OUR EYE OFF THE BALL - AT 9:04 A.M. ET: We regularly remind readers that we're taking our eye off the foreign-policy ball in focusing exclusively on economic issues. But enemies and potential enemies won't take their eye off us.
What's happening in the Mideast is extraordinary, and tragic. It will have implications for us for years to come, and yet the story is off the front page. Consider:
BEIRUT (AP) — A global campaigning organization said Thursday that one person disappears in Syria every hour and that almost 3,000 people have gone missing since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad more than four months ago.
The online activist group Avaaz.org said its investigation has identified 2,918 Syrians who were arrested or abducted by force by security troops and whose whereabouts are now unknown.
The group published the results of its probe in a statement, which was e-mailed to The Associated Press. It also kicked off a campaign called "Save Syria's Disappeared" on its website Thursday.
"Hour by hour, peaceful protesters are plucked from crowds by Syria's infamously brutal security forces, never to be seen again," said Ricken Patel, executive director at Avaaz.
The group called on the international community to step up demands for the release of the disappeared and for a transition to democracy in Syria.
Syrian activists say more than 1,600 people — most of them unarmed protesters — have been killed by security forces since the revolt against Assad's rule erupted in mid-March.
COMMENT: Syria is one of the most important of Arab countries. The protests against the government are growing, especially on Fridays, after prayers. Syria holds the key to what happens in Lebanon. It is Iran's greatest ally in the Arab world. It threatens Israel. Yet America seems substantially diverted.
We'd better get our eye back on the ball. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
July 28, 2011