Taking a page from the new bipartisan strategy now being employed in Afghanistan — waging cross-border military raids into sovereign countries in order to protect a failing military occupation in a neighboring country — the United States has apparently launched its first known incursion into Syria: the usual assault from on high with the usual tally of children as “collateral damage.”

The BBC reports that American forces launched a small ground-air attack on the border village of Sukkiraya on Sunday, with military helicopters disgorging a squad of troops who attacked a building and killed “a man, his four children and a married couple.”

Officially, the Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied the attack, but the brass leaked word to the Associated Press that the shiv-stab into Syrian territory did indeed take place, and that it was aimed at — wait for it — “foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda.” As the leaky Pentagon mouthpiece told AP: “We are taking matters into our own hands.”

(And isn’t it remarkable how every single person killed by American forces in the global War on Terror is somehow “linked to al-Qaeda”? Even the children. I guess American bullets and bombs have some kind of super-secret al-Qaeda sorting software embedded in them, guiding the munitions directly to the evil ones — including the little evil ones: the doctrine of “pre-emption” in its purest form — and sparing everyone else.)

Why has the Bush Administration raided Syria now, after years of accusing Damascus of aiding and abetting “al Qaeda-linked terrorist” funneling into Iraq? Well, most beserker militarist regimes have myriad reasons behind their various lashings-out, so there are probably a number of different factors invovled.

One might be the recent moves that Syria has made toward trying to end its pariah status, as the Guardian notes:

The attack comes as Syria takes another step in from the cold today when its foreign minister, Walid al-Mualim, visits London to hear praise for its newly conciliatory policies in Lebanon…

In recent months Syria has established diplomatic relations with Lebanon and held several rounds of indirect talks with Israel, with Turkey acting as broker. In July, President Assad was invited to an EU summit in Paris.

The BBC report also touches on this theme:

[The attack’s] timing is curious, coming right at the end of the Bush administration’s period of office and at a moment when many of America’s European allies – like Britain and France – are trying to broaden their ties with Damascus, our correspondent adds.

As we have often seen, whenever one of the American elite’s designated demons starts trying to make nice and act moderate, they are generally poked with a sharp stick in hopes of making them snarl again — thereby continuing their highly useful function as bogey-men to keep scaring the American people into giving trillions of dollars (and the blood of their children) to the Pentagon and its corporate associates in the war profiteering industry.

Of course, petty murderous spite can never be overlooked in anything the Bushists do. From the Guardian:

Joshua Landis, an American expert on Syria, commented last night: “The Bush administration must assume that an Obama victory will force Syria to behave nicely in order to win favour with the new administration. Thus White House analysts may assume that it can have a “freebee” – taking a bit of personal revenge on Syria without the US paying a price.”

Some have also offered the idea that Bush is trying to make sure that Barack Obama is thoroughly tied down in the region when he takes office, forced to contend with a newly enraged Syria on the Iraq border, which the Bushists obviously hope will spur more terrorist attacks in Iraq — on American forces and civilians — thereby creating the “dangerous conditions” that will “justify” a continuing U.S. presence in the conquered land. (Yes, Virginia, fomenting terrorist attacks has long been a strategy of the American government, as we noted here — and here — years ago.)

It’s unlikely that Obama will need much encouragement to keep a substantial U.S. military force in Iraq; that’s been his plan all along. And as he has also advocated “carefully targeted” cross-border strikes into Pakistan, he can hardly object to the same tactic in Iraq. What’s more, Joe Biden has already warned us that he and Obama are going to plunge head-first into an unspecified “foreign crisis” sometime next year, adopting highly unpopular policies that the poor, dumb benighted citizenry are just not going to be able to understand at first. A major incursion into Syria would certainly fit that bill — although, admittedly, the venues and opportunities for Barry and Joe to prove their “toughness” are legion, given the vast and goading scope of America’s military empire.

Of course, one can speculate on motives until the cows come home. (Or rather, until the chickens come home to roost, in the form of revengeful blowback against Americans. But none of the well-wadded, well-protected bipartisan Beltway barons are worried about that. After all, the more blowback, the more “emergency powers” they accrue.) But we should remember that Syria has been in the cross-hairs of several powerful factions in our militarist empire for years. The same gang that brought you the Iraq war — and would love to bring you the Iran war — have long been howling to put tanks on the road to Damascus.

