On April 6, 2017, Donald Trump ordered 59 cruise missiles on Syria’s Shayrat air base. In his address to the public, Trump used language that rationalized the air strikes based on humanitarian issues. In regard to the chemical agents used against the Syrian people, he state: “no child of God should ever suffer such horror.”He ended his speech saying, “we ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.” Throughout the speech, he built America’s empathy for the victims of the chemical attacks in order to defend the airstrikes. He used language that drew on religious beliefs to defend the airstrikes in the name of God. By outlining the horrors of the Syrian child victims in the chemical attack and using religious language, Trump disguised the airstrikes as a purer action, painting the United States as Syria’s savior.
While numbers vary drastically, the Syrian Center for Policy Research reported in 2016 that 470,000 lives have been lost in the Syrian Crisis. According to the BBC, the conflict has become more complicated as Turkish-backed Kurdish troops control the Northeast part of Syria, but ISIS and the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian government compete for control over major cities. America, opposing the Assad regime in Syria, claims to provide limited military support to moderate rebel groups. However, 86 people died as a result of the chemical attacks. While every life lost is one that should be mourned, the sudden need to act “for the children” is suspicious.
It is hypocritical of Trump and his supporters to deplore and close our borders to refugees who only want to escape the rising violence and chaos in Syria. America is unable to learn from its past. Almost every time we have removed a dictator from power, it has resulted in a power vacuum in which the dictator was replaced with someone worse who destabilized their country. These countries were left with incompetent governments, poor conditions for the people and struggling economies. Using language such as “the children of God” or actions such as “praying for the victims” paints a false picture that the United States of America actually has Syrian children’s best interests at heart. This would be believable if we did not let our fear of terrorists mask our empathy and humanity regarding the Syrian refugees.
While this conflict may have originally started with peaceful protests for democracy and complaints about high unemployment, restrictions on freedoms and corruption, it has turned into a civil war with international players getting involved in a proxy war. When a child dies, I do not think their families comprehend or even care if the cause was their own government, ISIS or rebel groups. All they care about is that their child is dead. America’s use of Syria as a proxy war against Russia and Iran has caused destabilization in Syria. According to the BBC, 85% of Syrians live in poverty and 6.3 million people have become internally displaced. “Winning” in Syria is almost impossible because of the different groups, both local and international, that are involved in the war. If we continue to act like we have an active hand in the stabilization of Syria, we have to open our doors to the families that have been displaced as a result of the conflict. By closing our doors to refugees, we allow terrorist groups to use our President’s rhetoric as a recruiting point and the Assad regime to label the U.S. an enemy.