By Victoria Ross
“Those who have not been killed by chemical weapons will be killed by American weapons.”
– Local Syrian-American woman
Violence begets violence. Nonviolence is basic to virtually all religions (although man has also somehow inserted violence into every religion, too). Yet we treat violence as our ace in the hole. We must believe, and act, in nonviolence and love.
We grieve for the people of Syria. We know Bashar Assad’s regime is brutal – torturing and murdering – and violence is escalating all around. We must stop it.
We grieve, but don’t know who actually gassed people. There are conflicting reports. Although our government claims Assad gassed his people, we also know that “truth is the first casualty of war.” Our government has often lied to go to war – e.g., Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin and the mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Whoever gassed people in Syria, it was a terrible crime, and the terror continues. Adding to it will clearly result in more innocents dying. Targeted assassination is a specialty of drones, yet many civilians die in drone strikes. In Pakistan, for example, estimates of civilians killed range from 10 percent, per the New America Foundation, to near 98 percent, per Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. The broad-ranging terror is indisputable.
We can and must take decisive action. Let us strengthen international law, organizations and community. We need to work through U.N. peacekeeping. We need to work with the international community to halt fighting (and arming), and to promote communication and negotiation.
We must recognize the U.N. International Criminal Court, the proper venue for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court originated in 2002, and has been ratified by 122 countries. We originally signed but then reneged. Might our own war crimes – war of aggression on Iraq, extra-judicial assassination via drones – have something to do with our reluctance?
The international community is like any other community – a culture is created and perpetuated by the actions of its members. As the No. 1 arms merchant and military spender, determined that our world dominance be unchallenged, our belligerence has only encouraged others to behave badly. Let us instead promote the rule of law internationally, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war, signed by the United States in 1928.
Let us take the side of compassion, and work hard to create a culture of peace at home and abroad. Even a fraction of the time and energy spent on violence could make all the difference.
Victoria Ross is a peaceful conflict resolution consultant for the Interfaith Peace Network and the WNY Peace Center.