I feel awful about having fallen so far behind in the news I want to cover. But after watching Amnesty International researcher Donatella Rovera on CNN Sunday morning, I feel morally irresponsible for not having even mentioned the international crisis in Syria, which, with more that 15,00 dead, should matter to us all. Russia seems to be still backing the monstrous regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though Russian officials claim they are no longer supplying Assad with weapons. The economically-strapped US doesn’t want to unilaterally intervene militarily, having only recently pulled out of Iraq with intentions to exit Afghanistan. And the UN, while having a peace keeping presence, is clearly ineffective at keeping the peace or even getting a Joint Resolution to pave the way for doing SOMETHING!
On June 14, Rovera wrote a substantial report documenting her non-government sponsored trip to Syria where she risked her life to get information about the government’s bloody crack down on its own citizens. (See her Amnesty International video below)
Here’s part of that report:
Syrian government armed forces and militias are rampaging through towns and villages, systematically dragging men from their homes and summarily executing them. They are burning homes and property and sometimes the bodies of those they have killed in cold blood. They are recklessly shelling and shooting into residential areas, killing and injuring men, women and children. They are routinely torturing detainees, sometimes to death.
In recent field investigations in Syria, Amnesty International has found disturbing new evidence of grave abuses – many of which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes – committed by the Syrian army in towns and villages around Idlib, and Aleppo, as well as in the Jebel al-Zawiyah and Jebel al-Oustani areas (north-west of Hama) between late February and late May 2012. Towns and villages are being kept under virtual siege by troops who fire indiscriminately into these areas and target those moving in and out of them.
Here’s a CNN report to bring you up to speed quickly:
Here’s CNN’s interview Sunday with former senior Syrian diplomat Nawaf al-Fares who defected and is now calling on foreign military intervention:
Here is Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera explaining and showing video and photographs of what she encountered undercover in Syria:
Here’s another Amnesty International-researcher, Neil Sammonds, on graphic video smuggled out of Syria to show the world what’s really happening there:
Clinton, who is traveling in Asia, said in a statement issued in Washington that the reported use of artillery, tanks and helicopters in the attack provided “indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians,” according to Reuters news service.
“Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable,” she said…..
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, said in Damascus that a U.N. team had observed the fighting from three or four miles outside Tremseh, adding that it involved “mechanized units, indirect fire as well as helicopters.”
Mood added: “If we have credible cessation of violence and a local cease-fire, we stand ready to go in with a larger team to verify the facts on the ground.”
The mandate for the observer team in Syria runs out on July 20 unless the U.N. Security Council votes to extend its mission.
Gay American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So it is with pained interest that I point out that Sec. Clinton’s response about identifying and holding accountable the murders obviously happens after the conflict is resolved and an investigation can be launched – it doesn’t help stop the murder of new victims now. But surely Clinton remembers how pained and apologetic her husband, President Bill Clinton, was for not intervening in the massacres in Rwanda. And then there’s Samantha Powers, seared as a reporter covering the atrocities in Bosnia, slammed Clinton over his inaction in Rwanda with a devastating Sept. 2001 piece in The Atlantic in which she wrote:
Why did the United States not do more for the Rwandans at the time of the killings? Did the President really not know about the genocide, as his marginalia suggested? Who were the people in his Administration who made the life-and-death decisions that dictated U.S. policy? Why did they decide (or decide not to decide) as they did? Were any voices inside or outside the U.S. government demanding that the United States do more? If so, why weren’t they heeded? And most crucial, what could the United States have done to save lives?
Power is now a senior adviser to President Obama and runs Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the National Security Council. She’s the anti-atrocities person who recommended military intervention in Libya, as did another Clintonite, Susan Rice, now Obama’s UN Ambassador. In a piece in Salon last January, writer Paul Mutter noted that the three women – Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, might be the ones steering policy toward intervention in Syria:
One of the most influential advocates for intervention in Libya was Samantha Power of the National Security Council, who is only half-jokingly described as Obama’s Paul Wolfowitz by reporter David Rieff. Power is the administration’s most outspoken advocate of “the responsibility to protect” concept, which in its broadest interpretation “holds that when a sovereign state fails to prevent atrocities, foreign governments may intervene to stop them.”
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, an NSC staffer during the Clinton administration, was in the interventionist camp in Libya that drew lessons from Rwanda. Time reported that it was Rice who, by virtue of her forceful maneuvering at the U.N., got Secretary of Defense Robert Gates off the fence about committing U.S. air assets over Libya. The National Review suggested that the Pentagon was “outmaneuvered by three women: Clinton, Power, and … Rice.”
If photos of children holding photos of murdered loved ones – or being murdered themselves by government forces – is enough to move a little ole LGBT journalist in West Hollywood to stop everything and work on this report – what must be going through the minds of those who feel the up-close “responsibility to protect” the innocent civilians who are being killed by the hundreds every day in Syria? There is a personal, moral toll on the soul to standing by and doing nothing.