Is the Gassing of 1400 Syrians More of a Crime Against Humanity Than the Slaughter of 100,000 Syrians?
Frank Thomas’ take:
Russia’s ongoing multi-dollar sales of advanced massively destructive weapons to Assad’s government has exacerbated the killing fields in Syria. Yet Russia sanctimoniously thinks the rest of the world, namely the U.S., has no right of humanitarian intervention to protect the lives of innocents being slaughtered by chemical weapons and more so by Russia’s own prolific arms sales to Assad’s military forces.
Russia would remind us that for many years (1980-88) Saddam Hussein’s army blatantly used mustard and nerve gases at will against Iran and even the people of Iraq. Foreign Policy has just published CIA documents confirming Washington and other western nations knew of Iraq’s production and use of chemical gases and even delivered some raw materials. In fact, the U.S. incredibly falsely accused Iran of using chemical weapons. Super-hypocritically, we and others set the Iraq precedent that a tyrant government leader, no manner how barbarous, can use chemical gases so long as his tyrannical regime is on the right side of western interests.
Not surprisingly, Russia has been militarily supporting other Middle-East countries (e.g., Iran) as has also the U.S. This is the ‘business as usual’ regional power balancing and containment actions that have been going on for decades in international affairs. Does this mean there’s a moral obligation to standby idly given our history of arming strategically compatible nations and dictators – while closing our eyes to the perverse crimes against humanity committed by those same nations? Is the chemical gassing of people any more of a reason for a western humanitarian intervention than the extraordinary killing of over 100,000 Syrians? The U.S. moral dilemma is self-evident as we have been profitably making the Middle East a transfer station for sophisticated military technology and deadly weapons (e.g., to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya,Iraq) for quite some time.
The moral corruption and hypocrisy in foreign military interventions is deep and pervasive … with all sides participating in the malignant, cynical game of “aiding and abetting preferred or perceived least evil partner” in internal wars and civil conflicts. Over time, this has made it impossible for the general public to distinguish truth and justice or high noble ground from the pure, self-serving power plays and their inhuman, destabilizing side effects.
Of course, this adversarial culture in foreign affairs opens a wide gate for outright lies, deception, beguiling war mongering, promoting questionable military adventures by national leaders – people adept at selling the next foreign societal-engineering fantasy. This is done often under the hype of a national security threat no matter how remote or ill-defined.
It’s about merciless, manipulative power maneuvers with a hierarchical elite claiming a monopoly on moral righteousness and justice … while giving a “treasure trove” to war industry contractors whose morality is seeded in pure money-making funded by an unlimited government budget for weaponry.
And yet here we are in America with one of the world’s worst poverty rates and health care systems, a very mediocre pre-college education standard, and an economic system that’s systematically gutting middle class purchasing power and decent job progress. In waging wars or military interventions, we are a MASTER … and MONEY is no limit. In waging social-economic equity and job opportunities while stopping the use of our atmosphere as a dumping ground for greenhouse gas emissions, we are a FAILURE … for which MONEY is limited.
Despite admitting all this, I’m prepared to compromise my own conscience that says resorting to war to solve extremely complex societal problems – rooted in centuries-old religious/cultural hatred and tyrannical leaders – is INSANE! BUT, Syria’s (to be proven) blatant opening up of a precedent for using chemical and biological weapons (similar to Iraq’s use that was comfortably ignored) along with Syria’s bulging surfeit of advanced destructive weaponry from Russia is morally heinous.
I would join those that sanction employing a non-foot soldier military humanitarian intervention against Assad’s regime providing following conditions are met. Ironically, I have some company as even Russia has signed an international protocol against using chemical and biological weapons!
The following conditions for sanctioning military force against Syria probably don’t differ significantly from those of the world public today:
If, and ONLY IF, UN inspectors came forth with incontrovertible proof of Assad’s responsibility for using chemical gas in the killing of over 1400 adults and children; the U.S. Congress agreed with the UN inspector findings and other transparent evidence; and there’s a reasonably broad coalition of support (possibly including Russia if proof of Assad’s complicity is there), would I reluctantly support a U.S. decision to undertake a surgically targeted air strike on Syria’s chemical gas production/storage sites and on Syria’s ground to air missile/bomb weaponry that projects chemical gases.
