What’s the word I’m looking for? What word adequately describes the emotion one feels when viewing the image of the crumpled, poisoned body of an infant in another part of the word? The word needs to capture all the feelings, from the first breath-catching reaction to the overwhelming urge to “respond” or “react” in some manner. Is it revulsion? Would that lead to retribution? Helen supposedly had the face that launched a thousand ships; love was deemed to be the culprit. Which emotion launched a few dozen tomahawks? I don’t know; really, I’m not asking to be provocative, although this will end up that way. No, just looking for whatever word can explain why some feel the need to react to the slaying of children in another part of the globe; and apparently, a word for an emotion that’s obviously not universal. For if it was, would we, the United Sates, really have been the first and apparently the only country to react?
What price did Bashar al-Assad pay for this crime? Is this a crime? It’s painful and argumentative to mention the reality of the situation, but there are people who would explain away the death of innocents as “collateral damage,” inadvertent casualties produced by the fog of war. You can like it or not; you can piss, moan and disagree. But it’s there. It’s true. Not everyone in the world feels that Trump had any reason or authority to strike another sovereign nation. Why? What does the list of those opposed to his response say about the value that those countries place on the lives of their children? What can we infer from their stance?
Is it the method only? Is gassing the children of your own people more horrific than strafing them with automatic weapons fire? Why? Is the method employed more important or repulsive than the ultimate outcome? Is the child any more or less limp in the arms of their grief-stricken parents? It must be. Why else would we laud our attempts, lead ourselves to believe either our own hype or wishful thinking when we declared that Syria had turned over 100% of it’s chemical weapons stockpile. What were we and the world actually saying to each other and to ourselves back in 2013? That as evil as this man is, that no matter how horrible it is for him to slaughter his own innocents to remain in power, that we’re comfortable knowing (or blissfully assuming) that he’ll no longer do it with gas? Our job here is done. Kill your children; just use any of the more acceptable methods.
No; I’m not making light of this situation at all. This bastard needs to go; he needed to go a long time ago. But again, here and now, today, what price did he pay? We knocked the shit out of some concrete bunkers, scarred a few runways; and the man ultimately responsible for intentionally killing civilians is not now, was not in the past, and probably will not in the foreseeable future, be held to account for these actions. The UN will condemn him; I’ll bet that leaves a bruise. He’ll get some crappy press in parts of the world. But rest assured, there is still a large part of the globe where he’ll be seen as a victim of the west, with the US in particular as the villain; flexing our oppressive military to enforce our will upon the less fortunate parts of the world. You know, those parts of the world we usually send endless streams of money and humanitarian supplies to so they can spit on our flag and chant “death to the US!” It’s all good as long as they don’t use gas.
When is the United States population at large finally going to realize that the minute we become so emotional about the faces of dead children in other parts of the world, it’s not long before we’re sending our own children there to die in the same place? Where are the other countries that are so horrified about Assad’s guilt? Do none of them have missile technology? More likely, none of them have any strength of their convictions. Or maybe, it’s more common sense; it all depends upon your view. As long as they can cheer us kicking someone else’s ass, they don’t have to accept any of the consequence that we do. You know; you break it, you bought it? What if we had inadvertently destroyed a children’s hospital? Would any of these brave western leaders applauding us now cover our asses in that scenario? Hardly. They’re too busy making sure they can continue to trade with countries that still support this monster, instead of the world at large and the UN in particular, ostracizing this bastard and all those who do business with him. To continue to make it possible for him to prop up his economy, to accept his currency, to supply him with food or other goods is for you to re-affirm that it’s alright to kill children in the acceptable fashions. But boy, once you cross that line we’re gonna say mean things about you in the security chamber in New York and cheer the good ol’ “US of A” when they ram an ordinance in your posterior. But until then, hey, what’s your price for a barrel of crude?
