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A fortnight ago I was moved to suggest that it was possible that the alleged gas attack in Syria might not be the work of the Syrian Army.  I withdrew the posting when more convincing evidence of Army involvement became available.

Because of our visit to Syria took place just before the most recent troubles began, I have been, perhaps, more interested than most.  I wanted to know why Syria is automatically assumed to be guilty when there are some very nasty groups on the other side?

We are fed so much doctored information, spin, that it is hard to get the facts even when we are directly involved.

So to claim that I know what is actually going on in Syria is fanciful.  Assad vehemently denies responsibility; the Russians are doubtful; and the inspectors have not yet reported.  But the certainty, and aggressive language, of the Western leaders accusing Syria of this latest incident seem extraordinary - do they know something that they are not revealing publicly?

As I have explained elsewhere I have fond memories of Damascus and of Syria in general.  Damascus was the most pleasant and interesting of the cities we stayed in; lacking the extremes of poverty and wealth we saw in Cairo (and in Egypt in general) or the more western normality of Amman in Jordan. 

Damascus had a big Christian community and; the children both Muslim and Christian were seen happily coming and going in their school uniforms. As in other more secular Islamic societies there seemed to be little segregation of the sexes;  and we were both able to go into the main Mosque.  Even away from the main tourist areas people were going about their business apparently happily; laughing at their own jokes; buying and selling stuff that tourists would never want.

People seemed to be better educated and generally better off than in other countries in the region - Follow this link to see my (unedited) notes on our visit to Syria (there are two locations - in the initial summary and in the Syria chapter).

Certainly Assad's picture was on any available surface; certainly it is more like a monarchy than a democracy; a dictatorship.  At different points there were men standing around who were obviously 'not so secret' police - one had the outline of a sub machine gun obvious under his suit jacket.

Some Americans we met said they were being followed but we were not, unless it was amazingly subtle. You really can't be sure in crowded streets.  But one evening after dinner we wandered back to our hotel through the souqs at night when they were completely deserted; and we were certainly not being followed then.  With no hindrance we travelled by public transport and caught an inter-city bus.  When we were catching a bus to Bosra from the bus station a very chatty man questioned us in a way that I thought suspicious; but that was it.  Wendy was convinced that he was just being hospitable.

We saw no obvious friction between Muslims and Muslims or between Muslims and Christians; or anybody.

Ethnically although Syria has a large Arab population, many people, at least around Damascus, are more like the Lebanese or Iranians (Persian).  Many are quite fair or blue eyed. Quite a few are over six feet tall.  It's a mixing pot in which I felt more at home and inconspicuous than in places where I stand out.  Maybe that's another reason I liked it.

I could only endorse the view of a person who rang Radio National to say that, as an expatriate, it was one of the nicest countries that they had lived in; and can understand the distress of those people of Syrian origin who marched in our major cities against further foreign intervention. 

So it is terribly disappointing to see on TV and in our newspapers what has become of Syria.  It is very easy for me to believe that the country has been deliberately destabilised by its enemies.



The Gas Attack

The alleged attack was apparently launched to coincide with the arrival of the UN inspectorate and it all looked to me very likely to be a 'set up' to try to topple Assad; who seems to be getting the upper hand - or at least hanging on for a lot longer than he was supposed to.

One of the first things I noticed back when the troubles began was that we were receiving no information from the Government side in our media.  'On the ground' reporting seemed to be coming exclusively from western journalists embedded with the rebels and insurgents.  This bunch seem to have somehow been transmogrified into the 'opposition'; as if this was some sort of democratic process.   

We were also being shown 'unverified' images from 'mobile phones' that looked about as real to me as the early sets of Star Trek.  In more reliable news feeds from journalists we saw men, who we were invited to believe were local villagers or townsfolk who had somehow obtained rocket launchers and other advanced military weapons; and were acting as it they were trained soldiers.

