The Syrian Horror

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What kind of a world are we living in if the international community looks away from the release of chemical weapons on the citizens of Syria?

If the pictures of children choking on their own fluids and heaps of dead bodies piled in the streets of Damascus had left any doubt in the mind of the world community, there is sufficient evidence now that Sarin nerve gas had been dropped on the innocent citizens of four suburbs of Damascus .

Nerve gas is by far, the most inhumane way of killing. The gas is colorless and odorless and was originally used as a pesticide. It has the exact same effect on the human body as the insecticide has on bugs. It attacks the nervous system causing twitching and convulsions, the heart rate goes out of whack, the nervous system is shut down and finally the body chokes on its own fluids. The gas was released by Saddam Husain in 1988 during the Halbaza massacre in which several thousand Kurdish citizens perished. It was also used in the terrorist attack on a subway in Japan in 1995.

Spotlight-The-Syrian-Horror-1The conflict in Syria started in the summer of 2012 when the people of Syria rebelled against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It rapidly turned from an insurgency to a civil war. Amid the chaos, Al Qaida seized the opportunity to join the fray. Many political pundits argue that we had a small window last summer to help the rebels before the fundamentalist elements infiltrated the ranks.

The UN’s inability to come to a decision on how to respond to the use of Chemical weapons by Syria against its own citizens, points not only to its inefficacy as a negotiator, but also to the complexity of the situation.

The British parliament has blocked Prime Minister Cameron’s request to join the US in any military strike over Syria. Instead, resorting to rhetoric, Cameron wants to see a “robust response” to Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Is it not amply clear that Assad cares two hoots about any diplomatic pressure that Prime Minister Cameron seeks to exert?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the notion of the chemical attacks by Syria as “utter nonsense.” Backing of Syria by the Russia-Iran coalition with its stockpile of chemical weapons is a matter of dire concern in an already pernicious situation.

We are witnessing President Obama back-pedaling from the “red line” he defined last year in a moment of bravado. Secretary of State John Kerry is aggressively lobbying on the President’s behalf to seek the support of the US Congress to engage in an offensive against Syria.

A war-weary America is divided. After two wars, trillions of dollars in debt and a sluggish economy, America is not too keen to be the world’s policeman. George W. Bush’s trigger-happy invasion of Iraq, based on false evidence is still fresh in the minds of the people.

The anti-interventionists point out that the US did not engage in the two world wars until we were attacked on our soil. Our motives and methods of intervention in the Middle East are deemed far from pure. Many Americans believe that much of the crisis in the region has been a repercussion of our meddling over the years.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that a strike against Assad and an effort to tip the balance by strengthening the rebels, may empower the extremists within the ranks who have ties to Al-Qaida.

Both the secretary of state John Kerry and Senator McCain (who would have thought the twain would ever agree?) are assuring us that the extremist element is not powerful amongst the rebels in Syria.

Will President Obama get the approval he seeks from Congress? Will a “narrow and limited” strike by the US be effective or merely the equivalent of a punch on a bully who remains undeterred? A greater involvement than the one envisioned is quite likely. Is there an exit strategy? Or even a clear and defined goal?

Spotlight-The-Syrian-Horror-3The advance notice of a military strike has provided ample time to the Syrian regime to move the weapons. Will the US intelligence that has been far from perfect in preventing terrorist strikes in the US by its own homegrown jihadists, be able to locate the exact targets, a week or a month from now as the President seems to be confident?

While the debate goes on and the dilemma continues, Guru Nanak’s verse articulated in the 15th century amidst the horrific events in India when Babar was reaping atrocities on the subcontinent, comes to mind to poke at the conscience of a civilized society:

Je sakta sakte ko mare ta mun ros na hoee
Sakta seh marey pai vagey Khasme sa pursaee
Ratan vigarrh vigoaee kuti moea saae n kaaee  (SGGS P 360)

(If a powerful man strikes out against another powerful man, then no one feels any grief or anger.  But if a powerful tiger attacks a flock of sheep and kills them, then its master must answer for it.  This priceless country has been laid waste and defiled by dogs, and no one cares for the dead.)

There may be no easy answers to the horrific situation in Syria. But the world cannot turn a blind eye to the violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons.  It is the moral obligation of the leaders of the international community to show a strong and united front, and come up with a response that is more than a slap on the wrist to the Assad regime. A military strike on Syria is not the responsibility of the US alone.

