Trump has suddenly discovered the children of Syria.

Trump Has Just Discovered the Children of Syria. His Policies Would Kill More of Them.

Trump Has Just Discovered the Children of Syria. His Policies Would Kill More of Them.

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April 6 2017 3:46 PM

Trump Has Just Discovered the Children of Syria. His Policies Would Kill More of Them.

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A Syrian boy with his face covered in dust and traces of his tears stands in a street following an ai strike by government forces on the rebel-held Bustan al-Qasr district in the east of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Sept. 20, 2015.

Karam al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump seems to have been very moved by images he saw on TV of the children killed and injured in the chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria, this week. At the White House on Wednesday, Trump said that the sight of “innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies” were so horrifying that “my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” His attitude has apparently changed so much that he said Thursday that he is considering military options in retaliation for the attack, an idea he condemned when he was running against Hillary Clinton. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that “steps are underway” to remove Assad, an astounding about-face from last week when Tillerson said that the Syrian leader’s removal was no longer a U.S. priority.

No doubt, the footage from the attack is hard to take. But you have to wonder why Trump’s humanity was not similarly touched by the children killed in the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, the stomach-churning allegations of systematic torture of children by Syrian forces, the many children killed by the Syrian regime’s barrel bombs, or the now iconic photo of a dazed little boy covered in dust in an ambulance in Aleppo, not to mention the also iconic image of a drowned Syrian refugee boy on a beach in Turkey. While all this was going on, Trump was arguing that the U.S. should be working with Assad, who he called a potential “natural ally.”

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Perhaps, given all the feelings, Trump should stop trying to ban all Syrian refugees from entering the United States. Perhaps, given his new mindset, Trump should have a conversation with his press secretary Sean Spicer, who responded in January to a question about the detention of a 5-year-old Iranian that, “to assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.” Perhaps, given his new attitude, the president should consider one good option for helping the children of Syria: killing fewer of them.

During his campaign, Trump accused the Obama administration of waging a “politically correct” war on ISIS and said he supported killing the families of terrorists. Since coming to power, he has altered policies put in place by the previous administration to prevent civilian casualties in U.S. airstrikes, and what do you know, there has been a dramatic increase in those casualties, including kids.

Trump did not seem all that anxious about finding out whether U.S. airstrikes were responsible for killing at least 200 people in Mosul last month, including children, newborns, and pregnant women. And he has never been concerned enough about the fate of innocent Syrians to believe that the U.S. should take some of them in. But now, after seeing the aftermath of the gas attack on TV, he is apparently so moved that he’s considering airstrikes, a step that, especially under his administration, could very well lead to the deaths of more women, and small children, and beautiful little babies.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.