The Post editorial board wrote on Thursday:
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have joined European governments in strongly condemning Mr. Assad’s principal answer to the unrest — massacres of unarmed civilians by police, army troops and the regime’s private militias. Syria’s leading human rights group says that at least 200 people have been killed. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 27 died in Daraa last Friday when security forces opened fire with automatic weapons on marchers who carried olive branches to signal their peaceful intentions. The gunmen then fired at ambulances trying to reach.
Mr. Obama has called the violence “abhorrent,” and a White House statement on Tuesday said that it was “outrageous.” But the administration has not repudiated the Assad regime; instead, Ms. Clinton, who two weeks ago referred to Mr. Assad as a “reformer,” this week suggested that “Mr. Assad and the Syrian government must respect the rights of the Syrian people.” Does that seem likely?
No action has followed the administration’s words, although steps are readily available: sanctions against those carrying out the repression; referral of Syria’s behavior to the U.N. Security Council for a resolution of condemnation; withdrawal of the ambassador dispatched to Damascus last year. All these would be blows against a regime that is Iran’s closest ally in the Middle East; that supplies Hamas and Hezbollah with missiles to fire at Israeli cities; that destabilized Lebanon’s pro-Western government with a string of murders; and that tried to secretly build a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea.
The we learn from Eli Lake that it’s actually worse than inaction; it seems the administration has snubbed the democracy advocates:
The Obama administration has turned down a plea from Syria’s democratic opposition to step up diplomatic pressure on President Bashar Assad, who has violently repressed peaceful anti-government protests.
“The White House has to date rejected our requests for stronger action on Syria,” Ammar Abdulhamid, an unofficial spokesman in the West for the Syrian activists organizing the widespread demonstrations, told The Washington Times.
Major protests have been called throughout Syria for Friday. On Thursday, Mr. Assad announced a new Cabinet and released some political prisoners in an attempt to head off more demonstrations. . . .
In the White House meetings, the opposition representatives have asked for President Obama personally to condemn the Assad regime on camera. They also called for the United States to impose sanctions on regime officials who ordered the military to fire on the crowds and for the United States to support a separate resolution against Syria at an April 27 session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“President Obama has not personally condemned the regime. The White House has not yet issued sanctions against officials who ordered soldiers to fire on peaceful demonstrators. The White House will not say whether they will pursue a Syria specific resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council,” Mr. Abdulhamid said
This is the standard approach of the administration to human rights: Ignore or provide muted responses to specific atrocities; make a general speech now and then on human rights; and then show contempt for or do nothing to assist democracy advocates who seek our help. Instead, we keep our ambassador in Syria and we demand no accounting of the regime’s murders or access to witnesses and family members.
We send a message, of course, to Bashar al-Assad and to the Iranian mullahs by such action. Go ahead with your crackdown. There’s no price to be paid. The United States doesn’t stand with your opponents.
In a time when we have very few options to affect positive change in totalitarian countries you’d think we’d at least lend a hand, publicly and proudly, to those fighting for their freedom. Well, not in this administration.