It is about time that the complete destruction of chemical weapons per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 be carried out and dissenting nations pressured to comply. The possibility of the chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is a real and viable danger, and the world is vulnerable. There are no sacred cows for Jihadists.

It would be perilous to look at the chemical warfare in Syria as an internal matter that is not going to impact the rest of the world.

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About Jessi Kaur

Jessi Kaur is the author of Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy, and The Royal Falcon, highly acclaimed children’s books. She is the editor of Sikhpoint, (www.sikhpoint.com) , a web magazine. A theater aficionado, she produced The Royal Falcon Musical, a show that won accolades as the first ever Sikh musical of its kind. She has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and seminars at conferences, Sikh youth camps and has been an invited speaker on Sikh tradition and culture in several interfaith and multicultural events including the Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona and Melbourne, and the Smithsonian Folk Life festival in Washington DC. Her third book The Enchanted Garden of Talwandi based on a childhood legend of Guru Nanak is coming out this year. Ms. Kaur taught English Literature at a Delhi University college before moving to California where she is a Human Resources Consultant for high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley. She is the founder of IGS NOW a non-profit spiritual organization that is committed to working in and towards global synergy, on the board of Kaur Foundation and the editorial board of Sikh-American Love Stories. She is serving her second term as a Fine Arts Commissioner for the city of Cupertino, California.

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  • Harpreet Singh UK

    I like it, interesting style of reporting the current affairs from Sikh perspective.

  • Sarala Kurup Jagan

    what a blind world !!! A Noble Prize for Elimination of Humanity should be instituted and should be awarded – to both —-the one who uses it and the one who becomes a blind accessory just to earn a handful of dollars

  • Amarpal Singh

    Thanks Jessi for a good summary of what is happening in Syria. Situation is quite complex. Even though it is clear that sarin nerve gas was used in the recent horrible episode, jury is still out on who did it. UN inspectors are still to speak on their findings. US does not have much credibility after using false evidence of WMD presence to attack Iraq. US’s inability to convince world leaders to strike on Syria, at recent G20 conference in St. Petersburg is worrisome. Our loyal ally UK is not with us. It is unfortunate that there are no good sides in Syria. I worry most about more innocent people who will get killed in any strike by US. Do we want to take the risk of accidentally hitting chemical weapons near civilians and become another killer? Both sides in Syria are denying use of chemical weapons on their own people, is one of them lying or is there a third party involved? Undoubtedly the situation begs international attention but is the planned action of US striking a country which is not a threat to us and without a clear objective and exit strategy, justified?

  • Manjit

    Can war bring peace? When Obama addressed the nation he tells the US security is threatened?
    Jessi good article. One thing we all faith based individuals can do is pray. It may be more powerful then war.

  • Harminder Kaur

    It is important that Chemical weapons should vanish from the world. I think in view of the lies that were exposed about Iraq there should be no hasty decision. An inquiry is on and it has not been established yet whether the chemical weapons were used by Assad. After the inquiry establishes that the weapons were used by Assad a considered decision should be taken under the aegis of the UN as the stakes are very high in a war against Syria. Syria stands at the heart of geopolitical struggle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There is a likelihood that war against Syria is not expected to be limited. Syria is a major ally or Iran in the region and the latter will strive as hard as possible to protect the Assad regime. The war is thus likely to be protracted. Many fear an open military commttment might be as dangerous as another Iraq or Afghanistan. Caution should therefore be exercised before taking any hasty decision. Quick punitive strikes on limited targets to warn Assad may be one way out. This way the world will at least feel that something is being done and will prevent any future regimes from using chemical weapons against humanity.

  • Jespal Singh Brar

    The concern I have is,.. US is getting embroiled on the beck and call of Saudi Arabia and the Sunni bloc. The Christians and the other minorities might stand in danger of slaughter by Al Qaeda and it’s team. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is actively lobbying behind the scenes in Washington and European capitals to punish Syria. The challenge is, there is no good guy to pick here. The opposition is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim and a big part of that is extremist elements who do not believe in anyone else’s existence. Is Obama so stupid to buy into the Saudi lobby? What about Bahrain when genuine decent people seek freedom from Sunni hegemony they are ruthlessly put down. Why US does not condemn the Bahrain government? A lot of hypocrisy! Is US siding with Sunnis’, some of whom fund Al-Qaeda the enemy of the world! Obama needs a reality check, there is no clear evidence who has used chemical weapons. I have not seen it yet, maybe someone can direct me where this is reported but it is very speculative and the case is still need to be made. Shame on Obama, sorry Obama supporters. It seems that people promise a lot before getting into office but they are a disappointment. I voted for Obama in the first term and did not in the second term. I am glad I did not because I saw through his false facade.

