What’s so special about gas?

The international outrage expressed since Monday’s chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb, which – according to Médecins Sans Frontières – left the Syrians with 355 dead, has been understandable.

The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women, children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is, says US Secretary of State John Kerry, “a moral obscenity”.

And, he adds: “The international norm cannot be violated without consequences”.

And so the US and her allies move inexorably towards another confrontation in the Middle East which, like the one perpetrated against Saddam Hussein, may well be doomed to failure.

Whatever you think of the legality of such a move, one question remains unanswered.

Why has it taken so long?

Why have the US and the UK waited until now to rattle their sabres with such force when, in the three short years since President Assad started his crack-down on the so-called rebels, more than 100,000 people have died in Syria?

What is the difference between a life snuffed out by gas and a life blown to bits by a bomb or a missile?

The other unanswered question is: where will it end?

“The heir to Blair”

Reporting on the British Prime Minister’s return from holiday to recall Parliament, and his determination to destroy the Syrian regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, The Independent describes David Cameron as “the heir to Blair”.

They point out that, in echoing Tony Blair’s argument that there was a “moral case” for the war in Iraq even without a UN mandate, Cameron describes Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons as “morally indefensible”.

And yet, despite his moral stance, Blair is still vilified for taking Britain to war in Iraq.

If his experience is anything to go by, Cameron stands in danger of being remembered for taking Britain into a conflict that, according to some sources, would pitch the US and her allies into a proxy war with Iran, which is providing the Syrian government with its weaponry.

And can anyone see an end to a conflict of that kind?

Where is Blair?

The final, unresolved question of the day must be: where is Blair in all this?

He has backed intervention in Syria, which seems bizarre given his track record in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has said he “understands every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil” and that “we have to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work”, which all sounds fine until you begin to wonder if it’s all just hot air.

Given that Blair is supposed to be the EU’s advocate for peace in the Middle East, where riot and civil commotion are the norm almost everywhere, I cannot help but think his fine words are those of a gasbag.

I can only hope that, if that’s the case, there is something special about his brand of gas and that further death and destruction – by whatever means – will be averted.

If not, no matter how “proportionate” the West’s actions may be, they will not – as before – be in my name.

And Cameron will have that on his conscience.

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