It seems terribly ironic that this confederacy of dunces makes up the nation’s political elite and must now decide whether the U.S. military will enter its third major combat enterprise in a decade — a decade that has seen staggering wages, a debilitating recession and a dying American dream.
Speaking in the Rose Garden on Saturday, President Obama admonished members of Congress to consider this question: “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”
It’s a critical question, without an easy answer.
According to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 40,146 civilians have been killed during the 29-month-long civil war, including more than 5,800 children. The alleged chemical-weapons attack that prompted Obama to consider military strikes reportedly took the lives of at least 426 children.
Guns are not gas attacks or bombs, but they can be equally lethal. And more American children are dying in peacetime over the course of a few years than in any Middle Eastern wartime battle currently being waged.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,694 children and teens died from guns in 2010 alone (pdf). U.S. children and teens are 17 times more likely to die from a gun than their peers in 25 other high-income countries combined. Although American children make up 43 percent of all children and teens of the other top 25 industrialized countries, they represent 93 percent of all children killed by guns (pdf). American children were 32 times more likely to die from gun homicide and 10 times more likely to die from a gun accident or gun suicide. The Children’s Defense Fund reports that in 2010, U.S. child death rates were more than four times higher than in Canada, the country with the next-highest rate, and nearly seven times higher than in Israel — a nation that is arguably in a state of perpetual proxy warfare (pdf).
Slate estimates that as of September 2013, roughly 22,981 people — many of them children and teens — have died from guns in the U.S. since the Newtown shootings.
As the nation weighs the meaning of war and the international responsibility to act in the face of unspeakable violence, it is time for congressional Republicans and Democrats to value the lives of American children being massacred on U.S. soil and respond — with legislative force — before authorizing billions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to stop the massacre of children thousands of miles away.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington, Arise America and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.