For the last few weeks, stories about unrest and violence in Syria have dominated the news. Syria’s government allegedly carried out what President Obama has called “the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century” on its own people. Chemical weapons are universally frowned upon because they are indiscriminate in nature, and therefore prone to cause collateral damage on undeserving civilian populations.
President Obama is currently working on convincing congress that it is necessary to take military action in Syria. He makes the argument that if we do not take action, and act as the world police, our own national security will be threatened because the world’s bad guys will declare an ‘open season’ on chemical weapons. He claims that we need to strike, and potentially enter into another conflict that we cannot afford, in order to send the message that the use of chemical weapons on civilian populations will not be tolerated in any capacity. Why, then, have we so readily tolerated our own use of such weapons in the past?
On its surface, an attack on the Syrian government to protect helpless Syrian citizens is an admirable pursuit; just another example of the United States looking out for the helpless and disenfranchised around the world. However, this whole situation is very reminiscent of the last conflict we started with Iraq over “weapons of mass destruction”, which went from a calculated strike to a war that has been raging for over ten years at this point. We have created new enemies in many parts of the world because our government can’t seem to keep its hands to itself and uses suspect excuses to go to war with ulterior motives. Furthermore, situations like these beg the question: what gives the United States of America the moral high ground in situations like these? This Huffington post article and picture gallery paints a very conflicting and grim picture of a deep hypocrisy in the reasoning that we are about to use to justify an attack on the Syrian government.
The above gallery features pictures depicting victims of agent orange attacks carried out by the US government in the mid 1970’s. The majority of the people shown in the gallery are said to be THIRD GENERATION victims of agent orange, meaning the horrifying effects from American weapons have been passed down to innocent civilian ancestors, whose only crime was to be unlucky enough to be born in a place that was once targeted by the United States Military. This dark chapter of our history is all but completely swept under the rug despite the fact that people are being continuously harmed and lives are being continuously ruined by our government’s actions. With all of the undeserved pain the USA has caused to civilian populations, how is it that we can tout our moral high ground in situations like this most recent Syria conflict? Before the US enters into another conflict we can’t afford (again with no visible end), for such moral reasons, it seems as if the United States government should be held accountable for it’s own use of chemical weapons, especially given the profound effects that past attacks have on thousands Vietnamese children born today.
This isn’t to say that the USA should or should not launch an attack on the Syrian government. It is to say that if we are going to cite chemical weapons and civilian as grounds for an attack, we ought to take a good long hard look at our own recent past.