John Kerry is at it again. According to the BBC, the US Secretary of State has stridently asserted that the Syrian president’s use of chemical weapons, on August 21, crossed a “global red line”.
I’m curious about these “global red lines”, though. Who laid them down? Are these lines thin, thick, dotted – or kinda wiggly?
If this seems facetious, it shouldn’t. These red lines are damned odd. For instance, the red lines against horrid weapons make a large detour around the concept of drones. Over the last decade or so, America has unilaterally launched hundreds of drones across Asia and Africa, killing an estimated 3000 civilians in Pakistan alone, in pursuit of anyone who gives the President dyspepsia. To some, this might seem improper, to the point of illegality – like chemical weapons.
But maybe this is an unequal comparison: after all, with Sarin gas you have to die in prolonged spasms alongside your family, whereas with a drone your wedding party gets turned into pink mist before the doughnuts are finished in the Pentagon.
So perhaps the lawyers are right, and there is something particularly sinister about the chemical-iness of chemical weapons that makes them red-line-worthy. But even then, the red line is eccentric. Because the red line doesn’t seem especially worried by napalm (an American invention).
Technically speaking, napalm is “a mixture of naphthenic and aliphatic carboxylic acid”. I don’t know about you, but “a mixture of naphthenic and aliphatic carboxylic acid” sounds awfully “chemical” to me, and yet this weapon has been liberally used by the US army to incinerate soldiers (and luckless civilians) in many recent wars, including Gulf War 1.
So maybe the “global red line against chemical weapons” has a strange footnote which exempts chemical weapons that are devised in America? That makes sense, because the greatest anomaly, when it comes to Kerry’s global red line, is Agent Orange.
If you’re under 40, you might not have heard of Agent Orange. You probably think it’s Tony Blair’s codename, as he works tirelessly to bring peace to those bits of the Middle East he worked tirelessly to blow up. But no. Agent Orange was a chemical dropped on Indochina, with great abundance, by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. Its stated intention was to “defoliate” Vietnam, i.e, kill all the plant life so Viet Cong soldiers could not hide in forests, thus enabling America to napalm her enemies more easily.