Saturday, November 28, 2015 • 12:17

A little light in a very dark tunnel

September 11, 2013
On August 21st, President Bashar Hafez al-Assad of Syria allegedly used chemical weapons to kill over 1,400 of his own people. Images of the dead and the dying, wounded men, women, and children were broadcast over all the major news networks. Over 400 innocent children were slaughtered. Once again, the horror of chemical weapons and the brutality of a despot and his cronies have shocked the senses of decent civilized people in clear violation of international agreements barring their use.

Our President spoke to the American people Tuesday evening and asked the question, 'What kind of world would we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"

Do we have a responsibility to answer this heinous crime against humanity since we are the only true world power? Can we side-step this issue? Is it time for us to look the other way? Can we as Americans, who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom and our way of life, turn our backs on this atrocity? Does a civilized society have the capacity to look the other way? There are many questions we need to ask of ourselves, but really we must decide exactly what we stand for.

Americans have become war weary. After ten years of war, there are at least 6,668 dead from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combined. We must not forget either the wounded and scarred lives of so many of our veterans, at a cost of 1.8 trillion dollars. It's no wonder we are hesitant to become involved in another quagmire in the Middle East — where war and violence seem never-ending.

We Americans have also become very war wise. I believe we are asking all the right questions in light of the misguided 2003 invasion of Iraq (in search of weapons of mass destruction which never existed). We have learned valuable lessons in our pursuit of nation-building. To put it bluntly, no matter how hard we try to instill American values and our way of life, we have learned there is no one size that fits all. Given all this, it is very understandable that Americans should be opposed to acting as the world's policeman.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 outlawed the use of chemical weapons in war. During World War I, Germany attacked Allied troops near Ypres, Belgium with chlorine gas on April 22, 1915 — the very first time lethal gas had been used in modern warfare. Shortly thereafter, both sides started using chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas once they realized the effectiveness of these weapons. In the end over 90,000 soldiers were killed, many dying agonizing deaths only days or weeks after being attacked with these weapons. Over one million more were injured and many were blinded for life. This mass slaughter led to the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Not even the Nazis would use chemical weapons on the battlefield, although they did use them in the concentration camps to exterminate the Jews and other groups. The forbidden use of these weapons was reinforced and finally ratified at the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997.

With Syria in clear violation of International Law, are we obligated to act against them? As of this evening, Russia has negotiated a possible solution by requesting that Syria hand over its stockpiles of chemical weapons to be disposed of under international supervision and verification. The question is, will this happen only if we give teeth to our military threats should this diplomatic effort fail? You must decide what happens. Please let your elected representative know where you stand. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself. Despots cannot be allowed to go about business as usual.

Ray Flores is a reporter for the Valley Roadrunner.

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