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.

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