“Never again!” is the cry heard around the world — two words that recall both the fight against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust and a struggle for equality that continues today.
The phrase also serves as a reminder of the paramount importance of taking action rather than turning a blind eye to mass murder.
Unfortunately, the current civil war in Syria is proof that the brutal murder of citizens by a nation’s leader can still happen today. And for some reason, the world seems to have forgotten about it. So we sit idly by, hoping that something will change without our active involvement.
For several months, Syria was a hot-button topic for the news media, from breaking updates to a scandal over the firing of a journalist who profiled Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad in Vogue. The news pointed to how the Arab Spring would help to finally rid the country of President Bashar al-Assad’s reign of violence.
Except it didn’t. Even though the Arab Spring had its share of martyrdoms and violence, at certain points during this period the president — some would say dictator — seemed prepared to step down after years of shady police dealings, murders and oligarchic rule.
But it appears as if al-Assad is here to stay.
The 18-month-old Syrian conflict has turned from an uprising into a full-on massacre on both sides. In the month of August alone, an estimated 5,000 Syrians died, and the majority of them civilians. Even more shocking, more than 100,000 refugees left Syria in August — a number that accounts for more than 40 percent of all Syrian refugees since the conflict began — according to CBS. This sharp increase in refugees, which doesn’t even include the tens of thousands of refugees who have not registered and those still in Syria who need aid, still underscores just how urgent the Syrian crisis has become.
It also adds urgency to the need for other countries to get involved. Russia and Iran have already joined in to defend al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been struggling to help the opposition force. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has just stuck with threats: He declared that the United States would intervene with military force if Syria showed signs of mobilizing “unconventional weapons” (previous reports had suggested al-Assad could have chemical or biological weaponry).
Three weeks have passed since that comment. Nothing seems to have changed, including the brutal war.
But to call this a war is naive. A war is a fight between two different sides; a war involves soldiers. A war is not fighting against your brother; a war is not bombing your countrymen’s homes while they lie in bed.
This is calculated murder, plain and simple.
And we will probably never join the rebels to rid them of their dictator. Obama has learned well from his predecessor just how costly war can be. Which is a shame, considering the fact that the United States could actually make a difference.
Finding a way into the country to give food or water relief might be next to impossible. We, however, are a military superpower, and if we decided to aid the rebels on a military front, this war could end more quickly than it would otherwise.
As Americans, it’s important that we fight for humanity, and not just when the issue directly affects us. Sometimes, you have to do what’s best for all people, a mission al-Assad has clearly shown his disdain for.
Students should do what they can to stimulate debate with each other, with professors, with friends and family to open up a wider conversation about possible solutions and ways the government can take action. The more students talk about Syria, the more people will realize that the United States has a chance to help save lives and that we must urge the government to do so.
For once, let’s try to prevent murder instead of just witnessing it.
Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in film critical studies.