the organization world beyond war. we will start with this man who had major responsibilities with
the angency. he served two years in prison as a cia whistleblower. back in december of 2014, a headline over an article by "huffington post" really summed it up, one man jailed for cia torture tried to expose it. >> thank you. president trump, just like president obama before him, seems intent on getting the united states involved in really what is an unwinnable civil war in syria. launching 59 cruise missiles, for example against rundown syrian air bases in the middle of the night is easier enough to do, but there are consequences to these actions and republicans and conservatives celebration of this force notwithstanding,
trump has put serious christians and christians in neighboring countries in jeopardy just as president obama and george w. bush did in iraq. both parties try to out-hawk each other to prove who was tougher, who was stronger, who is quicker to use military force, even in countries where the u.s. has no obvious national or vital interests. there never seems to be any discussion about whether this military intervention is even legal, let alone whether it is moral or ethical. there is certainly never any talk and congress for authorization despite the fact that the congress not asking for authorization is almost always a violation of the war powers act.
republicans wanting to goto war ought to be anathema to any politician of either party who considers himself or herself to be a christian. it is these military interventions that are having the effect of dooming the small christian communities left in places like iraq and syria. the problem for u.s. politicians who fancy themselves as christians is that bassar al-assad, like his father, whether you like their politics or not who have protected syrian christians for generations. syrian christians make up 12% of the population according to the cia's world factbook. but nearly a third of the country's 600,000 believers have
left syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 pushed out by terrorist groups like isis according to the "new york times." before the war started, christians are just baited in all aspects of syrian society including members of the parliament, business core, diplomatic corps and business community. even these syrian military is fully integrated rather than having separate christian units. similarly in iraq, under saddam hussein -- he was a bad man, but even under saddam hussein, christians served in the parliament and cabinet. they practiced their faith really and openly and they were successful in business. angst to george w. bush's invasion of iraq, almost the entire iraqi christian community has left for jordan, the u.k., and the united states. the same thing is now happening in syria.
there is a solution to all of this, but it is not sexy, quick or easy. it is something that many of us have heard about, but haven't actually seen. it is called diplomacy. whether trump likes assad's politics or not, the only way to save the country is to sit at the table with all of the stakeholders including the syrians, the russians, and the iranians. we will have to accept the fact that assad is not going anywhere. nor should he. whether we like it or not, his is the internationally recognized government of syria and that is no matter what trump and obama have said. we should respect that and we should sit across the table from bashar al-assad. thank you very much.
mr. solomon: thank you. our next speaker is matthew ho. mr. ho is a former state department official who resigned in protest from his post in afghanistan over u.s. strategic policy and goals in that country. he resigned in september 2009. it is worth noting that the council on foreign relations has cited his resignation letter as an essential document in the history of the war in afghanistan. prior to his diplomatic assignment, he served two deployments as a marine in iraq. i should mention that matthew ho, like john kiriakou is on the advisory board at the institute for public accuracy, which has been in this building in the
national press club facility for 18 years. i have been the director for 18 years. here is matthew ho. >> thank you. i want to begin my remarks by noting we have a new chief of staff in the white house and one of my concerns over these last many years of our campaigns of our wars in the middle east, what really is the most accurate way, our slaughter of many many people in the middle east has been the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of what drives many of the actors, many of the men and women who are fighting us in the middle east. general kelly has on numerous occasions stated that this is a war about our way of life.
however, in my positions, particularly in the state department with access to the interrogations of men who had joined, it was clear that the men traveling to afghanistan to fight us, as well as what we know from those people who have carried out terror attacks in europe as well as in the united states including the 9/11 hijackers -- in their martyrdom videos, or in their notes or what have you, their motivations are clear. they are not saying convert or die. they are not saying we hate your freedom. they are not saying we are doing this because your girls are going to school or your women are wearing dresses above the knees.
they are saying we are conducting attacks because you are bombing our countries, because your military is in our country, because you're supporting dictatorships, etc. there is this misunderstanding i think is intentional. i think some of it is based on ignorance and many of it -- much of it is done to drive nationalism and to drive the spirit of war. i will say this also ties greatly into what norman was speaking about earlier, the dangers of a war between the united states and russia. if anybody has been reading "the new york times" recently, you will see the coverage over the large u.s. military exercises, the large nato exercises being conducted on russia's borders.
