The following is the transcript of an interview conducted by RT with Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, on Dec. 7. Becker also appeared on RT’s “Cross Talk” the same day, along with two other panelists, in an episode entitled “Syria’s wheel of fortune.”
On Sunday President Obama [delivered] a speech on how to defeat ISIS, while adding that the recent San Bernardino shooting was a terrorist act, calling for more effort to be made against extremist organizations.
RT: Recent polls show that more than half of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of terror threats and specifically ISIL. Has his speech done anything to reassure them?
Brian Becker: This speech was noteworthy for what it did not say. It did not say that the primary force in Syria fighting ISIS is the Syrian Arab Army, the national army of Syria that has lost 65,000 – 80,000 men during the last four years. It did not take responsibility for the US role in fueling the conflict in Syria, and of course the war in Libya, both of which – along with the invasion and occupation in Iraq – gave the political space to ISIL. It did not mention that the Russia militarily intervened in Syria in a way that irreversibly changes the military dynamic and allows for an international coalition, and that the US government even to this day refuses to join with Russia and with the Syrian Arab Army in battling ISIL. So, all of the talk about ISIL being an existential threat, and at the same time omitting in the speech that there is actually a road map forward, that shows that the US government, Obama in particular, is still filled with so much imperial hubris that they can’t acknowledge that reality.
And also, he didn’t mention the attack on Planned Parenthood; he did not mention the terrorist attack in Charleston, where Dylann Roof killed black parishioners. Terrorism in America was narrowly defined to be Islamic extremism, when that is a very small minority portion of the terrorism that Americans are experiencing.
RT: Obama mentioned working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria, but also said the US will work with Russia. Do you see a contradiction here?
BB: Yes, of course, NATO’s eastern flank is Turkey now. Turkey is the second largest military inside of NATO; NATO is a US-led military alliance. What happens between Turkey and Russia, when Turkey shot down a Russian [fighter jet] and according to Turkey’s own accounts it was after the Russian [fighter jet] was in Turkish airspace for a total of 17 seconds. If that is in fact even the case, the US government obviously has responsibility for that.
Obama needs to find a way to stand up and say: “The Turkish government has right now the priority of attacking the Kurds.” If the US says that existential threat is ISIL, if ISIL is the real party, then there must be a congruence of interest with Russia and with the Syrian Arab Army to defeat that. And even though the rhetoric is shifted slightly by the Obama administration since the Vienna summit, the rhetoric is seeming more available for some sort of alliance, Obama won’t take responsibility for it, and he could have done that [last night] on national television and explain to the American people why there was an imperative need, but he won’t do that.
RT: Is there likely to be any significant changes in US foreign policy in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting?
BB: I think the Obama administration seems to be fairly hapless. It knows that the US policy has been an utter catastrophe. They funneled arms and money into the armed opposition groups, including ISIL, including The Army of Conquest, including al-Qaeda. They brought down the Libyan government before that in 2011. All of these actions created the political space for ISIL. ISIL grew up, Obama said: “Hey, they’re the JV team, we will contain them!” ISIL is not contained; they are striking Paris, bombing civilian airliners from the Sinai, blowing people up in Turkey, in the Southern suburbs of Lebanon, and inside the US.
The US is responsible for this fragmentation, but Obama seems as of yet unable to summon the will to say: “Yes, we will partner with the Syrian Arab Army, the main fighting force, the indispensable fighting force, if ISIS is to be defeated in Syria and of course to partner with Russia.” There seems to be a contradictory position, almost schizophrenia in US foreign policy as a consequence.