An exercise in honesty (and double standards): What would happen If Israel were to use chemical weapons? Would the United States also say to attack it? And what would happen if the United States itself used such measures? True, Israel would never use weapons of mass destruction, although they are in its arsenal, except under very extreme circumstances. But it has already used weapons prohibited by international law - white phosphorous and flechette rounds against a civilian population in Gaza, and cluster munitions in Lebanon - and the world did not raise a finger. And few words are needed to describe the weapons of mass destruction used by the United States, from the nuclear bombs in Japan to napalm in Vietnam.
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But Syria, of course is a different matter. After all, no one can seriously think that an American attack on the President Bashar Assad regime stems from moral considerations. Some 100,000 killed in that unfortunate country did not coax the world into action, and only the report of 1,400 killed by chemical weapons - which has not yet been conclusively proven - are rousing the world’s salvation army to act.
Neither can anyone suspect that most Israelis who support an attack – 67 percent, according to a survey by the daily Israel Hayom – are motivated by concern for the well-being of Syria’s citizens. In perhaps the only country in the world where a majority of public opinion supports an attack, the guiding principle is completely foreign: Strike the Arabs; it doesn’t matter why, it just matters how much – a lot.
Neither can anyone seriously think that the United States is a “moral superpower,” as Ari Shavit defined it in these pages (August 29). The country responsible for the most bloodshed since World War II – some say as many as 8 million dead at its hands – in Southeast Asia, South America, Afghanistan and Iraq – cannot be considered a “moral power.” Neither can the country in which a quarter of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated; where the percentage of prisoners is greater than in China and Russia; and where 1,342 people have been executed since 1976. Even Shavit’s statement “The new international order in the wake of World War II was meant to ensure that … the horrific scenario of death by gassing would not be repeated,” is disconnected from reality. In Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda and Congo, as in Syria, this baseless claim can only arouse a bitter smile.
The attack on its way will be Iraq II. The United States - which was never punished for the lies of Iraq I and the hundreds of thousands who died in vain in that war - says a similar war should be launched. Once again without a smoking gun, with only partial evidence, and with red lines that President Barack Obama himself drew, and now he is obliged to keep his word. In Syria, a cruel civil war is underway that the world must try to stop; the American attack will not do it.
Reports from Syria are apparently mainly tendentious. No one knows what exactly is going on, or the identity of the good guys and the bad guys, if they can be thus defined. We should listen to the sharp words of a nun from Syria, Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, who complained to me over the weekend - from the Jerusalem monastery where she is staying on her way back from Malaysia to Syria - about the world press. Sister Agnes-Mariam described the picture differently than most: There are some 150,000 foreign jihadists in Syria, she says, and they are responsible for most of the atrocities. The Assad regime is the only one that can stop them, and the only thing the world must do is stop the flow of fighters and arms to them. “I don’t understand what the world wants. To help Al-Qaida? To establish a jihadist state in Syria?” This mother superior, whose monastery is located along the road from Damascus to Homs, is certain that an American strike will only strengthen the jihadists. “That is what the world wants? Another Afghanistan?”
Perhaps the world knows what it wants, perhaps it doesn’t. But one thing now seems clear: another American attack of choice could become another disaster.