Houla Massacre: Lie going around the world while truth is still pulling its boots on
Prabir Purkayastha, Newsclick, June 1, 2012
The massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in Houla village in Syria has triggered a media barrage, holding the Assad regime responsible and asking for immediate international action.
It has been followed by 7 countries expelling Syrian diplomats. The question is how credible is the evidence that the Assad regime is indeed responsible for Houla? And in the new massacre in eastern Syria in which 13 people have been shot with their hands tied behind their backs?
Let us not be under any illusions. We are witnessing a civil war in Syria, much of it provoked by outside forces. In this scenario, there are no innocents. While the Assad regime is known to be brutal in its oppression, the record of the opposition is certainly equally bad if not worse. Even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who have otherwise reinforced the dominant narrative on Syria, have been forced to condemn the record of the Syrian opposition. Therefore, anybody who concludes without any evidence that it must be the Assad regime behind the massacre, is playing to the approved script of regime change in Syria.
Let us look at what little we know for sure and not what is being reported from unnamed sources by the western media. The Norwegian Head of UN Military Observers Mission, Maj Gen Robert Mood said, ‘the circumstances that led to these tragic killings are still unclear’. He also commented, ‘Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria... is that I should not jump to conclusions.’
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva that initial investigations suggested that fewer than 20 of the victims in the village of Taldou, near Houla, were killed by artillery or tank fire. "Most of the rest of the victims in Taldou," he added, "were summarily executed in two separate incidents."
Alastair Crooke told RT that that the kind of brutality seen in these executions point strongly to an Al Qaeda like group that was operating in the Anbar province of Iraq and not to the Syrian regime forces. These are the groups who want a foreign military intervention and are deciding the agenda in Syria today.
If the view of the western media, the case is open and shut. The Syrian regime is guilty, no evidence is required. The US and NATO wants a military intervention and regime change and Houla fits perfectly into this picture. In the Security Council, they presented the same case. It faltered only when the Russian envoy insisted in speaking to the Head of UN Military Observers, General Mood directly. It was only then it came out that General Mood was not willing to say that the entire massacre was of Assad regime's doing.
If we look at what the Syrian media is reporting, we of course have a mirror image of the western media. They have interviewed eye witnesses who hold the opposition militias responsible, as the villagers were not co-operating with them, but befriending the regime forces. That a number of Shias are amongst the slain gives some credence to this story.
It does appear that the area around Houla saw military clashes with forces on both sides being present. Syrian regime probably believes that if opposition militias are able to hold territory, it will provide a bridgehead for NATO forces. This is the “human corridor” argument that Syrian opposition in Turkey has been advancing. Denying such a bridgehead means using overwhelming force. This would explain the 20 killed in artillery and tank fire. The rest appear to be the work of militias aligned to the opposition, most probably an Al Qaeda like organisation. The large number of bombings carried out against civilian population in Aleppo and Damascus also shows that such forces have little regard for civilian deaths.
The key issue in Syria for the west is not letting peace succeed in Syria. For them, the Annan Peace Plan should fail, while fixing the responsibility of this failure on the Syrians.
Patrick Seale, a noted expert on Syria writes, “Engineered by Kofi Annan – the UN and Arab League mediator – the ceasefire of 12 April is now in tatters. His peace plan called on both sides to put down their guns as a necessary preliminary to '"Syria-led" political negotiations. But the opposition – of which the most formidable element is the Muslim Brothers – is waging an urban guerrilla war backed by outside powers. This wing of the opposition does not want to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad: it wants to topple him.
The Gulf states have pledged $100m to the opposition, to enable it to pay its fighters and buy arms. The US has no intention of getting involved in a war in Syria itself, but it is said to be co-ordinating the flow of weapons and intelligence to the rebels. Although it says it supports the Annan plan, it is unashamedly undermining it by helping to arm the rebels. This is the central contradiction in US policy.”
Why are the western powers so intent on a regime change in Syria, when it is clear that this can unleash serious sectarian strife in the region and unravel the fragile fabric of social peace in the Levant? Has it learn nothing from Iraq? Or Libya?
The answer is that the US and its NATO allies are well aware of the price that West Asia and even North Africa and South/ South East Asia will pay for this game of regime change. They are willing for others to pay this price, if it means knocking out Syria from Iran's orbit. Without Syria, Hezbollah looses its lifeline and Iran gets even more isolated then it is now. The ultimate target is Iran and Syria is only one element in the larger play of encircling Iran.
The problem of seeing the world in narrow geopolitical terms is that history is not made by drones, arms and fire power alone. History is finally made by real live people on the ground. The US, it appears, has learnt nothing from this history. Iraq and Afghanistan have shown the limits of military power. It can defeat the enemy but cannot hold ground. In Libya earlier and now in Syria, the US is in alliance with Al Qaeda like forces, while claiming at home about its fight against “Terror”. A complicit media and a domestic population scared of the shadow of Trade Towers has made it easy to sell whatever new story that the US wants. And in this game, there is little to choose between an intelligent , imperial, Obama or a stupid neo-con, imperial Bush. Presidents may change, imperium remains.
There is an old saying that a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on. In Syria, increasingly, truth is a casualty. Houla is one more example of needing to be sceptical of what is being dished out as truth, whichever be the side.