Syria Needs a Ceasefire: The true cost of war for children

I was a young mother, draft counselor and anti-war activist when the US was dropping napalm and Agent Orange on the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia more than forty years ago.  Today, as a result of this massive toxic exposure, large numbers of children are still being born with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, and people of all ages suffer from a host of cancers.

Chemical weapons are horrible. 

And the US uses them.  Most recently (as far as we know) in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

In his speech about possible US intervention in Syria, Obama said, “These weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant.” But drones, cruise missiles, and artillery shells do not make this distinction either.  Even economic sanctions, the so-called “diplomatic option,” were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five from 1991 to 2003, and now deprive millions of Iranians of medicine and basic necessities.

The point is not that US policy is completely hypocritical.  Everyone knows that.

After all, the US supported Israel when it used white phosphorous on the people of Gaza—causing horrific, deadly burns and contaminating scarce water sources.

Thanks to public and congressional opposition, the Obama administration has—at least, for now—agreed not to bomb Syria.  But “all options are still on the table,” and so the question is, can US military intervention in Syria do anything to stop, reduce or prevent the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Syria?

The answer is no.

After twenty-five years on the ground on the ground in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, MECA knows better than most the true cost of war on the lives of children.  Increased warfare will further destroy the health and well-being of children throughout the Middle East.

MECA stands against any US bombardment of Syria and the ongoing and overwhelming military presence that the US maintains in the region.

An estimated one million Syrian children have been forced to leave their homes, becoming refugees in neighboring countries. Two million more are displaced inside Syria country, where their lives are in constant danger. 

I am so thankful for all the people who stood up to stop US intervention. We have to keep that pressure on and push for actions the will resolve the conflict and stop the terrible suffering, including:

• The immediate cessation of all sales of weapons to the region, most importantly by the US, France, UK, Russia and China, who produce and sell the vast majority of the world’s weapons.
• Increased humanitarian aid and medical care for people in the midst of the conflict and for refugees.
• The guarantee of the right to return for all refugees throughout the Middle East. 

Last Spring, I visited the Shatila Refugee Camp in Lebanon, a sixty-five-year-old crowded, decrepit Palestinian refugee camp near Beriut. It has now become “home” to tens of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians fleeing Syria.  I saw the long lines of desperate mothers trying to get milk for their children and other basic necessities.

The Middle East Children’s Alliance sent two emergency medical shipments and provided direct support for programs for Syrian women and children who fled to Lebanon.   We plan to send more aid in the coming months, knowing that with or without US attacks, the humanitarian crisis will continue to grow.

An immediate ceasefire, not US bombardment, is the only solution.