The Tragic Comedy of the Syrian War

A YouTube video of Syrian men graciously offering their services in defending the U.S. from impending annihilation by North Korea is a window into the sad reality of tens of thousands of murdered and disappeared people.

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The Syrian civil war is a nightmare for those living through it, but that doesn't mean it's totally robbed everyone there of their sense of humor. David Kenner of Foreign Policy points us to this YouTube video of some Syrian men graciously offering their services in defending Washington from impending annihilation by North Korea. The non-lethal aid they offer includes crutches, canes, and walkers.

The (depressing) joke, of course, is that the rebels of Syria are facing actual annihilation from their own government, and all the United States has been willing to offer to this point is "non-lethal assistance." The New York Times urgently reported today that the U.S. and other Western nations are "poised to increase nonlethal aid to rebel groups," but more than two years on in this deadly conflict, what the rebels really need are planes and body armor, and those aren't coming any time soon.

The other sad but true reality is that North Korea has lately managed to push Syria out of the minds of most not-Middle East world. Not because the conflict has ebbed—it's actually worse than ever. March was the bloodiest month of war, as shelling and bombing has become almost totally indiscriminate. On Thursday, Human Rights Watch published a report alleging that Bashar al-Assad's air force has killed more than 4,300 non-combatant citizens, in a bombing campaign that shows no regard for military vs. civilian targets. In fact, Assad is deliberately attacking civilian areas to root out sympathizers and eliminate potential rebel strongholds. (Warning: Some of the images in this HRW video may be disturbing.)

Not that anyone has a truly accurate account of the war's carnage. The U.N. and other humanitarian organizations have received no protection in Syria and are mostly absent from a war that spread across the entire country. Most of the casualty figures cited by the media come from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which as The New York Times pointed out this week, is basically one guy in England, working phones and email to gather and tabulate any news he can get on the war. It's imperfect, but his reports are about as good as any other organization could have gathered on their own. His current tally, as of the end of March 2013: 62,554 documented deaths, a number that almost certainly undercounts the total number of murdered and disappeared citizens by the tens of thousands.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.