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Saddam Hussein of Damascus

 Stop the Syrian regime
There are moments when one cannot stand idly by. The world must stop the killing in Syria.

Salman Masalha || 
Saddam Hussein of Damascus

Early on in the so-called Arab Spring, Syrian President Bashar Assad declared at every opportunity that Syria was neither Tunisia nor Egypt. He was right, of course. Not because he believed the Syrian people loved him and would never revolt, as in the other Arab “republics,” but because he and those around him had already planned their murderous response to any sign of rebellion.

Syria is indeed neither Tunisia nor Egypt, but it is an exact replica of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Syrian regime, like Saddam’s in its day, is controlled entirely by the Ba’ath Party, which champions pan-Arabism, resistance and anti-imperialism, but is pervaded by tribal and ethnic sectarianism.

As we know, the slogan of pan-Arabism never succeeded to unite the two states, despite their being led by men with the same ideology, ostensibly. On the contrary, at a certain point the pretense behind the talk of resistance to Western imperialism was revealed in all its nakedness. It happened when Assad’s father joined the “imperialist” coalition of President George H.W. Bush and even sent army units to fight in the war against Saddam and the Iraqi Ba’ath Party.

In its use of chemical weapons against civilians, and in the structure and operation of its government, as well, Syria is a copy of the Iraqi model. Saddam, who eliminated anyone who stood in his way, used the platform of the Ba’ath Party to perpetuate a tribal and sectarian dictatorship (Tikriti and Sunni, respectively). He stopped at nothing to attain this goal.
Syria’s Ba’ath Party has done the same, starting with Hafez Assad and continuing with his son Bashar; the same thinking is behind the tribal impulse that is fast destroying the Arab East.

For two and a half years now the Syrian regime has been slaughtering its rebellious citizens. The crimes being perpetrated in Syria dwarf all previous “nakbas.” After a recent visit to Syria, Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani told the Palestinian news website Dunya al-Watan the civil war has destroyed the Syrian state, saying, “The Syrians’ nakba is worse than the Palestinian nakba of 1948.”

I don’t know what order the West seeks to impose on the region, and it seems to me it does not know itself. Even the leftists here cannot tell their right from their left when it comes to Syria. It is beyond my comprehension how this left can oppose Western intervention in Syria and in the same breath call for the West to intervene to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such positions are devoid of intellectual integrity, but even worse, they harm the social and political agenda the left purports to represent.

Even though Assad came to power in a tribal putsch that was planned, orchestrated and led by his father, many pinned their hopes on him on account of his being a Western-educated physician who even understood the Internet. But he retained none of the good in Western political culture. When he failed to rebel against his father, the handwriting of his, and his regime’s, moral failure was on the wall.

There are moments when one cannot stand idly by. The world must stop the killing in Syria. The tribal-sectarian Ba’ath regime that destroyed Iraq is now destroying Syria. That regime, with its false ideology, as well as the Islamist ideology on the other side, must be cast onto the trash heap of history, and the sooner the better.
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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Sep. 8, 2013

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