Too little, too late for Aleppo’s dead and displaced

Published 8:54 AM EST, Tue December 20, 2016
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Channel 4 News/Waad Al Kateab
Aleppo wounded evacuations israel donut _00003612.jpg
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Story highlights

Lemmon: Syria is the war that has run out of adjectives. It has finally became too grotesque to ignore

The UN Security Council's unanimity breakthrough is months, if not years, too late for the more than a quarter-million dead

Editor’s Note: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the New York Times best-seller, “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN) —  

How do you monitor a skeleton of a city bereft of its citizens, who have been bused out after seeing their homes bombed to pieces by barrel bombs from the Syrian regime and bunker busters from their Russian supporters?

And what will be left to watch when – and if – the monitors ever arrive?

In the best-case scenario, the United Nations observers in Aleppo may find out.

In a rather realistic one, the world will never know.

At long last, the United Nations Security Council has been able to agree on something.

That something is the monitoring of the evacuation of the children and parents, men and women left alive in Aleppo, after the siege of their city – starved on the ground, bombed from the sky and sealed in without any refuge or non-lethal path to escape – grew inhuman enough to prick the world’s conscience and puncture its longstanding indifference to Syria’s carnage.

A Syrian boy sits with belongings he collected from the rubble of his house in Aleppo's Al-Arkoub neighbourhood on December 17, 2016.
YOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian boy sits with belongings he collected from the rubble of his house in Aleppo's Al-Arkoub neighbourhood on December 17, 2016.

The YouTube war finally became too grotesque to ignore.

Too grotesque to ignore

An overnight crisis, years in the making, finally grew impossible to overlook.

The UN resolution called for “adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations” and demanded that all sides provide the monitors “with safe, immediate and unimpeded access.”

But in reality, the French-backed resolution that finally won Russian and Chinese support says that those observers can only enter after they consult with “interested parties,” a verbal umbrella which is likely to include a bevy of forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from Iran to Russia.

By the time these neutral observers do make it in, eastern Aleppo likely will be cleared of the parents who called the city home and found themselves forced to flee when they could no longer send their children to play on their own streets or attend the city’s schools.

Starved into submission, stripped of medical supplies in hospitals left without power, anesthesia and, increasingly, doctors, who could survive the bombardment of the Syrian regime and its Russian air supporters? They could bear no more. Who could?

Even the remains of the fractured international community couldn’t take its impotence being called so painfully and embarrassingly to account by the images coming out of Aleppo.

How many pictures of grieving parents reaching toward the sky and dust-covered babies bombed to the ground could the world stomach?

Syria is the war that has run out of adjectives

Words long ago failed to describe its depravity – or to rouse the international community to do anything other than look away and wait for it to end.