So we had some fun ideas for 10 THINGS this week, but all of that fell to the wayside as talks of war eventually found our attention through the barrage of news involving Miley Cyrus’ twerk-venture on the VMAs. 10 Twerk Videos Better Than Miley’s and 10 Comeback Songs Better Than Eminem’s will have to wait.
Instead, Espi and I decided we should do our part and educate folks about something that actually matters. Hope you learn something today.
1. The What & When
On August 21st, all hell broke loose as Syrian opposition in Damascus fell victim to poisonous gas attacks. Hundreds were reported dead initially, and that number has now swelled to well over a thousand. A UN team sent to investigate fell victim to sniper fire on Monday, delaying investigations. The Syrian government – as well as everyone else on Earth – denies involvement in either attack.
2. “You can’t be a little bit pregnant.”
This quote from retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni was published in today’s Washington Post. Zinni was a leader of the U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which were suspected to house terrorists.
“If you do a one-and-done and say you’re going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in.”
3. The US Isn’t Looking to Take Sides
John Kerry and White House press secretary Jay Carney have communicated that any military actions the US takes are not intended to shape the course of the war or force out Assad. This strike is only meant to “punish” Assad for the use of chemical weapons.
“There must be accountability for those who use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Kerry.
4. The US Does Provide Support to Syrian Rebels
Despite the point above, White House spokesman Jay Carney went on record to say that the White House supports, and will continue to support rebel forces.
“Without question, there is ongoing barbarity in Syria, perpetrated by the Assad regime, and we have provided substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition in their struggle with Assad,”
5. Using Chemical Weapons Was Obama’s “Red Line”
Last August, the Obama administration declared the the use of chemical weapons would be a “grave mistake” for the Assad government.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation,” said Obama.
Although the government is blaming the attacks on the rebels, and the rebels are blaming the attack on the government, Obama runs the risk of losing credibility if he doesn’t follow through on his threat.
6. Over 100,000 Civilians Have Been Killed
This stat is according to the United Nations. These casualties all happened before there was use of chemical weapons. CNN reports, “There have been massacres. Populated areas have been bombed. Blasts have targeted people lining up for food at bakeries. People have been decapitated.”
7. Russia, China and Iran Warn Against An Attack on Syria.
The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.
Syria and China have close trade links, and “The Chinese historically never supported external intervention and particularly the use of force against a regime,” says Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Russia has strategic and economic incentive to support Assad, but also runs the risk of alienating his successor if he is defeated.
Yesterday, Iranian lawmakers and commanders issued warnings saying any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel.
“In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime,” the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Mansur Haqiqatpur, an influential member of Parliament, as saying on Tuesday. “ – The NY Times Reports
8. This Is Not the First Chemical Attack Reported
CNN reported that while this may be the first we’re hearing of it, chemical attacks may have been used on smaller scales earlier in this civil war.
“Some chemical attacks have gone unchecked. In the current conflict, chemical weapons are alleged to have been used on a smaller scale several times.”
Further, Huffington Post reported that Britain and France had discovered evidence of Sarin gas as far back as June. Rumor has it that Obama has been slow to fully support (arm) the Islamist rebels because they are Islamist rebels.
9. The US Has Used Chemical Attacks during Warfare
Setting aside the theory of European settlers using smallpox infected blankets to thin the Native population, the US has clearly used chemical and biological warfare in modern times.
Recently declassified CIA docs indicate that the Reagan administration helped Saddam Hussein drop mustard gas on Iran. Interestingly, this same incident was used as motive when the Bush administration went after – and killed – Saddam Hussein.
The US also used Monsanto-produced chemical weaponry in Vietnam in an operation coded Agent Orange, responsible for hundreds of thousands of casualties in Vietnam, damage to rainforests and congenital birth defects for later generations.
10. An Attack Without UN Approval Possible
As Russia and China walked out of UN discussions, insisting that military action was “pre-mature”, US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf stated that “We are making our own decisions on our own timeline… The Russians have been clear that they have no interest in holding the Syrian regime accountable.”
Despite taking a gung-ho stance earlier in the week, British PM David Cameron backed off talks of unilateral attacks after the notion was rejected in parliament.