Editorial By Alan Curtis Montgomery @ World Human Rights
In a recent article, Mrs. Barnard a reporter at the New York Times, proved how intellectually dishonest or at least intellectually lazy some journalist can be. Using words like; “a growing number of Syrians on both sides say”, “they say”, “they also contend”, “the critics say”, in an effort to disguise her own opinions and agenda she is obviously supporting in her article and using a very small sample size of those interviewed to make very far-reaching conclusions. I said in a previous article I am going to be kinder in my criticism so I will leave it there with intellectual dishonesty and intellectual laziness. I have seen this a lot in articles on a wide range of topics dealing with topics a reporter wants to take an activist position on. That’s absolutely fine to do in editorials but articles in the professional press should be different. They should report on the real facts on the ground using quantitative facts or at least have adequately researched the topic. Not cherry picking your sources to get ones who support the position and ideology you support. I can right now go anywhere in the world and get a few people to say they agree with me on something no matter how outlandish it is. Speaking to a few and trying to make broad-based conclusions is not right.
Some will say bloggers, including myself on some occasions have done similar things in their writing. I say that is fine, we are activist and bloggers not professional reporters. Professional reporters and journalist however should be held to a much higher standard. We are writing about topics that interest us and we are often taking an activist position on. We are ordinary people, okay maybe not so ordinary ;-) you have to be a bit crazy to spend so many hours being a blogger, but we are by and large not professionals. We are for the most part citizens interested in sharing things with others that we care about and often take an activist position on. I try to keep my writing to as high a standard as I can, but as an activist in issues about human rights and Syria I am very bias. I admit this bias and I can promise every original article and editorial I write is going to reflect these biases. If you want middle of the road, non-controversial, appeal to the masses articles and editorials this is not the place to go. If I was working for the New York Times however my activist hat would have to come off when I was reporting on stories. I could still be an activist and write editorials just not when I was doing professional reporting.
Getting back to the article I was speaking about as an example of what I was describing above; I feel Mrs. Barnard was not speaking for the majority of Syrians. I know Syrians, I have spoken with some, none that I have come across but one supports President Bashar al-Assad. I realize this is a very very small part of the Syrian population but they have told me about attitudes of other Syrians. They made it clear Bashar is seen as an enemy to Syria and needs to be overthrown from power. Activist sites I have visited related to Syria, many ran by Syrians themselves also make it clear where a lot of people stand. I realize I am only focusing on one side of the coin and there are pro-Assad supporters. However, how many activist sites have you seen that actually originate from Syria or created by Syrians living elsewhere that are pro-Assad. I have found very few such sites and blogs I have come across while doing much research about Syria. One of those was ran by the Syrian Government, another by SANA (“Syrian Arab News Agency”, Syrian state television), and finally one ran by Bashar and Asma al-Assad’s own Instagram account posting propaganda pictures trying to portray the sociopaths Bashar and Asma as decent and caring human beings. Yes I said sociopaths you can not order the killing, torture, and rape of Syrians that has led to over 120,000 of mostly your own people being slaughtered, an appalling number of torture victims mostly men and young men though a number of women and young women have also been tortured, an equally appalling number of rape and other types of sexual violence victims mostly women and girls but as much as 20% of the cases are estimated to be committed against men and boys, you can not order people to do all these terrible things against men, women, and children and not be a sociopath. You can not continue a relationship with such a person who does this and not be a sociopath. You support Bashar al-Assad you are supporting a sadistic and ruthless sociopath who appears as a lamb but inward is a ravaging wolf.
You would think from reading Anne Barnard’s article in The New York Times that Bashar al-Assad is rapidly gaining in popularity and people in Syria are increasingly accepting the idea of him staying. You would think that Bashar al-Assad is stronger today than ever. This is the outward appearance to many but this is not the reality among the activist and pro-opposition in Syria, who make up a far bigger percentage than Assad’s supporters. While it is true many Syrians are becoming increasingly reluctant to support the more militant and Islamist hardliners of the opposition, this does not mean they are falling back in love with Assad either. Quite the contrary Assad is more hated and despised than ever by many Syrians on the street and most certainly among the activist community. They see a man who gassed to death sleeping children and families, is burning Syria to the ground, ordering the murder, torture, and rape of their fellow Syrians and who is getting away with it without any consequences whatsoever. This is very reflective of the attitude of the Syrian activist, activist sites, and ordinary Syrians I know. They make clear the majority of Syrians are against Assad outside of Damascus and Assad’s power base in majority Alawite and Shite neighborhoods. In heavily Sunni areas, pro-Assad supporters are rare. The Sunni population makes up about 3/4 of the Syrian population and outside of Damascus Sunni support for Assad is very low. That is what is so telling these reporters often only go to Damascus or speak to people from there or other pro-Assad areas and act as if Syrians in Damascus or other pro Assad areas speak for the majority of Syria. Syria has a population of roughly 22.5 million people, Damascus only has about 1.7 million residents. Damascus is not even the biggest city in Syria, Aleppo is with over 2.1 million residents, 80% of who are Sunni. The point is you can’t look at prevailing opinions of less than 1/10th of the population of Syria, in a single city, where a big over-representation of Assad’s supporters live as far as averages across Syria go or speak to a few Syrian refugees, and seek to draw any accurate conclusions Nationwide. Neither can you speak to mostly Assad supporters and make broad claims about the majority of Syrians. If nearly 3/4’s of Syria is Sunni and the majority of Sunnis are opposed to Assad and opposition forces against Assad are comprised of mostly Sunnis how can you think anything other than Assad is very unpopular in Syria.
While the popularity of Assad is being debated the fact is Assad lost his chemical weapons but it wasn’t for the most part what is killing the Syrian people. He hasn’t lost his tanks, air power, scud missiles, and automatic high-powered weaponry that is killing and maiming Syrian men, women, and children on a daily basis. Most upsetting to these Syrians I know, he hasn’t lost his position of power and has not been held legally accountable for his war crimes and crimes against humanity. They see a world that has once again forgot about them, now the threat of chemical weapons being used against Israel and allies in Turkey and Jordan has been taken off the table. They don’t perceive, and I believe their perception is correct, the US Government and Western Europe governments along with opposition backers in the Middle East as being sympathetic to Syria, but merely looking after their Own National Interest.
I think there are people within the US government like US Ambassador To The UN Samantha Power, Secretary of State John Kerry, and President Barrack Obama that are sympathetic to the plight of the Syrian people, but the Department of Defense and leading Generals are looking at Syria in strictly a national security and strategic interest perspective. Some will say that is the only proper thing for the DOD to consider. However I do not agree with that philosophy, it is a selfish and short-sighted philosophy. Just because what we consider our National Security Interest is not in danger and our strategic interest in the region is best served by not getting involved in Syria to help bring about Assad’s departure, does not mean we don’t have an ethical and moral obligation towards our fellow humanity suffering in the world. It does not mean we should back off on our position Assad must go. It does not mean we should take the threat of force against Assad off the table just because he is no longer using chemical weapons. We should do much more to help the Syrian refugees, to speak out against Assad’s crimes and insist he leave, and make it well-known gross violations of human rights rather by government or opposition will not go unpunished. We should in addition make it well-known to Assad that in spite of the UN agreement we still leave the possibility of force against him on the table if we feel it is necessary to defend human lives from genocide or protect our interest in the region. We should not be doing what we are doing and giving into Assad and his regime, just because they have been cooperative on the Chemical Weapons Agreement. He and his regime are still committing crimes against humanity, gross violations of international law, and atrocious war crimes. We must never forget that fact.
While Mrs. Barnard and some in the West may be softening their stance on Assad and his supporters are still backing him, the majority of Syria is not. I see Bashar al-Assad pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes and doing a masterful worldwide P.R. campaign, nothing more. I do not see a repentant man who is softening his heart, turning against his evil ways, and trying to make amends for his unspeakable crimes. Rather I see a master manipulator, a ruthless and sadistic sociopath hiding in sheep’s clothing, and a man desperately trying to hang onto power so much so he is willing to give into the West and lose his entire chemical weapons stockpile to do so. He saw the writing on the wall, he knew Obama and the West could soon order his imminent destruction, he knew the gig was up. He did what he had to do to survive, it is what he has done from the beginning. He realized the chemical weapons launch to demoralize the opposition backfired in a terrible way for him. He will burn Syria to the ground, order the murder, torture, and rape of as many of the Syrian men, women, and children he has to in order to stay in power. Whats over 120,000 people murdered, the brutalizing of thousands of men and young men in prison, the savagery of rape being committed against thousands of women and children to him. They mean nothing to him, they are his enemy, and the enemy must be destroyed. This is how he sees all Syrians who are opposed to him, being worthless and not fit to be treated with dignity or even fit to live. His actions make clear that is what he thinks; actions speak louder than words.
I dare Assad to look a Syrian wife of a murdered husband in the eye, a Syrian child in the eye after taking their mother from them, a Syrian young man in the eye who was brutalized in prison, a Syrian young woman in the eye brutally gang raped by the Syrian Arab Army. I dare him to go into the hospitals and see the heartbreaking wounds of his victims and talk to them to learn of the unseen wounds in their hearts. I dare him to go and speak with the opposition and negotiate. Bashar al-Assad does not begin to know the harm he has caused. He does not know of the children who cry themselves to sleep at night, the mothers who can barely make it through the day without having a nervous breakdown, the father’s grief of not being able to provide and care for his family instead fighting on a ruthless and hard battleground. He does not know and even if he did he appears not to have much of an ability to even care. No man who cared could stand to live with himself after what he ordered his regime to do. No man who cared could continually order the things he had ordered done. No man who cared could not do anything less than step down and seek mercy before his judges and the people. No Bashar you can not do those things your heart is too hard and your mind too deranged. Instead you will fight to the bitter end, and make no mistake there will be a bitter end. As they say in Syria, soon Inshallah.
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