Our day of reckoning for Syria is coming - Macleans.ca

Our day of reckoning for Syria is coming

The mass murder and madness in Syria has opened a great gaping wound in humanity. Repairing it is going to cost us all deeply.

Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held Salihin neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 11, 2016. Air strikes have killed dozens in rebel-held parts of Syria as the opposition considers whether to join a US-Russia truce deal due to take effect on September 12. (Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held Salihin neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 11, 2016.  (Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria is a ruined and broken country. Five million of its people have managed to flee the place in terror, and half of those who remain—about 13.5 million people—require humanitarian assistance of some kind, and half of them are kids. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, roughly six million Syrians are living in the rubble of bombed out buildings and cratered streets, and 4.6 million people are somehow subsisting in towns and villages under siege, beyond the reach of aid convoys, cut off from the outside world.

You could say, for argument’s sake, that Syria now exists only for argument’s sake. That there’s no such thing as “Syria” anymore, and in its place there is now mostly just a howling wilderness of murder and madness and pain. In whatever way we make sense of how it has come to pass that the world has allowed nearly a half million Syrians to be killed these past six years, the search is on for an ulterior motive, an explanation more convincing than the account U.S. President Donald Trump gave of himself on Wednesday for what had happened inside his own head this past week: “I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, a big impact.”

READ MORE: Syria is gassing children to death. What should Canada do?

It is not being too worldly to wonder out loud whether this can be true of a man whose public professions of concern for Syria until now have addressed mainly the constitutionally permissible means by which America’s gates might be permanently barred to Syrian refugees. Then again, Trump stood there in the White House rose garden and confessed: “My attitude toward Syria has changed very much.” He referred directly to the handiwork of Syria’s chief executioner, Bashar al-Assad, in this way: “These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.”

The next day at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence, Trump again expressed his revulsion at Tuesday’s poison-gas massacre of 100 or more people in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun: “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” Indeed, no. Still, expressing this sort of sentiment does seem wholly out of character for Trump, or at least wildly at odds with his caricature.

It could be that Trump has not changed a bit, that he’s still an egoistic, impetuous, grudge-nurturing narcissist, and it’s just that he’d had quite enough of being dismissed as Vladimir Putin’s poodle, and his manliness was on the line. This alone would be sufficient to explain why Trump relayed the order to U.S Navy destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean to release that barrage of tomahawk missiles at the airbase of Al Shayrat, near Homs—the Kremlin be damned.

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Maybe it’s as simple a matter as Trump having only lately emerged from the unseemly influence of that Dungeons and Dragons character Steve Bannon, and he’s been paying closer attention to his national security adviser, Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster, and to his Secretary of Defence, the retired Marine Corps general James Mattis, both of whom have been only recently appointed. They’re both proper soldiers. Hard as nails. Principled men.

It could be that the obliteration of Al Shayrat, rather than being just a one-off thing, signals the end of American indifference to Syrian agony, and that Trump genuinely intends to put his back into it, that he will lead NATO, in partnership with the Arab League, and we’ll have our eyes on a horizon with Syria put back together again somehow. Whatever happens, we’ve still got all our work ahead of us.

The isolationists and the alt-right and the anti-imperialists have had their way, ever since Assad first ordered his troops to fire live rounds into unarmed protesters in 2011. Now, in 2017, Syria is Afghanistan in 1994. It’s gangrenous and festering with the Islamic State, just as Afghanistan in 1994 was a wrecked post-Russian countryside pockmarked with the shallow graves of more than a million Afghans. The scourge of the Taliban and Al Qaida spread across the land. We all remember how well that turned out. Or we should, anyway.

READ MORE: What it’s like to be a Girl Scout in Syria

The costs of rebuilding Syria’s ruined infrastructure, its cratered roads and broken sewage treatment plants and bombed hospitals and schools, has been variously estimated at $275 billion, $689 billion and $1.3 trillion. Millions of of stunted and shell-shocked Syrian children have never set foot inside a classroom. A study of Syrian refugees carried out by the International Medical Corps agency in Jordan and Lebanon found half of them to be suffering severe emotional disorders. One in four children suffer crippling intellectual and developmental difficulties.

