‘I could see gas masks all around and [the fighters] were all talking about this. Everyone was already having problems with their eyes. One day I did an interview with the commander of the little position. These guys are used to shelling, fighting, snipers. That’s their life. But chemicals, you never know. It has a real psychological effect. You cannot smell it or see it for certain. Sometimes there is not even smoke.
At first I was scared with what I saw and what I was carrying, because we knew it was something that could change everything….My colleague and I had a long argument. Should we release everything when we were stuck in Damascus? Do we run the story and send it to the newspapers right away? But then we would be a bigger target, so we decided to not do it.’
Image by Laurent Van der Stockt/Reportage by Getty Images, from Nerve Gas in Syria
The boneheaded war in Iraq is claiming tens of thousands more lives now that it’s tied the hands of the US and allies from intervening in the Middle East when something really has to be done. There is no win in sight for either side, and even when arms are eventually lain down what will remain but sectarian conflict, a ruined infrastructure, a lost dream of democracy for what had been one of the most stable nations in the region, hundreds of thousands dead and countless lost landmarks and cultural icons from the birthplace of civilization.
Politics don’t matter, the past doesn’t matter, the fact that the US has never properly lived up to the image it likes to display of helping the rest of the world achieve democracy and intervening in atrocities doesn’t matter, that the government wants to pretend this country hasn’t toppled and instated dozens of governments over the years around the world but can’t be involved now doesn’t matter, that this threatens to be a new Cold War like proxy war following the renewed tensions between the US and Russia doesn’t matter, that there is no easy solution in sight doesn’t matter, that the economy isn’t strong doesn’t matter; all that matters is now and what is happening, human to human and talking and politicking has let the worst humanitarian crisis in the world fester, led to the largest conflict migration in generations and continues to allow torture, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons to stand.
It doesn’t have to be boots on the ground to turn the tide, Libya proved that, but more importantly the US should have been using the Arab Spring as an opportunity to live up to the false buzzword of “exporting democracy” and earn back a positive reputation on the world stage through advising and aid. We still can.
Mincing words and debating non-intervention while the bullets flew left a millions dead in Rwanda, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Chile, etc., don’t let more nations join that shameful list.