While driving to set up my laptop and work on writing projects this morning, my chipper mood was dampened by the news on the radio of the deaths of Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik, and Rami al-Sayyed during the Syrian onslaught on civilians in Homs. Colvin was a top notch reporter who earned herself an eye patch covering previous war zones and Ochlik was a highly regarded photojournalist. Rami was a Syrian activist responsible for getting reports from inside Syria to the outside.
I am not well acquainted with their work although I do recall Colvin’s reporting from Libya during the revolution there. So, why did I feel an emotional impact? Maybe it was part in sympathy and maybe part a moment of self-reflection.
A writer loves to consider himself relevant. Truth is, most of us aren’t. That vampire novel or personal version of a Hemingway plot, in most cases, won’t sway the course of civilization. On the other hand, the reporting of a Colvin or the pictures of Ochlik can persuade people when other means fail. War correspondents risk their lives in places like Syria to make sure that through the din of American Idol ads and GOP candidates arguing whether a woman should be allowed to take birth control, people understand that in places like Syria, dictators are slaughtering people for nothing less than living in the wrong place. Tanks are shelling cities and snipers are picking off unarmed civilians. The wounded are treated in back rooms of residences because if they go to hospital, Security Forces torture them then kill them.
There was a wave that slowly swept the world today. A sense that maybe Syria had reached that tipping point where somebody is going to be forced to do something. China and Russia have stopped any outside intervention but as protests grow against those countries as well, one has to wonder how long they can protect the doomed government of Syria.
People ask why there hasn’t been intervention before now? That answer is simple. Because while no one knows what will happen next if no one intervenes, it is fairly clear what happens if foreign troops make their weight felt. Odds are there will be a regional war involving not just Syria, but Iran, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE and possibly Turkey, Lebanon and Gaza. We’re talking millions of combatants taking the world to the brink. So at what point does intervention make risking all that worth it? I don’t have an answer and I don’t think anyone does. That is the problem.
In the meantime, three brave eyewitnesses to mass slaughter were murdered this week. They risked their lives so the rest of us would be exposed to truth. They may be dead but the truth is not. Let me recommend another witness: Arwa Damon for CNN who has been reporting undercover from inside Syria for weeks now. Gutsy reporting. I wish her and others well for the path we are on is very uncertain at the moment.