Assad and Putin pummel Aleppo after cease-fire fails
Hundreds of people were killed in Aleppo this week as the Syrian government and its ally Russia launched one of the most intense bombing campaigns of the five-year civil war, just days after the collapse of a cease-fire negotiated by Washington and Moscow. Airstrikes destroyed two hospitals and flattened entire neighborhoods in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, and “bunker buster” bombs sent shock waves rippling across city blocks. The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he had seen footage of incendiary bombs “that create fireballs of such intensity that they light up the pitch darkness in eastern Aleppo, as if it is actually daylight.” Pro-regime forces stepped up their ground offensive on eastern Aleppo, where 250,000 civilians—including 100,000 children—have been encircled for 31 weeks and are fast running out of food and medicine. Up to 500,000 people have been killed in the war, and another 7 million displaced.
The new offensive prompted outrage in the West, where some had hoped that the cease-fire might pave the way for a long-term diplomatic solution to the conflict. In a special crisis meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power accused Syria and Russia of “barbarism,” while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon said that the use of incendiary bombs and bunker busters in densely populated areas could amount to war crimes. Russia said the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging an air campaign against ISIS fighters in Syria, had used the cease-fire to rearm opposition rebels, and that Assad had “displayed enviable restraint.”
What the editorials said
The people of Aleppo “are, indeed, victims of barbarism,” said The Washington Post, “but the rhetoric of U.S. diplomats won’t help them much.” For days, Assad’s regime has “rained bombs” on eastern Aleppo—safe in the knowledge that the Obama administration will “hotly condemn the assault, but do absolutely nothing to stop it.” The president claimed in a recent interview that Syria “haunts me constantly,” said The Wall Street Journal. Then why does he still do nothing to stop the bloodshed? Instead of dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry “on more negotiating dead ends with Russia,” President Obama should arm our Syrian-Kurdish friends, “destroy the Assad regime’s air force and its armor reserves, and redraw the map of Syria to take account of the new dividing lines of a broken country.”
That would only intensify the carnage, said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t walk away from Assad and his regime without a fight. Besides, why would Obama drag America into the Syrian quagmire when “the U.S. is already engaged in hot wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen? A sustained diplomatic solution is the only way to fix this mess; without it, Syria will “continue to bleed.”
What the columnists said
As if the conflict weren’t hideous enough, said Jennifer Williams in Vox.com, it’s now clear that Assad and his allies are systematically targeting aid workers and doctors. Last week’s fragile cease-fire fell apart when Syrian or Russian warplanes obliterated an aid convoy on its way to Aleppo. That was one war crime among many. “There have been 382 attacks on medical facilities in Syria,” including a recent airstrike that killed Aleppo’s last living pediatrician.
Aleppo is fast becoming a modern-day Guernica, said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, a symbol not just of horrific carnage but “American weakness.” The North Koreans are developing a nuclear missile. The Philippines’ president called Obama “the son of a whore.” Russia regularly hacks U.S. targets. “Does all this stem from Uncle Sam’s bended knee in Syria? Who knows? But U.S. reluctance to act has almost certainly given others resolve.”
There is “one big thing” that could change events in Syria: “a new American president,” said Joshua Keating in Slate.com. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to create a no-fly zone in Syria if she wins in November. Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, has a “well-documented” admiration for Assad patron Putin, and a Trump victory “would likely be a shot in the arm” for the brutal Syrian dictator. “At the moment, it looks like the future of this election may be the most important determining factor in the war.”
It wasn’t all bad
■ A Wisconsin family can call their daughter’s preschool teacher a lifesaver after she agreed to donate her kidney to their ailing youngster. When Dena Carreyn’s 4-year-old daughter Lyla fell ill last October with a rare autoimmune disease that causes kidney failure, she launched a nationwide search for a transplant match. Things were looking desperate when Lyla’s teacher Beth Battista told Carreyn last month that she would be donating a kidney to Lyla. “Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude,” said Carreyn. “How do you thank someone for saving your child’s life?”
■ A Texas high school football player gave fans another reason to cheer last month, after turning over his homecoming king crown to a friend with cerebral palsy. Fossil Ridge Panthers quarterback Max Akin stunned the crowd during a halftime ceremony when he kneeled and presented his crown to team equipment manager K.L. Norwood, who was also nominated for king. “What I did wasn’t as admirable as how K.L. treats everyone,” says Akin. “Loving everybody and having a heart like K.L. is what really matters in this world.” The two teens were later featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show, where they both received $10,000 each for their heartwarming story.
■ After learning that his 15-year-old sister had died in a car accident, Mark Ross asked a friend to drive him from Indiana to Detroit so he could be with his grieving family. The pair were speeding down the highway when a policeman pulled them over; with an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for Ross and his friend driving on a suspended license, Ross assumed their next stop was jail. But Ohio highway patrolman Sgt. David Robison heard Ross’ story and offered to drive him the remaining 100 miles to his family. “Everyone knows how much I dislike cops,” Ross later wrote on Facebook. “But he gave me hope.”