According to Vice President Joe Biden, there is "no doubt" that chemical weapons were used by the regime -- and not, as the al-Assad government has claimed, by rebel forces.
The victims suffered terrible and painful deaths. Many experts are concluding that most likely, a nerve agent such as sarin was deployed. Sarin is a type of organophosphate, a class of chemicals used for making herbicides, insecticides and nerve gases.
The effects of sarin and other organophosphates on the human body are profound and shocking and can be long-lasting. Some exposures have left the surviving victims paralyzed for weeks, with perhaps permanent liver malfunctions and lingering neurological dysfunctions.
Organophosphates disintegrate in a matter of hours. But during their comparatively brief period of volatile danger, the deadly molecules can pass through human skin, nostrils, lungs and eyes to enter the bloodstream and then the brain. If enough of it gets inside the brain to saturate the nervous system, an agonizing death follows. Read more ...
Laurie Garrett is senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
Alex Castellanos: GOP shouldn't bail out Obama's floundering foreign policy
Our president is lost at sea again, in an ocean of equally bad options.
This president is an intellectual. He seems to believe war is the failure of lesser minds to find a reasonable alternative. Does President Barack Obama take America to war in Syria when, by disposition, such barbarism is not in him? Or does our president do nothing, permitting the continued slaughter of innocents while Bashar al-Assad dances across the bright "red line" painted by the leader of the free world?
Bad options all around. It was not out of character for this uncertain man to leave even his cherished golf game to reverse the course his secretary of state charted only 24 hours before. Read more...
Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, is a Republican consultant and the co-founder of Purple Strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast
David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman: On Syria, Obama must show strong grip
For Obama, it is also possible that the delay for a congressional vote will one day be seen as tactically shrewd.
Already, he is receiving more help internationally. Saudi Arabia has come out publicly for military action, the Arab League has toughened its stance, and the NATO secretary general has now called for punishment of the al-Assad regime for using chemical weapons. Obama's trip to the G-20 next week gives him a chance to round up more support.
But there is no doubt that he and his team still have a lot of work to do to convince the skeptics, and nowhere is that more important than with the American public. Members of Congress know full well how uneasy many of their constituents are. They will soon be demanding that the president win over more of the public as a price for their own support. There is a good chance we will hear an address from the Oval Office on the eve of congressional voting. Read more ..
David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter. Michael Zuckerman, David Gergen's former research assistant, is on staff at the Kennedy School and will be entering Harvard Law School.
Patrick M. Regan: Syria strike would put peace further out of reach
An attack on the Syrian military by the United States would send a message to al-Assad, but it is not clear if Obama has any strategic objective beyond that. Whether he has such a plan or not, any U.S. attack will have implications for the civil war, no matter how much Obama says otherwise. Read more...
Patrick M. Regan is a professor of peace studies and political science at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. He is the author of "Civil Wars and Foreign Powers" (University of Michigan Press, 2000) and "Sixteen Million One" (Paradigm, 2009), which examines the causes, consequences and possible solutions to civil wars.
William Hartung: Don't use Syria to pump up Pentagon spending
Using Syria as an excuse to hold off on Pentagon cuts would be an endorsement of the tens of billions of dollars in waste that exist in the current Department of Defense budget. And it would postpone a long overdue reshaping of the U.S. military to address a world increasingly dominated by non-traditional threats like cyber-attacks, climate change, epidemics of disease, and the spread of nuclear weapons. Read more...
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Follow him on Twitter: @WilliamHartung
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