The latest monument to the legacy of President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize-winning global leadership fills our news screens.
It looks like a city of dollhouses, a tableau of grays upon grays — apartment dwellings with the walls blown away on the side facing us. We cannot look away; so we stare inside these dollhouse-like living rooms and bedrooms where children should be playing and parents should be doing chores or just relaxing.
But the dollhouses are as lifeless as they are colorless. So are the streets that once teemed with hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Nothing is moving; and that moves us most of all. For we know humans are still there — buried beneath the rubble. Welcome to Syria’s once-vibrant city of Aleppo.
Make no mistake: All the world knows Aleppo will forever be remembered for the villainy of Syria’s bloodstained butcher, President Bashar Assad, his equally bloodstained enabler, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s militias that have assisted in the street slaughter.
But it will also be remembered as yet another genocide the United States, still looked to as the world’s de facto leader, failed to act to stop. The world had higher hopes for Obama’s leadership. Years ago, after America’s still-new president addressed the potential of the Arab Spring in a speech in Cairo, the Nobel dreamers awarded him their peace prize.
But more than a decade of battles in the region had left America and its president worse than war-weary. Obama infamously drew his “red line” warning Assad against using chemical weapons — but when Assad used them, Obama didn’t respond militarily. Later, Obama, NATO and other world leaders didn’t create a no-fly zone and safe zone to safeguard Syria’s civilians. But he assured us Assad days as president were numbered.
On Tuesday afternoon, far away from Aleppo’s horror, in the civilly nuanced United Nations Security Council, America’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power delivered a searing un-nuanced indictment of the genocide perpetrated by Syria, Russia and Iran.
Power began by recounting horrific and heart-wrenching descriptions of the slaughter of Syria’s civilians trapped in the crossfire of a brutally uncivil war. Assad and his Russian enablers even targeted and bombed Aleppo’s hospitals so no victims could be treated.
“This is what is being done to the people of eastern Aleppo, to fathers, and mothers, and sons, and daughters, brothers, and sisters like each of us here,” Power said. She spoke of “first responders describing children’s voices from beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings. … There are no first responders or equipment left to dig them out, and no doctors left to treat them.”
Unfortunately, many news deliverers barely covered Power’s globally urgent message. And that’s a case of media misfeasance — because there are two ways we must read Power’s powerful address. One is the way she said it — as an indictment of Assad, Putin and Iran’s leaders. The other is as an indictment of all world leaders who failed to prevent this slaughter of Aleppo’s civilians.
So: As you read Power’s words of indictment, insert in your own minds Obama’s name and the leaders of NATO nations and all globally involved countries who feigned powerlessness to mask their war weariness.
“Are you truly incapable of shame?” Power asked (Readers: insert Obama, et al here). “Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit?”
Power said earlier: “When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo — and that day will come, sooner or later — you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening. You will not be able to say you were not involved. We all know what is happening. And we all know you are involved.
“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and, now, Aleppo.”
We recall former President Bill Clinton’s admission that his greatest regret was his failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Soon Obama and his fellow world leaders will be appending the horror of Aleppo with apologies and sincere vows of “Never again!”
Sadly, it’s what we do. Again and again.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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