What happened in Syria makes me sick. And Obama's inaction when it comes to Syria makes me ashamed to have supported a candidate, and later, an incumbent, who has done virtually nothing as the Assad regime has killed an estimated 100,000 people. As of April 2013, 6,561 of those victims have been children, 1,729 were children younger than 10, and there are also UN reports of children having been tortured. Medicine Frontieres treated thousands of patients from the residential, rebel-supporting area outside of Damascus, where they believe the patients' symptoms indicate that Assad used chemical weapons. Footage of the incident shows men, women, and children suffocating, coughing, sweating and dying without any visible injuries. The Guardian reports that "hundreds of children's bodies piled up." Experts believe that Assad used the powerful nerve agent sarin.
Assad's massacre is being cited as the worse use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein also used sarin and other chemical weapons to kill thousands of Kurds in Halabja in 1988. While this was used as George W. Bush's supposed justification for intervention in Iraq, he overlooked the fact that when his father was vice president under Reagan, their administration continued to support Saddam Hussein as he gassed the Kurds in 1988. Then as president in 1991, George H.W. Bush, who President Obama recently puzzlingly cited for having made the U.S. a "kinder, gentler place," was accused of leaving the Kurds to Saddam's mercy after his administration sparked their failed uprising. This is not to say that I in any way supported the Iraq War a decade later. Bush brought the U.S. into the catastrophic war in Iraq under false pretenses that had nothing to do with the Kurds.
President Obama has been deeply disappointing and has not shown himself to be the leader my generation so desperately hoped he would be. The candidate whose values I thought were aligned with my own would pardon a brave soldier who risked his life and who was betrayed by the truly horrible Adrian Lamo for promoting, in Pt. Manning's words, pubic accountability. Although the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign stated its support for whistle-blowers, the Obama administration has been the toughest when it comes to pursuing them. It was the Kremlin's protection of Edward Snowden -- another brave whistle-blower -- and not the Russian veto of the UN Syria Resolution, that has hampered U.S.-Russia diplomatic relations. The documents that Manning leaked, which even the U.S. military admitted did not result in a single civilian casualty, showed evidence of U.S. soldiers torturing and abusing civilians and laughing as they killed them.
If we are to be a great country, we need people like Pt. Manning who will hold our military accountable. Pt. Manning is the type of principled, idealistic person I thought President Obama to be. Manning wrote a heartbreaking letter to President Obama in which he quoted Howard Zinn: "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people" and asked Obama for a pardon. Obama failed to hold George W. Bush accountable for torture, which is a crime against humanity, yet so far has remained silent on whether he will pardon Pt. Manning so that she evades a 35-year sentence, which is another inaction that is he being criticized for. None of the perpetrators revealed in Manning's leaks have been charged for the war crimes they committed, even though their crimes are far worse than any crime Manning committed; had the soldiers been held accountable, that would have been change we could believe in.
Like so many others, I truly believed in President Obama's 2008 message of change. Yet I was so disillusioned by the deportation of more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants under his administration that I almost did not volunteer on Obama's 2012 campaign. There are reasons to dislike Senator McCain, Sarah Palin is a disaster, and I would never actually vote Republican, but I really respect McCain for having long advocated for military intervention in Syria, whether or not it will earn him political points. After Assad's chemical attacks, McCain said, "You can't look at the pictures without being deeply moved. Are we just going to let that go on?"
President Obama's inaction in Syria has been the last straw in a long list of skewed priorities. Senator McCain laments President Obama's continued failure to intervene in Syria, stating that his word "can no longer be taken seriously," since President Obama said that if the Assad regime using chemical weapons, this would be a "game changer" and mean that a "red line" had been crossed. Australia is talking about a military intervention and so is France. However, following Wednesday's events, President Obama has only deemed the incident "of grave concern" and stated that despite the mounting evidence of Assad's brutality, the United States should not "rush" into another costly war. Of course, Obama's position is not entirely his own fault. If George W. Bush had not squandered trillions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on the completely senseless war in Iraq, our nation would have more funds available to finance a necessary intervention. But as a nation we cannot look the other way while Assad is committing these atrocities just because the war in Iraq has been a complete failure. Human rights abuses like the conflict in northern Mali and the Syrian Civil War are so grave that military intervention is necessary. But by intervention I do not mean a ten year-long war, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama made an enormous mistake by not intervening in Syria sooner. Now the Syrian situation has gotten even worse, President Obama cannot remain weak on the issue and allow Assad's regime to prevail on his (and our) watch. Our country deserves better and so do the Syrian people.