By Peter Certo
When I saw footage of the alleged sarin gas attack in Syria, I felt ill.
The whole episode, which killed up to 100 civilians in Syria’s Idlib province, was ghastly. But worst of all was the kids — glassy-eyed, discolored, and limp as their little bodies were carried away.
Donald Trump apparently felt the same way.
“That attack on children had a big impact on me,” he told reporters, condemning the Syrian regime’s “heinous” targeting of “innocent people” and “even beautiful little babies.” Then he fired 59 cruise missiles at the Syrian air base supposedly used to launch the chemical attack.
Even some of Trump’s critics applauded that move. But it was a huge flip-flop.
The Obama administration faced a similar crisis in 2013, following a much deadlier chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. Back then, Trump was unambiguously against intervening. “DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA,” the billionaire tweeted in all caps. “VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN!”
An informed change of perspective is a good thing — but only if it’s informed. Though it might’ve felt good to see the Syrian regime pay a price for its crimes, there’s no way a strike like this can ease civilian suffering.
For one thing, it was a pinprick. Within days, Syrian planes were taking off from the same base and bombing the very same town. But escalating the war risks provoking a devastating conflict with Russia or Iran, Syrian allies who could step up their support in response.
Even if that war succeeded in ousting the regime, the country would only plunge deeper into chaos — just as Iraq and Libya did after we ran their similarly horrible governments out. Islamist extremists would be well positioned to fill the void in Syria, too: Al Qaeda-linked forces currently hold Idlib, while ISIS controls much of the east.
Either way, it’s innocent people who pay the price. Just ask the families of the 1,700 civilians reportedly killed by U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria last month alone. Many of those were children, too.
Airstrikes, in short, are a recipe for humanitarian catastrophe. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing the U.S. can do to help suffering Syrians. It’s just going to require another big flip-flop.
For starters, Trump should give up on his “Muslim ban.” Both versions of that order, now held up in the courts, would have indefinitely banned all migration from Syria — and suspended refugee resettlement from everywhere.
Trump’s said that’s necessary because Syrian refugees are “pouring in” and we don’t know “who they are.” But the U.S. admitted just 18,000 Syrians from 2011 to 2016, all after years of vetting. (Syria’s tiny neighbor Lebanon, with a population less than metro DC, has taken over 1 million.)
During the campaign, it never bothered Trump that children might be affected by his anti-refugee policies. “I can look at their face and say you can’t come here,” he said about Syrian kids in February 2016. “They may be ISIS.”
That’s chilling. I hope Trump now understands there’s a direct line from that policy to the “beautiful little babies” murdered in Idlib.
Another welcome about-face would be to ramp up relief for those Syrians who remain. Trump’s “skinny budget” proposal nearly zeroes out humanitarian aid, but food and medicine are much cheaper than Tomahawk missiles, which run $1.4 million apiece. And they’ll save a lot more suffering Syrian kids.
Getting more deeply involved in Syria’s war is a grievous mistake. The silver lining is that it proves Trump can change his mind. Now that he cares about the fate of Syrian children, I hope he’ll open up our country — not bomb theirs.
Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of OtherWords.org.
Kathy A says
Let refugees in so they can kill more people (Americans) like they just did in Paris?
The trumppet didn’t bomb Syria because he “cared”. He cares nothing for Syria, for children or anything besides wealth and adulation. He bombed Syria because he couldn’t think of anything else. He has no plan for the Middle East. He has no plan for America. He’s the little man without a plan. He’s the little man with his finger on the trigger. He will wantonly kill people for praise, for headlines. He’s the worst kind of murderer… one that simply doesn’t care.
For shame, Republicans. You have loosed this menace on the world.
another vet says
Yea, lets let everyone in the open border policy worked so well in Europe
Alphonso Zeimers says
Lets hope that no muslims whatsoever can enter this country. They are absolutely evil people
following an evil religion. You jerks should lookup evil quran on google.
No matter how many times you say it, that does not make it true. It is NOT a Muslim ban.
Tom Davies says
than you support them and take them in to your house (off shore) we don’t need sleeping cell Muslims here of ANY kind
if your sympathetic then be sympathetic someplace else
As far as Muslims and their religion being evil, it seems some people forget about the historical killings in the name of Christianity. The crusaders,the inquisition ,witch hunting and on and on.
You trumpsters are so misinformed,it’s sad. Keep watching your Fake…err Fox News channel.
The bigotry I read here is appalling. I wonder if there’s still hope for the America values of compassion and succor for those in need. I fear that conservatism has poisoned and polluted our American gene pool.
Trump = BaaaaaaaaaaBoom!
I have a recently-arrived Iraqi family living next door.
They treat me like family! Just yesterday, I was presented
with a platter of freshly baked Baklava and dates smothered
in honey and sesame seeds (Madgooga) FOR NO REASON,
except that they’re generous, kind, and appreciate me as a person.
I am “habibi!”
THEY’RE THE BEST NEIGHBORS I’VE EVER HAD.
Thanks for the link–I have some for you too!
In the spirit of reciprocal generosity, I present these links to you.
Tasty love-smothered tidbits for you, oh, wise oracle of useless knowledge:
GENESIS 6 & 7: Unhappy with the wickedness of man, God killed
every living thing on the planet except Noah’s family. Men, women,
infants and animals drowned in unimaginable terror and agony.
GENESIS 19:6: In Sodom, Lot’s home was assaulted by a homosexual
mob seeking to have relations with two angels. Lot volunteered his virgin
daughters to the crowd, saying “you can do what you like with them” as
long as the guests are left alone. After offering his children to be raped,
Lot was then appointed by God as worthy of rescue from Sodom’s destruction.
There’s so much to read and take comfort in.
Be careful throwing the term “jerks” around, because as with boomerangs, the
hurlers have been known to have been struck by their own boomerangs.
Don’t spit into the wind either.
Geezer, Iraq is not one of the countries on the temporary travel ban list.
Praise God! We finally have a president that’s been anointed by God, President Donald J. Trump. Under Democrat rule, the United States has spit in the face of Christianity and been turned into Sodom and Gomorrah. The sanctity of marriage has been destroyed, babies are being murdered and their body parts sold for profit, the United States has lost its sovereignty, we are being looted and assaulted by foreigners that want to impose their ideologies on us, the very ideologies that caused them to leave their country of origin. We are being invaded by a murderous cult disguised as a religion that has no respect for women, or life. I prayed for Donald J. Trump to lead this land and our Lord and Savior delivered! God has intervened and will save this country! Praise Him!