Syria has violated international standards by its use of chemical weapons. But the more serious crime is that it targeted civilians. Chemical weapons were banned after WWI because they are difficult to contain. Aim one place and they are liable to blow in another direction. But many weapons produce unintended deaths of civilians because no weapon can be so precise as to insure that only its target will be killed. The military calls this collateral damage.
The real problem with Syria’s use of chemical weapons isn’t the nature of the weapon but how it was used. The targets weren’t soldiers or military installations. They were truly weapons of terrorism (intended to cause terror)because they were meant to kill men, women and children because they opposed the regime, not because they were rebel or insurgent forces.
The true human rights breach and reason for condemnation by the world community is that the Syrian government deliberately killed civilians. This wasn’t collateral damage. The government killed exactly who it meant to murder.
Targeting civilians is against international law and it is against the rules of war. Every country agrees to that. Syria should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.
The International Criminal Court is one venue in which the world can demonstrate its revulsion for such acts. What the American, French and Israeli response by-passes an important international institutions that need bolstering. A military strike, as surgical as it is meant to be, simply piles on the misery.