I use the “if conditional hypothetical or unlikely clause form” because I’m skeptical the UN inspectors will come up with conclusive proof of Assad’s responsibility for conducting genocidal chemical warfare – proof that is credible to the world community. Besides, wouldn’t Assad be out-of-his-mind to use chemical gases now given the world uproar? Western military retribution would be quick and deservedly savage.
A “small tick attack” action will be futile … and will certainly not impress Assad nor bring peace closer in the Holy Land. Same applies even more so to a “big tick attack” action, likely killing many innocent people. This could well trigger a regional fuse bomb in the Middle East. Neither Obama nor U.S. credibility will grow just by “doing something” as a punishment whereby it’s not clear what good it does or what the consequences thereof are. This would be too stupid for words – and almost idiotic without a reasonably broad coalition of support.
Given these risks and assuming evidence is inconclusive as to Assad’s responsibility for chemical gas warfare against his own people, then other than aggressively arming the “correct” rebels, the negotiating table remains the only SANE option.
We shall see!
Frank Thomas, the Netherlands
John Lawrence’s Addendum:
President Obama is somewhat in a bind having declared his intention to militarily intervene in Syria prior to Britain’s backing out of supporting him. Originally, he planned to bypass Congressional approval similar to other US presidents’ precedents, but then, finding himself out on a limb, going it alone, he decided that he had to have some one or some entity in the world supporting his decision for military action and so decided that it would have to be Congress after all.
This creates a sticky wicket for Obama. If Congress votes not to support him, he would either have to really go it alone or else look foolish by backing down and saying in effect that he had been overruled. Thus he would look weak and silly. This is Obama’s dilemma. The best outcome for Obama would be that Congress votes to support him, but when has Congress, especially the Tea Party controlled House, ever been willing to support him? This is the perfect chance for what the Tea Party has sought to accomplish all along – to make Obama look weak and silly and place him in a precarious, untenable position. Therefore, I predict, John Boehner’s declared support of Obama notwithstanding, that the majority in the House will not vote to support Obama. Of course the Democratic controlled Senate, absent the filibuster, probably will. But on this point is the filibuster moot?
As for Obama’s rationale to “spank” Assad, the chemical weapon attack upon civilians, as bad as it was, has not seemed to be the moral imperative for military action as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Military action as envisioned by Obama probably will do little or nothing to dissuade or hamper Assad. The sad fact is that modern warfare has evolved into a situation where the ratio of civilian to participant deaths continues to increase. It comes as no shock that more and more civilians are being slaughtered as deplorable as that is. There is not that much moral difference between a civilian death from a gas attack or a civilian death by any other means. And in modern warfare children are not spared as distasteful as it is. Therefore, a peaceful negotiated settlement is by far the superior solution, chemical weapons or no.
As far as the rationale that Assad is gassing his own people, what is meant by “his own people.” Most of the people being killed are Sunnis and Assad is an Alawite. Again the power structure of a middle eastern country is an ethnic minority while the majority of the people and those being killed are an ethnic majority. Assad is not killing his own people but another ethnic group and there is no love lost between the two groups. That much should be made clear but the simple minded want to outrage us by declaring Assad is killing “his own people.”
No American interests are threatened by civil war in Syria. However, if the US gets involved, no matter how surgically, this will probably create a larger war in the Middle East because of all the
entangling alliances involved. For instance, the alliance between Assad and Iran, who are Shiites, no friends to the Sunnis of Syria, could come into play. And it gives all of the hostile forces involved a greater incentive for attacking Israel. A surgical attack against the Assad regime by the US will not go unresponded to in ways that could create a greater Middle East conflagration that would necessarily precipitate a greater US involvement. The lesson is that surgical strikes do not necessarily remain surgical. One thing leads to another and then another and another.
A better solution would be to send massive humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees now flooding the borders and even in helping Syrian citizens trapped within Syria who would like nothing better than to get out. On this Obama could conceivably get the rest of the world to rally around a US led effort. A military solution no matter how limited is like opening a can of worms.