The tragedy of Syria’s war wounded


Jordan has a new, thriving industry, one it and any country could do without: manufacturing artificial limbs for refugees from the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Earlier this week, BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley reported from Jordan on how doctors and medical support workers there are doing what they can to repair the damage inflicted on Syrian refugees, including a young girl named Isra. Just 9 years of age, she was hit by a sniper’s bullet that fractured her spine. The good news is that although she has a long struggle ahead, she will walk again, although not the same way the rest of us can.

The NGO Handicap International is helping these victims, but the crisis is worsening, and the big question is what is the West to do? Throughout the last century we had perpetual wars for perpetual peace; after Vietnam we might have thought we were getting somewhere, but then came the Soviet/Afghanistan conflict, Iraq, then after September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq again, and let’s not mention Mali, Somalia or anywhere else.

Whatever we do or don’t do with regard to Syria, we are wrong. If we wash our hands of it, then we are cold-hearted racists who don’t care if people live or die, but if we interfere, then this is the return of the old Imperialism. Even humanitarian aid can be misconstrued, but clearly something must be done.

In the meantime as ever it is the innocent who suffer, like 9 year old Isra who faces years of therapy and rehabilitation, and 6 year old Muhammed, who has had no less than 12 operations as he learns to walk again.

[The above op-ed was published originally on April 5, 2013; the original wasn’t archived.]

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