One thousand four hundred and twenty nine Syrians are dead through a chemical attack waged by — Lord knows who — and thousands more have died in the brutal civil strife in the last two years. The chemical attack last week included the death of more than 400 children.
Drums beat for war. Israeli citizens are lining up for gas masks, as they have often in the past. A spokesperson for the Israeli Postal Service, which distributes the masks, reported four times as many orders as usual in the last two weeks.
Twice as many as usual are showing up at public centers to get government-issues masks and there has been talk of expanding the number of centers handing out gas masks to meet demand.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin last week rattled his sabers with threats of attacking Saudi Arabia, now he is quiet. The New York Times reported a Russian deputy prime minister said the West dealt with the Islamic world like “a monkey with a grenade.”
President Obama, who says he has not made a decision on whether or not to lob cruise missiles from the four warships in the eastern Mediterranean into Syria, mentioned that there is a danger of terrorists getting Syrian chemical weapons and using them against U.S. interests.
The President has also said that we are not going to take out Syrian President Bashar Assad and the danger of striking chemical weapons sites is too high.
The Brits don’t want to play along; their Parliament voted to stay out of the military assault.
So if we do bomb Syria, then what? And what happens the day after tomorrow?
Does any of this sound familiar? Am I watching Colin Powell talk to the United Nations about Iraq and “weapons of mass destruction”? Except this time, Russia isn’t on board as one of the five members of the U.N. Security Council. It’s starting to feel like we’re taking this one on alone.
There is no question that what is happening in Syria is terrible, almost beyond belief. But do we have the “moral authority” to solve the world’s problems when so many of our own are out of control? An MSNBC pundit this morning asked, rhetorically, why don’t we cure polio? He quoted the World Health Organization’s statement that a billion dollars could fund the cure. Or AIDS and parasite-borne illnesses in Africa? Or homelessness in our country? Or — wait for the flying bricks now — health care for all our citizens?
I was a “duck and cover” kid. As a Baby Boomer, I participated in drills at our elementary school, either getting under our little metal desks, or crouching against the concrete walls of the school hallways. Tornadoes? We were prepared? Nuclear annihilation? Still prepared? This was the era of the LBJ daisy advertisement. In the ad, a tiny girl plucked petals off a flower; when she reached zero, the countdown to a nuclear blast began. And then, boom, and nothingness. Nothing like putting fear into the hearts of parents all over America.
I wasn’t old enough to really take in the fear. But today I am. I don’t know if our country is prepared to lose more of its fine young people, like we did in Iraq, and still in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State John Kerry assured the world today that, “We will not repeat that moment (referring to Iraq),” and also cited the international commitment before the War to End All Wars (WWI) to eliminate mustard gas and other weapons. He asked Americans to read the unclassified documents about Syria and said, “Fatigue doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility.”
Kerry believes we should respond. To me, the question is how. Perhaps I am a peacenik but I am uncertain that randomly killing others with our “shot across the bow” will deter more killing in Syria. Or anywhere else. Sojourners Magazine, a steady voice for peace, outlines a number non-violent solutions, if indeed America must move forward.
Secretary of State Kerry has thrown down the gauntlet and has asked Americans to read the evidence. Let your Congressional representative know what you think. I will be advocating for the diplomatic route to mine.
Published August 30, 2013 at The Broad Side. Please comment there.