9 April 2018
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
The regime of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons again as part of its war against the rebels who tried to overthrow it in the Arab Spring in what seems a lifetime ago. This time around, the target was Douma, a rebel-held town just east of Damascus. Around 40 people have been killed. More than 500 turned up at local medical centers for treatment. Medical staff say they smelled strongly of chlorine. This is yet another war crime, and there seems to be nothing anyone can do about it.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, which is up to its eyeballs in Syria, stated that there was no basis for the allegation and it is "designed to shield the terrorists . . . who reject a political settlement." Major General. Yuri Yevtushenko, of the Russian Center for Syria reconciliation, said in a statement, "We strongly deny these claims and announce our readiness to send Russian experts in radiation, chemical and biological defense to Douma after its liberation from terrorists to gather evidence, which would prove that the allegations on the chemical weapons use were staged."
The trouble is that a network of aviation observers saw several Mi8 helicopters leave a Syrian air base between 8:25 am and 8:45 am local time, by nine-o'clock, the victims began streaming in for treatment. There was no other air traffic that could account for the incident as the rebels have none. Moreover, the territory hit was theirs.
The last time the Syrians used chemicals on their own people, Mr. Trump ineffectually launched a large number of Tomahawk cruise missiles to express his dissatisfaction. This time around, he will likely do something just as useless and just as violent.
The trouble is that there are no good options in Syria for the US and its allies. ISIS has been the main focus of the 2,000 US troops there, and they are insufficient in number to really have an impact on the Syrian Civil War even if the US were of a mind to intervene. Yet their presence precludes a number of military actions that would, if undertaken, affect the battlefield. Bombing the Syrian air force might help, but with 2,000 US troops in country, one cannot risk it.
Since military action is out of the question, a diplomatic offensive is in order. Bringing this war crime to the UN Security Council is the first step, and finessing the Russian relationship with President Assad so as to allow some kind of global response would help. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has seen to it that there is no leadership at the State Department. Basically, there is no one to undertake such an offensive.
Mr. Trump is justifiably upset about the humanitarian crisis that passes itself off as Syria. In Douma alone, there are 150,000 people with little or no food, spotty access to potable water and medical supplies are strained. But there is nothing he can actually do to affect it.
The only good thing about this is that Mr. Trump finally tweeted something negative about Mr. Putin. "Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...to pay."
No, not very big at all.
© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.