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Elie Wiesel: How to stop the Syria massacre

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. This piece was originally published in 2012.

Syria’s story is now both tragedy and scandal. Day after day, its police and army humiliate, frighten and kill scores of its citizens. Old and young, educated and ignorant, rich and poor: All have become targets. One day alone, two weeks ago, youngsters were massacred individually — with bullets in their heads.

And the so-called civilized world isn’t even trying to stop the massacre. Its leaders issue statements, but the bloodshed continues. A situation that has lasted 13-odd months is not about to end.

When questioned, our leaders simply shrug their shoulders: “What in the world could be envisaged when a pseudo-democratically elected leader imprisons, torments, tortures and endlessly maims and kills, on a large scale, hundreds of his citizens, what could stop him?”

Military intervention? No. Why not? Because the American people are tired of waging distant wars. Because American families have lost too many sons and daughters in far-away conflicts. Should Syrian families suffer because of the help we have given others? Because of the sacrifices we have already made?

U.N. resolutions? Russia and China shamefully render them worthless.

Economic sanctions? Somehow President Bashar al-Assad is not afraid of them. Diplomatic expulsions? They produce headlines, nothing else.

What strategic move is then operationally advisable with possible political results?

I am not sure that armed assistance is the only solution. Economic sanctions have proved to be relatively futile elsewhere. But why not imagine yet another option that might produce a dramatic effect?

Why not warn Assad that, unless he stops the murderous policy he is engaged in, he will be arrested and brought to the international criminal court in the Hague and charged with committing crimes against humanity?

Such a charge would have discouraging aspects. He would lose any support, any sympathy, in the world at large. No honorable person would come to his defense. No nation would offer him shelter. No statute of limitations would apply to his case.

If and when he realizes that, like Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, he will end up in disgrace, locked in a prison cell, he might put an end to his senseless criminal struggle for survival.

Why not try it?

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