Want to know what futility sounds like? Listen to what this general has to tell the Syrians

My next triumph will be getting the Greens to support mining in Fiordland.

Alf has seen several exercises in futility over the years and heard many eloquent pleas for common sense that are doomed to fall on deaf ears.

The hysteria generated by plans to have the Beast of Blenheim live in a house on prison property in Wanganui under strict conditions serves as a splendid example in this country. Any attempt to restore calm to the community had as much chance of succeeding as the Salvation Army has of converting Alf to a life of temperance.

But a better example of someone earnestly thinking people will pay heed to his counsel comes today from the bloke in charge of the UN team in Syria.

The UN calls it a force, but it’s as much a force as Gerry Brownlee is a Green Party vegetarian.

Its acting leader nevertheless has grand ideas of its (and his) strength.

This is evidenced in the media release (here) from the UN.

New York, Aug 18 2012 1:10PM
Ahead of the impending end of the mandate of UN observers in Syria, the force’s acting head today reiterated his call on the parties to the Middle Eastern country’s ongoing conflict to put down their weapons.

“[I] take this opportunity to call again upon the parties to stop this violence that is causing such suffering to the innocent people of Syria,” the UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who is currently serving as the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), told journalists at a media briefing in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Hello, Syrians.

Did you hear what the wise general said? And will you do what asks?

Fat chance.

Syria has been wracked by violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.

An estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The situation is worsening.

As the UN statement says –

Over the previous two weeks, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the centre of intense combat between Government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.

The grand-sounding UN Supervision Mission in Syria might have been a damp squib.

But the pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and some mighty reports are being produced.

Earlier this week, a panel probing abuses committed during the country’s ongoing conflict and working under a mandate from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council — the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry — issued a report which found that Syrian Government and opposition forces have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

According to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, some 2.5 million people in Syria face destitution as fighting grows ever more intense in populated areas. The humanitarian chief had spent three days in the strife-torn country and Lebanon, earlier this week.

“Those parties have obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that civilians are protected,” Lieutenant General Gaye said in his remarks to reporters. “These obligations have not been respected.”

Dunno if Murray McCully can do his work with a straight face, whenever he is attending to matters involving the UN and its mission in Syria.

This involvement would be a huge joke if the consequences weren’t so shameful.

Initially set up in April for 90 days, UNSMIS’ mandate was extended for another 30 days in late July, with the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2059. Escalating violence eventually led the Mission to suspend its regular patrols.

Resolution 2059 had also indicated that further renewals to UNSMIS’ mandate would be possible only if it could be confirmed that the use of heavy weapons had ceased and a reduction in violence by all sides was sufficient to allow the Mission to implement its mandate. With the 30-day extension, the Mission’s mandate is set to expire at midnight on Sunday.

Has the UN given up, then?

Nah.

With the required conditions not met in order for UNSMIS to continue it work, Security Council members decided on Thursday to establish a liaison office to support efforts for a political solution to the conflict.

“But the UN will not leave Syria; we will continue the search to move from violence to dialogue,” Lieutenant General Gaye said. “A UN presence is being established.”

The acting UNSMIS head at least knows how to retire gracefully.

He thanked the Mission’s staff members for their efforts, as well as Syrian counterparts for their cooperation.

“Syria has a proud and rich history; its future must not be undermined,” he added.

The combatants, of course, were not listening.

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