Monday, September 16, 2013

Sick joke

There is a piece of political humour floating around the Internet. I have been sent it several times. It isn't funny. I find it revolting.
"Syrian President Assad crossed a red line. He used chemical weapons. Using harmful chemicals to hurt your own people – who does he think he is, Monsanto?"
Bill Maher
I know that it was intended to attack Monsanto rather than comment on Syria, but despite being a neat line, it is as contemptible as it is glib. Why?

Let's unpack this. "Harmful chemicals"; "hurt your own people"? Chemical weapons aren't "harmful chemicals"; they don't "hurt". They are indiscriminate weapons designed to deliver an agonising death to as many people as possible. They were deliberately used in the most recent case to empty a strategic suburb, which the army had been unable to control, by killing the people who lived there. They had been used in violation of international law specifically to challenge that red line and to terrorise a population by showing that the thugs who run the regime have no limits to their barbarity. It was an act that said, 'cross us and we will kill everyone. No one will help you.'

You can't make a joke about this level of horror. Whatever you think of the controversial claims about Monsanto, if you read the harrowing accounts of the sadistic brutality of the Syrian government it is impossible to associate the two without belittling grotesque crimes against humanity. The bare facts are easily available and are deeply shocking. This is from an impassioned plea by Yassin al-Haj Saleh in the New York Times.
While the world has dithered, Syrians have experienced unprecedented violence. Around 5,000 Syrians were killed in 2011. About the same number are now being killed each month. The regime has targeted lines outside bakeries; it has used Russian cruise missiles to bomb densely populated areas; and local activists say they have documented 31 occasions when it has used chemical weapons (United States officials have confirmed only some of these attacks).
Countless Syrians, among them women and children, have been subjected to arbitrary detention, rape and torture. A staggering seven million people — one-third of Syria’s population — are now displaced, either internally or externally. 
The personal experiences are even more revealing than the figures. I recommend people explore this resource to access Syrian writing on the catastrophe to understand the sheer scale of the grief and anger.

But this 'joke' is also very interesting. It is deeply revealing about the juvenile, narcissistic and self-centred liberal mind-set as it confronts the worst humanitarian crisis of this century. It says, 'we are the real victims, corporations are the real enemy, ours is the real struggle'. And it is this attitude that underpins one of the great foreign policy failings of our time, the decision to postpone action to pursue chemical weapons control in isolation, whilst blustering about futile attempts at a negotiated settlement that does not challenge the legitimacy of a criminal regime. In the meantime, Russian arms flood in and Assad is left free to escalate the slaughter. A device has been found to make dithering sound worthy.

And, of course, we have the Stop the War crowd trying to prevent any Western action to bring an end to the systematic murder. Again, they are self-centred – 'our wars are worse than yours'. I actually agree that we should stop the war, albeit a different one. Here is Yassin al-Haj Saleh again:
We Syrians are human beings of this world, and the world must stop the Assad regime from killing us. Now.


kellie said...

I've heard that revolting comparison before regarding an earlier mass-murder.

The Plump said...

Your example is even more ludicrous Kellie. I like the fact that they blamed their food poisoning on pollution, rather than the more likely fact that they bought stale fish. Ye gods!

kellie said...

The pollution comment was mine, actually, though I think it's more I have a sensitivity to the guts of that particular variety of fish - no-one else was affected - I don't know the name of it, but when I ate similar fish later in Greece I stayed away from the entrails and was fine.

The post is written in a slightly odd way because of my relationship to all involved.

kellie said...

Avoiding the guts is also what I also have to do in many of those conversations - though I don't always.

The Plump said...

The pollution comment was mine, actually

Oops! Sorry. Eating the guts does not sound nice, unless they are whitebait. Anything bigger gets cleaned.

If you buy fish in Greece it is always fresh. The Greeks are very particular about this. Some restaurants may cheat and serve three-day-old fish or stuff that has been in the freezer (though they are supposed to indicate on the menu whether it has been frozen or not). In any decent place it will have been bought from the boats or the market the same day.

Back here I am missing the vans of the fish sellers as they cruise the villages.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Bill Maher - a little poisonous troll. Sensitivity (and sensibility) never were in the list of his traits.

And his political leanings are clear, too.

Bob-B said...

The Stop the War crowd's line is essentially

Don't attack Syria.
Leave it to Assad.

But they keep quiet about the second part.

Rebecca said...

Agreed, Bob. We had an "antiwar" rally here in Ithaca (New York, not Greece) earlier this week, against US involvement in Syria. One person said: "My view is that the evidence against the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime is circumstantial. Even if he did it, there's no precedent for enforcing this norm."

So apparently it's okay for governments to murder their own citizens with poison gas since there's "no precedent for enforcing this norm." The people who attended this rally, some of whom I know, would certainly be up in arms if the US government used poison gas against anyone. But somehow, if Syria or another country uses the same evil weapon, they just don't give a shit.

Rebecca said...

I was just reminded of another frustrating feature of our so-called anti-war rally - the slogan was "no war in Syria." As if! There's already a war in Syria that's killed over 100,000 people. But I guess it's only really a war if American troops are involved.