Posts Tagged ‘syria’

The Syria Conspiracy: One I Can Believe

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump, Assad and Putin

Trump, Assad and Putin

I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination? No. The 9/11 building collapse? No. The DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders … Well, OK, two out of three.

To my thinking, most conspiracy theories require: 1) a predetermined attitude on the motive behind the conspiracy (“the government doesn’t want us to know because …”); 2) the willingness to disregard facts (or lack of facts); 3) the belief in the absolute commitment of lots of people over a long period of time to keep a secret; 4) the further belief that the people involved in the conspiracy are actually capable of pulling it off, or at least trying to.

So here’s my conspiracy theory: Trump, Putin and Assad set the whole thing up. The chemical attack, the missile attack, the denials, the warnings from Trump, the threats from Putin. All according to script. Yes, it’s a morbidly depressing theory and so, in some respects, I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m right.

To hatch any sort of conspiracy, there must be something to gain for each of the conspirators. Each must also be able to lie with a straight face, over and over and over again. Being a pathological liar helps. Also, the conspirators must be willing and able to carry out whatever deeds, however unseemly, that are required to promote the fiction they are trying to sell. People will be hurt. Being self-absorbed and demonstrably unconcerned about the welfare of others is also a useful characteristic.

That sounds like Trump, Putin and Assad. In this case, it’s not even hard to believe, let alone conceive of such a chilling conspiracy.

Trump’s motive? Pick one:

  • He doesn’t how how to be president.
  • People think he stinks at the job and he can’t stand rejection.
  • He couldn’t close the deal on the health care plan.
  • People mock his tweets.
  • Judges keep rejecting his executive orders.
  • Even Republicans in Congress couldn’t avoid investigating links between a growing list of Trump campaign aides and Russian hackers to sway the election in his favor. It would be good to get people’s minds off that.
  • People think he’s Putin’s puppet.
  • He likes to act tough.
  • It sounded like a good idea at the time.

OK, so Trump is not the brains behind the plot. Putin is. To get Americans, especially American TV news outlets, to stop focusing on the FBI and CIA and Congress probing whether Trump and Putin are in bed together and, you know, maybe someone committed treason, have Trump order a military strike that has humanitarian justification written all over it, even though it probably won’t accomplish much militarily. A feel-good military action, like attacking someone who has just used chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.

Putin: “Whaddya say, Assad, are you willing to do it again? I know the press will be bad, but that’s nothing new for you. Trump will just mess up one of your airfields with a picturesque nighttime missile strike. TV will eat it up. You’ve got plenty of airfields and we can get your troops and mine out of harm’s way ahead of time. We’ll deny you did it. I’ll talk tough to Donald. He’ll talk tough to me, or better yet, have my buddy, Rex Tillerson, talk tough to me and you.

“Everyone will get nervous. I get to stay in Syria and help you keep your job and the world forgets about Ukraine. My people see me showing a tough Russian face. They can’t earn a decent living in Russia, but they like that image. Meanwhile, your people are even more frightened, convinced that you’re a maniac, willing to kill them in the most horrible ways to retain power. I admire that in you, by the way.

“Americans, of course, will see a bold, decisive president. When Rex comes to see me next week, it will be like old times, in more ways than one. Somehow, we will strike a diplomatic deal. Put down the knives, so to speak. Maybe talk about lifting sanctions in the future. I agree to focus more on fighting ISIS. You agree to a safe zone. ‘Well done!’ the headlines will say. A lot of Americans will believe that Trump has changed overnight from an uncaring, bumbling narcissist to a bold, compassionate leader.”

Assad: “You really think people will believe that about him?”

Putin: “Look, we have to help him. He’s too valuable an asset. Besides, they believed him when he said he’d make America great again. Launching missiles always sends that message.”

Far-fetched? I truly hope so, but all conspiracy theories worth entertaining are. All you need for such an outrageous plot to succeed is three men who have shown no compunction about harming people if it makes them feel more powerful, who have demonstrated a disregard for international law, who possess an uncanny ability to lie, and who have incredible power at their disposal. Also, a public eager to let the story line reinforce their view of how the world is supposed to work.  That is: The good guys win, and we’re the good guys.

Now let’s talk about those contrails.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Dreaming an American Nightmare

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

obama tan suit

President Obama … no strategy on ISIS?

I dreamed an American nightmare.

I dreamed President Obama conducted a news conference and when asked about additional air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the ISIS threat.

