Assad Makes A Crucial Error

Revolutions start sometimes over items where they are least expected. The entire “Jasmine Revolution” which began in Tunisia was sparked by a vegetable vendor setting himself alight (poor pun there) and becoming a world wide sensation.

In Libya I believe that Gaddafi had the opposition on the ropes and his tanks and heavy weapons were about to take Benghazi when he made the critical error of telegraphing his plans for human rights abuses which I wrote about here.

In Syria, the government just made a horrendous tactical mistake that seems to be a combination of the two items listed above. While protests have rocked Syria, their brutal authorities have taken extreme measures to combat the protestors including sending tanks into cities and stationing snipers on rooftops to limit movement and terrorize the civilian population (I fear that the Arab dictators have seen the power of snipers through the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now turning this against their people).

The government tortured a 13 year old boy to death named Hamza al-Khateeb and then returned his mutilated body to his parents a week later. You can read the details here but they are very gruesome and apparently there is a video of this on the internet as well. It appears that the Syrian government gives back these tortured remains to their parents in order to show how vengeful that they can be and to intimidate the population, the term used in the article was to “advertise their crimes”.

“This is a campaign of mass terrorism and intimidation: Horribly tortured people sent back to communities by a regime not trying to cover up its crimes, but to advertise them.”

People apparently poured out into the streets and this has been picked up around the world. Syria now will have significant issues even attempting to re-integrate with other nations now that these sorts of crimes have been documented; they will likely be poison even among those normally willing to do business with barbarians.

I don’t know if it is related but it might be – the Syrian government has promised to release all political prisoners, which would be a significant move if in fact they follow through on this promise; on an analogous note the ruler of Yemen has been promising to step down for some time now but always finds a reason for delays.

When you really think about it these sorts of regimes are amazing; there are entire armies and paramilitary groups that are focused solely on keeping the ruling dictator in power; they think nothing of torturing, maiming and indiscriminately killing THEIR OWN PEOPLE en masse. Generally for this type of behavior there is some sort of political theory (fascism, communism, socialism, etc…) but for these types of thugs it is just to utilize every lever of the state to stay in control. I would be interested to hear what their rationale is for killing their own people. And at what point, if ever, they’d be willing to stop.

They may have gone too far with torturing and killing this 13 year old boy. This type of behavior emboldens protestors even those facing death. This event may lead to the eventual downfall of Assad. I certainly hope so.

17 thoughts on “Assad Makes A Crucial Error”

  1. We are already in it. US passivity has given Assad the green light to do whatever he wants.

    Assad kills his own people to maintain power. Like the Castros, Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, he will probably get away with it if 1) he is sufficiently ruthless and 2) the USA and other powerful countries don’t stop him.

    The dictators who fall are the ones who are weak, indecisive, and/or are at least somewhat humane. The most ruthless ones are extremely difficult to depose absent competent external intervention.

  2. Thanks for your interest in this region, however, I think you should reconsider the above article in light of the program aired by Syrian TV yesterday Tuesday 31 May, 2011, refuting the whole story by the Pathologist who examined the body of the deceased teenage, showing photos of the body as received at the morgue, airing also confession of the teenager friend and one member of a gang who confessed shooting at a military compound housing families of military officials where the deceased was caught in a cross fire.

    Once you view the program which lasted around an hour on the TV you can cross examine it with a forensic expert at your side and then rewrite the above story to regain credibility of your reporter in the region. Avoiding to have to apologize as Reuters have done in distributing videos – more than 2 – of at least 3 years old taken in neighboring Lebanon and claiming it’s from recent events in Syria.


  3. Human Activist – so Assad is a philanthropist now. Who knew?

    As for the boy being tortured, I read somewhere (might have even been Andrew Sullivan) that this was bad even for “an Arab country”, a statement that has a whole lot of sad in it.

  4. The future for Syria is civil war. These paramilitary groups are solely loyal to Assad and his close circle. Assad is part of a small minority and as a tactician he has done well over the years (like his father) in putting together a coalition of sorts to stay in power, mainly of other minorities that fear what will happen if Assad falls.