    • Harpreet Singh UK

      I agree with Mr. Brar- he has a point

  • Dr. Karnail Singh UK

    I’m very proud and grateful that Jessi Kaur Ji took the time to voice

    her feelings about the situation in Syria – especially regarding the employment
    of nerve gas in the conflict. Which is abhorrent.

    But is it any more acceptable or ethically correct to injure or commit mass
    killings by any “other methods” or to be targeted if you are not old, a women
    or child!

    Jessi Kaur’s article suggests that Asads regime is behind the use of the
    chemical weapon – but is it not possible that other organisation/s are involved
    too? Not just the various indigenous oppositions parties against Assad but
    completely third outside agents wishing to inflame the conflict for their own
    private agenda.

    History is clear, that very often a greedy outsider will take the opportunity
    to “aid” the weaker party in the conflict to escalate the problem so the more
    destruction to life and proper results and being “a friend in need” will be
    first in line to benefit from the contracts to rebuild the damage and
    devastation that had occurred.

    If the weaker party wins in the conflict it will only be able to maintain grip
    on power with the continued help from their “friend”. This friendship will not
    come cheap in the long term you can be assured!

    The “friend” will be dictating terms, will be expected to be reimbursed for
    their hardware used and be given the information regarding the efficiency of
    the weapons so the next better weapons can be produced.

    History is also clear that the first casualty of war is the truth.

    Some believe that the atom bomb was employed to shorten the ww2 others believe
    it was to test it’s effect — twice!!

    Some believe Saddam Husain used WMD,s against his people, others say that
    western powers with a vested interest in invading Iraq were behind the attack
    on the twin towers!!

    We live in Kal Yug— and we continue to want to invent the wheel to solve the
    world’s problem when the answer is already in the Guru Grant Sahib, the Geta ,
    the Koran, the Ten Commandments etc in effect. How one applies that to the
    Syria crisis is the real challenge, and one which seems impossible. But is the
    military intervention of the western powers – which will inevitably lead to
    further injury, suffering and killing of innocent people really the answer? If
    I were in Syria, I would not want more bombs raining on me, even if it is meant
    to be for my good.

    • Avinder Kaur

      I am indeed grateful to Jessi Kaur for summarizing a complex situation with its moral dilemmas. At least for me, it was hard to grapple with what was going on.

      But let me state that nowhere does she suggest that the killing of anyone by any means is acceptable. But undeniably. children are the most vulnerable members of our society. As a mother I can say that my heart bleeds when any child is attacked. Children are powerless to defend themselves.

      Again, while Jessi has made the assumption that Asaad’s regime is behind the chemical attack, and that does so far seem to be the more obvious conclusion, what I read in her article is more of an emphasis that the international community cannot ignore this heinous crime, and that it is not the responsibility of the US alone to take action.

      if someone else is responsible for releasing the gas on the innocent citizens of Syria, then the world leaders needs to get to the bottom of it. But I completely agree that the situation in Syria cannot be ignored.

      Thanks Jessi again for that timely and insightful piece that does give enough food for thought.

  • Daljeet Singh Scotland

    Entering yet another war against a Muslim nation in the
    Middle East is bound to create more enemies for America. The surest way to
    encourage future terrorists is to join other nations’ conflicts and kill other
    nations’ peoples. Washington is still fighting a traditional war in Afghanistan
    and “drone wars” in Pakistan and Yemen. The U.S. should avoid adding
    another conflict to the mix. It doesn’t matter whether Americans believe their
    actions to be justified. Those on the receiving end of U.S. weapons would
    believe otherwise. In the new interview, Assad told American journalist Charlie
    Rose there is no conclusive evidence about who is to blame for the chemical
    weapons attacks and again suggested the rebels were responsible. Rose said
    Assad also warned him previous U.S. military efforts in the region have proved
    disastrous.

  • Col. Surinder Singh, Retd

    Syria is another
    beautiful place we need to visit….I do not know why America is after her
    now!.