Unacceptable, unfathomable, inhumane, an international outrage… These are all terms being used to describe recent reports of chemical weapon attacks in Syria.
The world turned its attention to a country fighting a deadly civil war in recent days when videos of a possible chemical attack by the Assad regime emerged. The video shows women, men, and children dying as they struggle to breath. Rows of bodies wrapped in white sheets are seen strewn across the floor.
International leaders have been making media rounds as they denounce the atrocities seen in the videos and make their calls for action.
US Ambassador Samantha Powers condemned the recent attack tweeting, “Reports devastating: 100s dead in the streets including kids killed by chemical weapons. UN must get their fast and if true, perps must face justice.”
Foreign Minister of France Laurent Fabius says a “reaction of force” is necessary if it is proven the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its citizens.
Senator John McCain went so far as to call for immediate action, and says anything less hurts US accountability- referring to a chemical weapons red-line statement President Obama made last year.
In an interview with CNN President Obama called the recent reports “troublesome,” and says the government faces an “abbreviated time frame” on key decisions in the region. He went on to state that the US would not act without a UN resolution.
If proven true, these recent attacks are despicable, no matter what country you may be from. Chemical attacks on civilians are unacceptable in this day and age, but one has to wonder why it needed to get this far.
The conflict in Syria would have continued to be ignored by much of the world if this recent attack had simply been another bombing or shooting. What makes this recent attack the last straw? Why was there so few voices calling for intervention in the past three years, when thousands of people were dying everyday?
This most recent attack is estimated to have casualties ranging from hundreds to thousands. The UN’s most recent estimate places the number of deaths in the entire conflict over 100,000. Why is it that these “conventional” killings are acceptable, but these most recent are not?
There was no international call for action when the number of Syrian refugees grew to one million this past March. When schools and hospitals were being bombed, much of the world remained silent. This is a conflict that has been going on for over three years.
These are a people who live everyday in fear. These are children who know nothing but death and despair. These are families who have been forced to call a refugee camp home. These are communities who cannot return. This is an infrastructure that has been decimated. It’s a future that’s been compromised, and it’s an atrocity that its taken this long for people to pay attention.
Many people in the US are weary of entering another conflict in the Middle East, but a lack of action compromises the fundamental ideals our nation stands for. We have no moral ground to stand on if we allow this violence to continue. As a country with the most powerful military in the world, we have the ability and responsibility to seek a resolution to this conflict. There are many options available for the US government that do not include “boots on the ground.”
“We have to think through strategically what’s going to be in our long-term national interests,” President Obama said in the interview with CNN.
The question remains whether there comes a time when we must, as human beings, put the interests of others before our own.
As a nation, we are taught that the US values freedom and justice. We are taught that democracy leads to these freedoms, and that we should support those who seek democracy. We are taught that it should not matter what your skin color is. It should not matter what religion you practice. Well, it should not matter what country you are from. It should not matter whether they are an “ally” or “enemy.” There comes a time when outside interests must take a back seat.
These are people who deep down are not that different from many of us. They want to live long, prosperous lives. These are people who value family and community, and want to see their children live happily. These are people who have dreams and aspirations. Every life should be cherished, and protected. People are dying in the streets, and inaction is no longer acceptable.