Friday, September 6, 2013

What do you tell the children? To bomb or not to bomb Syria.

I have two boys, we live in the world, currently residing in Kathmandu but in the short 8years since having children we have lived in Malaysia, Lebanon, Ecuador and now Nepal. The media is all over the question  to bomb or not to bomb Syria. We don't have TV, don't get the newspapers and definitely don't subscribe to anything but independent media on the internet, so the kids are pretty sheltered from the current media feeding frenzy. That said they are not stupid nor impervious to overheard adult conversations or talk in the school-yard, the odd BBC Radio news update in the car and since the duty station we were in was Beirut...they are pretty attuned to what is going on.

So what to tell them currently and how to rationalise what is going on. I have just written and slightly re-edited the letter below to a friend that outlines my thoughts on the matter at this time, and I don't know really to translate all this into a language that my 6 and 8 year old will understand. That is another matter. What I do know is that if the decision is taken for a military intervention in Syria then the opportunity for learning about the dismal state of affairs in the world will sky-rocket and a moment in time to reinforce their roles (all of our roles) as change-agents optimized, is that homeschooling or just good parenting? Whether we are departing from the Kali Yurga, shifting from a world that has been masculine dominated to one that is feminine-led, it is clear that we cannot continue to treat each other and Mother Earth the way we have been, particularly these past 100years.

I realise as I write that I have the children first and foremost in my mind. Your children, my children...Syrian children. No one, not Assad, not any opposition group, not the Presidents or Prime Ministers of the USA, Iran, Israel or Russia have any right to trample on the hopes and aspirations or the futures (not to mention the Rights) of Syrian children. Many Syrian kids have now been out of school for 2years...with no end in sight, I wonder what their parents are telling them about all this. So-called Leaders need to rein in, take a deep breath and then step up in the name of the children and of humanity.

Hi K,

Yes, I am trying to extend my longevity by reducing pre-occupation with humanitarian emergencies and the resulting stress! Work as it has come to be known has been allowed to overtake life and the fulfillment of the human spirit and this is wrong. We all have choices to make. I digress. 

To your question...I am absolutely against anything as blatantly foolish and arrogant as military strikes on Syria. There is much written about it both in the mainstream press and supposed think tanks, but most miss the mark or are clearly biased. Any thoughts of 'punishing' are those of small minds or perhaps those only with hegemonic or economic interests...anyway usually these are the small minds, narrow minds at the very least, again, I digress.

First, NO intervention can occur without the full report from the UN assessment mission. Their report will reveal the type of chemical used and then we will know the source and therefore whodunit. This is underscored by the UNSG this week in his noon-day briefing.

Second, once the perpetrators are known, any intervention essentially needs to consider and respect the need for humanitarian access to Syrians and reinforce the principles behind the emerging 'responsibility to protect' doctrine, this might be a bit of a stretch for the USA given its global bully rather than global champion type attitude but still, we can only hope that broader thinking minds prevail. It is not the place of the USA to punish anyone outside of their own country.

If there is bombing there will be further displacement and fewer opportunities for aid to reach the millions displaced, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of vulnerable people (elderly, disabled, ill, children).
If there is bombing there will be a rise of anti-western sentiment jeopardizing aid workers who come in to deliver assistance for years to come, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of vulnerable people (elderly, disabled, ill, children).
If there is bombing (precision bombing is a myth and a farce) then innocent lives will be lost directly or indirectly as a consequence.
If there is bombing of course the potential disastrous consequences for an explosion of the mounting regional tensions goes through the roof and we could see a regional conflagration of immense proportions...some say this is what is needed in the region...the pimple, now a nasty inflamed boil, needs to be lanced and if this is the destiny of the region then sobeit. Pity the people.
If there is bombing there will be no gain whatsoever, if anyone thinks the perpetrators will blink...they are naive and delusional.

Third, a political intervention is different in many ways. Once whodunit is known, and if it is Assad, Obama (the USA taking a leading role should not be considered a no-brainer, why not Canada?...oh, right, because Harper is PM...I forgot.) will be required to kiss and make up with Putin (which understand is a step up with pride, not a pride swallowing exercise and this requires gumption). He needs to make nice overtures with the Iranians who are amenable under the new government, a great opportunity, this will require him to get teflon trouser cuffs to protect himself from the Israelis snapping at his heels. He needs broad consensus on condemning Assad or whoever it turns out used chemical weapons from the General Assembly so not only the permanent members of the SC but including those members of the non-aligned states. The ICC will in turn have to begin proceedings to bring war criminals to justice. What we need here is Global Statesmanship, and it is sorely lacking. With political overtures in Washington, Moscow and Tehran, SRSG Ibrahim Brahimi can finally make headway in seeking some kind of respite for the beleaguered Syrian population and hopefully mark a turnabout so that those poor millions displaced within Syrian and surrounding countries can have a glimmer of hope that they will return home sometime soon. The refugee crisis is pitiful, countries like Lebanon and Jordan are sinking under the burden that is not being well-supported internationally. There is only ONE durable solution for the masses displaced and that is for them to return home.

Not forgetting that under the UN Charter, to bomb a sovereign nation that is not attacking or even threatening to attack yours is itself a war crime. We know this has been done before (by the same country!) but that has to end as much as the use of chemical weapons has to end.

The UN report should be viewed not as an excuse for some kind of male egocentric, arrogant abrogation of all of what is decent in diplomacy and human morality but as an opportunity for a properly morally upright and human-based response. Frankly I am extremely unimpressed with Obama and how he has allowed himself to be pushed in such a hawkish direction. I thought he was better than that, I think he thinks he is better than that and if he does take aggressive action against the perpetrators of the chemical attacks, lets hope he a) gets the perps right and b) that he and the hawks that push him are prepared to be condemned by history for his actions and their consequences down to the last child who dies because aid could not reach him/her. The USA is in a tailspin and this may well be the last act it takes before plummeting into moral bankruptcy becoming itself an untrustworthy global pariah. Sadly it will take the global economy with it along with those of us with US dollars but if that is the way the world is to be re-ordered then there is not much can change that.

Thats my two bits. Feel free to pass it on. Look for the ICG Statement on Syria, the UNSG Tuesday Noon day briefing, bits in the Independent by Robert Fisk, UNHCR's portal on Syria, and the R2P website. If you want to do something (which kicks butt on nothing) sign the Avaaz petition, and give generously, and/or here, and/or here.


1 comment:

  1. Diplomacy . . . what a quaint idea, from the times before criminals (albeit national or rogue) were named, judged, and executed in the media, with military force on the heels of the verdict. I hear that long-simmering ethnic/religious tensions are escalating and no one is in the mood to sit down and talk. The alternative is a bloodbath. And how you can be in the mood for slaughter (and always of the "collatorally damaged" innocents) is beyond my comprehension.