Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: No Good Solutions

There are lots of reasons for and against the intervention in Syria that will most certainly happen sometime this week. Can the world stand by while one government kills its own people? Do we, the United States of America, have a responsibility to use any means necessary to stop what we consider to be a “moral obscenity” in Syria? If we take action in Syria then why aren’t we intervening in dozens of other violent conflagrations around the world?

More than one friend of mine sent out an email urging people to contact President Obama and our other elected officials to ask them not to bomb Syria. Thomas Boudreau shared this message which he sent to the White House: “Remember the U.S.S. Maine, which was probably sunk by Cuban nationals trying to get us to go to war with Spain; remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which the supposed second torpedo boat attack never happened, yet triggered the Vietnam war (Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, 1983); remember the invasion of Iraq based on the pretext that it was developing weapons of mass destruction, which was simply false.  So, don’t be played, Mr. President.  The US can’t be the world’s policeman. Please don’t attack Syria…”

I have in the past I have personally sent impassioned communications to elected representatives and our President hoping to be counted for or against some government action. After the school shooting in Connecticut I emailed the White House through their website. It took seven months before they responded with a generic copy of their policy statement on gun control. Even if they are tallying the “pros and cons”, I suspect anything I send will fall on deaf ears. But here goes:

Dear Mr. President,

If you must attack Syria, please only do so if you can be sure that our weapons will only be used on military or munitions sites and that no loss of civilian lives will happen. Each life is precious whether it is civilian or military, and during civil conflicts those lines are usually blurred. Can you assure the world there will be no collateral damage: innocent casualties?

I wish I could ask you not to bomb anyone at all, but I fear that ship has already sailed and you and your administration have already made a decision. Despite the clarion cry for armed intervention over the last year, we know that we got here with the best of intentions. No one wanted to see this, or any other situation, escalate to such bloody ends. But the United States is not solely responsible for this. The international institutions we have in place now only fool us into thinking we are doing the best we can.

The idea that the United Nations can investigate whether a chemical attack has occurred but not who perpetrated it is tragically farcical. The UN Security Council has proven itself to be useless because of the Gordian knot created by its voting rules. When will we and the sovereign governments of the world finally come together to form an effective international police agency and world court that can investigate crimes against humanity objectively; and with a simple majority of the legally elected leaders of the world voting in favor, authorize the capture and trial of criminal despots?

That would mean that every country including our own needs to be accountable. Drone strikes are acts of war. When they are done with impunity without any transparency or accountability they are crimes against humanity. Each hit inflicts a trauma which sets off a chain of suffering. The missiles we launch against Syria will undoubtedly inspire the terrorist acts of the next generation. So goes the insidious and perpetually contagious infection of war.

You might say that the time to figure out how to prevent the acts of murderous tyrants is not in the middle of their acts of genocide. You would be right. We may never be able to prevent the madness that results in genocide. But we can try to stop the carnage once we recognize it. There are violent conflicts going on in many places around the world. So in the mean time, we can’t wait for peace in order to work on peace. There really is no time like the present.

You can still decide on a different course of action in Syria. But whatever you decide to do about Syria, please redouble your efforts to bring the world’s leaders together to build more effective international institutions to address violent conflicts on our planet.

In faith and service,
Dana Kester-McCabe
Sent via 8/28/2013

It would be interesting to know if White House staffers will count this letter as for or against intervention in the Syrian conflict. I am against bombing Syria but I am also against allowing Assad and his ilk to murder or brutalize anyone who opposes their rule. There probably isn’t one panacea to address such matters, but surely an impartial effective investigative agency on genocide and fuller recognition of the proceedings of the world court would be a start. The prospect of all this violence is sad enough. To have it happen as we are honoring the ideals of Martin Luther King and his seminal “I have dream” speech is such a shame.

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