If August 21, 2013 did not happen in President Bashar Assad’s Syria, the Syrian civil war would have remained an internal conflict. Therefore, any attempt to attack Syria by an external force would have raised serious moral questions that need answers even if such external invasion were eventually politically and economically justifiable.
But then, August 21, 2013 happened. On this day, there was an alleged use of chemical weapons in an area near Damascus, Syria. This report has now been scientifically established beyond any reasonable doubt. There is a strong clientele relationship between Russia and President Bashar Assad of Syria. This clientele relationship has initially made both Presidents Putin and Assad to deny the use chemical weapons in Syria on August 21 2013. The falsehood in that initial denial has been affirmed by Russia’s own latest readiness-after the fact- to nudge Bashar Assad to put his evil toy of human destruction – chemical weapons -under International control.
Chemical weapon is not a plaything. Its use is deadly and infernal. Its conflagration can be total and final for the part of our humanity on whom it is inflicted. There is no word in any human language that can apprehend the complete reconfiguration of our humanity that will result from its use.
If asked to, the African mind as expressed in Yoruba thought and language, may struggle to call the use of chemical weapons and the bodily, genetic and spiritual reconfiguration of humans resulting from its use èèmọ ̀ and the “survivors” will look like “ẹbọra” and “ṣìgìdì”.
There is no word in the English language that will translate this African representation in the Yoruba thought of the disfiguration and negation of our humanity which the use of chemical weapons on people produce. The best we can say is that it is the extreme moral, physical, aesthetic, genetic reconfiguration and spiritual negation of humanity and life.
The loss of language with which to apprehend this extreme barbarity reminds us of Hannah Arendt’s-the Jewish thinker- apprehension of evil as banal. The banality in the use of chemical weapons is nothing but the African “èèmọ, ẹbọra and ṣìgìdì”.
President Bashar Assad of Syria created “èèmọ, ẹbọra and ṣìgìdì” for that part of our connected world when he unleashed chemical weapons on his people. Russia and China create “èèmọ, ẹbọra and ṣìgìdì”̀ in our global world in not telling Assad the truth about his use of chemical weapons.
For Russia and China to have allowed this for purely geopolitical calculations and leave the US alone in this fight to defend and restore our humanity, and defend our humanity’s essentially ethical nature is morally sickening, sad and depressing.
The impact of the use of chemical weapons can only be a fundamental change of our humanity –both physical and spiritual for the worse. So? You do not mess around or joke with chemical weapons. If you are human , you must unconditionally, a priori oppose its acquisition and use anywhere in the world except you are evil or you want to create “èèmọ, ẹbọra and ṣìgìdì” in our commonly connected world.
This is why President Barack Obama’s choice on this matter- in his proposal to make President Bashar Assad account for unleashing èèmọ̀ on our world is first and foremost a moral act, which to my mind is morally justified and should be strongly supported by any moral being.
I am not by political citizenship Syrian. I am African and Nigerian. But I am human, a person and a parent. In being a human and a person, I am African, Nigerian, Syrian, American and everything in the world in which our spiritual being expresses itself.
I am connected to the Syrian who “survived” President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapon but whose genetic configuration may have been permanently damaged and who must transfer this permanent damage to the world if he/she is still able to nature and nurture our world with the spiritual seed of humanity. This is morally unacceptable and must never be couched in political terms. It is first and last a moral issue.
Simply put, you do not touch our common human nature through the use chemical and biological weapons. It is grim. And in correcting that immorality, you do not commit new one by failing to seek peoples’ consent before unleashing war to correct an obvious first evil which the use of chemical weapons represent.
This is why those who argue that President Barack Obama is “weakened” because he did not strike Bashar Assad’s Syria immediately and because he went first to the American people to present the case against use of chemical weapon by President Assad miss the point in a major way. On the contrary, I think Obama’s presidency has been strengthened by his moral choice.
Before the facts become distorted again let us look closely at them. Prior to this time, President Bashar Assad has never admitted that he owns chemical weapons. If he denied owning chemical weapons, he would not admit to using them. Russia, his closest ally never publicly admitted that Assad sits on chemical weapons in Syria. Yet after Barack Obama’s moral pressure, we heard sudden information that Russia is ready to help President Assad put his chemical weapons under International Control and inspection!
In simple, plain and folk Language we see a movement by President Assad from “hey I do not have chemical weapons to I am ready to put my chemical weapons under International inspection and control if you do not attack me …” President Assad’s act and Russia’s complicity have raised serious ethical issue about truth.
This is why it is very difficult to trust the new Russian initiative to avert degrading Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons next time by so-called putting Assad’s death and evil toys under International Inspection. This is because both Russia and Syria have just shaken our moral confidence in their initial denial and later admission under pressure that indeed Bashar Assad has chemical weapons and he used them on our humanity on August 21, 2013.
So if President Obama’s moral choice has pressurized Syria and Russia to deviously and reluctantly admit that President Assad has chemical weapons and used them, how can the fact that Obama raised the issue but did not attack Assad immediately-without going to American people to seek their consent create the image that his Presidency is weakened? This must be a strange way to reason.
It must be a strange notion of “strength”. Yet even “celebrated” International Cable news personalities talk about an “Obama weakened Presidency” for not immediately attacking Assad without seeking the consent of the American people and the world through their congresses and representatives! The point is you do not cure an immorality and illegality that Assad committed by committing new immorality and illegality by not following global ethics, and the ethics and law of the American people in asking for congressional ratification to declare war.
It seems people think America should lead by playing Cowboy, Rambo and Macho in the world. Sorry, those who misunderstand Obama’s moral choice ought to know that no one leads by playing Cowboy, Rambo and Macho. Given that our common connection, our humanity is essentially ethical, it means leadership is first and foremost an ethical issue, thus you lead on the basis of strengthening our moral assumptions, intuitions and rules. This is what President Barack Obama has done. Playing Cowboy, Rambo and Macho to show mere raw and brute strength is unethical. This is what Obama’s moral choice has correctly shown by insisting that leadership is essentially an ethical issue.
So whoever controverts the objection to the use of Chemical weapons by President Assad in Syria is morally obliged to examine this poser: if President Bashar Assad and Mrs. Assad were hosting world’s children at dinner and President Putin were a guest, what would Presidents Assad and Putin tell the world’s children? Would they say the use chemical weapons is good and should be allowed? Can and will Assad do this to children?
This is the moral point because leaders and heads of countries are first humans and persons before being heads of state. And they will return to being persons and ordinary humans after being heads of state. That is Obama’s moral challenge to the world, and he is right.
Therefore, Obama’s moral choice is strength and not a weakness. And using the African moral paradigm we can actually SEE and PERCEIVE the strength and success of that moral choice which results in President Putin’s hurried move to get President Assad to put his weapons under International control.
Adeolu Ademoyo firstname.lastname@example.org is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
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