21 January 2015

Syria, and the West, again

In August 2012 I wrote about Syria, warning that our rush to support one set of factions against the national government was foolish. I warned that we simply have no way of telling a George Washington from a Timothy McViegh. Both saw themselves as patriots, yet one has a city and state named after him, while the other is reviled.

Well, since then we in the West have managed to help completely destroy another country.

The Syria I knew in the late 1970s was a sectarian, Baathist, totalitarian country. Damascus was a beautiful city, with parks, a river, incredibly blue skies, and the smells of the souk. The Street Called Strait, where Saul/Paul went to have the scales fall from his eyes, was still there, and unlike its name, was narrow and winding. Near the Street Called Strait were the perfumers with their tiny shops filled with bottles of essence.

Damascus claims to be the oldest contiguously populated city on earth. (Damascus - 1978)

The Omayyad Mosque is on of the most beautiful places in the world, and inside the mosque itself is a small shrine reputedly containing the head of John the Baptist (well, one of the places having his head). The mosque is probably one hundred meters long, with the floor covered with overlapping Persian carpets as far as the eyes can see. The room is cool and quiet, with light flowing in from the high windows. Outside in the huge court are the fountains for ritual washing, the sun beating down and off the white marble. Outside a gate in the side of the mosque compound is the small building build against the outer wall; the Tomb of Saladin the Great.

A tomb of global historical significance, and something that ISIS would happily destroy.

Since then, power has passed from father (as both dictator and figurehead of a group of factions) to the son (as both dictator and figurehead of a group of factions). "Democratic" elections have been held, and guess what, the entrenched elite won, and continued to run the country for their benefit.

Kind of reminds me of another country.

Corruption was rife when I was there. Just last month in the US (and this month in the UK), I paid someone a "tip" to do their job, knowing that it would not change the quality of service in any way, it was an expected level of, lets call it what it was, bribe for delivery of a service for which that person was already, in theory, being paid to accomplish.

Which reminded me of Damascus in the late 1970s. To collect something on my behalf from the international post office, I was happy to give someone (whose job it was anyway) some money "to pay his taxi fare" knowing that he would pocket that money, and I would get my package.

Of course people will tell me there is a difference. There isn't.

But that is not the purpose of this post, so my apologies for the distraction.

We, the West, have and are supporting rebels against a legitimate government, recognised by the United Nations (and the US which has/had an embassy in Damascus, along with every major Western country), and have intervened in the internal affairs of a country that we know almost nothing about. Why? Because they are an ally of Iran? Because they were supported by the USSR and then Russia? Because they are not "democratic" in the Amerikan style? Because a weakened Syria delivers greater security to Israel?

Probably for all those reasons.

But we, the West, did not intervene and support terrorists and rebels because they had anything better to offer in Damascus. They don't and didn't. They represent sets of vested economic interests and a desire to appropriate the greater share of the national wealth to themselves and their clans, factions, groups.

Now, with the failed civil war that we enabled, ISIS (or whatever they call themselves these days) are filling a void, and making an even greater void that will take decades to fill. We helped bring this on the Syrian people, and on ourselves. Every time you see pictures of Syrian refugees, be honest with yourself and say - "Yes, I helped do that".

We have been fools, but we will never admit it.

Yes, the Syrian Baathist regime butchered their own people, just like every other regime in the region, and just like so many regimes that the West has and does support. Yes, economic power and national wealth was (and still is) concentrated in the hands of a few, just like it is in the West.

Which I guess brings me full circle. Everything that we saw and wailed about, we can see on the streets of the US, UK, France and so many countries in the West. The causes of the Syrian Civil War are rife in our own countries.

So here is our lesson; when we support terrorists and rebels in countries we know almost nothing about, we should expect it to come home, and for those that support terrorists and rebels in our countries to have an equally distorted view of us, our culture and "freedoms", values and mores.

The one thing that we have in common - masses of economically disenfranchised fighting the entrenched oligarchies. Enjoy the coming revolution.