Failing to act in Syria: America’s Moral Dilemma

So here is the dilemma: President Obama says, after at least 3 chemical attacks against Syrian civilians, that the Assad regime has crossed a line and now must face the wrath of the international community. In the latest attack 1429 civilians were killed with Sarin gas, government controlled delivery systems being the only possibility. Video and images show scores of dead, and many in the final terrible and agonizing throes. He announces military action is imminent, and remains intent even after losing British support. He does, however have French support. The Arab League also supports action. Suddenly, Obama reverses course and decides to seek congressional approval. Some see this fully as a means of dodging a true moral responsibility

Rewind to more than 18 months ago when many were arguing for a resolute message to the Syrian government when the first atrocities against civilians. Journalist Mika Yamamoto was killed in August 2012 documenting Assad’s brutal crackdown on dissidents in the city of Homs, joining American Marie Colvin and Frenchman Remi Ochlik five months before. Dozens of journalists have died among more than 100,000 civilians. But the dead are dead, and retribution for the dead is impotent revenge. Justice is different from revenge, and this note is an argument for justice rather than revenge.

There is and always has been an emotional and moral tripwire, regardless of the WMD issue. Kosovo it was a bloody ravine, in Sarajevo it was a terrible market attack. All of them triggered an international military response. All of them were precipitated by months or years of atrocities against the innocent, all of them saw events early on in which the primaries of those atrocities believed they had crossed a line too far, only to have that line ignored by the international community. In the early months of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, Serb forces shot down a UN helicopter they said by accident. But there was no response from the international community, and the Serbs then understood there was no resolve against their actions which ultimately led to nearly 200,000 dead, twice that number wounded and more than 10 times that number in refugees. The UNHCR numbers current Syrian civilian refugees over 1.5 million, with likely a similar number internally displaced.

Republican Tom Cole promoted the ultimate lie of a stoic or disinterested international community, one used ad nausea in foreign conflicts. It is the message of the ignorant to the ignorant, and that is that this is an intransigent and eternal religious conflict. This began as retribution against a freedom movement calling for elections and the end to the Syrian monarchy. That is the eternal struggle here-freedom.

Did the International Community miss the opportunity early on to prevent the current bloodshed? Government bombings in Homs in 2012

Did the International Community miss the opportunity early on to prevent the current bloodshed? Government bombings in Homs in 2012

Now the American public, the victim of a media that was largely ignored this civil war, only has FOX News and Rightwing propaganda to rely on for any sort of perspective. In those perspectives is coiled the narrative of Al Qa’eda terrorists or Islamic fundamentalists. They are there to be sure, the opportunists that they are, but then they are willing to fight and die on the side of the Syrian people. The West, for all of its innuendo and falsehoods cannot even muster the truth in reporting.

The world once looked to the United States as a defender of human rights. We have squandered that as a nation, and the pale reaction to the brutality inflicted by the Assad regime from the start of the conflict-which was one sides before civilians began defending themselves and fighting back-only underscores the abandonment of human rights and ideals. Instead we argue openly the perversion of our pretend ideals about national self-interest.

Revenge is wasted on the dead, justice belongs to the living. There are more than 2 million civilians displaced by the war.

Revenge is wasted on the dead, justice belongs to the living. There are more than 2 million civilians displaced by the war.

Curious, since, so many in this nation argue that we are a Judeo-Christian nation based upon Judeo-Christian ideals and morality. As we have seen our ideals have been traded for oil, stock deals, international trade and consumerism. The world sees that. They see the stain upon our soul and hear the ghastly echo of moral abandonment behind our words. It lowers the standard of human rights or compels other nations to pick up that standard, not in partnership with America, but in spite of, and that, that is certainly the most dangerous threat to American security now and in the future.

Progressives and Liberals are certainly right to argue that war is never the answer, and as an ideal that is true. What I would argue is that war, limited war to degrade a despot and his army in the defense of the innocent is a regrettable necessity. Walking away from the suffering of innocents suffering, while hiding behind the abstract of national borders, is a disgrace for any person who believes them self moral. War for national self-interest is immoral. In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “if there is injustice anywhere, there is injustice everywhere.’

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