Senator Dick Durbin, a senior United States Senator from Illinois and a Democrat, wrote an opinion on Syria for Politico Magazine in which he criticizes the president over his handling of the Syrian crisis.
The article entitled “History repeating itself in Syria?” Senator Durbin asks the White House to deploy humanitarian zones to save Syrian lives:
“The U.S. should be working with other world leaders to create humanitarian safe zones where modern medical treatment can be provided and displaced persons can safely escape.”
Durbin is not the first Democrat to try and persuade Obama to act on Syria to preserve the dignity of its people. Before him, Secretary Leon Panetta ripped the President about the same Syrian policy. All to no avail.
When it comes to Syrians, Obama is acting as if its people were Klansmen who killed his ancestors. The president simply does not care about what is happening to millions of Syrians.
The Op-Ed is very much worth reading. Below is the full text.
History Repeating Itself With Syria?
Senator Dick Durbin
In her book “A Problem from Hell,” Samantha Power writes about May 13, 1994, when Paul Simon, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, and Sen. James Jeffords, his Republican counterpart, telephoned United Nations Gen. Roméo Dallaire, the force commander for the U.N.’s Assistance Mission in Rwanda, in Kigali.
Simon and Jeffords asked Dallaire what they could do to stop the looming genocide. Dallaire believed that a commitment of 5,000 troops could prevent it.
Immediately, the two senators wrote the Clinton White House to ask the administration to call on the U.N. to act. Their letter said in part: “Obviously there are risks involved but we cannot continue to sit idly by while this tragedy continues to unfold.”
The senators received no reply.
In less than eight weeks, 800,000 Rwandans were massacred.
In hindsight, former President Bill Clinton acknowledges we could have done more.
What is happening in Syria today may not be a genocide by classic definition, but it is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time.
The thousands of dead and injured have reached a level of numbing proportion. Almost half of Syria’s 23 million people have been displaced since the war began.
Every few months Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian-American who lives near Chicago, asks to meet with me. I welcome him knowing that the meeting will be heartbreaking.
Sahloul brings in Chicago-area doctors who have risked their lives crossing the Syrian border to provide medical care to the victims of this four-year conflict. They show me photos of children maimed and killed by Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs in Aleppo.
These bombs are particularly horrific weapons of the Syrian president’s regime. They are old rusting containers filled with nails, shrapnel and explosives that are dropped on civilian neighborhoods with intentionally devastating effect.
Often, as rescuers move in to help those injured in the initial attack, additional barrel bombs are dropped. Even more frightening, these bombs are increasingly being filled with deadly chlorine gas.
In 2014, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for a halt to the use of barrel bombs in urban areas. Yet since then, an estimated 2,000 more have been dropped and scores of Syrian civilians have been injured or killed in these horrific attacks.
Sahloul, his brave colleagues and so many others in Syria try to bring some humanity and medical care to these devastated areas. But they are struggling against the odds.
Hospitals are often the military targets of the Assad regime. Physicians for Human Rights has documented more than 230 attacks on medical facilities since 2011, resulting in the deaths of 600 medical personnel.
So Sahloul and his colleagues do the best they can. Their surgical suites are primitive clinics with tables in schools serving as makeshift operating tables. Medicines, if they can find them, must be bought at a premium.
There is no end in sight.
The United States proudly leads the world in humanitarian relief to Syria and its refugees. There is no question that President Barack Obama should be commended for the successful removal of Assad’s ghastly chemical weapons stockpile. But it hasn’t been enough.
Twenty-one years ago, two senators called on an administration to work with the international community to do more to prevent the slaughter of innocent people in Rwanda.
Recently, Sens. Tim Kaine, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and I called on the president to do more in Syria.
The U.S. should be working with other world leaders to create humanitarian safe zones where modern medical treatment can be provided and displaced persons can safely escape.
Under the auspices of the U.N., the U.S. can join other member nations in providing a defensive security. We should turn to our NATO ally Turkey to endorse the effort along with Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Choosing sites controlled by both the Assad regime and the opposition would make it clear that we are not trying to freeze any advantage to either side.
It would be naive to believe that extremist groups like the Islamic State would be part of this undertaking, but a common effort to defend thesecordons humanitaires — or safe zones — offers the only hope for victims of the Syrian conflict.
There is at least a chance that, as these zones grow, we may finally move toward the political dialogue which is the only long-term hope for Syria.
But, if the call is ignored, there is a likelihood that history will repeat itself.