I figured now might be as good a time to post some things I have been dwelling on lately because I don’t feel like taking the first of what will most likely be 3 showers today. Two of the things I wanted to write about are recent developments in the power politics of the Middle East: the ongoing battle for Damascus and its implications for the Syrian conflict. However, early this morning during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, CO; a former Colorado Med student walked in armed with what has now been confirmed as an AR-15 with a high capacity “barrel clip,” a handgun, and shotgun. He proceeded to open fire on the audience, hitting around 70 people killing 12. Based on what I’ve seen so far on the internet (barring some individuals), there has been a large outpouring of sympathy for the victims, as well as their friends and family. As this is a horrible tragedy, I believe there is some political response that needs to be made regarding protection against more of this gun crime. Unfortunately this has become a debate over our 2nd Amendment rights ( which seems to be done pro forma in the wake of tragedies such as this), however this argument needs to be divorced from the reactionary claims made in haste after an event like this.
I have no friends or family in CO, nor do I know any individual directly affected by this shooting, the topic of school shootings is something I am very sensitive about. Being from Illinois, a lot of my classmates ended up at Northern Illinois University, and if you remember on February 14, 2008 a disturbed graduate student walked into an auditorium during an afternoon class and opened fire killing 5 and wounding more than 20. I know of two girls that were in that class. One survived that day, and another did not. Being as removed from that high school as I sought to be as soon as the chance presented itself, I didn’t immediately recognized my deceased former classmate’s name, but my mother soon sent me a copy of the program that was passed out at her memorial, and I instantly remembered who it was and how we had spent most of high school in the same exact classrooms at the same exact time. Now, I can’t say that we were friends at all, but she was a part of my day, five times a week, for about 9 months out of the year, for over three years, and no matter how little I knew her, I still can’t believe what happened. In recent months I have been told news of acquaintances and friends passing away for a variety of different reasons, but still nothing bothers me more than what happened to her that afternoon.
What happened this morning has prompted debate about the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which explicitly states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This ‘right to bear arms’ has been touted by everything from hunters, to gun nuts, to Hollywood stars and is interpreted in a variety of ways. However, simply put; the 2nd amendment is there to allow the private citizens of the United States of America to possess firearms comparable to those that could possibly be used by an invading force or a coercive regime infringing upon the most basic freedoms of those private citizens. While it does legalize hunting and most interpretations of self-defense, that is not why it was written as one of the most important rights given to US citizens. Invariably, it is the powerful follow-up in the one-two punch that gives us the freedoms of “speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition” and the capacity to defend those in the most dire of situations.Now this young man (I hesitate to use this term but he is both young and male) used an AR-15, which has been the gun that prompts much of this debate. The AR-15 is a member of the M-16 family of rifles and in military use is fully-automatic, and certain model can fire up to 900 round a minute, yet anything sold to civilians is semi-automatic and fully legal unless modifications are made making it full-auto and illegal. This rifle has been in use since the Korean war and is still utilized in battlefields across the globe, making it comparable to machine guns used by any other nation that fields a state-funded army (as well as many de facto non-state actors. This rifle is what the forefathers were talking about in this particular tenet. The aforementioned constraint placed on civilian use make it completely legal to own, and granted, the illegalization of this firearm is no doubt, difficult to enforce. But a firearm of this caliber and power is what the citizens of this country would need to preserve our sovereignty and freedoms. Granted the Bill of Rights was written in the late 18th century when armies only had single-shot muskets at their disposal. I know this is very primitive, but in talking about explicit interpretation of this amendment (as best as I can with no legal experience), the AR-15 would be a current tool to uphold the “security of a Free state.” The 2nd Amendment debate does not have any real base here as there will most likely be a number of failings uncovered in the investigation that could have prevented or alerted people to this disaster, and I suggest they be focused upon, instead of our inalienable rights as US citizens that apply to much more.
