Saturday, April 27, 2013

Syria And Chemical Weapons And The West

     I am sorry to hear that there is evidence that sarin gas has been used in Syria, whether by the Syrian government, or Syrian rebels, or agents provocateurs from foreign interests.  Sarin is a deadly nerve gas, and is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

     I am also sorry that the West is being hypocritical about the use of chemical weapons (in this case, poison gas).

The World Wars

     Poison gas was used by the French, the Germans, and the British in World War I.  They used tear gas, chlorine gas, and later phosgene gas.  It was a weapon of mass destruction; and both sides used it, morals and humanity be damned.  Thousands died.

     In the years following, Britain planned to use poison gas in its newly conquered territory, Iraq.   There was doubt expressed in high councils about the morality of such an action, but Winston Churchill is on record as strongly favoring its use, despite the experiences of the World War.  "I do not understand this sqeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes."  Furthermore, as the debate went on,

     ' Churchill remained unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a "scientific expedient," should not be prevented "by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly". In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels with "excellent moral effect" though gas shells were not dropped from aircraft because of practical difficulties [.....] '

     And Churchill had had no moral epiphany twenty-odd years later, during World War II; on the contrary, he now justified use of gas against anyone, not just "uncivilized tribes."   In 1944, he was calling for gassing the Germans:

     ' I quite agree that it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits. '

     Fortunately, in this instance cooler heads prevailed and gas was not used.

     Sarin gas, originally thought to be useful as a pesticide, was developed in German laboratories in 1938.  Its military use against human beings was quickly recognized by the Germans -- but they never used it.

     In the Cold War years following World War II, it was produced in large quantities by the United States (and distributed to its NATO and other allies),  and by the Soviet Union (and distributed to its allies).  This would include various Middle-Eastern client states of the two superpowers, such as Iraq.

     The Council on Foreign Relations believes, according to their website, that sarin gas was used by Saddam Hussein in the 1990s against his Kurdish minorities, in dozens or hundreds of operations that resulted in the deaths of at least 5,000, and inflicting injuries and birth defects upon many thousands more.

Other Agents

     Iraq may have used sarin in its 8-year war with Iran;  along with smallpox and anthrax.  Or Saddam Hussein may have made other choices:  According to Wikipedia,

     'The non-profit American Type Culture Collection and the Centers for Disease Control sold or sent biological samples of anthrax, West Nile virus and botulism to Iraq up until 1989, which Iraq claimed it needed for medical research. A number of these materials were used for Iraq's biological weapons research program, while others were used for vaccine development. For example, the Iraqi military settled on the American Type Culture Collection strain 14578 as the exclusive anthrax strain for use as a biological weapon, according to Charles Duelfer.  '

     Reread that:  who sent biological samples to Saddam??

The Situation And The Hypocrisy

      And so, it would appear, the threat of chemical and biological weapons is very real in parts of the Near East.  It is certainly possible that there are stockpiles of sarin in Syria, and that they are being used.   If these stockpiles exist in significant quantities, there is a very real risk of great loss of life.  The situation could be bad.

     However: even if the stockpiles exist (which has yet to be demonstrated), a great deal turns on the question of who has them and where did they come from.

     If Assad's government has them, then he and they are playing a very, very dangerous game.  And if they are playing a dangerous game, and if the West is really interested in peace, human rights, democracy, and so forth, then the West had better proceed with great wisdom and delicacy, or they are going to uncork another Iraq-Libya-Somalia-Mali-Sudan-Uganda-Afghanistan-Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-El Salvador-Nicaragua-style bloodbath.

     But if the stockpiles of sarin are in fact controlled by Syrian rebels, or Western intelligence agencies, then blaming Bashar al-Assad is very evil.  It is attempting to commit murder, with a plan for framing the victim.  And besides being utterly immoral, the whole idea is self-defeating -- quickly.  I think we all have enough long-term memory to recall how quickly our NATO-oriented lies and double-dealing about Gaddafi and Libya turned sour.  Do we remember Ambassador Christopher Stevens?  Just whose side did we think we were on?

     Do we really want to make the same mistake in Syria, to cover the bone-headed ignorance of some cabal of political hacks in the Pentagon or the State Department?  For the sake of some sort of transitory one-upsmanship in the media, or at the ballot box, do we really want Our Party to keep making the same long-term mistakes, and deliciously hope that the Other Party makes even worse ones -- and screw the rest of the world -- as if all of life were no more serious than the latest national championship in sports?

     Let us then face some unpleasant facts.

     1.  The British and American governments have developed, manufactured, and used poison gas and have sold it around the world to all kinds of governments and "regime changers."  They have then blamed their customers for possessing what they sold them.  This is pure hypocrisy.

     2.  The Chemical Weapons Convention outlaws the use, manufacture, and distribution of chemical weapons.  The United States, Britain, and over 100 other nations signed this treaty in the 1990s.  The Israeli government has refused to do so.  The United States and Britain refuse to hold Israel accountable, but demand thorough "inspections" of Syria.  This is pure hypocrisy.

     3.  While refusing to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Israeli Government (with the enthusiastic approval of its people) used white phosphorous (a deadly chemical weapon) on civilian populations in Gaza as recently as 2009.  They possess it, they stockpile it, they use it proudly.  Yet they loudly accuse the Syrians of possessing chemical weapons and demand "regime change."  This is pure hypocrisy.

     4. The United States Government has condemned Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and invaded that country because the Taliban (supposedly) would not give up the Al-Qaida people to US "authorities."  The United States invaded Iraq because they (supposedly) had "ties" to Al-Qaida.  The US condemns any government or individual who (supposedly) supports Al-Qaida.  And yet, the US government has (more or less openly) supported Al-Qaida in Libya, and is now (more or less openly) supporting Al-Qaida in Syria.  This is pure, utter hypocrisy.

     How long we will turn a blind eye to this, which is being done in our name?  This also is hypocrisy.

      To be continued, no doubt.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. I wish you hadn't had to write such things. The more I look into history, the more I find things are what we are led to believe.