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The West must quit the theatrics and tell the truth on Syria

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia will lead the way in expelling Syrian diplomats in response to the Al Houla massacre. These theatrics are just another act in the shadow play…

Foreign Minister Bob Carr expelled two Syrian diplomats on 29 May, 2012. AAP/Lukas Coch

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia will lead the way in expelling Syrian diplomats in response to the Al Houla massacre.

These theatrics are just another act in the shadow play over Syria.

Western governments and Arab world allies declaim violence and at the same time support financial and logistical aid to an increasingly violent armed opposition, not all of whom are Syrian.

We call for a ceasefire and push for military intervention without any intention of following through on either.

The intentional killing of more than 100 civilians in Al Houla, including women and children, is as shocking and frightening to Syrians as it is to Australians. But it is not a new development.

Armed gangs and militia, including the Free Army, have been abducting, extorting, and murdering citizens, destroying energy and water utilities, and robbing, vandalising and torching private properties for many months.

Suicide bombings in Aleppo and Damascus have caused carnage recently, with terrible loss of life on 10 May in particular.

In March, the murder of women, children and elderly men in Karm Al Zaytoun was a chilling precursor to Al Houla.

Many Syrians say the presence of the UN special envoy and monitoring mission, who are a ready audience for opposition propaganda, has sparked an escalation in such acts of terror.

The Syrian President continues to call for foreign financing, arming and abetting of militias to cease, and Kofi Annan continues to invoke the fragile ceasefire with such unequivocal statements as “This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.”

Both Kofi Anan and Head of the UN monitoring team Major General Robert Mood reserve judgement on the perpetrators of the Al Houla massacre.

The “mainstream” armed opposition and agitators outside Syria blame militia aligned with the government. Within Syria there is much more conjecture.

UN Observers in the city of Mera, northern Syria EPA/Vedat Xhymshiti

UN monitors report evidence of Syrian government involvement through spent tank shells, yet a spokesman for the UN High Commission on Human Rights claims that fewer than 20 of the 108 killings can be attributed to artillery and tank fire. The rest were executed at close range.

While no-one will yet confirm who did this, word on the street says it is an act of retribution by militia. But which militia? And retribution for what?

Apart from the criminal gangs, opportunists, and the criminally insane now operating without restraint in Syria, there are “thugs” who have been active in suppressing political agitation for decades. Known as the Shabbiha, this network of men loyal to a “big man”, with all the criminal activity that this can entail, are brutal.

The Shabbiha’s alliance with the Syrian government may not be formalised but the conditions that allow them to operate are created by this government. Therefore the government bears responsibility for their actions.

The Syrian government has sworn to make those responsible accountable, and well they might. Like other Arab governments the Syrians now find that control of “the street” by a de facto security force is not only unpredictable but a liability.

Meanwhile the armed opposition (as opposed to the peaceful pro-democracy movement in its various forms) comprises not only the Free Army but also Al Qaeda and Sunni jihadist “brigades”. They are united only in their shared distaste for Syria’s secularism. Their appetite for a Sunni Islamist government is patently clear.

To this end the Free Army intimidated and barred Syrians from voting in the Constitutional Referendum. Despite this, a new multiparty system was heralded in Syria - surely cause for universal celebration and yet unremarked by “Arab Spring” enthusiasts.

The armed opposition boycotted Parliamentary elections held on May 7 across Syria and now denounce new Parliamentary members as government loyalists.

By their logic, every Syrian who accepts political enfranchisement is a government loyalist. Many speculate that this belief is motivating such shocking actions as Al Houla’s massacre.

When the BBC ran a 2003 photograph from Iraq to depict this Syrian massacre the slaughtered became double victims.

In a propaganda war of breathtaking proportions, and after more than a year of civil unrest, the Assad-led government has yet to fall.

The President’s broad, but by no means absolute, Alawi clan support has not achieved this alone. Syrian government Ministers and Parliamentary members are men and women of Shia, Sunni, and Christian backgrounds. The President’s wife is a Sunni. Syria is a secular state.

