An OpEd That Resists The Simplistic Western Narrative About Syria

by lizard

What can anyone say about the situation in Syria after seeing bloody pictures of dead children? These are the moments where words just don’t do the job. They fail. It’s too awful to imagine. Whoever did it should face lethal justice. That’s the visceral reaction.

I read an article today by John Bradley at the Daily Mail that is worth reading about Syria: Yes, Syria is a tragedy but it would be madness for Britain to intervene. From the link:

The expressions of outrage over Houla and the consequent threats of military action all feed into the conventional Western narrative of the Syrian crisis whereby Assad is portrayed as a bloodthirsty tyrant and the rebels as heroic freedom-fighters trying to liberate the Syrian people from oppression.

It is a picture that has been sedulously cultivated by the anti-Assad opposition, who are masters of manipulative propaganda aimed at gullible Western politicians, broadcasters and protest groups.
But the truth about the violence in Syria is far more complex than Assad’s enemies would have us believe.


While the uprising began as a series of peaceful demonstrations by ordinary Syrians, the simplistic notion of good versus evil no longer reflects the reality.

Even on the most basic level, we do not know what actually happened at Houla. ‘Truth is the first casualty of war,’ goes the wise old dictum, and all we have at the moment are the contentions of either side.

The rebels are blaming Assad, while the President’s regime strongly disputes any responsibility for the killings at all, pointing out that most of the victims seem to have been shot at point-blank range, whereas the Government forces at the time were using heavy mortar fire against the rebels.
Self-serving propaganda? Perhaps, but in this most bitter of conflicts, tales of atrocities have often been exaggerated and exploited.

Read the whole piece. I found it to be a reasonable, cautious OpEd about an awful situation that’s getting worse…and will not be helped, IMHO, by the West’s self-serving agenda.


  1. I have a right wing but otherwise intelligent friend from California who forwards me articles that contest the reality of global warming, or let me know exactly how genetically criminal African Americans are, or how Obama is a socialist.

    A vastly disproportionate number of the racist pieces come from the Daily Mail. If I go there to read them, there is a chronic superabundance of reader feedback sometimes from scores of usually semi-literate American readers, all ranting about how blacks are destroying the alleged racial purity of ethnic crackers.

    If you’d like, I can send you some of these posts if I’ve neglected to erase any over the last year or two. You can see for yourself that 99% of the reader feedback clearly comes from the good ol’ USA, land of the free.

    So my question follows, obviously perhaps, “Why the hell would you be touting a publication that it about three leagues to the right of The Spotlight? Why would you believe anything you read in its pages?”

    • lizard19

      you are not alone in thinking the Daily Mail is a racist publication.

      I wasn’t aware of this paper’s reputation, so I appreciate you pointing that out, Frank. if I knew their propensity for that kind of crap, I wouldn’t have put up this post. the article was cited from a blogger I trust, but that doesn’t excuse my lack of due diligence. again, thank you Frank.

  2. Frank Smith

    You’re most welcome. I appreciate the link you provided. I wasn’t aware that they were ideologically in bed with the BNP, the UK equivalent of “Christian Identity” “churches.”

    The “AngryMob” blog doesn’t mention reader feedback. I see the same mouth-breathers ranting on other webpages: The Telegraph on James Delingpole’s AGW denialist pap, the Washington Examiner and its silly vanity press offshoots around the US, the Daily Caller (Tucker Carlson’s site).

    If I should look at one of the stories, I can’t resist leaving a few comments that get the wankers who have been posting up in arms. They respond with monosyllabic grunts, infantile insults and occasionally, threats. With regard to the latter, I usually ask for their real names and addresses so we can get together. None of those brave souls have ever responded to that taunt.

  3. “have a right wing but otherwise intelligent friend…”

    To bad he doesn’t have an otherwise smart friend who understands the fallacy of guilt by association.

    Does the argument stand on its merits?

    • Frank Smith

      Whether the “argument” does or does not “stand on its merits” is not the question. The problem is that the Mail is more unbalanced than Fox “News.” There’s simply no reason to believe anything that it says about anything.

