Frank Harris III
5:54 PM EST, December 5, 2012
They can shoot them with bullets. They can blast them with bombs. They can stab them with knives. They can strangle them with rope. They can burn them with fire. They can drown them with water. They can juice them with electricity. They can smother them in sand.
They can kill them anyway they want.
But uh-uh, Syria. Don't you kill them with chemicals.
So said President Barack Obama Monday over the concern that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad might be considering using chemical weapons to beat back the rebels who are seeking his demise.
To use chemical weapons is the equivalent of stepping on Elvis' blue suede shoes.
To do that is to bring consequences. Perhaps, mercifully these consequences would be military intervention — by someone.
Even the Russians are said to be on board with the sentiment that chemical weapons used by their Syrian ally would be a footprint on the blue suede shoes.
But what made chemical weapons the blue suede shoes of this Syrian slaughter? What made it the proverbial line that dare not be crossed?
Does this extend to other countries as well?
Although it serves to put other countries on notice against using chemical weapons, it also gives them a guideline as to what weapons of killing are acceptable.
Shoot them, bomb them, stab them, burn them, drown them, smother them, juice them, noose them — just don't gas them.
So Assad's soldiers can kill the rebels. They can kill the rebels' families. They can kill the armed. They can kill the unarmed. They can kill the old. They can kill the new. They can kill the unborn. They can kill the just born. They can kill the combatants. They can kill the noncombatants.
Just don't kill them with chemicals.
According to the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan organization geared toward promoting public support and understanding of arms control, Syria has an extensive chemical weapons program that can deliver the weapons by aircraft, bombs, missiles and rockets.
Certainly, what the world does not need now is a war with chemical weapons. The pictures and images from the Iraq/Iran war of 1980 to1988 still linger. So bullets become more humane weapons of killing, more acceptable weapons of killing — as do the bombs and rockets and other conventional tools of killing in the arsenal of taking human lives.
'Tis the Christmas season, the holiday season. The season of peace and good will to all. The sentiment is always for a better world for everyone. The dream is for a world of love and harmony. But the impossible dream is a world with total peace, with no war, no killing.
It's just not in our human nature, it's not part of our DNA — as a review of the world's past and present clearly demonstrates. Folks have always been fighting other folks other over something since the beginning of time. They're either fighting, getting ready to fight, or winding down from a fight and thinking about the next fight.
In Syria, according to the United Nations, more than 9,000 civilians have been killed since the revolt against Syria's president began. Thousands are missing. Thousands are displaced in other countries.
The world has seen the YouTube videos and the network and cable news reports. The world has seen the newspapers and the pictures. It's not a good piece of history to look back on.
Shoot them, bomb them, stab them, burn them, drown them, smother them, juice them, noose them. A government can kill its people any way it wants, except for the blue suede shoes of chemical weapons.
It is good that a bar has been set. A line in the sand has been drawn.
With the killing in Syria going on with the whole world watching, there is the irony of hoping Syrian president Assad will step on the blue suede shoes just to force the U.S. and the world to step in and put a stop to it.
Frank Harris III is chairman of the journalism department at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant