By now, most of us have heard the rumors surrounding the Syrian crisis – citizens in rebellion, a government employing chemical warfare, and our own political indecision regarding military action. But what’s really going on?
The trouble began March 15, 2011 in the Syrian city of Deraa, when locals took to the streets to protest for democracy and greater freedom for the people. These protests, initially peaceful, were met with brute force when President Bashar-al Assad unleashed the Syrian army to quell the unrest. Those forces opened fire upon the protest, and soon on demonstrators all across the country. Before long, what began as a movement calling for Assad to step down became an armed rebellion, which has launched Syria into a full-fledged civil war with over 100,000 casualties to date.
One of the most recent attacks occurred on August 21st, 2013, when a nerve gas bomb exploded in the suburbs of Damascus, the capital city of Syria. The chemical explosion killed over 1,400 people, including women and children. Though it is not yet confirmed why the bomb went off or who authorized it, news of the gruesome chemical weapons attack has shocked countries all over the world who reprimand Assad’s alleged use of sarin – a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that causes convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure in victims.
“It’s an extremely vicious substance. It causes the nervous system to shut down, and kills its victims in a very painful and violent way,” says Randy Abernathy, an EMT professor at HanoverHigh School.
The escalating violence of the civil war has caused many ordinary citizens to flee to neighboring countries. In total, it is estimated that over 1.5 million of Syria’s estimated 21 million citizens have been displaced, causing an influx of refugees in these bordering countries.
In the past two years, American and European governments have silently condemned Syria’s inhumane actions against its own people, but no finger had been raised against it. The use of sarin gas, however, has spiked some serious concerns regarding whether or not America ought to intervene.
Currently, the need for foreign intervention is undecided. Some believe that military force is necessary to bring down the iron fist on international law. President Obama affirmed this stance August 31st, stating,
“It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm. In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”
Conversely, others believe that a war with Syria would be too rash and irresponsible – especially after all of the lives America has already devoted to Iraq – and seek a more diplomatic maneuver.