OK to be Killed by Assad, but not by "the Other"

"Untitled" by Wissam Al Jazairy

I am always leery of wars. Aside from the immorality of war, my training and reading in international politics has shown me the inability to predict its outcome. I am not confident the expected results of a strike against Assad's forces can be accomplished with the great precision of scientifically diagnosing an illness. That said, I have an additional main concern: the emerging anti-war rhetoric among supposedly Arab "progressives." I wish they started their anti-war campaign after Assad started his own war on the Syrian people in response to their initial eight-month peaceful and popular uprising.

I am bewildered and confused by some of the so-called progressives, who were silent after Al Ghouta's chemical massacres, are now championing a chauvinistic anti-war cause. One exceptional progressive wrote on his Facebook that he is against all foreign wars directed at any Arab country, and he listed several countries to bolster his case, including some Gulf states. My question to him is what if another country, say Bahrain hypothetically, started to gas its Shiite population on a grand scale, and France (also hypothetically) goes to war to punish the "aggressor" Bahraini regime, would he still be opposed to an intervention? Should he decide, for the sake of consistency, to oppose French intervention, like he opposes the possible strike against Assad's forces now, his position ends up showing affinity for extreme and narrow nationalistic arguments. In other words, he would be saying "my country is always right," never mind what it does.

Similar positions, which are becoming more vocal as of late, lose their intended patriotic resonance and end up justifying killing; they come to say murder is OK as long as it is within the borders of the "nation," be it the Syrian or the Arab nation. It is acceptable for Syrians to get killed by other Syrians but not by non-Syrians. They say: it is an issue for the "nation" to decide among its constituent elements and the rest of the world should turn a blind eye. In other words, it does not matter if in the end of the conflict, Assad's forces culminate their "victory" in killing one half to a million Syrians by all types of weapons, conventional and non-conventional.

The position of some of these progressives, where nothing justifies a foreign intervention to end the genocide against the Syrian people, is a dangerous one. Though some of these progressives are academics, they seem to have forgotten the "Grand Alliance" in WWII, without which many more millions would have been wasted. Assad is certainly not Hitler, but the images of hundreds of young Syrian children laid out dead and piled up in rows cannot but remind the world of the past horrors from the Holocaust to Rwanda and Bosnia.

I have been noticing a significant trend in the rejectionist-progressive Arab and Lebanese community, where some of its celebrated pundits have been trading off moral standards for political interests. Last June, the town of Abra near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon witnessed clashes between the Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir and the Lebanese Army. After the clashes subsided, a video was released of 10 Lebanese soldiers surrounding a Syrian worker laughing at and mocking him. When their humiliation session of the unarmed worker ended, he was subjected to insults and vicious physical attacks. This incident sparked an important debate among some Lebanese as to whether these soldiers are above or under the law. And to my surprise, those rejectionist-progressives were not only silent over the shameful incident but criticized anyone who dared question the Army.

It is the same attitude toward the Assad massacres: who will dare to question or even punish what Assad does.

Elie Chalala

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