      I recently saw a piece about a supposed planned 50-square mile Chinese colony “economic free zone” south of Boise. It was portrayed as the fifth column for a communist takeover of the U.S. I looked for sources and couldn’t find anything that looked like a remotely legitimate or reliable source. I did find that Jerome Corsi was pushing the story, and Alex Jones, both notorious nutcases and fear mongers.

      At that point I stopped looking, being busy and with far more important things to do.

      There was a post here a couple of months ago that indicated that there were two sides to the story of the uprising in Syria. It seemed to imply there was some sort of equivalency between the sides. It was inferred that the situation was a Turkish plot. The few Syrian guys on the Turkish side of the border with popguns were to be construed as an opposing force.

      Describing the Syrian situation is without question a “complex” affair, nesting in a far larger geopolitical context. Bradley, though, does not begin to deal with its complexity, just urges that Britain not get involved under any circumstances.

      What in fact was happening was that there had been an escalating genocidal pogrom of non-Alawite Muslim dissidents, opponents of the al Assad regime. Minority Christians and perhaps Druze have been allied with Assad, much like the Copts were with Mubharak in Egypt. There were unquestionable massacres of originally peaceful protesters of the regime.

      The conflict is immensely disproportionate. The government side has been using ammunition dumps, heavy artillery and armored vehicles.

      To suggest that “rebels” methodically killed entire families by the dozen in order to make the regime look bad is a major stretch of the imagination. The government disclaimed any responsibility, making the pernicious argument that its “heroic” troops merely had shelled the town and that it didn’t engage in house to house killings. In fact, however, the government has had allied militias that have been doing just that, including seizing dissidents, even adolescents, torturing them and dumping their mutilated bodies on their families’ doorsteps, as well as mopping up after bombardments.

      There is a major cold war factor as work here as well, something the prior 4&20 piece and current Bradley article neglected to mention. For over 40 years, the Russians have had a major naval base at Tartus, the only warm water base it has in the Mediterranean and one it has been expanding in recent years. Russia also has been the Syrian regime’s predominant supplier of weaponry. Assad had purchased $5 billion in armaments from them, perhaps in just the past year. Not than many years ago Russia forgave almost $10 billion in loans to Syria. This week it just surreptitiously landed what is assumed to be a substantial resupply of arms.

      I’m not suggesting that the Russians are the only bad guys here. Our flagging economy has long depended on the export of arms as a important sector of our economy. Our “foreign aid” frequently consists largely or exclusively of arms shipments. We have many customers, “client states” even, in the Near East, including in Israel and Saudi Arabia, of course. We have military bases all over both hemispheres, quantum measures larger than any other country or countries in the world.

      John Bradley has made his recent living bemoaning the direction of the Arab Spring, documenting with some undetermined degree of reliability the transition from authoritarian but sometimes secular regimes to ones laden with the presence of Salafist extremists, in Tunisia, for instance.

      He also has repeated Assad’s claims that the Saudis and the Qataris have supplied the rebels, but rather than providing reliable sources, he uses “weasel words,” saying for instance, that “it’s been widely reported,” that the contention is true.

      So to return to Dave Budge’s objection, does the “argument (?) stand on its “merits?” Have I dismissed the “argument” based on “guilt by association?”

      In fact, no true argument has been made. What we have been presented with is a simplistic appraisal of a murky situation published in a notoriously biased newspaper.

      I’m not arguing that Britain should intervene, nor that the U.S. should. I’ve been opposed to our imperialism and adventurism for 55 years, from Cuba to Viet Nam to Grenada, to Iraq. I’ve been documenting “blowback” from ill-considered foreign policy initiatives for that long. What I am saying is that we should “consider the source” when accepting as fact whatever Bradley writes.

      • lizard19

        it’s far from conclusive that the alleged assailants were acting on behalf of the government. this Washington Post piece has some interesting background.

        and speaking of “consider the source”, what do you think of how CNN has been covering this evolving crisis? specifically, some of the video clips Anderson Cooper has used appear to be staged.

        what are some of the news sources you rely on Frank?

