We the People: Moving ahead on Syria

Could it be that Americans, although they remember history, are still doomed to allow it to be repeated?

President Obama at the G20 meeting world economic summit is being questioned about how the U.S. will respond to evidence that Syria’s President Assad used chemical weapons, probably nerve gas, against civilians in his attempt to suppress a violent insurrection.

The American people have been lied to before about threats from “weapons of mass destruction” and the American people are weary of almost constant active armed conflict around the globe for the past dozen years.

However, the evidence seems to support the allegation that Assad — who obtained power from his dictator father — has used weapons outlawed by international law against civilians.

We have a choice to make and knowing what the choice is does not make it any less difficult. President Obama will be criticized for moving too slowly and for moving too quickly. He will be excoriated for taking any action at all and vilified if he takes no action. This pressure comes with the job.

It is the right thing to seek Congressional approval before contemplating action in Syria’s civil war but, if none is forthcoming, then he still has the option to use police powers under the appropriate circumstances.

In Congressional hearings, one representative complained to Secretary Kerry that he received 300 e-mails against taking action and none in support. The speaker failed to say if the communications were from one or three hundred voters, but considering that there must be more than 100,000 voters in the district, it is not statistically significant.

Our representatives have to determine first the right thing to do under the circumstances. Is there a sufficient moral imperative that the U.S. should use its military power within another sovereign nation during a civil war?

If the actions complained of rise to level that decent members of the world community would agree that action must be taken, then the decision is easy. The world is not of the same mind. Russia is opposed to action, England is not ready to join in any action and other nations support action.

The U.S. on its own must decide if the evidence establishes that Assad used nerve gas against civilian non-combatants; then the U.S. must act. If we have learned anything from the past, we learned that tyrants and murderers are emboldened when people fail to act.

If President Obama follows the evidence and adopts a cautious and deliberate path to action, then he should not be criticized for the ultimate decision itself. It may be true that the U.S. should not commit troops or overwhelming force in another nation’s civil war, but we should never sit on our hands or be intimidated into inaction.

We have a responsibility to our citizens and after them to the rest of the world. We cannot right every wrong or take up every fight, but we should be ready to do our part in every effort to prevent crimes against humanity. If the Assad regime used nerve gas, then they have done just that.


The mayoral primary will be a hotly contested affair and all citizens who care about the future of the city need to get out and vote. Lawyers are still fighting out the future of LICH and Interfaith Medical Center, and our next mayor has serious decisions to make about health care in New York City.

Meanwhile, the federal courts are steamrolling ahead with a plan for New York City’s public safety. Judge Scheindlin (her name is not on any ballot) has appointed an overseer for her plan for the NYPD.

The former director of the VERA Institute will ensure that ties between the community and the Police Department are strengthened. The judge envisions a “remedial process” to reform the Police Department so that it obeys the law.

I don’t know if the judge will also provide the budget line to pay for this title and department, and the pension and HR cost that will go with them. Hopefully, the next mayor may be able to reacquire control of the Police Department and be accountable to the people instead of a lifetime appointee to the federal bench.

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