Sure, the government of Bashar al-Assad may have pounded the rebel-held area so hard that it killed 194 people in 40 hours, many of them children. It may have targeted seven hospitals in two days, repeatedly hitting medical workers as they sought to rescue the injured and dying. And yes, this may signal the escalation of a siege that has denied supplies to a population of 390,000 for months, squeezing them between bombardment and starvation. All that may be meticulously documented by the UN.
This bloodletting has gone on for seven years now, and for most of that time most of us – politicians, media, public – have looked the other way.
…What explains this global indifference? Partly it’s because those of us far away have our own, legitimate preoccupations. Trump and Brexit are not mortal threats on a par with the barrel bombs of Damascus, but they have convulsed America and Britain alike. In recent days, it has not helped that the very aid organisations we might ordinarily expect to sound the alarm about an emergency such as Syria have been shaken by scandal and forced to look inward.
Part of it, surely, is that it has just gone on so long. For seven years we have known that a civil war is raining horror on Syria, and we’ve got used to it. The sound of Syrian children choking to death has become the background noise of this decade. And, crucially, we don’t know what to do about it.