Pictures of dead babies greatly upset us-that is one of the noble things about human beings. If you research the history of war propaganda, you will find that dead babies will effectively churn people’s moral outrage into high gear.
When Germany invaded Belgium in WWI, claims were made that German soldiers were impaling babies. Damn those Germans! Part of the war propaganda leading up to Desert Storm involved a heart-rending story about premature infants taken from incubators and left to die on the floor. Damn Saddam! Neither claim was true. Now pictures and videos of beautiful little dead Syrian babies wrapped up in sheets is meant to accomplish the same thing.
This time babies are actually dead and it is probable that some chemical killed them. Damn Assad! There is as yet no proof of Sarin but I suspect there will be. But who used it? Isn’t the U.S. on shaky moral ground, since it used chemicals weapons in Fallujah and condoned Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against the Iranians? Winston Churchill’s memo on poison gas use shows the normal level of moral reasoning governments engage in. They have their own, hidden agenda.
Some say “Damn Assad and man the torpedoes. Make him pay.” This is the normal human demand for justice, another noble attribute of ours. But WHO used the weapons? What if you bomb Assad and help the Saudi jihadi mercenaries who posted a video of one of their own cutting out and eating the heart of a Syrian soldier? What about the children who will die when the U.S. does a surgical strike (how surgical is a 3000 lb Tomahawk missile) Will we get to see videos of dismembered toddlers pulled out from under piles of bomb rubble in the aftermath?
My guess is no. Did we see any of the 7,400 civilians killed in Shock & Awe? I remember sitting nauseated watching journalists report on the bombing of Iraq and discussing the marvels of modern weaponry while Baghdad burned. “Don’t they know we are witnessing the horrible deaths of thousands of Iraqi citizens live?” There seems to be some kind of disconnect-bombing seems as sanitary as surgery from a distance.
The moral reasoning on Syria sounds much like the classic dilemma you will hear in any college ethics course. A trolley is running away toward a group of five people who are unaware of its approach. You can save them by pushing a man off a bridge to stop the trolley. What is the moral thing to do? Will you kill the one man to save the five?
Will you kill an unknown number of Syrian civilians to…to do what exactly? Prove that when the U.S. says “red line” they mean it? Hassle Assad? Deter him from using chemicals? And if he didn’t use them? Will killing- say- 2,000 Syrians with U.S. bombs save 10,000 other Syrians?
By the way, I refuse to either push the man off the bridge or stand mutely by and let the five get hit. And don’t tell me I have only two choices. We always have many choices. I would do my best to alert the five-I would run to them, screaming myself voiceless, “Look out!” I might not succeed, but I would have done all I could do to save the five without committing murder myself. Don’t tell me we must bomb Syria or condone chemical weapons. No sane person condones chemical weapons. I also don’t condone helping those beheading, heart-eating Salafi mercenaries.
What would Dr. Je’ do? I would get Johan Galtung who has devoted his life Peace Studies to mediate an end to the carnage; because I actually want an end to the carnage. Whoever would not cooperate with the mediation is the one who wants the carnage to continue.
But is an end to the carnage the priority for the U.S. policymakers?