President Obama, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and House Speaker John Boehner want to attack Syria. They and the public have repeatedly seen the sickening video of presumed victims of an Aug. 21 chemical-weapons attack near Damascus.
The “proof” that Syria dictator Bashar al-Assad is responsible is strange. We’re told the U.S. intercepted “panicked phone calls in which a Syrian defense official demanded an explanation for the attack from an official in a chemical weapons unit…” (foxnews.com/politics/2013/08/28/). This raises the obvious question: Why would a Syrian official be in the dark about the attack if the Syrian government itself was responsible?
Actually, it would make no sense for Assad to use chemical weapons because 1) his forces were already making progress using conventional weapons and 2) his use of chemical weapons could bring the U.S. and others into the war on the side of the rebels.
Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, says the rebels, not the Syrian regime, have used chemical weapons in the past. Might a rebel group be responsible for the Aug. 21 attack? They had the most to gain from it.
Make no mistake. The Syrian regime is brutal. In fact, Syria was one of the countries to which the U.S. “rendered” prisoners to be tortured.
But before we join the fight against the Assad regime, consider whether the rebels would be an improvement.
Video on the Internet showed a rebel commander ripping out and eating the heart of a soldier he had captured. Another rebel ate the lungs of a prisoner. A 12-year-old rebel soldier was given a machete to chop off a prisoner’s head. The child wasn’t strong enough to complete the beheading. So an adult finished it. Our “friends” among the rebels are massacring Christian villagers. Catholic priest Francois Murad and two other Christians were killed by cutting off their heads with ordinary kitchen knives. Hundreds of onlookers cheered and video-recorded the grisly event (liveleak.com/view?i=ead_1372329728/).
Of course we’re horrified at the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But recall some equally horrific events for which we were responsible. In Iraq the U.S. used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, which burns for days or weeks inside a human body. Visiting the southern Iraqi city of Basra in early 1991, I met children with outrageous birth defects or with unusual cancers after our extensive use of depleted uranium in that area.
In January 2009, Israel used white phosphorus, cluster bombs and depleted uranium against the 1.6 million Palestinians it keeps confined in Gaza (youtube.com/watch?v=0iA9RkRS6zk). Ghada Abu Halima, 21, and members of her family were among the victims. When the Israelis shelled her home, Ghada’s father-in-law and four young cousins burned to death. Her mother-in-law and her three sons were burned. Ghada and her own young daughter had burning white phosphorus in their bodies. Two of Ghada’s cousins tried to take her to a hospital. But Israeli soldiers stopped them, killing the two cousins. For weeks the Israelis prevented Ghada from going to an Egyptian hospital. Eventually she got there, and she died in agony after 10 weeks of phosphorus burning inside her (btselem.org/testimonies/20090104_abu_halima_home_set_on_fire_by_shelling).
The number of Palestinians killed in the assault on Gaza was even greater than the number said to have died in Syria on Aug. 21. But instead of punishing Israel for the atrocities, President Obama gave Israel money and weapons to replace what they had used.
As President Obama makes his case for war, he assures us that American forces will not be at risk. He will use cruise missiles to kill Syrians remotely. For some reason, Obama refused to attend peace talks on Syria. Meanwhile, many Syrians are terrified both of the expected U.S. bombardment and of the consequences of a rebel victory.