An Imaginary Letter from a Devastated Syrian-Kurdish Girl!

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“Look around me, everything is destroyed, and my world is gone forever. My girlfriend and I have built a makeshift fireplace. She’s gathering wood so we don’t freeze tonight. I do not know where my family is, they’re all gone. We’re alone, we’re scared and hungry. No one has enough of anything to share with us. Why is this happening? It looks like it’s the end of the world. Why did people do this to us? What did we do to deserve this? There’s no one here to help us. I am too frightened and weak; we don’t know what to do, please someone help us.”

The Syrian girl with no name (an imaginary letter from a ‘child martyr’ of the Syrian civil war).

I was confused by the little girl’s serenity amidst such utter devastation knowing she couldn’t be older than eight. We are told that she is a Kurdish Syrian girl from the Syrian town of Kobane, the picture was taken in March 2015.

Does this picture encapsulate the madness going on in Syria? Or maybe it’s the recent image of the drowned boy on the beach; or could it be the one of the traumatised father holding his half-dead child in his arms? I ask myself why aren’t we seeing any more of these images. Might they not positively influence public opinion on the terrible consequences of war? Move people to action? Are these images purposely hidden from us? It’s seems that we will never truly grasp the meaning of terror until we confront these images head on.

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Death of a Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, who was pictured washed up on a Turkish beach after his Kurdish family attempted to flee their homeland for Europe. Photograph Courtesy of Nilufer Demir/Reuters

One of most trenchant critics of the global war apparatus, Chris Hedges has this to say about how the media pre-packages propaganda as news; “War is brutal and impersonal. It mocks the fantasy of individual heroism and the absurdity of utopian goals like democracy. In an instant, industrial warfare can kill dozens, even hundreds of people, who never see their attackers. The power of these industrial weapons is indiscriminate and staggering. They can take down apartment blocks in seconds, burying and crushing everyone inside. They can demolish villages and send tanks, planes and ships up in fiery blasts. No one returns the same from such warfare. And once these weapons are employed all talk of human rights is a farce.” Chris continues, “War’s effects are what everyone works hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of children and listen to the wails of their parents we would not be able to repeat clichés about liberation and freedom. This is why war is carefully sanitized. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic, and we’re protected from seeing what war actually does.”

Everyone knows that there are many factors inherent to the Syrian conflict; they may be political, historical, cultural, economic, tribal, and religious. But the most enlightened political analysts insist the main reason is Syria’s geo-strategic location as the primary conduit route for natural gas pipelines originating in the gulf on their way to customers in Turkey and other European countries. We are also starting to a growing Russian, Iranian and possibly Chinese involvement in this area dominated for centuries by the Ottomans and western powers. This geographical pivot is often associated with humanity’s final battle; some say it has already started. I don’t believe in Armageddon. It’s a cowardly excuse for political zealots and religious fanatics to justify unjustifiable wars as well as a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy that risks calamity on us all.

So as the world powers and all the power brokers of the Middle East discuss what matters to them and their cronies and what actions to take next, more Syrian girls and boys, more Syrian mothers and fathers will be forced to live ‘half-lives’. The most scathing quote about Syria comes from Paul Valéry, and translated from French it reads; “War is the massacre of people who are not known for the profit of people who are known but not massacred.” Is the world really that callous; are there people actually profiting from this poor girl’s misery?

A building smolders after a Syrian airstrike in Damascus in January 2013. Photograph Courtesy of Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A building smolders after a Syrian airstrike in Damascus in January 2013. Photograph Courtesy of Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

The Syrian crisis has reached unprecedented levels of barbarism. This never-ending conflict and our complicity in aiding and abetting internal actors and external proxies in Syria means there are going to be yet more scores of innocents hurt. And as the world tries to contain the situation, some of us chatter about the risks of offering safe harbor to the thousands of our fellow humans fleeing the infernos that have resulted from this war.

More war is not the answer; it’s a fact-based truth!

What has the war in Iraq solved? Or any other war for that matter, but to breed more terrorists, and line the pockets of the military industrial complex. Why can’t we learn from the past? Let’s look at the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles (First World War) vs. The Marshall Plan (Second World War), two diametrically opposed post-conflict responses to German defeat (and Japanese defeat in WW2). Both responses yielded different outcomes, the Treaty of Versailles was responsible for the rise of Fascism in Germany while The Marshall Plan stimulated German reconstruction?

Commenting on the Syrian impasse, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said: “The continuing violence is a clear indication that a political solution to the conflict in Syria is desperately needed. The fighting must stop now. There is no military solution to the crisis, combatants and those who control them are defying humanity’s most basic rules.”

Why can’t we apply similar ‘Marshall Plan” reasoning to Middle-Eastern conflict resolution, apply the same proven solutions to resolve all Middle-Eastern wars? If history has shown us that forging peace after a major war is within the realm of possibilities, why aren’t we successfully delivering peace now? Could it be that there are too many special interest groups that stand in the way, power cabals that stand to benefit from war, fearing being disadvantaged by peace?

