The Guardian reports: In a blistering indictment, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called the failure of the UN security council, and Russia in particular, to stop the bombing of eastern Aleppo as “our generation’s shame”.
The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, reacted by denouncing O’Brien’s vivid account of the humanitarian toll in the besieged city as “unfair and dishonest”. In one of the most pointed attacks against a top UN official by a permanent council member in recent times, he told O’Brien to leave his comments “for the novel you’re going to write some day”.
Envoys from the US, UK and France came to the UN’s defence and heaped blame for the mass killing of civilians in Aleppo on Russia and its ally, the Syrian regime, as the Syrian conflict drove ever deeper divisions in the paralysed security council, and alienated Russia, currently president of the council, further from the UN relief and human rights agencies.
O’Brien, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, invited the envoys at the security council to imagine themselves among the 275,000 people trapped in eastern Aleppo and under bombardment by Syrian regime and Russian planes.
“Let me take you to east Aleppo this afternoon,” O’Brien said. “In a deep basement, huddled with your children and elderly parents the stench of urine and the vomit caused by unrelieved fear never leaving your nostrils, waiting for the bunker-busting bomb you know may kill you in this, the only sanctuary left to you but like the one that took your neighbour and their house out last night; or scrabbling with your bare hands in the street above to reach under concrete rubble, lethal steel reinforcing bars jutting at you as you hysterically try to reach your young child screaming unseen in the dust and dirt below your feet, you choking to catch your breath in the toxic dust and the smell of gas ever-ready to ignite and explode over you.”
“These are people just like you and me – not sitting around a table in New York but forced into desperate, pitiless suffering, their future wiped out,” O’Brien said, describing himself as “incandescent with rage” over the security council’s passivity, said. “Peoples’ lives [have been] destroyed and Syria itself destroyed. And it is under our collective watch. And it need not be like this – this is not inevitable; it is not an accident … Never has the phrase by poet Robert Burns, of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ been as apt. It can be stopped but you the security council have to choose to make it stop.” [Continue reading…]