Across the Bay

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Assad Slanders Kilo, Flips Off France

In the ongoing French media puke fest with the Syrian murderer in chief, I spotted yesterday this revealing bit in a precis by Alain Gresh from a "rencontre" with the dictator.

The background to this is a report that French FM Bernard Kouchner handed Walid Moallem a list of jailed dissidents France wants to see set free. Assad's response was first to tell Le Figaro that France and Europe's job was not "to give us lessons in morals." He was much more specific with Gresh (and, predictably, not giving anything -- the regime never actually changes its behavior, only credulous and lazy diplomats and think tankers think it does), repeating, but also elaborating on, a standard line he'd been giving on Kilo and the signatories of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration (e.g., to El Pais a while back), which called for a reassessment of Syrian policy towards Lebanon, demarcation of borders (including officially settling the Shebaa Farms issue), diplomatic exchange and respect for the sovereignty, freedom and independence of Lebanon:

Et les prisonniers politiques ? « Des centaines d’entre eux ont été libérés avant et après mon arrivée au pouvoir, poursuit le président. Nous avons plus de mille personnes arrêtées pour terrorisme, vous voulez qu’on les libère ? »

S’engage alors un dialogue autour de Michel Kilo, intellectuel arrêté en mai 2006 et condamné à trois ans de prison pour avoir contribué à « affaiblir le sentiment national ». Il n’a jamais prôné ni utilisé la violence. « Mais, dit le président, il a signé une déclaration commune avec Walid Joumblatt [le leader libanais druze], alors que Joumblatt a appelé ouvertement les Etats-Unis, il y a deux ans, à envahir la Syrie et à se débarrasser du régime. Selon nos lois, il est devenu un ennemi et si on le rencontre, on va en prison. Pour que Michel Kilo soit libéré, il faut une grâce présidentielle que je suis prêt à lui accorder à condition qu’il reconnaisse son erreur. » Ni l’argument que maintenir Kilo en prison nuit à l’image de la Syrie, ni le fait que l’homme est ferme dans ses convictions nationalistes et hostile à la politique américaine, ne réussissent à fléchir le président.

Translation (with my emphasis):

And the political prisoners? "Hundreds of them were set free before and after my arrival to power," the president continued. "We have more than a thousand people arrested for terrorism; do you want us to set them free?"

A dialogue then ensues around Michel Kilo, the intellectual arrested in May 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison for having contributed to "weakening the national spirit." He never advocated or used violence. "However," says the president, "he signed a joint declaration with Walid Jumblat, while Jumblat called openly on the United States, two years ago, to invade Syria and to topple the regime. According to our laws, he [Jumblat] has become an enemy and if we meet with him, we go to jail. For Michel Kilo to be set free, he needs a presidential pardon, which I'm willing to grant him on the condition that he admits his error." Neither the argument that keeping Kilo in jail hurts Syria's image, nor the fact that the man is firm in his nationalist convictions and hostile to American policy succeeded in changing the president's mind.

Then again today in an interview with L'Orient-Le Jour, Assad repeated the same line with even more gusto and his usual contemptuous arrogance:

Q : Pourquoi avez-vous encore des prisonniers politiques dans vos geôles et pourquoi, par exemple, Michel Kilo est-il encore en prison?

R : À ceux qui parlent de prisonniers politiques, je voudrais demander la signification de cette expression. Les terroristes sont-ils des prisonniers politiques? Ceux qui mettent en cause la sécurité de leur pays sont-ils des prisonniers politiques? Nous avons dans nos prisons des terroristes et des gens qui ont menacé la sécurité nationale. Mais nous n’avons pas des gens emprisonnés parce qu’ils se sont opposés à nous. C’est contre la loi et cela n’existe pas dans la réalité. La loi syrienne évoque des cas particuliers. Par exemple, il est interdit de provoquer des conflits confessionnels ou religieux. Il est aussi interdit de collaborer avec une partie étrangère hostile à la Syrie. Certains des prisonniers que vous avez cités ont collaboré avec une partie libanaise qui a ouvertement appelé les États-Unis à envahir la Syrie. Or, cette partie est classée comme hostile à la Syrie, et coopérer avec elle est puni par la loi. Mais nous n’avons pas en Syrie des cas comme celui de l’écrivain Roger Garaudy qui est entré en prison parce qu’il avait contesté l’Holocauste... Il faut cesser de regarder notre situation avec les seuls critères occidentaux. Il faut nous voir à travers notre réalité sociale et nos problèmes. En tout cas, nul n’a relevé le fait que nous avons libéré des milliers de Frères musulmans qui avaient accompli des actes contre la sécurité nationale dans les années 80. On parle de dix prisonniers et on omet les milliers libérés.

Translation (with my emphasis):

To those who talk about political prisoners, I would like to ask the meaning of this term. Are terrorists political prisoners? Are those who threaten the security of their country political prisoners? We have in our prisons terrorists and people who have threatened national security. But, we don't have people who are imprisoned because they are opposed to us. This is against the law and does not exist in reality. The Syrian law evokes special cases. For instance, it is forbidden to provoke confessional or religious conflicts. It is also forbidden to collaborate with a foreign side hostile to Syria. Some of the prisoners that you have cited have collaborated with a Lebanese party who has openly called on the US to invade Syria. However, this party is classified as hostile to Syria and cooperating with it is punishable by law. But we don't have in Syria cases like that of the writer Roger Garaudy who entered prison because he had contested the Holocaust... You should stop looking at our situation with only Western standards. You must look at us through our social reality and our problems. Anyway, nobody has pointed out the fact that we have set free thousands of Muslim Brothers who had committed acts against national security in the 80s. They talk about ten prisoners and omit the thousands set free.

