In the shadow of the Islamic State, which has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq — and has made beheading a thing it does — the world seems to have forgotten about the evil deeds of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Many Syrians are upset that US President Barack Obama decided to intervene to stop the brutality of the Islamic State, but refrained from using its robust military force to stop the brutality of the Syrian government. Some US allies even believe that it is Assad who is actuallythe root of the problem. It is the terror of the Syrian leader that allowed room for the terror of the Islamic State, the story goes.
“Why now?” one Syrian told Mike Giglio, a writer for Buzzfeed reporting from Turkey, near the Syrian border. “Is it because of the crime of the beheading of two American journalists? Or is it because this is really a terrorist group that terrorizes people in Syria? If so, then the regime has committed more crimes than ISIS. With much cruelty. People are dead in the prisons by the thousands. What about this?”
There was a time — in 2011 — when Syrians were peacefully calling for simple democratic reforms. Then Assad’s security forces decided they would have none of it and violently cracked down on civilian demonstrators. An armed rebel alliance arose as a result, full-blown civil war erupted, foreign extremists entered the country, religious extremism took hold and all hell broke loose.
Through it all, Assad continued to massacre Syrians. The United Nations says nearly 200,000 have been killed since fighting began. But no matter what Assad did — mass murdering civilians, torturing children, killing American journalist Marie Colvin — the United States refrained from intervening.