        • Frank Smith

          There are a few interesting pieces in Salon.com this week. Here’s one:

          This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

          DAMASCUS, Syria and BEIRUT, Lebanon — With bodies literally piling up at the feet of his ceasefire observers, Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy, left Damascus Wednesday after his latest meeting with President Bashar al-Assad.

          Global PostAs he left, he warned that Syria faces a “tipping point.”

          Policymakers and political analysts are debating two potential paths for the uprising in Syria, based on the outcomes of two very different Arab revolutions: The NATO-led intervention that toppled Libya’s former dictator, or the orderly, by comparison, transfer of power that ousted Yemen’s president but left much of his family in power.

          “The big question today is to implement the Libyan or Yemeni scenario in Syria,” the head of a Damascus-based think tank told GlobalPost, requesting anonymity to speak without fear of reprisal.

          “The United Sates will discuss the Yemeni scenario with Russia to implement it in Syria, but if Russia refused then the Libyan scenario is coming for sure.”

          US President Barack Obama is already actively seeking Russian cooperation on removing Assad from power while retaining the structure of the state, according to a report last week in the New York Times.

          Yemen’s Vice President Abdu Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi ascended to the top job backed by both the opposition and by powerful remnants of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime — including his own family members still running the security forces.

          But analysts say Syria’s vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, who has been all but absent from the public sphere since the start of the uprising in March last year, has neither the trust of the opposition nor the support of the regime, making any such transition of power highly problematic.

          “Sharaa is very weak and has no power and popularity among either pro- or anti-regime Syrians. The army and senior security officers don’t respect Sharaa, who spends his days between his house and his office doing nothing,” the analyst said.

          “He doesn’t even hold meetings with visitors to Syria or key local figures. So the Yemeni scenario is going to fail, even if Russia supports it.”

          Amid the international outcry that followed the killing by Assad’s security forces of at least 108 people in the villages of Houla, in northwest Syria, on March 25, Russia repeated its refusal on Wednesday to sanction any international action that could lead to military force used against Assad’s regime.

          The continued diplomatic deadlock came as details emerged that the massacre, one of the worst in the 14-month uprising, was sectarian in nature, leading to fears that the conflict was shifting from an uprising to a civil war.

          Moreover, the conflict appears to have sharper consequences than previously believed: According to a report co-authored by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies, more than 14,000 people have died, well above the widely quoted but outdated UN estimate of 9,000.

          UN monitors in Syria, whose accounts were corroborated with other sources, found that most of the 108 Syrians killed in Houla appeared to have been shot at close range in “summary executions of civilians, women and children.”

          Fewer than 20 people were killed by government artillery fire, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

          Speaking to GlobalPost from Houla, a resident said that the attacks began after security forces had opened fire on a large anti-regime protest on Friday afternoon.

          In response, local rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army, which he said had been largely in control of Houla for the past three months, stormed military checkpoints set up around the villages and launched a coordinated attack against a nearby army base, using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

          That triggered the army to launch a barrage of rocket fire on the four villages, using similar weapons as the assault that devastated Homs’ Baba Amr district. Previously, the resident said, Houla had suffered bombardment, but from tank fire, not the heavier rockets and mortars used in the May 25 attack.

          Houla is a collection of four Sunni-majority villages some 20 kilometers northwest of Homs. It is surrounded by villages that are home to Allawites, a sect of Shiite Islam, to which the Assad family and a majority of the regime’s ruling elites belong.

          An opposition activist in Houla told GlobalPost that as shelling intensified around 6:30 p.m., he saw what he believed were Allawite militiamen, known as shabiha, arriving on five buses protected by soldiers.

          “The bombing began as usual and there were numerous injuries. But this Friday the bombing was more severe. During the shelling, buses with shabiha arrived at the village of Houla from the surrounding villages of Fulla, Al Qabu and Al Shinnea.”

          The activist did not witness the killings himself, but said that when members of the Free Syrian Army returned to Houla after battling the military late on Friday night, he and other activists entered the homes that had been raided.

          “We entered the houses after the departure of the shabiha and found families had been slaughtered with knives. Almost all the women and children had been stabbed and the men had been shot,” he said.

