Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Con Artists, the Moral High Ground and the Future of Syria!

My friends Scott Lazensky and the Mona Yakoubian of the United States Institute for Peace are currently touring Syria meeting with various Syrian officials and dissidents in an attempt to present some assessment of the situation on the ground at this stage. Their visit, however, has given Syrian officials a golden opportunity to issue one denouncement of American policy after another and, more importantly, to make one ridiculous assertion after another.

The most recent such occurrence took place yesterday when Scott and Mona met with Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the Minister of Expatriate Affairs, one of the most talented and, hence, shameless, spinsters of official propaganda. Not too long ago, and with regard to the Danish Cartoon Affair, the Minister warned against the possibility of having another holocaust take place in Europe, with Muslims as its victims.

This time, however, the Minister waxed even more hypocritical and spoke glowingly of the various reform steps taking place in the country. Reform in Syria, the Minster noted, is based on the particular needs and interests of the Syrian society. And the Syrian authorities are so tuned in to these needs and interests, of course, that they recently demolished an old bazaar in Old Damascus consisting of more than 125 shops, depriving more than 500 families of their main source of income.

True, the shopkeepers did not have the proper licenses for their shops, but then, in a country where government planning has been absent for so many years, people have been forced to make their own rules and arrangements in order to survive and eke out a living. As such, city regulations cannot just be enforced all of a sudden and without any serious attempt at compensating people for their losses. Governments which are truly tuned in to the needs and interests of their own society will not behave in such a manner, methinks.

But then, what am I really talking about? This is the same person that dared criticize the US for Abu Ghraib right at that very moment in time when a number of Kurdish activists were reportedly tortured to death in Syrian prisons as a result of their participation in the riots that took place in Syria’s northernmost city of Qamishly. Oh well…

But what really chafes me about Shabaan and other con artists currently working to polish the image of the regime is that, even when the Assad regime collapses, these people will still be around making all sorts of indignant noises as well as a lot of trouble for those who will be attempting to manage the affairs of the country at the time, trying to fix what these people have so willingly broken. Indeed, Shabaan & Co. will still be holding on to the moral high ground, with a lot of grassroots support to boot.

Why I am sure about this? Because of the historical precedents already set in this regard: regime change usually bring a momentary euphoria followed by much disappointment and, even, mayhem. People are bound to hearken back with some nostalgia to the “good old days” when the previous rulers, who, in effect, ruined it all, managed, nonetheless, and for all their corruption and cruelty, to maintain a certain façade of stability and exude a certain aura of, dare I even say it?, efficiency.

Oh yes, the con artists seem to have it made. And the Assads will still be considered heroes by many people in Syria, even after their downfall, even after their corrupt schemes and their record of oppression and cruelty is exposed for all to see. For some people have a vested interest in remaining blind, and history has a knack for being much kinder than we like to think to dictators, criminals and thieves. So much for saintliness. It is no wonder that most people need to believe in some kind of otherworldly justice.

The only way we can counter such seemingly inevitable development is to plan more carefully and effectively for the day after, something that is easier said than done of course.