from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Syria: The (Non-Chemical) Killing Goes On

September 12, 2013

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The emphasis on the need to stop the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is understandable. We all want to maintain the international taboo on their use.

But people killed by the Assad regime are no less dead if more traditional means of attack are used. Yesterday, Assad’s forces bombed a field hospital in the province of Aleppo. The vast majority of the 100,000 (or many more) Syrians killed have been killed by bullets and artillery. A "solution" that forces Assad to give up using chemical weapons but does not address the regime’s campaign against civilians--which has also left 2 million Syrians as refugees and millions more as displaced persons--is no solution at all. As Fred Hof (formerly the administration’s chief expert on Syria) wrote today,

As loathsome as they are as an instrument of war, chemical weapons in Syria are the tip of a deadly iceberg: a systematic campaign of regime terror that has driven 7 million Syrians from their homes (2 million to neighboring countries), killed well over 100 thousand civilians, and maimed and traumatized countless others.

Is it remotely possible that a president willing to justify the use of military force with the aid of images showing children murdered with chemicals is not similarly moved by innocents torn to pieces by mortar rounds, artillery shells, thermobaric bombs, cluster munitions, and barrel bombs? With all that has transpired over the past three weeks, is a return to business as usual for the Assad regime OK as long as chemicals are not used?

It seems to be possible, considering Obama policy over the last two years and the last few days.

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