Monday, June 13, 2011

Beware the Experts!

As Syrian refugees continue to stream into Turkish territory, and the Assads continue to massacre their own people, the international community and media seem more befuddled than ever.

By burning the flags of China and Russia and carrying banner criticizing international double standards regarding Libya and Syria, the protesters are attempting to send a message to the international community. They do have certain expectations, and delegitimizing Assad and issuing a UN resolution is clearly one of them. Leaders of the world, watch the videos, read the banners, listen to the slogans, the protesters are trying to communicate directly with you.

Sunday June 12, 2011

Syrian State-run media claim that the army has now established full control of Jisr Ashoughour having liberated it from armed gangs that allegedly took control of it last week. The army, we are told, managed to capture “many” of the terrorists and kill 2, suffering 1 fatality and 4 casualties in the process. It took 200 tanks, a fleet of helicopters and thousands of troops to accomplish this amazing feat. International media, which were quick to relay the regime’s earlier reports of 120 dead among its security forces, have failed to pick up on these subtle nuances in official coverage, and continue to speak about insurrections and rebellions that have been contained without pausing to wonder as to the inherent contradictions in official reports. Indeed no one seems to have wondered how an alleged armed gang that managed only last week, by official claims, to kill 120 officers seem to have been contained so easily and with so little casualties on either side. It seems that the information blackout the Syrian regime has managed to impose has given some in international media not simply a headache, but a brain freeze. Meanwhile, the story that is being lost is one of cold-blooded mass murder.

In the meantime, the daily protests and nightly vigils continue all across Syria.

This report by Sky News falls prey to regime propaganda whole stock and barrel. Lazy journalism at work!
This report by NY Times is no better!
But local journalists say the regime’s goal is often less about presenting a credible version of events and more about sowing seeds of doubt, both at home and abroad.

There was no major battle in Jisr Ashoughour and no major mutiny, despite the assertions of so many “experts” to the contrary. These “experts” are basing their analyses on regime reports and a singular testimony by a defecting soldier which contradicts testimonies provided by his colleagues as well as those provided by civilian eyewitnesses. No one denies the reality of defections and the occasional clashes between defectors and loyalists, in Jisr Ashoughour or elsewhere, but defections and clashes remain a pretty limited and inconsequential affair just as they had been in Deraa. What’s happening in Jisr Ashoughour today is exactly what happened in Rastan last week and Deraa a few weeks ago: a major military operation against a mostly unarmed population meant to sew terror in their midst, and throughout the country. It’s basically a cold-blooded massacre perpetrated using tanks and helicopters.

It should be pointed out a well that the “experts” had earlier dismissed all claims of defections regarding the events in Deraa in late April, only to be proven wrong when journalists finally acquired direct access to eyewitness reports in the form of refugees streaming into Jordan and Lebanon. The refugees provided one testimony after another attesting to the reality yet limited nature of the defections. Now, the selfsame “experts” are rushing headlong to assure the reality and large-scale mature of the defection: it’s an insurrection, they say, a mutiny, a well-organized armed rebellion, blah, blah, blah… But at a time when even our brave activists can’t get videos from that area region anymore, at least for now, and when all communications lines have been interrupted, on what are these “experts” exactly basing their assessments? State-run media of all stupid things, and a singular eyewitness testimony that has been contradicted by numerous others.

Once again, no one is denying the reality of defections in Jisr Ashoughour, and that some clashes seem to have taken place between defectors and loyalists, or that some defectors might have chosen to remain behind to defend the local population (as happened in Deraa), but we really need to put this matter in its proper scale. In order to kill 120 security officers supported with tanks and armored cars, we need an organized well-armed force of at least 500-1000 men, where is this mysterious force now?  How come it was defeated after only 1 day of active combat? Where are the casualties? Why have the activists not been able to catch more than a couple of defectors on video encouraging their colleague to join them? If these officers wanted to encourage further defections, and get the attention of the international community, they wouldn’t they have taken pains to strut their relatively large size on camera? And where are those “official” videos showing the army conducting actual military operations against those armed gangs and those treasonous defectors? Where are the videos of charred dead bodies and embattled captives? After twelve weeks of battling terrorists, as the regime puts it, you’d expect to see numerous such videos instead of short clips of funerals of army officers, weapon caches laid out neatly on the ground, and a few hapless individuals “welcoming” the troops and speaking vaguely of the “horrors” they have seen before the army showed up? Compare these choice clips to the thousands of videos produced by activists who show actual killings by army troops, actual terror campaigns, actual dead bodies of protesters, actual painful testimonies, and actual funerals that easily turn into new protests and new occasions for violence on part of the authorities, and you’ll get a clearer idea, if you haven’t by now, of those who are manufacturing news and those who are actually reporting them, and of the nature of the events still developing on the grounds.

This is not a civil war yet, this is mass murder on a grand scale, but the world still has an opportunity to stop it, and prevent its devolution into civil mayhem.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should stop relying too much on experts’ testimonies, especially considering their failure to predict any of the revolutions currently sweeping the region, and depend more on established facts (Syria is a dictatorship, state-run media have zero possibility of reporting events as they are and have to report what they are told, etc.), the available evidence (activist videos and eyewitness testimonies) and, dare I say, our common sense.

Speaking of common sense, indeed by sending so many troops and equipment north, the Assads might be trying to prevent the creation of a Benghazi-like region there, which is exactly why they would exaggerate the size of the defections and losses in their ranks. The Assads might have had similar concerns in Deraa and Tal Kalakh as well. The interesting thing is that they might actually end up facilitating and expediting the very thing they are trying to prevent. The brutality of their crackdown and its sectarian nature are fueling local anger and extending the life-expectancy of the revolution, rather than cut it short. The unequal showdown is already generating a refugee crisis, right where the Assad regime can’t afford to have it.

Lattakia: heavy gunfire heard in Sleibeh Neighborhood on Saturday evening
Lattakia: sporadic gunfire heard as protesters shout “we take death over humiliation” on Sunday.
Damascus / Zabadani: residents burn the Russian and Chinese flags to protest their policy of continued support of Bashar Al-Assad.
Damascus / Qaboun: inhabitants of this Damascene suburb read a statement asking the army not to meddle in their affairs. The people of Rastan and Jisr Ashoughour had done the same, to no avail.
Damascus / Kisweh: “the people want to topple the regime” “Leave, leave” “Long live Syria, down with Bashar Al-Assad” “Damn your soul Hafiz (Al-Assad)”
Damascus / Qatana
Damascus / Saqba: “the people want to topple the regime”
An all-women’s vigil: Banner “Gaddafi lost his legitimacy after firing the first bullet, but Assad kills 2,000 and the situation is still considered an internal affair!”
Damascus / Midan: “God is greater than the oppressor”
Deir Ezzor / Mayadin: the inhabitants of this northeastern town read a statement asking the army not to intervene as well.
Deir Ezzor / Al-Qouriyeh: making fun of Assad by chanting things like “hear what the people of Ashoughour say: the lion turned out to be a rabbit” etc.
Homs / Talbisseh: Tanks on their way to lay siege to Talbisseh, another rebellious town that has been “recaptured” twice before.
Homs / Inshaat: “Damn your spirit Hafiz (Al-Assad)” “the people want to topple the regime”
Hama City: nightly vigil in support of Jisr Ashoughour