we also remember that russia has been the victim of three major invasions in the last 150 years or so and losing tens of millions of people. however, "the new york times" finds it fit to characterize russia conducting military training within its own borders as aggression. so, that is the first of my concerns that i would like to address within my time alloted here about why it is so important to get american aircraft out of the skies of syria, because we are on the brink of war with russia. and it is something that i don't think the people in washington, d.c. can quite understand what
that war would be like. the second reason is more of a moral reason, more of a reason that has to do with the fact that simply the united states air campaigns, united states air warfare may be -- in my estimation is the greatest moral and human hazard over the last century. certainly if you start with this is the 72nd anniversary of the bombings of nagasaki and hiroshima, something that nearly all american four-star and five-star generals after world war ii said was not a military necessity, you know, was done for strictly political reasons. if you go into the understanding that most americans do not know, but know all north koreans
certainly know, that the american air force burned down nearly every village in town in north korea, that in vietnam we dropped more bombs on the vietnamese than we did on the japanese, or on the germans, in terms of tonnage. and we conducted the largest chemical warfare program in the history of the world against the vietnamese, something that millions of people are still sickened with. there will be babies born today with deformities because of. if we fast-forward to the results of our air campaigns that the iraqis are certainly still paying for, certainly that the libyans are still paying for, that the afghans are still paying for, and for which there have been no results that anyone can point to to say this is a been a benefit. and certainly, how can anyone
say that the air campaign being conducted by the united states is a sane, rational, or moral response? when i first started speaking publicly against wars in 2009, i was asked -- you have been in both -- you were in both -- and i hate saying "served," that is the incorrect word, i feel. you were in iraq and afghanistan, were the similarities and differences between the two? i fell into that trap. after a time, i said, what am i doing. there is only one thing that matters, the united states military in both locations -- you can only accept one outcome, you are insane if you think anything different happen and that is the same thing that will happen because of the air campaign in syria. if any one thinks that anything
different will occur to the people in syria from the american air campaign, already three years in progress, then they are completely naive, foolish, or have another agenda. and this is not to say that bashar al-assad has not been a dictator, does not come from, was not born from the father of a dictator, has not committed war crimes himself -- this is not to excuse that. i am not here as an apologist for the syrian government, but i am telling you that american airstrikes in syria are not the solution, and are continuing moral hazard for all people of syria just as they have been for the people of korea, vietnam, iraq, afghanistan, libya, pakistan, and interestingly enough, you have seen the news
recently, the american military is interested in launching airstrikes into the philippines. nearly 120 years after we first began our military campaign against filipinos, we are looking to continue it. i appreciate you being here today and i thank you for your time. >> thank you. our next speaker is ms. edwards. the chair of the society on the armed conflict, advisor for the -- human rights and gender issues.
>> thank you so much for having me here. i have been asked to provide the legal analysis for this topic, which is whether or not u.s. airstrikes violate international law in syria. this is a really broad question and i'm going to take a little bit of time to drill down into some more specifics in order to be able to answer this. as i'm sure most of you are well aware, the u.n. charter is the definitive legal framework that applies here. article 2-4 states that countries or states have an obligation to restrain from a threat or use of force against a territory or the political independence of any state. it seems like a definitive prohibition, but there is an
exception in article 51 which states that states have a right of individual or collective self-defense, but if any state he use exception, any actions must be reported to the security council. i will look at two instances in the last few months to see how these legal principles apply. of course, april 6, the attack on the chemical weapons, which occurred a few months ago -- the vast majority of legal experts all agree that the attack on april 6 violated the u.n. charter and was on -- was unconstitutional for several reasons. the u.s. did not justify actions based on self-defense. there is a statement released afterwards saying that this is humanitarian
purposes. in addition, there was no authorization from congress to use force in this circumstance. however, i think going against the majority of legal opinions that came out after the attack, a former state department advisor argued narrowly for a narrow affirmative defense for circumstances such as this based on necessity for humanitarian intervention. and he listed several criteria that would need to apply for this exception to take place, which i am happy to refer you to if any would like that argument in more detail. he did think because of the circumstances there should be a narrow exception in this case. as norman mentioned earlier, the june 18 instance where a syrian warplane was shot down by u.s. forces.