          “Frankly, what I felt when we were dragging the bodies of women and children out of their homes is only that I want to take revenge against the other sect which has committed this massacre. Unfortunately this is how the regime has made us think.”

          Thirty-four women and 49 children, by the UN’s count, were stabbed or shot dead at point-blank range.

          Most of those killed belonged to the large Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the family. According to survivors, the Abdel Razzaks own the land and farms next to the national water company and the water dam of Taldou, one of the villages of Houla, and lived in eight or nine houses next to each other, two families to a house.

          “[The killers] were wearing military clothes. I couldn’t see their faces. I thought they wanted to search the house,” an elderly woman from the Abdel Razzak family told Human Rights Watch.

          “After three minutes, I heard all my family members screaming and yelling. The children, all aged between 10 and 14, were crying. I heard several gunshots. I was so terrified I couldn’t stand on my legs. I heard the soldiers leaving. I looked outside the room and saw all of my family members shot. They were shot in their bodies and their head.”

          Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad told Annan today that “terrorist groups” had stepped up their actions recently, and it was up to the states that arm, finance and harbor them to abide by Annan’s plan to end the violence engulfing Syria.

          Civilians are cynical about the negotiations.

          “Syrians don’t want words on paper and meetings in offices or five-star hotels. Syrians want practical solutions to stop the killing and massacres,” Osama, a 30-year-old civil engineer who said he supports neither the opposition nor regime, told GlobalPost in Damascus.

          “The Annan plan and 300 UN monitors couldn’t prevent massacres in Houla, Hama and Homs in the last three days. Syrians began to believe there is no hope from the UN and the international community. If the people of Houla had weapons, then Assad’s Allawite Shabiha could not have slaughtered those women and children in cold blood.”

          A correspondent in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report. Hugh Macleod contributed from Beirut, Lebanon.

      • Whether the “argument” does or does not “stand on its merits” is not the question.

        One word: bullshit.

        Now, I’m sympathetic to the “consider the source” argument. But that said, even a broken clock is correct twice a day. I’ll get to “the argument” in a minute but first I need to react to the first impression that you’ve impressed upon me.

        I certainly don’t know you, Frank (and I think, perhaps, I’d rather not) so any impression of you I have could be wrong but comes from the imprint of this:

        I have a right wing but otherwise intelligent friend…

        I take that to mean that, in your mind, your friend might actually be intelligent if he were not a “conservative” – as in that no conservative can be intelligent. Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of stupid people who self-identify as conservative. I also know and equal number of stupid people who self-identify as liberal. But this seems to set the frame of your world view. A world view that liberalism is not simply a construct of better ideas but that conservatism has no value. That thinking is simple closed mindedness.

        So, back to “consider the source”. Your attitude in scolding young Lizard for even presenting an idea from a publication of which you determine to be something sub-human puts you in the class if intellectual midgets who one can envision standing in the corner with their fingers in their ears yelling “lalalalala, I can’t hear you!!!!” Good work, you’ve joined the ranks of Sean Hannity.

        But you go on:

        I see the same mouth-breathers ranting on other webpages:

        They respond with monosyllabic grunts, infantile insults and occasionally, threats.

        I can’t imaging how you see the world (and I can’t imagine I’d want to) but it seems to me your own grunts and infantile insults aren’t far above what you complain about. Your further calling them “wankers” kind of gives me the debate point here.

        What you are, is the type of ideologue that both gives modern liberalism a bad name and actually kills civil discourse. Again, just the left’s version of Sean Hannity.

        I would also be remiss if I didn’t say how disappointed I was with Lizard’s kowtowing submission to your self-imagined authority. I’ve had what I consider to be a good deal of productive discussion with Lizard over time and I was surprised that he so easily ate the shit you shoveled.

        Here’s a bit of reality for you – who I assume thinks he lives in the reality based community. An argument can only be based on its merits. Anyone with one semester of critical thinking, logic, rhetoric, or debate understands the fallacy of guilt by association. If Hitler said the sky is blue it would not be invalidated by any of his other opinions. Period, end of discussion. But I know, you prefer “lalalalala, I’m not listening!”

