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Dancing With Wolves

Dancing With Wolves

You hear many words of wisdom traveling through the Mideast, all which offer insightful pondering to events past and present.  Watching the tragic escalation of events in Syria and the failing efforts to bring the fighting to a close bring to mind words often spoken by the Kurds of the region, who are well-versed in being oppressed and slaughtered.

“It is useless for sheep to pass resolutions for vegetarianism when the wolves are of a different persuasion,” they often would observe.  And so it is.

The United Nations talks ceasefires and negotiations as it tries to cajole the Assad government into peaceful means to stop the carnage and find a solution that can reset Syria as a living nation. Assad offers hollow promises as he ramps up the attacks.  The day before the U.N. ceasefire was to go into effect– or at least begin — dozens more civilians were killed when regime forces intensified their operations to mow down more opposition. At least 101 were killed and that is before any real count could begin – since the shelling, missile strikes, tank blasts and the gunfire were in full fusillade. To make sure it was thorough, the air force was also involved.

Augmenting the shower of lead in some towns were arbitrary arrests and sweeps, which included many counts of plundering and sabotaging. 
The wolves do seem of a different persuasion.

So what is Plan B? Amazingly to some, invite in more wolves. Kofi Annan, who is the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria, flew to Iran to ask them for help. Iran, of course, is one of Syria’s few patrons and a nation loathed by many members of the Arab League for following a different version of Islam.

“Iran, given its special relations with Syria, can be part of the solution,” Annan said during a news conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. “The geopolitical location of Syria is such that any miscalculation and error can have unimaginable consequences.”  (

No doubt the sheep feel much better now.

The conflict in Syria keeps adding grisly remembrances from wars past and present, this time with an unforgivable déjà vu from the “War To End All Wars” – World War I.

In that great conflict the two sides finally agreed to stop fighting and have an armistice, with the cease-fire to begin on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month.”  As that date and hour approached, both sides emptied much of their remaining stocks of ammunition and actually ordered troops “over the top” for one last futile charge across No Man’s Land. The result was the same as almost every other day of that war: more senseless slaughter occurred.

On average, 2,250 troops on all sides were dying on the Western Front every day.  But in the 24 hours leading up to that ceasefire, here is the estimated toll: 2,400 British, 1,170 French, 4,120 Germans, and 1,100 Americans killed.  Losses on all sides that day approached eleven thousand dead, wounded, and missing.

Indeed, Armistice Day exceeded the ten thousand casualties suffered by all sides on D-Day.  Had appeals been heeded to stop hostilities while the talks went on, some sixty-six hundred lives would likely have been saved. In the end, Congress found no one culpable for the deaths that had occurred during the last day, even the last hours of World War I.

As time ticked in Syria, the Assad government said it had succeeded in asserting government control over the country after more than a year of unrest and would therefore observe a U.N.-brokered cease-fire. In the same breath it said it would retain the right to retaliate against attacks by “armed terrorist groups,” casting into doubt its promise to stop fighting under the terms of the Annan proposal. (

The world will not need a congressional investigation to determine culpability in Syria.




Tom Squitieri

Tom Squitieri has spent more than three decades as a journalist, reporting overseas for the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, the Boston Herald and USA TODAY. He won three Overseas Press Club awards and three White House Correspondents' Association awards for his reporting from Haiti, Bosnia, and Burundi. He is a newly-elected board member of the Overseas Press Club.

In academics, Squitieri was invited to create and then teach a unique college course that combines journalism, public affairs, ethics, philosophy, current affairs and war zone survival skills into a practical application to broaden thinking and day-to-day success. The class "Your 15 Minutes: Navigating the Checkpoints in Life" has a waiting list each year.

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in western Pennsylvania, Squitieri has been on all seven continents and in dozens of places he intends to keep secret.