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An Iraq War Veteran's View On The Syrian Conflict

Michael Nystrom |
September 25, 2013 | 2:38 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Justin Basset
Justin Basset

A tentative agreement outlined by the United States and Russia will prevent U.S. airstrikes on Syria if the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons is handed over to international control.

President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, calling for tough consequences for Syria if diplomacy fails and the weapons are not relinquished.

READ MORE: Obama to United Nations — Diplomacy Needed in Syria and Iran

For Justin Basset, a Marine Combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq, the idea of sending U.S. troops to war with Syria would be a mistake.   

“I think attacking Syria is stupid, I don’t think we have any business going over there,” said Basset. “We have enough problems in our country right now.  Rather than going over there, I think we should be taking care of our own people first."

If Syria continues to concede to the current plans, a war between Syria and the United States will be averted —meaning lives of both Americans and Syrians will be spared.

These circumstances are all too familiar for America. The Iraq War resulted in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars spent in the war effort. Similar to the conditions in Syria, the war focused on removing supposed weapons of mass destruction from terrorist hands and targeting the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda.

For some veterans of the Iraq War, the diplomacy exercised by the United States and Russian government regarding Syria is a welcome change from past international relations.  

During both his six-month and nine-month tours, Basset found a disconnect between his missions and the logic behind them and fears a similar outcome in Syria.

“I thought we were helping people get rid of the bad guys, but its like you know, who’s the bad guy?” asked Basset. “One guy could befriend you one minute, then the next minute he’s blasting you with an AK-47 and an RPG.” 

President Obama’s indecisiveness has been criticized regarding U.S. airstrikes on Syria. In an attempt to “save face,” the president sent a bill to Congress to allow a majority vote on the issue.

READ MORE: California's Congressional Stance on Syria

“To be honest I think the president could’ve used his head a bit better in that situation and he didn’t,” said Basset. “It’s like he had a secret agenda behind it all, and I don’t know what it was for because it just seems silly to me. [The Russian proposal] was definitely a better way to go about it than what he was thinking.”

The conflict in Syria has been the main focus of the media since August after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed hundreds of people with chemical weapons.

After his experiences in the Iraq war, Basset approaches news and politics with skepticism.

“I don’t care to watch the news and watch what’s going on because it just upsets me to no end usually,” said Basset.  “We don’t really have any control, and [the government] is going to do what they’re going to do.”  

The reasons behind the proposed U.S. attack on Syria have a seemingly straightforward approach. The U.S. wants to set a precedent of its zero tolerance on the use of chemical weapons worldwide and use Syria as an example of the acceptable threshold.  

As shown in the Iraq War, clear intentions can become clouded and not all actions are transparent for all parties involved.

For Basset, the reasoning behind the Iraq War was not discussed and his missions were given no context.

“You were just there doing a job and I rarely got any word on what was going down,” said Basset.  “Often I didn’t even know what we were doing, no questions asked, you just go do it.”

Current negotiated plans for removal of chemical weapons include on-site inspections and destruction of production equipment and materials by the first half of 2014.

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on Syria here.

Reach staff reporter Michael Nystrom here.  



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