Those infantile apologists for fascism who imagine against the facts that Syria’s popular revolution is a foreign conspiracy won’t like this piece by Michael Neumann, a frequent contributor to Counterpunch and the son of Franz Neumann, the analyst of modern fascism. It is however, one of the most morally compelling pieces on Syria that I have read. Originally published at Insufficient Respect.
Many reasons are given for supporting either the Syrian revolution or the units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). But while there is sympathy for the Syrian people, hardly ever do those reasons speak to or from Syrian needs. Instead the appeal is to the quite narrow interests of others, always in negative terms: not supporting the FSA will encourage Islamic extremism, invite a regional conflagration, squander opportunities to ‘have a say in Syria’s future'(!), counter-productively encourage uncontrolled arms proliferation, leave a legacy of anti-Western sentiment in Syria. Syrians are essentially seen either as a menace, or as weaklings likely incapable of countering some menace in their midst.
Of course the idea here is that solid reasons can only rest on hard-headed realism, not sloppy sentiment. But there may be at least two other reasons rooted in a less myopic assessment of the situation. They invoke principles and large historical opportunities – which does not distinguish them from the sort of ‘higher’ motives that in fact drive a good deal of political activity. They do have implications for the whole world, but they originate not only in the interests but also in the achievements of the Syrian people and their revolution One reason is ‘negative’, the other, positive.
The negative reason has to do with what Syrians suffer.
It’s taken me a while to realize that most people probably don’t really know the full extent of Assad’s cruelties, or how they compare to the cruelty we know has been inflicted in so many times and places. It’s not the sort of material that makes the front pages. An appendix to this post gives some details. For several reasons, none solely sufficient but in combination decisive, the horrors of Syria have unique significance.
First there is the sheer barbarism. Many régimes which have inflicted tortures perhaps as ghastly as Assad’s – Chile’s Pinochet and the Iran under the Shah come to mind – do not quite match his barbarism for one simple reason: Assad’s tortures are not confined to adults, much less to those who have ever posed any threat, but also to children not into their teens. The torture of injured people in their hospital beds, and of medical staff, is also very unusual. Sometimes victims are tortured in order to reveal information, or at least to admit to something, whether or not they did it. Often they are simply tortured to death, simply to have them die in agony.
Second there is the scale of it. Those tortured run into the tens, perhaps the hundreds of thousands. Multiple deaths under torture are reported almost daily. Perhaps as many suffered in Cambodia, or Rwanda, or the Congo; no figures are available.