Did The Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria Happen? We Need A Different Question

There has been a lot of debate other whether the chemical weapons attacks in Syria “really happened”. On the one side, you have the corporate media for the West, on the other side you have the corporate media for the Russians, as well as the conspiracy-oriented fringe in the U.S. Obviously one side is correct, and the truth does matter, but it really is the wrong question to be asking.

By asking the question we draw the same “red line” as Barack Obama once did. The truth is that both Assad and his opposition have been absolutely brutal in their treatment of Syrians, and that the chemical weapons attack is just one of many crimes. Further military action in the area is the last thing Syria needs, and to that extent, we should not be provoked into further military action, regardless of whether the attack really happened. Rather than dispute the “lies” of the Western media, we should be disputing their rationale. There will always be some reason to go to war, and as long as Syria remains unstable, there will always be “good” reasons to go to war. We should dispute the assumption that war makes things better rather than worse. Putting on our tin foil hats may find the truth, but it does little to counter the most important lie: war is the solution, not the problem.

Among the bigger lies by the Western media is that this attack occurred because Obama was too soft on Syria. Blaming Obama for Trump’s failures is a lazy tactic. Shouldn’t we favor the President who was more thoughtful, cautious and nuanced in his thinking? Yes, he too caved into the imperialist white supremacist arguments that always seem to win out in Washington, but at least he convinced himself of his own lies first. That seems to be the central thing missing in the international response to these attacks: foresight. What does bombing Syria achieve? Who does it help? Who are you trying to prove yourself to by bombing Syria? Is this the West’s way of keeping a moral image? If so, then how messed up our morals to begin with? Is there any evidence that further military action would reduce violence in the region?

Another broad question is, does human rights violations warrant violation of international law? The United States and its allies violate international law by bombing Syria. This is an unprincipled response and it begs questions about hypocrisy as well. Should the United States be bombed for our massive prison populations? Or our police shootings? How about for poisoning the water of people who live by pipelines? Is Guantanamo Bay worthy of a human rights violation?

We also really have to question the language used to describe Assad. We are hearing that he “loves” to bomb his own people. This is a projection by the U.S., I think. Not everyone is like Brian Williams and thinks bombs are “beautiful”. Assad may be indifferent to suffering and power hungry but the fetishization of violence starts in the U.S.

Still, a much smaller portion of the country has embraced Assad/‘Putin for no other reason than that they are the enemy of our enemy. Look how that one worked out when Americans embraced Trump because he was “anti-establishment”. When the Left jumps into bed with Assad or Putin for no other reason than being anti-West we forget that this situation is not a binary of good and evil. We should not assume that all actors within the region are incapable of such attacks simply because they are official faces of the countries. Anything is better than ISIS, which the U.S. government conveniently seems to forget, but that shouldn’t mean we take the side of the lesser evil by default. Why, it is precisely because of the instability of the region that these attacks could be possible. It is thanks to a brutal world order headed by countries such as the United States that makes it possible for bad actors like Assad to rise to power in the first place. International law should remain the primary factor though also, and the United States has no interest in it.

But getting lost on the details on the attack ignores the bigger picture. What is the best way to help the people of Syria? The simple answer is: accept more refugees. The paltry amount of refugees accepted under Obama has been reduced to near nil under Donald Trump. Another factor in the region is climate change. Bold macro climate politicians and organizations as well as sound micro decisions by citizens helps to reduce the effects of climate change. Ideally Russia feels no need to be in the region either, for they are doing a lot more harm than good also. We could demand Russia leave Syria in exchange for pulling ourselves from Syria, as well as pulling our NAFTA troops from Russia’s border.

It helps no one to try to justify or vilify Assad. Assad is a powerful man in charge of a country in a lot of trouble. Until Syria becomes more stable, no good solutions for the region are possible. Peace, like always, is the answer. We should be asking: How do we get there?

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Nick Pemberton is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College. He is currently employed by Gustavus Dining Services. Nick was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He can be reached at pemberton.nick@gmail.com

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