President Obama is seeking Congressional approval for military action against the Syrian government after alleging that Syrian forces used chemical weapons. He will make his case to the American people in a televised speech on Tuesday. Senator McCain is advocating for a more expansive US bombing campaign with the goal to assist the Syrian rebels in removing the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power.
Pro-democracy protests began in Syria in March 2011 and were brutally repressed by the Assad regime. In September 2011 militant rebel groups began fighting to over through the Syrian government.
The Syrian government has engaged in the worst possible abuses known to man. According to Human Rights Watch the Syrian government has repeatedly indiscriminately fired on rebel-controlled neighborhoods and has established a system of torture centers throughout Syria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the death toll from Syria’s civil war is now over 100,000.
But taking military action against Syrian forces would be a grave mistake.
The AP is reporting that anonymous officials say that the US intelligence community does not have proof that the use of chemical weapons was ordered by Assad. AP also says that the US is not entirely certain where the Syrian government’s chemical weapons are stored, which means, “a possible series of U.S. cruise missile strikes aimed at crippling Assad's military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack.”
But much more importantly, any military action against the Syrian government would aid the Syrian rebels.
Human Rights Watch has reported that Syrian rebels have on various occasions committed kidnappings, torture, and executions.
One rebel group, the Omar al-Farouq Brigade, engaged in indiscriminant shelling of Lebanese villages. A commander of that same brigade took a bite out of the heart of a pro-government fighter after saying, “I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! Takbir! God is Great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!” The Alawites are a religious sect of Islam that Assad belongs to.
One of the more successful rebel groups is al-Nusra, which has pledged its allegiance to the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. One of the commanders of al-Nusra said that in response to the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government his organization will target Alawite villages. “For every chemical rocket that has fallen on our people in Damascus, one of their villages will, by the will of God, pay for it. On top of that we will prepare a thousand rockets that will be fired on their towns in revenge for the Damascus Ghouta massacre.”
By using US military action in an attempt to prevent the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, the US government would be helping the Syrian rebels, some of whom torture, have genocidal ambitions, and-or are members of al-Qaeda.
Post Script: The Russian government also deserves to be criticized for its role in the Syrian conflict. It is selling weapons to the Syrian government.