        Now, back to the issue at hand. My reading of Bradley was that he thinks that the facts and the conventional wisdom may be well different. He is cautious in this piece. His concern that the resulting power may be quite something different than the liberal democracy that is superimposed on the image of Assad’s victims. But he is no defender of Assad in this piece and in fact writes

        The Assad regime is clearly repulsive and its actions indefensible, so a genuinely popular and peaceful uprising by the people would be both understandable and justified.

        Now, I have no idea if he’s an anti-Islamist racist in his other writings, but I don’t care. The point he argues here is, at a minimum, reasonable if not true. But I would also say that his assertion that there may be some brutal actors on the rebel’s side – supported by other brutal dictators – comes with at least a modicum of veracity and the conventional wisdom by in large ignores this.

        I don’t have clue what the truth is. I posit, however, that neither do you and hearing an opinion that may possibly run contrary to my thinking is good simply for the awareness that it introduces to me.

        My default position is that intervention in such affairs is bad on several levels. First, our expectations of self-governance do not match the potential outcomes. Secondly, as tragic as those affairs are, intervention causes, more often than not, more misery than less. In civil wars end the strength of the peace is often predicated by the strength of the victory. Intervention muddles that. Third, western societies have their own problems to deal with and even the most altruistic endeavors have a high cost to most vulnerable members of our own society.

        Now, since I basically agree with Bradley’s advice not to intervene, let’s assume his message is wrong but his advice is correct. Should I care about how he’s come to his conclusion? As a utilitarian it doesn’t matter. If he can convince other people – whether they meet my standard on non-mouth breathers or not – his ends match mine. As a pragmatist, should I care? No, and for the same reason as the utilitarian position. In both cases I should encourage him to convince whomever, for what ever reason, not to engage in war. And on those grounds he shouldn’t be ignored he should be congratulated.

        Certainly you may have another opinion on the matter. You might argue that the cost of human suffering could be reduced by intervention. I’m sympathetic to the humanitarian argument tho I’m not convinced – yet. But when the argument is presented to me – regardless from whom it comes – the issue is important enough to be considered. At least until such time as I’ve made up my mind (which I will freely change if my understanding changes) therefor, always.

        And what I’m not willing to do is sing “lalalalala, I can’t hear you!” I’ll leave that to closed minded ideologues.

        • lizard19

          this post relied squarely on the one source I highlighted, an OpEd that I still think is worth reading, but like I said, if I had known about the reputation of the publication, I would have either not put up this post, or would have cited other material, like the Fisk piece.

          it didn’t take much poking around to see Frank’s assertion about the Daily Mail has some validity, so I acknowledged that and thanked him. you can depict that as kowtowing if you want, but the source of the info does have some bearing on the info itself.

          despite your counter-gripe that Frank is an ideologue, I do appreciate both your comments, because beyond the ideological bickerin,g you both added some interesting points about the clusterfuck in Syria.

          so thank you.

          • Understand that I am not defending The Mail. I don’t read on regular basis. But although “consider the source” is probably worth noting It’s rarely worth dismissing out of hand. For example, I find a great deal of what is written by Chris Hayes in The Nation to be quite wrong and the left-leaning trolls there are as blindly obnoxious sometimes as what one finds in there counterparts on Fox News threads. But Hayes sometimes makes points that make me reconsider my own epistemological understandings. I can say the same thing about Katrina vanden Heuvel (although I find her significantly less tolerable than Hayes) but I refuse to paint The Nation by the quality of their commenters

            An argument must stand on it’s own merits. And I find it repugnant that the source of an idea is a more relevant factor than the idea itself. Every variety of ideologue is prone to that nonsense. I think it’s important that people thing about it..

            • lizard19

              I don’t know if I’d say considering the source is a more relevant factor than the idea itself, but it does have to be taken into account.

              I find many articles from RT to be interesting, but I remind myself that it comes from a Russian-slanted perspective. same with Al-Jazeera and its Qatari agenda.

              basically, there’s no such thing as an objective news source.

