You’re an evil dictator. You rule your country with an iron fist. Then, one day, your neighboring ruler gets deposed when his people and his military rise up against him. You’ve seen this before, and you remember how your father dealt with it. So when your own people get inspired by the event and start protesting and demanding changes to the way you run your administration, you take a page out of your father’s rule book and handle it the old fashioned way – by killing them.
At first, it’s just bullets and bombs – the usual stuff. You order your security forces to fire on protesters. You order them to discourage the protests by shooting anyone that doesn’t appear completely loyal to your regime. And if your forces feel like raping them and torturing them, you look the other way. After all, you don’t care too much about these people – they aren’t really “your” people, they follow a slightly different flavor of your religion. It’s too bad there are so many of them. Wouldn’t life be better if there were fewer?
Then you decide to use chemical weapons. Why not? That’s what you’ve got them for. Of course, you know it’s against the laws of war, and that other countries will call you a monster, but so what? You ARE a monster. So you give it a try to see how the other countries react. What are they going to do? You’ve got Russia as your staunchest ally, and the Chinese are worried about any military action that will destabilize oil production and slow the economy. So you try it, and get the expected results. A little death, a lot of bitching, but no action. So you try it again on a slightly larger scale, and the same thing happens. Looks like the US is just going to sit on the sidelines and throw words. Sure, you know they could get riled up eventually and toss some cruise missiles in your direction, but it doesn’t look like more than that. So you try it again, and kill even more people.
NOW the US president is getting pretty pissed off, and the US people are wondering if they’re going to have another war on their hands. The bees nest has been kicked. The ants have been stirred, and still nothing has been done.
So, some of the people may be asking the question – when you’ve got an evil dictator that kills tens of thousands of people with bombs and bullets, what’s the big deal if he uses nerve gas to kill a thousand more? Why are chemical weapons such a big deal? Does it make sense to whine about “how” these people are being killed vs. the fact that they’re being murdered?
Here’s the answer. It’s not about the method, it’s about the how the method selects it’s targets. Guns are aimed. Bombs are – to a degree – aimed as well (although that can be argued). But gas doesn’t really aim at anything, it simply kills whatever breathes it.
In April 15th 1915, the Germans first used chlorine gas in the Second Battle of Ypres. Prior to this, the only chemical weapons used were irritants such as tear gas. The use of chemical weapons escalated, and was used by both sides. Phosgene came next. Then mustard gas, a blistering agent. By 1918, the use of gas became widespread. Bromine and chloropicrin were introduced. The total number of casualties from gas numbered 1,240,853.
In 1925, the world governments got together at Geneva and decided to ban the stuff. Why? Well, first off, it’s a fricken nasty way to die. But, more importantly, it’s an indiscriminate killer – more a tool of terror than a tool of war. Gas doesn’t care about who it kills, it’s just gas, and if you use it, that indicates you don’t care about who you’re killing either, particularly when you use it in urban environments. Sure, you might kill some of your enemies, but you’ll kill plenty of civilians in the bargain. It is a weapon of mass destruction. It’s how we kill insects and pests. In short, it’s disgusting. And so it was agreed that the “rules of war” would include strictures against the use of chemical weapons. Who enforces these rules? Well the international community does.
And the international community includes those countries allied to the countries that are using the gas. And, yes, invading Syria probably would have a negative effect on the global economy. And, yes, the rebel factions that are rising up in Syria do include terrorist elements that, if successful in overthrowing the government, could create an even worse regime with specific hatred toward the US.
So, the question of whether the US should toss some cruise missiles at the current regime as retribution for their use of gas and the murder of civilians isn’t a simple one. Is it the “right” thing to do? Probably. But will it result in a future that’s any better? Probably not. Personally, I do not envy the president his position, and asking Congress for permission wasn’t only the right thing to do – it was the smart thing to do.
Filed under: terrorism | Tagged: chemical weapons, Civil War in Syria, Syria Gas Attacks | 2 Comments »