One year after Ghouta massacre, ISIS’ evil has clouded Assad’s
Thursday, 21 August 2014
Brooklyn Middleton/Al Arabiya
Today marks the unholy one-year anniversary of Bashar al-Assad’s brutal chemical weapon massacre in East Ghouta that left hundreds dead, including a number of children, and at least another 3,000 injured – with many reports indicating a far higher death toll; the sarin nerve agent assault, likely delivered by surface-to-surface rockets, was only one of a myriad of deadly examples of what a disgraced regime left mostly unchecked by the international community is capable of.
Despite the United States, Russian-backed chemical weapons deal that has ultimately led to Assad’s declared arsenal – key word there being declared, which chlorine gas, repeatedly used in continued attacks, was in fact not – being destroyed, Syria has continued to spiral into chaos and destruction while the Islamic State continues metastasizing across the region.
Meanwhile, as the threat of an imminent mass killing of the Yazidi community trapped on Iraq’s Mount Sinjar finally gave President Barack Obama’s administration reason to make a proactive foreign policy decision, the U.S. air force has begun conducting airstrikes, coordinating security efforts with Kurdish Peshmerga ground forces in northern Iraq. Days after this, Assad forces conducted over a dozen airstrikes targeting IS cadres as they neared the regime held Tabqa air base in Raqqa province, making for headlines that appeared to align the United States, Kurdish forces, and the Syrian regime – a notion of cooperation that is truly unbearable.
The threat of collectively forgetting the Assad regime’s own unspeakable acts of evil – or allowing them to be eclipsed by social media savvy militants who insist on documenting their every despicable murder – is increasing by the moment, with some calling to work directly with Assad. Noting the utter lack of humanity that is calling for security cooperation with a mass murderer after he’s killed with impunity for years, it is also a policy recommendation that wholly ignores the fact that Assad – like using starvation as a weapon – cultivated ISIS’ own rise as an effective strategy for remaining in power.
The uptick in photographic evidence of beheadings and crucifixions, easily viewed by casually checking Twitter accounts of ISIS fanboys, are indeed appalling. But certainly, the numerous videos showing tiny mouths gasping for air after Assad forces gassed an entire neighborhood are no less evil. Little limbs being dug out of rubble after one of the thousands of indiscriminate barrel bombings prove no less haunting. Without doubt, Syrian government snipers targeting pregnant women and their unborn fetuses – documented by a doctor who described the act as “beyond hell” – are no less horrifying. Women being stoned to death for adultery by ISIS cadres – what a surreal series of words to write in 2014 – is as bereft of humanity as government troops demanding a nurse provide a list of names of who she was treating or else be gang raped. Even a few of the 50,000 photographs – a staggering figure – smuggled out of Syria by “Caesar,” a soldier who defected, reveal clear evidence of torture and emaciated bodies, “reminiscent of the pictures of those [who] were found still alive in the Nazi death camps after World War II.”
Strategically, aiding Kurdish fighters is imperative but when the U.S. predicates such international involvement on a commitment to fighting inexplicable evil, they risk subtly asserting that the years of Assad regime abuses were in some way any less horrifying – that’s not just baseless but it is an affront to the victims of Assad’s own barbarism.
Yesterday, as the United States confirmed the ineffably tragic reports that ISIS militants gruesomely beheaded American journalist James Foley – President Obama himself noted that people do not deserve to live under “the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists.” The point, of course, could not be more spot on, but policy and rhetoric regarding the unspeakable evil of the Islamic State as well as the Assad regime should better reflect that.