‘A Moral Obscenity’

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“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

* * *

So said Secretary of State Kerry today in summoning us to war in Syria. We kept expecting him to say that they had “personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war . . .”

It turns out that the business about rape and ears and heads and genitals, that was Young Kerry, then still a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy Reserve, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what he said we did. He was dressed in the remnant of his fatigues, on which were mounted the medals he failed to throw away. He had already been to Paris, to meet with enemy agents and to return to spout their talking points in the American political debate.

We would never urge an American GI to refuse lawful orders of an American president, and we do not do so here. We simply note that Mr. Kerry wants to rouse the country in a war where the slaughter has been, in its tens or hundreds of thousands, but a fraction of the numbers that perished in Indochina once Mr. Kerry did his part in winning our retreat from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He did so by casting his own comrades in arms as the war criminals, his own country as the villain.

Moral obscenity, indeed. We carry no brief for Bashir al-Assad. We carry no brief for the Islamists who are in arms against the Syrian regime. What we do is predict that if the President takes us into this war and if there is an escalation — if, say, Russia or Iran enters the lists — then neither Mr. Obama nor the next president nor America itself will be able to count on Mr. Kerry. If the going gets rough, he’ll prove to be a summer soldier and fall away, maybe to go treat with the enemy at a future parley at Paris. We’ve always said that history has a way of playing its tricks.

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