In October 2015, during a battle for the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, U.S. forces accidentally bombed a hospital belonging to Doctors Without Borders. The French NGO immediately accused the U.S. of committing a “war crime,” and the U.S. military launched an internal investigation that resulted in disciplinary measures for 16 personnel.
Fast forward to today. Bashar Assad’s and Vladimir Putin’s air forces are deliberately–not accidentally–targeting hospitals in Aleppo so as to make the rebel-held parts of the city uninhabitable.
“Bombs launched by the Syrian government over the past three days seriously damaged two general hospitals that were providing trauma care in the war zone and hit the only children’s hospital, according to doctors, nurses, and residents,” the New York Times reported. “The destruction left more than a quarter-million people in eastern Aleppo without hospital care, the W.H.O. said.”
This is only the latest atrocity carried out by the regime and its foreign enablers–Russia and Iran. They not only bomb hospitals, they routinely bomb civilian neighborhoods and impose sieges which make it impossible to get food or medicine to civilians trapped in the fighting. The Assad regime is responsible for the vast majority of deaths in the Syrian civil war, which may have claimed as many as 500,000 lives to say nothing of the far larger number injured and turned into refugees.
That’s why it is so appropriate to see massive twitter campaigns and demonstrations in the streets throughout the West demanding that Iran, Syria, and Russia stop their murderous campaign. It is why I am glad to see President Obama and other Western leaders referring Assad, Khameni, and Putin for prosecution as war criminals–and entirely appropriate that they are pledging to use force to protect the embattled Syrian population. The Atrocities Prevention Board set up by Obama is certainly doing its job!
Wait, you mean none of that is happening? Wonder how to explain the deafening silence in the face of these crimes against humanity? Could it be that atrocities only matter to the enlightened thinkers of the West when they can be blamed on the U.S. and Israel but other countries get a free pass? Surely, that can’t be the explanation, because to think that would indict a lot of so-called human-rights activists of hypocrisy, cowardice, and inconsistency.
President Obama actually had the nerve last week, during a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel, to counsel President-elect Trump in these terms: “My hope is, is that he does not simply take a realpolitik approach and suggest that if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people, or even if it violates international norms, or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable or creates long-term problems in regions like Syria—that we just do whatever is convenient at the time.”
The lack of self-awareness from Obama is stunning, although hardly surprising. How does what he accuses Trump of wanting to do differ so markedly from what he is actually doing? Or, rather, not doing. What has Obama done if not adopted a Realpolitik approach that allows Russia and Iran to have their way with Syria? All that Trump is planning to do is to cut out the hypocrisy and openly embrace a pro-Assad policy which Obama has adopted de facto but hasn’t admitted to. So often in the past after watching terrible atrocities the world has said “Never again,” but we are seeing once again how hollow those words are.