Images from Syria showing dead children lying shoulder to shoulder in rooms and video of others being treated for breathing problems has prompted international shock, and both the United States and United Nations are calling for a probe.
U.S. officials confirmed they saw "strong indications" that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces against rebels on Wednesday. In the past, President Barack Obama said proof that using biological weapons would cross a "red line" and constitutes a "game changer" regarding American involvement in the civil war overseas.
FOX 9 News spoke with Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School and former assistant secretary of state to Hillary Clinton, about whether this latest attack marks a turning point for the United States, the United Nations and other entities.
Q: Is what we're seeing in Syria -- assuming for the moment, for this discussion that it's actually happened -- enough to change where U.S. citizens are in pressing the administration to send some type of response?
A: If they used chemical weapons, it's horrendous. It should be condemned; they should be held accountable, but I also think the situation there over the past many, many months has been awful and I think the response from the United States and international community has to be much stronger than it's been.
Q: If concrete proof is deemed relevant in this last attack, what would be the appropriate response in your view?
A: Well, with or without concrete proof, given the horrendous acts of the government of Syria -- estimates of as many as, upwards of 100,000 killed -- I think the United States and the international community have got to bring more pressure to bear on the regime. That includes military pressure.
Q: Do you believe, based on what we're seeing, that the Assad regime is thumbing its nose at the Obama administration?
A: Well, if indeed the reports of use of chemical weapons are true, the fact is: The regime would not have acted if they didn't believe it could act with impunity, if it didn't believe it could act and not be held accountable. So, I think that right now, it is critically important -- if these reports are true -- that there is a very strong response from the United States and from the international community.
Q: The human element, the loss of life, civilian loss of life -- we saw it with the Kurds in Iraq. It was, at the time, the thing that seemed to resonate most with, not only with that administration but also with the American public. When chemical weapons are used, it's a different scenario. Talk about what that means in times of war.
A: The Obama administration used the term "red line" for a good reason because the international community has long recognized that the use of impact of chemical weapons in terms of pain and suffering that it creates is so abhorrent that it is outlawed by the laws of war. Frankly, it's a rule that has often been breached. The memory, the history, the legacy of the holocaust teaches us that the time to act in these situations is before -- or certainly when -- the suffering is taking place.