I should begin with a disclaimer or two. First, I typically am a proud member of the “anti-war” left in American politics. In 2001 I co-organized a Peace Concert – that’s right a Peace Concert – in response to the 9/11 attacks and G.W. Bush’s war-drum response. In 2003 I was one of the many millions who gathered around the world to protest yet another Bush and Co. war.
But Syria might be a much clearer-cut case for some sort of international intervention.
You have on the one side a megalomaniac tyrant who is by all means likely to kill tens of thousands more of his citizens, even if all of the rebels put down their arms today. And on the other side you have… mostly just the people. The FSA is currently the strongest and most cohesive representative fighting body on their side, though there are other groups. There are the Kurds, who mostly just want autonomy in their ancestral lands and for now have a bit of just that. And there is Jabhat al-Nusra, which has only a few thousand fighters in the country but seems to get the lion’s share of press – nobody likes them, including the leader of the officially recognized Syrian National Council, as you can see from an interview I linked to here. These are the guys responsible for the horrible atrocities we have seen, and they will only get worse unless this war can be brought to an end and stability can return to the country.
The problem is that Putin, Assad, and friends have worked hard to convince the world that it’s really a case of an embattled politician trying to save his country from terrorists. Every time – or nearly so – I have heard of the war discussed, it has been about Assad (who we don’t like) and the rebels (who we also don’t like). This Modern World states just that:
Why do people on the left hate the people of Syria (a.k.a. the brutal rebels)?
Hate may be a stronger word than necessary in most cases, but too often the writing on Syria either demonizes or belittles the people of the country. Even Nathan Thompson over at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, who I respect a lot for his writings on such matters -and applaud his attention to the complexities in this area- seems to have skewed his narrative about Syria against the people of the country, suggesting that the opposition violence only started with U.S. weapons and that this (quoting a source) slowed the rate of defection from the Syrian army. It’s more subtle than the usual “everyone is a bad guy in Syria” rhetoric, but it still suggests that a significant proportion of the problem lies with how the people have responded to Assad’s brutality; in fact there is little mention at all of Assad, except for his move to (imho) buy time by agreeing to give up his chemical weapons.
Thanks to Putin, and many anti-war left echoing his points, Assad comes off looking like a good guy, or at least one who is seriously concerned for international law and his obligations to his people, or something like that.
Perhaps, more than guns, what the people of Syria need most is good PR.
On that front, this documentary “Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution” should help. It’s just 15 minutes long and worth every minute:
The last 2 minutes are the most powerful, and, I would say, the most damning of the American public. Look at the cats. Don’t you care about the kittens? You can see another video with Nour Kelze, the woman in this video, and winner of a 2013 Courage in Journalism Award, here.
For something a bit more creative, try this, and you’ll see Assad’s real view of the UN and the ‘game’ it all is to him:
Al Jazeera has a new two-part documentary on Syria as well which is worth watching if you have the time. Not everyone in Syria is ‘bad’, please call out this rhetoric when you see or hear it. It might simplify our lives and allow us to return to our youtube videos with kittens, but it’s not true.