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Bringing Law and Order to the Syrian Crisis

Finding a Murderer By Considering Opportunity, Ability and Motive

(SNN) - In the recent crime against humanity which occurred in Syria, namely the use of chemical weapons on a civilian population, let's look at who might be responsible from a practical position of Motive, Opportunity and Ability, just like in the criminal justice system we’re all familiar with through television crime dramas.

Assad certainly has the capability to have been guilty of the crime. He has the weapons. He has the means to have them fired from where the armament experts (the military version of CSI) claim they had originated. Apparently, they came from an area of land close to the attack site but still within government held territory. Assad’s motive, however, is unclear. Some claim he's just a power-crazy nutcase and did it to strike even more fear into anyone wondering whose side they should be on. Others say it was to test the resolve of the U.S., a test some are saying America has failed. Neither view is all that convincing. Playing chicken when you’re driving a SmartCar and your competitor drives a tank, is beyond foolish. Assad didn’t attain and hold power this long by being stupid.

If not Assad himself, other Syrian forces could have been culpable in this crime; a rogue general within Assad's hierarchy, for example. Opportunity and Ability would be similar to Assad's, but the motive is still murky. There’s been mention this supposed general might have a vendetta against the specific people that were devastated, although this and other theories on the supposed rogue general’s motives are equally uncompelling.

The rebels fighting the government may also have been responsible. Unlike Assad, they do have a strong motive for the attack; to frame the government and draw the world community into their fight.  Chemical weapons aren't nearly as readily available to the insurgents as they are to government forces, however, so their Ability factor is compromised, but there is little doubt they could have got somebody behind enemy lines to fire the charge which gives them Opportunity.

Another possibility is that the crime was committed by none of the above; a third party intervention, if you will. That is not out of the realm of possibility, although it should make anyone's blood run cold at the thought it might have been Israel or even the U.S. From a prosecutor's point of view, there might be issues establishing a motive, unless you subscribe to the idea that Obama is just itching to go into Syria. Why he would want to do that is unclear, although some anti-American types might suggest it is to feed their military-industrial complex or to reshape the balance of power in the rebels’ favor in order to prolong the war, since many of the factions in the fight are hostile to the west. As far as Opportunity and Ability, the U.S. certainly has the same access to the firing zone as the rebel forces and their access to chemical charges is not in question. Along with 11 other nations, the U.S. is listed as admitting to manufacturing chemical weapons along with China, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Russia, Serbia, Britain, and Bosnia/Herzegovina. Other nations, such as North Korea, are suspected of making them but have not publically stated their chemical capabilities. There is little doubt Israel could get their hands on a chemical weapon if they wished, assuming they don’t already have them. Israel has never publically admitted to having nuclear capability either, though, and it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion..

There is another possibility, too; one that would change the complexion of the issue to a degree. The chemical charge that was fired may have been an accident. Because these monstrous munitions are often handled by people who speak a different language than the manufacturer, different types of charges are color coded so trained people can recognize them for what they are. If an untrained munitions person ended up with such a charge, it might be just another rocket round to him. It could have happened on either side.

Ultimately, it might be an exercise in futility waiting for positive proof as to who actually is responsible for the outrage. It is unlikely culpability will ever be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Unlike a TV’s Law and Order, in this drama, the cops are also suspects and there is no impartial judicial system. Whatever evidence is produced to point at any of the above suspects will be shrugged off by those with a motive to dismiss the case entirely. Whatever moves the U.S. makes next will be based on a case that cannot ever, by circumstance, be airtight. The question therefore must be; what level of surety should be required before punishment is meted out? No wonder Obama is looking for congressional support. He does not want to be seen as the sole judge, jury and executioner. It would be an uncomfortable position for a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Photo by: Timothy J. Carroll flickr photostream, Some Rights Reserved, The Sage nor this article endorsed

DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.
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