The Assad dynasty grotesquely clings to life |
Arab News - 22 July, 2012
Author: Fawaz Turki
Forget Russia’s and China’s veto of a resolution at the Security Council last Thursday that proposed sanctions on the Syrian regime. These two nations have long since decided, for obvious reasons of realpolitik, to become Bashar Assad’s enablers — effectively “on the wrong side of history.” So why blame the beast of prey for being a beast of prey?
What is significant, for Arabs in general and Syrians in particular, at this point is that the veneer of invincibility that the regime has projected in its relentless attempt to suppress the Syrian people’s uprising is now punctured. The rebels’ bold assault on the inner sanctum of that regime’s leadership last Wednesday, that killed and seriously injured several of Assad’s key security aides, was a potent blow, no less for the demoralizing impact it left on the government than for its lethal consequence.
For here was a rebellion that began as a peaceful protest movement, driven to morph into an armed struggle, that was able to take the battle to the heart of the Assad dynasty’s redoubt of power in Damascus, where it targeted and eliminated the very Cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who were behind coordinating the unspeakable mayhem of the last 17 months. In its fierce, cold elegance, the image comes across as from a morality play, where the victim, hitherto viewed as prey, helpless in the grip of a force mightier than himself, lashes back at his tormentors, his act drawing a moral distinction between violence committed in private hatred and that carried out against tyranny.
If the fighting in Damascus continues, and the rebels hold their own, then the battle for the capital has truly begun and the struggle for Syria is well on its way. We may not be far off, in other words, from seeing the revolution having its day and the regime its eclipse.
For a once poorly organized, lightly armed revolutionary movement to mount such a daring attack in the heartland of a police state must imply not only that its cadre have nerves. It implies that the genie is now out of the bottle and there’s no going back until history has made good the havoc wrought upon the Syrian people. When we get to look back, as we soon shall, on the Assad regime — and let’s get used to the past tense — we will wonder why that regime was able to subject its citizens to the murderousness and caprice of the inhuman for so long. How was it able to get away with it? Is there a lesson here?
We essentially knew from day one, the day Assad’s father grabbed power 42 years ago, that Syria was turned into a police state, ruled by a rigorously sectarian and repressive elite. As in other police states before it, such as Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, the free will of a whole community was mastered and corrupted, and ordinary citizens were socialized, through terror, coercion and violence, to accept orthodoxy, uniformity and submission. And the individual had instilled in him, as if through osmosis, the need to abide by an ethic of fear — fear of originality, fear of innovation, fear of spontaneity, fear of life itself. The seeming stability and outward calm in social life concealed, even glorified, the shallowest and most murderous expressions that any police state would diffuse. It looked as if this would go on forever.
At least the regime’s powerful elite, a tiny fraction of the population, appeared to believe that. And why not? They owned the country. Their word was law. To paraphrase Marquis de Mirabeau’s pithy observation on Prussia, Syria was not a country that had an elite, but an elite that had a country.
Yet, not only history, but human nature as well, has imperatives. A social order like that is not tenable, whether in Syria or Libya, Tunisia or Egypt — or anywhere else for that matter. Thus when the Arab Spring burst on the scene, as it surely had to, its call for revolutionary change hit a chord in the collective consciousness. Whereas to Syrians and other Arabs in the past, contrived conventions of belief were accepted and resigned to, albeit under duress, now in the sharp light of the Arab Awakening, that old order stood condemned. And Syria today is a mere scarecrow with a grotesque semblance of life.
Is Bashar Assad so delusional as to think that he could weather the storm, using helicopter gun ships, tanks and artillery, and return Syria to the status quo ante? Will his army, security forces and Shabiha goons continue to wage war on the Syrian people with that lunatic expectation in mind? Looks like it. With Russia as his enabler, and given his mindset as a dictator, Assad is more than likely to go for bust, one last demonic thrust, a final gasp for air, to save a doomed regime that had dehumanized Syrians during four decades of calculated bestiality.
For Syrians to pay that cost would be a tragic prelude to the foundation of a new society. Yet the struggle for freedom, alas, always comes with a price tag.
— This article is exclusive to Arab News.