The first casualty of war is Truth, the second is objective journalism. The first part of that sentence is taken from Aeschylus, a Greek philosopher, and the second is a paraphrase of a speech by John Pilger, the journalist and commentator.
Let us consider two deaths. One death caused by a massive explosion of a barrel-bomb, of fearsome power and noise; delivered with precision by a hovering helicopter. Death is almost instantaneous, with limbs severed, with massive trauma to both the skull and the upper torso; massive blood loss and severe blast damage. No hope of survival, even with swift and competent medical aid.
The second death came almost silently, delivered as it was by a missile carrying a nerve gas. Sarin symptoms are as follows:-
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Small, pinpoint pupils
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Drooling and excessive sweating
- Chest tightness
- Rapid breathing
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
- Increased urination
- Slow or fast heart rate
- Low or high blood pressure
- All of the above, closely followed by certain death. Intervention, if immediate, is possibly successful, but on a very limited percentage; some would quote figures of 10% or lower. The casualties are still dead; but the dying is drawn-out and lingering.
The two types of death have been balanced, by observers, and the second death, or rather deaths, warranted 59 precision cruise missiles from two American destroyers obliterating large parts of a Syrian airbase from where the missile was carried. The first described death has been suffered by thousands who have been either fighting for the Syrian regime, or sheltering within rebel- and terrorist-held positions and ground.
My question is why now? Both victim types are equally dead. Both deaths are, to my mind, equally abhorrent. So why the discrimination in response? For over four years, the Americans have remained virtually mute within Syria, placing all their considerable force against the legitimate targets of Islamic State. But now, because the Syrians have allegedly used Sarin or equivalent on a village, Trump sends his cruise missiles in a ‘proportionate’ response to level an airbase. Against the regime of Assad, the one man who was responsible for the protection of Christians in Syria, who may have been a dictator, but is a barrier against the ‘jihadi’ forces who would set the Middle East aflame.
To my mind, President Trump has reacted almost without thinking, and fired off that devastating attack without considering the consequences. Those who lay dead on the ground are still dead; so why the alteration; why the 180 degree change in policy?