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Why Is It Acceptable to Bomb and Shoot Syrian Children?

27/08/2013 12:04 BST | Updated 26/10/2013 10:12 BST

The US, the UK and France are reported to be weighing up options on what to do about the recent chemical attack on civilians in Syria. It looks increasingly likely that US and possibly UK missiles will be launched at military installations of the Assad regime - an option not so seriously considered up to this point.

But why do this now? We have seen plenty of evidence of the deaths of thousands of men, women and children by a whole host of means over the last two years - by being bombed and shelled and shot and what must be the many other ways people lose their lives in a war zone. Hundreds of thousands have been injured and made homeless and put in danger of food deprivation and suffering from exposure to the elements and to disease. All of this has gone on and yet we did not get to this point of being so close to launching missiles.

Should we assume that all these other ways of killing men women and children are acceptable but killing by chemical means is not? Of course a chemical attack on civilians is an evil act and anyone who does it should be brought to justice but why is it so much more evil than bombing and shelling and shooting civilians?

This is a simplistic point to make but since we are apparently planning to blow some things up it is worth asking why we are going to do it.

We can't even be certain of the outcome - if we helped bring down the Assad regime what would replace it? There is evidence that the rebels are far from united and we can't be certain that bringing down the Assad regime would bring peace to Syria. We can't even be certain that any post-Assad regime would even be a democratic one.

It is as if our nature does not allow any other response - why not launch a major humanitarian effort to rescue and support refugees? Why not argue for peace talks - as difficult as that would be? Why are we so limited in what is politically acceptable in western politics - if it's not blowing things up then it means nothing!

We are threatening to introduce more high explosives into an already bloody war zone because we find that killing civilians by chemical means is unacceptable - this after two years of slaughter by every other means.

Of course we can only deal with the simple narrative - the Assad regime is bad - therefore the rebels are good and military action is good and it is the only option - providing it is the cheap option.

Is it to tick a box marked 'action taken'? Is it about asserting the power of the NATO countries?

Perhaps in reality it may not achieve anything anyway - a few installations will be blown up by relatively cheap means with even more civilian casualties - and it will feed once more into the other narrative - that all we do is blow up Muslims and meanwhile the slaughter and suffering continues.