AS the Syrian revolution drags on into its 31st month, and as the US Congress debates whether to authorize force, more and more misinformation is being spread, not just by the regime of Bashar al Assad, but also by uninformed individuals. Although it is not unusual for average people to believe in wild conspiracy theories, it is quite shocking for the Assad regime's narrative to make its way through the halls of the US Congress. We know that the Assad regime, together with its Russian and Iranian allies, has dedicated substantial resources to advance its narrative, but for some US legislators, like Sen. Rand Paul, to essentially act as the regime's spokespeople is simply unacceptable.
Most of the people pushing Assad's lies are those who benefit from his regime; others are simply ignorant. The following are the top 5 myths regarding the possible effects of US action in Syria:
1) USA will be helping al Qaeda
This is by far the most entertaining myth. I mean, seriously, do you even know what's going on in Syria? Or do you simply take Glenn Beck's lies at face value? First of all, as of today, the US is hardly helping anyone in Syria. Yes, Washington has provided MREs, blankets, and some intelligence to thoroughly vetted elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — the overwhelming majority of whom are defectors from the Syrian army along with Syrian civilians who took up arms to defend their neighborhoods in the face of daily bombardment by the regime's Russian air force, but unfortunately this assistance does not count for much.
The FSA is not al Qaeda. In fact, the FSA and al Qaeda are increasingly clashing because the former wants a civil state for all Syrians, whereas the latter wants to establish an Islamic state. Second, the regime and al Qaeda are the two actors who are most opposed to US intervention. One of al Qaeda's affiliates, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has reportedly fled al Raqqa province altogether in fear of an American attack. It is worth noting that many of the al Qaeda-type groups fighting in Syria are secretly working for the regime—let's not forget that the Assad regime established and armed Jubhat al Nusra ten years ago to kill Americans in Iraq. And let's not forget that Assad, at the beginning of the peaceful protests in March 2011, released Salafists from Syrian prisons so as to portray the revolution as dangerous and extremist. If you actually think the US will be "helping al Qaeda," you haven't done your homework on Syria.
2) Syria is not in USA's interests
The second myth is also entertaining because for the past two decades, US government officials have been telling Americans that, "we must break" the Iranian axis. Now that the opportunity has come, the US shies away. Syria is a rare case where America's moral and strategic interests intersect. First, it is in the US national security interests to prevent the proliferation and the use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical weapons. The US cannot have chemical weapons floating around the Middle East, especially when it has three very important allies that are neighbors with Syria. President Obama's "redline" has been crossed by Assad several times now. If the US does not take action, it will lose its credibility as an enforcer of international law, and it will appear weak–among both its enemies and allies. A free and civil Syria is in the US's interests, and if Washington does not assist its friends, like the FSA, one of two worst possible scenarios will occur: either the Assad regime wins or some rag-tag extremist militia defeats it.
3) USA doesn't have the money
While it is true that the American economy is still recovering, "we don't have the money" is not a good enough of an excuse. The US's Arab allies in the Gulf have offered to pay for any – and all – US action against the Assad regime. This is not an outrageous idea because last year, when "friends of Syria" were talking of a possible no-fly-zone in the north, the idea was to have it policed by Turkey and financed by Arab states. Some critics of US action are saying, "our debt is too high." Seriously? Our debt has been steadily increasing for the past century—of all the times to worry about debt, you have chosen now, when Assad is on the verge of murdering tens or hundreds of more thousands? Again, the Arabs have offered to pay for action, so let them.
4) There is no good outcome
This is perhaps the most insulting myth to Syrians. Are we to believe that Assad is the only person capable of ruling Syria? In what world is the murderer of 120,000 people the "better" alternative? Syrians are being murdered, starved, and displaced; the economy is in shambles; entire villages, cities, and most of Syrian infrastructure have been destroyed by the regime. By not taking action, we are watching Syrian moderates, including the FSA, get marginalized while extremists get stronger. There is no good outcome if the international community does nothing. If it does enough, there is still a very strong chance that FSA will defeat both the regime and jihadists, who have become increasingly powerful precisely because of international inaction, and then, as they've pledged to do, transfer power to the transitional government—which not only already exists, but reflects the diverse communities which make Syria.
5) Syria is the next Iraq
Syria is not Iraq. Iraq was invaded and occupied, whereas in Syria there is a popular revolution against nearly half-a-century of military dictatorship. And President Obama is not lying about Assad's weapons like Bush was about Saddam's. There is a real threat here, our interests are really at stake, and Syrian lives are really in danger.
The time to act is now.
The Assad regime has killed over 120,000 people and displaced one third of the country's population. 8 million Syrians are homeless, half of them children. And let us not forget that there already is foreign intervention in Syria: if we do nothing, we allow Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda type groups do whatever they want. We can't let that happen. If we do, history will not forgive us.