Then I realized I hadn’t been asleep at all, and that the president’s verbal shoulder-shrug was the real thing – sign language that translated to: We’ll have a strategy when we have a strategy. Here we are, 13 years after 9/11 and we kinda, sorta know what to do.

This is unacceptable. Not having a strategy against an implacable enemy doesn’t sound quite in the spirit of keeping 300 million people safe.

White House spokesmen can spin it all day long – and spin it they did after President Obama’s news conference – but in the end the fact remains that the President of the United States of America had just finished letting the world know, and letting ISIS know, that he hadn’t yet come up with a strategy for dealing with ISIS.

This is pathetic, not to mention dangerous, because you and I both know the reverse is true – that ISIS has a strategy for dealing with the United States. So oughtn’t President Obama have a plan that goes beyond “Don’t know; see me in a week?”

Asking people to wait for such a plan is asking too much because ISIS is no ordinary foe. It has been conducting a homicidal war against just about everyone in the Middle East. It has murdered two American journalists and several prisoners of war in a manner so unspeakable that ISIS has erased its name from the roster of the members of civilization.

ISIS has weapons and experienced soldiers and the will to use both. It has been described as “the real deal” when it comes to who represents the greatest danger to the Middle East, to Europe, and to the United States. It poses a direct threat to the U.S. because, as some intelligence officials believe, some of ISIS’s more ardent adherents are here in America right now because they live here. ISIS’s description as “an imminent threat” to the United States was not from someone with a loose mouth and no facts, but by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. And Hegel didn’t say this one hour ago, which might have given Obama an out for not yet having a strategy. Hagel said it in July. And the ISIS threat has been known far longer than that.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry had a piece in The Times over the weekend in which he acknowledged that America can’t deal with ISIS alone. It needs partners. “With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” Kerry said.

Sounds great, but I wouldn’t want to be the diplomat sent by Washington to, say, Berlin to ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel for troops and cash on behalf of an American president who has no strategy.

Someone at the White House must remind President Obama of the danger the nation faces. He also needs to be told that he leaves himself open to ridicule when he asks allies for help but has no plan.

On Wednesday, President Obama said the United States would not be intimidated by ISIS. Very tough, very bold. But it’s not a strategy.

 

The Fruits of Obama’s Syria ‘Defeat’

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
President Obama ... his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

President Obama … his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

By Bob Gaydos

In the category of Things Are Never Quite the Way They Appear (especially in international diplomacy), I give you what many “pundits” regard as President Barack Obama’s humiliating defeat in getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to: 1. Admit that his country, contrary to all his previous claims, has a stockpile of outlawed chemical weapons; 2. Agree to promptly provide an inventory of those weapons and 3. Turn the weapons over to a United Nations delegation for the purpose of destroying them all by next year..

This humanitarian feat, which will save countless thousands of lives, was accomplished without firing one missile in righteous anger or placing one set of American GI boots on the ground in the midst of Syria’s brutal civil war. Stay out of Syria is what a solid majority of Americans said they wanted ever since Obama broached the subject of a punishing strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people. It is also what most Republicans in Congress insisted they wanted, contrary to their usual position on military intervention, but consistent with their policy of opposing anything Obama proposes. In this case, to the president, Republican motives didn’t matter; end results did.

This is strictly my opinion. I have no special insight into White House strategy, no one leaking me information on the president’s intentions. Rather, I have my own version of common sense and what I believe is a willingness to judge events by outcomes rather than political bias.

One of the things I believe may not necessarily be as it appears — or as many critics would have it be — is the president’s intent. I do not believe Barack Obama is so dumb as to submit a proposal to Congress that he wants passed if he knows it will be defeated. He is a biracial man living in a racist country who earned degrees from two Ivy League schools — Columbia and Harvard Law, where he was editor of the Law Review. He got elected president. Twice. Having made history, he also has guided the country slowly out of a devastating, largely Republican-created recession and got a health care plan for all Americans through a Congress that can barely agree to meet. This is one smart man (although I think his “red line“ on chemical weapons was a tactical mistake).

So, I have serious doubts that the president ever intended to launch a military strike against Syria, precisely because of the opposition he knew existed among average, war-weary Americans, as well as entrenched anti-Obama, rank-and-file Republicans. He signaled that when, after days of threatening a strike, he agreed to ask Congress to debate and vote on the issue, without even asking members to cut short their vacation to do so. That made the proposal DOA, with even many Democrats opposed to U.S. involvement in Syria because of their constituents’ opposition to it.

