(The Washington Times newspaper) The words “never again” ring hollow as the city of Aleppo, Syria, has fallen to regime forces of Bashar al-Assad. A brutal siege that has ground on for years was finally brought to a bloody end by a surge of Russian airpower, Iranian shock troops and assorted regional militia fighters. As we eulogize the dead of Aleppo, we must acknowledge the United States’ complicity in this tragedy.
President Obama speaks of the need to “bear witness” to injustice. He did little else for Aleppo. To what have we borne witness? To the use of smart bombs to target women and children, hospitals and bakeries, aid warehouses and humanitarian convoys. To the development and popularization of barrel bombs oil drums packed with shrapnel and explosives, dropped indiscriminately from aircraft to kill and maim as many civilians as possible. To the tactic of follow-on airstrikes designed to kill rescue workers, such as the intrepid White Helmets, who rush to the scene of an attack to save the innocent.
And now to the busloads of refugees pouring out of Aleppo and the tens of thousands left behind to the tender mercies of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies.
Obama has borne witness to all of this, and more, and done nothing to stop it.
As with past atrocities, Aleppo’s destruction inspired much high-minded talk and the illusion of action. Endless meetings in the gilded palaces of Geneva and Vienna and elsewhere. Red lines drawn and transgressed with no consequences. Statements like this: “Should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda, or Srebrenica?” the president asked the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. “If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so, and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.”
That reckoning is now upon us. The mass graves are before us, and the name Aleppo will echo through history, like Srebrenica and Rwanda, as a testament to our moral failure and everlasting shame. Even in a conflict that has killed nearly 500,000 people, driven half of Syria’s population from their homes, created the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and spawned the terrorist army of ISIS even amid all this horror and depravity, Aleppo stands out.
Aleppo may be lost, but the war in Syria is far from over. It will likely get worse as the Assad regime, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Kurds, the Gulf states and others intensify their fighting over what is left of Syria’s carcass.