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No to the use of killer gas, yes to peace

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It is good that someone, naturally the most powerful countries, would try to limit the barbarity of war. In this regard we commend the actions by the Americans, British, and French to punish and prevent the use of gas in Syria.

One of the dominant features of the history of mankind is the ability of man to kill. Man has always and continues to find new, more effective ways to kill animals, plants and human beings — starting with sticks and stones and evolving to nuclear weapons which can destroy the entire human population and make the planet uninhabitable for millions of years.

With the development of more efficacious technology of killing, the international community has formulated some rules on the conduct and acceptable means of killing during war. The objective is not necessarily to prevent or stop war, but to make it more humane.

Note, for example, the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners of war. From the beginning of time prisoners were tortured (from dismemberment to starvation), publicly executed (including crucifixion) or made into slaves in perpetuity.

Unfortunately, adherence to the Geneva Convention has been a matter of choice by the victors in war and the extent to which the Convention is applied varies, hence the use of killer gas in Syria.

The British and Americans have a better record than the Japanese and the Germans, ironically, after they had killed, tortured and enslaved millions of Africans for hundreds of years.

One pertinent question is: who makes the rules of war? How are the rules to be enforced and by whom? The reality is that it is might and not right that determines the answer to who makes the rules and who enforces them.

It is the most powerful countries that set the rules and attempt to enforce them. In so doing, they have arrogated to themselves the right of rule maker, judge, jury and executioner.

Another irony is that they were the countries that were involved in World War I when gas was first used. They bombed civilian populations during World War II, the Algerian War and the Vietnam War.

They have also declared themselves the only ones responsible enough to exercise a monopoly on nuclear weapons, even though the Americans were the first to drop the hydrogen bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

They will decide how war is to be conducted and the basis for making those decisions, although the evidence that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction has still not been found.

The western powers exert pressure on any country but themselves not to have nuclear weapons. That is at the heart of the conflicts with countries such as Iran and North Korea. In Asia, China, Japan, Pakistan, and India have nuclear capabilities, but no African country does.

Jamaica, as a small developing country that will probably never have nuclear weapons, has to continue to add its voice to those peace-loving nations advocating every day for a non-nuclear path to humanity's future.

And while we accept that sometimes to win the peace one has to go to war, we must remain firmly in the corner of those who believe that war should most definitely be a last resort.