        • Frank Smith

          I’d written: “Whether the “argument” does or does not “stand on its merits” is not the question.”

          Dave wrote: “One word: bullshit.”

          That’s a great start. If you can’t win an argument on its merits, launch a personal attack on the maker.

          Dave: “I certainly don’t know you so any impression of you I have could be wrong but comes from the imprint of this:”

          (I wrote) “I have a right wing but otherwise intelligent friend…”

          D: I take that to mean that, in your mind, your friend might actually be intelligent if he were not a “conservative…has no value. That thinking is simple closed mindedness.

          A.) I didn’t say he was a “conservative.” I said he was a right winger. In fact, it distresses me, because fully half the posts he send me are stories, often extremely biased, about what one African-American or another has done. He’s done this for years. He’s never sent me a story about what terrible thing any white person has done. He’s on a newslist which steers him to these usually racist stories, hence his frequent forwards from the Daily Mail. You’re certainly intelligent enough to know I didn’t call my friend a “conservative,” so you’re setting up a straw man.

          The Daily Mail is a disgusting tabloid, full of not only the Nativist rants but an endless parade of wowserism that usually have to do with sex and the humiliating circumstances of celebrities famous for being famous.

          I suspect that its running of the Bradley piece was because the Mail wishes “a pox on both their houses,” both Assad and the various rebel factions and sensibilities.

          D. continued: “Your attitude in scolding young Lizard…”

          That “scolding” exists entirely in your own mind, if you’re not just feigning that impression.

          And: “…for even presenting an idea from a publication of which you determine to be something sub-human puts you in the class if intellectual midgets who one can envision standing in the corner with their fingers in their ears yelling “lalalalala, I can’t hear you!!!!” Good work, you’ve joined the ranks of Sean Hannity.”

          So, based on something that never happened (that I classified the Mail as “sub human,”) calling me one of a class of “intellectual midgets,” deaf to any input whose premise I reject, you equate me with the Ailes/Murdoch hit man Hannity.

          D: “But you go on:”

          Granted: I do go on, so you’ve got that one right.

          Quoting me: “I see the same mouth-breathers ranting on other webpages:”

          Yes, as recently as this morning, one poster more literate than most of his ideological brethern was actually applauding the murder of Trayvon Martin. He posts under lots of different “handles” to make it seem that many share his views about the same story, paints anyone who disagrees with him as a “socialist,” “communist,” refers to Obama as “Hussein” and blames him for the economic meltdown that had the Dow at 6,500 very shortly after Bush went back to Texas, castigates Romney and even calls Bloomberg a “Nazi.” He is one of the more intelligent of the mad dogs, obvious because his grammar is recognizable and he usually can spell or at least knows how to use a spell check.

          But if you read the Mail (or Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, another frequent source for my friend’s forwards) and see what sometimes amount to hundreds of consecutive invariably racist posts from Americans about things that happened exclusively in America, which are frequently unintelligible, have little concept of what English grammar is and have difficulty spelling even monosyllabic words, you might possibly agree with my calling them “wankers.” They have responded with graphic threats (i.e., “a bullet in your face:) to even my somewhat innocuous criticisms, including their stated intent to kill me. I’d be happy to send you some URLs that may have escaped my deletions, if you would like to verify this poisonous atmosphere for yourself.

          The comments are sometimes literally sickening. They are also cowardly, as they never identify themselves when their threats are responded to, in fact they rarely respond at all, though they do respond to more passive feedback.

          D: “I can’t imaging how you see the world (and I can’t imagine I’d want to) but it seems to me your own grunts and infantile insults aren’t far above what you complain about. Your further calling them “wankers” kind of gives me the debate point here.”

          So what you’ve done is taken my comments about anonymous racists writing unseen posts in another venue and used that to justify calling me “infantile,” and my comments as “grunts.” If you think a very personalized, ad hominem argument can make your case, I think you’ve instead made a far more solid case as to whom you are than you have of who I am.

          D: “What you are, is the type of ideologue that both gives modern liberalism a bad name and actually kills civil discourse. Again, just the left’s version of Sean Hannity.”

