Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Sept. 2, 3 or 4
As this is written, President Obama has not yet ordered a bombing or Cruise missile attack on Syria.
As this is written, I’m home after helping a friend with Peoria deliveries to city hall, nursing homes, social-service agencies, clinics, a college, restaurants and other retailers, a police station and the courthouse. There, people waited anxiously for help, assisted others, and served.
And as this is written, no one seemed eager for another war – and just one of dozens of stops had a TV tuned to news about Obama apparently getting ready to punish Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad for the chemical-biological attack on civilians on Aug. 21 near Damascus, where about 1,400 civilians were killed.
It was an abhorrent and illegal act.
There also was no news about how U.S. military attacking Syria would also be illegal.
And there was scant mention of U.S. public opinion, which is strongly against intervening in that civil war involving at least three interests: the Assad regime, rebels tied to Sunni forces and rebels tied to al-Qaida and other Shiite groups. At least 60 percent of the country opposes U.S. military action in Syria, according to a Reuters/Ipso poll out Aug. 25.
Maybe we’re inching closer to what Illinois poet journalist Carl Sandburg saw when he wrote, “Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come.”
Certainly, the use of chemical-biological weapons is a war crime.
But U.S. military strikes would violate international law, too. The United Nations Charter requires nations to settle their disputes peacefully. Article 2 (4) makes it illegal for one country to use force or threaten to use force against another country; Article 2 (7) forbids intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in a foreign country.
Despite politicians’ spin, using armed forces also isn’t approved for “humanitarian intervention” by international law. After all, common sense tells us that noncombatants would inevitably be killed in such a misadventure.
And the high horse U.S. leaders sit on stands on piles of horse crap. The U.S. military used the Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam, depleted uranium in Iraq and phosphorous gas in Afghanistan. And, in a Foreign Policy magazine article published Aug. 26, journalists Matthew Aid and Shane Harris show how U.S. forces helped Iraq strongman Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons against Iran in 1983.
Where’s Congress in this? The U.S. Constitution Article 1 (8) clearly states that Congress has the power to declare war.
White House spokesman Jay Carney must wish the busy NSA could scrub the Internet for references to a 2007 statement by U.S. Senator and soon-to-be presidential candidate Barack Obama, who said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat.”
Now, however, Obama seems ready to once more cave in to perpetual-war elements.
Globally, UK Prime Minster David Cameron, the Arab League and French President Francois Hollande are rattling (U.S.) sabers, joining the always-eager Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in going to war. Domestically, the usual suspects also are trying to exploit the chemical-biological atrocity to transform punishment to invasion. In a letter sent Aug. 27, neoconservatives including Elliot Abrams, Doug Feith, William Kristol and Karl Rove said taking no military actions would make a previous administration warning an “empty threat” and urged entering the civil war on the side of unnamed “moderates.”
However, the Syrian military is formidable, U.S. intelligence agencies say, and they’re allied with Russia on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other.
One needn’t be naive to see that military intervention, however “modest” or “targeted” one pictures it, could too easily escalate into full-scale regional conflict.
Meanwhile, diplomacy hasn’t failed. It’s barely been tried.
Further, on Aug. 25, Secretary of State John Kerry pressured the UN to withdraw its inspectors from Syria despite more than a little doubt about the culprit behind the chemical-biological attack, conceded State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. When the UN refused to cancel its probe, Kerry sought to discredit the investigation by saying too much time had passed and evidence had been destroyed by subsequent Syrian shelling.
Maybe some sort of measured response – by the world – would not be unreasonable.
What is unreasonable is looking at the situation – a ruthless authoritarian leader who may have used weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens angering a U.S. President who disregards Congress in considering a military campaign, and media becoming excited at the prospect of such dramatic action – and expecting the outcome to be much different than before.
That’s more than unreasonable.
[PICTURED: Graphic by Latuff Cartoons from LifeWise via southweb.org.]