RUMORS OF WAR AND BLOOD OF OUR CHILDREN.
Everywhere in the nation there are rumors of war. In New Mexico, conversations eventually turn to the situation in Syria. Yes, one hears, Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people is a crime against humanity just as the use of chemicals in the extermination of Jews by Hitler during World War II was a crime against humanity. Such delitos flagrantes were appropriately labeled for what they were—crimes against humanity.
While we are appalled by such crimes, is it the responsibility of the United States to police those delitos flagrantes? Which brings me to the nub of the question: whose blood will be spilled by that police action? It will be the blood of our children. Are those who agitate for yet another armed conflict by the United States ready to lay aside mufti for a military uniform? Shoulder a rifle on the front line? Perhaps, though I doubt it. Those agitating for war want to send the youth of our nation to fight the wars they pursue or precipitate. Are American youths the Spartans of our time?
And who says or determines that the youth of our nation belong in loco parentis to the government such that it can send them off to the wars of the nation? Indeed, when the nation is imperiled all of us must defend it como una hija querida (like a cherished child), but are we bound to defend one side or another in the internecine squabbles within or between nations in the far-flung reaches of the world? During World War II, I was a Marine and gave my all in defense of the nation. Only now after all these years has the post-traumatic-stress-disorder of that conflict surfaced in me.
Like those in other states, New Mexicans are well aware of the cost in human lives exacted by those wars. Our national cemeteries are flooded with religious markers attesting to the blood of our children spilled in wars of the nation. During the Korean Conflict and early Vietnam Era I served the nation once more as an Air Force officer (Major, USAFR). Elsewhere I have pointed out the historic role of New Mexicans as Rough Riders in the Spanish American War of 1898, and the agonizing role of New Mexicans as Japanese prisoners-of-war in consequence of the forced Bataan Death March during World War II.
Now the nation faces yet another conflict in Syria with hawkish Americans clamoring for military interdiction. Polls indicate that Americans in general are fatigued by war and want no part of yet another armed conflagration in a part of the world so distant from the United States. The president keeps reassuring us that an American intervention in Syria will not involve “boots on the ground.” Hm?
Throughout New Mexico as in other parts of the country public sentiment does not support American intervention in Syria. “Pa que?” one hears from the ancianos (the elders) “for what”? Even los veteranos (veterans) agree: A plastron of medals is no reward for the sacrifice asked of our children in conflicts that do not immediately imperil the nation. One cannot help but wonder why the nations bordering and surrounding Syria are not rising up to condemn Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people? Harking back to Shakespeare, the Syrian crisis is a tangled web woven by deception. As Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland” well knew on his way to the dark tower: that way danger lurks.
My comments here in no way are meant to endorse or support isolationism. This is a Woodrow Wilson moment which urges international unanimity of ideals and purpose. Today there is no comprehensive and universal prohibition of nuclear weapons in either customary or conventional international law. However, on July 8, 1996 the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, gave an Advisory Opinion about the Legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The 14 judges of the Court examined current treaty law, customary rules and State practice with regard to nuclear weapons and, based on their analysis, concluded unanimously that the principles and rules of international humanitarian law apply to the use of nuclear weapons. They added that the use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the principles and rules of international humanitarian law.
According to established international humanitarian law, binding on all States and on all parties to an armed conflict, the use of biological and chemical weapons is prohibited based on the ancient taboo against the use “plague and poison” in war, codified in the 1925 Geneva Protocol and subsequently in the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s explanation for a “focused shot across the Syrian bow” as a signal of American displeasure with Syria strikes me as a Goldilocks perplex of porridge that is too hot or too cold—without appropriate international support the administration doesn’t want to over-react to the situation nor does it want to hurl a fizzling fire-cracker into the tempest. There is, of course, a porridge that is “just right”—will that be the focused “shot across the Syrian bow”? Many Americans—including American Hispanics—are skeptical about that “focused shot across the Syrian bow.” There are no “fail-safe” assurances that that action will not escalate into the kinds of armed conflict that flared in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While 71% of American Hispanics enthusiastically supported President Obama’s re-election, a current PEW poll indicates that they are wary of Syrian intervention despite the humanitarian issues of the situation. As in wars past, American Hispanics will respond positively to the colors when called, but at what price? And what benefits accrue to American Hispanics for their valor—blood of our children—in such conflicts?
Finally, the emerging argument in favor of American intervention in Syria seems to be that any nation that gases and brutalizes its people must face the cíonsequences of those actions. Surely this is hypocrisy non plus ultra considering the segregation, lynchings, tear-gassing and brutalization the nation inflicted on African Americans in their struggle for equality. Hispanic New Mexicans want to hear the nation addressing them sin pelos en la langua (without double-talk).
Copyright 2013 by Dr. Felípe de Ortego y Gasca. To contact Don Felípe write: Philip.Ortego@wnmu.edu