U.S. attack on Syria: 'Damned if you do, damned if you don't' - KMSP-TV

U.S. attack on Syria: 'Damned if you do, damned if you don't'

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President Barack Obama seems convinced that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on civilians, and that has many wondering what the next move is for the United States and when it will come.

The wait may not be long. On Wednesday night, the Pentagon announced the USS Truman, an aircraft carrier, is moving into the Persian Gulf to the south, joining the four destroyers already in the Mediterranean.

The war ships are now flanking a country of 23 million people that is roughly two thirds the size of Minnesota -- a country where 100,000 have died in civil war over the past three years.

Also on Wednesday, UN inspectors escorted by rebel gunmen got a look at the area outside Damascus where the Syrian government allegedly used poisonous sarin gas against civilians. The Assad regime denies it, the UN hasn't confirmed it -- but Obama says he has no doubt.

"Syria has one of the largest stockpiles in the world of chemical weapons," he said. "This is a volatile country in a very volatile region."

With naval vessels on standby, Obama is considering surgical strikes against military targets using Tomahawk missiles, citing the red line he drew months ago on chemical weapons.

Oren Gross, professor of international law at the University of Minnesota, said banning the use of chemical weapons is one of the few things nations can agree on.

"Between Hezbollah and al Qaeda getting control of those chemical weapons, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't," he said.

Beginning in the chemist's war -- World War I -- an estimated 100,000 died from chlorine and phosgene. Hitler used gas to kill gypsies and Jews in World War 2, and the U.S. used Agent Orange in Vietnam. All are now forbidden and their use is considered a war crime.

"Killing is killing; however, there is a notion in international law of prohibitive weapons, and the test that we use is unnecessary suffering," Gross explained.

Therein lies the power of the YouTube video and images of civilians, many of them children, who appear to be the victims of sarin nerve gas. Yet, there are those who do are not yet convinced.

"There are so many videos out there being done the same way. They're being faked," said Fadi Bchara.

Bchara and his family moved to Minnesota from Syria five years ago. As Orthodox Christians, they told FOX 9 News they support the Syrian government and fear civilian casualties if the U.S. strikes.

"I don't believe the U.S. government knows the facts, they are just assuming," Bchara said, adding that he would "love to" see evidence.

Apparently, members of Congress would as well. Roughly 100 lawmakers sent a note to Obama to request a vote before any attack; however, Congress is out of session until Sept. 8, and leaders of both parties say they don't need Congress to sign off on such a strike.

For now, it seems like it's Obama's call to make, and he says he has yet to make it.

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