Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes in HuffPost:
“WASHINGTON ― As President Donald Trump on Thursday night announced a military strike on Syria because of his deep concern for “beautiful babies” and other civilians killed in a chemical weapons attack this week, two legal battles continued over his efforts to keep Syrian children and their families out of the United States.
The president’s first ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries is being litigated in a federal court in Seattle. His second attempted Muslim ban remains blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, with an appeals court scheduled to hear the case in May.
Both executive orders halted the entry of refugees, and targeted Syrians in particular. The language of the orders echoed Trump’s campaign talk about the humanitarian crisis facing more than 20 million people from that country. In September, the then-candidate said denying U.S. entry to Syrian refugees is “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life.”
Since his inauguration, Trump has repeatedly spread lies about refugee-related problems in Sweden. And his administration has tried to mislead the public on the number of refugees being investigated on terror charges. The Washington Post rated Trump’s talking point on the issue “highly misleading” last month.
After a U.S. intelligence analysis suggested that Syrian President Bashar Assad used the banned chemical weapon sarin in an attack on an opposition-held village on Tuesday, Trump spoke multiple times about children and other civilians who were affected.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack,” Trump said after launching the strike Thursday night. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
The White House confirmed after the attack that Trump has not altered his position on refugees. National Security Adviser James McMaster said the refugee issue “wasn’t discussed as any part of the deliberations” for the strikes, according to a White House pool report.
The hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.
. . . .
“More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, when Assad attacked peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule.
“In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school,” the nonprofit World Vision wrote in a post on March 15, the sixth anniversary of the civil war. “Children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.”
Trump’s strike in itself is unlikely to have any serious impact on civilian suffering. A one-off U.S. show of force may help the president and his team feel they’re taken action. But the Assad regime’s assault on Syria’s people will likely continue, perhaps after some small break.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested this would be the case Thursday night, telling reporters not to expect a change in U.S. policy toward directly trying to force Assad out.
“If Trump just wants Assad to stop using [chemical weapons] but does nothing about sieges, torture & mass executions, then Assad will likely say ‘deal,’” Kristyan Benedict, campaigns manager for Amnesty International UK, tweeted. “Stopping Assad’s chemical attacks has value for sure but [chemical weapons] are just one tool the regime use to terrorize civilians & maintain their power.”
The hypocrisy also was noted in a NY Times Op-Ed by Anthony J. Blinken on the need for an effective diplomatic follow-up to the military response:
“Here at home, Mr. Trump must speak directly to the American people about the country’s mission and its objectives, thoroughly brief Congress and seek its support, and make clear the legal basis for United States actions. And while he’s at it, he should reopen the door he has tried to slam shut on Syrian refugees. The president’s human reaction to the suffering of those gassed by the Assad regime should extend to all the victims of Syria’s civil war, including those fleeing its violence.”
Read Blinken’s entire op-ed here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/after-the-missiles-we-need-smart-diplomacy.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170407&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=
Sorry, but I wouldn’t expect any real humanitarian or moral leadership out of this Administration. It’s really all about muscle, authority, acting tough, showing up the Obama Administration, throwing bones to the military, and shoring up shaky support among GOP hawks in Congress who have been itching to start another un-winnable war in the Middle East for years. Oh yeah, and it changed the subject from the Russia investigation, internal war in the West Wing, failed health care, and more attacks by this Administration on America’s environment, health, safety, privacy, and civil rights.
I also wouldn’t let new NSC head Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster off the hook here. Yes, he did America and the world a huge service by getting alt-right nationalist Steve Bannon off the NSC and perhaps shaking his standing in the West Wing. And, he undoubtedly brings a much needed voice of military and national security expertise to the table. The idea of Gen. Mike Flynn, a proven liar and flake, and Bannon being given any part in America’s national security apparatus is scary beyond belief.
But, McMaster’s failure to “connect the dots” between military policy and the intertwined ongoing civilian humanitarian refugee crisis in Syria is simply inexcusable. And, by publicly turning our back on Syrian refugees we actually signal that our talk of humanitarian concerns in Syria is merely a “smokescreen.”
We have, and will continue to, show little concern for the real human victims of the Syrian war. This signals to both Assad and Russia that our only real interest is maintaining politically visible “red lines.” As long as Assad sticks to “conventional means” of murdering, maiming, terrorizing and displacing Syrian civilians we will continue to turn our back on the suffering of refugees.
Both knowledge of and actual hands on field work in the area of refugees and humanitarian relief should be a job requirement for any military officer promoted to the rank of General or its equivalent in other branches of service. War, at the end of the day, is about only one thing: people. And, there is no such thing as a war that doesn’t produce both civilian deaths and refugees.