Mar 18th 2014

The Forgotten

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

Imagine the face of a little boy walking while holding his father’s hand, when suddenly the father plunges onto the ground with a bullet in his head. “Oh my God,” the boy screams, “God, please Baba don’t leave me, no, no please, please don’t leave me this way.” Another bullet shatters the boy’s head; he crumples on his father’s motionless body. United now in their tragic death, but better dead than the hell they left behind.

The story of the hundreds of thousands of children in Syria that pass through the gates of hell is yet to be told. Starving to death, burned to ashes, gassed, summarily executed, gunned down, tortured, orphaned, and displaced, the lucky ones become refugees facing an ever gloomier future.

The butcher of Damascus, Assad is sitting on his throne, a whole country he believes was rightfully bequeathed to him. The Syrian people are mere subjects who must follow his whims and dare not raise their heads and stand tall. Their quest for freedom and basic human rights was mercilessly crushed; obey or die. Many chose death over servitude and a life of subjugation.

Like his father, Assad will be remembered in the black pages of history as a bloodthirsty and ruthless tyrant whose thirst for more riches and power is ever more unquenchable.

From the very beginning, doing next to nothing to end the bloodletting in Syria was never an option. To be haunted by the misguided war in Iraq that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, including thousands of our own, or fearing that weapons may fall into the wrong hands is a poor excuse for not acting to stop the carnage of countless innocent Syrian children.

Imagine, President Obama, a whole family being gunned down; gasping for his last breath, in a fainting voice, a little boy laying next to his mother is muttering, “Mama, mama, help me, help me,” but to no avail. His voice fades away as he too succumbs to his wounds and dies.

Trying to reach an agreement with Russia was nothing but a farce from day one. President Putin is a ruthless and hypocritical dictator who has no scruples or any sense of human decency. His ambition in the Middle East trumps the life of every Syrian child. He is morally bankrupt, follows no rules, no laws and no order. Corrupt at his core, for him, the Syrian people are nothing but servants – dispensable and of no consequence.

Mr. Putin, what would you tell an orphan who has just seen his parents’ throats cut wide open, their bodies mutilated by Assad’s rabid dogs? Weeping, asking despairingly, “why didn’t you prevent their gruesome deaths, why?”

Boy, how well President Obama played into Putin’s hand, with Putin laughing his heart out. Obama fell for Putin’s chemical weapons scheme while Assad remains in power and is gaining ground. Meanwhile, tens of thousands more Syrian children have been displaced, badly injured, starved to death or killed, the country is laying in ruin and Assad is watching with his slimy smile.

Ayatollah Khamenei, you are a religious man with deep convictions, but then you send killing machines and hoodlums to maim and kill Syrian children. How dare you debase the glory of Islam by murdering innocent children in the name of God.

Have you seen the eyes of a child starving to death, staring aimlessly, his voice fading before he could whisper, “why I must die this way? For what and why I was ever born?”

When a human life becomes worthless, evil keeps on creeping and consumes ever more lives in its wake. The death of children becomes just numbers, worthless statistics, etched in the conscience of no one. What about your conscience, Ayatollah Khamenei?

Do you know that since March 2013, the number of children affected by the crisis has more than doubled from 2.3 million to more than 5.5 million? The number of children displaced inside Syria has more than tripled, from 920,000 to almost 3 million.

The number of child refugees has more than quadrupled from 260,000 to more than 1.2 million. Of these children, 425,000 are under the age of five.

What are the words that can be summoned to describe the atrocities, cruelty and savagery raging in Syria? Yet they are met with indifference and ineptitude. Western leaders can no longer hold their heads up because they have forgotten history and have forfeited the basic tenets of human decency.

Mr. Obama, it is not high insight to say that you could have ended the Syrian tragedy weeks after the breakout of violence. Inaction led to the present unfolding disaster and Syria is on its way to complete disintegration.

The consequence of doing nothing outweighs by far the consequences of letting the civil war consume what is left of Syria and its people.

However, there may be one last chance. Do not insult the Syrian people and hang their hopes and future on a Geneva III or IV conference in the search for an obscure political solution as a cover for continuing to do nothing.

Only arming vetted rebels will no longer work. The US, along with its Western allies, must immediately impose a no-fly zone, destroy Assad’s runways, disable much of his military installations and air defense systems, and degrade his infantry and open corridors to provide food and medicine to besieged communities, still without the need for a single American boot on the ground.

There are those in the administration who advocate that to prevent an even greater mayhem sweeping the nation now, Syria may well be better off with Assad than without him. They are wishfully blind.

The chaos that might follow Assad’s demise will pale compared to what will happen to Syria if the civil war continues for another two or three years, if not a decade or more.

Never forget the images of the injured little girls, the maimed, the starving and the dying. They must face the crying children, the weeping with no tears, whose bodies run dry and their crying echoes in the shadows of a world gone mad.

It is time for the greatest power on earth to bring an end to this barbarism and the utter indifference to human life. Mr. President, if you don’t end the tragedy of the Syrian people it will come to haunt us for years to come; the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.