By these factors all-out sectarian civil war is being held at bay. But how long can Syria hold out against the onslaught of external (economic) and internal (violent) pressures?

Insistence that these pressures remain legitimate clearly imperils children of the “wrong” sect, or of parents caught between peace and mayhem.

For the sake of all vulnerable Syrians, we must insist that the truth of the Al Houla massacre is told.

The Secretary General of the 57-member state Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) representing over 1.4 billion Muslims is leading the way. In a radical statement he calls on religious scholars to denounce these crimes and on OIC member states to reevaluate their positions.

Australia’s continued support for the armed opposition can only be read as acceptance of the opposition’s “higher purpose” - a Sunni Islamic state at all costs. Australian government theatrics over Syria must cease.

Our vindicated whistle blower on Iraq came out of Canberra. It’s time Australia had some truth on Syria.

Join the conversation

19 Comments sorted by

  1. Mat Hardy

    Lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University

    I love the implication that Bob Carr and Australia "led the world" in expelling the Syrian diplomats. This angle was run by a lot of the Australian media.

    The fact that there is no Syrian embassy anywhere east of Canberra gives us a natural timezone advantage in this sort of leadership. It's not like Tuvalu or NZ had the chance to crack down on Syria before us.

    1. William Bruce


      In reply to Mat Hardy

      C'mon Mat,..... what do you really think?

      Yet again there is many lives and much treasure at stake in all this and I would like a tenable reason from one whom I presume ought be able to note some genuine insight.

  2. Frank Cassidy


    All true! Australia has clearly picked the wrong side in this Church vs State stoush and ought to be backing the people of Syria who don't want the sectarian Government they're so valiantly fighting against. Assad has the support of his people because he promises reform - and has delivered - but in the context of porous borders and meddling Israeli and US troublemakers, even the most reform-minded Syrian knows it's a delicate balance and will take time.
    Given Australia doesn't even have an embassy in Damascus despite Syria's fond links with thousands of WWII Aussie troops who, like me, loved the place, it's no wonder we've got it so embarrassingly wrong.

    1. William Bruce


      In reply to Frank Cassidy

      Frank says,"Australia has clearly picked the wrong side in this Church vs State stoush and ought to be backing the people of Syria who don't want the sectarian Government..."

      Didn't "the people" just elect a sectarian Govt...perhaps you meant non-sectarian?

    1. Father Æthelwine

      Priest and researcher.

      In reply to William Bruce

      Bilderberg simply wants those who are invited to its meeting to progress politically and do things the Bilderberg way. If that mans the destruction of entire nations - so be it. Hence Iraq, hence the artificial 'rebellion' in Syria, where as the Grand Mufti (a Sunni) points out, the 'rebels' are not Syrian. Could he have been any clearer? There is pretty up-to-date information from inside Syria on my website including information from the family of one of the Orthodox community in York who are themselves in the Homs area.

  3. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    I hope it won't be taken a remiss if I remind the author what I said 3 months ago

    "While I appreciate the good intentions motivating the author here, she is wasting her time.

    There is no way that all the politicians, journalists, human rights activists and talking heads are ever going to admit that they were wrong. Syria is now occupying the position in the global diplomatic system that Iraq had in the 1990s. And there is only one exit from such a position - feet first.

    The brilliant minds that brought us Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are preparing another human-rights inspired blood-bath."

    Carri on.

    1. Joseph Bernard


      In reply to Sean Lamb

      i would like to thank the Author for adding perspective on this subject and expose the under currents of what is happening rather than just calling for regime change which seems to be the standard issue answer, but just leads to more of a blood bath.

      I am thankful for this article because it exposes the different parties that are protected by the ignorance of western media. What was the point of the BBC's propaganda? who does it serve.. certainly does not help the people of Syria.. Lets face it the current government is probably the best option until all the fighting stops.

    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      I took part in the anti-war demonstrations in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. Thousands upon thousands of people on the street - and what difference did it make?
      There is a theory about WW1 called the mobilisation point, which basically holds that once a modern state mobilises, ie calls up its citizen soldiers to the colours, that it is very unlikely that war won't eventuate. In WW1 the first country to fully mobilise was Russia, Germany then followed suit (and was clearly spoiling for a fight…

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  4. Father Æthelwine

    Priest and researcher.

