Striking Syria: Memories of Iraq spark reader skepticism

John Kerry on Syria
Secretary of State John F. Kerry speaks on Syria at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday. He called the alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians a “moral obscenity.”
(Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images)

It isn’t just the U.S. government that’s hinting at military action against Bashar Assad’s government for its alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the use of such weapons “cannot go unanswered.” Even the president of France -- yes, that France, whose forceful opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq prompted congressional action on “freedom fries” -- declared that he was “ready to punish” the perpetrators of the chemical attack.

But judging by much of the reader reaction to a possible military strike against Damascus, you’d think the U.S. was ready to go it alone in starting another war.

The reason? Iraq.


As we all remember, the George W. Bush administration sold its preemptive invasion of Iraq in 2003 with ominous warnings of mushroom clouds and other deadly attacks against the U.S. and its allies if our military didn’t remove then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power. It’s precisely the memory of those warnings -- based on intelligence that, to put it mildly, turned out to be off base -- that’s causing many readers to question claims by the U.S. government that Assad likely used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Several reader letters on Syria will likely be published in Thursday’s paper. In the meantime, here is a selection of letters recall the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Los Angeles resident Ronald Colby says the U.S. should take its time:

“I recall very well the hysteria about Saddam Hussein killing his own people and allegedly having weapons of mass destruction. Our impetuous bombing and invasion of Iraq was and is a disaster.


“Why rush to action on Syria? They’re not going anywhere. What is the likelihood of Assad again using chemical weapons as the entire world turns opinion and cruise missiles against him?

“It’s worth a wait.”

Bob Walter of Altadena says inspectors must be given time to do their job:

“Under no circumstances should we unilaterally intervene in Syria.

“We wrongly entered into conflict with Iraq without allowing the inspectors to complete their job. It is said that we do not learn from history, but this is such recent history, how could we forget?

“Now once again in Syria, we are contemplating intervention before the inspectors have completed their assessment. And even if there is ironclad proof that chemical weapons have been used, we should not respond unilaterally but rather as part of a United Nations combined response that involves other major countries.

“We get nothing from being the policemen of the world other than hatred, lives lost and worse situations than before we began to meddle. We must step back.”

Phil Brimble of Los Angeles says we shouldn’t be so trusting of our government:


“Americans should demand more from their government than unsupported posturing before we kill people in Syria.

“Secretary of State John Kerry says that the evidence of a chemical attack on civilians by the Assad government is ‘overwhelming.’ Where is the evidence? A clear and convincing demonstration of Kerry’s claims is required, particularly since one surely scratches one’s head over the notion that the Assad regime would do the one thing it knows is likely to bring about foreign military intervention. There is no rational basis here for secrecy. ‘National security’ demands complete candor.

“Kerry dismisses U.N. efforts to collect evidence as ‘too late to be credible’ but offers nothing to prove his own assertions. The American public is in the dark and is being asked to simply accept government rhetoric as an excuse for war. Did we learn nothing from the fiasco of Iraq, when we were just asked to trust leaders who were at worst lying and at best simply wrong about weapons of mass destruction?”


McManus: Obama’s limited Syria goals

Goldberg: Martin Luther King’s real message

Chemical weapons and Syria: How do you deter a desperate despot?

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