Opinion | Morgan Liddick: The bloody roots of mass migration
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Aylan Kurdi’s short and sorrowful life ended last week in the Mediterranean near a Turkish beach. His mother and brother died with him.
They were three among many thousands fleeing the chaos and violence in Syria; three among three thousand known to have drowned seeking safety so far this year. Today, the desperate flow continues, driven by the twin plagues of Bashar Assad’s butchery and the nihilistic slaughter of the Islamic State. By most reliable estimates, the death toll in Syria’s terrible war of all against all range between 220,000 and 300,000, with about half of the entire country’s population of 22 million displaced — either internally or to neighboring states, many of which are not well-equipped to host them.
IS uses the tools of terror: car bombs, explosive vests, brainwashed child soldiers and public ultraviolence against anyone who might be considered a foe. That includes both government forces and anyone who might be considered a “kafir”: an unbeliever or someone whose devotion to the one true faith is the slightest bit questionable. Christians and Yazidis, homosexuals and Kurds are among their favorite secondary targets.
The Assad regime counters with indiscriminate use of “barrel bombs,” a cheap and effective way to kill and maim large numbers of people indiscriminately. The recipe is simplicity itself: take a large barrel; pack it with high explosives, nails, metal fragments and, increasingly, incendiary material like phosphorous or homemade napalm; pack it into a helicopter, fly it over a densely-populated area and drop it off. Early bombs had fuses; today, they have contact fuses. Often, the attack is a double-tap: Following the initial explosion, a second bomb is dropped to kill those who have rushed into the impact zone to rescue survivors. In August of last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported another refinement: Several towns were attacked with barrel bombs containing chlorine.
Such is the situation the Kurdi family, and thousands of their compatriots were fleeing when they died.
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The genesis of this human catastrophe isn’t hard to trace. Its roots lie in the structure of many modern states, in which dangerous instabilities, lust for power, greed and paranoia combine into a devil’s brew of cynical violence, vicious oppression and a casual disregard for human life that is difficult to comprehend. It also has its roots in the actions, attitudes and inattentions of the two most recent U.S. administrations. That of George W. Bush smashed the pivotal Arab state of Iraq but failed either to mend it or transform it into smaller functional units. It did stop Iraq from collapsing into anarchy at the eleventh hour, but it could not consolidate its successes before its time was up. The current administration in its incompetence, dilettantism and naiveté spread the process of collapse throughout the Middle Eastern region and beyond, beginning with its failure to build on the accomplishments of its predecessor.
From the moment the president wrote off the Syrian opposition with an offhand denial of responsibility, the die was cast. From that moment, it was clear to all that this country’s government would — to stand John Kennedy on his head — bear no burden, pay no price; oppose no foe, support no friend to defend the cause of liberty. Russia, China and a myriad of petty tyrants, bloodthirsty thugs and god-mad sociopaths were given carte blanche to do exactly as they pleased in pursuing murderous agendas. “I didn’t set a red line” is the epitaph of tens of thousands, from Benghazi in North Africa to Aleppo in Syria to Falluja in Iraq.
Nor are we done with this dislocation and mayhem. Now that we have empowered some of the worst people on earth, look for more of the same. Refugees will continue to pour out of Syria; they will be joined by others from Iraq as the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict — fueled by our empowerment of Iran and our inattention to the Islamic state — grows. In the spring if not before, they may be joined by Ukrainians displaced by a renewal of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. While the impact of these displacements will largely fall on Europe, those affected will not forget the inaction and inattention of the world power that lies behind the barbarism that set them on the road. And, they will be right to remember.
Barack Obama may think his country is criminal and should refrain from further international interventions lest it contaminate a pristine world. The idealistic left of the Democrat party may agree. But, the deaths of Aylan Kurdi and his family pose a challenge: if those who can, do nothing — what is their responsibility for the deaths of those at the mercy of the forces of inhumanity which seem poised for dramatic growth?
An answer, while uncomfortable, is necessary.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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