Sunday, August 26, 2012

Of Moral Culpability and Nightmares!

President Obama cannot escape blame for the killing by pro-Assad militias of 340 Syrians in the Damascene Suburb of Daraya. After all, this mass murder is Assad’s way of saying “thanks for the green light… sorry, I meant the redline.”   


On Saturday, August 25, pro-Assad militias stormed the Damascene Suburb of Daraya and perpetrated a horrendous massacre, the worst so far, that claimed the Lives of over 340 locals by current count, though the number is expected to grow. Pro-regime channels covered the aftermath in gruesome details blaming it on the rebels, a claim that is by now as laughable as Assad’s reformist credentials. But Assad’s point was to show Syrians that he can now kill openly and with impunity and that no one can stop him, thanks to the cowardice of the international community.   

Personally, and though this may burn my last political bridges with the Administration, I cannot but hold President Obama morally responsible for the Massacre in Daraya. His recently stated redline on the potential use of WMDs, his cold calculations and his cynical about-face regarding the Responsibility to Protect have combined to pave the way to this moment, acting as a green light for perpetrating such massacres.

The Administration's "we're not touching this" policy regarding the situation in Syria, a policy that got stated and restated one way or another by American officials after every escalation on part of the Assad regime, has gradually facilitated the use of heavy artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships, fighter jets and now systematic massacres against a mostly defenseless civilian population and have allowed for the transformation of the Syrian Revolution from a nonviolent protest movement calling for democratic change, into an asymmetrical sectarian conflict, in which targeting children and summary executions, carried out mostly by pro-Assad militias, are now commonplace.

To claim that this was a surprising development is disingenuous at best, as this was predicted by a number of activists, dissidents and analysts from day one of the revolution, and was at the heart of most arguments calling for early intervention. And the message was conveyed to Administration officials of all ranks at different junctures throughout the last few months.

To use the current mayhem as retroactive justification for nonintervention is to dismiss in an ad hoc and callous manner the strong potential for preemption that was involved. In other words, this situation was not inevitable, but was made inevitable by the lack of strong response by the international community, especially the United States.

Even now the dissolution of Syria and its failure as a state is not inevitable, but a stronger interventionist policy than would have been necessary in the beginning is now required. But those who dithered then are more than likely to dither now...

Except of course for that nagging possibility of having WMDs fall into the "wrong" hands, because Assad's blood-soaked hands seem somehow "right" to American (and Israeli) officials. So long as Assad is able to show that his grip over the WMDs’ stockpiles is as strong as ever, the world wouldn't give two bits for the thousands of lives he is taking and destroying, all pretenses to the contrary notwithstanding.

"Lucky" for us, and in a typical manner for Assad who continues to be prone to overplaying his hand, reports that he might have already relinquished control of some of his WMDs’ supplies to Hezbollah are proliferating. While few are in a position at this stage to ascertain whether these reports are true, the mere possibility might prove too worrisome for some in the U.S. and Israel to eventually warrant an intervention. The problem is that this intervention might prove to be exactly of the kind that no one wanted: an intervention involving many boots on the ground followed by a long period of micromanaging hostile sectarian and ethnic enclaves.

Some people, it seems, cannot help but make their worst nightmares come true.

Istanbul, Turkey

A Scene from Daraya