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- Middle East Political & Social Issues
Syria: Civil War or People's Uprising?
Which country am I talking about?
Its people are rising up to claim their legitimate demands. There is corrupt and violent government in power which is using force to suppress its own people. Many civilians are being murdered in a brutal crackdown by the state. There is an armed insurrection taking place which has the overwhelming support of the people.
And which country am I describing now?
The legitimate government is being attacked by armed terrorists supported and equipped by outside forces. The government remains popular and is defending itself from unwarranted aggression and interference by other nations. The terrorists, who have the explicit support of Al Qaeda, are murdering members of the security forces, using roadside bombs and other means. It is the legitimate right of the government to defend itself.
It depends on your point of view, of course. It depends on where you get your news. In fact I am being deliberately provocative here. In the case of the first description the country I had in mind was Afghanistan. In the case of the second it was Syria.
There is an almost unbelievable amount of hypocrisy in the reporting of the news on this issue. Somehow our media has managed to interpret these two closely parallel situations in two completely different ways.
Prior to the recent vote at the United Nations Security Council, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said: “Wherever tyrants deny the legitimate demands of their own people, we need to work together to send them a clear message: You cannot hold back the future at the point of a gun. We are united, alongside the Arab League, in demanding an end to the bloodshed and a democratic future for Syria. And we are hopeful that the Security Council will express the will of the international community.”
A certain amount of literary interpretation is required here.
None of the states in the Arab League promoting a democratic future for Syria are democracies.
In other words, by “tyrants” she means those tyrants not supported by the United States. Tyrants supported by the United States can expect to slip quietly under the radar and be ignored.
In the case of Saudi Arabia – which is a corrupt nepotistic regime ruled by a single family - force was used to suppress its own uprising. In the case of Bahrain, the Saudi military intervened and many hundreds of people were killed. The Saudi army are still on the streets in Bahrain, and the opposition is still being suppressed by violence. And these are the States promoting democracy in Syria. Thus by “legitimate demands” Clinton means the demands of people in nations to which the United States is opposed, but not those of people in States which serve United States’ interests.
It is also almost certainly true that the US and Israel are arming the opposition. So by “the point of a gun” she means those guns not supplied by the United States or her allies. Likewise by “an end to bloodshed” she means an end to bloodshed in Syria, but not in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen or Palestine; and by “a democratic future for Syria” she means as long as Syria returns a government of which the United States approves.
Of course, as we know, China and Russia vetoed the Arab League resolution, which was presented by our media as an example of their selfishness and intransigence in the face of world opinion.
What is less well known is the reason that Russia and China gave for their veto. In fact they attempted to link the Syrian government’s withdrawal of armed forces with a cessation of violence by the opposition. They were calling for an end to violence on both sides. The report of the Arab League’s mission in Syria makes it clear that of the 5,000 or so estimated deaths in Syria at the time, around 2,000 appeared to be members of the security forces.
In other words, this is a civil war.
If the same criterion was used in Afghanistan, we would be arming the Taliban.