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Syria’s War Gone Toxic

Tia Bentivegna and Jessica Tang

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Syria has rocketed back into the national conscience with news of the April 4 chemical attack. One of the worst chemical attacks seen in Syria’s six-year civil war, the incident has aroused international attention and outrage at the increasing brutality of the war.

The toxic gas bombing attack took place in the rebel-held Idlib Province, killing at least 87 people (Reuters); some humanitarian groups believe as many as 100 have died (New York Times). The first bomb hit at 6:30 am, when many people were still sleeping. The bombs were dropped within about 500 meters of each other. Witnesses described the attack killing many people before they had the chance to be saved, with many women and children among the afflicted and dead (Al Jazeera).

Symptoms displayed among the victims include fainting, vomiting, frothing at the mouth, muscle spasms, difficulty breathing and suffocation. Turkey has confirmed using samples from the victims that they were exposed to sarin, a deadly nerve agent that most often kills by paralyzing the lung muscles.

Casualties from the attack may rise due to the fact that one of the area’s main hospitals was bombed and destroyed mere hours after the initial chemical attack.

As the incident rose to global attention, current United States President Donald J. Trump—strongly affected by the sight of suffering women and children—ordered a missile attack on Syria in retaliation for what he considered a deplorable act. Fifty-nine missiles, each costing about $3 million (CONFIRM), were launched at the Al-Shayrat Air Base; however, the Russian forces there were informed of the attack beforehand and evacuated both themselves and the Syrian forces at the base.

There is much contention over the perpetrator of the chemical attack. Despite numerous pictures and videos posted to social media by witnesses of the attack, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed the chemical attack was a fabrication and an excuse for U.S. forces to attack with missiles. The Syrian government maintains that they did not and would not use chemical agents against their own people and that the chemicals came from a rebel base stockpiling chemical agents that was destroyed in a bombing attack. Nonetheless, residents of the neighborhoods bombed asserted that it is populated by civilians, not fighters, and there were no military targets there that could have justified the attack. The rebels also deny responsibility.

Regardless of who committed the attack, civilian casualties were high—numbering in the hundreds—and the attack is being investigated by the UN as a possible war crime. As for the United States and its reprisal, senior Jacqueline Brevik shares her thoughts on President Trump’s decision to send off the 59 tomahawk missiles to the Al-Shayrat Air Base.

“General Mattis knows the ins and outs of the military, so I trust his judgment. I just hope we don’t do anything more drastic, like declaring all out war—that would put us into an even bigger predicament with Russia. Syria isn’t worth starting WWIII over. The chemical attack is just enough to demonstrate that we’re not to be trifled with, but I don’t want tons of American blood spilled over this. I’d say HIllary Clinton, had she been elected, would’ve put boots on the ground in Syria. She’s one of the biggest neoconservatives in America today; after all, it was her idea as Secretary of State to go after Gaddafi in Libya. So overall, I’m chill with the strike, but we should be tentative about doing anything more,” said Brevik.

In stark contrast, junior Athreya Rangavajhula believes that the United States should have remained less aggressive and far more methodical when it came to its response to the chemical attack on civilians in Syria.

“I really feel like we shouldn’t be getting involved with Syria specifically because they are allied with Russia. I don’t think it’s smart to cut off that relation that we have with Russia, to sour it more. You don’t want to make enemies with super powers like that. I feel like it just makes the most sense to sit back for a little while and let things play out. Because with the chemical attacks, the Syrian President and Russia both said that that was not their fault. Even though it’s easy to say that that’s a lie, I think for now you have to take their word at its value because without too much evidence to say that they’re lying, it’s dangerous to be like, ‘Let’s go bomb them.’ This is how world wars start, and obviously World War III wouldn’t be a good thing,” said Rangavajhula.

Now the forces in Syria are not the only ones responsible for civilian casualties and deaths in the civil war. Ironically, the United States—which strongly condemned the Syrian government for killing civilians, especially women and children—has been responsible for an uptick in civilian deaths due to its continued bombing campaign in Syria. The surge in reported deaths due to U.S. airstrikes has been so sharp that it has prompted the respected watchdog group Airwars.org to suspend its tracking of Russian airstrikes and focus on the U.S. instead.

Last March saw reports of almost 1,000 civilian casualties due to the Western-led coalition of airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, an amount which Airwars said was comparable to the worst periods of Russian bombing. The U.S. also confirmed on March 16 that it had carried out an airstrike on a mosque in Aleppo, which according to some reports killed around 42 civilians.

The recent events in Syria have been horrific and deadly, but it would be inaccurate to say that America shares no responsibility in its deaths as well.

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The student news site of Casa Grande High School
Syria’s War Gone Toxic