What We Owe the Syrian Boy in the Surf

His was one of twelve bodies collected on a Turkish beach on Wednesday. It has become a tragically common site to see the corpses of refugees fleeing the proliferating conflicts in the Middle East wash up on Mediterranean shores. This latest was perhaps the most heartbreaking. A Syrian boy, maybe two or three-years-old lay motionless in the surf. He had only ever known war; a horrible war characterized by intense violence, the use of chemical weapons, the Islamic State and al-Nusra, Bashar al-Assad’s thugs, and the various international actors who give these barbarians succor. He was, perhaps for the first time in his short and cruel life, at peace. Of all the appalling images to emerge from the Syrian conflict, this might have been the most soul crushing. Yet we dare not look away. We must not. Western democracies had their chance to prevent his suffering, and they failed that Syrian boy. Though it has now been mercifully cut short, we own a portion of his lifetime of pain. We did not compel the boy’s parents to make this final, ill-fated journey, but we have declined every opportunity to improve the conditions that led to his flight from war. It is well past time to look upon the face of our callousness and venality. It is the face of that child. 

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What We Owe the Syrian Boy in the Surf

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