Below is a piece that I wrote for the Moscow Times back in April 2003. Although a few details have changed since then, the column is still depressingly apt as an example of the imperial mindset that animates both parties in the corridors of Beltway power.

Some cynics claim that George W. Bush and his closest advisors — whom cynics cynically refer to as “bloodthirsty corporate pimps” — are just a bunch of vicious, shifty liars. But this column takes enormous umbrage at the heaping of such unsupported calumny upon the good names of these great leaders. They have been maligned, slandered, falsely accused. For when it comes to their plans for world conquest, these so-called “pimps” are as honest as the day is long.

As we all know, the rape of Iraq (or as future historians will doubtless call it, “The Dawn of the Shiite Empire”) was planned openly several years ago by a hard-right agitprop cell led by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Now it turns out that the recent big-monkey chest-beating aimed at Syria — threats of sanctions, “surgical” strikes, and “regime change” — was also carefully planned, by many of the same people, long before the Bush Regime seized power.

As we’ve often reported here, in September 2000 the Cheney-Rumsfeld outfit, Project for the New American Century, proudly published their blueprint for the direct imposition of U.S. “forward bases” throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. They even foresaw the need for what they called a “Pearl Harbor-type event” to galvanize the American public into supporting their ambitious program. Their reasons for this program were also stated quite openly: to ensure U.S. political and economic domination of the world, while strangling any potential “rival” or any viable alternative to the rapacious crony capitalism favored by the PNAC extremists. This dominance would be enforced by the ever-present threat — and frequent application — of violence. (A tactic known elsewhere as “terrorism.”)

PNAC was also very honest about the role of Iraq in this crusade for empire, stating plainly that the need for a U.S. military presence in the area “superseded” the “issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” There was no sanctimonious posturing about “liberation,” weapons of mass destruction or terrorist connections. To dominate the oil wealth centered in that region — and hence the economic/political development of the world in the coming decades — they needed a military presence in Iraq; it’s as simple as that.

….A few months before PNAC’s prophetic 2000 report, an allied group with an overlapping membership published a similar document outlining steps to be taken against Syria: first “tightening the screws” with denunciations and economic sanctions, then escalating to military action, as Jim Lobe of Inter-Press Agency reports. The architects of this document included Elliot Abrams, the convicted perjurer now running Bush’s Middle East policy; Douglas Feith, one of [Don Rumsfelds’] top aides; Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary to Colin Powell; and influential Pentagon advisors such as David Wurmser, Michael Leeden and everyone’s sweetheart, Richard “Influence-Peddler” Perle.

The report sprang largely from the loins of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, a curious grouping of right-wing American Christians, right-wing American Jews, and a sprinkling of Lebanese exiles. They object — rightly — to the fact that Syria has maintained “long-term access to major military bases” in Lebanon, using this minatory presence to exercise undue sway over Lebanon’s political and economic life. Of course, some cynics would say this situation is remarkably akin to Israel’s own 18-year occupation of, er, Lebanon, or the United States’ decades-long — and still-continuing — military presence in Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Panama, etc. But you know what cynics are like.

The USCFL also provides highly insightful and very nearly literate analyses of vital regional issues, such as its seminal paper, “Even Arabs Don’t Like Arabs.” But the mindset of the group — whose members now stalk the corridors of power in Imperial Washington — is perhaps best displayed in its thoughtful 2001 treatise, “A Petition Demanding War Against Governments That Sponsor Terrorism” (Except, of course, for governments who enforce their will by the ever-present threat and use of violence — i.e. terrorism — but are run by nice white men educated at Yale and Oxford.)

Here, the proto-Bushist group demands that six “rogue nations” — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and Sudan — “turn over their governments to the United States” on pain of massive military response. The United States will then “occupy these territories until proper governments” — ones that allow “long-term access” to major military bases, no doubt — “can be established.” And just how massive should that threatened U.S. military response be? The USCFL is, as always, admirably — and brutally — forthright: “America must set a clear example-identical to that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you tread on me, I will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

Is this what the Bushists are really talking about in their fear-mongering diatribes about seeing “terrorism’s smoking gun in a mushroom cloud”?

UPDATE: The New York Times, rather late to the party on this story, has more details.

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