Last words of Syria heroine

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“I WATCHED a little baby die today – absolutely horrific, just a two-year-old been hit, they stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest. The doctor just said ‘I can’t do anything’...No one here can understand how the international community can let this happen.”

These were amongst the last words, certainly the most poignant and prophetic, ever broadcast by the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, and just hours before the foreign correspondent, and a French photographer, were killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs when their refuse came under mortar fire.

They are testament to the courage of all those who have shone a light on the chilling atrocities being committed by President Bashar Assad’s loyalists as they try to halt the advance of freedom and democracy in the Arab Spring’s latest bloody phase. Her conclusions were also a sobering indictment on the failure of world leaders to halt the unfolding carnage.

Ms Colvin was no stranger to violence – she wore a black eyepatch after losing an eye while covering Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2001, but her last harrowing account from Homs revealed a level of danger that she had not previously encountered in a distinguished career devoted to the exposure of tyranny and the futility of war. Her death again exposes Russia and China’s senseless decision not to back an United Nations motion calling for the violence to end. Yet, that said, the bloodshed is so grave that it is doubtful that President Assad would take notice of such a mandate.

As such, the immediate priority is for a ceasefire to be negotiated so the Red Cross can provide urgent humanitarian aid while the civilised world considers its response.

They will watch, with interest, to see whether Syrian people take to the streets of Damascus, their capital city, in sufficient number in a desperate attempt to accelerate the bloody – and painfully slow – journey towards democracy.

The dilemma is this: countries like Britain and America have no desire to become embroiled in another military conflict following Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya but, equally, they cannot afford to turn their back on the slaughter of the innocents that Ms Colvin brought to the world’s attention so graphically, and with such bravery.