Friday, May 04, 2012

4-May-12: The bloodbath that is Syria: can anyone make any sense of it?

The face of the regime that the al-Assad regime
prefers we see: Syria's First "Lady" in Vogue. The backstory 
is very much less attractive.  
To get a sense of what terrorism can achieve when it's dished out by a government with its own well-equipped military, the appalling massacres in Syria are instructive. Since the convulsions began in January 2011, thousands have been killed, by far most of them civilians. Nine members of one family were wiped out two days ago by Syrian army bombardment. Yesterday, four students were killed at a university in Syria's largest city when security forces raided the dormitories following anti-government protests. Between 50 and 200 were rounded up and arrested.

The Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-moon is "gravely alarmed" at the continuing killings despite the government of Syria's repeated "commitments to end the violence". He said earlier this week that heavy weapons are deployed in populated areas though the Syrian regime says they had already been withdrawn. "The continued repression of the civilian population is totally unacceptable" the newsagencies quote him saying. But everyone knows it is not going to stop, not even with 300 UN observers being deployed there at the moment. This Kuwaiti news source said Tuesday that 141 people had been killed since the UN observers started arriving. 43 Syrians were killed on Tuesday alone.

Needles to say, the blood-drenched al-Assad regime that has ruled Syria with an iron boot for two generations disclaims all responsibility. The guilty party - as of yesterday - is the government of the United Kingdom. Syria's deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, says Britain is directly responsible for the deaths of civilians in his country (video interview here).  A week earlier, the Syrian government said the fault was with the UN (see "Syria accuses U.N. head of encouraging terrorists") and erstwhile-friend Turkey ("Syria accuses Turkey of meddling". In March, Syria blamed Saudi Arabia and Qatar for what it called "arming the rebels".

But mostly it's Israel (naturally), and "the rebels" who get the blame for the thousands of Syrian dead (the UN's estimate is 9,000).

But maybe the answer is simpler. On the blog site of Michael J. Totten, an independent American journalist who reports from the Middle East (his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Daily Star of Lebanon, LA Weekly and the Australian edition of Newsweek), he has posted an illuminating video and some interesting commentary under the title "Fake Terrorist Attacks in Syria":
No one who follows Middle East conflicts should be shocked to discover that the Syrian government is staging terrorist attacks against itself. For a year now the Assad regime has claimed it’s fighting our war against radical Islamist terrorist “gangs,” even though we all know Damascus is the biggest state-sponsor of radical Islamist terrorism in the Arab world. And those of us who followed and reported on the 2006 war in Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and the Second Intifada in Israel and the West Bank know chapter and verse how Middle Eastern terrorist organizations and their sponsors manipulate the media by using actors, Photoshop, bogus hysterical claims, etc. It’s de rigueur over there. I’m not exactly sure who edited this video, but the clips do appear to be from Syria’s state-run TV. These idiots are not even trying to make their ridiculous dramatizations look credible. UPDATE: I know now who made this video. He's a friend of a friend named Mike Nahum who is a graduate of Damascus University's Arabic program and a media analyst based in Washington, DC.
The video is only four minutes long, a small price to pay for a small insight into what's behind the misery. Click on the image below.

In a way, this is the story of the Middle East: hard to make sense of the conflicting narratives without considerable patience, some insider guidance and a healthy dose of skepticism for public statements. Meanwhile ordinary people get trampled and antidemocratic elites pursue their survive-at-all-costs agendas.

By the way, that Vogue article from February 2011 we illustrated above is no longer on the Vogue website. But the al-Assad clan want you to be able to see it, so they have posted on the family's own website, here. (Considerate of them, no?) A brief extract:
Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination... “It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad... Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East... The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it."
Tragically, she's almost certainly right.


Wilbur Post said...

But where are the flotillas?

This Ongoing War said...

Since the flotillas are the living embodiment of falsehood and hypocrisy, the answer is that they are far, far away from anywhere connected with human rights or suffering. If and when the flotillistas start heading for Syria, for Lebanon, for Saudi Arabia Inc., or for any of the numerous other parts of the jihad-infected world where sincere and meaningful intervention would make a difference, then we can start believing in the notion of an Arab Spring. Till that happens, we can sit back and note the utter silence of the pundits at the absence of Arab or flotilla-minded liberals from the Syrian stage. It's a silence that confirms how few people are taken in by the doublespeak of the sailors and their passengers.