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August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
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Getting Away with Murder: Obama and the GOP’s Vacillation on Syria

If the gassing of children is not an urgent matter than nothing is.
assad with skull

As a past critic of President Obama’s passivity in the face of Syrian slaughter, I was immensely impressed with the President’s forcefulness in holding Bashar Assad accountable for the use of sarin gas. On the contrary, it was Republican opposition to President Obama’s plans to punish Syria for gassing children that was so sorely disappointing, to say the least. Is there any greater justification for attacking a country’s military than when it engages in mass murder of children?

And yes, I know the objections. It might not be productive in stopping Assad’s regime. The strategic objectives need to be more clearly defined. Presidents can’t be cowboys and attack without Congressional approval and United Nations support. Afghanistan is still a mess, do we really need further Middle Eastern entanglements? And, of course, America is near broke.

But towering above all these considerations was the bodies of hundreds of dead kids. How do you signal to Syria and all those who would follow her example, especially Iran, that using nerve agents against innocent people will never be tolerated.

I was therefore shocked to hear the President reverse course and say that time was not pressing to punish Syria, that he would seek Congressional approval and wider support for his strike.

Let’s be clear. If the gassing of children is not an urgent matter than nothing is. Timing is everything. When the Jewish lobby in World War II asked President Roosevelt to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz, people were being gassed at a rate of 15,000 per day. Waiting a week would cost the lives of another 100,000 people.

In Syria the numbers are smaller though still horrific. Already 100,000 dead. But would we tolerate even another 400 kids being gassed? And if you are going to insist on Congressional approval – which neither Reagan, when he attacked Libya, nor Clinton when he attacked Afghanistan and Sudan, sought – then at least call Congress back from recess.

In the Jewish community we often speak of how during the holocaust not many people gave a damn as six million Jews were rapidly exterminated. So how can we as a community afford not to speak out when Arab children are gassed? Where is the outrage?

I’m not for putting boots on the ground in Syria. I’m just as weary as other Americans at Iraq and Afghanistan – and especially the ingratitude shown by so many Muslim countries that we liberated – to see American men and women die to create Islamist countries that are not fully committed to liberal democracy. I also know that America right now can’t afford much. Our national debt is a crisis of its own.

But we sure as heck can afford a few dozen cruise missiles and we sure as heck can bring the war straight to Assad’s doorstep by destroying his Presidential palaces so he’s forced to live like the animal he is in subterranean shelters. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial on Friday that we can use our missiles not just for President Obama’s declared ‘shot across the bow,’ which suggests that we won’t hit any substantive targets, but instead strike the six airfields being most used by Syria’s Air Force and effectively ground their war planes from doing further harm.

One thing we cannot do is play politics where people’s lives are concerned. This is not a time to be doing the all-American blood sport of Republican versus Democrat. I don’t give a damn why President Obama wants to strike Syria, whether it’s to salvage his credibility on his self-declared ‘red lines,’ to show Iran that he’s serious, or to protect his legacy as someone who did not sit back while children were murdered. His intention is immaterial. All that matters is the Biblical imperative: ‘Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.’ We must stop the butcher in Damascus from killing more innocent Arabs. On this President Obama is absolutely right and I’m mystified why any Republican would oppose him.

One of the principal reasons I ran for Congress as a Republican was disappointment in my liberal friends (and coming from the worlds of academic and media most of my friends are staunchly anti-Republican) in not being fully committed to fighting evil.

Palestinians, they told me, should of course not be blowing up Israeli buses. But you need to see it from their perspective. They’re humiliated with check points and road blocks. To which I always respond, there is no justification whatsoever for targeting children, excuses be damned.

Is it any different when the children who are being targeted are Kurdish, or Syrian, or Arab? They are equally God’s children. And Republicans have been great at making that point strongly, especially in the case of Saddam Hussein. Yes, we’re all Iraq-weary. But I supported the overthrow of Saddam and thought it a great moment in American history because he had murdered tens of thousands of children with mustard gas at Halabjah in April, 1988. So where are the Republican voices of outrage now, when Assad is doing the same thing?

In America we play politics with roads, and subsidies, and unemployment – all important issues. But when it comes to ‘Never Again,’ we have to speak with one voice. ‘Never again’ means just that. Never, ever, ever again. That the world will never again tolerate the mass slaughter of civilians by monsters like Assad. That civilization will never sit passively while brute thugs assail and slaughter the innocent en mass. If you use poison gas you are going to be hit by a Mack truck.

For goodness sake, let’s all get on the same page about this. President Obama has, of late, been exemplary in taking the lead on punishing Syria for atrocities. John Kerry even more so. Please, don’t falter now. Get your backbone back. “Do not murder” means just that. The Ten Commandments are not Democratic or Republican or American or Islamic. They are universal, accepted by all nations at all times.

It’s the 21st century, people. It’s time we finally get serious about stopping mass murder or our passivity will make us complicit.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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18 Responses to “Getting Away with Murder: Obama and the GOP’s Vacillation on Syria”

  1. temima says:

    What about the fact that the “rebels” are allied with – or even largely comprised of- Al Quaeda  terrorists? Do we want to be helping them? There are no innocents here, except for the children. And if we don’t go after the factories that are producing the chemical weapons, what have we gained?

  2. Nuke the damn country for all I care BUT… Where is the freaking proof it was Assad and not the other equally guilty “REBELS” that did it….. Augh!!! (Actually the whole stinking country could be asphalt for all I care). Only thing that thus incident proves is whenever ANY Muslim country get a working delivery system for a nuke…they will use it..

