Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Obama Administration and the Syrian Genocide: From Indifference to Complicity.

The Assad regime of Syria, with the support of its allies in Iran and Russia, is currently busy laying to waste one of the oldest cities in the world, and in the process targeting hospitals, doctors and patients, young and old, rebel-sympathizers and even loyalists.

“My last rant against you before you drop your last mic”

Mr. President,

I know that this new plea of mine will go unheeded, just was the case with all my previous ones and all pleas made on behalf of the Syrian people. I am not even sure if it’s really a plea, or just another rant. If it’s the latter, I promise that it will be the last. All good rants must come to an end. Even Ranters have to drop the mic sometimes, even if as a sign of frustration rather than accomplishment.

What I do know is that you will most likely remain unmoved by this new round of pleas, and that you will continue to hold on to the belief that what is taking place in Syria, this genocide hidden in plain sight, is none of your concern, that you have “more important” thing to worry about like strengthening your relationship with Iran, one of the sides involved in perpetrating this genocide, than worry about this little insignificant country and her people who, in your particular calculus, don’t even merit a safe-zone. After all, the United States is the largest humanitarian aid provider to Syria. Isn’t it enough? You might be wondering.

No, as a matter of fact, it isn’t.

Unless they are masochists, people often prefer not to be wounded to begin with over having their wounds bandaged. They also prefer not to be killed, tortured, maimed, driven out of their homes, or even ethnically cleansed. For contrary to rumors and innuendoes, this is really not the kind of cleansing their religion advocates.

But, and herein the dilemma you must be facing, and it’s one of your making, not that it matters to you, or that you will ever acknowledge it: you have stalled for far too long that the situation too complex for you to manage without serious intervention. The moderate rebels, the few of them that are left, cannot trust you. You have broken too many of your promises to them, and you continue to deal with them with arrogance as it they are pawns in your game, or some mercenaries for hire, and not real stakeholders in the outcome with legitimate demands and complaints. Meanwhile, Islamists have come to dominate the rebel scene, and the Islamic State, who is yet to be dealt any serious blow whether by you, the Russians, the pro-Iran Shia militias or the Assad regime, continue to hold on to major swaths of the country. In fact, the Assad Regime has been doing business and cooperating with IS all along, as recent revelations indicate. There are people from over a hundred nationalities now fighting in Syria. The warnings signs were all there right at the beginning but you chose to ignore them, speaking of a contained conflict, and a JV team, just as they were metastasizing into the worst humanitarian disaster and the worst global security of the 21st Century, so far.

Whether you simply couldn’t see it coming, simply had other priorities, or deemed the whole development as inevitable and/or irrelevant, it doesn’t really matter at this stage, does it? The only way things can be handled now is through substantive military intervention, and since this remains a red line for you, you let the Russians and Iranians do it, and you give them a cover as they bomb Aleppo and mop up the mess there, so how else can refer to dead children this Realist day and age, and you accept the presence of the genocidal maniac whose actions paved the way to this quagmire as a necessary “lesser evil.” Because, in order to hold red line on intervention, a red line that wasn’t there in the case of Libya for some reason, you have to overlook the price of it all, and you have to believe that there will be no consequences for letting someone get away with genocide. Or perhaps, you have a tacit agreement with the Russians on how and when he can be dispensed with him at some later date.

Whatever the case maybe, and in regard to the ongoing conflict in Syria, you have long crossed from being apathetic and indifferent to being complicit. You may not want to admit it. You will never admit it. But admit it or not, there is blood on your hand now, and it belong to civilians and children being intentionally targeted now by your… new partners in crime. You definitely did hit that reset button, didn’t you? You did bring Iran from the old. The deed is done. And all is well with the world. 

What the point of this narrative? You might wonder. I am not really sure. As only few days separate me from acquiring my American citizenship, perhaps I feel the need to warn of the serious repercussions that your illiberalist about-face are bound to have in my second homeland, seeing that they have already helped destroy my first. You’re definitely not that Senator who one day stood against the genocide in Darfur, or who wrote of the “Audacity of Hope.” Indeed, we can now tell that the latter was more about the audacity of ambition, cold, calculating, narcissistic, than anything as lofty as hope.

