Lessons for the Middle East from MLK

16 01 2012

On this Martin Luther King holiday, it is all the more fitting to shake our collective fingers at violent dictators like Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and remind them that, as MLK put it so eloquently, “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Truth and justice do not hide behind guns, bombs, and torture devices.  And, history has shown that the former carry moral legitimacy that far outweighs the morally bankrupt expediency of violence and brutality.  The former also is more powerful in disarming the bully than the latter will ever be in oppressing the innocents.

Fear is never the best weapon.  It’s a temporary emotion, and tyrants will only have temporary effectiveness.  Noncooperation, noncompliance, and disobedience will always be stronger than tyranny, especially when they are infused with an infectious stubbornness that will not die.   This is Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, and also MLK’s.

Today Al Jazeera is reporting that Imad Ghalioun, a member of the Syrian parliament, has defected and joined the opposition.  According to Al Jazeera –

“Imad Ghalioun, who represented the central city of Homs, told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV on Sunday night that the city is “disaster stricken” and has been subjected to sweeping human rights violations. Ghalioun said he was able to leave Syria before a travel ban was imposed on officials.

He said there are many legislators who support the uprising but have not said so publicly.”

It’s just a matter of time, for fear is temporary.  Stay stubborn in the path of truth and justice.  I leave you with a quote by MLK:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.





The Qaddafi Template in Syria

13 01 2012

In his latest public speech, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad sounded a lot more like the late Colonel Qaddafi, who threatened to crush his opponents mercilessly.  Where Qaddafi threatened to go door-to-door, house-to-house, and alley-to-alley – and made good on his threats – Assad is now saying he will crush his opponents with an “iron hand.”  Assad started off in the early stages of the Syrian uprising sounding very delusional and detached from the reality on the ground, to the point of making ridiculous claims in his interview with Barbara Walters a few weeks ago.  He attempted to dissociate his presidency from the authority and responsibility of giving orders to, and controlling, the state security forces.  But, he fooled no one.

However, Assad’s latest 110-minute speech in Damascus manifests a shift in his rhetoric towards an even more threatening stance, which by the way contradicts what he said in the Walters interview, and now puts him in a similar light as Qaddafi.  Whereas Qaddafi referred to the opposition as “rats, cockroaches, and Al Qaeda terrorists on drugs,” Assad labeled his opposition as “terrorists, murderers, criminals.”

The critical question for the international community is whether or not the “R2P” (Responsibility to Protect civilians) UN mandate applies to the Syrian case.  With 5,000+ casualties (mostly civilians), the protesters in Syria have been pleading with the international community to apply the R2P mandate and protect them from Assad’s ruthless crackdown.

But, Syria is not Libya, and even in Libya, with its much smaller size and less formidable military compared to Syria, it took NATO and the rebels several long months to achieve their missions, and for the regime to fall.  Syria is a different nut to crack.  You can compare the military strength between Syria and Libya at Global Firepower:  http://www.globalfirepower.com/.  Plus, one must consider Syria’s powerful allies, Iran and Russia, as a January 10th article in the Globe and Mail describes:

“The Syrian President still has powerful allies like Russia, five of whose naval vessels docked on the weekend at the Syrian port of Tartous, where the Russians maintain a base.”

Nonetheless, Assad clearly is not applying lessons learned from the 2011 Arab uprisings and revolts.  Perhaps denial and delusions of grandeur and invincibility are in the DNA of dictators.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.