Bashar al-Assad must be one happy camper. After exposing U.S President Obama’s “red line” for the fake threat that it was, his regime won a major victory in Lattakia thanks to the unwarranted slaughter of Alawi civilians by opposition forces as documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW). While Joanna Paraszczuk of EA WorldView is right that “the HRW report illustrates the dangers of conflating the various factions of the insurgency under the heading ‘armed opposition groups,'” which individuals in which brigade under whose command killed which old lady is completely beside the point.
This was a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime against the revolution, and a crime that can only benefit the regime.
This wanton criminality was shorn of strategic value or battlefield necessity.
That jackal Assad is grinning in the faces of the brigade fighters who decided to validate the slanders he used to de-legitimize the revolution from its inception.
Ascertaining who precisely is responsible and which brigades are guilty of participating in these crimes counts for (almost) nothing if no one is going to be held to accountable and pay the price for their misdeeds.
Will any of these brigades be forced to answer for the actions before any of the sharia courts in liberated areas? And even if a local court began investigating and prosecuting brigade members, a judiciary is nothing without “special bodies of armed men” to enforce its rulings. Unless the brigades accused were completely and voluntarily cooperative with such rulings, any move to arrest anyone would risk the kind of fratricidal warfare between brigades and their respective allies that has rocked Azaz lately. There, Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters opened fire inside a hospital when workers refused to hand over someone ISIS accused of being (heads up “anti imperialists”) a foreign spy. According to the hospital’s statement:
ISIS gunmen entered the hospital demanding that the German doctor be handed over, and when the “workers and doctors refused to have him arrested, they opened live fire on the doctors and the people, striking terror in them. So one of the civilian sick came to them and said: ‘How can you open fire on us when we and you are Muslims?’ They said: ‘You are infidel dogs.’ And they fired at his chest, and there were not two meters between the killer and the one slain.”
The real question is to what extent does this massacre (and hostage situation) as well as the contested but growing dominance of ISIS in Azaz and al-Raqqa mark a tipping point, a qualitative shift, in Syria’s democratic revolution? Has it devolved into a Hobbesian struggle between a sectarian revolution and a sectarian counter-revolution?
Without question, these are steps backward away from the revolution’s core values of freedom, dignity, and justice and towards the indiscriminate and merciless terrorism that forms the regime’s core power. One massacre, even as one as horrific and unjustified as this one, does not undo the blood of over 110,000 martyrs just as atrocities committed by Union forces during the U.S. civil war do not invalidate the overall struggle to smash slavery. But one massacre cannot be followed by another, and yet another, in perpetuity without distorting and ultimately undoing the revolution’s noble character by disgracing the memories and legacies of the fallen, of children like Hamza al-Khateeb and young men like Bassel Shehadeh.
You can only sink so low before you lose the moral high ground for good.