“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”
On July 26, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stood at the memorial of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Serbian army against the besieged Muslim enclave in 1995.
There he gave a powerful speech in which he described the Srebrenica massacre as “a crime of our time” and Srebrenica as a “hallowed ground for the families of the victims and also families of the nation.”
He pointed out the necessity of learning from this horrid massacre and established a comparison between Srebrenica and Syria.
“The international community must be united not to see any further bloodshed in Syria because I do not want to see any of my successors, after 20 years, visiting Syria, apologizing for what we could have done now to protect the civilians in Syria – which we are not doing now.”
Those were touching words, but after hearing the same man talk later about peaceful settlement it looked like the sentiments that overtook him when he was in Srebrenica dissipated as soon as he was back to the United Nations having to deal with endless maneuvers and conspiracies.
There are no accurate figures on the number of dead, injured, and refugees in Syria since July 26, but they most probably amount to thousands, especially after the Syrian regime started applying Vladimir Putin’s Chechnya strategies and after U.S. President Barrack Obama figured out that the best way forward is to stand still and only reiterate hollow words.
The Syrian people have not asked for anything since the start of the revolution except one thing: protection…only protection.
When the children of Deraa wrote on school walls that they want to topple the regime, they were not obeying the instructions of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And when Brigadier General Atef Naguib, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad advised their parents to forget they had those children and to start thinking of having new ones, they rose in fury, but not because Gulf nations taught them to defend their dignity when insulted. When they staged massive demonstrations shouting “peaceful” they did manage to keep it as such for months despite the regime’s brutal reaction.
The Syrian regime has forced the Syrian people to fight for their rights. The regime, together with other powers that have been allying -- and happily coexisting -- with the Assad family for the past 40 years, must be held accountable for the destruction of Syria and any rifts likely to develop between its people.
Can we forget how Syria had constantly been on the United States’ list of countries supporting terrorism? Can we overlook Israel’s vitriol against Syria “for supporting the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance”(!) and which was translated into attacks on several Syrian targets like Ain al-Saheb camp, al-Kabar complex in Deir Ezzor and others? Can any observer with minimum knowledge deny the strong ties that link the Assad regime with Iran, and the Iranian presence through Hezbollah on the borders with Israel?
These are just questions that need to be answered in order to understand this international abandonment of a people whose only crime has been seeking freedom, and a country that had been the birthplace of several civilizations and had witnessed history’s first two models of urban communities: Damascus and Aleppo.
A few days ago, the two American presidential candidates Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney had their first debate, which focused on the economy. Now, the Democratic and Republican camps are preparing for the next one, which will touch on foreign policy. Here I would like to ask if Obama has anything to brag about in front of the American people other than the killing Osama bin Laden? Republicans, on their part, will most certainly focus on America’s dwindling international influence in the face of the growing power of the Russian-Chinese camp. It only takes mentioning the three vetoes this camp used in Syria-related issues and the administration’s confused management of the Iranian nuclear file.
John Bolton, a veteran neo-conservative “hawk,” is one of the foreign policy experts in the Republican camp and was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This means he is quite skillful with twisting arms and hunting for mistakes, and he will definitely put them to use with the current administration and its apparent weakness on several international fronts.
Logically and ethically, any U.S. foreign policy after the November elections will be much better than that espoused by the neo-cons and the Tea Party, now described as “America’s Taliban.” But Obama’s inability to deal with the multiple pressures his administration is facing, whether from Netanyahu and his fascist gang in Israel or the clerics of Iran and their allies in Syria and Lebanon, forces many to start rethinking their past choices.
In contemporary politics, good intentions are the last thing to go by. People want firm stances. The “academic” lecture Obama gave about the economy in the first debate is similar to his statements on the Syrian crisis.
In the U.S., there are people who want to see the economy revived quickly without caring to know how or why the economic crisis happened, and in Syria there are people who want to be protected from the massacres to which they are constantly subjected without caring to know who comes in or goes out of the White House.
Obama needs to realize that history does not wait for those who hesitate.
The writer is a columnist at Asharq al-Awsat where this article was first published on Oct. 8, 2012