Thursday, June 16, 2011

16-Jun-11: Quote of the day: Violent repression, the Syrians and Washington

Happy Syrian family: the Hafez al-Assads, two generations
of despotic murderers 
From a Washington Post Editorial Board editorial published yesterday
It has been four weeks since President Obama said it would be "a top priority" of his administration to oppose violent repression and support democratic transitions across the Middle East, using "all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal." He singled out Syria, where the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has gunned down hundreds of peaceful protesters, choosing what Mr. Obama called "the path of murder." The French government has adopted the position that the Assad regime has lost the legitimacy to govern Syria. But the Obama administration has not abandoned the notion that the dictator could still steer Syria to democracy - as ludicrous as that sounds. 
Calling Bashar al-Assad's policies the 'path of murder' is no understatement. It calls to mind the tradition of massacring fellow Syrians that is central to his family's ethos. Consider his father, as recounted by Thomas Friedman in a September 2001 essay in the New York Times entitled "Hama Rules":
Not-so-happy Syrian family: Fleeing
for their lives from their own army 2011 [Source]
In February 1982 the secular Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad faced a mortal threat from Islamic extremists, who sought to topple the Assad regime. How did it respond? President Assad identified the rebellion as emanating from Syria's fourth-largest city -- Hama -- and he literally leveled it, pounding the fundamentalist neighborhoods with artillery for days. Once the guns fell silent, he plowed up the rubble and bulldozed it flat, into vast parking lots. Amnesty International estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in the merciless crackdown. 
The Hama massacre in Hama was personally conducted by Bashar-al-Assad's uncle, Rifaat al-Assad, the younger brother of Bashar's father Hafez who was Syria's despotic ruler for the three decades until his death in 2000. That's when the current despot, his son, arrived on the scene.

Being able to control every word in the news media within your country, as the al-Assad dynasty has specialized in doing for decades, evidently ensures that such pesky matters as death tolls can be safely spun and ignored.

And would it surprise you to know that America's ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, "has not met with the Syrian Foreign Minister or his deputy “for some time,” and whatever meetings he’s had have been with “intermediaries”... That's according to an analysis published today on the Now Lebanon site where the author, Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, goes on to say:
The administration’s argument for keeping an ambassador was always problematic... This posture – the logical outcome of President Obama’s call on Assad to “lead the transition” – only legitimates the murderous Assad regime at a time when the US should be publicly declaring it illegitimate. President Obama already lent American prestige to Assad when he decided to... appoint Ambassador Ford. Awarding normal diplomatic relations with a superpower to a rogue regime is a legitimating act on its own. If the Obama administration is serious about ratcheting up the pressure against Assad, it should first state publicly that it is done dealing with the Syrian dictator, then follow that with a declaration that it is withdrawing the US ambassador from Damascus.
So why hasn't it?

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