Reactions to “The Imbecile!”

My latest post seems to have hit a rather raw nerve among some of my readers so much so that I think a new post needs to be dedicated to the subject.

Yet indeed, and as Yaman has pointed out, calling Bashar the village idiot is actually not a purely emotional reaction on my part. Rather, it comes as a rational conclusion that I reached on the basis of own observations of Bashar’s behavior and my own contact with him, albeit somewhat limited, when we were at school – I called him an idiot then too and to his face. So, I am merely carrying out a tradition of sorts.

My description of Bashar is also based on my impression of the people around him, I have met many of them through years, especially during that the short period of interrogations that I had to go through in the first part of 2005, and many of them were no less the imbeciles than he is, which makes a lot of things really, considering the dictators’ knack for surrounding themselves with like-minded people – pale images of themselves.

Moreover, this impression of mine is not really so unique, just read what this little summary of official and popular regional reactions to Bashar’s latest gem and you’ll find out (sorry it is in available only in Arabic).

But to satisfy the request made by Engineering Change, let me just summarize here why I think Bashar is indeed an idiot and an imbecile on the basis of the current developments:

  1. * His speech angered so many people in the international community that, instead of benefiting from the dissatisfaction of some Europeans with current US policies in the region and driving a wedge between the two, he turned them against him, including the Germans who were just trying to engage the Assads regime.
  2. ** His speech served to further alienate Syria from Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, while a more rational and calm speech, coupling a more benign criticism of these countries recent attitudes vis-à-vis the Assads (mostly for popular consumption in Syria) with a call for unity and solidarity with a Lebanese and Palestinian people, and for putting past differences aside, would have made it easier for the rulers of these countries to reengage the Assads and to defend them in international circles. Indeed, neither the Saudis, nor the Egyptians nor the Jordanians want to see regime change or instability in Syria, but Bashar keeps on pushing on this direction, hedging his bets completely on his Iranian allies, not to mention Hezbollah and Hamas. Now, pardon me if I think this is dumb. But it is. Now even the official press in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are criticizing Bashar and not always politely.
  3. *** By attacking the March 14 crowd, he is making their argument for them, that the Assads won’t stop interfering in Lebanon. Also, he managed to baffle and upset some of his very supporters in Lebanon, such as Salim al-Hoss and the editor of al-Safir newspaper who contrasted Bashar’s speech with that of Nasrallah, which was more conciliatory in tone from a Lebanese perspective. This constant comparison between Bashar and Nasrallah is really going to hurt him on the long run. Nasrallah is a man of action and he has accomplished some of the things he promised in his speeches. Bashar will be hard pressed to do the same. Failing that, he will look more and more like the charlatan that he truly is. Now, when you put yourself in this position and you invite such a comparison, you simply must be dumb.

Now what did Bashar gain out of all this? The support of the Syrian people? Well, true, the Syrian people in their support of Bashar may not be as fickle as the Iraqis in their support of Saddam, but fickle they are, just as they were in their support of his father all through the 80s. When push comes to shove, and despite the higher proportions of 20-somethigns in the country, Bashar will have little popular support. And guess what? If and when the dreaded push comes to the yearning shove, this will not materialize as a result of any lobbying by the opposition groups, but as a result of the Assads’ own actions. And this is the quintessence of dumb. The Assads are bringing upon themselves and the rest of us, a calamity that even their enemies want them to avoid. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Now, for all those people who were angry with my post, I say “damn it, it’s about time!” Where the hell were you guys? I have been lambasting this idiot for quite a while now, and it’s about time that someone got unnerved by that. After all, he must have some supporters somewhere who would be interested in defending his illusory and elusive honor.

Teasing aside though, let me be clear here: I want you, whoever you are and regardless of the nature of your loyalties, your ethnic affiliations, your professional backgrounds, your age and your gender, I want you to be angry. It does not matter in the least to me if your anger is aimed at me at this stage. After all, I am not running for president. So, think me the Anti-Christ, if you will, what possible difference will it make to me?

My relevance, as a heretic, is not premised on popular support, but on popular resentment, and my message has never been intended to be popular, but to unite a certain like-minded few who, like me, are willing to push the envelope, people who are willing to allow me to do things my way, while they do things their way, but where the basic message remains the same: the need for challenging the status quo, for breaking the stalemate, for focusing on our real problems and on developmental issues.

Already one of you accused me of “racism,” because he could detect in my discourse, a rather dismissive urban attitude vis-à-vis the Assads, who, as we all know, come from a rural background. Wonderful! There is indeed much truth here, if not about me, then about how many people in Syria, in the major urban centers in particular, feel indeed about the Assads and their supporters.

