"If you tolerate this, your children will be next..."
We are at the fork in the road that leads to our future. If we go down one fork, then the future is dark, cloudy and dangerous. It's a future where dodgy regimes all over the world can get their chemistry sets out, and knock up some poison gas and use it however they want, on whomsoever they want. The other fork is one where despite the fact that bad people will do bad things - there are certain lines that are never allowed to be crossed.
We are facing a future where it is either OK to use chemical weapons - or it's not. And every rational, decent and normal person in the world really knows the answer to that dilemma. It's not ok to use chemical weapons. Ever. It's not ok to kill people - your own people or other countries people - but on a scale of 'not right' then gas is about as evil as you can get. At all stages we should have been working for a way for the civil war in Syria to have been stopped. It is not ok for people to die, by any means. But our inaction to stop something in the past is no reason for not doing it now or in the future.
We all put up with things, until they reach a point where we can't do it anymore. From our neighbour's noisy party music, through to our husband's visits to the pub... eventually we get to a point where we cannot accept that anymore and we do something about it.
We are at that point in Syria. Yes, we should not have allowed thee government to shell residential districts, but it happened and we - the right thinking people of the world - did. But the gassing of people is a point where we have to stand up and say 'enough'. You will do this no more. You will not do this. And we will make sure that the precedent is set that nobody else ever thinks they will get away with it either.
We might have to put up with a world were people kill each other and blow each other up, but we will not put up with a world where it is ok to gas people to death. To paraphrase Orwell, all killing is wrong, but some killing is more wrong than other killing.
We simply do not want a world were the use of Gas weapons is ok.
The problem is, that we are faced with a public who's perception is cynically built on previous events. But we have to remember something else. A story. A fairy story. Remember the boy who cried wolf? He said there were wolves coming to attack the sheep when there weren't. They said there were chemical weapons in Iraq, when there weren't. They walked into dodgy and dangerous wars overseas by crying 'Danger! Warning! Bad things!' even when there weren't any. They made the worse things worse than they were to justify what they wanted to happen. They made the facts fit the cause and the justification to fit the end result.
But now we find ourselves in a situation were the boy is right. The bloody wolves are circling. They are there. Mouths snarling, teeth wet from drool and slavering at the thought of doing what the hell they want out any response to it. And now when the governments who shouted so loudly in the past are shouting again, some people respond in the same way they did in the past. 'They are wrong to do this...they are warmongers...they don't want peace...they make money out of war...' Ad nauseum. But farmers, your sheep are about the be eaten. The regimes who don't care about what is right and what is good are going to get their way. If we do nothing, they will be allowed to do what they want, and they will do it all the more because we do nothing this time. Future regimes will look at our inactivity and say - "They won't do anything because they will be faced with criticism at home". We have seen the lack of appetite in the US administration for getting involved in "another foreign war".
And here is the rub. As the proverb says, "For evil to flourish, all it needs is for good men to do nothing."
If we do nothing, then evil will flourish. More people will suffer. More people will be killed. More children will be gassed.
So now is the time to stand up. And we should stand up and do it because it is the right thing to do. The perpetrators of gassing of innocents should be identified, targeted and wiped out. Yes, more killing, more destruction. But sadly, the only thing the people who do such acts actually understand is just that. They won't stop by us ignoring them. They will get more brazen. More courageous to do more bad things. And if we allow things like the gassing of civilians to go unpunished then we embolden the bad people.
And so the argument goes round, because if we tolerate this, then our children will be next.
Follow Alex Ford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ExRAFairman