Politics & Policy

Syria Is Suffocating

The aftermath of an air strike in Aleppo
Chlorine gas attacks are just the latest medieval horror the U.S. will ignore.

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And floundering like a man in fire or lime.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

— Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est”

My high-school English teacher, Mr. King, knew that Owen’s poem would grab our attention. For teenage boys, following an hour of quadratic equations, war stories are an easy sell. But Mr. King also knew that the horrific imagery of chlorine gas in the poem would give us pause, and make us think on humanity’s capacity for brutality.

There’s a special savagery to chlorine gas. It burns the eyes, lungs, and skin — anything with water, turning the source of life into an agent of death. In doing so, chlorine gas is war at its worst — slow, agonizing, pitiless.

And timeless. Today, 96 years after Owen’s testament to the First World War, this weapon is alive and well. In a new “sea of green,” innocent Syrians are drowning as the West looks on.

#ad#While Syrian opposition groups allege that Assad has used chemical weapons many times since the Russian brokered a WMD deal last September, the most compelling evidence comes from recent attacks in the town of Kfar Zeita.

Watch this video and hear the choking screams. Or trust the experts: One U.S. official told CNN, “Our assessment is it is, at a minimum, concentrated chlorine dropped from helicopters. That could only be the regime.” From an intelligence analysis perspective, “at a minimum” suggests a high-confidence judgment, which means reliable reporting streams and not random guessing. But it’s not only the U.S. government: Read this Reuters report of chlorine gas canisters found in Kfar Zeita that are stamped by a Chinese company known to supply Assad.

You may not have heard about any of this. Coverage of Assad’s ongoing atrocities has been buried. Instead, from the New York Times and L.A. Times we have celebratory claims that the despot is meeting his Putin-mediated WMD handover timeline. This reporting ignores two realities: First, Assad seems to have been hiding select WMD stockpiles from the very beginning (which could easily have included the chlorine gas). Second, with the WMD production facilities he retained, Assad will be able to reconstitute his WMD program on short notice.

He’s playing the United States of America.

While Assad fills his people’s lungs with hydrochloric acid (that’s what chlorine does), Obama-administration officials spectate from the sidelines. Take State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and her Tuesday masterpiece in evasion. Equivocating on the chlorine attack, Psaki insisted that the WMD deal was succeeding.

Still, the White House finds some support in world opinion. With everyone desperate to avoid hard truths, the conspiracies continue to run wild. It was the rebels killing their own families. The Israelis did it. America is using chlorine gas as a pretext to invade Syria and  “steal stuff”. MH-370 is doing it.

Courage is too complicated, leadership too difficult, and indifference too easy.

Yes, I’d be the first to admit that the Syrian civil war is exceptionally complex. Nevertheless, with Assad’s record, his ongoing efforts to hide his WMD programs, and the compelling evidence of another chemical attack, America must act.

Unless the killer learns there are consequences to his mayhem, he’ll continue unstrained. Moreover, in this world of Putin, Khamenei, Kim Jong Uun and imperial China, Syria’s unanswered oppression will be a catalyst for global aggression. Correspondingly, to do nothing wouldn’t simply break America’s word (again); it would wager the peace of Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific.

That’s a heavy wager — a suffocatingly heavy one.

— Tom Rogan is a blogger and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He’s based in Washington, D.C.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at TRogan@McLaughlin.com

Most Popular


Jussie Smollett Jokes Declared Off-Limits

The Jussie Smollett story has been declared not fit for jokes. "It's a straight-up tragedy," declares the co-creator of a Comedy Central show, South Side, set in Chicago. Bashir Salahuddin, a former Jimmy Fallon writer, says “The whole situation is unfortunate. Particularly for the city, there’s bigger ... Read More

What The 1619 Project Leaves Out

“The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year,” The New York Times Magazine editors declare. “Doing so requires us to place ... Read More
PC Culture

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of ... Read More