Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deny, deny, deny -- Syria edition (and why sanctions aren't enough)

This past weekend's massacre in Houla, Syria was so uncommonly cruel in its scope that even Russia and Mainland China, which have been vetoing several resolutions due to their arms sales to Damascus, finally said enough is enough.   At least 108 are dead, and quite a few Western states have suspended ties to the Assad régime -- Canada, for instance, kicked out the Syrian legation to this country today, while Hungary is acting as "protecting power" for Canada in that country, for now anyway (as many of the EU states are also telling Syria to take a hike).

Yet unbelievably, when the Security Council voted unanimously to condemn the events in Houla, the Syrian Ambassador to the UN totally denied that anything happened in Houla and that videotapes that documented the massacre had been faked.    Interesting ... except that in the aftermath it was demonstrated that those who had been murdered had been hit with munitions only available to military and police forces.   Meaning it was a government job, or it had been outsourced to al-Qaeda or another terrorist alliance.

It's not we didn't see it coming.  When the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were assassinated in 1994 at the same time it didn't take a genius to figure out that a major disaster was coming, which is what precisely happened.   After the "Black Hawk Down" incident in Mogadishu, Clinton couldn't even be bothered to send a mere ten Americans to don the blue cap -- and even a token American presence just might, might, have stopped the murder of 800,000.   And the attitude of the Hutu majority -- "What massacre?"

Srebenica.  Just a few months before the Dayton agreement, the town was cleared out of women and children, with "fighting men" told to stay.   It took just a few days to kill 8000.    The UN knew what was going to happen, but thanks to restrictive standing orders could do nothing.   Nothing.   And there were other cities and towns in the three way war where people of Serbian (mostly Orthodox), Croatian (mostly Catholic) and Bosnians (primarily Muslim) were systematically wiped out because of their ethnicity which could often be identified merely by surname.   And amazingly, Milošević denied Serbian troops were doing anything wrong and likewise Franjo Tuđman denied Croatian troops were doing anything wrong (oh yeah, the guy also was a Holocaust "revisionist" -- much to the embarrassment of many of Croatian descent, myself included).

In the above cases, the same "deny" machine quickly kicked in, even with independently verifiable video evidence, followed by retroactive introspection once the worst possible thing happened.   Yeah -- we admit we were wrong after the fact.   Familiar?

I mentioned this a short while ago, but does anyone believe the Civil Rights movement in the States would have been successful were it not for national news coverage?   Even local affiliates of the networks made sure the story got told of police orchestrated massacres, church bombings and lynching -- and the white "Citizens Councils" (read:   the KKK) came up with their own names for the networks:   the Nigger Broadcasting Company, the  Coon Broadcasting System, etc. (you can't make this up) to get the word around "not to trust the networks".    Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power and when you have power there comes a point when you're mad as hell (you know the rest).   What finally turned things around?   The 16th Street Church bombing in September 1963 ... when four young children were murdered simply because of the colour of their skin, that's when the civil rights legislation got traction.

If the world had imposed trade sanctions on the US, you can be damn sure that blacks would have gotten their freedom ten years earlier, maybe more.   There's a reason for that -- sanctions only work against government who honestly believe they are working in the best interests of their citizens, or more correctly their constituency.   A travel and trade embargo would have shut the States down -- especially if tourists boycotted the country in mass numbers.

Simply stated, when the home-bound people get fed up and turn against the powers that be, that's when the government reforms.  You lose your power base, you lose your power.

That's exactly what happened in South Africa.   When the UK (because of a backbench revolt against Thatcher) and the US (thanks to a Congressional override of Reagan's veto) turned the screws on the Pretoria government and the economy went into free fall, the ruling party finally had enough of P.W. "Crocodile" Botha and forced him out.

Unfortunately, however, sanctions do not work against governments who are only in it for themselves and their cronies.   Thirteen years of sanctions didn't force out Saddam Hussein, thirty years haven't twisted Iran's hand one bit -- and what a joke North Korea has been; it managed to detonate at least two bombs with the help of Pakistan (supposedly a Western "ally" that still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist) while still managing to steal food aid and then sell it on the black market; not to mention it can make banknotes of any of the top ten currencies that are obviously counterfeit but can pass for a clean bill and thus undermine the foreign exchange system as well as the trust we have in the "full faith and credit" of our governments.

I'm not the only one who feels things have gone too far.   Sadly, the Syrian government is well stockpiled to keep the civil war going on for months, perhaps years -- even with an ironclad trade embargo and travel ban.  The only plausible solution is outside military intervention and that would mean a limited tactical strike campaign to out (pardon the expression) the Syrian government and finish them off just as NATO did to get rid of Qaddafi in Libya.

Then there are other governments that need to get what they deserve with similar force -- let's see, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, to name just two.

I don't exactly support extrajudicial executions -- the OBL take down last year would have been more meaningful if he had just surrendered without a fight and gone on trial so he could have be held to account.

But sometimes the only way to get rid of a truly evil government is to take it out by force.   I would, of course, prefer a live capture and trial in the Hague, followed by a life sentence at Scheveningen Prison.

But if any of the heads of state or government happened to get killed in the process -- well, I certainly wouldn't miss them and I suspect a lot of others would not either.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the entire article. I was just looking for a blog to state that it is time that our free countries take action on this. I believe that we would have international support on any action regardless of Russia/China not really caring about child torture/human shields.

Are Ottawa/Washington not as sick as I am knowing what is going on there?