A military attaché in Baghdad in 1988 recalls, "The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew.”
The White House, according to declassified CIA files, “applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein's widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.”
Are Americans so much more sensitive now, or did 9/11 change everything, including all those vaunted Middle East lines in the sand?
As Obama prepares a punitive strike for behavior Reagan tacitly approved, how much more deeply mired are we in the sectarian quagmire that is destined to grow worse, no matter what we do?
Whether for political or (forgive the word) moral reasons, a Republican Congress threatens the President with “the money card” of sequestration if he moves against Syria. “Buy-in from Congress and the American people is critical if he’s going to act,” warns St. Boehner.
“The Syrian civil conflict is both a proxy war and a combustion point for spreading waves of violence,” observes David Brooks. “This didn’t start out as a religious war. But both Sunni and Shiite power players are seizing on religious symbols and sowing sectarian passions that are rippling across the region. The Saudi and Iranian powers hover in the background fueling each side.”
How and where do we draw lines in the sand against that?