In the wake of the May 25 massacre in Houla, shock and revulsion reverberate across the world—except among “anti-war” voices in the West, those supposedly most concerned with war crimes and mass killings of civilians. Kind of funny, eh? Amnesty International calls for action from the International Criminal Court, finding: “The Syrian military’s barrage of shells, mortars and rockets and raids on the residential area of Teldo…left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children.” Said AI’s Middle East director Philip Luther: “The high civilian death toll—including scores of women and children—in Houla must spur the Security Council to act in unison and immediately refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.” Since then, the annual UN “Children and Armed Conflict” report has been released, accusing the Assad regime of torturing kids:
Children between 8 and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and used by soldiers as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on villages. Schools have been regularly raided, used as military bases and detention centres. In detention, girls and boys were beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions and to electrical shocks, as well as whipped with heavy electrical cables. [NPR, June 12]
Spokespeople from the NATO countries and their loyal media outlets have seized upon a massacre at Houla, Syria, to mobilize for open imperialist military intervention against the Syrian government and—and no one should doubt this—against the people of Syria. NATO governments have already begun expelling Syrian diplomats.
There seems to be no doubt at this time—May 29—that a massacre took place. There is, however, much confusion about who exactly carried out the massacre. The corporate media is blaming the killings on the Syrian government and calling for foreign intervention. The Syrians, however, deny that their armed forces or police have taken part, blame the killings on the armed opposition and have themselves condemned the killings and are organizing an investigation.
“The Syrians” blame the massacre on the opposition, get it? Cute. Anyone who doesn’t support the dictatorship is a traitor to Syria and not really Syrian. What touching concern with the “Syrian people”!
The World Socialist Website writes that the “Houla massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces aligned with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to Germany’s leading daily newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.” They don’t even bother to link to the article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but the text makes clear it is all based on anonymous unverifiable sources. It also offers little speculation on the motives of the FSA to kill the people they hope to win over, other than the claim that some of the victims were recent converts to Shia.
We don’t claim to know what happened at Houla, but it is eminently clear that the World Socialist Website is touting this report not because it is more credible than the findings of Amnesty International and the United Nations, but—exclusively—because it is convenient to “anti-war” propaganda. Amnesty did not back up the claims of the Syrian opposition that the pro-Assad Shabiha militia killed many of the victims at close range in house-to-house raids, but the consensus of the very human rights groups that vigorously documented US atrocities in Iraq and Gitmo is that the Houla massacre was the work of the regime.
Animated partisans are also busy forwarding Patrick Seale‘s article in The Guardian May 27, finding, “After the Houla massacre, it’s clear that the outside funding of the anti-Assad rebels is undermining efforts to end the conflict.” His implicit assumption is that the rebels are a hornet’s nest of jihadis (the same ones we were supposed to be rooting for in Iraq just a few months ago—but now backed by NATO, in an unlikely alliance), while Bashar Assad is a reasonable guy:
The only way to prevent a full-scale civil war in Syria—which would destroy the country, as happened in Iraq, and could destabilise the whole Levant – is to demilitarise the conflict and bring maximum pressure on both sides to negotiate. This is what Annan wants, but he is being undermined. He is due in Damascus this weekend in a forlorn bid to save his plan.
UN monitors counted 85 bodies at Houla. The opposition has blamed the regime for the slaughter, while the regime has put the blame on “terrorists” – that is to say, on its armed opponents, stiffened by Islamist jihadis, some of them linked to al-Qaida, who have been flowing into Syria from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. These jihadis are thought to be responsible for about a dozen terrorist acts, the worst of which, in Damascus on 10 May, killed 55 people and wounded close to 400.
Major-General Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the UN observer mission, has been cautious in pointing the finger of blame for Friday’s Houla killings: “Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria … is that I should not jump to conclusions.” Probably, the truth is that the two sides share the responsibility.
The strategy of the armed opposition is to seek to trigger a foreign armed intervention by staging lethal clashes and blaming the resulting carnage on the regime. It knows that, left to itself, its chance of winning is slim. For its part, the regime’s brutality can be explained, if not condoned, by the fact that it believes it is fighting for its life —not only against local opponents but also against an external conspiracy led by the United States (egged on by Israel) and including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Britain and France.
This is pathetic so many different ways, one hardly knows where to begin. “Prevent” civil war? Too late. “Demilitarize the conflict”? You mean, leave one side vulnerable to getting exterminated by the other, as in Bosnia? “Bring pressure on both sides to negotiate”? Rational dialogue with a regime that’s slaughtering its own citizens? Get outta here. The musings of a Norwegian major-general are placed ahead of the findings of Amnesty and the UN to give weight to the convenient conclusion that both sides “share the responsibility.” The one sop to humanity in this screed is the notion that mass murder should perhaps not be “condoned”!
Everyone seems to want to avoid the reality that Syria has been at war for several months now. A New York Times piece on June 14 similarly portrays the arming of regime and rebels alike as leading “toward” civil war:
But in Damascus, the Foreign Ministry rejected the very idea of civil war, describing the conflict as a “war against the armed groups which chose terrorism as their way to achieve their objectives and conspire against the present and future of the Syrian people,” according to a statement carried by the government news agency.
The opposition also rejected the civil war label, saying it was a peaceful opposition movement demanding democratic change that took up arms in self-defense.
Note how even the Times gives equal weight to both “sides.” As for those NATO conspiracies for intervention? Well, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said June 12 that foreign military intervention is “not the right path” in Syria—this despite the UN’s peacekeeping chief finally having the courage to admit that there is a civil war in the country. “Yes, I think we can say that,” UN under-secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said when asked if the Syrian crisis has become a civil war. (AFP, June 13; Reuters, June 12)
This is the same transparent game the Western “left” played vis Bosnia 15 years ago. “Anti-war” voices—those most aghast at the carnage of US drone terror—cynically seek to exculpate Bashar Assad. At the very best, they express far greater outrage at supposed Western arming of the Syrian rebels than at Assad’s slaughter of his own people. The “anti-war” movement has richly earned its own marginalization through its simple denial of inconvenient realities—if not outright support for bloody dictators.
We at World War 4 Report intend to do in Syria what we have in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya: find the secular, anti-imperialist, democratic voices, and loan them as much support as possible, regardless of whether Assad stays or goes, of whether NATO intervenes or not—and never, under any circumstances, cut slack for mass murderers.
Who’s with us?