The purpose of this article is to answer two very legitimate questions:
1. How can one oppose the the Syrian regime, its leader and its policies without accepting the narrative that such an opposition necessitates an agreement to American and Western ambitions to interfere in internal Syrian affairs either directly or indirectly?
2. Why is it necessary to attribute the blame to the Syrian regime first and foremost before addressing the shortcomings of the opposition, and the war crime and crimes against humanity committed by some elements in it?
The First Question
I had previously argued on my blog that an intervention in Syria is very ill-advised, for it allows a power that has absolutely no interest in advancing human rights and dignity in Syria to enter a land that it has no business being in. I have also argued that despite American denial of any interest to commit ground troops on Syrian soil, intervention is not necessarily restricted to an action of this sort. The Americans have been intervening in Syria ever since this revolution turned into a bloody conflict between the regime and the opposition over two and a half years ago. They have covertly and overtly armed groups with absolutely no attention as to who is actually receiving these weapons. And as we learned later, groups such as the Al-Qaeda affiliated ISIS and others have been on the receiving end of these weapon supplies.
Interestingly, though, those who were opposed to an American intervention in Syria only appeared around August last year. When Obama was considering a limited strike on Syria that would weaken the regime and tip the scale in favor of the opposition forces, self-proclaimed activists emerged out of nowhere in big numbers demanding that the Americans stay out of Syria. The question that was asked around that time was: where were these activists when the Americans were covertly supplying rogue elements with weapons? Why is it that they were only interested in this issue only when direct intervention became closer to becoming a reality? And could it be that their opposition to an intervention is a result of their support for the regime or a blind ideological opposition to anything American, and not a genuine interest in decreasing the death toll within civilian ranks?
In the Syrian case (and probably most cases) binaries must be wholly rejected. One can oppose the regime and oppose disingenuous American plans in Syria at the same time. Both the American military and the Syrian military share one very evident characteristic: they both have the supreme capability to sacrifice innocent civilian lives in order to advance narrowly defined egoistic interests. And in the American case we have seen that in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Laos and many other areas around the world.
So if we know this, if we know that the regime, and most importantly brigades headed and commanded by Maher El-Assad, are capable of causing so much death and carnage; and if we know the American history of military interventions and invasions, why is it that big of a deal when one says that he is opposed to both the regime and the Americans at the same time?
If we are supremely opposed to any tactic that could cause more bloodshed, why does one have to be forced to choose between being supportive of the regime or being supportive of the Americans? This is an unnecessary binary, and I believe that those who demand that we make a choice are either adamantly supportive of American ambitions in the region (right wing maniacs in Washington and the Zionists) or adamantly supportive of the regime (Assadist, Baathists and some leftists in Palestine). Because this binary is unnecessary, and because the only principle that matters is the utmost rejection of death and killing at any cost, then activists should accumulate the courage to make it extremely clear that they are opposed to the Syrian regime and that they support demands to remove it without accepting the American narrative that the only way that this can be done is by using their help.
To Assad we must say “you must go” and to Obama we must say “stay out of Syria.”
The Second Question
To answer this question, I propose a principle that is generally defensible: in the modern form of a nation-state as it is generally defined, the primary responsibility of securing the welfare of its citizens falls upon the government. The government is viewed to be endowed with the responsibility of making sure that citizens are able to live free and prosperous, and that conditions must be maintained towards the attainment of such a state of living. When a government begins to violate the rights and freedoms of its citizens in order to advance the the interests of the few, the government stops being representative of the people and their aspirations, and a point can be reached whereby such a government loses legitimacy in its entirety.
In the case of Syria, the Assad regime has had over four decades in order to create such conditions. It is true that this country has had to sustain the influx of Palestinian refugees in 1948, and had to deal with an aggressive enemy to the South, and had to cope with a ‘post-colonial’ social and economic structure, and had to be one of the many battlegrounds for the proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States. However, despite these conditions and setbacks, the Assad regime made absolutely no effort to demonstrate that they have any intention to enhance the welfare of the Syrian citizens and their Palestinian guests.
Instead the Assad regime began to: actively jail dissidents; impose restrictions upon journalists; prevent the possibility of any economic prosperity; concentrate Syrian wealth in the hands of the few (mainly the Assad and the Makhlouf families; cause the displacement of the Kurds, the Armenians, the Ismailis, the Druze and many other minorities; execute with utter disregard to all moral values the Hama massacre and many other massacres against the Palestinians in Lebanon (Tel EL-Zaater being the most prominent of which); oppress the Lebanese throughout the occupation of their country; and was, arguably, complicit in the continuation of the occupation of the Golan Heights (in fact, history demonstrates that the Assad regime made absolutely no effort to retrieve this occupied piece of Syrian land).
When the protests began in Syria over three years, there was no ISIS, or Jabhat El-Nusra, or FSA or SNC or any other form of organized opposition. There was only a group of enthusiastic Syrian men and women who wanted nothing more than reforms. To their misfortune, they were faced with bloody crackdowns that dragged the country into a bloody civil conflict.
So if the government is the one responsible for the protection of its civilians, and if the government decides that the best policy is to crush any form of opposition mounted by these civilians (before the degeneration into a bloody conflict), why should the blame be assigned to the consequences of government actions, instead of it being assigned to the government? In other words, why should we blame the opposition and bloody elements in ISIS first when these two are a direct and unfortunate result of Syrian government policy? The answer is: we should not.
No argument can be made against holding the opposition groups accountable for what they do. In fact, it is more that necessary to expose all of their shortcomings especially when that amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity (for example, the beheading of armless Alawite civilians are all over the internet). However, we must realize and understand very clearly that if it was not for the regime, and its lack of competence, these elements would not even exist in the first place.