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04/14/2003 Archived Entry: "Syria and WMD"

The latest Mark Fiore cartoon on Rumsfeld is worth a download.

As I write this, CNN verges on accusing Syria of hiding chemical weapons -- weapons of mass destruction. Bush goes one step farther. "'We believe there are chemical weapons in Syria,' he said. The US President said the action against Iraq had shown 'we're serious about stopping weapons of mass destruction'. Asked if Syria could face military action, he said: 'They just need to cooperate'." U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz added his 2-cents worth of threats, "[T]he Syrians have been shipping killers into Iraq to try and kill Americans', adding: 'We need to think about what our policy is towards a country that harbours terrorists or harbours war criminals. There will have to be change in Syria, plainly." US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army General Tommy Franks concurred in high profile pronouncements. In an interview with the BBC, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Damascus not to become "a haven for all those people who should be brought to justice and who are trying to get out of Baghdad."Bush advisor Richard Perle warned that the US would be compelled to act against Syria if it emerged "that weapons of mass destruction had been moved there by Saddam's fallen Iraqi regime." To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

Syria denies the WMD charges, which it claims is an American attempt to divert attention away "from the terrible things going on in Iraq." There is also speculation as to whether the US is being bellicose in order to neutralize any role Syria, a major player in the UN (member of the Security Council), might play in the upcoming negotiations with Israel on the Palestinians. Syria is notoriously pro-Palestinian. Further musing about whether getting rid of Hezbollah, which Syria assists, may be part of the deal Israel is striking for co-operation on the US "road map" for a New Middle East. If so, Israel is being strangely vocal about its demands of Syria, especially given how relatively quiet it was about Iraq. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, in an interview published in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, "said Israel has a list of demands for Syria, and he said these would be best passed on by the United States. In short, Israel wants Syria to dismantle the Hezbollah guerrilla group in southern Lebanon and remove Hezbollah weapons and rockets from the area. Israel also wants Damascus to stop Iranian support for Hezbollah coming through Syrian ports." Israel also called for Syria to expell Palestinian rebel leaders. Is Israel trying to plunge the region into full scale war? Why the public and repeated statements that doom any behind-the-scenes pressure that might be brought to bear on Syria. Now if Assad gives an inch, he appears to be obeying Israel. I doubt that Mofaz is unaware of the impact such demands would have on the Arab world. This is poor way to set the stage for goodwill negotiations with the Palestinians. Or is sabotaging that process part of the purpose of speaking out?

Thank God France is speaking out again against invasion. How bad do I consider Bush's policies? He makes me miss Clinton and like the French.

I can't express my attitude over the US rhetoric on Syria/WMD any better than Julian Sanchez did in today's NoWarBlog. He writes, "Step right up ladies and gentlemen, step right up, the name of the game is to follow the biochem weapons. How about you, sir? Win a nice shiny new Empire in the middle east for your neocon sweethearts! Just lay a few batallions down on the table and point your artillery where you think they're hidden! The Iraq shell? Oh, no, so sorry, sir, would've sworn that's where they were m'self! Tell you what, though, double or nothing, and (just between us) I bet they're nextdoor here in Syria."

On the Personal Front:

Yesterday morning I had an interesting coffee-conversation with my neighbor about how to avoid bitterness, an endeavor at which she is an unqualified success. Altho her life has been a hard one by almost any standard, she rarely complains and I've never heard her malign another human being. The conversation traversed a lot of territory: her internment as a child in a WWII labor camp for Japanese-Canadians, my years of being stalked by an "ex," a family dispute with one of her sisters, my running away from home at 16.... My life has not exactly been an easy one either. I fight against bitterness every day just as I fight against becoming cynical about human nature. (Being cynical about politics is quite another matter.) This inner struggle is a matter of self-interest. Bitterness feels awful, like a constant burning in my chest that blocks the ability of laughter to rise or a smile to emerge. The emotion of bitterness literally has a taste, like metal in your mouth. Other than my neighbor, I have been more successful at keeping bitterness at bay than anyone else I know. But the war is trying. Especially when people you thought of as friends and defenders of human rights applaud the dropping of bombs and the prospect of invading Syria as tho' it were a spectator sport. The same people savage whoever questions any aspect of the war from its financial cost to the treatment of protestors by police, from Homeland Security's suspension of civil liberties to the assignment of huge reconstruction contracts to businesses aligned with Bush. "Savage" is the correct word for the reaction of these former defenders of individual rights. And it is sometimes difficult not to respond in kind. My neighbor believes that forgiveness is the answer -- not to forget but to forgive. Frankly, I don't know if there is *an* answer...and if there is, it almost certainly cannot be captured by one word. Unfortunately, I think savagery may be hardwired into human nature and to struggle with it constantly may be the best that can be done. In that struggle, many things help...including forgiveness. But a good night's sleep helps as well.

Best to all,

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