The young man from Daraa

The young man from Daraa by Kodak Agfa, on Flickr

There is a lot of talk on the Right about the tyranny of the government. There is this meme that we are oppressed here in the United States and that we must be ready to “rise up” an “take back our nation”. This kind of talk always makes me mad. The reason is that it is complete and utter BS.

Let me show you what oppression is like. I know that people have not been watching it very carefully, but what oppression looks like is Syria. In the last two months there have been protests there. What do the protesters want? More services in the cities and countryside that is not near the capital Damascus. They want to have some voice in who runs the country. That’s it.

What has happened? Well more than three cities have been shelled. Saying shelled is not very descriptive because almost none of us have ever been near artillery, yet alone on the receiving end. A tank or artillery shell makes a ripping noise as it flies through the air. It is distinctive and it add to the fear because when it lands there a huge explosion. As in walls of building collapsing.

If you are out side near this, you pretty much die. If you are a little further away you are in danger of shrapnel from the shell and from debris of whatever it hits. The pressure wave can knock you down, and will certainly leave you disoriented and your ears ringing.

These are weapons designed to be used against other armor and artillery, yet the Syrian government is using them against its people, the civilian people.

This is not the first time that there has been as massive repression of the Syrian people by force. Back in 1982 the city of Hama rose up in a revolution. By the end of the fighting there were between 20,000 and 40,000 people killed. The Syrian government used aerial bombing and tanks. They then surrounded the city and shelled it for three weeks.

As you might expect it did end the uprising, but that was not the end of the repression. To this day to openly talk about what happened at Hama is to invite a visit from the secret police and perhaps lengthy torture, just so people can know that they should never learn any lesson from Hama except that it is always bad news.

This is what real repression looks like. When a causal conversation with a neighbor might get you arrested and disappeared. When the media is so tightly controlled that nothing the State does not want heard is seen on TV. If you looked at Syrian TV right now you would find that there are no scenes of unrest. There is only calm in the streets and the government talking about “isolated criminal gangs” that need to be punished for criminal activity. Not a single mention of using tanks against civilians.

It is great and tragic to see that the Syrian people are really fed up and are not backing down from this bloody oppression. The unrest continues to spread as the Assad regime is to the point of shelling one of their major cities Homs. To give you an idea of how big a deal that is, it is the third largest city in the country and it is home to one of two oil refineries in the entire nation.

All this might make you ask why in the world is the international community sitting on its collective thumbs while more and more people die in Syria at that hands of yet another brutal dictatorial fuckwit? Well, it comes down to religion.

You see the Assad family and their bloody handed cronies are Alawi, and the vast majority of Syria is Sunni. The Iranian government has close ties with them and groups like Hezbollah are headquartered in Syria. This could lead to an incredibly volatile and messy shake out if the Assad family falls with Iran wanting to maintain its influence and the Sunni population wanting a bigger say in things. All of this on a boarder with an important US and Western ally, Israel.

The EU is talking about stricter sanctions against the Assad regime as is the White House. The problem for the US is that we have had sanctions on Syria forever and there is not a lot more we can do to tighten them.

It is good that the EU, who is a much closer trading partner with Syria, is looking to cut off the flow of money, but that is not really going to do a lot for the people who are under the gun, literally, in Homs and Deraa. They will continue to die in large numbers as the shells continue to fall.

There was always a fallacy in the Neo-Cons idea of a wave of democracy sweeping the Middle East. It was that it could be controlled. That when the people their got a little taste of freedom everything would be simple and easy. Even in the mostly peaceful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia there were deaths. To this day they still are not what you would call free and democratic by any sense of the words, yet these are the best examples we have. Syria and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are what these things look like when they go less optimally.

It is unfortunate that we are not paying more attention to Syria. What happens there will set a tone for a long time to come, no matter what the outcome is. If the regime holds on by base brutality and ruthlessness, it will be a lesson for those Arab leaders who are facing the first rumbling of unrest in their own populations. They will strike and strike hard, convinced that the international community it spread too thin to take them to task for it.

If on the other hand there is some resolution with the Assad family losing power (I don’t rate that very likely right now) then it would show that no matter how brutal you are when the people mobilize sooner rather than later your regime will fall. This could lead to other nations putting in reforms that while painful the elite keep the lid on unrest and bring them closer to a democratic form of government.

For us here in the United States we should always remember and cherish the fact that we are not oppressed. We have problems, we have income inequity, we have a population that is aging and suspicious of expertise. These are all facts and challenges we have to face, but we do have the right to say what we think, to organize for political change and not fear that we will be jailed or tortured just for wanting a voice in the direction of our nation.

The floor is yours.