By Olivia Pierson
Right now in media circulation, a big lie is doing the rounds: that Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is a secular regime. This is not true. The same lie was told about Saddam Hussein’s regime before he was overthrown from power in Iraq. Even some light surface reading on Saddam's Return to Faith Campaign will dispel that porky.
In the last week or so, I have heard this lie coming from the lips of many media outlets and political commentators who should know better, like Nigel Farage, Ann Coulter, Paul Joseph Watson and Katie Hopkins (I deeply respect these four great people, but they happen to be wrong on this one).
Apart from the fact that Assad has filled his administration only with Alawites (a sect of Shia Islam), the Syrian regime is a Baathist regime, as was the Iraqi administration under Saddam. The Baath Party is a form of Arab nationalism, conceived as an anti colonialist, socialist movement for Arabs which liked to advertise itself as secular and borrow ideas from the Enlightenment such as ‘truth’ and freedom of speech. It emphasises ‘truth’ as interpreted by the scholarship of Islam, not truth interpreted by the scholarship of scientific thought as the European Enlightenment emphasised. There was no freedom of speech under Saddam’s brutal police state neither does it exist in Assad’s Syria. So much for the Arabs making claims on the Enlightenment - the truth is the Arab world has never had one and that is why it’s such a sectarian mess.
If Syria is so secular someone might like to explain why there are no Jews living there?
We know Jews were heavily persecuted under Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist father, Hafez al-Assad. They were even forbidden to leave Syria for Israel. During the 1990s the small Jewish population left in Damascus were under heavy state surveillance by Assad’s secret police in their homes, their schools and their synagogues. Does that sound like a secular family dynasty to you?
It has never been a secret that Bashar al-Assad sponsors Islamic terrorism, not only of the Shi’ite variety like Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, but also Sunni terrorism which has now mutated into ISIS. He allowed Al Qaeda terror training camps to operate in Syria, in order to ensure that terrorists kept pouring across the border into Iraq to fight the Multinational Forces led by the United States. This is widely known.
But what is not as widely known in mainstream media circles is that according to former Alawite members of Syria's Military Intelligence, Assad opened the doors of his slaughterhouse, Saydnaya prison, to allow the most radically murderous Al Qaeda terrorists and ex-Iraqi Baathists to be released and abetted because he thought the Multinational Forces might eventually come for him too. In 2011 he let these savages out fully knowing they would ravage, rape and butcher their way through Syrian towns so that he could look like the strongman standing between peace or extreme terrorism in his own country. This risk to his regime was one he was willing to live with as a calculated distraction from the original peaceful protesters crying out for democracy and gaining world attention. At first this ruse worked, now it has backfired.
Since when did a so called ‘secular’ butcher have any more credence in Western eyes than a sectarian butcher? Why are commentators clinging to this false detail and promulgating it?
I know the answer to that - it is because they think it adds weight to making the case for non- intervention in Syria’s civil war. Take a look at this staggeringly complex list of militias and armed groups currently fighting in Syria as I write:
List of armed groups in the Syrian civil war...
How could anyone look at this list and say with a straight face that Assad’s Syria has operated as a secular regime?!
I understand the rational apprehension people have toward the idea of a Western intervention in Syria’s ghastly war. President Trump gained so much support for his ‘no foreign entanglements’ rhetoric, while he was also talking on the campaign trail about building “safe zones” in Syria - that was a dual minded proposition right there. But since his strike last week on a Syrian airbase over Assad’s disgusting use of chemical weapons (again) on his own defenseless civilians it is clear to me that the language coming out of the President’s administration is beginning to sound as though regime change may be on the cards in their minds. Nicky Haley, along with Rex Tillerson, are making the case that there cannot be a stable Syria with Assad at the helm, and I think that is obvious.
If this is so, the yuuuuuuuge problematic question on everyone’s lips will be if not Assad, who would fill the power vacuum?
Assad is obviously an evil and incompetent leader - just look at the gutted ruins of half his country and the refugee crisis it has unleashed into the Western world. So much for a “strongman” who holds these problems at bay from impacting the West.
What seems to not exist in anyone’s vision for a new Syria is some sort of model to act upon. Iraq is the closest thing we have as an example of a way to deal with Assad, but the cost of Iraq has been terrible. However, what made the situation in Iraq infinitely worse than it had to be was after a decade of war, President Obama got handed a victory there, the result of General Petraeus’ surge. Obama turned that hard-won victory into a defeat by blazingly sign-posting U.S troop withdrawal and failing to negotiate a decent Status of Forces Agreement. The result was ISIS, with the U.S Forces having to go back in to retrain Iraqi Security Forces and help clean up once more. This was a disaster Obama could and should have avoided had he but once listened to the counsel of President Bush. But there it is, being only a Social Justice Warrior President, he was stupendously out of his depth as an effective, real world Commander in Chief.
It is worth noting that the regimes sympathetic to totalitarianism, Iran, North Korea, China and Russia are all involved with supporting armaments to the Assad regime. It looks as though the Trump administration is about to act militarily in North Korea, or at least push China to.
Before I end this post, I will remind people that U.S intervention has at times been extraordinarily successful. The reason that the once imperialist, murderous Japanese regime of Hirohito and Tojo is now a wealthy, peaceful democratic country is because of U.S intervention and a relatively short occupation. The reason that South Korea does not look anything like totalitarian North Korea is because of a U.S military intervention. In the case of Japan it was total defeat and unconditional surrender thanks to the atomic bomb. When I look at Assad’s Syria he has consciously driven his country into the ground resulting in a spectacularly failed nation, if not a rogue nation propped up by dubious countries like Iran and Russia.
If anti-interventionists want to make the case for leaving the Middle East well alone to destroy itself (and keep from impacting the West), without the meddling of NATO nations, then fine, now is the time to clearly make that case. But please spare us from the silly myth that the case is greatly fortified by the fictional notion of Assad being a secularist strongman who is keeping terrorism in check.
That is pure camel dung.
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