Syria airstrikes not the answer to alleged chemical weapons

Photo Courtesy of Kayla O'Mahony

Xichang Wu

xiwu@ursinus.edu

This is the seventh year of Syria’s civil war.

It was heart wrenching to learn about the 105 missiles fired at Syria on April 7, destroying more in this already devastated country. Regardless of the intention for these missiles, imagine the fear that gripped the Syrian people when they awoke in the middle of the night to 105 fireworks flashing through the sky. Not knowing when the bombing would stop, not knowing if it would blow up their shelter, not knowing if it had already killed family and friends from the other side of town. How was this bombardment any different from terrorism?

Donald Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron, the current leaders of the U.S.A., the U.K., and France respectively, believed this initiative was an action of justice. After the missiles hit two targets near Homs and one target near Duma, all three leaders held media conferences to explain that this air strike mission was to destroy chemical weapons and facilities in Syria and cripple the current Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s ability to produce chemical weapons. The UK government also emphasized that this action will protect the general public of Syria from further harm.

On the other hand, Russia and Syria are using everything within their power to deny that they used chemical weapons on April 4 in Duma where Syrian rebels had established their camps. The alleged use of chemical weapons prompted the U.S., U.K., and France to join together for the bombing. World Health Organization reported on April 7 in Syria that there were, “43 deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals.” The White House put together a news release called United States Assessment of the Assad Regime’s Chemical Weapons Use on April 13, explaining that the White House is convinced that Assad’s government is using chemical weapons, contrary to Russia’s claim.

Syria is the arena between forces supported by various political groups. While the U.S., U.K., and France are trying to justify their action, Russia and Syria are condemning this three-country collaborated mission and the United Nations (UN) has requested the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate if the facilities that the missiles destroyed were actually centers for chemical weapon research, development, and storage. The OPCW team landed in Syria on April 14, but the team was not able to begin their investigation until April 21 due to regulations from the Syrian government.

It is difficult to say which country is lying about the chemical weapons, because they can always use newly fabricated facts to back up their arguments when its needed or utilize regulations to limit other parties’ endeavors to discover the truth. The complexity of each country’s agendas also makes their future actions unpredictable. For example, after Donald Trump said that the U.S. is prepared to sustain this aggressive response if Syria did not stop using chemical weapons, the U.S. defense secretary Jim Mattis said this precisely planned assault is a one time shot to send a strong message to Assad. The information regarding the issue is chaotic; no one really knows the truth.

How do we make sense of this military assault when no information from any government official can be trusted?

By principle, I agree with United Nations Secretary General António Guterres who said, “Any confirmed use of chemical weapons, by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances, is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law.” The destruction that the chemical weapons cause is inhumane and irreversible, weapons of this kind really should be destroyed.

I also believe that the U.S., U.K., and France shouldn’t make the executive decision to send missiles to other countries on their own, without consultation from the UN. There needs to be a procedure in place so that whenever a chemical weapon site is discovered in the future, countries will have a proper way of resolving the problem. The procedure needs to be organized and thorough, not only to the specifics of how to take down these facilities and destroy the chemicals, but also need to include instruction on how to collaborate with local authorities on informing and evacuating local citizens.