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C O M M E N TA R Y

Syrian showdown (MCT) Hundreds of victims streamed into Damascus-area hospitals last week, all suffering from the same symptoms. They trembled. They had blurred vision. They gasped for breath. They convulsed. And then many died. Those are the classic signs of chemical weapons poisoning, and they provide a graphic reminder of why these horrific weapons were banned after World War I by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. “Only 4 percent of all battlefield deaths in the Great War had been caused by gas, yet the foul nature of those deaths meant that gas held a particular terror in the public imagination,” writes Andrew Roberts in the Wall Street Journal. “Since 1925, it has only been countries that are recognized to be outside the bounds of civilization that have taken recourse to it.” The U.S. moved closer Monday to a declaration that President Bashar Assad’s Syria joined that shameful list last week. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was “undeniable.” “Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses,” Kerry said. President Barack Obama has warned Assad that if he “made the tragic mistake” of deploying chemical weapons, “there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.” There are strong indications that America and its allies are preparing to launch military action against Assad. Such action may not be imminent. If a response is launched, one possibility is the use of cruise missiles against the heart of Assad’s forces. Any response will be most effective if mounted by a large coalition of NATO allies and Arab nations. Realistically, there are limits to the damage the U.S. and its allies can inflict from airstrikes alone. Such attacks may weaken Assad and help the rebels regain lost ground. They would, without doubt, demonstrate that the use of chemical weapons invites a punishing response. This is vital. A sharp military retaliation by the U.S. and its allies will show not only the Syrian strongman but other dictators around the globe that they cannot deploy such terrible weapons with impunity. That anyone who dares use these weapons will pay a steep price. That the world will not shrug and look away. The war in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people with conventional weapons and sent more than a million people fleeing from their homes. Many Americans may ask, if the U.S. did not intervene to stop those deaths, why should it act now? Because the use of chemical weapons is a red line drawn not just by the U.S. but by the entire world, to protect civilians. The damage from chemical agents, like nuclear weapons, cannot be finely targeted. Such weapons can kill wide swaths of people in a matter of seconds or minutes. They pose a special risk to civilians. These are weapons that many governments possess but few ever imagine using. The 1925 Geneva Protocol said the prohibition against chemical weapons “shall be universally accepted as part of International Law, binding alike the conscience and the practice of nations.” Note that phrase: The conscience and the practice of nations. For nearly a century, nearly every government has abided by this treaty, forswearing use of such weapons. Were that to change, wars across the globe would be even more destructive and ruinous. Assad may have calculated that he will not be caught or punished for a war crime. That he can win his civil war by unleashing everescalating horrors upon innocent civilians, including women and children. The world needs to show him that he is wrong. This editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Opinion

PAGE 6A THURSDAY AUGUST 29, 2013

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V I L L AG E I D I OT

The state of the state fair It used to be that if your body fries and fried chicken are availwas tattooed from head to toe, you able almost everywhere, as are wore large hoop earrings and 50 blooming onions and fried clams. necklaces, sported a beard and But until someone opens a chain of rode a unicycle, the only job you franchises called “International could get was in a circus sideshow, House of Funnel Cakes” or “Fried or running a midway ride for a Twinkie Hut,” you pretty much traveling carnival. Now, you can have to go to a state or county fair JIM MULLEN to scratch that particular itch. be a basketball player, a famous chef, a star in a reality show, or Sure, there are always new culiyou could just be an admissionnary innovations, many including paying visitor to the state fair — bacon — chicken-fried bacon, without being one of the attractions. roasted bacon-wrapped corn, chocolateOf course, the visitors to the state fair covered bacon. But the new height of fryare, at least for me, the big attractions. olator art is more than simply selecting a That, and rabbits the size of small cars, foodstuff, dipping it in batter, tossing it cows the size of big cars and chickens that into a wire basket and lowering it to its look as if they are wearing hats in a royal greasy death. Like a pickle or a BLT, it is a wedding. But still, the animals come in a combination of unlikely things. I am talkdistant second to the people. ing about a peanut butter, bacon and What kind of crazy, nutty, fruitcake-batty banana bomb. person do you have to be to eat a deep-fat The vendor’s menu featured a long list of fried Oreo? Oh yeah — me. It’s the state the usual suspects for frying: Oreos, fair. You gotta do it. At first, my goal this Twinkies, Snickers bars. But at the bottom year was to spend the day only eating food it said, “Peanut butter, bacon and banana.” that came on a stick. But except for the tra“Is that a sandwich?” I asked. ditional corn dog and the ever-popular “No,” said a young man holding a fistful chocolate-covered frozen banana, the on-aof five-dollar bills. It’s peanut butter, bacon stick pickings were slim. I’m nothing if and banana.” not adaptable, and quickly changed my It was hard to picture what I would actugoal to only eating things that were deepally be getting for my money, but there was fat fried. Now, you don’t have to go to the a long line behind me and a few insulting state fair to eat deep-fat fried food. French stage whispers about me holding things

