“For a world that too often seems impervious to the horrors of Syria’s civil war, the photos and videos from Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack, which killed dozens of civilians, bore witness to a new level of atrocity,” The New York Times reports in an editorial. “People gasping for breath, turning blue, lying dead in the street — all victims of airstrikes apparently by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“It was the deadliest chemical attack in years in Syria, a new marker for a leader with a record of brutality dating to 2011, when he turned his weapons on peaceful protesters. A second attack on Tuesday hit a clinic treating the victims.
“Chlorine gas attacks have become almost routine in northern Syria, but medical workers and other witnesses, citing the symptoms this time and the high casualties, said even more lethal nerve agents and other banned toxins were probably used.
“On Tuesday, Mr. Trump called the attack a ‘reprehensible’ act ‘that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.’ The usually invisible secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, did better. He condemned Mr. Assad by name, said he must be held accountable and pointed out that Russia and Iran “also bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.”
“But the comments have little power, coming as they do after weeks of Mr. Trump voicing both distaste for America’s traditional role as a promoter of human rights and praise of authoritarian leaders, like Vladimir Putin of Russia. Mr. Trump also blamed Mr. Obama for the new attacks, citing his ‘weakness and irresolution’ in setting a red line in 2012 against chemical weapons and then doing ‘nothing.’ Has he conveniently forgotten September 2013 tweets telling Mr. Obama ‘do not attack Syria’?
“More important, Mr. Trump did not say how he would respond now. He could start by supporting a strong resolution, with sanctions, at the United Nations Security Council. Given the close coordination between Mr. Assad and Russia, it is hard to believe Moscow’s insistence that it had no military role in the strike. Regardless, Russia and Iran are complicit in the brutality.”
The complete editorial is here.