Syria (Maybe) Used Chemical Weapons — And the U.S. Sits in Judgment?

Nick Ut's famous photo of children fleeing napalm in Vietnam (NPR)
Nick Ut’s famous photo of children fleeing napalm in Vietnam (NPR)

W.J. Astore

The Obama administration’s outrage over the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government smacks of hypocrisy.  We might recall that the U.S. refuses to become a signatory to a ban on cluster munitions, which are particularly dangerous to civilians and children in the days and weeks following their deployment.  Or that the U.S. remains by far the leading weapons dealer in the world today, accounting for more than half of the world’s trade in arms.  Or that the U.S. has been profligate in its use of firepower (including depleted uranium shells) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given these facts, and especially the profits we make from dominating the world’s arms trade, there is something quite morally obtuse about our nation’s posturing about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria as a cause for war.

The outrage against chemical weapons stems from World War I, when western nations were at pains to kill or wound one another by chlorine gas, mustard gas, phosgene gas, and similar chemical agents.  More than a million casualties of World War I were chemical casualties.  Western nations who had found plenty of excuses to gas each other during the war came together after the war to ban them.  And rightly so.

But then again, why not ban all chemical weapons?  Just think of the massive quantities of napalm (chemical incendiary), Agent Orange (chemical defoliant), and high explosive (yes, more deadly chemicals) we rained down on the Vietnamese in the 1960s and early 1970s.  Heck, bullets are propelled by a chemical reaction.  Let’s ban all these too.

And if we do that, then maybe, just maybe, our nation will have the moral authority to act outraged in cases like that of Syria today.

3 thoughts on “Syria (Maybe) Used Chemical Weapons — And the U.S. Sits in Judgment?

  1. “Outrage”??? It’s more like: “President Obama today vowed to start thinking, maybe soon, about possibly thinking about responding to the virtual confirmation of use of chemical weapons against civilians by the al-Assad regime. ‘But then again,’ the Commander-in-Chief declared, ‘we’re not really 100% certain about any of this. And, uh, it might rain tomorrow, so everything’s on hold.’ Then he blurted out: ‘But all options remain on the table….I think.'”

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  2. b. traven says …and while we are at it why are we considering intervention on the side of Al Qaeda associates who are major players in the Syrian rebellion And ,as an after thought, we just might also consider that Russia and Iran could be slighted that we did not consider their feelings about the Assad regime and this could provoke a much wider conflagration in that area.
    But than, look at how successful we were in next door neighbor Iraq, who threw us out of their country after we put the Shia in control ( despite Obama’s claim that we left ‘in a victory for democracy’) and now over a thousand are killed in recent months in sectarian violence. Or our great victory in Afghanistan which is insisting we leave them to mimic Iraq, only this time with the Taliban rather than sectarian violence.
    Our military and political leaders have no learning curve, they are definitely flat liners. .

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    1. Assisting al-Qaeda?!? Oh, no worries there. Per NPR News–or maybe I saw it on NY Times–the US has miraculously cloned a fighting force (training in Jordan, perhaps?) that it will insert into Syria at the proper time to take the fight to al-Assad while embracing Uncle Sam 100%!!! Isn’t that awesome? I foresee just as spectacular a success in post-war Syria as we see in post-war Iraq!! Hang in there, people of Syria, peace and prosperity are just around the corner! [I read the other day that Elmore Leonard pressed on aspiring writers a “rule” that they shouldn’t use an exclamation mark more than every 100,000 words on average. Sorry, Elmore, I won’t subscribe to that notion!!]

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