Tuesday night, while most of us are lounging on our comfy couch or sitting on a stool straining to hear the TV above the bar, President Obama will appear on the screen attempting to convince us all that failing to respond to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons would “send the wrong message to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations.”
My first question is, of course, exactly what “message” have we been sending to the world over the last 50 years?
Not to diminish a single American sacrifice, but from the debacle in Vietnam and Cambodia, to the absurdity of Grenada and Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq (the Sequel), Libya and any number of incursions into Nicaragua, Pakistan and Yemen, our message is about as muddled as the tea party platform on racism.
My second question is — and I mean this seriously — which child is more dead, the one suffocating to death on Sarin gas or the one hacked to death with a machete?
While rhetorical, the point should be obvious. The methods used to murder innocent civilians should not trigger a metaphorical “red line” any more than the method a pedophile uses to entice a little girl into his vehicle before raping and then killing her makes a damn bit of difference.
Except for a brief stint in Somalia (Blackhawk Down, anyone?) which certainly did not end well, total kill numbers from civil wars in Somalia, Darfur and Rwanda exceed 2 million (bullets and machetes being the favored weapons), around 20 times more than killed in Syria (so far), yet the United States has done basically nothing to stop the carnage.
So what’s the difference?
Again, I’m being rhetorical, as anyone with more brains than a rear-entry ski boot knows America’s “strategic interests” in the Middle East have to do with that sticky black crap that’s pumped up from beneath all the sand.
It’s not our sincere love for Israel or some moral indignation on a high road or because we simply wish to make the world a better place, as those are reserved for political talk shows, pulpits and public radio.
And sure, let’s not forget Russia’s strategic intentions towards Qatar’s natural gas pipe dream for a pipeline through Syria or the Saudi’s intent to control it all, as that might be what this entire debacle is about in the first place.
Either way, it never matters which political party is in office, as every president in the last 50 years has sent our military forces across somebody else’s borders, all with vaguely good intentions, but rarely ending with a “proper message” being relayed, unless trillions of dollars wasted and tens of thousands of dead American’s can be somehow spun to sound “appropriate.”
Wednesday Congress may vote, and Wednesday just happens to be Bashar al-Assad’s birthday. Yes, the Syrian Serial Slayer was born on — you guessed it — Sept. 11, and how sadly fitting that on a national anniversary day of sorrow over innocent victims our elected leaders might vote to allow America to go slaughter a few more innocent victims.
As “The Onion” recently pointed out, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in yet another war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending all of Congress to Syria.
If they vote incorrectly Wednesday, I feel strongly such an act should become a reality.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.