We have a major problem in Syria related to our diversity, whether defined along ethnic lines, provincial lines, religious lines, class lines, educational lines and/or professional lines. These are serious issues. We all suffer from major prejudices emanating from our particular backgrounds, and he who will claim to be completely innocent and free of that is a liar. Many of us do try to be above these matters, and we, sometimes, think that we have succeeded, but then, something happens, a little personal incident, or some major national one, and we find out that we have much to learn yet.

Prejudices like ours are so deeply rooted in our daily life and culture that they cannot be neutralized so easily. Just ask White, Black, Hispanic and Asian America, among the many other Americas out here, about this. The Americans have developed quite the extensive literature on this matter. But the only thing we seem to have developed in this regard is a culture of silence, denial and inaction, where all problems continue to fester until they blow up one sure and dismal day in our faces.

So, my question to my accuser is: do you really think you are innocent of the crime of which you accuse me?

20 thoughts on “Reactions to “The Imbecile!”

  1. wow, you really have something up your ass today,,,don’t you!…..i will have to give your words more thought before giving an angry reply….. to be continued….

  2. It seems to me that your language has some sort of racism despite your methodical analyses. Yet, I would not blame you, for that’s the case of many Syrians who might drive the country in bloody turmoil if the change is to come.Anyway, your analyses, I believe, lacks several true fundamental points. That is, the role of Israel, America, and the whole situation that encouraged Bashar to take this position. Another, even more important point, is that you totally ignored the fact that the Doctor’s popularity has significantly risen among angry Arab mobs in the last 33 days–again thanks to Israel & America. This, however, was not to happen had the American and their fellows Israeli not undertaken this sordid horrible war. He has been portrayed as a hero; this is true especially if you are observing meticulously. Hence, Fredo Corleone is no longer Fredo, he’s become Sonny Corleone in the eyes of many. One last thing, what do you know about America re-engaging Syria in the political diplomatic equation? What would be the consequences? Thanks Ali

  3. Zenobia,Actually, I was very clam when I wrote this. Ali, Superpowers and their satellites are not designed to be nice, and they will run roughshod over small states whenever they have to in pursuit of their interests. That challenge that we face today is to know how to take our small state out of harms way. We had plenty of opportunity to do this over the last 6 years. We have every right to hate so many aspects of this emerging world order, but direct confrontations when we are so weak, backward and disunited are not exactly the best way for expressing our discontent. Good leaders know how to find other alternatives, and bide their time until conditions improve. Picking fights with all the powers-that-be in this world and allying yourself with the has-beens of the world, is not exactly the wisest thing to do. When you are responsible for the well-being of over 20 million people, you cannot afford to apply the same perspective that you have vis-à-vis the family business. The Assads need to stop being Corleones and be real leaders. But they cannot, can they? As for whether the US will engage Syria, I believe the whole issue is now moot. I don’t think there is anyone in the current administration that will contemplate such a step.

  4. Let the man speak his mind and express his thoughts without lampooning him. You can either dismiss his post as the type of rant we all occasionally engage in and go visit other blogs or take the trouble to relate it to his previous writings and find meaning and truth in his words. If you can’t find anything that you agree with, then express an alternative view. There is certainly no need to be so confrontational and hurtful in your comments. Make yourself a nice warm cup of babounej or malliseh and relax before you sit down and start writing.

  5. Mr.Ammar,once again you prove that you’re such a clever, educated, and staid person. You said what had always been in my mind and my heart. I’m a Syrian citizen, and I’m urban, I don’t hate rustics, but I hate that they took our place, and they treat us as 2nd degree citizens. I have the right to manage the problems of my city, and I have the right to raise my country up, at least I have the right to try, and let it be a free country.Everyone should understand that Syria is for all Syrians, not for one sect or one party.Thaks again Mr.Ammar, wish you the best.

  6. Ammar, as always, thank you for your brave posts. It’s easy and simplistic for people to manipulate the current situation in Lebanon and use it to justify Bashar’s leadership. That sort of response really is for the simple-minded. Unfortunately, Syria’s leadership has for decades ensured such simple-mindedness in its population. We witness this sad reality in some of the comments left on your post.In any case, I left DC yesterday and unfortunately did not get a chance to meet you and your lovely family, although it would have been our pleasure. Perhaps another time. I still think you should consider relocating your project to the Gulf region, and as I said, possibly Qatar, which is the home of Qatar Foundation. It’s worth checking out.Keep up the good work.

  7. “thanks to Israel & America. “___Israel made it very clear during the curent war that there was no intention to attack Syria. Are you objecting to their attempts to defend themselves against a barrage of thousands of rockets? Anti-Semitism seems to be taken as a virtue in some quarters.

