The topic of chemical warfare in Syria continues to dominate the press and media. Following Parliament’s decision to reject military intervention in Syria, Obama has announced a ten day delay on action from the US. This is to allow Congress, as the representative of the people, to have the final say. In a recent speech, Obama emphasised that while he was undoubtedly supportive of military intervention in Syria, out of respect for the fact America ‘is the oldest constitutional democracy’ it would be the people’s choice.
While the alleged chemical attack on Syria warrants the outrage and international criticism it has received. It would be complacent to not acknowledge the bigger picture in response to this chemical attack, which has yet to be confirmed as the work of Assad (although highly likely). Obama denounced this attack as crossing a moral ‘red line’. He indeed said it was ‘an assault on our human dignity.’ So why have chemical attacks triggered such uproar, why do chemical attacks illicit talks of military intervention, when plain old torture, massacre and bombardment of innocent children over a period of two years have only ever previously resulted in the ineffective convening of meetings or despatch of monitoring missions? The question must be posed: why is chemical warfare so different?
However, this question is not the correct one. A look back to previous chemical attacks and the consequences consolidate the already established truth: that international politics is a game where the US holds control. When Iraq – then America’s ally – attacked the Kurds of Hallabjah in 1988, no assault was directed towards Baghdad until 2003. Furthermore, accusations that Israel used white phosphorus in the 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza, were never even properly investigated. Therefore, the issue is not the chemical nature of the attack rather the nature of the attacker.
Drawing back to the perpetual thorn of the middle east, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Amid the furore of this chemical attack, how many have cast their minds back to the optimistic promises of John Kerry, days prior to this incident, to spearhead rejuvenated peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine? After constant hype about Netanyahu’s altruistic and diplomatic gesture of a Palestinian prisoner release, the follow-up has been overshadowed by Assad’s alleged antics in Ghouta. The blatant truth is that no matter what happens in the Middle East, in some shape or form, Palestine will be the paying the price. Whether it is Palestinian refugees being targeted in Syrian refugee camps or the US diverting attention from peace negotiations to facilitate the Israeli Likud policy of obliterating Palestine, we need to remind ourselves that politics is not a game, and must assess who the real ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of another military intervention in this war torn region are.