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Citizen Dave: We have a moral obligation to act in Syria
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Credit:CIA World Factbook

Four hundred.

Children.

Gassed to death in their homes.

Apparently, by their own government.

If those four statements aren't enough to trigger international outrage resulting in military action against the Syrian government, then what will be enough?

As if that wasn't horrific enough, the U.S. government says that another one thousand adults were killed in the same August use of chemical weapons. (Reports vary on the exact numbers, but how much does it matter if there were 500 innocent civilians gassed to death or three times as many?) And the Assad regime followed that up with an apparent napalm attack on a school, burning and killing more children and adults.

And these are just the most disgusting actions of this rogue government. The civil war in Syria has already claimed 100,000 lives and the killing goes on at the rate of 5,000 every month.

A good argument can be made that the international community should have intervened much sooner, but that's little excuse for failing to act now in light of Syria's breaking the taboo and the law on the use of chemical weapons.

Americans are strongly opposed to this action by a margin of two to one, and I'm sure the numbers are even more overwhelming here in Madison. I understand why. We've been lied to before, we're weary of war, while internal conflicts, especially in the Middle East, seem endless. But how can we claim to be the greatest nation on earth, how can we claim to be concerned about human rights and not respond to the murders of hundreds of children?

I know that the United States does not have a clear claim to moral superiority here. Our own use of Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam and the current use of drone strikes clouds our standing.

Moreover, there can never be a guarantee that limited air strikes (perhaps by those drones) will solve the problem without soldiers on the ground, though air strikes in the Kosovo War had good results.

To make matters worse, there are no clear good guys in Syria to support. The opposition is splintered and some factions have links to Al Qaeda. The recent release of video showing the murders of government soldiers at the hands of rebels demonstrates that backing the opposition without regard for exactly what part of the opposition we support could amount to replacing an inhumane government with a different shade of cruel leaders.

Still, I was amazed when I heard liberal Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) say on PBS that, "This is not our problem." If he meant by that that this is the international community's problem and that the United Nations should act, I'm all for that. But the U.N. is paralyzed by its own rules as Russia and China will exercise their veto power in the Security Council. We should have been supporting the U.N. more strongly for decades (we're $1.3 billion in arrears on our payments to support the U.N.), but there's little we can do about that right now. To claim blithely that the murders of children and the use of chemical weapons is "not our problem" is just callous beyond belief.

The world is inconsistent, complicated and messy. We shouldn't be under any illusions that a step down this road won't lead to more steps that embroil us in a long conflict with uncertain outcomes. This should not come as a surprise. But none of it excuses the most powerful nation on earth and a nation that likes to think of itself as the world's greatest from acting in response to the mass murders of some 400 children.

An international expert on the use of chemical weapons put it directly when he said, "This is killing people like cockroaches and using the same chemicals to do it." The United States along with whatever allies it can muster needs to make it clear -- both through its words and through its strong actions -- that every human being has a right to be treated better than cockroaches.

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