Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Garden of Outrage: A "Merciless Abyss of Humanitarian Catastrophe”



            Americans can protest the massacre in the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo Wednesday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m., Tremont and Park streets, in downtown Boston. A quarter of a million civilians -- about a tenth of the city's pre-war population -- are trapped in a city the Syrian dictator with Russian help is turning into a slaughterhouse.
            Aleppo, one of Western civilization's great ancient cities is being turned into a slaughterhouse while world leaders shake their fingers and say, "Naughty, naughty."       
             The United Nations calls the ongoing destruction of the great ancient city of Aleppo and the murder of its civilian inhabitants "a Humanitarian Catastrophe." A Syrian-based group (Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution) is calling for a worldwide protest of the massacre in the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo. The Boston demonstration takes place on Wednesday in the Park Street corner of the Boston Commons.
           According to the New York Times, more 250,000 people are still trapped in the city. Medical supplies are running out. Food is running out. Aleppo is the largest in Syria, with a population of 2.5 million people at the start of the Syrian rebellion five years ago. Syrian pro-democratic protestors were forced to take up arms when the country's tyrant, Bashar Assad, told his forces to fire on non-violent demonstrators. The country has suffered under dictatorial rule by the Assad Dynasty for 50 years.
            Democracy Now, one of the few English-language news organizations closely following the Syrian catastrophe, reported on Friday (Sept. 30): "In Syria, Russian and Syrian warplanes continued a heavy bombing campaign in Aleppo, while troops massed east of the city and the United Nations warned of a humanitarian catastrophe. At least 100,000 children remain trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo, where the U.N. says food is nearly exhausted for more than a quarter-million people. U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council that Aleppo had descended into a "merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe.”
            The new organization quotes O'Brien stating, "The only remaining deterrent, it seems, is that there will be real accountability in the court of world opinion and disgust. Goodness knows, nothing else seems to be working to stop this deliberate, gratuitous carnage of lives lost and smashed."
            Here's the link to the full report from Democracy Now: http://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/30/headlines/un_calls_aleppo_a_humanitarian_catastrophe_as_ceasefire_talks_fail
            According to recent news reports from the New York Times and other media, "the Obama administration is threatening to cut off diplomatic talks with Russia on Syria in the wake of a devastating bombing campaign by the Syrian government and Russia in the city of Aleppo."  On Wednesday (Sept. 28) the two largest hospitals in East Aleppo were forced to close after being hit by airstrikes. These are intentional, targeted attacks by Russian-backed Syrian government planes intended to force the city's last surviving rebel groups to surrender the city by creating unbearable suffering.
            The Russian-backed bombing of Aleppo intensified after a ceasefire collapsed some 10 days ago, according to Democracy Now and other sources.
            UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo has become "worse than a slaughterhouse." The UN Secretary-General is the highest official in our so-called international order, but given the self-defeating structure of the UN he is absolutely powerless to do anything to stop the slaughter. That power, diffuse as it is, lies with the Security Council over which Russia -- the prime international villain in this slaughter -- has an absolute and everlasting veto power.
            Here's part of a quoted statement from Ban Ki-Moon on Friday:
            "This morning, we awoke to reports of strikes on two more hospitals in Aleppo. Let us be clear: Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing. They know they are committing war crimes. Imagine the destruction, people with their limbs blown—blown off, children in a terrible pain with no relief, infected, suffering, dying, with nowhere to go and no end in sight. Imagine a slaughterhouse. This is worse. Even a slaughterhouse is more humane. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances and medical staff in Aleppo are under attack around the clock. According to Physicians for Human Rights, 95 percent of medical personnel who were in Aleppo before the war have fled, been detained or killed. This is a war against Syria’s health workers."
            Democracy Now's Amy Goodman reported this: "Video footage from Aleppo has emerged showing Syrian Civil Defense forces digging a young girl out from under the rubble. Five-year-old Ghazal Qasim was reportedly the sole survivor from an airstrike that killed 24 people in the Aleppo neighborhood al-Shaar. Her entire family, including four siblings, were reportedly killed in the bombing. According to aid groups, children in Aleppo have made up a large proportion of the casualties from the bombings. At least 100,000 children remain trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo."
            Syrian freedom fighters, who began non-violent protesting -- think civil rights protests in the USA -- during the Arab Spring five years ago, blame not only Russia but the United States and weak leadership from President Obama.
            Activist Osama Nassar, on the ground in Syria, stated in an interview: "...The U.S. administration did nothing to stop this ongoing slaughter in Syria.... Five years ago, there were only people who are seeking freedom and dignity and demonstrating very peacefully in the street. So the more you delay or the more the U.S. and the international community are late to do something to stop this ongoing massacre in Syria, the [worse] it’s become —..."
            Based on archeological evidence Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, probably since the 6th century BCE. It is mentioned in cuneiform tables, one of Western civilization's earliest forms of writing, in the 3rd millennium BCE, unearthed in Mesopotamia. The city's location made it a key trading center between Mesopotamia ("the cradle of civilization": Babylon) and the Mediterranean Sea. That location placed it on the Silk Road from Hellenistic times through the end of the Middle Ages. Its commercial importance waned only with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
            Aleppo was the largest city in its region throughout the Ottoman Empire. When Syria became a backwater during the long dictatorship of the repressive Assad dynasty -- which Russia is determined to preserve because Putin likes dictators and repression -- the lack of modern redevelopment probably helped preserve the city's medieval architecture and traditional heritage. According to the Wikipedia, Aleppo won the title of the "Islamic Capital of Culture 2006...  and has had a wave of successful restorations of its historic landmarks."
            It's hard to say how much of that has survived the destruction by the country's so-called President.
            America's disappointing President has done nothing to stop the catastrophe. Whether defending non-involvement or truly at a loss, Americans ask, "What can we do?"
            What we can do is to warn the Syrian government and Russia to stop the bombing of rebel-held areas anywhere in Syria or face destruction of its Air Force by superior American military power. And this time carry out the threat if our warning is ignored. Three years ago, Obama failed to carry out his warning that the use of "chemical weapons" by Assad would not be permitted. Syria's government proceeded to use chemical weapons to kill civilians. America did nothing.
            At that point Assad and the Russians knew the were free to do anything they wanted.      
            Now we are faced with protesting the destruction of Aleppo and its civilian population. ... History has shown that protest movements are not ineffective. Massive protests by American citizens ended the Vietnam War, a humanitarian catastrophe for all parties involved in that lengthy conflict. Now we need to protest to press our government to help put an end to a humanitarian disaster in Syria.