More often than not, the things happening out in the world can be more horrific than any horror movie. News like the Syrian governments use of chemical weapons, which has now officially come to light, puts to shame the most brutal of mass killing stories. Its a strange juxtaposition, watching a movie, cringing and being entertained and watching similar horrific acts on the news; we also cringe but become despondent. Yesterday, as Secretary Kerry addressed the nation during a press release regarding the now “undeniable [evidence] that the Syrian regime had used chemical agents” my heart sank. The claim over the use of chemical agents has been going on for some time, but only recently had U.N. team investigating the issue found conclusive evidence. According to Kerry, “Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up,” and that chemical weapons are “the world’s most heinous weapons.” The suffering of any population is indeed the blackest night; however, the brightest day can only be won with the enlightenment of truth. Sadly, truth, along with beauty, knowledge, and virtue, are things only achieved on paper (George Bernard Shaw, 1950) and rarely in actual discourse.
Obviously, talk of war has resurfaced. But will war resolve war? Most of the arguments i’ve been hearing beg-the-question; extremely fallacious. According to NBCNEWS, Congress has generated more support for some kind of action in Syria, but “lawmakers [differ] over the scope of a possible attack and [are] bicker[ing] over how much consultation they’re being allowed with the White House.” Regardless, as per the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, “action is going to occur.” Are we really at that point now? Is action inevitable? The action i’d like to see regarding what to do over this heinous issue is for our administrators to work more diligently with our allies in the U.N. Security Council. Jumping into military action seems as if we’re skipping a few steps. We are not the government of Syria; the protection of global civilian populations cannot be the job squared solely on our (America’s) shoulders. We have allies, we have neighbors, lets use them. We cannot replace rationality with an over-emotional response.
Yes, chemical weapon are heinous, no matter who their used on. At this point, despite Assad’s constant denial, the use of chemical weapons if rather obvious. And deliberately targeting the U.N. Investigative Team doesn’t help the cause of innocence. Reportedly, within the week, evidence Kerry spoke of should be released to the public. Until then, all eyes are going to be on the White House. Will President Obama take action? Yes. Will it be the action everyone wants? No. My biggest fear is that he’ll use drone strikes, as they seem to be his favorite form of warfare. Drones cause more issues; not as much as having “boots on ground,” but still not ideal. The action i’m hoping for is something more diplomatic. While we cannot ignore the issue, because this thing with Syria is pure evil and villainous, we still cannot jump into another costly war (and i’m not just talking money here). History teaches us that war tends to cause more destruction than the things war has been fought over. Lets take note and think and then talk, but most importantly, lets think.
According to Pew Research Center, only a modest number of 45% to 31% Americans support military action in Syria, if “proof” can be given regarding chemical agents against a civilian population. Yet, overall public interest in the two year long Syrian civil war seems rather low, with a whopping 23% of Americans having no opinion about force either way.
The Syrian conflict began back in 2011, gaining minimal attention a midst other similar rebellion happenings in what would later be coined the Arab Spring, which included such countries as: Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, as well as Syria.
Also, more recent events have drawn the public eye away from the Syrian conflict, including the Boston Bombing, Gun Control Debate, North Korea, and so on.
Nonetheless, as more evidence surfaces of chemical agents being used on a civilian population, American interests could spike, especially concerning U.S. military involvement. The Obama administration acknowledged that there’s evidence the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. President Obama had warned Syria not to cross that “red line,” and now some Washington lawmakers are urging the president to take forceful action — including military intervention.
But as Washington examines what to do next; we’re faced with two precarious issues. Dealing with Syria and their use of chemical weapons, and the broader issue of, dealing with Syria in general.
You can find the full Pew Research poll here:
White House staff have confirmed the use of sarin (a nerve agent) by the Syrian government against rebel forces. According to U.S News report, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel voiced that the use of sarin “violates every convention of warfare.”
The red line has been crossed.
What are we going to do about it?
In a letter addressed to certain U.S Senators, including : John McCain, Bob Corker, Bob Casey, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Saxby Chambliss, and Bob Menendez, Obama confirmed what many lawmakers speculated: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria. “We believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons and has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people.”
According to U.S. News, French, Israeli and British intelligence services have also reported they have extensive evidence that the Syrian government has increasingly been using chemical weapons.
Business Insider has reported that the Israeli Air Force has already targeted several chemical weapons plants along the Damascus boarder, striking the plants with aerial bombs. The Free Syrian Army (rebel forces) have confirmed the attack.
Obviously, the U.S. Military has the resources necessary for an attack, the question remains though, should we?
The situation is rather precarious. If the U.S. does take action against the Syrian government, Iran could likewise intervene on behalf of Syria. According to Reuters report, the Iranian government has been steadfast in their support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “If America were to attack Syria, Iran along with Syria’s allies will take action, which would amount to a fiasco for America,” Mohammad Ali Assoudi, the deputy for culture and propaganda of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying.
