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Hullabaloo


Saturday, June 21, 2014

 
Either the world cares, or it doesn't

by David Atkins

While everyone is fretting over Iraq, there's still an extreme humanitarian crisis happening in Syria:

The humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and the number of people needing urgent help has reached 10.8 million - almost half of Syria's population of 22 million, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

Ban's monthly report to the U.N. Security Council said the current estimate of 3.5 million people living in areas that are difficult or impossible for humanitarian workers to reach is also likely to have increased to 4.7 million people.

The U.N. chief painted a grim picture of a country gripped by severe levels of violence, including the intensified use of barrel bombs by government forces against civilian areas and suicide attacks, reported executions and other acts of terrorism by extremist groups.

As a result, Ban said, the number of people in need has increased by 17 percent - from 9.3 million to 10.8 million.

Ban said the rules that govern the conduct of war "are being flagrantly violated every day."

"Efforts to expand humanitarian assistance to those most in need have been met with continued delays and obstruction," he said.

Currently, all U.N. aid must go through Damascus - a practice which U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly criticized.

New procedures sealing government trucks delivering aid which were introduced in April resulted in fewer people being reached with aid in May, he said, and additional clearance requirements introduced by the government have further undermined access to people in desperate need of aid.

By June 9, only 12 percent of the 4.25 million people the U.N. World Food Program planned to provide with food had been reached compared to 26 percent at the same time in April, Ban said.

The secretary-general decried the government's obstruction of the delivery of medicine and medical supplies, saying "it is inhumane and unlawful" that these potentially life-saving items continue to be removed from World Health Organization convoys entering opposition-controlled areas.

As a result, he said, opposition-controlled areas received only 25 percent of the quantities distributed in the first three months of 2014.

"Tens of thousands of civilians are being arbitrarily denied urgent and lifesaving medical care" which Ban called "a deliberate tactic of war aimed at denying help and support to those most in need."

Ban said Physicians for Human Rights reported that 29 medical personnel were killed in May, "the highest number in a month since the start of the conflict." He said 27 were killed by government forces and two by opposition groups, bringing the total recorded deaths of medical personnel in the war to 502.
This is not something most Americans are even aware of. It's not something that most people on either side of the aisle talk much about, mostly because the left doesn't want to intervene anywhere and the right doesn't see oil or profit in it. Meanwhile, Russia and China couldn't care less how many people suffer while they play realpolitik games, the United States has so badly screwed the pooch in the Middle East that it would be powerless to do any good under the best of circumstances and intentions, and the rest of the world would prefer to tut tut very loudly while doing almost nothing.

Meanwhile, a whole lot of people will gesticulate wildly about making the world a better place by marginally affecting minor flows of income from one group to another within wealthy industrialized nations--all while ignoring the desperate plight of 11 million people because no one can supposedly do anything about it any more than we can do anything about climate change. Because, after all, doing something about climate change might affect the precious sovereignty of inviolable nation states and their self-determined right to do whatever the hell they want to the atmosphere.

Either the UN is going to be a force in the world capable of stopping the next holocaust, controlling climate change and bringing awful dictators and war criminals like Assad and Cheney to justice, or it isn't. If it isn't going to be that because not enough countries care bad enough to give up a little of their budget and sovereignty, then the world should stop pretending that we've moved very far beyond base tribalism where every little group called itself "The People" and race, language and taboo dictated who was considered human and who was not. It's as unseemly with countries as it is with clans.

If that's who we are as human beings in the world, then so be it. Let's stop pretending we're something else, or that crouching behind our borders, futilely trying to fix global economic and climate problems on a nation-by-nation basis, and pretending that barbarous acts in faraway lands don't affect "us" is some form of nobility in the 21st century. It isn't.


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