Then reports of the poison gas attacks began.  President Obama said that if these could be proven it would cross 'a line' that would justify direct US support to the Opposition.  But subsequent investigation revealed that it was highly probable that terrorists opposed to Assad were responsible.  To quote The Times of Israel (May 6, 2013):

Carla Del Ponte, head of the independent UN commission investigating reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, told a Swiss-Italian television station that UN investigators gleaned testimony from victims of Syria’s civil war and medical staff which indicated that rebel forces used sarin gas — a deadly nerve agent.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in the interview, translated by Reuters.
“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added.     


We are constantly being asked by our media and politicians to believe that was an attack by the 'regime' against its 'own people'.  But it seems obvious that if it was the Army, it was an attack against foreign insurgents; who comprise the bulk of the rebel fighters; and the poor Syrian people injured were 'collateral damage'; something the US forces understand very well. 

The rebel fighters are a diverse group that includes some serious extremists with their own agendas; like the recent massacre of 450 Kurd civilians in northern Syria by al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. 

The incident seemed to me to be very likely to have been staged by some nasty element of the 'opposition'; timed to coincide with the arrival of the inspectorate, to push the US over 'the line' and obtain additional and direct military support from the US, Britain and France. 

If this was a detective story we would say the insurgents have: motive; means; opportunity; and previous 'form'.  

If it was perpetrated by the Army we can only say that through their stupidity they have handed the insurgents a huge gift.

We are frequently told in our media that according to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have so far been killed and a total of 7.8 million displaced since the unrest in Syria began in 2011.  We are not told that that many of the dead and fled are attributed to the insurgents. 

Even to those who have not been there it must be obvious that prior to this unrest these 7.8 million refugees were living peacefully, contented or not, in Syria.  Yet in our media Assad somehow gets the blame for all of them being uprooted.

I suppose another factor in my distress is that I doubt the benefits of dramatic regime change - Egypt is an object lesson. Unless some total fanatic is in charge like Idi Armin I would always council let time take do its work. Look at East Germany, Hungary or Vietnam for that matter.

Further back in Australia's history the place was anything but democratic.

Countries need to be ready for democracy. As a minimum they need to have literate voters, who are not excessively tribal or subject to other coercion to support one candidate or another. In the sweep of civilisation democracy has very seldom been the norm.  Representative democracy happens to be compatible with a post-modern capitalist, consumption based, economy that is symbiotic with continuing growth in consumer demand through a strong, numerous and prosperous middle class.   But in almost every other scenario society falls back upon, or is captured by, a super wealthy power elite.

I had the feeling that Syria had a better chance of transitioning to a democracy than say Egypt; as the younger generation grow up with their better education and literacy.

I was appalled at the level of illiteracy and general ignorance in Egypt, I never thought that they could make it work. The middle class rebellion, mainly on economic grounds, simply handed power to another tyrant who commands the votes of the much more numerous lower class who are more religious fundamentalist, illiterate and ignorant; while at the same time doing immeasurable harm to their economy.

If Assad goes, without a transition to the existing elite, it is very likely we will see a lot of the middle class up against a wall; while the country will decline into chaos. But then that's what some want isn't it?

Maybe I'm too cynical?  I should never have read Grahame Green's The Quiet American based on his experiences in Vietnam during the French period or Overthrow; already referenced on this website.  

I ask again, Is it just me; or is there a strong sense of déjà vu in all this?

It seems only yesterday that we went to war with Iraq on the basis of Sadam's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  These were not found by the inspectors.  But the US, British and allies went to war anyway; based on the convincing testimony of the then respected and trusted General Colin Powell; and what turns out to have been fabricated evidence. 

In that Overthrow article back in December 2012 I doubted that Assad would last this long.  I guess that the opposition thought the same and is getting more desperate.

Now the same back-room boys at the Pentagon and/or Langley are asking us to trust them again; like Charlie Brown trusting Lucy.


source: link from http://peanuts.wikia.com/wiki/Peanuts_Wiki


Sunday, 8 September 2013



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