Ironically, with the disarmament agreement now being finalized with Syria and Russia, Obama’s continued threat to use military force if Syria fails to comply with the agreement gains much more validity and support among Americans than his original threat. Assad has admitted he’s got the weapons. French, British and American experts, as well as Human Rights Watch, say, based on a United Nations report, that there is no doubt it was Assad’s troops, not rebel forces, that used them. The U.S. Navy’s continued presence in the Mediterranean Sea now takes on even greater import to Assad.

Then, of course, there is the disarmament agreement itself. Americans are strongly of two minds on this:

1. One group, that didn’t necessarily want to attack Syria, nonetheless thinks it is embarrassing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting credit for the plan and that he lectured Americans (in the New York Times no less) about thinking they had to act as morality policeman of the world.

2. Another group feels it is high time America stopped acting as morality policeman of the world, focused on domestic issues instead and enlisted other countries’ help in finding diplomatic, rather than military, solutions to international crises.

I don’t think Obama cares that Putin is getting most of the credit for the chemical weapons agreement. I also don’t think the agreement just sprang into Putin’s head in a dream one night. In fact, Russian officials have acknowledged such a plan was discussed months ago with American officials. Just as Obama is no clueless patsy in this, Putin is no hero. He is no champion of human rights and Americans shouldn’t really pay serious attention to what he has to say about life in the U.S.

In fact, Russia has been the main supplier of arms for the Syrian Army, enabling the civil war to drag on and produce more than 100,000 deaths and a flood of millions fleeing their country. But it is precisely for the link with Syria that Putin had to appear to be the primary force behind the non-military plan.

Of course, this helps Putin gain even more political stature at home. As mentioned previously, Obama has been elected president twice. He cannot run again. His place in history is forged and his future as a statesman guaranteed. But Putin has an Olympics coming to his country next year and has stirred worldwide condemnation for Russia’s anti-gay laws. I wouldn’t be surprised if Russian authorities were tolerant of demonstrations supporting gay rights next winter or if Barack Obama were among the world leaders being most vocal about demanding such behavior. And, while he won’t show it, I don’t think Putin will regard his apparent backing down on gay rights as a “humiliating defeat” on the international stage.

Meanwhile, a major store of chemical weapons will be destroyed, a potential threat to Middle Eastern neighbors of Syria will have been removed, rebel forces in Syria will know they don’t have to fear facing such weapons, not one American soldier will have set foot in Syria, not one Syrian citizen will have been listed as collateral damage in a strike by American “smart” missiles, the United States will have shown cynical countries that it really can use diplomacy, rather than military might, to resolve a crisis, Assad will have been shown to be a murderous liar, Putin will have had some of his Lone Ranger image stripped away in international diplomacy, President Obama, counter to his image in some corners as a reluctant warrior, will have appeared to be willing and eager to use U.S. military power, and Republicans will have emerged as a party opposed to war. By the way, the overwhelming majority of Americans support the non-military resolution of the Syrian crisis.

Humiliating defeat my ass..

bob@zestoforange.com

Putin on Gays: A Russian Fable

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ... some of his favorite Russians were gay.

Russian President Vladimir Putin … some of his favorite Russians were gay.

There’s an old Russian proverb that goes something like this: “How do you know when the president (prime minister, czar, party chief) is lying? His lips are moving.”

OK, so it’s not an old Russian proverb, but you get the gist. Today, it means if Russian President Vladimir Putin is speaking, the words emanating from his mouth are subject to change at any moment according to whatever he thinks will best suit his ultimate goal. That goal seems to be to consolidate his grip on power through whatever repressive measures he can get away with while pretending to support democratic principles of government.

So when Putin says, for example, that there is no discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia — despite recent passage by the Duma of a law banning any public mention of homosexuality that could be construed as propaganda supporting it — one can assume it’s a lie. One can further assume that he thinks he has a good reason for making what common sense declares to be a bunch of bull.

That reason, of course, is the looming presence of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian resort city of Sochi and Putin‘s desire to avoid a boycott of the games and/or worldwide condemnation of the Russian law and measures that might be taken to register protest against it. There are hundreds of millions of rubles at stake and Russia can ill afford to lose any of them. So don’t worry, folks, in keeping with the Olympic spirit that forbids discrimination of any kind, there will be no discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia during the Olympics, Putin says,

Afterwards? Well, that’s another matter.

