Kucinich soft on Syrian strongman?

For all the endless paranoia about neocon conspiracies to destabilize the Syrian regime (and Arab regimes in general), there are still plenty of politicians in the West who fear instability more than they dislike dictators. Generally, these are the paleocons or "pragmatists" of the Old Right, but this tendency also infects some politicians of the left. NPR noted on June 29 that during a "fact-finding" trip to Syria, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was quoted by Damascus' official news agency SANA saying:

President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this. President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians.

The Buckeye ultra-liberal shot back in press release:

A story written about my remarks by the Syrian Arab News Agency unfortunately mistranslated several of my statements and did not reflect my direct quotes. Arab-speaking friends accompanying me have explained that the problem may have come from a mistranslation as well as the degree of appreciation and affection their state-sponsored media has for President Assad.

We'll give Kucinich the benefit of the doubt on the mistranslation, but we're not sure we can convince ourselves that he was being ironic in his characterization of Syria's media having "appreciation and affection" for the tyrant that controls them. Can we?

Similar disorders can be detected in political circles across the pond. In a comment in The Guardian on July 7, Chris Doyle noted that a representative from the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria was scheduled to address MPs and Lords at a private meeting in the Houses of Parliament. Sounds superficially innocent, or even like evidence of the destabilization conspiracy theory—except that the representative was Ribal al-Assad, the son of Rifaat al-Assad, the incumbent despot's uncle, who was exiled from Syria after he attempted a coup d'etat against the late Hafez al-Assad (his brother and the incumbent's dad). Before his exile, he headed the dictatorship's security services, and was of course implicated in various grisly human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch reported that he was responsible for the massacre of more than 1,000 inmates at the notorious Tadmur prison in 1980. Concludes Doyle:

Ribal's hosts in parliament should ask whether he still works for his father, if he supports his goal of returning to Syria and whether he can prove that none of his activities or his various organisations have been funded by his father. If he cannot, it will be an insult to all those who are bravely laying down their lives in the struggle for freedom if Ribal is entertained in Westminster.

We haven't heard a report as to what went down at Ribal's appearance, and it is notoriously difficult to "prove" a negative. But nonetheless, thanks to Doyle for bringing this telling incident to light. We suspect that Ribal's organization is part of the loyal pseudo-opposition being groomed by Assad. Or maybe it is being groomed by the West as a domesticated opposition to control the political trajectory of the Arab Spring, lest it be left to the unpredictable Arab masses themselves. Or maybe, like Libya's Moussa Koussa, Rifaat al-Assad is being groomed by elements in the West for a police state scenario—to be the proverbial "our son of a bitch" to rule over a post-Bashar Syria. Or is it possible that Ribal and his Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria are really legitimately independent? Could be, but this is definitely one to watch closely.

We recently had to slap Cynthia McKinney for serving as a propaganda shill for Qaddafi. We hope we won't have to do the same to Kucinich and his Westminster counterparts for doing the same for Bashar Assad.

See our last posts on Syria and the Arab Spring.

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Ramadan repression in Syria

The crisis in Syria escalated dramatically this weekend—on the very even of Ramadan—as security forces launched simultaneous offensives against protesters in several cities. Military forces opened fire with tanks and machine guns at several locations around the southern city of Dara, where the uprising first began more than four months ago, and in the eastern city of Dair Alzour. The most intense attacks centered on Hama—the site of a massive 1982 massacre by President Bashar Assad's father. At least 50 of the 70 deaths reported by activists in Hama, and the count was expected to rise. Activists also report that Sunni mosque minarets have been targeted with artillery fire. (LAT, Aug. 1)