The tragic deaths of the forgotten Syrian children will be etched in blood in our conscience; we will have to painfully endure it until we rise and reclaim our moral responsibility.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russia’s focus on Ukraine and Putin’s choice to frame this as a civilisational struggle with the west has created opportunities for China to enhance its influence elsewhere – at Russia’s expense."
Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: ”The Ukrainian army is making spectacular advances,” --- “…the European Union has fully mobilized to confront the energy crisis.” ---- “we are helping our partners in the Global South to handle the fallout from Russia’s brutal aggression and cynical weaponization of energy and food.” ---- “In short: the overall strategy is working. We must continue to support Ukraine, pressure Russia with sanctions, and help our global partners in a spirit of solidarity.”
Sep 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "In 1950, a team of sociologists, including the philosopher Theodor Adorno, conducted an empirical study, later published as The Authoritarian Personality, which ....... “If a potentially fascistic individual exists, what, precisely, is he like? What goes to make up antidemocratic thought? What are the organizing forces within the person?... what have been the determinants and what is the course of his development?”
Aug 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russian aggression certainly poses a threat; but it is a familiar one that we know how to deal with. Rising temperatures, dry riverbeds, parched landscapes, falling crop yields, acute energy shortages, and disruptions to industrial production are something else."
Aug 25th 2022
EXTRACTS: "As the revolutionary founder of a new Chinese state, Mao emphasized ideology over development. For Deng and his successors, it was the opposite: De-emphasis of ideology was viewed as necessary to boost economic growth through market-based 'reform and opening up.' Then came Xi. Initially, there was hope that his so-called 'Third Plenum Reforms' of 2013 would usher in a new era of strong economic performance. But the new ideological campaigns carried out under the general rubric of Xi Jinping Thought, including a regulatory clampdown on once-dynamic Internet platform companies and associated restrictions on online gaming, music, and private tutoring, as well as a zero-COVID policy that has led to never-ending lockdowns, have all but dashed those hopes." ----- "With the upcoming 20th Party Congress likely to usher in an unprecedented third five-year term for Xi, there is good reason to believe that China’s growth sacrifice has only just begun."
Aug 23rd 2022
EXTRACTS: "Less widely noted, however, is that the prices of many commodities fell this summer. The price of oil decreased by about 30% between early June and mid-August. The politically sensitive price of gasoline in the United States fell by 20% over the same period, from $5 per gallon to $4 per gallon. The overall index fell 12%." ---- "There are two macroeconomic reasons to think that commodity prices in general will fall further. The level of economic activity is a self-evidently important determinant of demand for commodities and therefore of their prices. Less obviously, the real interest rate is another key factor. And the current outlook for both global growth and real interest rates suggests a downward path for commodity prices."
Aug 22nd 2022
EXTRACT: "How Trump planned to use the classified documents remains a question that investigators presumably have made a high priority. Depending on the answer and the resulting charges, if any, one thing is certain: Trump will play hardball, including by amplifying his claims of victimhood at the hands of the fictional Deep State, and denying any wrongdoing in purloining the documents. His lies and hyperbole, however, don’t preclude seeking a plea deal. In his previous tangles with the law, such as his Trump University scam, he agreed to compensate the victims (in that case $25 million) after his prevarications were exhausted."
Aug 21st 2022
"On one side, there is the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, for whom all but the most partisan Tory would struggle to count many successes during her lengthy cabinet career." ---- "Rishi Sunak, whose proposed policies appear more attuned to the imperative of tackling inflation and the hardship it is causing. But on the big issues of the past few years, Sunak has been wrong. He backed Brexit from the beginning, denies the damage it is doing, and enthusiastically supported Johnson’s bid for the premiership." ---- " Which of these two can offer honesty to the British people, who deserve to be treated like grown-ups? To paraphrase the US Democratic politician Adlai Stevenson, the average man and woman are better than average."
Aug 10th 2022
EXTRACT: "Central banks are thus locked in a “debt trap”: any attempt to normalize monetary policy will cause debt-servicing burdens to spike, leading to massive insolvencies, cascading financial crises, and fallout in the real economy. ---- With governments unable to reduce high debts and deficits by spending less or raising revenues, those that can borrow in their own currency will increasingly resort to the “inflation tax”: relying on unexpected price growth to wipe out long-term nominal liabilities at fixed rates."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."
Jun 28th 2022
EXTRACT: "It is tempting to conclude that today’s central bankers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Maybe if they sit tight, they will ride out the storm. Then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker was Public Enemy Number One in the United States in the early 1980s, when he squeezed post-oil-shock inflation out of the system with double-digit interest rates. But in his later years he was revered, and became a national treasure, called on to advise successive presidents in any financial emergency. ----- But central bankers would be wise not to assume that their reputations will automatically recover, and that the status quo ante will be restored. We live in a more disputatious age than the 1980s. Public institutions are more regularly challenged and held to account by far less reverential legislators." ----- "Moreover, former central bankers have joined the chorus of critics. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, breaking the unwritten rule not to reproach one’s successors, has said that today’s Fed made “a mistake” by responding slowly to inflation. And Bailey’s immediate predecessors, Mervyn King and Mark Carney, have weighed in, too, with challenges to the BOE’s policy. The fabric of the central banking fraternity is fraying."