Syria is bleeding

Ammar Abduhamid wrote Wednesday on the Syrian Revolution Digest:

Nothing impresses anymore: killing entire families by smashing their skulls or slashing their throats, pounding residential neighborhood with tanks, missiles, choppers and heavy artillery, burning people alive, commanding snipers to target children… nothing! The world remains indifferent to our suffering. After all, it’s nothing people haven’t seen before. Just another dictator torturing and killing his people, so what! So what!

As of this morning, the ceasefire is said to be "relatively holding," which is to say that the killing of Syrians by the murderous Assad regime has slowed to a trickle. While the snipers continue to be a big problem, the heavy guns and rockets have been silent.

But they remain in place. Assad has not withdrawn his tanks and heavy weapons. His security forces have replaced the army in places were they have withdrawn and his gunmen still shoot protesters.

While it would be delightful to think the current lull represents a serious turn for the better, the history of the Assad regime does not encourage that. If he truly allows peaceful political protests, as the UN resolution requires, the streets all across Syria will soon be filled with millions of Syrians demanding not only his ouster but also his prosecution.

He can't allow that, so it is likely that he will soon find some excuse to return the killing to the levels of the past month.

Last August, I wrote about Syria and the left in my Daily Kos diary entry: CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique. I printed my entire statement here at the Daily Kos precisely because CCDS deleted this and two other opening paragraphs from the version they published on their website. When I wrote this, the protesters were still trying to make non-violence work:

This Sunday I am told that 142 Syrians in Hama were slaughtered by Assad's tanks. It is estimated that as many as 1700 peaceful protesters have been massacred by Assad since the Syrian people welcomed the Arab Spring. I find it absolutely shameful that much of the left, including CCDS remain silent in the face of the Syrian people's cries for international support. I think we can do a lot better than that.

With CCDS, as with most of US left, the shameful silence on the plight of the Syrian people continues.

As I prepare to publish this I see that a UN Observer mission is going to Syria. They had better get their fast. I just received this tweet:

SaMo #Syria #Homs: Shelling on the nieghbourhoods of Homs is renewed by the tanks stationed at Souq al-Hal roundabout near the Masabigh
8:56 AM - 13 Apr 12

Warning!! This is a video of Assad's victims being burned alive in Syria. You do not want to watch this.

Michael Neumann has written an important essay on the Syrian situation, actually, it is the reason for this diary:

Getting Kofi Annan for Free*

There are two live options in Syria. The first is (at least) arming the FSA. The second is letting Assad continue to torture and murder. Since only the first option will stop Assad, there are no other choices.

Of course, no one thinks of themselves as backing the second option. They call it by many different names. Some are just slogans that don't sound like an option at all. "Don't trust the imperialists and neoliberals!" "We support the Syrian people in their nonviolent struggle." "Let negotiations take their course." "Libya was a disaster!" "There will be civil war!" "The opposition has committed human rights violations!" "The West is hypocritical!" "The Gulf States are hypocritical!" "We don't know who the opposition is!" "This may lead to a Sunni-Shia bloodbath!" "Don't fall for the warmongering press; remember Iraq!"

Some of these statements are reasonable, but that changes nothing. If you're against arming the FSA, you're for letting Assad torture and murder. You may not want to admit it, least of all to yourself, but that's what you favor. In leftist jargon, you 'objectively' support Assad. Your slogans are just excuses.

The excuses come in roughly three categories. Some deny the realities. Some fantasize about solutions. Some raise spectres.

Denying realities

Denying realities comes in two varieties, crazy and sleazy.

James Petras exemplifies crazy:

There is clear and overwhelming evidence that the uprising to overthrow President Assad of Syria is a violent, power grab led by foreign-supported fighters who have killed and wounded thousands of Syrian soldiers, police and civilians, partisans of the government and its peaceful opposition.

"Clear and overwhelming evidence"? Petras provides not one single reference to anything at all. He probably just takes the Russian newspapers as authoritative and everything else as entirely valueless. Before the internet, this might have worked. It was easy to say "nothing to see here!" when Pol Pot was in power. It's harder today, when the opposition in Syria has uploaded 190,000 (not a misprint) videos of what's happening, and journalists do manage to report from the scene.

Sleazy, as you'd expect, looks much better. Here is Matt Carr, writing for Stop the War Coalition:

[Western reporters] have, for the most part, accepted a fairytale version of the Syrian conflict in which a) an utterly evil dictator is slaughtering a peaceful and unarmed opposition that represents the 'Syrian people' in its entirety, b) crimes and atrocities are only committed by one side and c) the interests of the 'international community' in Syria are entirely driven by a humanitarian desire to 'stop the violence.'

To say that this narrative does not fully encapsulate the complexities of the conflict would be an understatement. It isn't surprising that governments whose essential goal in Syria is regime change should be peddling this version of the conflict. But the fact that so many journalists and media outlets are uncritically and unquestioningly peddling the same mythologies, is a depressing reminder that press freedom and the absence of censorship is not always synonymous with independent thought or even basic journalist [sic] standards.

The advantage of this stylish gesturing is that no questions of evidence even arise. Yes, Matt, media tend to be slanted and not to tell the whole story. Does that mean Assad is not an utterly evil dictator, or that the opposition's atrocities were on a par with his own? Human Rights Watch, talking about him, must be another one of those mainstream dummies:

The level of torture is not comparable to any other conflict I've worked on," said Anna Neistat, associate director for Program and Emergencies at Human Rights Watch, who has worked for more than a decade in crises from Chechnya to Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka.

"There are a disproportionate number of children trapped in this system. Children are tortured alongside adults and are even subject to more brutal torture as interrogators believe children could crack faster and give them names."

What's so sleazy is the suggestion that somehow, hidden facts are going to tip the balance in favor of letting Assad torture and murder some more. Hidden facts about what? In World War II, the allies had some hidden agendas and committed many atrocities. This would not have been justification for backing Hitler, or for claiming the two sides were equally bad.

Fantasy solutions

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