Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Trump and the crisis in Syria

Syrian citizens deserve better than what they’re getting at the moment. On top of being gassed by their own leaders, they are now dealing with a weak response from the rest of the world. Inspectors from the United Nations Security Council are on their way to Damascus to find out if Bashar al-Assad really has gassed his own people again.

Until this is confirmed, no decision is expected to be made, which is just too weak of a response. The UN can see from videos taken after the bombing that Syrian citizens were suffering from a nerve agent attack. This was my first time seeing bodies react to nerve agents, and it was one of the more disturbing things I’ve ever seen. It is one thing to attack a rebel group, but when a government attacks the people that it’s supposed to be representing and helping, there is a massive problem.

The fact that Syria still has chemical weapons is a problem in itself, as Assad claimed to have gotten rid of all of their chemical weapons in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997. A letter was written by Assad saying that Syria had destroyed all of their remaining chemical weapons in 2013. In 2014, the only country that has never complied with this convention started to back the Syrian government.

Enter Vladimir Putin. He absolutely needs to be brought into this conversation because he and his country have backed Assad’s regime for many years now. Putin is not a dumb man; he knows what goes on in the Syrian government, and each time something like this happens, he turns a blind eye. He may even be the one supplying the Syrians with this deadly nerve gas. Russia is in this land under the false pretense that it is helping Syria fight extremist groups. But Russia is more likely there to further its influence and to get a secure foothold in an area that is a hotbed of violence.

I was happy to see President Trump give an actual response to this crisis response on Twitter. I was more excited by the fact that he finally called out the Russian leader by name. On Sunday, the president tweeted: “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…”

This was a clear attack on Russia and Iran — two countries that have backed Assad for far too long. I’m usually not a big fan of Trump’s lame nicknames for people, but describing Assad as an animal is fitting. I don’t think the United States going to war with Syria is the answer at this point, but the United States and United Nations should be doing everything in their power to stop these atrocities from ever happening again. These are clear human rights violations that are being used as a political pawns on network television. It’s a sad thing to play political chess with people that are counting on you to save them.

Almost one year ago exactly, I wrote a column describing a chemical attack that took place in Syria. I called for immediate action to deter Assad from striking his people again. The same day that my article was published, the United States launched a serious attack on a Syrian air base.

Now, we have been at a stalemate for almost a week. This time around, the United States was not the one to carry out an attack; rather, it was our ally in the Middle East: Israel. Whatever you may think about Israel, one thing is for sure: It seems to always back up the United States in conflicts that are occurring close to home. Trump didn’t have to scramble the jets this time — it seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already had his finger on the trigger.

I assume that this attack will only strengthen the relationship we currently have with Israel. But I don’t think I want to get into how turbulent and skewed that relationship is in this column. What’s important is the fact that another nation came to the defense of citizens who have no means of protecting themselves from a regime that has shown no mercy.

This includes journalist Marie Colvin, who was allegedly targeted and killed by Assad’s regime because she was an American reporter. Colvin’s family is now suing the Syrian government. This is going to be the first time that the Syrian government is taken to court because of something that has happened during the civil war in Syria.

This is a crazy thought because there have been multiple chemical attacks on citizens since 2014. It seems that the only way Assad’s regime is going to be held responsible is if it does something to harm a fully developed nation. And it seems to be that way for a lot of the world, which is sad to see.

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