The End of Syria

Janine di Giovanni
The End of Syria

Happy Easter, Orthodox Christians of Syria.

If you were able to celebrate the holiday on Sunday, that is. Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. But not for you.

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I wonder how many Syrian people actually enjoyed their holiday. Or how many have recently enjoyed the beauty of their country: the rolling olive groves, the ancient ruins, the multi-cultural bazaars now bombed to oblivion.

They should enjoy what they can. At this rate, the country that once was Syria will probably not exist next year. Because while the bloated bureaucrats who run the once-noble United Nations send their children to expensive private schools on our dime, and enjoy tax-free pensions, Syria is quickly going down the tubes.

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Just as it failed us in Bosnia and Rwanda, in Kosovo and Iraq, the U.N.—founded with such promise in the wake of World War II’s atrocities—is failing us on Syria. Of course, they will say it is not their fault. They will say it is the donor states. They will say Russia and China are blocking the Security Council from action. They will say Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, an embarrassment at the best of times, is sympathetic to the Syrian cause.

But let’s not just blame the United Nations. Let us look to our own American government, which has evidence suggesting that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has crossed a red line by using chemical weapons President Obama himself has claimed that such an act would be a “game changer,” but appears too terrified to intervene unilaterally.

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It’s easy to blame the whole diplomatic mess on that horrible clichéd expression “the fog of war.” On Monday, Reuters reported that the U.N.  Human Rights Commission in Geneva is saying that chemical weapons are being used, but by the rebel forces fighting Assad. Later that same day, the U.N. distanced itself from that claim, saying there was not yet any conclusive evidence of chemical weapons.

Here’s what we do know. We know there are no good guys in this war. This is not Bosnia, where there were more clearly defined good guys and bad guys. We have jihadists running around capturing journalists; we have Kurds fighting the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo; we have all the makings of a bloody protracted civil war.

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We also have the sad, sad statistics: 1.4 million refugees huddling in camps or roaming borders;   70,000 dead in 26 months; human-rights violations left right and center. And this week saw the massacres of women and children in Baniyas and al-Bayda.  According to the BBC, the Syrian government says they were “driving back terrorists.”

Yeah, right. Women and children terrorists.

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We can add this sad roll call of the “driving back” of terrorists, resulting in loss of civilian life in the village and towns of al-Houla (108 dead); Darayya (300 dead); and Haswiya (100 dead).

When will the world wake up? Why is the U.N. laying low? Why can’t the mighty U.S., champion of democracy when it suits them, take action?

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“Obama can’t go it alone,” writes Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, in the International Herald Tribune. Kurtzer states that “the stakes are high: every day that Assad remains in power brings death and destruction to more Syrians.” But he is honest when he says after a decade of senseless war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospect of American military intervention is waning.

I am not entirely against the U.N. and the American administration. I see their point. What are they meant to do—bomb Damascus like NATO bombed Belgrade in 1999? Strategic air strikes to enforce a no-fly zone? That’s always an utter waste of time. Or smuggle dopey regime-changers into the country to try to topple Assad, like the CIA tried and failed with Saddam Hussein, pre-invasion?

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The diplomatic maneuvering needs to start with Russia, says Kurtzer. Russians fear a jihadi overflow on their doorstep.  The Chinese will do whatever the Russians say. And the circle of excuses continues.

Meanwhile, getting the facts out for reporters is increasingly impossible.

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And more of a joke was that last week was World Press Freedom Day. Freedom? What freedom?  Freedom in a country where there are currently three journalists kidnapped, where at least 23 journalists have died in the past two years. In Syria, journalists have to beg, borrow, and steal for a visa to report from the government side (and then get branded a regime-lover by our colleagues) or crawl under barbed wire fences on the Turkish border like rabbits to report on the Free Syrian Army side.

Even then, journalists risk kidnapping—we are now the walking ATM machines of Syria to every opportunist or otherwise jihadist group operating inside—risk getting bombed, shelled, chemical weaponed, fleeced, attacked, raped, and otherwise.

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And yet, our fate is much better than the average Syrian. We have the choice to go, and the choice to leave (if we are not in a hole in the ground being held hostage).

For the Syrian people, there is nowhere to turn.

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