By: Sydney Janeiro
Just a few short weeks ago I was watching CNN in the comfort of my living room, when the report of the gas attack in Syria aired. Images of children, including babies, were writhing in pain on my television screen. I clicked through the channels to find out more and discovered footage of people struggling to take a single breath and babies with oxygen masks instead of pacifiers. The journalist said it was a suspected chemical attack. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed rebels for the catastrophe, but many felt immediately that he was responsible. The screen flashed to Senator John McCain who was clearly sending a message that America would not stand for such brutality. In an interview with CNN, he stated, “The United States of America is going to be on the side of people who fight for freedom, and we will not sit by and watch chemical weapons being used to slaughter innocent women and children.” President Trump ordered a military strike on the airfield where the chemical attack took place. We saw a different side of Trump, when he was moved by the the pictures he saw of suffering children and decided to shift his past position on refraining from striking Syria.
Fast forward to April 13. In a call for action against ISIS presence, the United States dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in U.S. military’s arsenal, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, on a remote village in eastern Afghanistan. With the acronym, MOAB, the weapon has come to be known as The Mother of All Bombs. The bomb weighs in at 21,600 pounds and was built to pulverize bunkers and underground systems and subsequently vaporize anyone at the blast site. It was dropped from a plane and guided by GPS, so it is also being referred to as a smart bomb. The target was an old tunnel system being occupied by Islamic state fighters. It is still unclear if any civilians were killed.
War is not a new concept to the people of Syria or Afghanistan. There has been fighting for decades. It has become a way of life, and it is far from over. The children of these regions know nothing else. What must life be like for the children of Syria? For the children of Afghanistan?
The children in the war-torn societies of Syria and Afghanistan have almost become numb to the living hell around them. In a New York Times article, Ali M. Latifi writes about a conversation he had with two children, 11-year-old Safiullah and 13-year-old Wajed, in Afghanistan. “They described the explosion as ‘very loud’ but insisted that it did not scare them. Safiullah held on to his unruly goat that he was walking home. ‘I am used to it,’ he said. ‘I have heard so many bombings.’” In Syria, children were stripped of their clothes and hosed down to wash away the nerve agent, Sarin, that was permeating into their bodies. These desperate prevention methods were unable to reach many children, and those children died a cruel and painfully slow death. According to a NBC article, “100 people, including 25 children, were killed and another 400 were injured.” These innocent children’s lives and childhoods were so cruelly ripped away on this day of war. American news reports suggest that the United States intervention in Syria and targeted bombing of an ISIS camp, are a message that brutally murdering the innocent will not be tolerated.
They say children are resilient, but there are some things that can’t be overcome. Grown men and women return from war emotionally scarred. Imagine being a young child in the midst of constant chaos and destruction. Not knowing whether you or your family would have enough to eat or even live through the day. Journalist, Lyse Doucet, says she spent many years reporting on the war in Syria and heard the most captivating stories from children. She explains, “One girl, freshly escaped from the besieged city of Homs, told how she ate rats and cats because residents couldn't find food.” This is their reality.
President Trump surprised many of us with his changed attitude toward Syria. "When you kill innocent children -- innocent babies -- babies -- little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines," Trump said. When it comes to the lives of innocent children, we need to be united in the cause. Sometimes you have to put politics aside, and do the right thing.