Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has seen thousands of different rulers in its 7,000-year history, including Alexander the Great, Saladin and Tammerlane. It also has seen dozens of sieges.
But no ruler and no siege have been more brutal than the present ones.
As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tries to drive rebels and their followers out of Aleppo, his army, with complete control of the nation's air space, has attacked the city's civilian areas with aircraft, missiles, artillery, mortars and, in a new twist, "barrel bombs" dropped from helicopters flying at 7,000 feet.
These crude devices, packed with shrapnel, fall helter-skelter, with no precision, into the crowded, rebel-held areas of the city, causing indiscriminate death, injury and terror. One recently fell on a mosque being used as a school, killing a number of children. Inhabitants are fleeing the barrel bombs, joining roughly half of the nation's population as refugees.
The barrel bomb is a weapon of mass destruction, and its use is likely a war crime. But Mr. Assad has long since shown his contempt for the rules of war and the human dignity of the opposition.
And he has not delivered on his promise to surrender his chemical weapons.
Instead, the murderous heir to the Assad dynasty grimly clings to power, with more than a little help from crucial help gets from his friends - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's theocrats.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry certainly has no illusions about Mr. Assad's lengthening record of heinous atrocities. Of the recent attacks in Aleppo, Secretary Kerry said:
"Each and every day that the barrel-bombing of Aleppo continues, the Assad regime reminds the world of its true colors. It is the latest barbaric act of a regime that has committed organized, wholesale torture, used chemical weapons, and is starving whole communities by blocking delivery of food to Syrian civilians in urgent need."
Pressing the position he took at the recently failed talks in Switzerland between the Syrian government and its opposition, Mr. Kerry added, "Given this horrific legacy, the Syrian people would never accept as legitimate a government including Assad."
Unfortunately for the people of Syria, though, U.S. policy remains stymied in that long-suffering nation. Mr. Kerry's words are not backed by force - and they will not persuade Mr. Assad to back off.
Meanwhile, terrorists elements have co-opted much of the Syrian rebel movement, further complicating the options of global leaders - including those in our country - for any effort to halt the bloodletting.
And as the international community continues to wring its collective hands in revealing futility, the Syrian people continue to suffer at the hands of a savage tyrant.
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