Map image via the Syria Deeply website.

Whether or not you’ve given much thought to a U.S. military strike in Syria, you’ve inevitably heard the media rumblings surrounding the debate. Will we bomb them or not? Will we send in military forces to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power or won’t we? Should the U.S. invade and get involved in another country’s conflict or butt out, and whatever we decide to do, what are the consequences of our action or inaction?

I’ve loosely followed the Syrian conflict since the Arab Spring erupted across the middle east in 2010, but paid closer attention over the last six months as the crisis has sharply escalated. That is not to say the Assad regime has only been committing horrendous acts against the Syrian people for the past six months – the atrocities have escalated and persisted since protests against the government began early in 2011.

Twitter, which has become my main source of reliable, real-time information, has also been my primary source for information about the unfolding story in Syria. In 4 and a half years since joining Twitter, I’ve discovered what many others probably already knew – that Twitter is a fantastic network of perspective and information that when carefully curated can net useful, factual information and more accurately reflect future outcomes than any single mainstream news affiliate.

Some of the most relevant, breaking news happening around world remains un- or underreported in the mainstream, but IS being reported and talked about on Twitter, in real-time. Twitter has been talking about the crisis in Syria for two years or more, while the mainstream media has only picked it up and run with it since it (seemingly) became this huge American political issue. Same with the on-going Fukushima crisis, NDAA, the NSA PRISM scandal, CISPA and on, and on.

Regardless of facts, the mainstream is about grabbing your attention, and thus, more advertising revenue, so it behooves them to create drama where there isn’t, or divert attention away from what is the real unfolding drama, toward a more dumbed-down, trivial aspect of the matter.

What we know right now – according to the mainstream – is that a showdown is brewing between President Obama and the U.S. Congress over military intervention in Syria. The mainstream debate is about whether or not Obama will be the good guy or the bad guy in the end, whether or not he will intervene without Congressional approval, and if so, does he lose the support of the American people and the rest of the world.

What isn’t being discussed  much, is the sheer complexity of the situation in Syria or the people directly affected by the conflict. The millions who have fled to neighboring countries and are somehow surviving in ever-expanding refugee camps, as well as the communities accepting the displaced. The United Nations says the Syria refugee crisis is the worst since Rwanda.

I’m no scholar on matters of war or foreign relations, but I’ve compiled the following list of articles, broadcasts and websites which have proven useful to me, an average American, in understanding the depth and complexity of the Syrian crisis.

I don’t think I’m alone in the opinion that if the U.S. wants the support of the American people (and of the world) with regard to military intervention in Syria, they must provide undeniable proof that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and they must put forth a clearly defined, detailed strategy including specific goals, timelines and intended outcomes. Our memory of a decade-long war in Iraq and Afghanistan, predicated on false “proof” of WMDs, is far too fresh to write that blank check again any time soon. ❉

Syria Deeply
“An independent digital media project led by journalists and technologists that explores a new model of storytelling around a global crisis. Over time the hope is to add greater clarity, deeper understanding and more sustained engagement to the global conversation.”

Syria Profile: Timeline

What Are We Doing in Syria? [Video]
Sept 6th Moyers & Company, Phil Donahue, filling in for Bill Moyers, speaks with National Public Radio Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos and historian and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich about the possible repercussions of our actions in the Middle East.

Rachel Maddow: June 21, 2013 – Twice Shy skeptics object to Syrian chemical weapons evidence

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“There is no capacity, no ability to verify, to challenge, to look seriously at these issues and we are taking it on the faith of these governments, and they have a little bit of difficulty with the track record.”

Rachel Maddow: Sept. 5, 2013 – Will White House strike Syria if Congress says no?

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The history of Congress giving its approval to a President for the use of military force, and whether there is precedent for a President using military force without the authorization of Congress.

Rachel Maddow: Sept. 5, 2013 – Hans Blix on the case against Syria

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Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix’ view of Secretary of State John Kerry’s case for war and what the U.S. says about gathered intelligence.

Syria: with samples en route to labs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls on Security Council to develop “an appropriate response”

“The mandate of this team is to determine the use of chemical weapons – whether there was or not the use of chemical weapons. It’s not to determine who has used against whom. We do not have that kind of mandate at this time,” Mr. Ban said.

During the press conference, Mr. Ban reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be a serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime.

How the Rest of the World Views the American Military

“[The U.S. Military has] launched a significant overseas assault every 40 months since 1963.” – Vietnam, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya

Syria Deeply Asks: Why Did NATO Intervene in Libya, and Not in Syria?

“The decision that needs to be made is whether you are providing military aid to pick a winner. Or, are you increasing pressure on Assad to bring him to the table?”

President Obama’s Brilliant Strategy No One Seems To Recognize

One guy’s take on the “chess game” Obama might be playing to save face in the eyes of the world, yet ultimately avoid intervention in Syria by shifting the decision to Congress. I don’t agree or disagree with his point of view, but I think it’s a unique and interesting perspective.