(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Close Enough To Watch The Massacre Unfold)
In 1995 the UN pretended to do what it had promised after the Holocaust. It pretended to uphold the promise of "Never Again" while the Bosnian Muslims were being slaughtered by Serbian nationalists. By putting "boots on the ground" and fighter jets in the sky above the UN pacified it's conscience. However, much like in Rwanda the year before, the UN soldiers were constantly ordered to stand down and retreat if fired upon. They were rarely armed and when they were the ammunition was considered more valuable then the Bosnian civilians they had been sent to protect.
America watched the carnage unfold every night on the nightly news. We watched as Bosnian civilians ran through city street zig-zagging so as to avoid the snipers' bullets. With every week we watched as Serbian artillery fired upon villages and cities so as to keep the siege grinding away. Our reporters brought us stories of death camps much like that of Auschwitz being erected by Serbian militias. News came through of rape camps being used all across occupied areas of Bosnia. For us Bosnia was viewed through American eyes and lost upon callous hearts.
Bosnia wasn't considered part of Europe. And even when it was, we considered it the European Union's problem; not ours. We had sent boys into Somalia after some war lord not long before Yugoslavia imploded. We had watched American GIs being dragged through a third world country's streets by cheering crowds. Bosnia was viewed through this prism. What came out the others side was simply impalpable to American voters. We just had no stomach for another war... another police action in some foreign hell hole.
Today Syria is viewed through American eyes. All the things we have ever heard about Syria, all the lies and distortions we have ever considered even remotely true, we place upon the shoulders' of Syria's innocent victims. We don't view Syria as a country breaking apart at the seams. We don't see the children being used as pawns only to be slaughtered at the hands of barbaric heathens. We don't see the bravery of Syrian youth who take up arms to defend their families, their homes, themselves. We just don't have a stomach for another war in the Middle East... another failed invasion of some country in which we don't believe we belong.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya... America has had it's fill of losing wars. We have had far too many American boys come home in body bags. The ones who have come home from the "sandbox" have no desire to be sent back. The boys who lost their friends, their brothers, their comrades over there don't want to see the next generation of GIs sent off to die for blood lust and oil again. That is how far too many see Syria. It is through these American eyes that Syria is viewed.
Most of this is due to rather horrible leadership in America's government. We aren't led by men who know what it means to win a war. We are led by men who seek out profit and fame at the cost of other peoples' suffering. When the polls that dictate their follies point away from what is right they never turn back toward the truth. Their ears are deaf to honest suggestion. Their eyes blind to the pain their leadership has caused both here at home and abroad. Their souls lost to greed and lust. For this reason when we are presented with a good fight, a reason to sacrifice, we as a nation turn away.
For Obama this is a repeat of Clinton's failures. By listening to a man that sacrificed 800,000 Tutsi lives to news polls and narcissism, Obama fails to see where history will judge him. After all, America doesn't write the history books anymore. The failures that Obama is racking up when dealing with genocide won't be erased like those of American presidents who killed off the Native Americans. Syria and Myanmar won't be so easily forgotten.
In April of 1994 the Clinton administration was questioned daily following the sudden eruption of genocide in Rwanda. Every news reporter in those White House briefings wanted to ask the same question. On their lips rested the damning words that would haunt the Clinton presidency for the rest of time.
"Is this Genocide?"
From the start of the killings in Rwanda the Clinton administration began sending out orders to it's staff and it's contacts in the media that all read rather bluntly "Don't use the word 'genocide' when talking about Rwanda". The immediate fear the Clinton White House had about the word genocide was that the legal ramifications of such a charge could possibly drag the United States back into Africa. Somalia was far to fresh for the fragile Clinton presidency to be starting up another war in another African country (especially one most American's couldn't even point to on a map). Even worse was the fact that Clinton didn't exactly know where Rwanda was either.
Next came Bosnia.
It was almost as though Clinton couldn't catch a break. Everywhere the man turned the world was going up in flames. And yet this was a man who wanted to tackle social issues, not be dragged into issues abroad. So once again the Clinton administration sent out orders for their staff to avoid all conversation about the subject. Bill didn't want to discuss the massacres, he didn't want to talk about the Serbian aggression, he just simply didn't want to discuss anything that could drag his presidency back overseas.
But the media did something that they haven't done since. Honest, aggressive, journalist took to the combat zone to bring home images of what hell was like. Children being shot in the street while their mothers' cried from behind soldiers' arms proved to be a bit too much for America and the EU to ignore. With images of snipers picking off women and children playing on televisions across the country, Clinton decided to go to war.
Obama played the cowboy when American jets were sent over Libya to enforce a no-fly-zone. He promised a worried American public that there would be "no boots on the ground". It was in Libya that the Obama White House found some relief from Afghan follies. Yet the engagement was still unpopular amongst Americans. The fact that America has been at war in the Middle East for over a decade just couldn't be erased with one "victory" in Libya.
With his one victory under his belt, Obama seems to have no desire to lose that ace in the hole. It is his own version of a "get out of jail" free card. The fact that he didn't even play it after the right wing cried fowl after the Benghazi attack should prove just how attached Obama is to his own ego. And yet when Democrats demand that Obama play his card with Syria... Obama slips Libya back under the table.
Syria is a bloody mess. It has been ravaged for years by a stalemate that has proven to be one of the largest human rights catastrophes of our era. Jets strafe civilian neighborhoods over and over before dropping their deadly cargo on innocent souls. Helicopters fire rockets on civilians that try to dig their neighbors and family out of the rubble of their former homes. Shabiha mobs team up with mercenary soldiers from Hamas and Iran to commit massacres upon Assad's orders. If this isn't genocide, it is at the very least a long list of horrific war crimes.
So why the decision to avoid intervention? Why the hesitation? Are we not committed to the freedom and liberty we claim to enjoy ourselves?
Obama isn't up for reelection. This is his last term he will ever be able to hold as an American president. The fact that he appears weak can no longer be tied to his fear of reelection.
It can however be tied to the fact that Russia and China have warned the West of the price they would pay for intervening in Syria's crisis. Russian arms wait on loading docks to be sent off and deployed in Syria at a moments notice. Putin constantly brings up his country's history of trading with Syria as though we should keep it in mind. And the Russian czar isn't afraid to point out that those Syrian helicopters and jets are Russian made.
Obama on the other hand has taken his sweet time in sending weapons to the opposition in Syria. Constant promises of weapons and funds have been put forward by Obama over the past two years. He has even played around with the no-fly-zone option from time to time. Yet the same obstacle comes up every time Obama makes a move toward intervention... Putin.
Spinelessness and cowardice are two things that Russia's dictators have never respected. And yet these are exactly what Obama has shown when dealing with Syria. Instead of standing up and fighting for what is right, Obama has knelt down and licked the boots of a KGB thug. While Syrian civilians are subjected to barbarism our leader practices appeasement.
All the while Obama has taken a page from Clinton's book. By looking at the uniformity with which the media and White House have operated when talking about Syria one can only guess the same orders went out as went out under Clinton. Only this time we aren't supposed to see the footage of Syrian children being killed. We aren't supposed to see nightly displays of what hell is like. We are supposed to view this through Russian eyes.
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(note: not all sources listed)
My San Antonio
The Sydney Morning Herald