the u.s. and russia disagree with the facts and the law here. the u.s. claims it acted in collective self-defense of coalition forces, because the syrian plane was bombing syrian democratic forces, one of the anti-syrian rebel groups in syria. the russians say the plane was abiding groundcover and that the u.s. violated sovereignty and it constituted military aggression against the syrian government. article 51 does allow or collective self-defense of aids, but not necessarily non-state armed groups. just to be clear, the u.s. has not claimed that the sds is a defacto organ of the united
states. my colleague has suggested a novel legal approach here which says that the u.s. could use necessary and proportionate force to defend member states of the coalition and coalition nonstate armed groups against isis if defeating isis was its sole mission. that is a very narrow exception. and the law there is no right to non-collective self-defense for regime change or other political goals. what makes it complicated is secretary tillerson and ambassador haley have indicated that the syrian regime change remains a u.s. strategic objective. here the fact that there could be mixed motives for both
fighting isis, a strategic objective of the united states, and possible regime change, the mixing of these motives compromise the legal basis for military operations that have occurred and may occur in the future. i look forward to your questions. thank you. mr. solomon: thank you, christie edwards. and our last speaker before we have questions from the journalists present is david swanson. he is the author of several books on war, the director of the world the on war organization. in addition, he is a campaign coordinator. mr. swanson: thank you, norman. it's an honor to speak after these speakers. i won't have time to list all of the reasons why i want u.s.
butes out of syrian skies there's no question what my first reason is. these planes kill a lot of people. people all of equal value regardless of their religion or ethnicity. casualtitylitary --ords are about such counts generally turn out to be many times under the counts that comprehensive postwar studies arrive at. on top of which we have the problem of all of the people killed who are not counted by virtue of not being labeled civilians, always empirically
and morally iffy labeling process. then the injuries almost always outnumber the deaths, the homelessness, the extremely long-term effects of the u.s. use of depleted uranium by some of the planes we want out of the skies, the starvation that could have been prevented for a fraction of the cost of the planes, and of course the top killer of u.s. troops -- suicide. the primary reason that what would otherwise be considered mass murder isn't given more heat is it is understood to serve a greater purpose, but what purpose is served by u.s. lanes over syria? if longer than the wars of the past isn't enough to figure that out, how about the purpose served by bombing afghanistan, iraq, pakistan, yemen -- apart from selling weapons and creating more enemies for the next war, what has been accomplished?
former cia unit chief says the more u.s. fight terrorism, the more it creates terrorism. the cia's own report called "best practices in counterinsurgency" says drone killing is counterproductive. former vicechair says drones could be undermining -- longterm efforts. quote, if you're trying to kill your way through, the matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they aren't targeted. that is true whether or not they plane has a pilot and it. maintaining the momentum of permanent war is obviously not a high moral purpose. "the new york times" reported that quote, for jerusalem, the status quo, as horrific as it may be, seems preferable to a victory
for mr. assad's government or a strengthening of rebel groups increasingly dominated by sunni jihadists. this is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but we will settle for a tie said a consul general in new york, let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death. that is the strategic thinking, here. end quote. this endless war for war's sake may be done in the name of democracy and you may be able to get television viewers to cheer as missiles are launched from the ship, like those launch from the air, but most say the u.s. should get out of war. public pressure was key in preventing the start of a u.s. air war in 2013, never has the public or congress
advocated for our authorized this war. it is a war destructive of the rule of law. nowhere is this action permitted from air, ground, or water. special operations command chief army general thomas admitted this was illegal two weeks ago, claiming to defend u.s. troops in syria is not a legal argument for defensiveness, but a declaration of lawless imperialism. and of course stuff that herald co. makes up is not law. president trump's decision to arm and train proxies was against the law and against the report he had commissioned by the caa on whether or not such efforts had ever succeeded in the past.
this war continues to kill children. this is all before mentioning the risk of apocalyptic nuclear confrontation fighting and illegal and counterproductive war in syria. that alone is reason to remove every u.s. plane or drone. this is also without considering the environmental damage done to syria and atmosphere, you can drive your car all year and feel guilty about it, but you won't pollute the air like one flight of these planes. there is also the financial cost, $16 billion and counting, more than what would be needed annually to have clean drinking water everywhere on earth.
