The Gas That Stirred the World!

Nikita Mandhani

Two years back, as a consequence of the Arab uprising and the Jasmine revolution, the citizens of Syria stood against the authoritarian government and protested for their civil rights and a broader sense of freedom. Today, two years later, more than 100,000 people have died and about 2 million have fled the country to find a shelter in the refugee camps positioned in the bordering nations of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. That’s how lives change when you stand for what you believe in, when you yearn to struggle against an autocratic rule and when you make efforts to set your government right. The history of Syria has perpetually been troubled and this Sunni-Muslim majority region has been ruled by the Alawite sect for more than four decades when Hafez-al-Assad, the then dictator and Bashar’s father, took to office in 1970. Syria’s tale always enraptured me and in the first year of this tussle, I followed the movements conscientiously. I would read about the refugees, the camps, the rebels, the government forces, the President Bashar-al-Assad and his extravagant, contemporary spouse Asma. Syria intrigued me; it took me in the interiors of its story; it made me a part of its revolt, though remotely.

However, the atrocious butchery, the assaults, the affliction didn’t stop. In due course, I got jaded with my fixation for this uprising. I sort of moved on to read about other things, other political movements, riots and conflicts. Then again, just a few days back, I was compelled to look back upon Syria and it broke my heart, once more. On 21st August, 2013, about 1429 people passed away supposedly because of a chemical attack which was instigated by their dictator and his forces against their own populace. Many researchers assert that the deaths and injuries were the effect of the ‘Sarin’ gas which is intense and venomous enough to take thousands of lives in a go. The President of US, Barrack Obama, and the Secretary of State, John Kerry, detested the act and declared that Assad had crossed the red line. They said that the US would impose a military strike in Syria and Assad would be castigated. All through this phase of affirmations and pronouncements, no one could come up with surefire evidence that the man behind these attacks was Assad himself. Assad assertively stressed that he couldn’t be held responsible without a proof. Russia, China and Iran defended him for their own selfish motives. US, Britain and France condemned him and claimed to be convinced that he used proscribed chemical weapons. He transformed the nature of war.

Aren’t you questioning the big deal behind these chemical weapons? You use bombs and guns and military forces to kill 100,000 people and the world is hushed but one day you take 1000 lives using a chemical and the entire world abhors you and decides to reprimand you. Why? Because this stuff is really ghastly in the way it affects the victims, the guiltless civilians, the environment and the very psychology of the fundamental characteristics of a war. In 1925, nearly 40 nations had united collectively to prohibit the use of chemical weapons and the Geneva Protocol was signed. In 1993, under the Chemical Weapons Convention, about 170 countries sought to forbid the production of these weapons and command their destruction because these are inimitable methods of slaughter. They lead to damaging ears, generating blisters on the body, eye injuries and an excruciating fatality which is far more painful than a typical murder. Moreover, the gas warfare has an indiscriminate impact and once used, it becomes unmanageable. Consenting to the use of these weapons would create a fear of the future. You never can have power over the profundity and stages a war can get into. It’s about defeating the opposing side anyway. Isn’t it?

At the G20 Summit, pretty recently, Russian President Putin persuaded Obama to thwart his plans of an armed attack in Syria against the regime and to employ a more diplomatic approach which wouldn’t entail bloodshed or bombardment in the country. They decided to confront Assad and instruct him to relinquish all the chemical weapons in Syria’s possession to the International agencies. Assad approved; perhaps because he wanted to avoid being assailed by the most dominant nation of the world. Obama called this step as a breakthrough, maybe because it gave him a prospect to escape the wrath of his ministry where few were in favour of intervening in Syria’s war. Besides, it helped him stay true to his year-old avowal of resorting to a tough measure if Assad crossed the red line (which he did; again in concurrence with the accepted conviction and research).

What does that say about what happened and what’s bound to ensue in the future? It might take years to take the custody of all the chemical weapons that Syria owns. The homicide will go on. The inhabitants will continue to abscond. According to widespread belief; now, none of the sides would use chemical weapons but the bombings, the shelling, the aggression, the distress of a common man wouldn’t arrive at a standstill. And yet, we won’t do anything about it. It won’t perturb us in reality until we hear the reports of another ‘Sarin’ gas attack slaying an additional 1000 people. Till then, let’s be quiet.

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Source: Salon.com

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