Bashar al-Assad. Credit: Creative Commons

The very gentlemanly Hussein Ibish, formerly of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, has a chilling article in Now about the plight of Palestinians living under the Assad regime in the town of Yarmouk, Syria. As Ibish reports, there are Palestinians outside of Syria desperately trying to reach their besieged brethren in Yarmouk, some of whom have already starved to death, and thousands more in imminent danger of starvation:

They are, in effect, begging for the lives of innocent Palestinians suffering a siege that, while significantly smaller in scale, is without doubt much crueler and more arbitrary than anything imposed on Gaza by either Israel or Egypt.

Ibish continues:

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies - Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia - must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

It is mystifying that Secretary Kerry, who himself clearly believes that the Assad regime committed the sarin gas atrocities outside Damascus just five months ago, is willing to engage in a “peace process” with Assad and his fellow war criminals.

Equally mystifying to me is the degree to which hubristic Mideast prognostication remains a staple of American political discourse, both on the right and the left.

On the right, we have Max Boot, a vocal champion of the 2003 Iraq invasion, making his case in the New York Times for why Obama’s Iran diplomacy will fail. On the President’s Iran engagement strategy, Boot writes, “The Obama strategy is breathtakingly ambitious. It is also destined to fail.” Unfortunately, Boot’s foreign policy crystal ball didn’t work too well before: Iraqi airspace under Nuri al-Maliki is now used to ship a host of dastardly weapons, like barrel bombs, straight from Iran to Bashar al-Assad. No worries though, Boot still has faith in his own foreign policy crystal ball, like a brainwashed battered wife has faith that, deep down, her husband really, really loves her.

Likewise, on the left, we have prognosticators arguing that any form of U.S. or Western-allied response to blunt the ability of Assad to carry out these atrocities will “blow up the whole region.” There is a question all opponents of Western military action against Assad should consider: Is there any atrocity that the Assad regime could commit that would cause them to say enough is enough?

Or are the men, women, and children of Syria Bashar al-Assad’s personal property, subject to his decision on whether to dispose of them or not, and on what time schedule, simply because they live on the wrong side of a line on a map?

Instead of trying to out-prognosticate one another on the Mideast, perhaps it would be good to learn from the mistakes, and relative successes (notice the underscore), of previous years. When another gas-murdering tyrant threatened his own people, the international community – eventually, but not soon enough – imposed a no-fly zone over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Though the contours of the sanctions policy on Iraq proved to be a disaster, few would argue that the no-fly zone did not work, and indeed provided the Kurds of northern Iraq with years of relative stability and autonomy.

Frankly, I shudder to think that if the Obama administration, even after possibly sealing a genuinely verifiable deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear-weapons-threshold program, pursued a Western no-fly zone option over Assad’s Syria, that some on the left along with the gun-worshipping Tea Party right would be clamoring, flooding Congress with phone calls, and shouting “No! Bashar needs his planes so he can drop his barrel bombs and napalm bombs where he wants! It’s his country, damn it, not ours! We have no right to interfere with Bashar’s fundamental rights!”

(Click here for a video of what Bashar exercising his “fundamental rights” looks like)

And yet, given the current level of prognostication hubris on all things Mideast, from the right to the left, such a domestic political scenario is not unthinkable.

None of us could accurately predict the ultimate outcome of a Western ally-imposed no-fly zone over Syria. Perhaps Assad would “unleash” Hezbollah to retaliate by launching rockets into Israel from Lebanon, in which case Israel would be completely justified in taking out those rocket sites. Perhaps Assad has other torturous tricks up his demonic, human life-hating sleeves.

But this much is clear: day by day, as the world community allows this tyrant and his thugs to kill and torture the people of Syria, including now the starvation of Palestinians in Syria, the more we move the very soul of international human rights to the gates of hell. And that much is not a prognostication.

It just is what it is, and that is demonic.

*Update: Warning, these images of the starving Palestinian children of Yarmouk are extremely difficult to watch:



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