Recently, Andrew Bacevich told Amy Goodman on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, “Only by taking stock of the full magnitude of our military failure can we come to an appreciation of the imperative of beginning to think differently about our approach to the region.” Bacevich is a retired colonel, Boston University professor and Vietnam veteran. “The alternative, it seems to me, is to recognize that there are some wars that are unwinnable and should not be fought. If there is a solution to the problem, it has to come from non-military means,” he adds. Like Bacevich, his son was an Army officer. He was killed while serving in Iraq in 2007.

A man carries a child who was wounded after a jet missile hit the al-Myassar neighbourhood of Aleppo. Photograph courtesy: Muzaffar Salman/Reuters

A man carries a child who was wounded after a jet missile hit the al-Myassar neighbourhood of Aleppo. Photograph courtesy: Muzaffar Salman/Reuters

Many leaders have appealed for more restrain, but the scorched-earth policy to defeat ISIS makes any talk of peace remotely possible. In the meantime the countries that can make a difference are considering engaging in “direct action” in Iraq and Syria as they vow to take the fight to ISIS, especially as a reaction to the recent events in Europe.

The only western leader to advocate constrain in Syria is the recently elected Justin Trudeau in Canada, son of the former Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau. His reasoning is that if after more than a year of coalition bombing, the result is that ISIS controls more ground and imperils more people than ever, one needs to question the strategy.There’s no acknowledgment of the relative ineffectiveness of the bombing missions against an ideology, nor of the largely unreported “collateral damage” to innocent civilians. For once here’s a leader that has reached out to Canadians for their opinions to ensure that the government’s actions and policies reflect the values of the people they represent, not some lobbyist promoting his or her special interest. Although Mr. Trudeau is new to the scene, I hope that our young and untested leader will not suffer from shortness of (breadth of his convictions) in that rarefied atmosphere where the movers and shakers of the world operate, and reverse his promises.

For example Mr. Trudeau wants Canada to end its combat mission in Syria and to strengthen the efforts of the coalition partners by way of training and equipping the locals and by offering them logistical support. Although I believe this is the most wise decision, this in itself will not be enough. The only solution to the Syrian quagmire is through a diplomatic approach. We must continue to build bridges of world Peace, but on the principles of integrity and justice.  Canada is an ideal soft power and honest broker, anyone who wants to talk to us we will listen. While actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the conflict we need to everyone to agree to a ceasefire and an end to the bombing in order the find a workable long-term solution. If not we will be doomed to repeat the catastrophic mistakes of all our other endless wars. To not consider the peace option is a peculiar form of collective lunacy.

International Committee of the Red Cross’ President Peter Maurer pleads: “When humanitarian law and principles are disregarded, when humanitarian needs are trumped by political agendas, when access to the wounded and sick is denied, and when security concerns lead to a suspension of operations, people are abandoned, the notion of protection loses its meaning, and humanity is flouted. We ask that states reaffirm our shared humanity by concrete action and uphold their responsibility to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.”

Back in 2001, when the Bush administration sought congressional approval to attack Iraq after 9/11, only one member of Congress voted no, California Rep. Barbara Lee. “September 11th changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet, I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States,” she said in her two-minute plea from the House floor. “As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, ‘As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.’”

In hindsight what did the Iraq war achieve but to create more terrorists who hate us? And so is Syria now going to become a fertile ground for more terrorists?

I would like to conclude with a letter to the editor written by Mike Ward from Duncan, B.C., Canada that appeared in the ‘Insight’ section of the Nov. 28, 2015 edition of the Toronto Star. Mike is a candid and eloquent writer, and I’m thankful to the Star’s editors who have agreed to publish his views.

Mike writes; “While I share the sadness of all Canadians following the Paris attacks, I cannot understand the sense of shock, anger and moral indignation so often expressed. Western nations have been overthrowing governments, appointing and removing dictators, bombing and invading sovereign Middle-Eastern nations for the better part of a century, leaving in their wake almost two million dead and countless lives crippled and destroyed.

As a direct consequence of these failed interventions, more than 16 million Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees languish in camps, living with the daily terror of suicide bombings, fearful even of the skies as drones cruise overhead.  Under the false pretense of a war against “terror”, we have become terror. How, then, can we profess shock and moral indignation when others seek to harm us?

The message? Powerful nations can no longer exploit weaker nations at will, without living in fear themselves. While condemning violence in any form, it is clear that on this small interconnected planet, security, peace and freedom will henceforth be shared by all nations, or experienced by none. That is the choice we face.”

Mike, I am so proud of you to have had the courage and the clarity of mind to ‘see it and call it as it is’! My greatest wish is to that more people like Mike would come forth to speak out in defense of, and to redress the injustices visited upon the millions of defenceless little girls and boys in the Middle East and all over the world.

The World Can’t Wait – Will Our Silence Define Us!

References:

Featured Image: Kurdish Syrian girls among rubble in the Syrian town of Kobane in March 2015. Photograph Courtesy of Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images

Slogan: Your Wars, Our Dead was coined by Julien Salingue who lives in Paris and is a leading member of the New Anti-capitalist Party in France. He is a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and the author of La Palestine d’Oslo. He wrote these comments the day after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 that left at least 129 dead and 352 injured.

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