If the first casualty in war is the truth, the second is hospitals, especially childrens’ hospitals. To understand the tragic and chilling wisdom of this saying, one only needs to witness what is happening today in the rebel-held city of Aleppo, Syria. It behoves to compare our own situation with that of the suffering people of Aleppo.
In the United States, we take access to healthcare for granted. Obama’s urgently-needed reforms have now made healthcare affordable to all Americans, which was never previously the case. In essence, our medical needs from birth through to end-of-life are generously paid by the government at no expense to hard-working Americans and their families.
We now turn our gaze to Syria, a country whose name most likely derives from the name of the Neo-Assyrian Empire established in the 10th century BC. The country is therefore old, and has been through many cycles of war and peace. Before President Assad began the civil war, the citizens of Aleppo enjoyed similar world-class medical facilities to those of the United States. With a pre-war population of around 2 million, and 1587 hospitals, Aleppo had one hospital per 1,260 people, which is a generous ratio by any standard.
Due to Vladimir Putin’s policy of targeting women, children and moderates, Russian airstrikes mean that the current population of Aleppo is barely one third of the pre-war level. This level of attrition is clearly a war-crime. The population reduction should have made the ratio of hospitals to people even more favourable due to a lower denominator. This would have been the good news. Tragically, however, the Russian and Syrian-government forces have succeeded in destroying virtually all medical facilities in the city.
Indeed, by June 2016, only a single childrens’ hospital in Aleppo remained intact. This hospital was finally destroyed in June, before being wiped-out in July, obliterated in August, pummeled in October and destroyed yet again the past weekend. It can only be hoped that exhausted construction workers will once more reconvene at the site of devastation to rebuild the hospital from the ashes.
While US soldiers are under strict instructions to kill only ISIS terrorists, it would seem that President Assad places no such limits on his army. As former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously said, can’t we just drone this guy?