Friday, August 23, 2013 at 8:07 AM

Why Is killing with gas (Syria) any more inhumane than killing with guns (Egypt)?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

In a rare show of unity, the United States and Russia are calling on the United Nations to investigate claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Wednesday to kill over 1000 people, including women and children.


All indications are that the United States is trying to enlist a coalition of nations willing to launch military strikes to weaken, if not to kill, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and strengthen opposition forces.

By contrast, however, all indications are that Russia is trying to enlist a coalition of nations willing to blame opposition forces for using those chemical weapons. Beyond this, though, is the more cynical likelihood that, just as it did with respect to U.S. intervention in Libya, Russia (along with China, incidentally) is doing all it can to undermine the legitimacy of any U.S. military action – not to defend Syria as much as to insulate itself from international condemnation if (or when) it takes military action … against a (relatively) hapless foe.

To be fair though, Russia insists that it is standing on the principle that no nation has the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of another. Except that this principle is patently self-serving and unsustainable. Not least because, pursuant to it, Russia would have to oppose an international coalition to intervene even if Assad were exterminating millions of Jews the way Hitler did during World War II.

(“Now Houla: Assad of Syria Continues to Massacre with Impunity,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 29, 2012)

For what it’s worth, I suspect South Ossetia/Abkhazia was Russia’s Sudetenland – the testing/training ground for a forthcoming campaign to reclaim its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet republics….


‘Our red line was the use of chemical weapons. That was crossed a couple of months ago and the president took action,’ said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. ‘If these [new] reports are true it would be an outrageous escalation in the use of chemical weapons by the regime, and there would be a range of further options for us to take.’

(London Guardian, August 22, 2013)

I fully appreciate why the use of chemical weapons incites such visceral condemnation. When all of the guilt-assuaging moralizing is done, however, even President Obama will be hard-pressed to explain why the Egyptian military killing 1000 people with guns does not cross a “red line,” but the Syrian military doing so with gas does.

Not to mention him trying to explain why Assad has been allowed to preside over the slaughtering of 120,000 in the two-plus years since he commanded this Syrian leader “to go.” For surely the triggering mechanism for international intervention should be the fact that a military dictatorship is killing an unconscionable number of innocent people, not how that military is doing so, no?

Mind you, given that Obama seemed perfectly willing to stand by and watch him massacre over 100,000 people with conventional weapons, doesn’t it seem just a little odd that Assad would literally goad Obama into launching military strikes by crossing his red line so brazenly … just to kill one thousand with chemical weapons? I mean, Assad is clearly a genocidal maniac, but there’s no indication that he’s a suicidal fool as well.

Anyway, does anyone think the Holocaust would have been more humane if Hitler had used firing squads instead of gas chambers…?

And don’t get me started on the contradiction inherent in Obama threatening war over Assad ordering his military to gas 1000 people in Syria but, evidently, not having his conscience even stirred over indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir ordering Arab militias to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Black Africans from Darfur, Sudan; or, worse still, over tribal warlords fomenting Rwandan-style genocide in the DR Congo that has already seen over five million people, many of them children, slaughtered. I respectfully submit that these are the kinds of unconscionable atrocities that should trigger foreign intervention.

But it would be remiss of me not to also mention the fallacy inherent in Obama launching military strikes against Syria to reinforce America’s credibility with rouge nations like Iran and North Korea….


Incidentally, regarding Egypt, I cannot reiterate the following too many times:

I find it curious that Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship.

The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma), the military ended up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.

(“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

Alas, Obama is clearly laying the groundwork (or setting up an eerily familiar pretext) for launching military strikes against Syria. This, notwithstanding the likelihood that the only thing the United States will accomplish is to make Syria more hospitable for al-Qaeda terrorists, just as U.S. strikes against Libya did.

Hell, forget trying to get Russia to hand over Snowden, it speaks volumes that the United States cannot even get the Libyan government, which its bombing (of Gaddafi) helped install, to hand over the terrorists who attacked its consulate in Benghazi last year (on 9/11), killing four Americans, including its ambassador.

Moreover, apropos of that eerily familiar pretext, it seems Obama has already forgotten that the United States wasted thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, over 10 years, trying to liberate Iraq. Yet today no president of the United States would dare set foot in Baghdad; whereas any president of Iran would be greeted there like, well, a liberator.

When will these naïve, trigger-happy Americans ever learn…? And by the way, why hasn’t it occurred to any of the brilliant military strategists advising Obama that, far from preventing any further use of chemical weapons, bombing Syria might just provoke Assad to use them even more…? After all, the menace is not chemical weapons; it’s depraved leaders who order their use. Which is why, unless the United States takes out Assad and his military leadership, it can bomb Syria till kingdom come … but it will be to no avail.

This, however, begs the following: Like Assad, Chinese leaders demonstrated at Tiananmen Square that they have no scruples about ordering the military to massacre thousands of their own people with conventional weapons to retain power and control. But if they ordered the military to massacre not 1000, but 100,000 with chemical weapons, does anyone think the United States and its allies would be even debating, let alone mobilizing for, military strikes against China…?

082713_ff_lippold_640In any event, I trust the above makes clear why I would find military strikes against Syria every bit as unjustified as I found the invasion of Iraq (in 2003). As morally objectionable as it is to see images of women and children who have been gassed, I stand by my advice for Obama to let the Syrians sort out their own mess — so long as they keep it within their own borders.

But let me hasten to clarify that this does not preclude the United States from escalating its involvement by proxy (with arms, training, and intelligence) to counter what it claims are efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to help Assad defeat opposition forces. I would only add the admonition I provided before the United States weighed in to help opposition forces in Egypt tip the scales against Hosni Mubarak: the devil you know (Assad) may prove far preferable to the one you don’t (an al-Qaeda-sympathizing Islamist). I recall all too well that just two years ago (on the March 27, 2011 edition of Face the Nation), then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hailing Assad as a “reformer;” in other words, a man the United States can do business with….

Finally, I hope the irony is not lost on anyone that Obama, who won the presidency in 2008 primarily by criticizing George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, is now emulating Bush’s march of folly — complete with his own misguided fixation on WMDs.

NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it more than a little ironical, if not hypocritical, that the United States, the purported guardian of world peace, has been involved in more military conflicts since World War II (72) than Russia and China, those purported enablers of world conflict, combined…? (See, William Blum, “A Brief History of U.S. Interventions: 1945 to the Present,” Z Magazine, June 1999)

Related commentaries:
Assad massacring
Egyptians longing for Mubarak

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