Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
Much has been written about Syria's civil war
which has engulfed the country for the past six years, but sadly the mounting
death and destruction in Syria has long since become mere statistics. The
international community grew comfortably numb to the horror, the likes of which
we haven't seen since World War II. Both internal and external players have
been nurturing their vested interests by prolonging the deadly conflict, hoping
to improve their position to serve their long-term objectives. The irony is
that none of the external main players-Russia, Iran, US, Turkey, and Saudi
Arabia-and the domestic actors (the Assad regime, Sunnis, and Kurds) will end
up with such lasting gains that outweigh the horrifying losses that have been
inflicted on the country and its citizens.
What happened to the sentiment of "never again" that was universally embraced in the wake of World War II to prevent calamities
such as this from occurring? How low will the moral bar of the international
community sink before we awake to the unfolding catastrophe?
How many more men, women, and children must die, and how much ruin can the
country further sustain before we act to stop this madness that seems to infect
every party involved, when nothing else matters but their criminal
'Crimes against humanity' became a mere slogan, shaming every domestic and
foreign party that could have stopped the slaughter but did nothing. They
immunized themselves, assumed no responsibility, and discharged their moral
culpability while the blood of innocent Syrian people continues to stream,
marring what's left of their conscience.
While Syrian men and women suffered untold losses, pain, agony, and
deprivation, the children-yes, millions of children-have suffered beyond the
pale of wrenching ache and anguish, quietly despairing for they remain helpless
According to World Vision International, "millions of children under five are
now more vulnerable than ever to physical trauma, injuries, communicable
diseases, and malnutrition." At least 8.2 million children inside Syria and
across the region are now experiencing displacement, shattered health systems,
and food insecurity, while over 2 million are growing up as refugees.
Nearly three million under the age of five have grown up knowing only war. One
in four children is at risk of severe mental health disorders, with potentially
lifelong consequences. Attacks on hospitals have left 43 percent of Syrian
hospitals functional, while half of Syria's doctors have fled the country.
As many as 80,000 children in Syria are believed to be infected with polio,
which was eradicated in Syria in 1995. The ongoing bombing and shelling is the
main cause behind the children's psychological trauma that will leave indelible
emotional scars from which they will suffer throughout their adult lives.
During the five-year span of the conflict, life expectancy at birth has dropped
by 15 years, and to top it all, tens of thousands of children were killed.
And if this is not enough, just think about the damage that has been inflicted
on these children, who have been deprived of basic education with one in every
four schools damaged, destroyed, or used for displaced people. There were
400,000 more children out of school in 2015 than 2014, as more than 4,000
attacks against schools have made these educational institutions financially
These are not mere numbers. We are talking about a catastrophe in the making
for all to see. Just imagine, two generations have been lost; never again will
they know normalcy but only anguish and uncertainty, while the world watches
No one is talking about a solution that could bring this calamitous war to a
conclusion. The UNSC has been inept at best. Russia's veto-wielding power has
and continues to prevent the passage of any solution that does not meet its
total requirements. President Putin will continue to support Assad and spare no
effort to maintain Russia's presence in Syria as a springboard to enhance its
Iran, who is fighting for regional hegemony, will continue to support Assad's
regime until the last Syrian soldier. The mullahs do so in the 'name of the
almighty,' which gives them the 'moral authority' to ravage the country for as
long as it takes to secure their hegemonic ambitions from the Mediterranean to
Turkey's President Erdogan, who wishes to spread his wings throughout the
Middle East, is fighting to secure a foot-hold in Syria. He is indiscriminately
bombing the Syrian Kurdish fortifications, accusing them of supporting the PKK
to prevent them from establishing their own autonomous rule, which can only
further destabilize Syria.
The US was the only country that could have spared this horror, under the Obama
administration. Sadly, Obama sat on his hands, allowing Russia and Iran to
continue to pillage the country and consolidate their gains. President Trump,
with all his boasting, has yet to lift a finger other than ineffectively
bombing a Syrian air field in response to Assad's use of chemical weapons only
to show his bravado, while shamefully stopping the training of anti-Assad
rebels and rendering them vulnerable to the merciless attacks by Syrian,
Russian, and Iranian forces.
Saudi Arabia continues to provide money and materials to the rebels only to
serve its interests as it continues to wage a proxy war against Shiite Iran for
regional dominance, making Syria the battleground between the two sects while
the Syrian people pay the price.
Leave it of course to Assad to rampage the country only to stay in power. Many
dictators have treated their people with ruthlessness and cruelty to maintain
their grip on power, but no despot in recent years has inflicted so much
devastation, desolation, and despair on his own country like Assad has, while
doing Russia's and Iran's biddings.
Take a look at the monstrosity that Assad has committed-that would squeeze the
heart of any normal person with the capacity to feel. Nearly 500,000 Syrians
have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. An estimated
13.5 million people, including over 6 million children, are in need of
humanitarian assistance and protection; 6.3 million people are internally
displaced and nearly five million Syrians have fled the country and become
In addition to the staggering human toll, the cost of the conflict in Syria to
date is estimated at $275 billion, and there is no end in sight to the astronomical
losses. One would think that at a minimum the international community would
respond to the human crisis by providing the necessary funding, but
unsurprisingly in this area too, the international community falls appallingly
short. The United Nations has requested a record amount of $8 billion in aid
this year for Syria, and 65 percent of UNICEF's appeal is underfunded, while
over $1 trillion is spent collectively on the military by the five permanent
members of the UNSC.
The dismal failures of all the governments and institutions involved directly
and indirectly in the Syrian calamity leaves us nowhere but to appeal to the
masses. People of conscience, regardless of their country of residence and
irrespective of their religious, cultural, or ideological orientation, you must
rise now and make your voices heard. Speak up for the voiceless Syrian people
who have been betrayed by corrupt head of states and condemned to dispersion,
destruction, and death, which is a dreadfully sad testament to the international
community's moral bankruptcy.
(Dr Alon Ben-Meir is a
reputed journalist and author, known for his writings on foreign policy with a
special focus on West Asia. He is Professor of International Relations and
Middle East Studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.)