Chemical Attack in Syria: Obama Looks the Other Way

SyriaThe videos from Syria are horrific and unprecedented, with row upon row of corpses, many of them children, in what now seems to indicate some kind of chemical agent, perhaps nerve gas, judging by the symptoms, also captured on camera, of the last gasps and spasms of the dying.  Presumably the attack was launched under the auspices of the Assad regime, since it’s well known they possess a huge stockpile of chemical weapons.  It maintains, however, that rebels are simply staging a scenario for Western consumption to provoke intervention.

But this isn’t the way Britain and France see it, the latter calling for possible force if there is verification.  Even, and this is a shocker, Vladimir Putin has called on the Syrian government to allow UN inspectors, already in the country and just twenty minutes away, to visit the scene, though Russia assumes the whole thing is a rebel ruse.  I don’t think for a minute Assad will allow such a thing, though logic would seem to compel it, if what’s happened is simply a rebel scheme.

It’s conceivable Hezbollah or non-government loyalists could have launched an attack like this using make-shift rockets, which they’ve done before, employing tear gas or industrial toxins fired into a confined space.  Bad as the videos are, we don’t see defecation, vomiting and tremors that usually go along with chemical agents.

Because we can’t pin down, at least for now, what precisely happened, we need to refrain from a rush to judgment.  In America we’ve seen enough of war, of thousands of our children killed and maimed, our treasury depleted, and those we’ve fought to liberate us not liking us one bit more.  We got rid of Saddam, Iran’s nemesis, and stoked  its friendship with largely Shiite Iraq.

If this turns out to have been a genuine chemical attack, then such barbarism should meet with a strong response.  It doesn’t require boots on the ground.  No one wants that.  Nor does it mean a no fly zone.   Cruise missiles fired off shore can take out the missile depots.  Give the beleaguered rebels the weaponry they need so that the Assad regime pays a lingering price and this never occurs again.  Include anti-tank missiles as well.

The truth is that the Obama administration has dilly-dallied too long, allowing extremist forces to enter the fray, al Quaeda fighting with the rebels; Hezbollah, for Assad.  Now the war’s momentum, taking a very dangerous turn, increasingly resembles the imbroglio of Sunni vs Shiite, or what we see in Iraq, spinning out of control.

Like an ugly cancer, it threatens to metastasize, drawing in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, where 42 died in a Tripoli bomb blast today.  Iran, meanwhile has been sending in fighters.

The toll on civilians is immense:  100,000 dead;  two million refugees, one million of them children divested of a future.

Meanwhile, our government is clearly confused, self-contradictory, and plainly ineffectual.

Obama told us a year ago, August 20, 2012, that chemical weapons would be a “red line” and “a game-changer.”  Shortly after, he concluded that they had been used and pledged arms.  No weapons have arrived.  Nothing changed.

If we discover that chemical weapons were indeed deployed on this occasion, and substantially, will it make any difference this time?  Don’t bet on it.  Politicians often say things they don’t really mean, and that’s why we’re wise not to believe them when they do.

Ironic for a nation that owes its own liberation from the intervention of the French two centuries ago.

–rj

About RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.
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