MENAFN - Arab News
The infamy of indifference
(MENAFN - Arab News) WHAT! We're still on the subject of Syria, almost two years after the uprising started. Alas, we are.
Let's begin where we ought to- by acknowledging that rebels, especially of the revolutionary variety, who struggle for social justice and freedom, are courageous. And when those among them opt to soldier on despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them, they then cross from courage to fearlessness, there straddling a void of lunacy, a kind of engaging lunacy, to be sure, that brings with it a flash of insight, but lunacy nevertheless.
We have watched Syrian rebels for close to two years now as they mounted their uprising against, hyperbole aside, one of the most ruthless and totalitarian regimes in modern times, a regime that has evinced a striking lack of compassion for the humanity of its citizens. Not since the colonial era in places like the Congo and India, and in the fascist era in countries like Germany and Italy, have people been so victimized by what Franz Fanon, the French-Martinique psychiatrist and critic, called - in his seminal work, "The Wretched of the Earth" - "le processus de chosification," that process by which the colonial overlord, or the totalitarian bully, turns a subjugated people into "objects" or "things," stripped of human trappings, to make it all the easier to abuse or eliminate them.
We know what Syrian rebels want, to the extent that we could identify their fractious leadership as in agreement over what a future Syria looks like. One thing we know for sure, however, and that is they are in agreement that the Assad dynasty, and the repressive regime that this dynasty has spawned over the last 42 years, must go. And we know, moreover, that Syrian revolutionaries, as they fight against incredible odds, are torn between their blithe commitment to continue their struggle and an inward, unspeakable sense of despair. For a sense of despair grips he who stands alone.
But what, pray tell, does the Assad regime itself want? Is it so delusional as to imagine that it can take Syria back to the status quo ante? Will it continue to reduce to rubble whole neighborhoods, whole towns, along with the communities that inhabit them, because these locales have lifted their heads, raised their voices and taken up arms against the government? Does Assad and his cohorts from the Alawite minority know that their backs are against the wall, and are thus prepared to destroy the whole of Syria - destroy it beyond metaphor - before they are overthrown? Will they insist on leaving behind, before they pick up anchor and sail away, a vestige of their lasting venom? Looks like it.
These are questions, however, that need to be asked at this juncture of the struggle for Syria. At the outset of that struggle, the regime slaughtered dozens of people daily. Now they slaughter hundreds. Then terrified civilians fled daily to the surrounding countries in the hundreds. Now it is in the thousands. Then tanks were used to bomb neighborhoods. No fighter jets strafe whole towns. Then the regime simply tyrannized through contempt of ordinary folks. Now it sends militia goons to massacre them en masse.
What is this minority regime that turned Syria - an encounter with whose capital in the first half of the 20th century has marked the consciousness and career of sundry Arab intellectuals, poets, novelists, writers, theoreticians and ideologues - into a philistine wasteland? The answer is well known: They are a cultish community, with little refinement or sophistication, whom one of their own, Hafez Assad, soon after he took power in a coup, turned into a militarized Praetorian guard, a ruling cast, that considered the state a "ghanima" (war trophy) whose material wealth and political power were theirs to keep and exploit. The notoriously brutal shabiha were born then as armed vigilantes, an adjunct to the Alawite-dominated security forces and officer corps.
The war in Syria, not altogether incorrectly identified as a civil war, has left tens of thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. The human suffering inflicted on the people of Syria has been beyond all rational understanding. One wonders then why to this day a solution has eluded both the Arab states and the international community.
Last week, an armed Syrian rebel, in a TV interview with a Western reporter, proclaimed that, given a no-fly zone, the revolution would topple the regime "in two weeks or less." Obviously, that's bluster, but one thing is plain: Without credible help from the outside, the lightly armed, though determined, rebels cannot hack it on their own. As simple as that.
The regime's delusions about a return to the status quo ante are just that - delusions. Assad's days are numbered. But how many more innocent men, women and children must die, how much more human suffering must be endured, before we step in? In history, as in moral life, we are complicit in that which leaves us indifferent.
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