    I learned quite by accident today, speaking with a Syrian friend, that the people slaughtered at close quarters in Al Houla were families of Assad supporters. Hence the logic of the 'international community' to blame the Assad regime for their murder.

    A few weeks ago my friend the Grand Mufti of Damascus, a man of peace, asked for all sides to lay down their arms, as those fighting the Syrian people were not Syrians. Two weeks later his son was murdered.

  5. Allan Kessing


    I can't imagine much "Israeli meddling'' as the last thing they want is another Sunni fundamentalist on their north, esp now that they have lost the friendly dictator in Egypt.
    The non Sunni population of Syria may not love Assad but they know what their fate will be if the Saudi/Bahraini funded & armed fundis take over.
    Copts in Egypt, Christians in Iraq, the secular in Libya were tiny minorities with no option but to flee or suffer - in Syria the Allawi, Christian, Druze, Jews, Ismaili and secularist can at least make common cause to resist another theocracy.

    1. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Allan Kessing

      Well I had a theory that by promoting a period of unrest and encouraging extremist regimes to take power in Syria and Egypt, Israel might create conditions suitable to justify the expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank.

      As far as conspiracy theories go, it is not one of my best. Having said that it always seems strange to me that the Israeli political elite never seem the slightest bit concerned to really spell out what their desired final settlement of the occupied territories is. They seem to act as thought the current situation can continue indefinitely - and since no Western politician dare criticise them, I suppose they are right.

    2. William Bruce


      In reply to Allan Kessing

      My guess is, if Israeli Govt & their global collaborators is not meddling then they would be screaming for Assad to get order & supporting him... they don't seem to be?

      In fact it seems they love dictatorships (which they can control to various degrees) of any colour..... and, it also seems to me that "global team Israel" controls US foreign policy in this region (if not beyond)...

      And it seems clear and that is the US is out for regime change....WHY?.....So perhaps one might imagine that…

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  6. Tony Backhouse

    logged in via Facebook

    Our Foreign Minister has just expelled Syrian Diplomats due to a NATO agitprop campaign based on fit up images in order to pick a war with Syria, Iran and Russia. No real evidence has been provided by the accusers to show who actually killed these people - If Bob Carr had his own brain he would be criminally insane.

    I found footage of what is reportedly the first three minutes of the massacre before it was removed from you-tube, I have saved it and posted it to Bob Carr's Wall. It shows a large crowd of people carrying (Red) Syrian Flags scattering as they are set upon by unseen snipers

  7. Syrian TrueStory

    Mechanic Engineer

    As A Syrian who found himself reading this article by chance I would like to say: The majority of us, Syrians, are frustrated, very sad, depressed and almost lost faith in many important believes in life. All that due to the killing that is taking place in Syria, the only country in the region that have lived in peace for decades. I believe that the massive majority of Syrians still support the government and the president Dr. Bashar. We are frustrated due to the amount of lies and fabrications being…

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  8. William Bruce


    Syria defends itself against imperialist onslaught
    By John Catalinotto

    From International Action Centre (founded by Ramsey Clark)
    August 8, 2012

    The fighting in Syria is shaping up as a military showdown between the Syrian army on one side and “rebel” fighters openly backed by the U.S.-NATO imperialist powers, along with Israel, on the other. These “rebels” are being armed directly through NATO-member Turkey and the Qatari and Saudi Arabian monarchies.

  9. Thomas Reuter

    ARC Future Fellow at University of Melbourne

    I would like to thank the author for encouraging the public to take a closer look at the Syrian case of (attempted) 'regime change', not the first in the region in recent years...

    It takes some courage nowadays to stand up for the supremacy of international law and the right of a people to live in peace. Undeclared wars, extra-judical killings (assassinations) ordered by government officials and the torture of prisoners as a standard method of interrogation - all this is becoming normalised in…

    Read more