Syria, the Iraq legacy & all you need to know

I am by no means an expert on this subject. This is in itself a personal attempt to comprehend all sides of the conflict in Syria and the Western world’s looming intervention. Feel free to correct me in the comments. This piece also features analysis and commentary of my own.

Conflicts in Syria started in 2011 with the Arab Spring. The protesters wanted to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held totalitarian power over the country since 1971. According to the UN around 100,000 people have died as of June 2013 and 1.8 million people have run away to other countries, asking for refuge.

The peak of the conflict happened last week when videos of hundreds of people twitching and struggling to death were released. The horrific images included children who inhaled the chemical weapons released into the air with third degree burns, struggling to breathe and control their nerves which caused them to twitch uncontrollably until they died and were covered by solemn white linens.

Syrians have been dying because of the civil war for two years now, so why the sudden interest and horror? It might be that it is reminiscent of previous conflicts that warranted military intervention such as Saddam Hussein’s gassing Kurds or, even more alarmingly, the Holocaust, where millions of people were gassed to death. But some are adamant that it is all about power, as opposed to ‘doing the right thing’ – a ‘typical’ attitude of the US’s imperialism.

This week the White House has said that the government of Syria killed 1,429 people with chemical weapons – including 426 children – in 12 locations around Damascus.

“The United States government now knows that at least one thousand, four hundred and twenty-nine Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least four hundred and twenty-six children. Even the first responders—the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried to save them—they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger. This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.” – John Kerry, August 30th 2013.

This could be problematic because the US and the UK have reportedly exaggerated threats of chemical weapons in the wake of wars in the middle east before, Iraq specifically. However there has been reasonable cause to think that Syria carries the third largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world.

Though Obama had said that the use of chemical weapons would be the last straw in the past, there are many problems with military intervention in Syria. One of them is that the Syrian rebels are supported by Hezbollah, the Shi’a Islamic militant group and the Al-Nusra Front, a group widely associated with Al-Qaeda.

Though the Iraq war has left the people of Iraq itself, UK and the US crippled with sights and wounds of wars the subject of military intervention is widely divisive. Many say that refusing to help means endorsing a militant, oppressive, murderous government while others are against sending young soldiers to die and kill for a country that has nothing to do with them.

The privilege the Western world boasts is one of the mains reasons why the US and the UK are expected to ‘save’ the Syrian people. It might be said that such a saviour attitude from the US is an imperialist policy, which implies that people in Syria are ‘savages’ who need to be saved – this is an extremely generalized view of the issue as people are dying every day at the hands of their leaders and aiding them doesn’t mean they are savages, but that they simply need help.

An obvious problem pointed out by many is that the US is fighting bloodshed with bloodshed which is counter-productive, and economically debilitating, but others say that by entering Syria the US will not hesitate to take advantage of the lands (the fact that Iraq and its people have suffered immensely since US and UK invaded comes into play here).

A diplomatic solution is a popular alternative to military intervention, coordinated by the United Nations. In my opinion this will be a fruitless attempt of peaceful intervention, as Syria’s government has bee under constant pressure to stop attacks and conflict for two years now which resulted in absolutely no change and perhaps even worse results.

Principal Skinner: Order, order. Do you kids wanna be like the real UN or do you just wanna squabble and waste time? – The Simpsons, Das Bus.

The wariness of the American people when it comes to war is a result of the Iraq war. Though the White House has identified this mood of the population they have gone ahead with the intent to intervene.

“Both Obama and Kerry acknowledged the war-weariness of the American public and the widespread skepticism about any military action post-Iraq. But doing nothing in response to the gas attack would send the wrong message to potential aggressors, the President said, and that would constitute “a danger to our national security.” This, though, was Kerry’s moment. From anti-war protestor to public defender of a prospective U.S. bombing raid, he has come a long way. History would, he said, “judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction.”” – John Kerry’s Case for Bombing Syria, The Washington Post.

Obama had promised immediate action last week but that changed today as he decided, based on US intelligence, that a strike would be just as effective a week from now or a month for now. Thankfully he has been adamant that this will be to ‘boots on ground’ intervention which has come as a relief to the American people.

The possibility of war is a subject that results in heated discussions. Who is to say who should live and who should die? In today’s world it is always the Western people and one of Obama’s hardest task might be to convince America that the Syria war actually affects them and that they should care.

All in all, I have to say I feel sorry for him and I wonder if past presidents feel that the blood of the soldiers they deployed and the people they killed abroad is entirely and forever on their hands.

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