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Syria: the past, the present and the terrifyingly uncertain future

Apr. 7, 2017
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Under the leadership of Donald Trump and without approval from congress, the United States ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase known as Al-Shayrat targeting military aircrafts, navigational equiptment and ammunition storage facilities. Trump made the announcement from his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida on Thursday April 6th, 2017. The United States then proceeded to drop 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Al Shayrat airfield, killing at least fifteen people. An article published this morning by The Atlantic estimated the missiles alone cost the United States and estimated $50 million. 

The act was a response to the chemical attack launched by the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, which was aimed at the northern province of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. The province was known to be housing an alliance of resistance organizations opposing Assad’s regime. The images from the attack went viral showing survivors gasping for air and foaming from the mouths which is consistent with the effects Sarin; it is twenty times more deadly than cyanide, Sarin is an organophosphate or nerve agent traditionally used as an insecticide. Sarin was originally developed in Germany in 1938 and in it’s liquid form appears odorless, colorless and tasteless. When dropped in an aerial attack, the chemical evaporates and becomes a breathable vapor. A horrific sight awaited those on the ground immediately after the attack and damage control efforts began immediately.  

via: CNN

Images of the bodies of victims in large numbers with their clothing ripped from them as rescue workers tried desperately to rinse the chemical from them to no avail shocked and frightened people all over the world. The death toll is estimated to be about 85 with at least 17 women and 20 small children. Syria has been engaged in a civil war for six years and as has been customary in the past, the Syrian government denied orchestrating the attack. In August of 2013, the Syrian government gassed 3,600 people and about half of them died as a result. 

An investigation suggested that a similar nerve agent was deployed using Soviet-era missiles. At the time, President Obama was presented a letter containing the signature of at least 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats demanding he seek congressional approval before responding with military force to any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The author of the letter was Republican congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia, who asserted retaliation without congressional consent would be unconstitutional.

via: AP

The Syrian government and Assad are allied with Vladmir Putin and Russia, which further complicates the matter. Remember: Donald Trump and his administration are actively under FBI investigation for possible ties with Russia that may have interfered with the presidential election. In response to the U.S.’s interference with Syria, Putin issued a statement explaining that the actions taken were a “significant blow” to the relationship between Russia and the United States. The decision to bomb the airfield was carried out without congressional approval, which leaves many unanswered questions. It is important to note that this raises two different legal challenges: According to U.S.  law, does the president or congress decide when to bomb another nation? According to the international laws, what is the deciding factor as to whether or not it’s permissible to bomb another nation? It is still unclear if this will be the only counter-attack against Syrian government that will be launched by the United States. 

It is also being debated whether or not attacking another nation without approval from the legislative branch of government is unconstitutional or grounds for impeachment. Furthermore, what is to stop the Trump administration from dropping bombs on other nations without congressional approval and what does that mean for us as a nation? 

What Can I Do?

  • As always, stay informed! Make sure you’re tuning into unbiased and reputable news sources so that your information is representative of the problem in entirety. Have the serious conversation about your fears and hopes for the future with your friends and family.  
  • Talk to your parents, teachers and community leaders about how your community can accommodate refugees in the wake of destruction. 
  • Donations can be made to relief organizations like American Refugee Committee, who are attempting to grapple with the destruction of the attacks and the scarcity of resources. The United Nations Children’s Fund, commonly known as UNICEF, fights for access to things like medical aid, food and clean water for the 8.4 million children affected by Syria’s civil war.
  • If you want to help but can’t donate consider hosting a coin drive, garage sale or car wash at school or  in your community. The profits can be donated to a relief organization and people will be happy to participate and contribute generously. 
  • Remember, the images and video coming out of Syria will be very graphic. The news and statistics will be startling. Politicians will make bad decisions and people will be very upset. It’s okay to look away for a minute and catch your breath, so long as you don’t ignore the problems our nation and our world are facing. Activism can be tiring and it’s okay to preserve yourself in order to continue to demand justice.