Leading article: Let Colvin's life bring shame on Assad

Share
Related Topics

The death of the foreign correspondent Marie Colvin has two meanings. One is that journalism is about more than prurience and moral and financial corruption – contrary to the impression that might have been given by the events that led to the Leveson inquiry and by some of the practices that have been exposed since, and of which there may be worse to come this week. Journalism is also about the reporting of truths and injustices, and especially those that the powerful and the malign would rather were not reported.

The other meaning is in one of those truths, the humanitarian emergency in Syria, on which Colvin was reporting when she was killed. In her last words she said: "In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! Will keep trying to get out the information."

She wanted the world to know that Bashar Assad's forces were perpetrating terrible crimes upon their people. We have known that for a year now, but international action to do anything about it has been dismissed as unlikely because there is no consensus at the United Nations. In the great tradition of war reporting, Colvin sought to stir the conscience of the world by bearing witness to the human consequences of an unjust military campaign.

The Independent on Sunday hopes that she succeeds posthumously. This newspaper supports the doctrine of a "responsibility to protect", as adopted by the UN in 2005. We wish it had been acted on in Rwanda in 1994 and in Bosnia in 1995. We were glad that it was acted on in Kosovo in 1999 and in Libya last year. Of course, conditions must be met. Military action must either be authorised by the UN Security Council, or be to prevent the killing of large numbers of civilians. Both conditions were satisfied in imposing a no-fly zone over Libya last year, when Gaddafi threatened to take his revenge on the people of Benghazi.

Syria is different, as Paul Vallely explains today. Russia, supported by China, will veto any UN authorisation for intervention. Intervention would still be justified, however, on grounds of averting a worse humanitarian disaster. But it needs to be effective. A no-fly zone would not protect the people of Homs or the other towns that are rising up against the regime, because the Syrian military is using ground artillery to attack them. If there is one thing that even the most wide-eyed neo-conservative has learnt from Iraq, it is that the adverse consequences of a ground invasion are likely to far outweigh any good that might be done – even leaving aside the dangers of a proxy war against Russia or Iran.

Yet there are things that can be done. The European Union is going to tighten sanctions another symbolic notch tomorrow. More importantly, world opinion should be focused on the medical crisis in Homs. The International Committee of the Red Cross is working through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to try to help the wounded, but under tight Syrian government restrictions.

The Independent on Sunday joins with our colleagues in the British media to demand safe Red Crescent access to Homs. In addition, we want the wounded journalists to be allowed out and the bodies of Marie Colvin and that of the French photographer Remi Ochlik to be returned. Perhaps even Assad and Vladimir Putin can be shamed into that.

Let Marie Colvin's legacy be twofold, then. First, a celebration of good journalism and a determination to defend it from the well-meaning attempts to use the Leveson hearings to encroach upon it. Second, a new determination to find the most effective way to mobilise the international community to protect the Syrian people from their appalling rulers.

Liberal interventionism is always evolving, always adapting itself to different situations, but the moral impulse behind it grows stronger all the time, despite, or even because of, the mistakes made by the US and the UK in Iraq. It is generally agreed that Bashar Assad's days in Damascus are numbered. We must hope that Marie Colvin's legacy will be a significant shortening of that dictator's time in power.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?