“Whatever happened to ‘never again?’ ” asked Dr. Zaher Sahloul, after watching newscasts about yet another chemical attack on civilians in Syria. “This is genocide.”
After World War II and the extermination of millions of Jews by Germany, the United States and the rest of the free world proclaimed, “never again.”
“There have been 500,000 people killed in Syria since 2012,” Sahloul said, citing statistics compiled by a human rights organization. “Sixty thousand people have been tortured to death and their bodies burned. The government of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad has targeted hospitals and doctors (for bombing). One-quarter of all the refugees in the world are now from Syria.
“This is all happening in front of our eyes,” the doctor continued. “It is not hidden like it was in World War II. We are watching it on social media.”
And the world has done little to stop it. The United States used missiles to attack an air field in Syria a year ago in response to a Syrian gas attack. Vladimir Putin vowed the Russians would make sure chemical weapons would be destroyed and not used again by Assad.
In fact, the Russians and the Iranians are actively supporting the Syrian government with money, military weaponry and mercenaries, while repeatedly denying that chemical weapons are being used. In fact, there have been dozens of small chemical attacks across the country.
I contacted Sahloul following an apparent gas attack on the city of Douma that killed dozens of people and left many others choking on their own vomit. Sahloul, a practicing physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, has crossed the Turkish border into Syria a number of times in recent years on humanitarian missions. He has co-founded an organization called MedGlobal, which sends medical missions of doctors, nurses and medics to help underserved populations and refugees in areas of war and those hit by natural disaster.
He is a past-president and co-founder of the Syrian-American Medical Society.
He has testified before the United Nations, relaying the eyewitness accounts of Syrians who suffered under repeated chemical attacks.
“People ask why Assad would do all of this now that he appears to be winning the civil war,” Sahloul told me. “He is doing it because it works. The day after the attack on Douma, 50,000 people left. He is removing the population he doesn’t want. He is doing it because there is no retribution.”
Sahloul didn’t say it, but I will. The millions of Syrian immigrants spreading across the Middle East and Europe create a massive political problem for all of our allies. Fascism is spreading across the globe, along with racial hatred, religious intolerance and xenophobia. Governments are being destabilized.
The fact is that after the missile strike last year, Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons. It hasn’t.
The fact is that North Korea and Russia have joined the list of countries willing to use chemical weapons on foreign soil to assassinate enemies of the state.
The message sent to other dictators is clear. No one is going to stop you.
Why should we care?
“We know from past experience that what happens in Syria will not stay there. If it doesn’t look like our problem now, it will be our problem in the future.”
The slaughter must be stopped. Assad ought to be removed from power.
A fellow who does not hesitate to murder his own citizens, in the cruelest imaginable way, will not hesitate to export chemical weapons and terror.
Someone must speak for the victims today to save the lives of children tomorrow.
Sahloul and others like him have done all that they could. All of us need to do the same.
Our pledge of “never again” has indeed become “every now and then.”