I received an email the other day from a reader wondering why I even bother to write about what is happening in Syria.
My correspondent correctly pointed out that the world will not intervene militarily and that there is very little that can be done to protect Syrian civilians as well as alleviate their suffering.
Why, then, write about an event? The reason is that we are, all of us, witnesses to history. And when wanton slaughter is being perpetrated and ordinary people are caught in the middle of momentous events with no real escape and only the option to endure, someone should be telling their story. It may not be 100% accurate — neither side has covered themselves in glory when it comes to the truth of what’s happening — but there is no denying the reality of the bullets, shells, bombs, and the long knives of President Assad’s cutthroat Shabbiha militia who appear to be taking great pleasure in sectarian cleansing. For all our sakes, we should not be looking away from what is happening, but rather focus on the plight of innocents — and remember.
The battle has moved to Syria’s largest city and commercial hub, Aleppo. An armored column is beginning to assault rebel strong points, while helicopter gunships and tanks fire into civilian neighborhoods with no care for who they are killing.
The Syrian military intensified its offensive on the country’s commercial center of Aleppo Saturday, pounding rebel-controlled areas with tanks and helicopter gunships.
Activists posted video on YouTube of the sound of shelling and gunfire and columns of black smoke rising over buildings in the Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddin on Saturday.
Rami Abd al-Rahman, the Director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA by telephone that fighting intensified early in the morning.
He says there was gunfire and bombardments by the military, while residents reported that army tanks clashed with opposition fighters in the adjoining neighborhoods of Hamdariyya and Salaheddin. They also reported helicopters over the city.
Al-Rahman says it is the first time tanks have shelled this area.
He said the fighting was very intense in Aleppo for several hours and there are dozens of dead and injured.
Pro-government media in Syria have warned that what they describe as the “mother of all battles” looms in the city of nearly three million residents. The United States, Britain and the United Nations have voiced growing alarm about the potential for an imminent massacre there.
It’s hard to imagine the effect on buildings and people of several helicopter gunships loosing rockets and Gatling guns on a modern city neighborhood.
The outcome of this civil war, as we have seen elsewhere in the Arab world, will almost certainly not be good for the ordinary Syrian. Whatever promise of “democracy” they receive from the victors will not be realized. More likely, another Muslim Brotherhood dominated government will rise and make the world a more perilous place.
But as civilized people, we have a duty to bear witness to the uncivilized brutality happening in Syria, regardless of whether the endgame would favor US interests or not.