Syria // Only the Empire may use chemical weapons~ 6 min

Artistic rendering of white phosphorus being deployed over a city.

By Duarte Guerreiro and Nguyen.

The final phase of the Syrian war is approaching. Over the last few years, in order to expedite ending the conflict, the Syrian government has implemented reconciliation agreements in the areas that it has retaken. An amnesty has been offered to the Syrian opposition combatants who desire it in exchange for surrendering their weapons and accepting the authority of the Syrian State. For those who wish to continue fighting and for foreign combatants to which the amnesty doesn’t apply, the government has offered the chance to evacuate combat zones in the now infamous “green buses”. This approach avoids “last stand” scenarios and preserves what is left of the cities and the civilian population.

The final destination for these evacuations is Idlib on the northwest of the country, near the border with Turkey. As there are few regions left to evacuate before the march of the Syrian army and its allies to expel the jihadists, the conflict has finally reached Idlib. Over time, this zone has inevitably turned into one of the last bastions for the head-choppers.

Knowing that the bell tolls for them and that there are few places left to run to if Turkey closes its door on them, the jihadists have assumed a proactive stance. These include erecting gallows in public squares to dispel any notions amongst the locals and their own troops of reconciling with the Syrian government – along with the usual kidnappings and executions of anyone who looks at them the wrong way.

Meanwhile, the United States are feeling inconsolable about losing their bearded Al-Nusra allies in the imperialist war against the Middle East. They have thus resorted to the age old tactic of rending their garments in public view while screaming at the top of their lungs about how Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons against civilians. None other than John Bolton, one of the main proponents of the Iraq War which in turn created the conditions for the rise of ISIS, took some time from his visit to Jerusalem to threaten a “strong response” by the USA in case chemical weapons are used. Less than a month later, he publicly declared that the US might impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court members and cease all cooperation after the court considered bringing US war crimes in Afghanistan to trial. The message is clear: “us or chaos”.

Menos de um mês depois, declarou publicamente que os EUA poderiam impor sanções aos membros do Tribunal Penal Internacional e cessar toda a colaboração com este corpo depois de ter sido discutido julgar os crimes de guerra americanos no Afeganistão.

The Russian Ministry of Defense replied to these threats with a press-release which accused the USA and its allies of preparing another theatrical production for consumption by the media with faked chemical weapons attacks. In the usual infallible north-american logic, what the Syrians really need in order to be saved from the bombs of the evil dictator Assad is to be bombed by free and democratic north-american bombs.

If the accusations against the Syrian government of using chemical weapons made little sense in the past, they make even less sense now that it’s on the brink of total victory. Why use incredibly unreliable chemical weapons when they have access to regular ones that do a much better job and don’t invite retribution by hypocritical imperial powers?

And it is indeed rank hypocrisy we are witnessing. The United States has already been caught using white phosphorus during the offensive against Raqqa. The Geneva convention considers white phosphorus a chemical weapon and forbids its use against civilians and military targets near civilians. September 8 saw the most recent denunciation of its use by the US. These are far from isolated cases.

White phosphorus detonating in the air.
O fósforo branco é normalmente detonado ainda no ar, criando uma chuva de material altamente inflamável no terreno. Imagem via o site oficial do Corpo de Fuzileiros dos Estados Unidos. White phosphorus is usually detonated in mid-air, creating a rain of highly inflamable material on the terrain below. Image via the official site of the United States Marine Corps.

Many weapons of dubious legality were used during the various wars, invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by the US. These include the extensive usage of depleted uranium munitions. These aren’t banned, but there have several international attempts to prohibit its use. They are radioactive (though not on the same scale as nuclear weapons) but also toxic and cause long term damage on those that come into contact with them, whether directly or by exposure to the dust created by ammunitions who have pulverized on impact. They induce neurological damage, leukemia, birth defects and malformations, among other effects.

The usage of these ammunitions and conventional ones filled with lead and mercury has led to an increase in the number of cancer patients in Iraq. The number of children who have been particularly affected by genetic defects, leukemia and cancer keeps on rising. The total number of cases is unknown, despite the fact that there are hospitals and doctors all over the country which can be contacted by international organizations – nobody seems to care all that much. However, it is known that the number of leukemia cases in children have quadrupled and their mortality rates are the highest in the world since the US invasion.

Even US troops have been affected by the use of depleted uranium and other types of ammunition. Iraq war veterans have a greater probability of contracting lung cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic headaches and gastrointestinal problems, among other conditions. It is estimated that between 250.000 to 700.000 veterans of the Iraq wars have health problems due to exposure to toxic and radioactive substances, with depleted uranium munitions as one of the main suspect causes. About 80% of the compensation claims for health problems are denied because the US government regards as suspect the studies about the damage caused by their arsenal and the health problems of their troops.

White phosphorus munitions have also been used. This substance ignites when in contact with air and is extremely hard to extinguish. They cause terrible chemical burns that lead to death or serious injury in those affected, burning the flesh down to the bone. These munitions were used not only in Syria but also in Iraq – in the battles of Fallujah and Mossul. This constitutes a war crime, for which there were no consequences. These munitions are also a favorite tool of Israel against the Palestinians and of Saudi Arabia against the Yemenis, but it’s not a war crime demanding retribution by democratic bombs when friends of the US do it.

Young palestinian wounded by Israeli white phosphorus munitions.
15 year old Palestinian youth who was wounded by white phosphorus during Israel’s 2009 bombing campaign. Image via Wikipedia.

And these are just a few examples from recent wars. It would be possible to cite other conflicts where these same weapons were used along with others, such as Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam, which still curses generation after generation with cancer, mutations and malformations.

But what does it matter in the end? When the Geneva conventions are violated by the United States, it’s for the good of all. When they accuse their enemies of doing the same, independently of the truth, well… that’s just another opportunity for the US empire to do some more good.

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