more than half what the u.n. said would take to end world hunger. this war serves as the top public justification for military spending that adds up to about $1 trillion per year in the united states. that choice of how to spend our resources kills more people in all current wars put together because of where the money is not spent. a fraction of the spending could be invested in diplomacy, aid, unarmed peacekeeping to far better in effect. these alternatives have been available since day one and still are. the united states spent years sabotaging u.n. attempts at peace in syria. according to noble prize laureate the u.s. dismissed out of hand -- the u.s. ruined last year's cease-fire by firing on syrian troops. nothing will quickly bring peace
and prosperity to syria, but continuing to do what we know makes matters worse has to end. we have to give peace a chance. thank you. mr. solomon: thank you, david swanson. we are now going to have question an answer session. we have a live microphone here for the journalists present. so when you ask your question, please give your name and identify your news outlet. who would like to go first? there must be a question here somewhere. i think i am seeing a hesitant -- ok. and here comes the microphone. [inaudible]
mr. solomon: go ahead. i think you are being heard. yes, please go ahead. >> i have a question for mr. john kiriakou. assad is the only one person standing between christians and -- i'm from the region. i am from there. christians have been living there for centuries now, more than 2000 years ago. actually christianity i think was created there. why do you think only now -- why didn't they face it before?
they survived more horrible rulers than assad. mr. kiriakou: i don't disagree with you. i think that christianity has done very well in syria under assad. politics aside, i think that bashar al-assad is a dictator, anti-democrat, but the truth is with the players on the field now, he is the one that gives christians the chance of having a thriving community. if you look at the alternatives, never minding the notion that the united states promotes that somehow magically this is going to come together and everybody will live in peace and harmony, that will simply not happen, but the alternatives are isis or some al qaeda related organization, or assad.
and of this choices, i think those are the realistic choices -- of those choices, the best is assad. now, time was, maybe as recently as 2012 or 2013, where there was talk of perhaps a syrian military pushing assad aside, the same talk in iraq through the 1990's, that the best and most likely alternative to saddam hussein was a group of sunni iraqi generals. it hasn't happened. and so of the choices i think the community is facing now, i think their best bet is with assad. >> the syrian conflict -- syrian crisis going on more than six years and it is much more
complicated to look at it from one perspective or one angle, which is a very serious one, but killings have been the headline of any community, majority or minority. so, how i can justify -- for example, the sunnis, that you killing them in homes was to preserve the christian community? just one more -- the argument for them will be so unfair. mr. kiriakou: you are exactly right and i think you are misunderstanding my comments. my comments were aimed at neoconservatives and the neoliberals in
washington that thinks anybody is better than assad, that assad is the problem. we cannot acheive peace with assad still in power. it is to them i was directing my comments. you are right, you cannot go to the sunni community and say that the deaths in their community are less important than other communitiy. same in the kurdish community. i do not think that any deaths are less important, it is just that my comments were geared toward capitol hill, more than anything else. >> i am from rt america news. thank you all for your very powerful and thoughtful comments this morning.
regarding the mixed motives that were mentioned that compromise the legal basis for u.s. interventionism in syria, you mentioned a couple of arguments that undermined the claims of humanitarian intervention such as regime change goals and fighting isis perhaps. i wanted to ask if you would consider the u.s. ally ship or partnership with saudi arabia with regard to syria as also something that might undermine the humanitarian motive claim. so that is one question. the other one is the removal of assad, a lot of people expressed fear of seeing another libya or iraq or a vacuum filled with people worse than assad, is that something you could speak to? thanks.
only theiolate not u.n. charter and pact, but also the leahy law in the u.s. that says you can only support another nation in mass murder when the other nation doesn't violate human rights. how you conduct mass murder without violating human rights, i cannot answer for you. but that is an additional way in which u.s. operations in yemen are illegal. on top of which, you get into this question in yemen of can an exiled dictator create legality by inviting other nations to attack his country? when donald trump is impeached
and removed and living on his private island and he invites china to bomb washington dc, we would accept that, right? no. these are nonsense. just as the actions of russia being legalized by the syrian government. there is no understanding that says war is ok if a dictator asks you to help with it. u.s. is committing a crime in syria, so is russia. >> i think, certainly, yeah, your concerns about the removal of assad in a vacuum, you have certainly seen that in libya and other locations. as far as the relationship of the united states to saudi arabia, oh, yeah, the hypocrisy
is -- there is lots of slang i could use back from new jersey. there is a lot of slang and curses i could throw at you to describe that type of level of hypocrisy. we provide the fuel and bombs, and intelligence that allows saudi arabia to commit those atrocities in yemen. let alone what saudi arabia is like anyhow in terms of its own internal humans rights violations, and the last week, attacks on -- i can't recall the name of the city. that saudi arabia is attacking internally. so, yes. but hypocrisy has always been first and foremost in america.