A great gaping wound has been opened up in humanity. It is going to require healing. It is going to cost a great deal, and the brutes who did this, Bashar Assad, the Islamic State, the Kremlin, the Khomeinists, all of them must be made to pay dearly. But it is going to cost the rest of us, too, and it will cost us one way or another, whether we would want to pay down our debts to the innocents of Syria or not.

That is one thing that was not changed by anything Donald Trump did this week. The burden of the world’s debt to the Syrian people will be borne by all of us, one way or another, sooner or later. We will all bear the burden. The bill will come due. And we will pay it, whether we would want to or not.


Our day of reckoning for Syria is coming

  1. ‘ a great gaping wound in humanity.’?? Oh please.

    The world is no different now than it ever was

    You don’t think our bombs rip babies apart?

    • The cruise missiles were aimed at a significant airfield housing Russian fighter-bombers and their proxy Russian pilots, including Syrian maintenance personnel. These people were mindless adults … not babies.

      P.S. One cannot destroy an airfield with just a couple of cruise missiles, unless they had nuclear warheads which, I doubt, you would be happy with.

      • ??? Which has what to do with killing babies?

        Everyone was warned an hour ahead of time…..no one was killed….and Syrian jets took off from there today.

        However Syria now has the right of retaliation.

        • The chemical bombs killed babies and, therefore, The Donald sent cruise missiles as a retaliation.

      • The last thing you can afford to be (personal safety-wise) and handliing nerve gas munitions is “mindless”. They were handling nerve gas munitions, right?

        • Thinking about using chemical weapons is a mindless thought. Got it now.

  2. Did this motherefer just blame all the dozens of countries that the US establishment has bombed and is financing/arming/training terrorists in to destroy secular states …. on Russia?
    Glavin and these pro murder and empire states are the enemy.

  3. There are some interesting synapses working in in Mr. Glavin’s head.

    He would have us believe that, one morning 5 or so years back, Bashir Assad awoke and decided he needed to destroy his country and kill as many of his people as he could not force to flee. And that, in his ‘quest’, he was abetted by the Kremlin, and the ‘Khomeinists’ and other enemas of peace and freedom. Not only that, it’s ‘our fault’ for failing to stop them.

    Stop them by doing what? Funding the rebels? We’ve done that , as ISIS too to the tune of billions directly and through or Gulf State allies. By supplying them wirth some real weapons? We’ve done that too – gave them some of the stockpile we removed from Libya (including, some people claim, the precursor materials for gas weapons). We know they shipped their oil out or Syria, through Turkey, until the Russians bombed it, what were they bringing in?

    We even provided the ‘economic crisis’ and the ‘democratic movement’ that woke Assad up – the first through the IMF and restriction on loans and the latter through what we called an “Arab Spring”.

    There may be “retribution” involved, but not for ‘failing to stop it’ as much as being very successful at starting it – and then not stopping it when we realized the damage being inflicted.

    • Your ability to read and believe fake news is your freedom to do but, please, do us all a favour and stop copying it into this website.

  4. The Syrian Civil War is Obama’s and Hillary’s creation. Regime change in Syria has been the American Deep States policy for two generations, so oil and gas pipelines could be build from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Europe…to enrich those two Salafist States…to continue to spread Salafism thoroughout the world through their Salafist madrassas. Since Afghanistan, Salafism has been the American Deep State’s weapon of choice in “The Great Game” again Russia.

    Like Russia’s “green men” in the Ukraine, ISIS is Saudi Arabia’s “green men” in the Levant and Iraq to push back against Iran (except they are dress in black).

    Obama and Hillary, just two more American neo-cons.

    • This mayhem has been percolation for over 100 years now and we are close very close to the apotheosis. Greed, power, and religions is a keg of nitroglycerin ready to explode and the fuse is already too short, Don’t expect common sense to prevail. Assad is cook and will most likely by terminated by the Russian so they can save face with the world, if not we are at 2 minutes to midnight. Putin is in deep trouble in Russia and he will not relinkuish power without a bang.