Paul Greenberg

The young bodies wrapped in white linen winding sheets. Dozens of them. No blood, no sweat, no tears. Not a mark on them. Completely unmarred, just as God made them. Still lifes. The expression on their young faces almost angelic. Not at all like the jumbled masses of naked victims piled high in the Nazi death camps, their expressions still those of (barely) recognizable human beings writhing in agony, still clinging to each other, the men, women and children. They were told they were being taken for showers. But not these latest victims of modern, oh-so-antiseptic science. These bodies have everything. Except life.

It is a sad and shocking sight. If the world were paying any attention instead of just uttering the usual pious platitudes, or in the case of the distinguished Russia and Chinese diplomats at the United Nations, wondering in all their usual innocence who could have done this. As if they -- and the rest of an uncaring world -- were not accomplices, either active or passive, to what has been happening in one more vivisected country.

Who says the 20th century is past? Its worst features are still very much with us in the 21st. Sad as the sight of these bodies may be, sadder still is the world's apathy in the face of evil, wrapped as usual in the empty rhetoric of "statesmen."

Saddest of all is the sight, and unending sound, of all these Deep Thinkers still proclaiming that this is none of our business. Congress seems full of politicians so consumed by their own partisan prejudices that they aren't prepared to do anything a president from the other party requests.

We've seen, and heard, all this before. Back in the years after September 11, 2001, the kneejerk critics of George W. Bush, still bitter after an election campaign that finally, finally had to be ended by nothing short of a Supreme Court decision, rattled on for years about how all this had really been his fault. Never mind that bunch called al-Qaida or its enablers throughout the Islamic world. Somehow they were all reduced to just incidental bystanders.

Now it's Barack Obama who tries to rally the country to actually do something about the continuing horror in Syria (at last!), even if it's something only minimal, even if it's only a few missiles dispatched as a gesture, and he finds that, for a lot of Americans, politics doesn't end at the water's edge after all. And that war, to parody Clausewitz, is only a continuation of partisan politics by other means.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.