Follow us:

Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 6, 2013 at 11:23 AM

U.S. involvement in Syria

Right and moral

Syrian women living in Beirut hold candles and placards during a vigil against the alleged chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon on Aug. 21, 2013. [AP Photo/Hussein Malla]

Syrian women living in Beirut hold candles and placards during a vigil against the alleged chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon on Aug. 21, 2013. [AP Photo/Hussein Malla]

I couldn’t disagree more with your paper’s position on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its own people.[“Editorial: Congress, just say ‘no’ on Syria,” Opinion, Sept. 4.]

The editorial stated, “Congress also needs to explain why the heinous use of chemical weapons crosses a line not exceeded by conventional slaughter and all manner of deprivation against civilian populations in Syria and elsewhere.”

Try replacing the word “chemical” with “nuclear.”

What if Syria activated a small nuclear device — another “unconventional weapon” — that killed “only” 1,500 of its people. Would you still argue that the United States remain uninvolved?

As horrendous and deadly as modern conventional warfare has become, the uncontested use of unconventional weapons (chemical or nuclear) by any country would thrust the world into uncharted territory that would be exponentially more dangerous.

This goes far beyond what you term “a deft political move.” It’s the right and moral thing to do. If the United States acts alone, so be it. It would only make me that much more proud of my country

Dave Richards, Bainbridge Island

Rules of war

An Israeli woman shows her children how to put on a gas mask at a distribution center on Aug. 26, 2013 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel keeps distributing gas masks to its civilian population as tension rises in Israel amid international talks of a military intervension In Syria. [Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]

An Israeli woman shows her children how to put on a gas mask at a distribution center on Aug. 26, 2013 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel keeps distributing gas masks to its civilian population as tension rises in Israel amid international talks of a military intervension In Syria. [Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]

Your editorial on Syria posed a crucial question in the current debate over U.S. involvement in Syria without answering it.

I don’t understand why people advocating enforcement of the international norms against the use of chemical weapons never seem to answer this obvious question: So many innocent civilians have already been killed in Syria — what makes killing them with chemical weapons so different?

The international agreements to treat any use of unconventional weapons [atomic, biological, and chemical] as war crimes is based on the fact that all three tend to kill far more civilians than combatants, no matter how they are used.

Conventional weapons can obviously be used to kill civilians, and regimes or groups who do so intentionally are treated as criminals as well. “Collateral damage” caused by conventional weapons is then justified as the unintended consequence of targeting enemy combatants in the same proximity.

None of this matters to anyone who adheres to a pure form of pacifism that condemns any use of force to defend against any physical attack, but most people have accepted some “rules of engagement” that distinguish between the use of lethal force between combatants and the intentional killing of civilians as a means of genocide and/or terrorism.

During World War I, both sides developed chemical weapons that proved to be useless in changing military outcomes, but were much more dangerous than conventional weapons in terms of spreading the carnage to civilians. Similar concerns were raised concerning nuclear weapons after World War II. Now efforts have been taken to prevent the proliferation of each.

So here we are, asking each other what should be done if a clear case of violating the “rule” against chemical weapons can be proven. A few modern nations, such as the U.S. and France, are willing and able to prevent the “rule breaker” from breaking that rule again.

It is still a debatable question, but as civilians we deserve to know why this “rule” even exists.

Jon Shaughnessy, Bellingham

Learn from history

In this citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian military tank caught on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. [AP Photo/The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad]

In this citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian military tank caught on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. [AP Photo/The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad]

Thank you for your editorial.

I’m a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran. In the beginning, our political leaders told us we would only send military advisers to Vietnam. It would be “limited involvement.” Sound familiar?

When the war ended, we had lost more than 58,000 killed in action, all for nothing.

The world population is around seven billion. Of that total we have about 316 million, less than 5 percent of the planet. We cannot “fix” the world with our guns and bombs.

Our military should be used only to protect our nation and our clear national interest. Learn from history.

Richard Mauser, Kent

0 Comments | More in Foreign policy, Middle East, military, Politics | Topics: Barack Obama, bashar assad, chemical weapons

COMMENTS

READER NOTE: Our commenting system has changed. Find out more.

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►