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Aleppo's Massacred Children: The Real Legacy of Obama

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A Syrian boy sits next to bodies after artillery fire struck the Jub al-Quba district of Aleppo, Syria, November 30, 2016.
A Syrian boy sits next to bodies after artillery fire struck the Jub al-Quba district of Aleppo, Syria, November 30, 2016.Credit: AP

A girl in a red coat and pink boots is lying in the road. Her head is twisted at a strange angle and her open eyes are glazed. A young woman with a head covering is sprawled on the side, her hand still holding the modest backpack in which there were a few items that she managed to gather before fleeing the bombings. A boy sits bent over, his face twisted with despair, above two covered bodies, one much smaller than the other, with high red shoes and jeans that aren’t hidden by the brown blanket that covers her.

Suitcases, backpacks and bags are scattered all over the smashed street, between what looks like body parts and bodies that are more or less whole. An older man with a beard runs down the street, in one hand he is holding a baby and in the other what looks like a bag of clothing, and you restrain yourself from shouting at him to throw away the bag and concentrate on running to a safe haven.

There are days when keeping up with the news coming from Syria is almost intolerable. Today the horror was focused on a bombing by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad on a group of civilians trying to flee from besieged eastern Aleppo. At least 45 people were killed and 50 were wounded, according to the reports of aid workers in Aleppo. Most of these pictures won’t be shown on the Haaretz website, for reasons of maintaining the dignity of the dead, an unwillingness to harm readers’ feelings, and also because in the final analysis this is the pornography of death in a commercial product.

But they are accessible on the social networks for anyone who keeps track and is interested in what is happening in Syria. And perhaps the most frustrating thing is that you know that even if you publish another article about the massacre, almost nobody will read it. Almost nobody will be interested. After almost six years of war, who cares about another headline about another 50 people who were killed in Syria?

Another day. Another massacre. More bodies of children. The immediate guilty parties are clear: Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hezbollah. Those whose hand was on the trigger.

While the world's greatest power remains impotent, this Syrian woman had to carry children following airstrikes on a rebel area of the war-torn northern Syrian city of Aleppo.Credit: AFP

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” wrote philosopher Edmund Burke in the 18th century. And the good people are still doing nothing. All the rational explanations about the limitations of power and international politics won’t help. The girl in the red raincoat who is sprawled in the street – that is the real legacy of United States President Barack Obama.

And this legacy is a legacy of impotence. A legacy of declarations and speeches in favor of democracy and human rights, without backing them up with actions. A legacy of positing red lines and then erasing them. A legacy of giving up the American pretense of moral leadership of the world and focusing on U.S. citizens’ immediate fear of terror, at the expense of strategic perspective.

But Obama, who turned the battle against Islamic State into the be-all and end-all and turned his back on the civilians being slaughtered by Assad, is not the only guilty one. The blood of the residents of Aleppo is smeared on the hands of the entire international community. If after Rwanda, after Srebrenica, after Kosovo, nothing has been learned and nothing has changed, then the question of how it’s possible that the world did nothing stops being propaganda.

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