Don’t make it worse
I want to challenge your recent editorial on Syria. Your major point, as I read it, is that the United States, and therefore Vermont’s congressional delegation, have two choices: either do nothing or vote to bomb Syria. Those are the only choices which President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and others in the administration and many members of Congress keep telling us are available. They are lying to us.
The good sense and good heart of the American people are time and again manipulated by our leaders when we are confronted with a horror such as the use of chemical weapons — we still do not know who used them — and told we either do nothing or we bomb. Neither option is acceptable. So what can the United States do? Here I am indebted to Phyllis Bennis at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Bennis writes: “First, do no harm. Don’t kill more people in the name of enforcing an international norm.” The United States should:
— Call for a second U.N. investigation to follow-up the current weapons inspection team, this one to determine who was responsible for the attack.
— Stop undermining the International Criminal Court and work with it to prosecute those the UN inspection team finds are responsible.
— Convene a meeting of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The 189 states who are parties to the convention, including the United States, are obligated to respond to violations; they should meet and decide collectively on what to do.
— Call for human rights monitors to be sent in large numbers into Syria to observe and report violations of international law.
— Work with all the nations in the region, including Russia and Iran, to stop arming and funding both the Syrian regime and the opposition. Should Saudi Arabia and Qatar refuse, the President should cancel all existing weapons contracts with those countries. (Here is a larger problem, the United States selling weapons to authoritarian countries).
The choice is not between doing nothing or bombing; it never is. Diplomacy, humanitarian aid, criminal prosecution, weapons embargoes, and human rights monitors may not be as sexy as missiles launched from ships off shore, but they are morally defensible and will not add gasoline to a raging fire.
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