Syria, Assad, & the US Bombing: What Should the American Response Be?

Syria, Assad, and the US Bombing: What Should the American Response Be?

L. Michael Spath, DMin, PhD, 12 Apirl 2017

To set the stage for the presentations by Ahmed and Sam, I want to offer a few general observations:

     ONE. 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, at $1,410,000 each, equals approximately $83,000,000.

     TWO. First let me say very clearly that one need not support or even like Bashar Al-Assad and his regime to have all kinds of suspicions about both the sarin attack in Syria as well as the motivation behind and the kind of American response.  The use of chemical weapons is horrific, banned since the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the possession of which has been illegal since the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 (signed by Syria in 2013).

     THREE.  I’m also personally very leery of foreign policy decisions that are based on good guy-bad guy caricatures. What we’ve learned through very painful experience is that dehumanizing and villainizing the other is not about clarifying the context so that we can make wise decisions, but rather about justifying our all-too-often unjustifiable actions.  And while I’m at it, I’m also very leery of presidents – Republican or Democrat, and in my life I’ve been critical of both – who in the middle of personal popularity problems, who under the pretense of “fighting terrorism” or “security,” wave the flag while they flex their missile muscles to manipulate and deflect the attention of the American people.  It makes me ill when I hear pundits and politicians lauding our president after the bombing for finally acting “presidential.”

     FOUR.  I think virtually all of us can agree that Bashar Al-Assad is a tyrant.  But can’t we at least ask the question, Even if regime change is our goal – which I don’t believe is in our best interest – but even if it is our goal, isn’t it at least wise to consider what or who might replace him, and if they would be better or worse?  And shouldn’t we also at least ask whether there’s been any time the US has intervened in the Middle East, especially militarily, has turned out well either for them or for us?

FIVE.  All protestations by our administration and most recently, Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, to the contrary, I believe it’s still an open question as to who was responsible for the April 3 sarin gas attacks that supposedly provoked the US missile strike on Thursday last week.  Based upon extensive field investigation, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry believes that the Syrian rebels used the chemical weapons on Assad’s troops.  Let’s at least say this:  It’s an important question and given our recent history with Colin Powell’s 2003 UN speech and his adamant assertion about Saddam Hussein and Weapons of Mass Destruction, we should be wary of our government’s absolute pronouncements.

SIX.  We can condemn the use of sarin gas, and, although as I said before, I have my doubts, but if Assad is responsible, condemn him as a war criminal.  But this does not mean that we give up our rights as citizens through our congressional representatives (although most have of them have been feckless, willing to cede their responsibility to the executive branch) for the need for Congressional authorization for the bombing of another country.  This unilateral military action is both unconstitutional and counterproductive.

SEVEN. This does not even ask the question of [1] minimally, Russian collusion or, at maximum, involvement, [2] or our government’s desire to deflect attention from its relationship with Russian business and the Putin regime – Follow the money! or [3] the role of Israel in influencing our government’s decision.

EIGHT.  Finally, let’s be clear:  As I said in my sermon this past Sunday, for a nation that fancies calling itself “exceptional,” its greatness must not only be measured by the number of bombs it drops on another country’s citizens but by the number of refugees from that very same country it welcomes to its shores.  We must remember that this unilateral military action was ordered by the same president who has turned away most Syrian refugees at our border and whose proposed budget would make major cuts to programs that provide relief to Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country.

So our time calls more than ever for critical thinking by us and our fellow citizens.  We’re certainly not getting this from the mainstream media which have, for the most part, offered either positive or uncritical opinions about our bombing of Syria.

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