The loss of human lives is apparently a permanent feature of human life.  

It is in fact a 24/7 occurrence.

Yesterday, two separate incidents motivated by entirely different reasons captured my attention.

Bashar al-Assad

The first involves the retaliation by the ruling Syrian regime headed by Bashir al-Assad against rebel forces blamed for an earlier bombing attack reportedly near his residence that claimed the lives of four of his closest associates, including his brother-in-law, deputy defense chief Assef Shawkat. 

Assad brother-in-law and deputy defense chief Assef Shawkat

The other fatalities included national security chief Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, and Gen. Hassan Turkmani, head of the regime’s management team on the Syrian uprising.

Russian envoy to France Alexandre Orlov

When Assad disappeared from public view for a few days after the death of his inner circle, speculations were rife regarding his future plans.  Russia’s envoy to Paris,  Alexander Orlov,  even suggested that he was ready to give up power.  Orlov’s statement was immediately denied by Syrian state television.

There nothing clearer about Assad’s intentions than his soldiers’ subsequent offensive against rebel strongholds in al-Midan and other parts of the capital city of Damascus and in the city of Saraqib, Idlib province, in northwestern Syria.  All told, yesterday’s hostilities produced a death toll of 310, deemed the bloodiest day of the on-going Syrian civil war.

Assad soldiers recapture al-Midan, Damascus

Syrian rebels in Saraqib, Syria preparing for battle

UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan

It thus appears that there doesn’t seem to be a viable Plan B to the current war of attrition.  Former United Nations head Kofi Annan, appointed as UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, developed earlier a six-point plan for peace.  He asked the UN Security Council to impose sanctions for the failure to carry out his peace plan for Syria; he subsequently expressed disappointment over the failure of Security Council members to reach agreement.  Russia and China, permanent members of the Council, had blocked resolutions on Syria for the third time in nine months.

What’s the other incident?

You may actually know more about it than yesterday’s bloodbath in Syria since it got more media coverage.  In fact, today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer decided to headline it.

The Dark Knight Rises poster

I am referring to the shooting rampage by a lone gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes, at a movie theater during a midnight screening of the potential blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises, in Aurora, Colorado ( a suburb of Denver, Colorado) that resulted in 12 dead and 59 injured. 

The math alone should have guided Inquirer’s editors what story to headline.

Scene of the crime: Aurora, Colorado cineplex

Holmes reportedly has no criminal history  and had only been cited for speeding in October 2011.   In fact, he is now known to have graduated at the top of his class at the University of California (Riverside) and a doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado (Denver).  This spring, he struggled with poor academic test results and was in the process of dropping from the graduate program at the time of the shooting.

Holmes in court with public defender Tamara Brady

Various reports have surfaced claiming that Holmes supposedly told police that he was the Joker and sported red hair, but Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates refused to comment on the claims. However, at a press conference in New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters, “It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman.”

Holmes during happier times

It’s certainly too early to come up with the definitive story regarding Holmes (if ever we’re going to get one).   What he has clearly done is to remind us of the horrors of other shooting rampages in the United States, including the 1999 incident in Columbine High School (also in Colorado) and the 2007 incident in Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

What we can do is mourn the dead, help the wounded, and hopefully learn from these tragedies.

Overseas Filipino workers repatriated from Syria with Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello in mid-2012

And perhaps, the Philippine government should start evacuating our 8,000 compatriots from Syria.


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