It was seven years ago this week that the bright hopes of a nonviolent, democratic revolution erupted in people singing and marching peacefully in the streets of Syria. Since then, seven decades’ worth of solemn UN covenants, international treaties and binding conventions have gone up in flames in the hellhole of corpse heaps, concentration camps and ruined cities that the Baathist mass murderer Bashar Al-Assad has been permitted to make of his country.
Out of a population of 22 million people seven years ago, half have been rendered homeless. Six million people are subsisting in the shambles of rubble and bomb-collapsed buildings. More than five million people have fled as refugees. The death count released Monday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: 511,000. Almost all of them were killed by Assad’s barrel bombers or his shabiha death squads, or Vladimir Putin’s fighter-bombers, or Iranian militias, or holy warriors from Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. For all its savagery, the Islamic State was never more than a bit player in the bloodletting.
Throughout the political classes of the G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — there is enough cowardice and shame to go around, across the spectrum from left to right, that the straightforward reason why this catastrophe has unfolded is rarely mentioned out loud: Assad has taken our measure and his calculations have been right on the mark. He’s not alone. It started with the clever and swaggering Barack Obama, but every tyrant in the world has now had the benefit of a good long look at the Donald Trumps, the Theresa Mays, the Justin Trudeaus and the Angela Merkels, and they have reached a perfectly sensible conclusion. All of our talk about the inviolability of the liberal democratic order, the superiority of Western values, the strength of our resolve and the bright horizon of universal human rights, gender equality, and democracy — we don’t mean what we say.
Investigators in protective suits work in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, England, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Vladimir Putin knows it’s well worth the risk of committing something approaching an act of war with the United Kingdom by resorting to Novichok, a nerve agent far deadlier than sarin or VX, in the attempted murder of the former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal last week in the Wiltshire village of Salisbury. Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found catatonic on a park bench on March 4. Prime Minister Theresa May sternly warned that her government would not put up with this sort of thing and gave the Kremlin until the end of the day Tuesday to explain away what British intelligence agencies concluded was a Russian job of some kind. You could watch the sneer curling on Putin’s face. The deadline came and went. After some back and forth, May announced a series of measures. A gaggle of Russian diplomats are to be sent back to Moscow. A zero-tolerance policy on …read more