But the repercussions to America will not come only in the form of terrorist acts, I am far more wary of that fascist populism that glorifies security above all, and treats certain segments of the population, –Blacks, Latinos, and now Muslims – as Fifth Columnists not to be trusted, and perhaps to be quarantined. Worse, some, and in the name of security, are now calling for having America itself quarantined and isolated from the world. We are not talking about some isolated cases here, but about people who are integral to the emerging political scene, with many now represented in the House and the Senate, and one could end up replacing you in the White House.

I do believe in America’s exceptionalism, but not in its immunity. The disease with which we are dealing here is old, as old as America, as old as humanity itself. You’re definitely not the cause of it, Mr. President. But you did play a major role in facilitating this particular outbreak. You did so when you hid behind the ignorance and apathy of many of your people in order to promote policies that rewarded bloodshed and indifference. And here you are: complicit in genocide, having paved the way to Syria’s current hell with your good intentions.

You say that the arc of history does bend towards justice eventually, but it seems that you say that to downplay your culpability. For who really cares in what direction that damn arc will bend if it has to go through our hearts first and rob us of very humanity in the here and now?

Still, I know you are not driven by emotions. But then does one need emotions to know right from wrong? To decide on the decent thing and to do it irrespective of the cost? After all, indecency will always be cheaper, more practical and more convenient.

The arc of history does not bend towards justice on its own, but as a result of our actions and choices. And how is choosing Assad as the lesser evil help in this regard? Elie Wiesel posed a question to you on April 2012, which remains relevant today, even as you keep ignoring it. He said, speaking of the Holocaust:

"It could have been prevented. The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up, taken measures in 1939, ‘40, ‘41, ‘42. Each time, in Berlin, Goebbels and the others always wanted to see what would be the reaction in Washington and London and Rome, and there was no reaction so they felt they could continue. So in this place we may ask: Have we learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power?”

Indeed, Mr. President, how is Assad still in power? How is he the lesser evil when he is, according to the State Department as well as all human rights organization of note, the one responsible for the overwhelming majority of deaths and displacements in Syria?

I am not really sure how we should perceive of history: as an arc, as a line, as a DNA loop, etc. The thing of which I am certain of, however, is that we do suffer major setbacks: ones that challenge our sense of morality and humanity as well as our sense of decency and goodness. I am sure that what is taking place in Syria today and the regional and global responses to it represent such a setback, that the Assad regime’s continued survival and the continued survival of the man himself are setbacks, that the emergence of the Islamic State is a setback, that the Russian and Iranian occupation of Syria is a setback, that the failure of the nonviolent protest movement due to lack of support from you and other democratic western leader is a setback, and that your turning your back on all of this, and rejecting our pleas is indeed a major setback.

I don’t care of the arc of history does eventually bend towards justice when we are clearly going through a setback. Until we accept our guilt, face our errors and amend our ways, the arc of history will stay mired in this setback. The Syrian themselves, no matter their affiliation, bear much of the blame for what’s happening to them. But, and as the head of the most powerful nation on earth so do you, Mr. President.

Ammar Abdulhamid
A fellow member of the species

PS. Since this is meant to be my last rant against you, Sir, let me set the record straight. My criticism of you over the years never came out of hate, and that I was genuinely motivated by concern for both of my countries, Syria and the United States, and for both of my peoples, Syrians and Americans. In fact, I just realized why I am addressing you for the last time here: I want to say that I forgive you. Yes, Mr. President, even if you don’t think that you need my forgiveness, even if I meant nothing to you and probably have never heard of me, I want you to know that I, as a Syrian and as an American, forgive you. I forgive you because I know that the day will come when the enormity of what you have done and let happen will finally dawn upon you and you will find yourself desperately in need of forgiveness, particularly the one that comes from your fellow man. I forgive you, Mr. President, and I let you go.

PSS. On May 3rd, I finally joined Club America. The secret handshake involves a lemon and shoehorn. But I cannot say anything beyond that. 

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