And that’s what needs to be remembered. In Russia, Putin faces no serious challenge to his words from a free, vigorous press (he’s worked hard at squelching that) and, in this case, most likely has the support of a majority of Russians. In a country with a poor history of tolerance for minorities, few are going to point out any inconsistencies between his words and actions regarding homosexuality in Russia, during and after the Olympics.

President Obama, angry that Putin granted temporary asylum in Russia to Edwin Snowden, who made public voluminous files on the U.S. government’s efforts to spy on ordinary Americans and also upset that Putin has resisted taking military action against Syria for use of chemical weapons against its own people, canceled a meeting with Putin in Russia during this week’s G20 summit. Instead, Obama met with gay activists in Russia, a double insult.

No sweat for Putin. He softened his stance on Syria and said some of his favorite Russians –Tchaikovsky, for example — were homosexuals and yet are still loved by Russians. Whatever suits his need at the time, the former KGB chief will say, usually with a smile.

The anti-gay law has led to calls to boycott the Sochi Games, but such actions always hurt far more than their intended target. In this case, thousands of athletes — including countless gay athletes — who have worked for four years for this honor would be denied what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Gary Kasparov, former world chess champion and an outspoken Russian critic of Putin, says there are other ways to protest. In an interview with Huffington Post, he says the protest are not about the athletes, but rather “about Putin and his repressive regime.” He says world leaders (presidents, diplomats, royalty, etc.) should boycott the games, denying Putin their implied support for his policies and perhaps weakening his resolve to pursue similar ones.

Kasparov also thinks Olympic sponsors such as Coke, McDonald’s, Visa and other major companies should recognize the views of their main customers and express opposition to the Russian law by adorning their products with rainbow flags or other symbols of support for gays. And he says NBC and other broadcasters of the Games should use their freedom and their platform to do stories about, not only the anti-gay law, but other repressive measures taken by Putin. A little press freedom in Russia would not be such a bad idea.

Admittedly, a boycott of the games would be dramatic, but would likely only stiffen Putin’s us-against-the-world resolve and not sway Russian citizens, a difficult task under any circumstances. Moving the games from Sochi (now under martial law) is impractical given time constraints. That leaves broad public condemnation of Putin and education of the Russian public — by previously mentioned means and the use of social media — as the most effective way to make Putin eat his words. It may also wake up the Russians and make him less likely to pursue future oppressive measures.

There’s another old Russian proverb. Something about sleeping dogs and lying. OK, it’s not Russian, but you get the gist.

 

Knee-Deep in the Big Muddy

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

For a moment, I gave Sarah Palin credit for voicing one of the cleverer observations about the sound of war drums in Washington.

 “So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria?” she said. “And I’m the idiot?” 

So it’s like this. President Obama is outraged at Bashar al-Assad’s murderous use of chemical weapons against the easiest target of all – his own people. These would include subversive 4-year olds and other enemies of the regime, such as the rest of Syria’s children plus their mothers, fathers and grandparents, brothers and sisters.

In going after them, Assad has proved himself to be a very special kind of monster. No one on record – prince, president or prime minister – has done what he has done. Which is to say no national leader has ever given the order to assassinate his people with nerve gas, a substance hard to avoid once it’s deployed and one that produces a particularly nasty death.

But Obama has been unable to find many allies. Britain won’t join him – France will – and once again the United States is searching for a coalition, which is something you do long before you order the Navy into Middle Eastern waters. Who knows? Maybe Andorra will send a couple of soldiers to assist America. Or maybe Lichtenstein. Or Honduras. Maybe one of these days, there’s going to be a need for a worldwide response to some atrocity and some outraged nation, other than the U.S., will take the first step.

Obama is out there all by himself. In polling, the Pew Research Center found that 48 percent of those polled were opposed to U.S. military action in Syria. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found 60 percent against war, and an amazing 73 percent of Move On members – Obama’s base – say no to action in Syria.

But to paraphrase Pete Seeger about a different president in a different adventure in a different time, we could use our might against Assad and quickly find ourselves neck deep in the big muddy [or big sandy] while the big fool says to push on.

