Syrian Security fires on Protesters, Kills 90

You never issue an ultimatum unless you are prepared for war. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad abolished the forty-year-old emergency law on Thursday, and he had dismissed two unpopular governors against whom there had been protests. Then he said that there was no longer any reason for anyone to demonstrate, implying that further demonstrations would be dealt with harshly.

Tens of thousands of Syrians challenged the president on “Great Friday”. In numerous cities, from Homs in the north to Izzra in the south, crowds came out and chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime.”

The regime reciprocated by wanting the fall of the people. In numerous cities, security police opened fire with live ammunition on unarmed civilian crowds, i.e. on non-combatants. Dozens of protesters were shot down dead, and dozens more wounded. Some late reports put the death toll for Friday at 90. It is a startling statistic, and bodes very badly for the regime. Future crowds will demand action against the police who opened fire, and against their bosses in the Baath Party.

One technique of the Arab Spring protesters has been to turn funerals for slain protesters into political events in their own right.

Josh Landis points out the significance of protests in the historic Midan area of Damascus, where nationalist crowds condemned French rule. His readers point out how broad-based the protests now are, with Druze and Imaili towns joining in.

Landis reprints Robert Kaplan’s piece on the possible fragmentation of Syria. Zionists are always hoping for the break-up of Arab countries so as to level the playing field for Israel (Israel’s population is 7.2 million, 20% of them Arabs; Syria’s population is 22 million. But by now country nationalisms are strong in the region and Syria’s minorities are too small and too spread around to make break-up likely.

If the crowds go on growing, in the face of Draconian repression, they could well pull down the one-party state.

Aljazeera English has video

10 Responses

  1. Is the killing of ‘demonstrators’ or non-combatant civilians already a political value? I mean what necessarily is the ‘ACCOMPLISHMENT’ of killing non-violent protesters? Does the killing ‘regime’ actually communicate its ‘want’ of the end of being ‘destabilized’ by the protesters?

    What are these interrelations? And why written as ‘significant’? Through what political relation?

    • Think of it as terrorism – the use of violence against a civilian population in order to coerce that population into or out of political behavior that the perpetrators desire.

  2. OK, then. Here we have an authoritarian state murdering its own people. Its a known refuge of terrorism; many believe or claim it was the hiding place of Sadaam’s WMD. It is a direct enemy of Israel and active in military intervention in Lebanon.

    Where is the demand to intervene in Syria? To overthrow a brutal authoritarian enemy of freedom? To bring stability and democracy to this critical region of the Middle East? Where is it? Why is the Security Council not debating this today in emergency session?

    • Personally, I could not care less if a particular nation was a friend or enemy of Israel, but for sake of the people, I would hope for developments to bring Syria closer to Turkey’s style of government.

    • I know you’re asking these questions because you’re quite certain they are unanswerable debate-winners, but they’re actually rather easily disposed of.

      The UN Security Council isn’t debating about intervention into Syria because the humanitarian situation in Syria, as bad as it is, still doesn’t come within 1000 miles of the horrors awaiting Benghazi and Misurata the day the UN approved force in Libya. Such interventions should be reserved for only the worst cases – and I can’t believe someone making an argument like yours would be unfamiliar with the concept of military force as a last resort.

      Also, the situation in Syria is quite a bit different from that in Libya, in terms of military operations. Libya had clear lines, across which a regular army was engaging in conventional warfare using infantry formations, armored vehicles, artillery, and air strikes. In other words, it was a situation in which the use of military force could be effectively brought to bear against the thugs who were the problem. In Syria, where police are firing on protesters in city and town centers, without any notable use of heavy military equipment, a military intervention would have a great deal of trouble targeting the thugs without also killing the protesters and lots of passersby.

      BTW, be careful what you wish for. Three weeks ago, it was the lack of action in the Ivory Coast that people like you pointed to to “prove” that the supporters of the Libya operation were hypocrites.

