IN June 1944, the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane was razed and 642 of its residents, women and children included, were massacred by a Nazi Waffen-SS company.
After the war, Charles de Gaulle ordered the ruins be maintained as a permanent war memorial. For some years now, Aleppo has seemed, though on an entirely different scale, a modern, dystopian Oradour-sur-Glane in the making.
Tragically, yesterday’s warning-cum-plea from the UN’s human rights office that pro-Syrian regime forces have, in the final rebel strongholds of eastern Aleppo, been executing civilians on the spot, makes that comparison all the more valid and chilling. Jens Laerke, a UN spokesman, said it appeared as if there had been a “complete meltdown of humanity“ in the once-magnificent city.
This has been a brutal, savage war — which one is not? — and it has dragged on so very long that innocence is in pretty short supply on either side — or among the puppeteer superpowers backing one side against the other. Against that backdrop, yesterday’s announcement by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald that Ireland will accept 4,000 Syrian refugees is entirely appropriate and welcome. This will, in today’s build-a-wall climate, provoke some protest, some justified fears around integration, and other obvious challenges, but in the face of the horror unfolding in Aleppo, anything less would represent cruel indifference, hypocrisy, and cowardice.
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