Skip to main content

America must end the genocide in Syria

By Jeff Greene, Special to CNN
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Fri September 6, 2013
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
HIDE CAPTION
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
221
222
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Greene: With over 100,000 Syrians killed, another genocide has come to pass
  • Greene: America has a moral obligation to help those who are being slaughtered
  • He says we may not want role of the world's policeman, but at times we have no choice
  • Greene: In this season of Rosh Hashanah, let's lend a helping hand to people in Syria

Editor's note: Jeff Greene, an investor and philanthropist, was a Democratic candidate in Florida for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

(CNN) -- The recent, deadly chemical attack carried out, the administration says, by the Assad regime may finally prompt the U.S. military to help the Syrian people. But serious questions remain about our nation's moral standing in the world and the state of our national conscience.

No matter how we act going forward, we are still left with the fact that we failed to intervene while more than 100,000 innocent Syrians were killed. One more genocide has come to pass.

Does America have moral obligation to help those in need? As the world's most powerful nation, are we obliged to protect the innocent from slaughter? What example do we want to set for others, including future generations?

Jeff Greene
Jeff Greene

For more than a year I have been dismayed to watch my country waver and delay in the face of the Syrian catastrophe that has resulted in so many deaths and millions being displaced from their homes.

President Obama has, no doubt, been restrained by the kind of public opinion I heard when I campaigned in 2010 for the U.S. Senate. Then, as now, a majority of people feared getting involved abroad. They spoke warily of Iraq and Afghanistan and ask why we should risk more interventions when the costs were so high.

A fear of "foreign entanglements," to recall George Washington's farewell address, has always been part of the American character. But our heritage also includes a profound concern for human rights. And while our foreign endeavors have sometimes led us to regret, our inaction also haunts us.

President Franklin Roosevelt failed to respond to the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Presidents Ford and Carter stood aside during Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia. Bill Clinton has said he could have saved as many as 300,000 lives in Rwanda if he had acted to stop the killing there when he was president. He regards this inaction as the biggest policy regret of his presidency.

Rangel opposes military strikes on Syria
World considers response in Syria

Then there's eastern Congo. Millions of people have been killed there in the past few years. Yet no country, including the U.S., has done anything to stop the suffering.

The world places its hopes in America as a country that stands for the rule of law against the rule of tyrants and for the elevation of right over might. We may not want the role of the world's policeman, but there are times when we have no choice. Indeed, if there is such a thing as American Exceptionalism, it is based on our willingness to act on the basis of our moral values and not just to secure our strategic and economic interests.

At this moment, the public is displaying a level of apathy toward the Syrian tragedy that makes me fear that we have lost our moral compass. I understand that people are sick of wars and face many stresses in their own lives. Struggling with growing income disparity or unemployment, probably the last thing we need is to go into another war.

But we are still the richest and most capable nation on Earth. And as human beings we should feel moved by outrage when we see a man being beaten on the street, or thousands of people being put to death by the air they breathe.

As Americans, we should not shirk from our responsibility to the persecuted or slaughtered just because they are half a world away, speak another language or practice a different religion.

Obama: Syria is not a political ploy

In my travels around the world, I often encounter the complaint that in the post-9/11 era, America seems disengaged from humanitarian concerns. In Iraq we spent trillions of dollars to fight in an oil rich country that never attacked us, on the pretense that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. In Syria we long failed to act to defend people who are actual victims of weapons of mass destruction.

How many people are losing faith in America as a morally-based power that will use its might to stop mass murder by a tyrant?

The values I acquired growing up as an American in the 20th century America called for standing up to the kinds of crimes Assad has perpetrated for nearly eighteen months. In that time, President Obama has drawn various lines, declared his impatience, but permitted Assad to commit atrocities. In the process he made it seem that the America of the 21st century is callous, disengaged, and unconcerned with the lives of those who do not live under its flag.

For me, a Jewish-American, this season of Rosh Hashanah brings a call to reflect on the year that has passed and for resolve to make the coming year better. When I consider what has happened in Syria I feel ashamed of our country -- once again we have permitted a slaughter -- and I feel willing to risk unexpected consequences in the future, for the sake of doing the right thing now.

Americans must embrace an anti-genocide policy, one that calls for quick and decisive action, as a matter of moral responsibility. To act otherwise will only bring us more regret.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Greene.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT