On March 25th The Onion ran an op-ed piece from the perspective of Syrian president Bashar Al- Assad titled, “Hi, In The Past 2 Years, You Have Allowed Me To Kill 70,000 People.” This piece details every aspect of what his brutal regime has done to those fighting for freedom from his dictatorship while Assad points out how strange it is that in the 21st century no one has done anything to stop him.
And “Assad” (The Onion has achieved mainstream status as a satire news site, but for those who are unaware, it is a parody of the news. Assad did not actually author the piece) is absolutely correct. Where has the international outrage been? And more importantly, why is a bold statement asking why this killing has been allowed to continue in The Onion and not on the front page of The New York Times?
The United Nations, European Union and the Arab League have all condemned the violence in Syria, however not one of these bodies took any action beyond strong words and certain sanctions. Assad’s wife Asma is no longer allowed to shop for her designer clothes in Europe and other family members have travel restrictions as well. These gestures are essentially meaningless and do nothing to help the actual people of Syria.
What is so disconcerting about Assad’s reaction to the Syrian uprising which began around the time of the Arab Spring in 2011 is how prior to these events he and his British born wife sought to portray themselves as forward thinking leaders of a modern Middle Eastern nation. They hired American PR firms to help shape their image and Asma landed a now infamous profile in Vogue which praised her heavily for being a glamorous and progressive woman. Asma is a British citizen who spent the majority of her life in London before returning to Syria upon marrying Assad. How could someone who spent her life enjoying freedom take the side of a man who has denied his people the same freedoms in such a horrific manner, even if she is his wife? The wives of the English and German ambassadors to the United Nations appealed to Asma to stand up against her husband although of course there was no response.
In terms of the major players in the UN, Russian opposition to sanctions and interventions in Syria appears to be primarily financially motivated. Russia ships arms to Syria and also maintains a military base there. Russia is also not a country known for a spectacular human rights record so perhaps they are being cautious due to their own background.
The United Kingdom has released strongly worded statements calling on Assad to step down. The United States has followed suit in addition to imposing sanctions and engaging in talks regarding a hand over of power. President Obama has stated that the US will only intervene militarily if Syria uses chemical weapons.
Israel is concerned that Syria may try to provoke them to draw attention away from the civil war. Israel also fears that a new regime may be even more hostile toward them than the previous. China simply believes that the Syrian conflict should be resolved by Syrians, although they have condemned the violence. Saudi Arabia was the first Arab country to speak out against the violence and King Abdullah referred to the Assad regime as a “killing machine.”
Other nations have acknowledged that what is happening in Syria is wrong, but after two years not one meaningful action has been taken. Is the world afraid of being dragged into another indefinite conflict such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is that a legitimate reason to stand by as Assad destroys his own country? Whatever the reason, the lack of a response to the situation in Syria when the world (specifically the United States) so eagerly jumped in to remove Saddam Hussein for committing similar actions is one of the most shameful events of the beginning of the 21st century.