Don't bomb my other country

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My country may soon bomb my country.

As a Syrian-American I am infuriated with the decision of the Obama administration (and possibly Congress) to bomb Syria if this week's peace overture fails and President Bashar Assad does not turn over his chemical weapons to international control. Which, by the way, he now has agreed to do.

Strike Syria? Support the rebels? Do you even know who they are? You should ask your elected officials if we are supporting al-Qaida and other terrorists groups in order to overthrow Bashar Assad.

We have no business bombing Syria. The potential consequences are beyond our imagination. The Middle East is a powder keg already sizzling. Bombing Syria could set the region on fire, possibly causing a disastrous domino effect.

The moment the United States strikes, Hezbollah in south Lebanon will likely send rockets into Israel. And Israel's got its eye on Iran, backer of Hezbollah. I pray none of this will happen, but this is the risk we take.

This is not a simple war against Assad and his people. It's way more complicated. I firmly believe it started as a popular uprising, but it's turned into something completely different. It's a multi-level conflict with multiple players: Sunni vs. Shiite, Iran vs. Israel, Hezbollah vs. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States vs. Iran, Russia and China, and the list goes on.

Over two years, 100,000 people have died by bombs, bullets, decapitations and other atrocities -- and the United States does nothing. But chemicals are used, 1,400 are killed and it outrages the United States -- to the point that "immediate action" is required. Suddenly it's outrageous and criminal.

Don't get me wrong, it is outrageous and criminal, but dead is dead. No matter how they died, their bodies are still cold, their lives over, their mothers grieving. And nothing can change that.

Every life is precious, but the chemical-warfare argument is aimed at inflaming passions of the American people so they will support a war they do not want or need.

Think about this carefully. Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to wear a cross and where you will be arrested for socializing with an unrelated member of the opposite sex, is funding and arming the rebels to go into the streets of Syria to fight for "freedom and democracy." Try that in the streets of Saudi Arabia and see how far you get. And we're about to back the rebels that the Saudis support? You do the math.

Extremists hijacked this revolution from the true opposition a long time ago. They found a weak spot and went in for the kill. My own sources from Syria, as well as credible news reports, say that those who hold the most power in the rebellion aren't even Syrian; they're fundamentalists from Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt with ties to al-Qaida. And they also are doing horrific things, like raping girls in front of their parents before killing them, beheading priests and slaughtering innocent people randomly.

Bashar Assad is no saint -- not by any means -- but I'd take him over the opposition any day because, while life may not have been free under his rule, daughters weren't being raped and killed before their parents' eyes. If we were supporting true nationalist revolutionaries, I would feel differently, but this is not the case.

Christians, in particular, are in serious danger. Jabhat al-Nusra, a fanatical group with ties to al-Qaida, just attacked Maaloula, a tiny Christian village where Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken. Maaloula is a beautiful, holy place that houses the monastery of Saint Thekla, where countless miracles have taken place.

Just last week, a rebel blew himself up at the entrance to the village, killing eight Syrian soldiers before besieging the town, beheading many of its residents. What business do rebels have attacking a tiny Christian village? And why is the United States supporting them?

Syria is rich in Christianity -- it is where St. Paul converted, preached and escaped prison. Now ancient churches are being bombed and burned -- just as in Iraq and Egypt.

Don't misunderstand; this is not a Muslim thing. This is a radical, extremist thing. And anybody -- Muslim or Christian -- who doesn't agree with their twisted ideology is fair game.

Do you think a U.S. strike wouldn't come back to us? Do you think Syrians would just go on with life and forget about what happened? It's only a matter of time. The anger and revenge would be multiplied 100 times.

Obama administration officials are trying to convince Americans that bombing Syria is in the interest of U.S. national security. Exactly what national security threat are we facing? If the real power within the opposition lies with extremists, then why exactly are we supporting them? To teach Assad a lesson?

We bomb Syria -- then what? The administration says "no boots on the ground." But what happens if we strike, things settle down and chemicals are used again? We can't back down.

You think credibility is an issue now? If we go in, we're not coming out for a long time.

The hypocrisy is amazing. We have the utmost respect for sovereign governments we like. But if we don't like you, we'll find a reason to overthrow you. We condemn the use of chemical weapons as a serious violation of international norms, yet we ignore the United Nations, which exists to enforce international norms. We condemn Assad for killing his own people, but isn't that what we're doing by sending our young people into war after war after war? They come home in body bags or maimed or suffering with PTSD, and now we want to run them into another war.

Americans don't want another war. We're tired. We're spent. We need to focus on our own problems.

What's the solution? I don't know. Perhaps the chemical weapons agreement will work out. Something does need to be done, but a military strike would only escalate the already volatile situation. Arm the rebels, and there's no turning back.

We elected our representatives to make our lives and the world better. It is their responsibility to come up with alternatives other than bombing a country every time there is a conflict.

God help us and those innocent victims -- on both sides -- who will die in the upcoming weeks, months and (God forbid) years. I pray we rise above this and find a peaceful resolution to this madness. It's our only hope.

opinion_commentary

Dalel Khalil is a Syrian-American Christian, born and raised in Oakland, who has reported and provided commentary for Pittsburgh radio and TV stations (www.dalelkhalil.com). She also lectures nationally on cross-cultural communication.


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