11 September 2013

On September 11

On that day in 2001, as the worst terrorist mass murder in history was taking place, I never imagined that twelve years later our country would have just narrowly avoided intervening in a foreign civil war on the side of the very people who attacked us.  Well, let's be grateful for such favors as there are.  With both houses of Congress now leaning against authorizing a military strike, and with the Russian disarmament initiative having perhaps resolved the chemical-weapons issue and, at worst, muddied the waters for a while, the option of the US plunging its hand into the Syrian bucket of scorpions seems to be off the table for the foreseeable future.

However, there's no telling how the situation will develop in the weeks to come, so it's worthwhile to keep its true nature in mind as best we can.  It has been said that Middle Eastern politics is a subject comparable to quantum physics in its complexity and to sewage in its charm, and Syria fits that assessment particularly well.  I've already posted on the daunting complexity of Syria's ethnic and religious diversity, on the character of the anti-Asad rebels and the likely results if they win, and on the implications for US domestic politics.  On that last point, American public opposition to intervention is actually increasing.

Cutting right to the heart of what we're told is the key issue here, remember that it is still not at all established that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical-weapons attack in Ghouta near Damascus, which was the whole basis for the now-probably-aborted missile strike against the regime. I ask you to imagine the result if Obama struck at Syria and it was later shown that the chemical-weapons attack was a rebel trick designed to manipulate him into doing that very thing.  He'd probably have to resign, especially if US forces had suffered casualties during the attack.

As a further illustration of the character of the rebels, here's a report on their recent capture of a Christian village near Damascus (I actually visited this village very briefly in 1979):

One resident said the rebels — many of them wearing beards and shouting, "God is great!" — attacked Christian homes and churches shortly after seizing the village. "They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village," the resident said by telephone. "So many people fled the village for safety." Now, he said, Maaloula "is a ghost town."..... A third resident reached by phone said he saw militants forcing some Christian residents to convert to Islam. "I saw the militants grabbing five villagers Wednesday and threatening them: 'Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded,'" he said.

These people are jihadists, not Jeffersonian democrats.  And remember that there are actual al-Qâ'idah affiliates among them.

In case it needs to be said yet again, I'm in no way a supporter of the ghastly and blood-soaked Asad regime.  It's a horror.  But however bad things are in the Middle East, there's always a way for them to get worse.  Replacing a murderous fascist dictatorship with an even more murderous (potentially genocidal toward religious minorities, in fact) jihadist theocracy would be worse, both for the Syrian people and for the West.  And just imagine how much the already-massive US public opposition to an intervention would grow, if people clearly understood that we would be fighting on the same side as the very organization that brought down the World Trade Center twelve years ago.

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