Syria and Sarin: What are the consequences of saying sarin gas carries no punishment?

To Congressman Capuano, Senator Warren, and Senator Markey

Sirs, Madam:

I write this open letter as a constituent and supporter, to encourage you to help President Obama on the matter of Syria.

Certainly there are good reasons to not get involved in their civil war, and I share those concerns. I have been sickened to watch as 100,000 have been killed, but there are practical limits to what we can do. We still live in a world where killing ones own people is common, merely a domestic and sovereign concern. There is often little we can do beyond weep.

However, as depressing as that is, there is good news: I am proud we live in a world where the use of chemical weapons is not routine. And this could change. Chemical weapons are cheap and indiscriminate, perfect for rulers like Assad. He has them, and his weapons have been used. The heartbreaking evidence is before our eyes.

We cannot let this stand.

Precedents matter. Assad must be punished. He must be hit hard. It must hurt. It must be seen to hurt. He will pretend it is but a scratch, and that must be an obvious lie. If this weakens Assad’s grip on power, good, but that is not the purpose nor the measure of our action here. Harsh and coldblooded punishment is our purpose.

Will there be unintended consequences in this? Yes. But consider the alternative. What will the consequences be of telling every despot that using sarin carries no punishment?

Prohibitions on chemical weapons have been challenged. It would be shameful and cowardly for us to find excuses to look the other way.

Thank you for your attention.


Kent Borg

© 2013 by Kent Borg

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