Syria: The Children Are The First To Die

The children of Khan Sheikhoun were the first to suffer as the suspected nerve gas sarin, a deadly, fast-killing agent, caused the children to suffocate.

As they tried to breath with damaged lungs, they started to foam at the mouth. Twenty died horrible deaths at the last count, and there may still be more. By Wednesday 5th April, at least 72 people had died and over a hundred more people are struggling for life in makeshift clinics.

One clinic treating the victims of the sarin attack was targeted and hit by a Syrian rocket. Such barbaric war crimes are revolting and cry out for justice. But, where are the countries with any moral values that will try and investigate, gather the evidence and bring justice. Will anyone arm the rebels with weapons to defeat the death-dealing helicopters that are dropping the sarin gas on innocent civilians?

The human suffering as a result of the chemical warfare waged by the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is indeed a heinous crime against the people of Syria. He has crossed the American red line laid down by President Obama some years ago. In 2013, the Syrian regime used sarin gas and killed more than 1,300 civilians, men, women and children. Assad and the Russians brokered a deal to avoid the US entering the war against him by surrendering what was supposed to be all his horrible chemical weapons.

It is clear that he has used chlorine bombs dropped from helicopters 24 times on civilians for several years and since 2013 has on two occasions dropped sarin gas bombs on the civilians. The last sarin attack in December 2016 killed 93 people in eastern Hama and now this latest attack in Idlib. The world is just accepting this as normal and takes no actions but just condemns the attacks. He will pay no penalty now, no red line, and why is that?

Assad must be brought to justice and not be supported, aided and abetted by Iran and Russia in the crimes of his vicious military. They have denied any responsibility and blamed the rebels in Idlib for having sarin gas on hand. In other words, they gassed themselves, Assad says. Experts say that this is highly unlikely.

Assad has been described as a war criminal and he has once again crossed the US red line against the use of chemical weapons drawn by President Barak Obama in 2013 when more than 1,300 civilians were killed by a sarin gas attack in this hate-filled civil war. The war is now six years old and millions of people have fled the country as a result. There are twenty-thousand or more dead and at least five million displaced. Once developed cities have been reduced to crumbling ruins due to the relentless air strikes by Syrian government warplanes backed by Russian military power.

They have caused havoc and killed hundreds of civilians. It was the threat of US intervention by Obama that caused Assad to surrender his chemical weapons, but did he give up all of them? It’s clear he kept back some sarin and had lots of chlorine. President Trump blames Obama for not enforcing the red line so will Trump do so now? Will he challenge what he called a “heinous” crime by Assad and his Russian backers?

Will he make America great again and take a moral stand against the war criminal and order a punitive rocket attack perhaps on Assad’s palace in Damascus? Will he arm the US backed-rebels with ground-to-air shoulder-fired missiles to take out the bomb dropping helicopters? It’s highly unlikely.

That’s what the US did in the rebel war against the occupying Russians in Afghanistan and the rebels shot the war planes and helicopters out of sky and defeated the Russian army. Without air power, the Syrian army and the Russians have no chance of beating the highly motivated Syrian rebels.

Trump during his campaign has said the future of Assad is a “secondary” concern and his UN representative and Secretary of State spoke favorably about Assad only a week ago and said his removal from office is off the table. He can stay on, no matter what war crimes he commits, it seems.

As a result, Assad felt he had impunity from war crimes and so he launched the latest sarin gas attack against the civilians in rebel-held territory, some observers say. And he enjoys that impunity because of the support of Russia and China. In February 2016, they voted in the UN Security Council against a resolution that would have levied sanctions over the use of chemical weapons. No wonder Assad has ordered their use again.

So the community of nations is faced with this horrific war of endless war crimes and enormous human suffering. Most recently, President Donald Trump has said he has changed his opinion on President Assad and Syria. Many lines have been crossed with the death of the children, he said. How will this translate into action to stop chemical attacks? Anything he does to thwart President Assad, he will find the Russian bear protecting Assad and his “friend” President Vladimir Putin holding perhaps something salacious to be leaked against Trump?

The all-group negotiations in Geneva have gone nowhere and Assad is strengthening his bargaining position by intense attacks. He has no intention of making a deal. He is hell-bent to annihilate the rebels and regain total power and continue as the cruel dictator of Syria.

(Father Shay Cullen)

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