Is it legal?
Editor of the Reformer:
The alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against rebel forces within its borders raises the question of whether such use would be an illegal act, something our government insists to be the case, although without documenting its claim. Three multilateral treaties specifically address the use of chemical weapons, although, as it turns out, none is potentially applicable to the case at hand.
The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical weapons by members of this treaty against other members of this treaty when at war with each other. About 137 countries belong to this treaty, including both Syria and the United States. This treaty is in no way applicable to the case at hand. As a point of interest, it might be noted that the United States has a particularly unenviable record regarding it: Unlike all other major nations, the U.S. did not join this landmark treaty until 1975 (having been shamed into it by its actions during the Vietnam Conflict), and then being alone in insisting that it was for the U.S. applicable only to chemicals lethal to humans; and, furthermore, that it reserved the "right" to respond to a chemical attack with chemical weapons.
The 1993 Chemical Weapon Convention prohibits to its members the very possession of chemical weapons (and thus also requiring that any in their possession be destroyed). About 189 countries belong to this treaty, including the United States, but not including (and thus not applicable to) Syria. So once again, this treaty is in no way applicable to the case at hand. And also as a point of interest, although the U.S. has been a member since the treaty came into force in 1997, it has yet, as required, to destroy its own extensive arsenal of chemical weapons.
The 1998 International Criminal Court Statute establishes for its members that the use of chemical weapons in international wars is a war crime; and a 2012 amendment extends this designation also to non-international wars. About 122 countries belong to this treaty, and about nine to its 2012 amendment, but in neither case does either Syria or the United States belong. Thus, once again, this treaty is not applicable to the case at hand. And I would add that it is a point of shame that the U.S. is not a member of this civilizing instrument.
The United States is committed to carrying out any act of war against another country for only one of two reasons: if it is doing so in its own direct defense; or if authorized to do so by the United Nations Security Council.
Finally, it is clear from the relatively limited employment of chemical weapons that the existing legal norms against such use are a true reflection of the widely held cultural norms against them, each of those two norms reinforcing the other.
Arthur H. Westing,
Putney, Sept. 6
We will see
Editor of the Reformer:
On Sept. 3, President Obama in a meeting with party leaders guaranteed any military action in Syria would be "limited" in time and absolutely "no boots on the ground." Secretary of State John Kerry in the Senate hearing guaranteed Sen. Rand Paul that if the United States does not punish the use of chemical weapons Saad will use them again.
Can either of them guarantee that the cruise missile attack will not kill an addition 1,500 innocent Syrians and punish Saad?
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." That’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although I am sure the Vermont contingency see the folly of this military misadventure and will vote against, it is respectfully requested that Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Representative Welch insist that those guarantees be included in any law authorizing military action leaving Congress.
Failing this guarantee, what is the punishment to those who made these misrepresentations? Resignation; Impeachment.
I guarantee that a missile strike will kill people, but not Assad.
Daniel Webster once said: "The law is made to protect the innocent by punishing the guilty." Things don’t always work out that way, Daniel.
Putney, Sept. 5
Doing more harm
Editor of the Reformer:
President Bashar al Assad of Syria certainly deserves the world’s condemnation for using chemical weapons against his own people. But before the U.S. responds militarily, let it be established beyond any reasonable doubt that he did in fact do this. And then why not let NATO and the United Nations Security Council decide how to respond?
It is troubling to imagine what steps the U.S. is considering to take on its own. I find it offensive that President Obama is arguing that unless we do something, America’s "credibility" will be challenged. What credibility? Our credibility as global "peace maker?" Global policeman? Champion of the world’s huddled masses longing to be free? Our credibility as a country that spends over half of its discretionary income on the military, more than the rest of the world combined? A country with 1,000 military bases overseas to safeguard American corporate interests as well as the Military Industrial Congressional Complex? The credibility of a country that invaded Iraq, not in self-defense as required by international law, but because Saddam Hussein supposedly had weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear weapons? We now know that he did not have those weapons, but the Shock and Awe attack happened anyway, despite the protests of 15 million people from around the world demanding the war be called off.
During that war, the U.S. military used thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium, a weapon of mass destruction, a chemically toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. In the city of Fallujah from 2007-2010 as one example, more than half the babies born had birth defects. And according to the Scientific Secretary of the European Commission on Radiological Risk, those DU weapons have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.
And is there a statute of limitations on referring to the war in Vietnam? In that war, the United States dumped 20 million gallons of chemicals, including Agent Orange (a Monsanto product) between 1962 and 1971. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million Vietnamese had disabilities or health issues related to Agent Orange.
Currently, the C.I.A. is involved in drone attacks in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, mostly targeting al Qaeda operatives. Anyone presumed to be a "terrorist" is fair game, even U.S. citizens. And anyone "not with us" according to former President George W. Bush, is with the terrorists. While accurate figures are hard to come by, according to the Bureau of Investigatory Journalism at City University in London, England, between June 2004 and September 2012, U.S. drones killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 to 881 were civilians.
Intervening militarily in Syria’s civil war could do far more harm than good. But a strong reprimand from the United Nations Security Council along with serious economic sanctions for the Assad regime may be called for.
Brattleboro, Sept. 9