On August 21st, 2013, someone used a chemical agent – gas – in the Syrian Civil War. This fact is uncontested. What is contested is the identity of the attacker. The US says it was the Syrian government – the Russians claim it was the Syrian rebels, trying to get international sympathy.
I have a simple thought on the matter: it doesn’t matter who did it. Someone did. Gas is a horrific weapon. Someone on Twitter mused that it didn’t matter if someone was being killed by gas or by a bullet. I disagree. Gas is evil, pure and simple. Some gasses kill you by forcing you to vomit until you die, others blister your lungs so you drown on your own pus and blood. Some shut down your nervous system. The most likely gas to be used in Syria – sarin – kills by making your muscles unable to contract. You simply tighten up and suffocate because you cannot breathe, fully aware that you cannot do anything save die. Gas cannot be aimed, it cannot be controlled, and it cannot be stopped. Once gas is released, that’s it, and anywhere it goes is fucked, pure and simple. You can stop shooting a gun, and you can stop dropping bombs. Cruise missiles and predator drones can be diverted or detonated remotely. Gas stays until it disperses. It can kill for days if it isn’t being moved along. It can linger in basements and foxholes and kill people who enter those places without them even suspecting it’s possible.
The West should not stand for the concept of gas being used. NATO needs to step in, and we should remove the capacities of both the rebels and the government to use sarin. Destroy anywhere in Syria that the stuff could be made or might be hidden. If we get a whiff of it in the future, destroy that place, no matter who holds it. The message must be clear to both sides: no gas. Fight it out, by all means, but no gas. That’s the Red Line. Anyone touches this stuff, we smash it, and we smash them if they try to stop us. NATO has the military force to do so (look at the 2011 intervention in Libya) – let’s use it for some good.
I’m afraid of the ramifications of the various NATO governments who won’t do anything. President Obama has asked Congress to authorize a strike against the Syrian government. Canada, Italy, the UK are all out. France is in. Germany won’t go. If there is no strike, or a limited strike and the Syrians deploy gas again and again these governments are going to look like morons – they’ll have the same mud on their face that they did after the Rwandan genocide. We can save lives, and we damn well should.