“What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?” MSNBC’s Morning Joe panelist Mike Barnicle asked Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor during an in-studio interview.
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson responded.
“You’re kidding,” a stunned Barnicle replied, to which Johnson answered that he was not.
Barnicle explained to the Libertarian candidate that Aleppo is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis” in Syria, giving Johnson enough information to finally answer the question.
Let me try to answer the question, “What is Aleppo?” in the most graphic way I know.
What is Aleppo?
Aleppo is an ancient metropolis, and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world; it may have been inhabited since the sixth millennium BCE. The city’s significance in history has been its location at one end of the Silk Road, which passed through central Asia and Mesopotamia. When the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869, trade was diverted to sea and Aleppo began its slow decline. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Aleppo ceded its northern hinterland to modern Turkey, as well as the important railway connecting it to Mosul. In the 1940s, it lost its main access to the sea, Antioch and Alexandretta, also to Turkey. Finally, the isolation of Syria in the past few decades further exacerbated the situation. This decline may have helped to preserve the old city of Aleppo, its medieval architecture and traditional heritage. It won the title of the “Islamic Capital of Culture 2006,” and has had a wave of successful restorations of its historic landmarks.
Since the Battle of Aleppo started in 2012, the city has suffered massive destruction, and has been the worst-hit city in the civil war. It is currently split between the government-held west and the rebel-held east.
Governor Johnson, if you are still in doubt, here is Aleppo.
Aleppo may be an ancient metropolis, but it is also a five-year-old Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh.
Omran is a symbol of Syria’s suffering. Aleppo is a little boy, sitting alone, stunned, and covered in dust and blood, moments after being pulled from the rubble of his home in Aleppo. Omran is a little boy who has only known war for his entire life. The image of five-year old Omran Daqneesh has touched people around the world, an emblem of despair, sparking renewed calls for a ceasefire.
And, Governor, in case you are not aware, this is Syria.
Abdullah Kurdi, the father of Aylan, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach – an image that shocked the world – said today his children “slipped through my hands” as their boat was taking in water en route to Greece. Abdullah had been trying to cross along with his family and three other Syrians from the town of Kobane, to the Greek island of Kos just south of Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula.
Abdullah, whose surname is given by Turkish media as Kurdi, but sources in Syria say is actually called Shenu, lost his three-year-old son Aylan, four-year-old son Ghaleb and wife Rihana in the tragedy.
“I was holding my wife’s hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming,” Abdullah Kurdi told reporters of the sinking.
Twelve Syrian migrants drowned when two boats sank in Turkish waters as they were heading towards the Greek island of Kos, in a tragedy to people seeking to cross the Aegean to Greece.
But attention has focused on three-year-old Aylan, whose tiny body was photographed, washed up on a beach in the resort of Bodrum in an image that quickly became a viral symbol of the tragedy of refugees.
As the Syrian crisis is in its fifth year, more than 6.9 million people have been displaced according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Over half of these refugees are children. As the refugee numbers hit over six million, the Syrian refugee crisis in now the biggest of our era.
According to the United Nations:
- Women and children make up 3/4 of the refugee population
- By the end of 2014, over 50% of the Syrian population were in need of aid
- Refugees have little more than the clothes on their backs when arriving at refugee camps
- 6.5 million internally displaced within Syria as of 2015
- An estimated 9 million total persons have fled their homes as of 2015
- Over 1 million people have registered from 2012 to 2013
Unlike former Governor Gary Johnson, former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley knows about Aleppo and the Syrian Civil War and he showed that knowledge in a recent interview.
O’Malley appeared recently on CNN’s State of the Union with Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s campaign manager until he was fired in June, and chided Lewandowski over Donald Trump’s immigration policies, saying that the United States is not an “only-for-white Americans sort of country.” Lewandowski, a CNN contributor, called his former boss “a raw talent.”
That statement prompted O’Malley to criticize Trump over his proposal to block Syrian refugees from entering the United States, retorting “he’s raw, but it’s not talent.” O’Malley added, “It’s the rawness of scapegoating others. The man finally comes out with his first political campaign of the season, and it’s attacking Syrian refugees.”
O’Malley continued, “People come to our country, Corey, with last names like Lewandowski and O’Malley, not because we’re a nativist white America only-for-white Americans sort of country.”
“We’re a place that’s a beacon of hope for people, like that five-year-old little Syrian boy [Omran Daqneesh]. And what does Donald Trump do? He runs an ad saying that we’re being overrun with immigrants from Syria. Give me a break.”
Give me a break, indeed.
“It’s raw hate. That’s what it is,” said O’Malley, who dropped his Democratic primary bid after receiving less than 1% support in the Iowa Caucuses. Sometimes I wish that O’Malley had had more support. It seems obvious to me that Gary Johnson is no longer a viable alternative candidate any more.