Rick Jensen: Should the U.S. engage in Syria?
As Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama campaigns for another war, we should be asking whether or not the U.S. should engage Syria.
What would be the most compelling reason? In my opinion, the only reason would be to enforce the Geneva Protocol, signed by the U.S. as a member of the League of Nations in 1925, and signed by Syria in 1968. This international law forbidding the use of chemical and biological weapons covers wars as wells as internal conflicts, as decided by an appellate chamber in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1995.
Should a signatory violate this law, the U.N. must punish the offending tyrant, lest the law becomes meaningless and the enforcing body laughingly impotent while murderous dictators continue to wipe out people with WMD's.
Basically, slaughtering around 1,000 people with chemical or biological weapons is illegal. Bashar al-Assad knows this, which many theorize is the reason he murdered that many Syrians with a chemical weapon.
If he was to butcher rebels with illegal weapons while the world is watching, the theory goes, it would send the message, "no one, not any other country or alliance of countries, can save you rebels so you'd better give up."
The operative word is "theory."
President Obama and Secretary of State John "I was against starting a war against a country until I was for starting a war against a country" Kerry insist evidence incriminating Assad is "undeniable."
Problem is, there is no evidence the Assad government did this, even though it's likely.
There was another time when WMD possession was "undeniable." Former Senator Kerry may recall those years. In fact, WMD's in Syria may have originated in Iraq, sent to Syria at the beginning of the U.S. invasion as reported by an Iraqi general and a couple of colonels.
And while a majority of Democrats agreed that the original Iraq WMD reports held "undeniable" veracity, the evidence that exists right now that the Syrian government used WMD's against the rebels is weak at best.
The "undeniable" evidence as presented by President Obama is: video of the victims, reports from doctors that the victims were poisoned by chemicals which may or may not be sarin gas and, as Noah Shachtman reports in his "Foreign Policy" magazine exclusive on Tuesday, August 27, "...in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days."
Here's what no one yet knows about those "panicked" phone calls: who made the order to use the chemical weapons?
Was it authorized by the government or not?
The law may not matter to Obama.
He's been calling for Assad's head since 2011, publicly demanding he "step down" from his presidency, citing torture, illegal imprisonments and widespread slaughter.
Tyrants don't "step down." This is a euphemism for, "I want to kill him."
President Obama again pressed for "hope and change" in 2012 when he threatened Assad with "extreme consequences" and double-dog-daring him to cross "the red line" of using chemical weapons, which Assad allegedly did three times prior to the recent event.
In July, 2012, the New York Times reported on an Obama plan to "topple" Assad.
Dictators rarely "topple." They die.
While Obama considers bombing Syria without U.N. or congressional authority, it might make sense to wait until it's verified that the Assad government actually violated the Geneva Protocol against chemical weapons.
After all, if you're a "community organizer" bent on reorganizing Syrian communities with bombs to enforce a law, it's a good idea to make sure the law was indeed broken.