By Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin
Four years ago, massive citizen opposition and mobilization stopped a possible U.S. military attack on the Assad government of Syria that many predicted would have made the terrible conflict even worse. Once again, we need to stop an escalation of that dreadful war and instead use this tragedy as an impetus for a negotiated settlement.
In 2013 President Obama's threat of intervention came in response to the horrible chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria that killed between 280 and 1,000 people. Instead, the Russian government brokered a deal with the Assad regime for the international community to destroy its chemical arsenal on a U.S.-provided ship. But UN investigators reported that in 2014 and 2015, both the Syrian government and Islamic State forces engaged in chemical attacks.
Now, four years later, another large chemical cloud has killed at least 70 people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, and President Trump is threatening military action against the Assad regime.
The U. S. military is already heavily involved in the Syrian quagmire. There are about 500 Special Operations forces, 200 Rangers and 200 Marines stationed there to advise various groups fighting the Syrian government and ISIS, and the Trump administration has been contemplating sending 1,000 more troops to fight ISIS. To bolster the Assad government, the Russian government has mobilized its largest military deployment outside its territory in decades.
The U.S. and Russian militaries have daily contact to sort out airspace for bombing the parts of Syria each wants to incinerate. Senior military officials from both countries have met in Turkey, a country that has shot down one Russian jet and which hosts U.S. aircraft that bomb Syria.
This recent chemical attack is just the latest in a war that has taken the lives of over 400,000 Syrians. If the Trump administration decides to escalate US military involvement by bombing the Syrian government's power centers of Damascus and Aleppo and pushing rebel fighters to hold territory for a new government, the carnage--and chaos--could well increase.