has obtained a midnight letter that the noted Arab American composer, author, and foreign policy writer Mohammed Fairouz wrote to Secretary of State Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched projectiles filled with toxic sarin gas into the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, Syria, killing 86 people and wounding hundreds more.
After the victims, which included dozens of children, were evacuated to seek medical treatment, Assad’s jets returned and bombed the hospitals, as they have done countless times during Syria brutal six-year civil war.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked about the attack during a photo-op with King Abdullah of Jordan, and refused to answer.
Here is a full transcript of Fairouz’s letter:
These are hard, dark days. Earlier, I saw you, the Secretary of State of the United States ignore a question about the recent massacre in Syria. I’ve been stunned ever since. You did this and the whole world saw it.
Secretary Tillerson: your moral cowardice wounded me. Over the long term, you may have altered the face of the United States in that moment even more drastically than the circus and parade orchestrated by your boss thus far.
I understand that you do not have a background in diplomacy or global affairs and I have made no secret of my conviction that this makes you terrifically and dangerously unqualified for the grave office you currently hold.
I didn’t expect you to spend the day scrambling to prepare your UN Ambassador (after all, she too, had no diplomatic credentials before her ascension to this appointment) for the emergency meeting at the Security Council today.
But this is not a joke. Your failure in the face of this catastrophe would count as a referendum on more than just the diplomatic prowess of the United States.
I do not expect you to be exploring avenues to make a watertight case to the Security Council unambiguously exposing Bashar al-Assad to the principle of Universal Jurisdiction. I do not expect you to have studied the proceedings of the international court as established by the United Nations in the International Tribunals for Rwanda, the Former Yugoslavia or to have examined the workings of special courts from East Timor to Lebanon.
Mr. Secretary: I don’t know if you’re aware of this or if you mind it at all, but Assad’s actions over the last several years and most recently in the preceding days count as grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
They count as a violation of the Geneva Protocol. I don’t expect that you are up right now thinking of your diplomatic options in the face of a regime that has no regard for the International Criminal Court, the rule of law or, indeed, humanity itself.
I expect that, as Bashar Al Assad spawns a generation of orphans, you are sleeping peacefully.
Your boss and his cohorts are involved in a comprehensive blame game. To be clear, nobody is letting Obama or his administration off the hook nor will I ever forgive him for his red line.
But Obama is not our president right now and John Kerry is no longer our Secretary of State. Your boss, who sold himself as an antidote to Obama’s worst failings, has no business blaming his predecessor.
A little over two years ago I wrote of Obama’s global failings and I concluded by saying the following:
“If these fires of world war are not extinguished the next administration and, indeed, the next generation will be vexed with a global nightmare of unfathomable proportions.”
Secretary Tillerson: this is a deadly moment and it now falls largely upon you to awaken the global community from this nightmare.
I understand that you are not a career diplomat; that you have likely not studied the treaties that the United States is bound to or the opportunities that we are ripe to explore.
I’ve watched your work and, while I appreciate the advancements of the current administration in contending with the threat of DAESH, I cannot decipher an intermediate or long game.
I admit I do not believe you to be aware of your options when it comes to the application of the military or the intelligence community in support of your diplomacy. Expecting that of someone with no background in geopolitical statecraft would be unfair. Frankly, my hope is that you were getting good advice and listening.
I was not encouraged when you did not protest drastic budget cuts to the State Department.
Here, I’m reassured by the fact that your counterpart at the Department of Defense is qualified to hold his office.
His exercise of an extremely sensible demeanor suggests to me that General Mattis understands that he is operating without the safety net of a seasoned diplomat at the helm of State.
He knows very well that every cent that is cut out of the budget of the State Department is a cent that he will need to spend on artillery. And he knows that the interest he pays on those cents will need to be paid with the blood of his troops.
Mr. Secretary: I don’t say any of these things to offend you. You admit as readily as I that you are not a diplomat. I am not upset that you are not thinking like one.
But when it comes to the use of these weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, the international conventions are unambiguous for a reason.
These people died the worst deaths imaginable; they died in convulsions, bleeding from the nose and mouth. The inconceivable pain of their final seconds are a testament to why the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention were drawn up.
My heart broke when I saw our Secretary of State walk away from a question about this event. Mr. Secretary: the correct thing to do would have been to halt for a moment and condemn the atrocity without reservation. The fact that you did not have the human instinct to do that leaves the United States with that much less moral fiber than we had before you exposed us to that moment.
Mr. Secretary: your boss has called the United Nations, the world’s largest diplomatic organization, a “social club.” That demonstrates a great failure of perspective that I hope the tragedy of these days moves you to counteract.
I am a young person, 31 years old. When the Great Generation, the generation your parents belonged to, came forward to lay the foundations of the United Nations, they made a solemn promise eternally enshrined in the Charter:
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.
That great generation sealed that promise after witnessing the very horrors that we are once again witnessing today in Syria. You shied away from that promise when you didn’t address the horrors in public. But I ask as a young person who still looks forward to a future with great hopes for the world that my generation must build upon: please, Mr. Secretary, do not fail in your promise to us altogether.
Follow Mohammed Fairouz on Twitter.