          So, I’m an “ideologue,” killing “civil discourse,” a “Sean Hannity,” while you’re by implication promoting such civility by launching a personal attack against me. We’re not talking about some backwater “Christian Identity” types, Americans writing anonymous feedback in a British newspaper. You’re personally insulting me by name.

          D: “I would also be remiss if I didn’t say how disappointed I was with Lizard’s kowtowing submission to your self-imagined authority.”

          So you go on to perniciously mischaracterize Lizard’s own, what you construe to be reprehensible, behavior, and claim I’ve staked out some “self-imagined” authority. In fact, in these posts I’ve confessed that I owe a great deal to Fisk for, “what little I know” about Near Eastern politics.

          D: I’ve had what I consider to be a good deal of productive discussion with Lizard over time and I was surprised that he so easily ate the shit you shoveled.

          Ah! Descent into vulgarity will win an argument every time, right?

          Anyone with one semester of critical thinking, logic, rhetoric, or debate understands the fallacy of guilt by association. If Hitler said the sky is blue it would not be invalidated by any of his other opinions. Period, end of discussion. But I know, you prefer “lalalalala, I’m not listening!”

          Another ad hominem attack. That’s very helpful.

          D: Now, back to the issue at hand. My reading of Bradley was that he thinks that the facts and the conventional wisdom may be well different. He is cautious in this piece. His concern that the resulting power may be quite something different than the liberal democracy that is superimposed on the image of Assad’s victims.

          Please supply some reference for the validity of your statement. Tell us what person and where claimed that it was “liberal democracy” motivating the opposition to Assad? Do you think that any Syrian revolted by and responding to Assad’s massacres can somehow be propelled by anything other than “liberal democracy?”

          D: But he (Bradley) is no defender of Assad in this piece and in fact writes “The Assad regime is clearly repulsive and its actions indefensible, so a genuinely popular and peaceful uprising by the people would be both understandable and justified.”

          I’d prefer “is” “understandable and justified,” to Bradley’s us of the term, “would be.”

          D: Now, I have no idea if he’s an anti-Islamist racist in his other writings, but I don’t care.

          And I think you’ve exposed yourself again. You’re okay with what may be ignoring a possible subtext, rather than looking for a better understanding of the situation.

          I did spend some time reading Bradley’s long history of comments on the almost inevitable blowback that results from often US sponsored and/or supported dictatorial oppression. He is disappointed that the fall of monstrous regimes (i.e., Mubharak’s, which we subsidized with billions annually) don’t bring forth a “thousand flowers,” that no Jeffersons or Madisons or Franklins or Paines stepped into the breach. In the present case, he fails to mention that Anglo-American support, in particular, allowed those regimes to suppress any collective and organized dissent other than by Salafists.

          Historically (I read many piece he wrote over a ten-year period, including when he had his own news service based in Jeddah), he seems to have presented a very objective view of the Near East and Northern Africa, in various organs from the Independent to the (Jewish Daily) Forward.

          Bradley accurately read the unfortunate situation in Iran, where the spontaneous upheaval launched by the Shah’s repression paved the way for hegemony of the Islamic Republic. Actually Bush’s foreign policy and his “Axis of Power,” nonsense (I found myself shouting at the ignorance of that characterization as those first words came from that moron announced it on TV), sealed the fate of those (i.e., Rafshanzani), of those who were an increasingly moderating force in Iranian politics and led to the rhetorical radicalism of Ahmadinejad that has greatly complicated the domestic and particularly foreign policy situation of that country.

          Bradley also predicted the demise of the Egyptian dictatorship, but, despite his recognizing the Iranian precedent, he failed to appreciate that fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood would be in exactly the same position in Egypt to take power that Khomeni was in 1979 and that the even more radical Salafis would likely share considerable influence.

          I don’t anticipate that you’ll back off from your diatribe, but hope that you’ll prove my expectations wrong.

          • Yet you fail to address if an argument needs to stand on it’s own. You silly little semantic games “right winger v conservative” is simple obfuscation. But you get your wish, Frank.. I’m done with you.

            • Frank Smith

              Good riddance.

