The BBC Program Panorama featured an amazing episode on Homs. Sadly, Americans cannot watch it. Those of you outside the US can do so here. Reporter Paul Wood traveled three times to the city without the permission of the Regime. At one point, he had to follow a two-mile-long tunnel with a clearance of less than five feet to cross the front line.
What they reported put the lie to the regime's claims that they are fighting fundamentalist terrorist. In fact, they are using artillery to murder innocent civilians and being opposed by resistance fighters armed only with light weapons.
Assad's government has committed atrocities, including the mass execution of men. "Everywhere we go," Wood reports, "we meet groups of women and children without men." One group reports witnessing a massacre and although they could not independently confirm their claims, they report the posting of a video purportedly from the same area that showed bodies of men and boys.
Internet activist Danny Abdul Dayem told BBC that the media is the only thing that is restraining the regime from simply exterminating the population in Baba Amr, a predominantly Sunni area of the city.
It's easy to do evil, it's hard to get away with it.
When the Arab Spring spread to Syria, Al-Assad had a choice. He could have worked with the opposition. He could have agreed to end his family's four-decade-long hold on Syria. He was the only person who could have peacefully delivered democratic reforms to his country. He could have brought Syria out of the shadow of western dominance that has kept its people living in the black, despotic midnight of the last century. At best, he would have ended up an elder-statesman, living out his life in comfort and in the adoration of a substantial portion of his countrymen. At worst, he would have done the same in luxurious exile in Saudi Arabia or France.
Or, he could start killing people.
In the long run, the result will be the same. Modern information technology has left the state in a much weaker position than it has historically occupied. The truth will, in fact, set you free, which is why repression has always relied upon lies
. The repressive regimes of the middle east have tried to have it both ways: They have tried to enter into the modern information-based economy and still keep their brutal hold on their citizen's private lives. Their efforts have been in vain.
Incapable of simply shutting down the torrent of information that courses through our virtual veins, the regime is limited to the lies told on State TV. Once it was a mighty organ, a lion's roar, commanding the airwaves and dominating the conversation. Now, it is a mouse squeaking in the wind, just another streaming video you have to hunt for online. They are further reduced to using proxies in a pathetic attempt to undermine
Al-Assad and his cronies were too stupid to see the writing on the screen. Somebody should have realized that this is not the world of Hafez the Lion
, where a dozen or so media outlets could be hand-checked and kept at bay. Instead, the flow of information today is a million-headed hydrac armed with a camera-phone, a twitter account and a Facebook page. He need merely look to Egypt
to see what happens to those foolish enough to deal with opposition using the violent techniques of the past.
He could have been Bashir the Beneficent. Instead, he will be forever cursed as Bashir the Butcher.
Now, the die is cast. His story can only end one of two ways: either in the dock, or at the end of a rope.
Take heed, those who would follow him, the world is watching.