come on, go back to the american constitution. equality was only for white male property owners. you know what i mean? that's what freedom has meant. there has never been this real standard of non-hypocrisy in american speech and thought and political ideology anyway. there has always been hypocrisy in everything america has done. and so this notion of talking about syria, but coordinating with saudi arabia -- particularly going back, it aboutught u brought up before this notion of sabotaging efforts in 2012 in syria. that is about the same time, too, that we were utilizing the turkey, qatar, and saudi arabia -- their efforts with groups such as nusra and the islamic
state to try and overthrow the assad government. the notion we could use those groups for our purposes in syria while trying to keep them at bay within iraq. this is how the united states government operates. and we know this because of declassified defense intelligence agency reports. so not only are we hypocritical, but also bipolar in many ways. because we think we can not just be two-faced, but we think we can also manage certain situations in a way that just defies reality. so, and of course, coming back to it all, it is the very people who live in these places, who are being burned to
death and ripped apart. and i think it is easy for us to forget that. as we talk about this as i stand here in my suit and tie, and drink my cup of coffee, that as we speak about this, american bombs are ripping apart men, women, and children as we speak. it is not abstract at all. >> one thing i forgot to meantion -- oh, i'm sorry. a number of people mentioned reliance on airstrikes as a big part of u.s. strategy. would that undermine humanitarian pretext argument, as well? >> absolutely. the other thing, too, i recall there being a report that was released by the united nations last fall. and i was reminded of this yesterday by a colleague about our sanctions on syria.
and the united nations reported that our sanctions on syria, and the e.u. sanctions on syria, the effect it has on the syrian population and how deadly those sanctions are. those sanctions prevent the pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, foodstuffs, the things that people need to survive, let alone the things that hospitals need. yes, the notion we are somehow involved for humanitarian -- but that is all nonsense. i mean, you don't have to look much further than go back a couple of weeks to "the washington post" where michael bickers, who has been in the cia and department of defense for a long time. he was involved in the american efforts in afghanistan in the 1980's against the soviet union, but very clearly in that op-ed,
he states that in syria, in the syrian civil war, we saw an opportunity to strike a blow against iran by removing assad to cut off iran's relationship with hezbollah. this is a very senior american official who's been in both republican and democratic administrations. they may talk about humanitarian reasons, but for many people in the national security positions in washington, d.c., as well as politicians, what they do -- what they see -- and i was fortunate to be in senior positions in washington, d.c. in the state department and the pentagon, for many of these people, it is like a game of risk. they look at the map and they want to turn different countries
the colors they want to turn them. and you can see that in vicker'' column in the "the washington post" from a couple of weeks ago. very clearly, they want to turn different countries different shades. that is how people view the world and how they do it. anything they say about humanitarian reasons, that is just good pr, the smart thing to say. >> i just also wanted to address some of the legal framework that apply here. when we talk about human rights law, the right to life which is embodied in the u.n. charter, and every human rights treaty created, the right to life is invaluable. it is one of the major, major themes of human rights law. when we are talking about international humanitarian law,
which is what governs how war is conducted, whether or not it was illegal to begin with, how we got into it, whether the circumstances were correct or not -- in international humanitarian law, there are military and principles that do apply. although the right to life under human rights law is the norm and the standard, it is allowable under international humanitarian law to kill and even kill -- you cannot target civilians, but civilian deaths are allowable. in order for civilian deaths to be allowable, there has to be a strict analysis of distinction, proportionality, military necessity, and there is this calculus that goes on. what is your military objective and can you achieve it, and can you achieve it with the least amount of civilian deaths possible. and so that is what commanders
are responsible to do do every time they commit any military action. if they have other justifications beside military necessities besides humanitarian -- that is necessary, but we are looking at is the united states and any other actor acting in this context, are they doing everything that they possibly can to eliminate completely or to cause the fewest amount of deaths in any action that they take. i hope that answers your question. mr. solomon: we have a few more minutes for questions. yes, please, go ahead. >> i will wait until i have the microphone. [laughter] thank you. i'm with at&t. i truly enjoyed the presentations. i commend the panel for focusing
on the military aspect of the u.s. strategy in the middle east. i believe the narrative should be refocused on the entire u.s. strategy in the middle east. and that is its engendered and regime change. just last week secretary tillerson got in front of the state department and clearly stated the u.s. is no longer seeking regime change in north korea. if that is true, that is truly commendable. however, if it is ok in north korea, but not ok to maintain the current regime in syria, why is it the u.s.'s business any way
to change regimes? it's not just the aspect of the defined policy, which is -- whether it is syria, iraq, or other areas, but it is the u.s. policy of regime change that has brought us through several conflicts to this stage. thank you. >> very briefly, i agree with you, 1000%. no one has given the u.s. government authority to decide the fate of other nations by any means.
