Ky. Voices: A new war of choice without looking at our own destruction

August 29, 2013 

So we're going to war again — this time in Syria.

And the reason? We're outraged by the killing of innocent civilians through the use of the "weapons of mass destruction" that we so famously abhor. That is we abhor them when used by others. And these days everything qualifies for the category — even a pressure cooker filled with nails.

Meanwhile, the drone is never described as a weapon of mass destruction. Nor is the white phosphorus used by the U.S. to slaughter masses in Fallujah considered a chemical weapon.

And what about the Agent Orange and Agent Blue we used in Vietnam and which is still claiming lives and causing horrendous birth deformities 50 years later? How about the depleted uranium that has caused not only deaths but an epidemic of child deformities wherever it has been used?

Have you seen those pictures? No, they're too "graphic" for our sensibilities. But sensibilities be damned when it's a question of our enemies' atrocities instead of our own, which absolutely dwarf the latter.

And where's the outrage about our cooperation with Saddam Hussein in targeting Iranians, when Hussein was still our friend and ally? Just last week it came out that the CIA supplied him with targeting information for his famous use of chemical weapons. We were his collaborators in that crime. But that's ancient history — way back in 1988.

And yet we rend our garments over this "unspeakable" crime that may have been committed by Bashar Assad — the latest personification of Hitler and evil itself just ahead of Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic and Muammar Gaddafi.

No one asks "Can we afford this?" Where are the millions (billions?) necessary for this intervention coming from? What has Syria to do with us? How is it connected with U.S. problems of unemployment, income gaps between the super-rich and the ever-expanding ranks of the poor, failing schools, overcrowded prisons, voter suppression, crumbling infrastructure?

To address those problems we have no money. But for war, don't ask. There's always money for war.

And so our newscasters and pundits take Secretary of State John Kerry seriously when he wrings his hands over Syria's use of chemical weapons. We have no option but to intervene militarily, Kerry assures us. And he's the head of our diplomatic corps?

Where's the diplomacy? Where's the call for a cease-fire, for U.N. peacekeeper intervention, for talks between the admittedly al-Qaida-affiliated "rebels" and the Assad regime?

And the mainstream media go along with all of it. Putting on their most solemn faces and using their most serious voices the newscasters intone: "We have 'undeniable circumstantial evidence' that Bashar Assad is the one responsible for chemical weapons deployment. And there's no time to wait for a fuller investigation."

Sound familiar? When was the last time such certainty moved us to "shock and awe" an enemy, meanwhile killing untold innocent civilians in the process?

So our brave military stands ready to fire cruise missiles into population centers to retaliate for the killing of innocent civilians. The strikes will be as surgical as possible we're reassured.

Have we learned nothing from recent history?

Mike Rivage-Seul is the former professor of peace and social justice at Berea College. He blogs at

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