Monday, September 2, 2013

Do You Know Who ELSE Used Chemical Weapons, John Kerry?

Yesterday, John Kerry did his Sunday morning war propaganda tour, appearing on the Sunday shows to beat the war drums with a largely deferential press.

When American politicians are trying to build public sentiment for war, few things can be as shameless as Hitler references. But, of course, our politicians are often shameless by nature.

Here's John Kerry on Meet the Press:
Well, the case remains the same, David. The President of the United States has made his decision. His decision is to take military action in response to this outrageous attack. There's a front against the decency and sensibilities of the world.

Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein have used these weapons in time of war. This is of great consequence to Israel, to Jordan, to Turkey, to the region, and to all of us who care about enforcing the international norm with respect to chemical weapons.
Yes, it is true that Hitler used chemical weapons in war. However, Kerry is not citing Hitler as a mere statement of fact. Had he wanted to do so, he could have cataloged the various uses of chemical weapons in modern history. However, the emphasis is not on the factual content, but rather the emotional content. Kerry is, in other words, trying to say "Assad is a new Hitler." And such references are almost always hyperbole. Assad--although a brutal dictator by all means--has not expressed plans to invade the surrounding countries in the Middle East--violating their sovereignty, occupying their territory, sending their people to forced labor camps, and aiming for a continent-wide campaign of genocide.

But going back to the more focused question of chemical weapons, do you know who ELSE used chemical weapons during war, John Kerry?
The controversy has raged for 12 months. Ever since last November, when US forces battled to clear Fallujah of insurgents, there have been repeated claims that troops used "unusual" weapons in the assault that all but flattened the Iraqi city. Specifically, controversy has focussed on white phosphorus shells (WP) - an incendiary weapon usually used to obscure troop movements but which can equally be deployed as an offensive weapon against an enemy. The use of such incendiary weapons against civilian targets is banned by international treaty.

The debate was reignited last week when an Italian documentary claimed Iraqi civilians - including women and children - had been killed by terrible burns caused by WP. The documentary, Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, by the state broadcaster RAI, cited one Fallujah human-rights campaigner who reported how residents told how "a rain of fire fell on the city". Yesterday, demonstrators organised by the Italian communist newspaper, Liberazione, protested outside the US Embassy in Rome. Today, another protest is planned for the US Consulate in Milan. "The 'war on terrorism' is terrorism," one of the newspaper's commentators declared.

The claims contained in the RAI documentary have met with a strident official response from the US, as well as from right-wing commentators and bloggers who have questioned the film's evidence and sought to undermine its central allegations.

While military experts have supported some of these criticisms, an examination by The Independent of the available evidence suggests the following: that WP shells were fired at insurgents, that reports from the battleground suggest troops firing these WP shells did not always know who they were hitting and that there remain widespread reports of civilians suffering extensive burn injuries. While US commanders insist they always strive to avoid civilian casualties, the story of the battle of Fallujah highlights the intrinsic difficulty of such an endeavour.

It is also clear that elements within the US government have been putting out incorrect information about the battle of Fallujah, making it harder to assesses the truth. Some within the US government have previously issued disingenuous statements about the use in Iraq of another controversial incendiary weapon - napalm.
That passage comes from a 2005 article from The Independent
Let's move five years ahead.
"Toxic Legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'Worse Than Hiroshima'"

July 24, 2010

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened".
Will the U.S. bring the regime responsible for such hideous, monstrous flouting of international norms and all human decency to justice? What punishment does that regime deserve for violating international norms and laws? Anyone who is demanding that the U.S. "punish" Assad should have to answer that question. Human rights and international laws must be universally and equally applicable if they are to have any meaning. I, for one, would like to see both Bush and Assad have their day at the Hague. I doubt many politicians share such belief. 

If the U.S. wants to show how much it respects international norms and laws, especially as relates to issues of justice in the face of human rights violations and "crimes against humanity," then the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Most members of the international community already have.

Although John Kerry, Obama, and their surrogates will speak of chemical weapons as the "most heinous" of weapons, there is a form of weapon far more destructive: the nuclear weapon. And, to this date, the United States remains the only nation reckless enough to have used them during war. I'd like to know what "punitive" responses our elected officials feel the U.S. should have faced.

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