The prospect of a military strike on Syria by the USA is causing consternation across the globe. The sheer hypocrisy of the US position is staggering; here we have a country that has actually used WMD on a massive scale in Japan during WWII, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, but now finds it convenient to take the moral high-ground on chemical weapons (which incidentally they used in WWI). What they also conveniently forget is their widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the devastating consequences this caused, again for the innocent civilian populations. And then, more recently, there’s the use of depleted Uranium in Iraq – used of course by the British and the US forces). In a recent article by
John Pilger in The Guardian (
Sunday 26 May 2013) he highlights makes the following point:
‘Among the doctors I interviewed, there was little doubt that depleted uranium shells used by the Americans and British in the Gulf war were the cause. A US military physicist assigned to clean up the Gulf war battlefield across the border in Kuwait said, “Each round fired by an A-10 Warthog attack aircraft carried over 4,500 grams of solid uranium. Well over 300 tons of DU was used. It was a form of nuclear warfare.”‘
Frighteningly, when Pilger went on to interview Dr Jawad Al-Ali, an internationally respected cancer specialist at the Sadr teaching hospital in Basra, he received a shocking insight:
‘”Before the Gulf war,” he said, “we had two or three cancer patients a month. Now we have 30 to 35 dying every month. Our studies indicate that 40 to 48% of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years’ time to begin with, then long after. That’s almost half the population. Most of my own family have it, and we have no history of the disease.”‘
If any other country had been responsible for such indiscriminate suffering, they would be accused of perpetuating war-crimes. But of course that hasn’t happened, nor will it because the people who are dying are weak, powerless and bereft of a voice.
It seems to me that unless moral ‘red lines’ are applied across the board, there will never be peace. Picking and choosing which events to be outraged about is as nonsensical as it is disingenuous. Sadly, in the Christian tradition we all too easily forget what Scripture actually says on these issues: ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). What is wrong for one person or group to do is wrong for all – a simple rule for a consistent ethic that values all equally.
Yes, the US is right in demanding a response to the abhorrent use of chemical weapons, but military strikes are not the answer. In fact they may even make the situation worse and draw other players into a catastrophic regional war. Moreover, it is inevitable that more lives will be lost and more refugees created in what is already an unstable situation. The conditions for a ‘just war’, which I’ve heard several US decision-makers refer to, have not, and will not. be met.
What will happen in the end is that a negotiated settlement, assisted by the international community, will need to be reached. Bombing will not bring this to fruition – only diplomacy and sustained pressure from the International Community can do that. And once that is done the perpetrators of chemical warfare can be brought to justice.