    • Probably because there is no geographic context with which to do so. Libya split itself essentially down the middle and clearly demarcated sides so that it was fairly clear what exactly would be done in the way of intervention. Syria has no such demarcation, and intervention would be an absolute cluster#$%@ given that there is no competing governmental institutions and no regional bases for the movement.

      I understand the notion of military intervention on humanitarian principles, but the primary purpose of a military intervention is to bring about better results, not more disastrous ones. Intervening in a country before they reach a stage that is conducive to positive results is foolish.

    • Where is the demand to intervene in Syria?

      “That is why, according to the CIA, a number of regimes deeply hostile to America – North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria – “already have or are developing ballistic missiles” that could threaten U.S allies and forces abroad. And one, North Korea, is on the verge of deploying missiles that can hit the American homeland. Such capabilities pose a grave challenge to the American peace and the military power that preserves that peace. ”

      link to newamericancentury.org

  3. In response to pragmatic realist’s questions.

    A. The situation in Syria has not yet evolved to the level of civil conflict found in Libya in mid-March, when world opinion and the major powers found their will to intervention. Yeah, another two weeks, Syria could get there, but so far it hasn’t happened.

    B. The element of military mutiny and intra-military conflict which appeared in Libya prior to mid-March. Syria still has a functioning military under central regime command. And while I’m not a military analyst and do not play one on TV, I would assume that the Syrian military has always been at least one order of magnitude more formidable than Libya’s.

    C. The state in the locality with the most concern for future Syrian aggression, a state which also has very effective methods of changing opinion in Washington DC, has so far not been vocal on Syrian regime change. Again, I don’t pretend to know their inner debates, but Israel may be having its greatest attack yet of “the devil you know” syndrome at a crucial moment in Arab political evolution; they fear Syria, they hate Syria and all its leaders, yet for reasons of general familiarity, secret contacts and arrangements that may be in place, and general fear of the unknown, they believe that they would be even worse off with a genuinely populist Syrian regime and the attendant chaos, uncertainties, and new internal political dynamics that such a development would entail.

    D. And finally, even American neo-cons may realize we are broke and over-extended? The lack of noise from any and all factions on the American right would have to change before America would take serious action on the Syrian front.

    In conclusion, I am not your typical political realist who takes a sort of “of course your ideals will be crushed, little boy” sort of stance; but it is because I love and honor political ideals that I study the distance between such ideals and actual human realities. In nearly all cases, in all lands and times, that distance is very great.

    Our mission needs to be to create better political ideals, and better political realities, over time and through all channels and means at our disposal, to bring human ideals and realities into closer alignment.

  4. Thanks for reporting this. It is unfortunate that so many still cling to the cliches, self-delusion, bigotry and selective blindness of the neocon narrative. However, it is now collapsing. The Kool Aid isn’t working anymore. That is great, but I dread to think what evil brew they will try to replace it with. God willing they will not be able to come up with anything. The narrative rested on arrogant, condescending bigotry, and the willingness of the populace to be pleasured into imagining they could be the salt of the earth without really trying, thinking, or having any moral courage or vigilance whatsoever. Of course to be so – lazy – and morally blind – and imagine oneself to be superior really depends on others being seen as base savages.
    However the Arab Spring has earned the admiration of the majority who still can recognize the real human courage and dignity of those who stand up to their oppressors.
    The liars and court ‘intellectuals’ now have to deal with the fact that the Western public is not quite as stupid and easily led as they, from their very lofty positions, may care to imagine them to be.

  5. hi juan..i think you’re being too hard on kaplan, whose piece rightly raises the obvious questions of ethnicity and political fragmentation. to be sure, there’s no inevitability that centrifugal forces will pull the country apart. but we’ve just witnessed several years of bloody conflict between ethnic sects in neighboring iraq, where, similarly, one minority group was favored over another.

    however the end game plays out, there’s bound to be lots more bloodshed.

    frankly, the viciousness displayed by the regime and its lackeys – willing to murder civilians – unveils how rancid this regime is. i wish it the worst; they do deserve a future.

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