    These minorities worry about what will come next which buys the government some support but at the same time apparently you have to take part in massive and appalling crimes or stand by idly while this occurs and at some point this is likely to prove impossible to sustain. This is a variation of the “burn your ships” strategy where there is no way back so you have to keep moving forward.

    Now that Assad has done all these things that are unacceptable probably even to the Russians there is no future for him in that tourism is dead and so is dealings with other multinationals. This will cripple the economy even worse. There isn’t a precedent for doing these sorts of crimes and then coming back into the fold in the near term… they’d have to wait for a decade or more and he doesn’t have that kind of time, especially since so many of his people in the country are so young.

    This civil war will be even more appalling than Libya in terms of lives lost because the cities are closer together and the population density is higher. And the grievances among the different groups are very deep and bitter (I don’t know how to compare it vs. Libya on that count, you probably can’t).

    ALSO – this will spill over into Lebanon immediately which is terrible because Lebanon has an actual economy that is developed but there is no way that they will escape this bloodbath.

    Welcome to the future of the Arab world. No one knows the way forward but the current path is under siege. Many can hold out a long time like Saudi Arabia and Iran but it will get more and more difficult to do so.

  5. I don’t care if Assad kills his own people. I care if Americans get killed. Syria is irrelevant to the USA. Israel could smash Syria if it had to. The world is full if sad stories. If we have to spend a fortune to have the government put bandaids on something, spend it here.

  6. it’s not like there are “good” syrians, and “bad” syrians; they all hate us, so let them find their own way out of the hell they live in. same for egypt, libya, etc.

  7. There are many things we could do short of risking American lives that would discourage Assad from his aggressions. Instead we are following a policy of passivity and appeasement in a futile effort to gain Assad’s cooperation in our attempt to make a grand deal between Israel and the Palestinians. This is idiocy on our part and seems likely to lead to even greater loss of life, perhaps including American lives, in the future.

    We have allowed Assad to pay no price for his actions against our interests, both recently and when we were fighting in Iraq. He is therefore likely to continue to work against our interests. Israel has made similar mistakes.

  8. Sarcasm on:

    We should invade the Congo too. And Burma. And Sudan. And North Korea.

    To let people there suffer is our fault because we have built, bought and paid for a powerful military.

    Their governments’ crimes are our responsibility because we could expend lives and treasure to stop those crimes.

    When people hurt, government has got to move.

    Sarcasm off.

    My solution to Syria: Turn off the TV, or change to the cooking channel.

  9. Lex, “Doing” is not a digital device – 1/0 – switch on/switch off, but an analogue mechanism that needs some “touch” in dialing-up or dialing-down. Diplomacy, as most other activity of the mind, has succumb to the dominant technological digital paradigm. the choice is not invade or not invade, but whether or not to purse a constant policy- and not blinking at evil deeds.

  10. Some folks around here seem to want a fourth optional war against Syria.

    That is the “do” I was responding to.

    Diplomacy is fine. Talk all day. Who cares. Talk to Assad: “hey, Assad, you’re an asshole.” “No, you are!”

    Just don’t spend any time, energy, attention or money, let alone blood, on the place.

  11. At least we didn’t arm Syria. I was looking at an article on Egypt and there was an Abrams M1 A1 tank sitting in the middle of a crowd of young people. The key to Syria is Iran. They have no oil and Arabs are incapable of producing an economy without it.

  12. They are promising a full investigation of the torture event. I’m not sure how real that is but one should remember that Syria has powerful enemies including Israel and the US.

    It’s not unlikely that some of the trouble was instigated by these enemies.

    As most of Syria is onside with the present government there will be no successful revolution.

    Your media is not a useful source of information.

  13. Much of what we naturally take to be human nature is really the thin, fragile lamination of Western civilization. Its absence in other countries (and in certain dark times in our own) can be unsettling.

    Ethno-psychology is firmly out of favor in these multi-culti days. Still, David Pryce-Jones’ “The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs” has been an eloquent guide for me, during our last 20 years of engagement with the Arab world.

  14. Ah,but they are not his people,any more than we are Obama’s people. His people are those who support him. All the rest are just livestock. This is what non-republican gov’t means.

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