THE U.S. MUST NOT TURN ITS BACK ON THE SYRIAN PEOPLE

Dozens of people, including children, were killed on Tuesday following a chemical airstrike by Syrian government forces on a rebel-held area of the country. Video footage of the victims who were suffering the agony of chemical poisoning — writhing, choking and foaming at the mouth – was horrific.
World leaders immediately condemned this violation of international law in the strongest terms, with many calling for the immediate ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Trump Administration joined in blaming the Syrian government, but dismissed calls for the departure of the Syrian President as “impractical,” implying that it was not in America’s interests to focus on such human rights abuses. President Trump also blamed the Obama Administration, although Trump himself has not favored direct intervention in the Syrian conflict.
The use of chemical weapons is so abhorrent that after the massive death and destruction of the First World War, where both sides used mustard gas and other chemical weapons, the European powers agreed to ban the use of chemical weapons and to treat any chemical weapons use as a war crime. Amazingly, chemical weapons were not used by either side during the World War II, and chemical weapons were not used again until March 16, 1988, when Iraqi forces under Sadaam Hussein, mounted a chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja in northern Iraq. The attack killed between 3,200 and 5,000 civilians and injured between 7,000 and 10,000 more. Thousands more died of various complications, diseases and birth defects in the following years. The Halabja attack has been generally recognized as a crime against humanity and as part of a campaign of genocide by the Hussein government against the Kurdish people.
In sharp contrast to the Trump Administration’s near-hostility to Syrian refugees who have fled this war-torn area, the U.S. – which then prided itself as a beacon of hope for millions of suffering peoples around the world – opened its door to thousands of Kurdish refugees who fled from the northern areas of Iraq and sought asylum here. Many of them settled in the Nashville, Tennessee area, which now has a thriving Kurdish community that has fully integrated itself into American society, just as successive waves of immigrants from other countries had come here seeking to participate in the American dream, making both themselves and America the better for it. I have had to opportunity to represent the Kurdish communities throughout the U.S., and their contributions to the U.S. as teachers, professors, doctors, scientists. lawyers and in the arts never ceases to amaze me. They are better off for having come here, and the country is also a better place now that they have come.
Our great country was founded on a commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have been the champions of democracy and human rights around the world for over 250 years. Now we have a President who not only wants us to close our borders to many genuinely peace-loving refugees but is no longer willing to take decisive and tangible steps to prevent further atrocities from being carried out by brutal despots in Syria and elsewhere.
If America’s commitment to democracy and human rights continues its downward slide, no amount of military spending or tough-guy bluster from the White House can prevent our country from losing its most valuable asset. We are in danger of losing our soul.