Are you confused about Syria? I know I am.
Should we step in and show the world that we will not allow Assad to violate longstanding international norms against using chemical weapons, especially against children? Or, stay out of a no-win civil war where one side is the ruthless Assad and the other may be Al Qaeda. What a Hobson’s choice.
Sure Assad committed a horrible act. This is not the first time that he has done it, either. And our government has known about it all along.
Apparently these norms have only been broken previously by two other despotic dictators, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. There has been a one hundred year old “red line” against chemical weapons. But on the other hand, is it any worse to die by chemical poisoning than gun shots, bombs, shrapnel or being stabbled to death? I have not sorted that one out yet.
So what are peaceniks like me to do? I just don’t believe in war, period. I hate to admit it, but I have read a lot of Pat Buchanan on the subject of WWII and I can see his point of view, even if it offends me on almost every level. After all, the world and America did step in far too late to help millions upon millions of people who were tortured and gassed and burned like refuse. It literally sickens me.
When I was in Amsterdam, a city that probably can be charming despite its often dreary weather, I made the mistake of visiting the Anne Frank house my first day there. I had read the book as a little girl, and saw the movie on TV. Anne and her family made a deep impression on me, especially since I was very young when I did both.
Going to the Frank house was a pilgrimage. The houses in Amsterdam are called ‘bayays’ (in Dutch, Béjé). They are tall by several stories or more and only as wide as a single room, while they can be deep. On the bottom floor there is a type of holocaust museum. I was in high school when I went there and so some of the details are a bit fuzzy now. But what I remember was the walls were one big mural and the pictures were spread around the room so you could walk in a circle and see the events of the pogrom and details of the camps. I spent about an hour on the bottom floor, as the stairs to the upper part of the building were narrow and small and there was a long line of people waiting to go up to the hiding place behind a false wall.
The closeness of the space, the sight of those photographs, I don’t know what it was. Some people have told me I was so sensitive that I felt the ‘group soul’ of the people who had hidden in that building and were later so brutally slaughtered. Whatever it was, I became physically ill, literally sick to my stomach. I went back to the hotel and spent the remaining two days in bed, crying.
So, what to do about Syria? My heart wants us to step in and stop this barbarism. But the other side of me despises wars. As family members have told me, wars primarily kill mommies and babies, lots of them.
A military strike like the one being proposed is a terrible act that will cause grave collateral damage. Who is going to clean up the chemicals that will blast in every direction from a missile strike?
And, who is going to pay for this? It has been calculated that the combined long term comprehensive costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be around four trillion dollars. We can’t afford to offer Head Start or health care, but we can drop billions with more bombs? It’s outrageous.
Chris Hayes gave a good summary of his position on All In, his MSNBC show Wednesday night (September 5). Ultimately, this will be a fight to the death between two groups of people known for their 10th century ideas of revenge and black and white right and wrong. We can send the millions that our missiles would cost to help the refugees fleeing Syria or offer them a streamlined path to citizenship and asylum like that we give Cubans, instead. If on the other hand we go in and avenge this chemical attack, and Assad launches another one, then what? Hayes’ compelling precis of the case against military intervention should be viewed by anyone who believes as I do that at the very worst, we should avoid making a desperate situation worse, and at best, help to find a path out of the darkness and into the light for the people of Syria, innocent bystanders under the shroud of repression for centuries.
Listen to Hayes’s statement here: http://www.thenation.com/blog/176044/chris-hayes-comes-out-against-military-action-syria#.
He points out that we have rarely entered a war in our history that turned out well. Above all and notably, our own Civil War which ended with 600,000 dead rotting bodies and no political resolution – really a stalemate (just look at the attitude of the confederate Southerners today), and that certainly, this should not be one of them.
It has also crossed my mind, as I sit here conflicted with concern and cynicism, that this idea was not President Obama’s in the first place, but the plan of others who are hidden behind the scenes in our massive military industrial complex with Oz-like wizards manipulating secret levers.
These are the people Eisenhower warned this country about, war mongers for profit. Their front men may be some of our Senators and Representatives. They see that the sequester is dragging down our economy, has put the brakes on military spending (a lucrative business) and that Iran has just ‘elected’ a relatively benign-seeming president (like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but still…). It is the same crowd that bamboozled us into Iraq. And, does anyone remember that Ronald Reagan sold Saddam Hussein chemical and biological weapons in the 1980s when the Iran-Iraq war was in full swing? Was that purely for lofty ideals or did it have a more pragmatic financial motive?
Hayes points out that Assad may have used the chemical attack specifically to provoke a deadly confrontation because he knows that he has no choice, either vanquish his opponents or be brutally “drawn and quartered” by them, should they win.
All in all, something doesn’t add up here. This problem in Syria has been going on for two years. So, why talk about punishing him only now? Surely this chemical attack, while barbarous, is little worse than the other calumnies that this war has already seen. We now run the risk of interfering on the side of a group of backward terrorists who seek to establish caliphates throughout the region.
I finally heard Ron Paul say that this is all due to the fear than an emboldened Iran may accelerate its nuclear weapons program because they see us wobbling at the edge of the red line. Syria was ripe for the picking but it may be more about a nuclear than a chemical menace. That at least makes more sense than what we have been told officially.
A victory for ‘our side’ would be pyrrhic at best. Let’s not do this!
We can contribute to saving Syrian refugees at: http://donate.unhcr.org/syria.
Images: Wikimedia Commons