Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Heretic in the Wind!

A recent article in the Time paints me as the central figure of some cockamamie covert plot to overthrow the Syrian regime. But, and while I'd really like to see our illustrious regime overthrown and reconciled to the dustbin of history (to borrow a term that is so dear to the hearts of regime spokesmen), news of my involvement in such “sinister” plot come as news to me as well. I was never aware of that fact that I was that creative. I think I should take up writing again, soon.

Meanwhile, I am, at this stage, a member of the board of the Tharwa Foundation USA, which was recently incorporated in Washington to conduct human rights and democracy activities along lines similar to our Tharwa Project in Syria with its focus on diversity issues. Tharwa Foundation USA will be the recipient of funds from a variety of donor organizations in the US, but nothing that directly comes from the US government (where our donors get their money, however, is their problem). Moreover, the Tharwa Foundation will not be carrying out any partisan activities, such as supporting any particular political candidate, party, or movement inside or outside Syria, or anywhere in the region (we have representatives in Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Morocco and the Gulf).

Besides, parliamentary elections in Syria are too farcical and tightly controlled to become the center of any meaningful opposition work or action. For them to be put at the center of a plot to overthrow the Syrian regime is ludicrous. If there is someone who thinks along these lines in the administration, then heaven help us.

My affiliation with the National Salvation Front has nothing to do with Tharwa, especially the branch in Syria, where the Tharwa team has always been critical of this recent aspect of my activism, albeit they accept my freedom to make my choices in these matters just as I accept theirs.

Indeed, Tharwa came to light in Syria in early 2003, following 2 years of preparation. The NSF, on the other hand, was established in Europe in March 2006. Tharwa emerged as a regional civic project that support dissident views, and is often run by dissidents. Still, it has no partisan affiliation with any existing political group inside or outside the country, and does not represent itself as a political operation anywhere. In fact, its members come from a variety of political backgrounds, not to mention ethnic and religious affiliations.

The Time story, therefore, is definitely not well-researched and tends to read too much into too little and stitches together disconnected pieces of a nonexistent puzzle. The current administration has not yet formed a coherent policy vis-à-vis Syria, albeit they are opening up more and more to the Syrian opposition, the NSF in particular. But that only means that we have been talking more often, nothing concrete has so far come out of the talks except for a general agreement that the NSF is an important and credible opposition movement whose views and basic expectations warrant to be factored in whatever policy that the Administration ends up adopting with regard to Syria. NSF members in Europe are conducting similar activities there as well with their local governments. Indeed, the NSF recently opened an office in London.

Still, I don't really mind in principle being the central figure of a rumored covert operation, provided it is substantive and real. This one is just too bloody farcical, and I would like to believe that I am smarter than to be involved in something like this. I was exiled from Syria less than 15 months ago – not enough time in this day and age for one to lose his grip on the realities he left behind.

Everybody in Syria knows of the staged nature of the parliamentary elections there, exposing this fact to an external audience is important, of course, and it should be done, and it will be done I know, with or without overt or covert US support, but the results of this activity will not have a major impact, if any, on the standing of the Assad regime vis-à-vis the Syrian population, who have long grown accustomed to this periodic song-and-dance.

Nevertheless, should the Time story cause someone in Syria to worry, for whatever reason, then, it is good. But if it made them laugh it is even better. For I noticed that the Assads are at their worst when they are confident and joyful, so they might as well dance naked around the campfire, as far as I am concerned (I wouldn't mind doing that myself actually. It's been a while).

As for the opposition, well, we have to admit that we are still relatively weak with limited grassroots appeal. But our weakness is more than compensated by the moronic policies of the Assads, not to mention their avarice, this is indeed what keeps us in the game, and this is the one constant that has been working for us all along, albeit we cannot keep on
counting on it
. Indeed, I believe that the NSF is slowly moving beyond that, which is why it finds itself so much in the news lately. But then, we have legitimate complaints vis-à-vis the Assads regime and our point of view merits an audience and merits support. Ignoring us and legitimizing the tyrannical and corrupt rule of the Assads is not realism, it is downright duplicitous and as equally moronic as the policies adopted by the Assads themselves.

But then, there are indeed plenty of morons all around. Some believe in farcical engagement justified on the basis of real politick, others in no less farcical warfare advocated on the basis of certain undying messianic expectations. Then there are opportunist morons who wouldn't mind scavenging around for a tasty morsel, and idealistic morons who think that they have to find a way to chart a path around all those moronic policies out there in an effort to salvage what can still be salvaged from the impending wreckage by way of mitigating the overall disaster and in the name of some ideal that keeps on militating within their souls.

I like to believe that I belong to that last category of morons. But there are those who will feel more comfortable putting me in the former. Be that as it may, I am only 40 years old, and I am going to be around for a while through the thick and thin of it, and if people can't see things my way today, perhaps, in a few years time, I will have created the sort of reality on the ground that can lend more credibility to what I and my dissident colleagues stand for.

On the other hand, stories like this, coming at a time like this, yearend and all, cannot but make me look back at the last few months of my fledgling political career, and yearn, really yearn, for early retirement. I enjoyed life more when I was just a heretical poet and author waiting for one or two of my misguided colleagues from the Time of Ignorance of yore, who, still high on atavistic religiosity rather than joi de vivre, would come and kill me while I lounged by the Sheraton poolside in Damascus with my equally heretical wife, kids and mother sipping on that odd mixture of lemon and beer that we are all so fond of in the family, and the country.

Oh well, I have to stop daydreaming I guess, there is some covert scheming waiting to be done back in the office.



More on this story with a quote by me here. And this is an article that I recently wrote and which is being widely syndicated in a number of languages.