The official American position: Assad’s a thug. We hate Assad. Assad’s regime is opposed by “Syrian rebel fighters” – whoever they are – so let’s cozy up to them and hope for the best. But who knows? The “best” may have appeared on Page 1 of The New York Times yesterday, Sept. 5. See the seven prone Assad soldiers, their arms bound, their faces in the dirt. See the eight “Syrian rebel fighters” standing over them, seven with automatic rifles and one with a handgun. The event was the summary executions of the soldiers by people we’d in bed with, at least as far as our mutual loathing of Assad is concerned. You can see a video of the last moment in the soldiers’ lives at The Times’ web site. It is difficult to watch.

And the big fool says to push on.

The specific goal of an American military strike against Syria hasn’t been fully articulated yet, but one must suppose that destruction of Assad’s chemical plants and storage facilities must be high on the target list. But you never know what will happen when you play with gas. Hit a chemical factory or storage site the wrong way and things get very ugly very quickly.

Here’s a quick story about the uncertainties of gas warfare; this one is almost humorous. On a hot summer day at Fort Dix in 1964, Tango Company went for gas training. We were ordered to put our gas masks on and then file into a small hut whose air had been contaminated with chlorine gas. Then, one by one, we had to stand before the instructor, remove the mask, count to 10, salute, and leave the building. Most of us weren’t fast enough and inhaled some of the gas. We didn’t merely vomit, which is what chlorine gas is supposed to make you do, but we retched to a degree that felt like someone was ripping out our throats.

Here’s gas’ unpredictability. Our sergeants, who never carried backpacks or gas masks, were sitting under a tree, smoking cigarettes and getting a kick out of the sight of us rushing out of the gas house, choking and gasping for clear air.

And then, the gentle August breeze changed direction and some of the gas residue escaping from the hut fell on the sergeants, who bolted. We laughed – from our side of the rest area.

Has anyone figured out the potential damage to Syria’s children and other noncombatants if we bomb Syria’s gas facilities?

 

Mr. Obama: No Proof, No Attack on Syria

Thursday, August 29th, 2013
President Obama needs to make an ironclad case to justify an attack on Syria.

President Obama needs to make an ironclad case to justify an attack on Syria.

By Bob Gaydos

Here we go again.

A brutal Arab regime, under fire from rebel forces, is accused of using chemical weapons against its own people, women and children included. This violates every rule of warfare and demands military intervention by the United States, to whom the role of defender of democracy and human decency has been assigned by other nations over the years. But like everything else in the Middle East, nothing about the war in Syria is that clear-cut.

The United Nations, established in part to unify and coordinate worldwide reaction to such atrocities, as usual, is paralyzed. Any effort by the U.S. and allies to get Security Council approval for missile or air strikes against the offending party will be blocked by Russia and China, who have veto power. They do not simply follow marching orders from the White House and are big enough to make that matter. That will probably require the U.S. to put together a coalition of enough nations to give the imprimatur of legitimacy, if not legality, for such a military action.

This will likely happen despite conflicting accounts as to who actually used the chemical weapons — the ruling Assad government or the rebels — and with the assurance that U.S. involvement will include only targeted air or missile strikes (remember smart bombs?) and no involvement of ground forces in Syria’s civil war. Apparently, it will also occur without a debate on the issue by the U.S. Congress, which is unfortunate since it is the only branch of government authorized to declare war. In addition, a clear majority of Americans, weary of fighting more than a decade of wars in the Middle East, are opposed to U.S. involvement in another war in the region.

Add to these complications the fact that there has still been no convincing proof given publicly that the Syrian military, not the rebels, employed the nerve gas. Rather, Americans have been reassured by a well-respected secretary of state that the White House is certain the weapons were used by Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s troops and that this is reason enough for U.S. involvement.

Sound familiar? Did anybody in the White House hear former Secretary of State Colin Powell — who made the case for attacking Iraq before the U.N. — recently call out former Vice President Dick Cheney for steamrolling President George W. Bush into attacking Iraq with similar justification and no solid evidence? Since that justifiable “moral” intervention lasted 10 years and cost tens of thousands of lives and destroyed a country, it would seem to behoove President Obama to present undeniable proof of guilt publicly before ordering any attack.

Obama, who has until now wisely resisted calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria, drew a red line in the sand to signal when the U.S. might actually get involved. That’s a risky diplomatic tool. His red line was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. Having made such a declaration and now believing that Syria has, in fact, crossed that line, the president faces a difficult choice. If he follows the will of the American people, recent history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and the lack of publicly offered conclusive evidence on who used the chemical weapons, he would surely not order U.S. warplanes or ships to attack Syria.

