The Real Breakdown of Aleppo

The Real Breakdown of Aleppo

Did you know that the new Prime Minister of Yemen has accused Great Britain of aiding Saudi Arabia in perpetrating war crimes? This seems like a big deal. Yet, not much coverage of this statement has been recorded in the U.K press. British-made cluster bombs (which are banned under international law) have been dropped on weddings, hospitals and schools as part of the relentlessly brutal Saudi Arabian airstrikes.  

So where’s the outrage here? Why all the outrage for the Russians and Assad in Aleppo? The disappointingly simple answer is: when they do it, it’s wrong, when we do it, it’s fine. Saudi Arabia is our friend, therefore the children they kill are worth less than the children that the Russians kill. Politicians and journalists are now performing the incredible task of trying to convince the British people that a bunch of Al-Qaeda affiliates (Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham) running Syria would be better than Assad in power. There is no doubt that Bashar Al-Assad has committed atrocities against the Syrian people, but he is fighting terrorists day after day, and if we were actually serious and consistent in our moral convictions, we would surely allow this fact to be given equal weight. World politics is not Star Wars, and Assad is not Darth Vader. The Syrian war is a complicated mess of alliances, proxy wars and political turmoil with propaganda being fired from all quarters. But the West needs an enemy – the new enemies are Assad and Putin, the old enemies (Al-Qaeda) now have U.S backing; enemies can become friends rather easily it would seem.  


I remember watching a lecture delivered by the veteran journalist Robert Fisk, who said that the best thing the West could do is get out of the Middle East altogether. And instead of sending bombs, we should send doctors, teachers and engineers. Instead of aiding in destruction, we should aid in rebuilding. But it does not look as if this is going to happen anytime soon, because those in power have decided that the misery must go on until the bad guys (whoever they happen to be this week) have been dealt with. This is nothing to do with the well-being of the Syrian people. The U.N envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, resigned in frustration in 2014 – he gave the reasons for his frustration: “Everybody had their agenda, and the interests of the Syrian people came second, third or not at all”. It’s all about the power games of powerful countries, and nothing else. The bombs will continue to fall on Aleppo, Mosul, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and so on. There is nothing our faux moralising will do about American drones being dropped on Pakistani children, to take another example of an uncovered war crime. This is not part of the story we tell ourselves.

I’ve never been near a war. I have literally no idea what it may be like to be living in a place such as Aleppo. All I know is that the fighting needs to stop as soon as possible. The first step towards peace will be when Western countries have an honest conversation about the reality of the Middle East. Aleppo is not Rwanda or Srebrenica, it is not a simple good vs. evil scenario. It is a tragic situation, but there are many tragedies happening all over the world that do not get caught in the glare of Western crocodile tears. No tears are shed for the Yemeni dead on our news screens. We either cry for all the dead, or none at all.


Written by Stephen Durkan,


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