since world war ii, we've interfered in other elections. not the russian way, apparently, have bombed 30 countries. no one appointed the u.s. to the role, this is not enforcing law, this is violating law. and so, it has to end. the u.s. public is not the driving force. the u.s. public put donald trump into the presidency after campaigning against this. it ought to become unacceptable in the u.s. to continue down that road. and i would just add that when this discussion of killing as few people in the process, when the military says bombing the spot where isis stores its money's worth of 250 civilian deaths, that is not fewest possible. and there is nothing empirical about it.
i can't go back and say i studied and said it is only 40 -- it is not empirical, it is just rhetoric. it is immoral, illegal, and the world didn't ask or it. most countries in the world viewed the united states, including russia and china, as the biggest threat. the gallup poll a few years back had a similar result. global policing is not appreciated by the people being policed. and it ought to end. mr. solomon: i think we have time for one more question. please identify yourself. >> i have two questions.
my first question is, yes, wars are bad and killing people and you don't want the u.s. to intervene in other countries' domestic policy, ok. but, syria is like a chess board and wars are reality and international relations are another reality. if one day the u.s. takes its aircraft from syria, don't you think that the united states will lose its ground in syria? about international policy or international relations and leave the space to russia, iran and the other powers? >> that's a hard question and i will preface this by saying i'm not an attorney. you are, but i'm not. but, it's my understanding that legally, if the internationally recognized government of syria invites another country to come
and help it, that other country is there legally. the russians have been invited by the syrian government. the united stated has not been invited by the syrian government. now, i'm all for humanitarian assistance if we can provide medicine or humanitarian relief, food, water, even safe passage out of the country for refugees. that's great. but it's my understanding that anything more than that at this point in syria is illegal. we are supposed to be a nation of laws in this country. we like to tell people and we like to tell other countries that we are this shining beacon of respect for human rights and civil liberties and the rule of law and democracy, and it's simply not true. it's rhetoric. it's propaganda. so, if we were serious about this being true, we would live
that policy, and we don't. we just want other countries to live it. >> do you think that russia and iran take their soldiers from syria also? >> no, i don't think so at all. real politik is real, but i don't think so at all. i'm not sure that that's really though the most important thing to worry about in this scenario. i think that there are bigger issues of respect for human rights and respect for human rights and civil liberties and peace in the region. >> do you want to add something on this issue? >> yeah, i mean, i look at it like this -- the u.s. has been heavily involved in the middle east for seven decades now. about five or six years ago, princeton university did a
survey or a study and found that since jimmy carter's presidency, the united states had spent $10 trillion policing the persian gulf region. and i would say that in my lifetime, nearly every country from the edge of the mediterranean sea through afghanistan with the exception -- no, that's not true including iran, has been destroyed. every city has been raised to the ground more or less in my lifetime. i was born in 1973, and that's with the united states having spent $10 trillion in the region, having had a massive military presence. i see no reason why the u.s. should remain in that region. it has provided no help to anybody in the region and has wasted vast amounts of sums of american money wasted, and millions of people are dead, so i see no value in it and i can't
see any explanation for how or any reason for how things would have been better -- i'm sorry, how things would have been worse if we had not been there. that is the way i view it. as far as whether or not -- if we are not there, the iranians are there, the russians are there, the finish are there. i don't know, it's just speculation. all i know is what