  4. lizard19

    Robert Fisk on Syria

  5. Frank Smith

    Well, I started writing my response last night and could have saved myself a great deal of trouble if I had put it off until this morning and seen the Fisk interview link.

    Robert Fisk has lived in Lebanon and has managed to objectively and humanely report on the Arab world and Israeli and foreign influence, for three decades or so. I’m actually amazed that some player hasn’t felt it necessary to assassinate him. I’ve long depended on his insights for what little I know of the region.

    He confirms my assumption that the Druze are players. More than that, he confirms that there is an Anglo-American (at least) bias against self-determination, and warns against possible future intervention on behalf of the regime based on the notion, “Apres moi, le deluge.” I think that latter thought may propel Bradley’s take on the situation.

    We should not be the world’s policeman and we need to rid ourselves of our often pathological need for control and the frequent unintended consequences of intervention.

    I also appreciate his observation that the diaspora from Lebanon in the wake of the turmoil of the ‘Seventies and the subsequent return of those who fled for sanctuary or education has resulted in the introduction of a saner world view than that which tragically split the country (i.e., Phalangists v. Sunni v. Shia) in the past (and which had been provoked in no small part by Israeli and U.S. policy).

  6. I think you’re right, lizard, as is your source, but your source at least is right for the wrong reason.

    We oughtn’t get involved in Syria not because we don’t know which side ought to win: That was the argument used against the rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia as well. The root of it is a belief that the people themselves don’t know what’s good for them, so we are better off keeping a minority in charge; they are not ready for democracy.

    But that’s not actually the case here – the Assad dynasty has in the past used violence to put down the aspirations of the Sunni majority, and it’s not surprising that they are making another go at it, after the rise in Sunni populism in Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and elsewhere. It’s almost certain that Syria will continue to experience this pattern until its Sunni majority has gained for itself an appropriate representation. The question is whether we can assist them in doing so. Right now, it seems unlikely. The rebels have no territory, no centralized authority, and there is no indication that they would be able to actually rule Syria if the Assad regime were destroyed. Moreover, Syria, unlike Libya, still has friends in high places who could prevent its complete isolation, and that means the regime would likely remain well-armed and difficult to eliminate. That, in my opinion, is the reason intervention is unwise.

    • lizard19

      first, who is this “we”—are you speaking for pragmatic imperialists who would impose regime change if it was politically possible like it was in Libya?

      second, I don’t see this situation as comprised of just two sides, with one side that “ought to win”. that’s an expression of western arrogance that I really can’t stand. neither you, nor I, nor many other westerners really know what the opposition to Assad is comprised of.

      the violence in Syria is spreading to Lebanon just like the violence in Libya has spread to Mali.

      IMO, not only is intervention unwise, dumping money and weapons is also unwise, whether it’s Russia doing it, or the US, or Saudi Arabia.

      sectarian violence won’t be contained by borders.

      • Um, ‘we’ is the United States, in general. Should ‘we’ intervene.

        “that’s an expression of western arrogance that I really can’t stand. neither you, nor I, nor many other westerners really know what the opposition to Assad is comprised of.”

        The opposition itself doesn’t really know what it is comprised of, and I think there’s evidence that Assad doesn’t know who exactly is fighting for him, either. Yes, the violence is spreading. This is not surprising, but it is inevitable. Borders are on principle artificial, and even more so between Syria and Lebanon.

        “IMO, not only is intervention unwise, dumping money and weapons is also unwise, whether it’s Russia doing it, or the US, or Saudi Arabia. ”

        I actually agree on principle – the easy availability of weapons, unaccompanied by the industrial base required to produce them, is a major problem in geopolitics right now. But now that one side has already been heavily armed by the USSR and Russia, it no longer makes sense that on principle no one should arm the other side. That is a prescription for global autocracy – if Democratic governments refrain from spreading weapons while autocratic ones have no such qualms.

        • lizard19

          quite the authoritative we.

          if we’re getting general, I’d say we, the people of the United States, aren’t all that focused or well-informed on the problems of geopolitics.

          if we were, we’d see the war on terror for what it is, and what it is not.




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