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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 8, 2013 at 8:01 AM

U.S. involvement in Syria

Step by step

Followers of the Shiite Houthi group, also called Ansarullah, hold a banner as they march during a demonstration against possible U.S. forces' strikes in Syria, in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. [AP Photo/Hani Mohammed]

Followers of the Shiite Houthi group, also called Ansarullah, hold a banner as they march during a demonstration against possible U.S. forces’ strikes in Syria, in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. [AP Photo/Hani Mohammed]

The history of U.S. foreign policy is often of a very shortsighted view, resulting in decades of blowback and unintended consequences. [“U.S. may set up training Syrian rebels,” page one, Sept. 6.]

Given this, what should be done in Syria?

We should bring in U.N. peacekeepers to enforce an immediate cease-fire. Draw the lines “rebel held” and “government held” and protect the people inside these borders. Promote self-governance.

Next, mount a humanitarian effort for food, water, shelter and safety to all who have been displaced and for those who cannot survive in Syria where they are.

Then we should prosecute war criminals in the International Criminal Court. Convene “Geneva II,” including all current political entities in Syria. Include a huge dose of nonaligned Syrians, particularly Syrian women, whose primary concern is the safety of their children.

The goal: free elections and a new constitution. Post the discussions online and provide daily Twitter feeds. Allow the Syrian people to make comments directly to the negotiators.

If this stalls, recess for a month, send people back to their constituencies to hold public meetings, then go back to the negotiating table.

Repeat as necessary.

Margo Polley, North Bend

Moral obscenity

A Turkish paramedic works by the entrance of a decontamination unit tent set up to treat victims of chemical weapons in Reyhanli, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. World leaders are venting over Syria's civil war but look no closer to agreeing on international military intervention to stop it. [AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia]

A Turkish paramedic works by the entrance of a decontamination unit tent set up to treat victims of chemical weapons in Reyhanli, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. World leaders are venting over Syria’s civil war but look no closer to agreeing on international military intervention to stop it. [AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia]

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sarin gas is similar to an insecticide, but much more potent. It’s odorless and, obviously, silent. It’s heavier than air and sinks to the basements where many civilians hide from the bombing of the Syrian regime.

Nerve gas kills or nearly kills all living things. That’s your babies, adults, cats, dogs, chickens, etc. It’s a painful way to die — convulsions, eye pain, respiratory and digestive difficulties or failure, paralysis.

Those who survive can have lasting psychological side effects. There are so few international taboos — genocide, slavery, chemical weapons are the primary ones. We saw what happened in Rwanda when the world turned away: more than 500,000 hacked to death.

I agree with the president. If others are too timid to fight for one of the few international rules that most human beings have been able to agree upon, that fact should not provide us with an excuse to do nothing.

Yes, we’ve made gross foreign-policy mistakes in the past. Yes, there are no perfect options. But to do nothing in the face of moral obscenity would be shameful and potentially dangerous for the world, including us.

Bernadette Foley, Suquamish, Kitsap County

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

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