Now, why do I bring this up? On the one hand, this is Assad directly flipping off the French over their demands on human and civic rights in Syria (engage that!). On the other hand, what Assad is saying, when he demands Kilo "admit error," is that he (and everyone else for that matter) must denounce the basic declaration in that document regarding a reassessment of Syria's outlook towards Lebanon. In other words, Assad is saying -- to the French specifically, hence the grotesque, Ahmadinejad-style Garaudy reference (Bashar's anti-Semitism is known and quite pronounced. Oh and note to the thug: Garaudy was never actually sent to jail, it was a suspended sentence; quite unlike all those whom this thug and his father buried in their archipelago of dungeons) -- any notion of a serious Syrian reassessment of its Lebanon policy is just delusional.

Supporting the argument that this is indeed the official talking points memo, is a nauseatingly hysterical article in al-Hayat (English here) the other day by the regime's little poodle, the "historian" Sami Moubayed (aka King of Comedy), which laid forward the basic Syrian outlook towards Lebanon: Anschluss and unapologetic military and security subversion at will.

But there's something else here, something which now confirms what I had written last year, when that other lowly agent of influence, Joshua Landis, slandered Michel Kilo.

At the time, that hackademic threw a sinister mendacious claim that Kilo had met with the Muslim Brotherhood's Ali Bayanouni in Morocco. The regime flack's sleazy attack was the second in a one-two punch by another of the regime's hired pens, and alleged Maher Assad mistress, Maria Maalouf. Like Landis, Maalouf had claimed, in the official Al-Thawra newspaper no less (you catch the drift), that Kilo had met with another enemy of the regime, minister Marwan Hamade (Jumblat's associate), in Cyprus this time, and received money from him to sow mischief and black ops in Syria. When Kilo tried to sue the paper, from his jail, for defamation and libel, his lawsuit was tossed upon direct intervention from Maher Assad's office.

Now, review Bashar's statements. You'll note a dual line of attack that corresponds directly with the Landis-Maalouf slander attack against Kilo, and confirms that they were lowly willful tools in a sinister regime campaign against Kilo. The dual line rests on grouping Kilo with Islamist terrorists and Jumblat.

The line that Kilo was "floating the Islamists" (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) came from one source and one source only: the regime. That was what the regime agent Landis was trying to market in a respectable publication in the US, when Andrew Tabler and Michael Young exposed him for the tool that he is.

Bashar's lie that Kilo had signed a "joint document with Walid Jumblat" (Jumblat had nothing to do with the document, it was signed by Lebanese and Syrian intellectuals) only shows what we already knew, that Maalouf's article in the official rag was part of an official regime attack against Kilo.

This is a good example of how the Syrian official propaganda works, both in Syria and in the West, be it directly by Bashar, or through his lowly tools, like Landis and others.

This also reveals the bubble world reality and worldview of this repugnant "Western-educated" thug, who openly spits at the West in utter contempt at everything it stands for. You can't apply "Western" criteria and categories, like, you know, anti-Semitism or universal human rights or rule of law or proper inter-state relations. Syria, as Jana Hybaskova so well described this psychotic outlook, is "unique":

Syria is different. Syria is unique. As such it quite clearly cannot be a normal, equal member of the international community, and of the community of states in the Middle East. Syria is so different that it can pursue its relations with its neighborhood differently than normal states. It reserves for itself the right to interfere, to collaborate openly with terrorists. With its fragile perception of uniqueness it painted itself into the corner: 'there is no peace without Syria.' The message given was clear: 'you, Europe, you can do anything in the Middle East. You can talk to Lebanon, work on Israeli-Palestinian issue. You can try to stop extremism, support the Arab Initiative. If you do it without accepting unique Syrian conditions, we will destroy any of your efforts. We will not allow you to bring any peace to the region. There is no peace without Syria. Modernity, modern identity can come only in a Syrian way.'

In Bashar's psychotic world, the West can, nay should, give him money, aid, recognition and legitimacy, but just make sure you don't give him "lessons in morals." After all, who the hell do you think you are?

Addendum: To give you another example of how regime talking points emanate from the top and then are distributed to the mouthpieces and flacks, compare Bashar's statement about "Western standards" with this quote in Alan George's Neither Bread nor Freedom:

When it was suggested that Syria's parliamentary democracy is a sham, officials are quick to wrap themselves in the national flag, claiming that their 'democracy' is an authentic product of the country's socio-political conditions and that foreign systems cannot possibly apply. Indeed, they go so far as to suggest that criticism from abroad is tantamount to imperialism. 'It's a different style. You cannot use the same measures,' Ayman 'Abd an-Nur, one of Bashar al-Asad's inner circle of advisers told me. 'This is very important, and this is one of the most important [difficulties] I encountered with Europeans and Americans. They want to measure everything by their standards. We cannot enforce democracy from outside.' (p. 84)

See also the remarks by the Syrian Minister of Culture, who was also recently received in France.

Think about that the next time you read a regime "analyst" this, "expert" that, or "historian" the other.