Now in the Middle East we see normal citizens in Syria, taking up arms against their coercive, repressive government with arms that are inferior to the Russian supplied weapons used by the Assad regime’s military, yet comparable. I think, based upon their recent progress this has a little to do with the previous argument.On Tuesday, President Bashar al-Assad was targeted in a bomb attack in what I like to imagine as his ‘war room’ in Damascus. This attack provided the largest blow to the Assad regime since the beginning of the uprising in 2011, killing his Defense Minister as well as his brother-in-law who was allegedly tasked with suppression of the uprising and the Free Syrian Army. Allegedly Assad was injured and flown immediately to the seaside town of Latakia. NOw battle rages on in the streets of Damasacus, as it appears the Assad Regime (beginning in early 70’s with Bashar’s father; Hafez) is in it’s death throws. Although it is very exciting to see the Syrian people rising up against a government that seeks to preserve and consolidate power, we have seen less-than democratic results in almost every case exhibited by the Arab Spring. The Assad family, most of the government and military are Alawites which is a sect of Shi’ite Muslim belief. Persecuted for much of Syria’s history, as they came to power in a bloodless coup in 1970 building strong ties to Iran over time. They make up around 15% of the Syrian population, yet hold most of the political power int he country and have utilized it with crushing statements of deadly power (the shelling of Hama, 1982). For fear of extermination of his government and power there is significant belief that Bashar will use chemical weapons as a last-ditch effort to crush the rebellion and hold onto power. This is a scary sentiment as they have a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons including “sarin, mustard gas and VX” that are well defended and difficult to locate. It is obvious that Assad does not care about the survival of his countrymen and may be seeking a ‘final solution’ to the uprising within his borders. Worst case scenario is that the weapons are used, The US would be compelled to intervene, but is it the right choice? This is a difficult question as “75,000” troops would be needed to alone fortify these stockpiles, yet would it be worth it to inject ourselves into an already precarious situation that has huge regional implications. It pains me to say this, but I am torn on what to do. Good thing I have no decision to make.
Let’s say for a moment, that the Assad Regime does fall, violently. Then, the enigmatic Free Syrian Army will most likely take control, largely Sunni and war-weary there is danger of violent backlash against Alawites, as well as other other members of the power structure. This conflict has been characterized by strong sectarianism, and reciprocated attacks to and by Sunni Muslims have been occurring from the very beginning, and I highly doubt it will end. This violence directed towards Shi’ites will no doubt anger and compel localized actors to react. Iran is Syria’s closest ally, and overwhelmingly Shi’ite. They have been providing arms and ammunition to the Syrian army since before the conflict even began, and will most likely not be complacent in watching their closest Shi’ite allies, who have large CW stockpiles, fall into the disorganized hands of a belligerent liberation group. This brings up the topic of Hizballah, Iran’s proxy non-state force in the region. Centered in Lebanon, which shares a Southwestern border with Syria, they have traditionally fought for people who embody their vision of the “oppressed.” Yet in the wake of the bombing in Damascus, Hizballah leader Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, denounced the attacks which are so very similar to those that characterize his own organization, because of the close ties to the Assad regime. in my recent research, Hizballah defines oppression in three levels: oppression done by the Israelis and their ‘US puppets,’ those living in occupied territories, and finally those who live under coercive regime. The savagery unleashed upon the Syrian can be easily described as ‘oppression,’ yet Assad’s supply of rockets to the Gaza Strip to fight the Israeli occupation overrides all other parts of the conflict. As the Arab region is changing (I won’t say ‘evolving’ until I see much more progress), the regional dynamics have evolved as Muslims have recognized their oppressive governments to be more of an imminent threat than the Zionists. However Hizballah does not recognize this and refuses to change as well as the number one threat is Israel, regardless of the uneasy peace experience between Israel and its neighbors, and not the murder happening to its East. I thought this would be an important step for a powerful political and terrorist presence to have a less Israeli-centric view on what is right and what is wrong. Unfortnuately the power held by Hizballah could escalate this conflict even after Assad loses power.
This is about all I can say for now as I need to shower (really bad now) and more homework to do. As these events unfold I hope to look even deeper into them, but for now that will be all. I do not really think anyone will read this, but I wanted to express some views I have on the situations, and hope I was not misleading, incorrect, or demagogic. Thanks.