One of the stated reasons,
“Nearly 1,500 innocent civilians were murdered by Bashar al-Assad on the morning of Aug. 21.”
That number is less than certain. According to Propublica and The Guardian, France set the count of dead at 281, Britain had it around 350 and the Americans at 1,429.
Of course, body counts in conflicts are problematic and victims with dark skins are peculiarly challenging to quantify. Some people had the number of war dead in DR Congo at 5.4 million. Others had it closer to 3 million. In the Rwanda genocide, estimates had a half a million to one million dead. Regardless of the numbers, Americans expended little fuel and ammo in central Africa.
|Wait ’till you see what the little bombs split up into.|
Global interests of America are different in the middle east, especially in countries that border Israel. That results in well orchestrated outrage after someone, intentionally or by accident, deployed poisons against Syrian civilians. Certainly, deaths of people by chemical weapons is appalling. But then, I don’t include only volatile agents like Sarin. I include chemical weapons that come in other forms, such as the explosives in $640 million worth of cluster bombs Americans are supplying to Saudi Arabia and in the 1,000 pound warheads delivered by Tomahawk cruise missiles or the 40,000 pounds of bombs in a single B-1 bomber.
Explosions are chemical reactions that instantaneously release large quantities of potentially destructive gases. To some observers of warfare, chemicals that kill with a loud bang are more genteel than silent ones. Thus, we are less offended by explosions, particularly if delivered by smart bombs that promise to kill and maim fewer innocents than unguided versions.
The bombing that President Obama aims to do – with Stephen Harper’s ardent support – will visit additional tragedy on the people of Syria and may have unintended consequences. Sure, most targets will be command and control positions but hardened facilities require large munitions, resulting inevitably in significant collateral damage. Even so-called precise weapons are imprecise. The New York Times published a piece that claimed 98% of drone strike victims in Pakistan were civilians, not intended militants. Sadly, everyone in a bombsight is the enemy. The NYT writers noted that violent shows of American force solidified the power of radicals in targeted areas,
“While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants.”
Similar reactions have been evident in other nations where the USA kills with drones. Contrary to Obama’s implication, an assault on Syria will not be over in two or three days. This is not a video game that can be turned off or rebooted.
Intending to stop the bloodshed in Syria, Barack Obama and the neo-con hawks, the guys applauding more than a decade of continuous war, aim to do additional, but worthy, humanitarian killing in Syria. It’s a dangerous path to follow, more deadly than doing nothing.
So what’s another alternative? International sanctions have not been wholly successful but they have not been abject failures. The first aim of peacemakers is to stop the flow of arms and equipment that facilitate warfare. Those come from many G20 nations. Additionally, the civilized world must enforce trade embargoes on all goods except for what JFK called, in the Cuban missile crisis, the necessities of life. Here was Kennedy’s first direction on October 22, 1962:
“To halt this offensive buildup a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.”
Is it possible to isolate Assad’s Syria? Not completely but sanctions could be effective – Syria’s immediate neighbours are American allies – if western governments would take actions against enterprises that do international dirty business. Instead, typical sanctions are applied on the basis of “Wink wink nudge nudge. Say no more, say no more.” By example,
“Member of German Companies Presiding Board: ‘Ignore Sanctions against Iran’ “
The New York Times ran this piece a few months ago,
“Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime…”
Truth is that sanctions only work when the nations imposing them are determined to make them work. If the British were serious, they would not have granted export licences for bulk chemicals useful for weapons. If American were resolute about Syria, Michael Dell would be in jail. But then, America is not in the habit of prosecuting billionaires, it prefers building and deploying armaments. That pleases the billionaires.
Strangely, some of the best commentary comes from humour site The Onion:
Experts Point To Long, Glorious History Of Successful U.S. Bombing Campaigns