  3. I can understand why people would want to intervene in Syria. But let's remember that this is not the first time chemical weapons were used since this conflict began. The time to intervene was when this event first happened. Over 100,000 people died and the international community did nothing about it. Another factor to consider is that if the U.S. shot missiles into Syria, we would run the risk of this conflict expanding. Most likely it would result in Israel being hit with chemical weapons. In listening to Obama's justification for taking action in Syria, he mentioned it would threaten the security of our allies including Israel. Obama doesn't care what happens to Israel. But, it was an astute way of garnering support. I think what Obama is doing is wise. Having a debate, laying out his reasoning for taking action, and taking a vote. Whatever the results are of that vote should dictate how the U.S. will proceed.

  4. Edward Lobel says:

    From your response it is obvious you are an Obama hater! If you think "Obama doesn't care about Israel" you are greatly mistaken!

    The fact that he doesn't bang his fist on a table and say if you do anything to harm Israel I will unleash the might of the UNITED STATES and blow your country off the face of the earth in no way manner shape or form makes him not care what happens to Israel, and you should know that. If you don't then the problem is yours and not his!

  5. Edward Lobel says:

    From your response it is obvious you are an Obama hater! If you think "Obama doesn't care about Israel" you are greatly mistaken!

    The fact that he doesn't bang his fist on a table and say if you do anything to harm Israel I will unleash the might of the UNITED STATES and blow your country off the face of the earth in no way manner shape or form makes him not care what happens to Israel, and you should know that. If you don't then the problem is yours and not his!

  6. Edward Lobel says:

    As usual Rabbi Shumley is wrong! It is his republican party that is at fault! They are poised to ponce on the President no matter what decision he makes. Bomb them and they will say he didn't tell us so let's impeach him! Don't bomb them and he is a coward and we have to impeach him.

    He has done the wise thing in this case and will let the idiot republicans in congress who demanded the decision making power in this case to make the decision!

    While I do not know the right decision, aiding the government means giving a despot the right to gas his own subjects and helping the rebels gives our enemy al quida a free hand. Which decision is right is a really tough one and to err on the side of caution would be prudent.

    On the other hand if we were to nuke syria back to the stone age, we could reduce the unnecessary population and do away with the middle east problems once and for all and let everyone know not to mess with the U.S. and Israel.
    It's really a tough decisio!

  7. the problem i have with this is did Assad do it or did the rebels do it to garner support and arms for the muslim brotherhood, hamas and al qaeda? not that i think Assad is a good guy however i think he is one step above the others…:( but the truth is that none of them have any problems killing each other to further their own means.

  8. the problem i have with this is did Assad do it or did the rebels do it to garner support and arms for the muslim brotherhood, hamas and al qaeda? not that i think Assad is a good guy however i think he is one step above the others…:( but the truth is that none of them have any problems killing each other to further their own means.

  9. Tzipporah E Williams says:

    the problem i have with this is did Assad do it or did the rebels do it to garner support and arms for the muslim brotherhood, hamas and al qaeda? not that i think Assad is a good guy however i think he is one step above the others…:( but the truth is that none of them have any problems killing each other to further their own means.

  10. Tova Bar-chaim says:

    well said Tzipporah

  11. Ch Hoffman says:

    the Love Guru, former dating expert, and failed candidate on the "I'll Kiss Adelson's Behind" Ticket has as much to add to the discussion of Syria as he has in weighing in on "love and kaballah" for dummies.

    He's against Obama for being Obama, and he's against some Republicans because they're sick of being led to war while their constituents want nothing to do with it.

    If all his concerns are humanitarian, he woke up at a very convenient time. Where was he when Rwanda was going though its agony; where was he for a dozen other causes. Or is it just that Obama's on side A so he believes in his distorted heart of Limbaugh hearts that he should be on the other.

  12. Ch Hoffman says:

    It's not "Rabbi Schmuley"; it's failed candidate on the I'll Kiss Adelson's Behind Party, Boteach.

  13. Gisela Barry says:

    No way Jose – we talk about democracy to people who have no clue. Let them fight it out among themselves

  14. Big mouth Obama with his show media, he washed his hands and gave the ball to the congress, in case that the congress don't accept the US to strike, he will blame the Republicans becouse they are againt of the strike, in case that the congress would accept to strike, he also will blame the Republicans becouse they accepted, so the best that the US should not get involved in Syria, it is sad to say let them kill and eat each other, sunnies, shiites, hezbollah, alkaeda, they are also so ferous like Assad and his army, so is not a justification that the US strikes against Syria, it is to wonder that the Arab Leage says nothing, it is nonsence to start a new adventure.

  15. Dan Silagi says:

    What Obama's going to do is bomb Syria, using his authority in the War Powers Act to do so, while making the Republicans look like idiots and total hypocrites when they vote down an attack on Syria. After all, wasn't it the Right, starting with Dick Cheney, who beat the war drums back in 2003, when we went to war with Iraq? And wasn't it the Right which claimed Saddam had chemical weapons? (Turns out he actually did have a few, but they were old, obsolete, and useless.)

    Now we have incontrovertible proof that Assad used them to kill civilians — over 1,400 of them, of which about 500 were kids. Yes, we will attack him, and hopefully our attack will send a Tomahawk right up Bashar's ASSad, blowing out his brains in the process. I'm with the WSJ on this, our attack needs to do some real damage, and be more "shock" than "awe." Thus I believe Obama (and Kerry) are playing rope-a-dope with the conservatives in Congress.

    But Shmuley knows exactly why the Republicans aren't supporting Obama on this. It's because their foreign policy is identical to their domestic policy: Make Obama look bad. Period.

  16. Yechiel Baum says:

    seems like Bashir is holding his puppet Obama.

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