up. “I’ll take one.” The cashier takes my bill and yells over his shoulder to the cook, “One Dead Elvis!” Seconds later I was handed a softballsized blob of hot, fried goodness on a paper plate. The goodness was not the banana. A deep-fat fried banana tastes like baby food. The peanut butter was problematic, too. Hot peanut butter hits the relatively cool roof of your mouth and solidifies into a protective shell. It takes the work of a finger, a mirror and a spork to remove it. I probably should have used my own finger, but I do want to thank the stranger who finally pulled it out. The bacon, however, was sublime. A poem of pork, a song of swine, a melody of meat. Perfect with cheesy fries and a nonvintage red wine slurpy. Of course, nothing lasts forever. The hottest thing in novelty food right now is the cronut — the head-on collision of a croissant and a donut — and it has people standing in block-long lines in the few big cities that have it. Next year, you can bet it will be the hot new thing on the carnival, county and state fair circuit. Can the Dead Elvis stand up to the challenge? Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.

POLITICS

A dream from the mountain The 1963 March on Washington ring. was a watershed in the fight for Over the years, I’ve thought equality, opportunity and affirabout that passage. I’ve studied mative action. Let us not forget the nuances of that speech, felt that it was a March on Washingits words echo in my heart. But I ton for jobs and freedom. Dr. wondered: Why name so many Martin Luther King Jr. and the mountains in so many states? leaders of the civil rights moveAnd as I thought about what DONNA ment understood that without Chief Justice Roberts said, and jobs, there was no freedom. They BRAZILE as I tried to find the words to also understood that while comexpress what I know to be true, petition might be good for busithat America has not changed as ness, without cooperation there is no much as it needs, I came back, as I often business. do, to Dr. King’s dream. And I realized In 50 years, we have made a lot of why the chief justice was projecting his progress. We’re no longer surprised to own sense of privilege rather than find minorities in positions of responsireflecting the reality of America today. bility or in the public eye. We don’t have You see, freedom can only ring from to worry about the first African-Amerithe mountainside if someone climbs that can this or the first Hispanic that. A lot mountain and rings the bell. Someone of glass ceilings have been broken: has to have that job. women Supreme Court justices — more But climbing a mountain isn’t steady diverse than the men; black head coaches progress up and always forward. There in the NFL; an African-American presiare detours, twists and backward steps, dent. Next up, maybe a woman president. retracing and loose footing. What I see, Looking over the political and social and what all of us who dedicate every landscape since the March on Washingday to the proposition that we must work ton for jobs and freedom, back in August together toward equality in the work1963, it’s hard to argue with Chief Jusplace, must see, is that we are still climbtice John Roberts, who wrote, “Our coun- ing the mountain to ring the bell of freetry has changed.” He’s right, to an dom — that freedom does not yet ring extent. America has changed. In many from Stone Mountain of Georgia or from ways, it’s changed for the better. any of the mountains Dr. King named. And yet ... Because freedom can ring only when the The conclusion of Martin Luther King self-evident truth that all people are creJr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech remains as ated equal is expressed in that most funpoignant and as inspiring and as reledamental proving ground — the workvant today as it was 50 years ago. Go lisplace. ten to it again. He talked of mountains, We have won many battles. But if we saying, “With this faith” — the faith that thought that a battle once fought and America will live up to its promise — won is won forever — well, we need only “we will be able to hew out of the mounlook at recent events. tain of despair a stone of hope.” He quotWe have had too many attempts to ed the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” restrict freedom — freedom that begins which concludes, “from every mountain- with creating more access to the voting side, let freedom ring,” and then named booth, not less; freedom that requires mountain after mountain — let freedom more reasoned discussion, not more talk-

ing points. We have had too much indifference to jobs; we’ve had lip service. But what we need is a commitment to education, to health care (you can’t work if you’re sick), and to the industries of the future. Jobs require cooperation, compromise, a strong infrastructure, public investment and private enterprise. It is easy to teeter on the ledge of the mountain of despair when we consider the implications of decisions such as the Supreme Court’s in the affirmative action case Fisher v. Texas. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said in dissent, “only an ostrich could regard the supposedly neutral alternatives as race unconscious.” So how do we avoid being an ostrich? How do we respond to the supercilious dismissal of facts? How can we find our way to a post-racial society in the midst of all this polarization and hyperpartisanship, where even the mention of civil rights can create a “mad dog” response (sometimes on both sides)? I think we begin by not just remembering, but embracing what Dr. King told Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek,” when he told her the importance of her character: “We will be seen as we should be seen every day — as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space.” And further, while we may be black or female or Jewish or Hispanic or male, those are not our roles. Our role is to work together in mutual respect, each with his or her talents, through increased acts of goodness and kindness, toward a more perfect union. Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News, and a contributing columnist to Ms. Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.

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