CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Next week, after a barrage of White House appeals and special hearings, Congress is to vote on whether America should launch military strikes against the Assad dictatorship in Syria. Support for an attack is growing, but we wish the vote could be no.
It's true that Syria's civil war is ghastly, with 100,000 people killed and 2 million driven out as desperate refugees. And it's true that recent news coverage showed hundreds of children dying of apparent gas poisoning. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees said:
"Syria has become the great tragedy of this century -- a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history."
But why should America alone be the world's judge deciding who's to blame -- and the world's sole enforcer inflicting punishment? Justice should be imposed through the world community and the United Nations. America isn't the planet's lone policeman.
If the White House has clear evidence that Bashar Assad ordered gassing of his own people, the dictator should be charged with war crimes and dragged before the International Criminal Court -- preferably in chains.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seemed to say it would be illegal for America to act alone. Under international law, he said, a military strike is legal only for self-defense or when authorized by the U.N. Security Council. Ki-moon called for the United Nations to break its deadlock and find a solution for Syria's horror. But Washington is speeding toward a unilateral U.S. assault.
Syria's nightmare has become largely a sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam -- part of never-ending bloodshed that dates back for millennia. Former West Virginia newsman Mike Connell wrote this outline in the Times-Herald of Port Huron, Mich.: