Saturday, June 4, 2011

Syria, Freedom, and Lessons In Hypocrisy

It is being reported that over 100,000 people in the Syrian town of Hama are mourning the loss of activists recently killed by government security forces. The town of Hama is no stranger to state brutality. The notoriously pro-Western Middle East historian Bernard Lewis wrote in his book The Crisis of Islam (2003)about the Syrian government's 1982 slaughter of it's citizens and the morally problematic role of the US government. He writes that the Syrian government cracked down on the town of Hama after an uprising initiated by the Muslim Brothers. The Syrian government:
Attacked the city with tanks, artillery, and bomber aircraft, and followed these with bulldozers to complete the work of destruction...The number killed was estimated, by Amnesty International, at somewhere between ten thousand and twenty five thousand...The massacre did not prevent the United States from subsequently courting Assad...Hafiz Al-Assad never became an American ally or, as others would put it, puppet, but it was certainly not for lack of trying on the part of American diplomacy (pp 108, 109)
Lewis also points out that this event got very little press compared to the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps a few months later by Israel's Lebanese Christian militia allies.

Syrians, not just from Hama, have faced the heavy hand of the authoritarian Bashar Assad,son and successor of the late dictator Hafiz Assad. Reported in HuffPost World :
A 13-year-old Syrian boy detained by government forces has been brutally killed, his wounds displayed in a shocking video. The boy, identified as Hamza al-Khateeb, was shot, burned, and had his penis cut off when his body was returned to his family.

Syrians, like Tunisians, Egyptians,Yemenis, Bahrainis, Libyans, and Palestinians (more to add), are fighting for their freedom from such barbarism. All these people deserve international solidarity (that does not necessarily mean military intervention).Humans cannot and should not endure such horrors. Freedom loving people are in awe of these incredible revolutions spreading, but I think it is important to examine the geopolitical forces at play. A brief look at how ordinary citizens are being used by these forces is needed.

Lebanon's Hezbollah helped Lebanon become free of Israeli military occupation, yet now they support Bashar Assad's oppression of his people because they get aid from Syria. Iran expresses rage at Bahrain's repression of the Shiites by the Sunni monarchy while it represses it's own people and supports dictatorship in Syria. The US has a large Navy fleet in Bahrain and watches, if not supports, the unarmed citizen protesters being slaughtered (along with medical professionals tending to the injured) by the Bahraini monarchy because it is an enemy of Iran. Yet, the US and NATO bomb Qaddafi's forces in Libya to "protect" armed civilians from Libyan government attacks. The US supports the unpopular dictator Saleh in Yemen because he claims to help repress al-Qaida. Turkey stands in solidarity with Palestinians while they treat Kurds in Turkey in a similar way Israelis treat Palestinians. Israel talks about suffering from Palestinian terrorism and brazenly oppresses Palestinians with ample military aid from the US government. I can go on and on. My point is that solidarity in support of freedom needs to mean freedom for everyone: not tied to the hypocrisy of cold narrow political ends masked in the name of humanitarianism.

Here is a video posted in honor of the Syrian Revolution.

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