Can we afford to walk into another Middle East War?
Can we sit idly by as civilians are bombarded with chemical agents?
Is there any action we can do that doesn’t involve military strikes
On Friday, April 26, 2013, President Barack Obama made a public announcement concerning recent reports regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons on their civilian population. According to BBC news, President Obama has vowed a “vigorous investigation,” warning that the use of chemical weapons will be a “game changer” for U.S. action if “proven true.” But whatever action that may arise; proof will be the deciding factor. The problematic question is what action should take place, if any.
Consider the Halabja Massacre (Bloody Friday), the largest chemical weapons attack directed towards a civilian population, a chemical genocide directed towards the Kurdish people near the close of the Iran-Iraq war on March 16, 1988. The Halabja attack killed an estimated 5,000 people, injuring up to 10,000 more; most were civilians. Thousands died, if not outright, by complications resulting in diseases and birth defects. According to regional Kurdish rebel commanders, “Iraqi aircraft conducted up to 14 bombings.” Eyewitnesses told of clouds of smoke billowing upwards to an estimated 150 feet in the air. Survivors have described the chemical agent as smelling of sweet apples, only to be followed by a horrid combination of death: some “dropped dead, [others] died laughing, [for the rest] burning and blistering…or coughing up green vomit.”
Intelligence reports had gleaned that Iraqi forces used a mixture of chemical weapons, including: mustard gas, sarin and VX (both are nerve agents), and even perhaps hydrogen cyanide. Though, initially the U.S. State Department blamed Iran for the attack, Human Rights Watch researcher Joost Hiltermann concluded through a vigorous field investigation, an analysis of confiscated Iraq police documents, declassified U.S. documents, and interviews with Kurdish survivors and Iraqi defectors, that the United States was fully aware that the Iraqi government used chemical weapons on the Kurdish people, but simply decided to blame Iran. It wasn’t until December of 2005 when actions were taken against parties responsible for the genocide. Frans van Anraat, an arms dealer who bought the chemicals on the world market and sold them to Saddam’s regime, was sentenced by a Dutch court to 15 years in prison. On November 5, 2006, Saddam Hussein was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity; he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Senator John McCain commented to CNN reporters on Sunday that the Syrian people were “angry and bitter…And that legacy could last for a long time too, unless we assist them.” Senator McCain concluded that the United States has not taken a bigger role in ending their (Syria’s) conflict. This begs the question: should we? Should we play bigger roles in decided a countries political outcome? According to CNN, last week the White House “told lawmakers in a letter that intelligence analysts have concluded ‘with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin…’ But the analysis was characterized as preliminary.” So, what bit of intelligence is missing, to which President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron are waiting to make a decision based on? Actually, a rather important one: a confirmed chain of custody of the chemicals in question. Basically, can we confirm the circumstances in which the sarin gas was used, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s role in said use of chemical agent?
For some U.S. Senators, such as Senator McCain, any action that can be taken is already too late. The Syrian political environment has for the past two years deteriorated, affecting the stability of both Lebanon and Jordan, who are both taking on refugees. At this point, President Obama and other political leaders are waving on the side of caution and calling for more conclusive evidence. The British Prime Minister addressed his own concerns regarding the escalating situation in Syria, that:
“Unreliable evidence could again be used as a justification for the West to become involved in [another] Middle Eastern conflict… I think the Iraq lesson must be about how we marshal and use information and intelligence and I think that lesson has been learnt. But I think it is very important for politicians and leaders of this generation to look at what is happening in Syria and ask ourselves what more we can do.”
According to Michael Chertoff, a former aid under President George W. Bush, that, “I think putting aside the question of exactly what we do, once we announce there’s a red line, if we don’t take it seriously, we are discrediting ourselves in not just Syria, but Iran, North Korea, all around the world,” insinuating that if the U.S. refuses to take direct action against Syria, it could have drastic implications with other “not so friendly” countries who may be gauging U.S. response. Obviously the death and destruction that is going on in Syria right now is numbing. According to the Boston Globe, more than a million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape Syria’s catastrophic civil war. A near million have been confirmed dead…and “divisions are so deep among Syria’s main ethnic communities — the majority Sunni and minority Alawites, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and others — that the country might fracture into competing fiefdoms when President Bashar Assad is finally driven from power.” In the face of all this conflict, what can we do? What should we do? Well, for Senators on both Republican and Democrat spectrums have voiced opinions on probable action, ranging from rearming the rebel forces and providing airstrikes against Assad forces, to U.S “boots on ground,” though not all Senators are agreeing on what the “right choice” is.
While the UN scrambles for more evidence, because let’s be honest here, with any action, it could lead us into another Middle East war, with both the Syrian government and Iran, what do YOU think the next step should be? Is President Obama justified in airing to the side of caution? Is Senator McCain justified in saying it’s too late? Should we have boots on ground or should we rearm rebel forces? Or…should we push for more diplomatic outcomes?