The international community is up in arms over disarmament. Or, to be more precise, Britain and the US are more than a tad miffed at Syria assuming presidency of the UN-linked Conference on Disarmament (CD).
The bone of contention centres not unreasonably on Damascus’ somewhat chequered past when it comes to chemical weapons. Though claims that the latter had been used on the Syrian people on separate occasions have been intermittently discredited by award-winning journalists Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk.
The Geneva-based CD is the single multilateral forum tasked with negotiating arms control as well as disarmament agreements. Membership extends to 65 states, including all the well-known nuclear powers. Israel is conspicuous by its absence. Areas of interest falling within the CD purview include: nuclear weapons; other WMDs; conventional weapons; reduction of military budgets and armed forces; and disarmament and international security. Presidency of the forum rotates alphabetically among member states for a four-week period. And after Switzerland comes Syria.
Yet this has not stopped the US from terming the Damascus presidency both a “travesty” and “one of the darkest days in the history” of the panel. Britain, for its part, is still playing vocal pragmatist to His Master’s Voice. Meaning that it has essentially repeated the American view while acknowledging that this is the way the procedural cookie crumbles.
Which, of course, conveniently overlooks the largest elephant in the room. Washington is the world’s most prolific weapons supplier. Indeed, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), back in March, noted that over the last five years nearly half of US arms exports have gone to the Middle East; thereby underscoring its role as dishonest broker to the region. After all, back in 2017, Trump Town signed off on a “Possible Military Sale” to Israel to the cool tune of $440 million. And then there is the astounding $350 billion arms deal inked with Saudi Arabia, also last year, to coincide with the official unveiling of the Islamic Military Alliance. It seems almost redundant to point out that the US policy is adversely affecting the lives of Palestinians and the Yemeni people, among others.
This is not to let Bashar al-Assad off the hook. Not at all. But it is to highlight the falsely contrived moral high ground to which much of the West still insists on laying claim. This is the same international community that has yet to take to task either the Brits or the Americans over the war of aggression in Iraq or, indeed, NATO’s military misadventure in Libya. To perpetuate this double standard is to feed into the myth that some lives are worth more than others. Thus the answer is not to storm out of the CD session as soon as the Syrian representative takes to the floor, as the US ambassador to the forum did. Nor is it to simply call on Damascus to surrender its seat at the Big Boy table.
For all of this is meaningless without required introspection. And this must come in the form of honest dialogue about why the West will not disarm. There is, after all, such a thing as leading by example. *
Published in Daily Times, May 30th 2018.