Friday, June 10, 2011

Beware Official Propaganda!

As another Friday approaches, the specter of more massacres looms.

Notes and Tidbits:

1)               Libya comparisons fall short of describing of what could possibly happen if the situation in Syria is allowed to deteriorate any further, what we are witnessing is a Balkanization in progress, gift-wrapped by the Assads and their death squads. Will we be witnessing a Srebrenica in Jisr Ashoughour? The tragedy is that the world will be watching rather than acting despite the advance warning.

2)              Reports by the regime of major losses in security officers are simply put bogus. Regime officials have been telling all sorts of fantastical lies especially on Syrian TV and Arab news networks that will make Goebbels blush. One such lie is that Hamzah Al-Khateeb, the child who was tortured to death and had his penis chopped off, was actually a Salafi terrorist who sought to enslave local women. Trying to cover both sides of the story should not be used as an excuse to repeat regime lies to a global audience. Syrian activists are doing their best through their videos, commentaries and interview to compensate for the information embargo imposed by Syrian authorities, and most of what we have conveyed so far was later verified through interviews by eyewitness testimonies provided by refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Meanwhile, the regime continues to spin its tall tales in the hope that repetition will ensnare the hapless journalist, the conspiracy theorist, the anti-imperialist, and occasionally, which is an added bonus, a big network, like say, CNN or BBC, meaning that, eventually, the official lie becomes part of the accepted wisdom. In fact, it has already colored coverage of the revolution.

3)              Despite all talk of army defections, we really have to remember that, until recently at least, they remained minor and would not pose a serious threat to the regime. In the few instances when the number of defectors amounted to few dozens, defectors simply tried to play a protective role of the local population rather than going on the offensive. We don’t know what’s happening in Jisr Ashoughour at this stage. The eyewitnesses we contacted don’t seem to support the theory that a major defection has taken place. In this light, the troops-buildup in the northern region could be construed as theatrics meant for domestic consumption. The more tension, the great the fear, the less likely that people will take to the streets in Damascus and Aleppo. Rather than an insurrection, we could simply be dealing with another cold-blooded mass murder. Have all superpowers lost control over their surveillance satellites? Because at this stage, they are the ones with actual means to tell us exactly what’s happening, but they remain quiet.

4)              Still, it is not army defections that are worrying the Assads, but the army’s indifference, or hesitation. My analysis, based on what I heard from the few eyewitnesses I met in Antalya (who came from Syria to attend the conference), is this: it seems that most army troops and officers simply refuse to obey shoot-on-sight orders. This applies to both Alawite and Sunni officers, but only those who actually question the order publicly risk getting shot, while the few who obey orders unquestioningly get immediately recruited into an elite all-Alawite Unit that the Assads are deploying with greater frequency. In other words, the Assads are reshuffling the army and creating a number of all-Alawite units made up specifically of people who have been tested and have shown themselves to be hardcore loyalists. It is these units that have been sent to Jisr Ashoughour.

Assad Death Squads humiliate protesters
Playing the sectarian card continues: the soldiers, in this video from Jobar, Damascus, are clearly Alawite, judging by their accent. The main soldier who is doing the abuse is telling the man on the ground: “this is for freedom, and this for the martyr, and this for dealing with Israelis… you’re beginning the government for forgiveness now?... you want to topple the regime, and for this is for toppling the regime”
This second video from Homs is even more heart-wrenching and needs no comment
Russian Mother, married to a Syrian and living in Hama addresses Russian President speaking of the death of her son:
I am the Mother of the Martyr, Omar Al-Shami, I am a Russian born in Leningrad. On Friday, after the prayers, my son Omar was killed by the dogs of Assad… he was hit by three bullets, in his heart, in his leg and feet. He was dead on arrival in the Horani hospital… I am 56 years old… I saw what Hitler’s armies did in Leningrad…. what I saw at the hospital could not have been done by Hitler himself… what the dogs of Assad did to our children… Bashar Al-Assad, Maher Al-Assad…. I wish they die like dogs… it’s close now… they are the devil worshippers who did this to our kids. Now she switches to Russian and addresses Russian President. 
Another mid-level officer declares his defection:
We were sent to Banyas and told they were terrorist groups there, we found none, just peaceful demonstrators. Then they took us to Marqab Citadel and told they were 6,000 terrorists fully-armed there, we found none…. In Marqab village, we came across a demonstration by women and bare-chested young men, we had orders to shoot. We searched the village, some of the troops engaged in looting… we arrested the men, and the way out, we encountered groups of women protesting this, we were giving orders to shoot, we massacred 4 women… I defected… we’re the army, we are supposed to protect people from the Israelis irrespective of their sects…
The defection of Lieutenant General Hassain Harmoush
(Translation courtesy NOW Lebanon) After showing his military ID, he said that the reasons behind his split are: “the mass killings of protestors across Syria, involving the Syrian army in the raids of local cities.” He also says: “We have sworn to point our guns at our enemies, our duty is to protect our people not kill them. I would like to tell the Syrian officers to protect civilians from the crime led by [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Second, we tell the Syrian people to be reassured because the army has vowed to save them. We call on everyone who was betrayed by the regime to join the people and the people will forgive them. We tell all the free people of the world that the Syrians want to ride the boat of democracy and freedom, so help them do so. Last but not least, the protests are peaceful, Syria is one and Assad is leaving.”
Damascus / Shaalan / June 8: a daytime protest in the plush commercial neighborhood of Shaalan ends in crackdown by Assad thugs
Syrian refugees on the borders with Turkey (June 9)
Assad Death Squads having some fun after a recent massacre
Damascus / Al-Tal / June 9: an all women-demonstration in this largely conservative suburb, where most residents have lived in Saudi Arabia at one point, addresses the camera in English.
Homs / Talbisseh / May 29: newly uploaded videos show army tanks invade and open fire randomly. The amazing thing is that in the 3rd video, the people behind the camera can be heard defying Assad “God is Greater than you, O Bashar) and joking: see, you won’t be lost, right below the tanks there is a car wash.”
Homs / Teer Ma’allah/ May 30: Tanks in the streets
Damascus / Al-Qadam / June 9: Assad thugs patrolling the streets
Alboukamal / June 9: a demonstration in preparation for Friday. The entire city of Alboukamal and environs have joined the protest movement.
Damascus / Qaboun / June 9: nightly demonstration, with people shouting “the people want to topple the regime” before burning a poster of Bashar.