To be sure, I’m not making light of dead children. I just don’t feel that it’s a universal concern in various cultures around the world. So yes, I can hear your grumblings that “we’re more moral,” or “that makes us just as bad as them” or such. I always like the “well, we’re the only ones who can do it” line, as if the countries that we propped up and armed over the decades are really as helpless as they are feckless. As long as we’re willing to offer ourselves up as the world’s moral authority, to be the cop, judge, jury and executioner, the other Pontius Pilates will continue to wash their hands of our iniquities. We get to tweak all the bullies of the world and get jeered at by the victims of those very same bullies. That’s a neat trick right there. If, as many are concerned, this inflates and ends up igniting something bigger, they ‘ll turn their wretched little fingers towards us and tell us that we’re ultimately responsible; If only we didn’t have such an inflated view of ourselves, if we weren’t so racist and bigoted towards other people, other cultures; what makes us think we have the moral authority over the rest of the world.
Do these questions make me seem heartless and indifferent? Really, I only want someone to look me in the eye and tell me “why these babies?” He’s been killing babies for years. And we need to admit to ourselves that this is a part of the world where the dominant culture does not value life above all else, even a child’s, the way we do here; where it’s all too common for them to use women and children as shields for their soldiers, where their dominant religion tells them that it’s acceptable to do so. Maybe I need to rephrase that; for we too kill our babies and we’re sure it’s a god given right to do so, set down right there in the constitution. Horror of horrors, I went and peed on the third rail. How dare I equate a woman’s right to chose with a dictator’s right to choose? Because the greater point is that we are willing to start a war, alone, against a criminal who chose to kill his innocent victims in a way of which we don’t approve. Yet, we’ll take our own children and dissect them in the womb, then go about our day smug in the belief that we’re morally right to do so. The escape clause here is, of course, that they’re not babies. Not at least until they can emerge from the breech, preferably on their own and fully functional, both physically and financially.
How dare I equate the two; I’m not. But to assume that people of other cultures in other parts of the world don’t see this as problematic to our claim of righteousness is folly and quite naïve. Throw the hate all you want, but that viewpoint is out there too. How can we as a culture dictate morals onto other cultures? And, we don’t seem to be too alarmed when we see their children in videos training to kill those who don’t follow their beliefs; In fact, just to point it out brings howls from the left; you know, hate speech codes and all. It is the left after all that takes great pains to point out that other cultures are no less moral than ours. So we scream, hyperventilate, and make grand speeches about the way they slaughter their innocents but never wish to point out that it’s in their culture to de-value life the way they do; we just have to accept it, even as we have to accept them into our midst’s lest we be called racist, bigoted or xenophobic.
No, as distracting as that part of the conversation may be, as insulted you may be for me conflating the two issues, the bigger point is clear. If you are willing to be the moral authority in the world, if you wish to impose those morals on other cultures, a little consistency goes a long way. And trust me, we will go this alone. We should make sure that we’re comfortable with the moral foundation we are building this position on; not only in the way we deal with the countries that commit these atrocities and the countries who openly support them; but also with those Janus countries who are willing to let us take the risks, blame and quite possibly future casualties so that they too can feel morally superior.
Ultimately, yes we should have done this. But if we are going to punish a dictator for crimes he commits against his people, we’d better make it stick; trashing a few runways doesn’t cut it. It should have been severe and decisive. And afterwards, we don’t need to rebuild; we don’t need to “change” regimes. We don’t need to apologize. We need to shake the dust from our boots, walk away and flip off the U.N. on the way by. Any other action with any other outcome just continues the charade. They commit an atrocity; we become indignant. The world makes heartfelt condemnations in august bodies that do nothing more than feed their own egos with the sounds of their own voices. And years later, it occurs again, maybe in the same region, maybe in some other part of the world. Another bunker, another runway and yet another tyrant who has been gassing, executing and starving his own women and children, pays the ultimate price of a few weeks of bad press. Our sense of moral righteousness is perverted at best.
I’m not a pacifist; I’m surely not a war hawk. There are shrill warnings about the possibility of World War Three, all because parts of the world see no need for swift and certain punishment for the murderer of children. Sorry, but we already have a world war. We’re just tallying the casualties at a slower pace; and sadly, the victims are not necessarily dying in greater numbers at the hands of adversarial forces as much as at the hands of their own leaders.
The destruction of a few bunkers and several yards of concrete will not stop this. Unfortunately, there is no universal “negative” emotion to the killing of the innocent. Therefore, the best we can do is ignore whatever fear or negative emotion we might feel for inflicting ultimate punishment upon those who do. If we feel we are right; if we feel we are truly, morally justified; can we do anything less?