However, if he ignores his own red line, other nations that have been given similar warnings about development of nuclear weapons — Iran and North Korea — might feel emboldened to move ahead, figuring Obama was not a man of his word. That the American president was all talk, as it were. Then there is the matter of this being a deplorable act that cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

The key questions to be answered are:

— Who used the nerve gas, the government or the rebels?

— What is an appropriate response?

Given the American public’s growing distrust of the Obama administration because of its widespread spying on American citizens and its vigorous efforts to prosecute whistleblowers — who might be able to answer the question of who used the chemical weapons — the president should insist on a full public debate on Syria by Congress. This would be wise especially if he’s certain he’s got the goods on Assad. This would also be wise given the extended U.S. military presences in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little obvious gain except to the corporations that provide the machinery of war. Obama should welcome a full and open discussion by Congress of the situation and the options.

There is no good choice here. Some party is using chemical weapons against the people of Syria to further its own interests. This is barbaric. Just look at the photos of the bodies of dead children lined up. A surgical air strike or ship-launched missiles, aimed at the guilty parties only and the machinery that allows them to use the weapons, would be a viable military option. But “surgical” air strikes have been notoriously imprecise in the past. Innocent people have been killed in the name of protecting innocent people.

The obvious preference would be for a diplomatic solution that spares lives. That would probably require Obama to somehow convince Russia and China, friendly with the Syrian government, to work with him on a peaceful solution. Assad leaving Syria would be one. If that is not possible and if the president can provide conclusive and independently verifiable (say, by United Nations inspectors) proof of guilt by the Syrian government, and if Congress is given the evidence and conducts a public debate, and if more nations than Syria’s immediate neighbors (Turkey and Jordan) as well as U.S. ally Great Britain, support the action, Obama would be justified in launching a limited military intervention in Syria.

That’s a lot of ifs, to be sure and war is seldom the answer. Still, there are no ifs, ands or buts that whoever inflicted chemical weapons on the children of Syria must be made to pay.

bob@zestoforange.com

One Death Among Many in Syria

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

He looks to be about 10 years old and already he has bags under his eyes, a condition usually reserved for people who have seen a lot or who are old. He sits on the ground, holding a red and white keffiyeh. Surrounding him are an adult in what appears to be an Adidas jacket, a kid about his own age, and two more adults, one with his arm on the boy’s shoulder and one stroking his hair.

Nothing helps. The boy, whose name is Ahmed, is bereft, crying, his mouth agape, a look on his face that says, “What happens to me now?” The event is the funeral of his father, Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer, a man you probably never heard of and likely never will hear about again. The boy is the focus of a picture taken by an Associated Press photographer that ran on Page 1 of the Times last Friday.

I looked at this little boy and found I was unable to turn the page. He was the living symbol of this wretched war that’s being waged by Syria against its people. His eyes held my eyes. Now, almost a week later, that copy of the Times is still on my desk, almost challenging me to walk by without spending some time trying to understand this little kid’s pain.

The father was part of an anti-government demonstration in the Syrian city of Idlib when he was shot dead by a sniper in the pay of the Syrian Army which, in turn, is in the pay and under the ultimate command of an ophthalmologist who happens to own the country, Bashar al-Assad, a man with his own children.

When the history of this war is finally written, Ahmed will be one of its great symbols. For this is a war that pits Assad, the Syrian president and son of the former president, against Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer and much the rest of the Syrian people.

In his mad bid to retain power, Assad has been the supreme commander of Syrian armed forces that that have killed an estimated 7,500 Syrian people in the last 11 months, a rate of about 25 a day. Additionally, as noted by The Times, the UN reports that 30,000 Syrians have run across whatever national borders were close at hand to escape the killing, and 200,000 others have been ordered to relocate within the boundaries of Syria.

And it gets worse. In order to put a stop to the escapes, the Syrian government has ordered the placement of antipersonnel mines near the borders with Turkey and Lebanon. Stay in Syria and risk death. Try to escape Syria and risk death. What must a man think when he looks at his family and tries to decide what to do next? What must a president think when he orders the use of such barbaric weapons not against an invader but against his own people who do not like him?

The world looks at pictures like the one of Ahmed and the world grieves, wrings its hands, makes threatening noise and ultimately does nothing. And so, the signal Assad receives is that he can get away with it.

But on the day when the snipers are gone and the summary executions are over, the people of Syria will demand justice. If the decent people of the world were smart they’d help make that day come a little sooner.

jeffrey@zestoforange.com