August 26, 2013

Counterview: Syria Chemical Weapon Use. Does It Change Anything?

Today Secretary of State John Kerry said, “What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world.” He added that is was “undeniable” despite “excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured,” which is likely directed at Russia. And of course he’s right. There is no excuse. But does that mean there can be a viable excuse for use of conventional (non-chemical) weapons?

It appears Syria used chemical weapons and crossed the so-called “red line” established by President Obama in 2012. So now what?

Before we start another clusterfuck war, let’s sit back and think about this rationally. We should be outraged over the use of chemical weapons. We should be enraged that a regime cares so little about its citizens. But why do chemical weapons change the equation? I believe I’ve seen fatality estimates as high as 100,000 or more due to “conventional” warfare in Syria over the past few years. Now we have 1500 dead from a chemical weapon attack. I fail to see a distinction between the two. Both result in fatalities.

And before you dismiss this as an uncaring critique of human suffering, consider this question. Why are you so complacent over the use of conventional weapons in Syria? Why not establish a red line to be crossed with the next life extinguished by a conventional weapon?

Is the difference due to pain and suffering? I hate to break it to you, but conventional weapons do not always produce immediate death. And when you consider the ratio of deaths conventional vs chemical, possibly as high as 100 to 1, it’s not unreasonable to conclude there’s been more pain and suffering due to conventional weapons. And that says nothing of the turmoil, angst and agonizing loss afflicted upon surviving family members.

But you know the real reason people are so worked up over this chemical weapons attack? The images on TV. Rarely if ever do we seen limbs scattered across a road, or a person with their head blown off. They usually don’t show that on TV. But what they do show is the suffering caused by an ailment with no obvious external injuries. So we can see the pain, we can see the anguish just before they cut to a shot showing rows of bodies.

I don’t pretend to know how to fix this problem. But I’m not sure American military involvement will make anything better.

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