Monday, August 27, 2012

The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean. It isn't

"Our own beloved Free Syria Army has actually advertised its own murders on YouTube"

By Robert Fisk

".....kill civilians, thousands of refugees cross the border and CNN reports – as it did on Friday night – that refugees cursed Bashar al-Assad as they fled their homes.

And I cannot forget how Al Jazeera, loathed by Bashar now as it was once hated by Saddam, came back from Basra in 2003 with terrifying footage of dead and wounded Iraqi women and children who had been shredded by British artillery firing at the Iraqi army. And we don't need to mention all those Afghan wedding parties and innocent tribal villages pulverised by US gunfire and jets and drones.

The Syrian military, whether it admits it or not – and I'm not happy with the replies I got from Syrian officers on the subject last week – work with the shabiha (or "village defenders" as one soldier called them), who are a murderous, largely Alawite rabble who have slaughtered hundreds of Sunni civilians. Maybe the International Court in the Hague will one day name Syrian soldiers responsible for such crimes – be sure they won't touch the West's warriors – but it will be impossible for the Syrian army to write the shabiha out of the history of their war against the "terrorists", "armed groups", Free Syria Army and al-Qa'ida.

The attempted disconnect has already begun. Syrian troops are fighting at the request of their people to defend their country. The shabiha have nothing to do with them. And I have to say – and no, yet again, I am not comparing Bashar with Hitler or the Syrian conflict with the Second World War – that the German Wehrmacht tried to play the same narrative game in 1944 and 1945 and, then, in a much bigger way, in post-war Europe. The disciplined lads of the Wehrmacht never indulged in war crimes or genocide against the Jews in Russia, Ukraine or the Baltic states or Poland or Yugoslavia. No, it was those damned SS criminals or the Einsatzgruppen or the Ukrainian militia or the Lithuanian paramilitary police or the proto-Nazi Ustashe who besmirched the good name of Germany. Bulls***, of course, though German historians who set out to prove the criminality of the Wehrmacht still face abuse......"

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