Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 15, 2013

ED VASICEK: Syria and the war on terror

Iraq war opponent proposes military strike against Syria.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — By the time you read this, America will have marked the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. We were warned early on that the “war on terror” would last decades; this appears to be the case. With President Obama proposing strikes against Syria, Congress opposed, and the Syrian leader offering to turn over supervision of illegal weapons to the U.N. (I am skeptical), it seems we are repeating a pattern we’ve seen before.

When I peruse articles I wrote during that era, I remember saying, even if Saddam’s Iraq did not conceal weapons of mass destruction (and I believed it did), America was justified in attacking. Iraq had violated the terms of surrender that ended the Gulf War, Saddam had tried to have George H.W. Bush assassinated, he threatened terrorist acts against the U.S., and Saddam had massacred thousands of his own people. Someone needed to step in and end his reign of terror.

According to the Syrian Sun, “Saddam Hussein launched a genocidal bloodbath against the Kurdish people in Halabja in 1988, which he used chemical weapons and killed between 3,200 and 5,000 people, and injured around 7,000 to 10,000 more. The majority of them were civilians; besides the instantly killed, thousands more died of complications, diseases, and birth defects in the years after the massacre.”

Stories of Saddam’s cruelty are well-know. President Assad of Syria belongs to the same political party as did Saddam and is following suit. His current use of chemical weapons to kill innocent civilians has been making the headlines.

When George W. Bush led the war on terror into Iraq, he did so for a variety of reasons. First and foremost was his concern for the safety of our homeland. In the shadow of 9/11, it seemed reasonable to destroy the terrorist training centers in Afghanistan and to then take down Saddam Hussein. What we thought were reliable intelligence sources proved unreliable. Indigenous contacts, bitter because of Saddam’s massacres, convinced our leaders (and leaders from other nations) that the dictator harbored weapons of mass destruction — and that he was planning to attack the United States.

And that is what is so different about the proposed intervention in Syria. It is not primarily based upon American security concerns, but rather motivated by humanitarian concerns. I am not saying such an approach is wrong; I am personally undecided on the matter. What is incongruous is the man proposing this — and the way he will get a free pass from the media.

President Obama opposed the invasion of Iraq. He ran as the candidate who was going to wind things down and bring home the troops. Now the man who opposed invading Iraq (even when America thought it had security concerns in the face of Saddam’s insanity) supports an attack on a neighboring nation on the basis of humanitarian concerns.

Could you imagine the stink if George W. Bush had made such a suggestion? Those who support Barack Obama can freely do so no matter what he does. If a college student dared go public about approving of George W. Bush, his or her college professor would go ballistic; the supporter would become an object of screaming, mockery, sarcasm and insult (maybe even flunked). Barack Obama’s supporters still will have freedom of speech, Bush’s did not. Yet, from a logical viewpoint, Bush had more compelling reasons to attack Iraq than Obama does Syria.

The issue is not whether this evil Syrian regime should be brought down, but more a matter of who does it and how it is done. And maybe we should be involved. I don’t know. What seems odd is who is proposing an attack.

A decade ago I reminded readers the president knows much more than we know; he has access to classified information and studies that never reach our eyes. Syria, too. This explains why, in the realm of military actions, both Democratic and Republican presidents and their confidants (including Bush foe John Kerry) act pretty much alike. It is one thing to be in the Senate, another to have the responsibility and potential guilt of history-altering decisions. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.