Opinion: The world grieves for Syria

Nicholas Hunter

Friday, President Donald Trump ordered and carried out a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield believed to be where a chemical weapons attack was launched from.

The attack, which killed 84 people, is believed to be carried out by Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, and his regime.

While the United States has been carrying out bomb strikes on ISIS targets in Syria since 2014, this is the first attack aimed at the Syrian regime officially in power.

Little is known of the aftermath of the bombings at the time of writing.

During a press conference explaining his decision, Trump said, “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and types.”

When the push notification lit up my phone saying, “U.S. launches missile at Syrian military targets in first direct assault on Assad’s government, responding to chemical attack,” I took a deep breath as I felt my stomach sink deep inside myself.

Sitting at my desk, my computer—a constant reminder of deadlines and late assignments—melted away as I covered my face with my hands and let the air slowly push out of my nostrils. I didn’t cry or hit my knees to pray. I just kept still. I don’t know for how long, but the image of a missile soaring over bustling cities and vast, empty fields seared into my mind.

I was alive during the post-9/11 conflicts in the Middle East, but I remember so little of it I can’t say for certain who we fought or who our allies were.

Over the past couple years, however, as I became immersed in politics both as a future voter and, later on, someone who is tasked with commentating on the subject, I have experienced the Syrian conflict in real-time.

When news came in that chemical weapons were used on Syrian citizens, I think I had already began bracing to see that notification.

In 2013, former president Barack Obama threatened to carry out a direct attack in response to an Assad regime chemical weapons attack on the Syrian capital of Damascus, but he backed down when al-Assad signed a treaty that gave up Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Now, almost four years later with an apparently now-broken treaty, our new president carried out on his predecessor’s promise.

Once I pulled my hands off my face and sat back in my chair, I checked Twitter, hoping to gain some understanding.

More so, I was looking for somebody that could explain why the appropriate response to a government carrying out a horrific attack is for “the good guys” to carry out another one.

I did not want to accept the reality of the attack: It was just part of a military strategy.

I don’t like violence; I am a staunch believer in civil discourse as the most effective means of problem solving.

While the missiles were aimed at a Syrian airfield where the chemical weapons attack originated from, innocent lives were undoubtedly lost.

The chemical weapons attack was certainly a war crime and made Syrian people face prolonged suffering before losing their lives. It was an absolute atrocity, and Assad and his regime do need to be punished for their actions.

But I am not convinced a cruise missile attack was the answer.

A trigger-happy president (who just replaced a trigger-happy president), with the proclaimed intention of ending the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, responded to violence with more violence.

Now, what remains of many Syrian families are left to mourn even more.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].