  8. To accept or rather justify support for what we know is wrong on the basis that there are no alternatives is initself a strong indictment of the society that accepts such a mind set.As for those that wish to claim that Bashar was right on Iraq and Hamas, which I do not believe to be the case, are these two positions sufficient to justify a ruthless dictatorship? Can an undemocratic regime ever redeem itself by supporting a seemingly popular position? Of course not.Stalin will be a ruthless dictator irrespective of whether he stood with some popular nationlist movements and no “correct” positions can ever make the madness of Hitler acceptable.Bashar is not only a “village idiot” but he is ” authoritarian, undemocratic abrutal village idiot”

  9. First of all I want to say that we’ve been sold out, just like the Golan Heights were sold before us.Second of all, it’s rather strange to support Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the notorious Muslim Brotherhoos, yet masacre the Brothers in your country on “religious unacceptance” motives (although most of their victims were actually secular Damascene intelectuals).Third of all, God forsake!

  10. Let me ask a question here. There are lots of references about America needing to engage Syria and Israel should give back the Golan and Syria should not be isolated.Question…what is Syria doing to make America or Israel feel they could/should do this? Is it give Syria what they want and THEN Bashar will be nice? I don’t think that will work. But I would be interested in folks opinions. Personally, I think the Syrian government has proven itself to not be worth of trust, both inside and outside of Syria. If they truly want out of isolation and being villified…want do THEY maybe need to start doing?

  11. I don’t know what went screwy with the blog…but my post got attributed to Anonymous…it was me Howie that is asking the questions about what Syria needs to do to gain some confidence from Israel and USA before those two countries consider engagement and Golan and such.

  12. Ammar great post once again and you have my total support. As for the angry people they are more angry with themselves rather than the ugly realities…Basically Syria can not last with this regime mentalitly…not only they are losing their international and arab support but they are approaching the state of being uncontrollable (a role that they played so well from 67 till 2003) and that will be reason enough for the west to topple them.Iran will do nothing and they are totally unreliable like I explained in one of my posts in the past.

  13. I would appreciate your reader’s take on what has gone on in the Golan Heights since Israel invaded and controlled this territory. Have the Israeli’s launched missle attacks into Syria? Have they used this territory to launch invasions into Syria? Who lives in the Golan today? Have the Israeli’s built settlements or, is the Syrian population still living there? What is the main export from the Golan? Has commerce been impeeded by the Israeli occupation? What are the schools like and the gov’t?Are there hospitals and other such support services? If so, who funds these?I do not want to stir up a hornet’s nest but, I would really like some info on the current situation in the Golan. Are the people of the Golan worse off, if so in what way, or better off?

  14. Hey Amar,I might not agree with everything you said but certainly I can understand your pain very well. The ethnic, provincial, religious discrimination which Syrian government structured on, and especially rustic’ people from some provinces and their symbols of military boots have been stepping on Syrian people heads for long long time, brings upon us worse kind of discrimination and shame. Let is say it loud and clear, I do not want anyone to speak in my name, even he is saying the truth, while he is deprive me from my freedom. I was watching an episode about Einstein life last night and the thought jumped to me that if this guy or any intelligent guy born in Syrian he would have spent his life in prison. Any person has a free voice or a self-respected brain has no place there but prison. So, yes please speak out we should not stay one-sided brain people take orders, others spoke in our names, stepped on in our own land by our own people and have no right to express our opinion. I wish I could read one opposing opinion written in Syrian newspaper or magazine coming from there, and the stupid is slashing other Arab Countries like Egypt where at least they have free press. Not only that, but when Bashar sees different opinions coming out of Lebanon he dose not criticizes it but he attacks it.

  15. Trustquest-I get a lot of criticism from many people for stating that I don’t think Israel would have much luck making peace with Syria…mainly because they cannot trust Assad and those like him. People say things should start with Israel returning the Golan. Why? If the Assads abuse their own people, and their own people do not trust them, how can Israel take such enormous risks with a guy like that? It makes NO sense.Regime and behavior change in Syria? Sure…everything is open for discussion…won’t be easy…many years of enormous distrust, even hatred…but right now there is no place to start. I think your words are couregeous and have the fresh aroma of truth.Change begins with introspection, self-criticism and listening.

  16. Doesn’t anyone know what is going on in the Golan? Or, is it just another political bargaining tool.???Dear God, this all makes me so sad…

  17. Ammar, Most probably you read or at least look at AnNahar and so you might have already seen Suhr Bahasiri’s column for today (Friday) about Bashar . If you haven’t seen it, take a look. It is interesting to say the least.

  18. Indeed, Ghassan, Sahar’s analysis is pretty good. Thanks to the Assads, Syria is now ruled from Tehran.

  19. To me it appears the desire for change dances in the dark with fear of change.While there are techniques for managing change, they are only useful in controlled circumstances such as inside corporations, to my knowledge. With all the explosive emotion and intrigue, the changes to come regarding Syria are not likely to be manageable.Some say, as though it was their choice to make, keep Bashar, at least he’s known and predictable. That doesn’t solve the problem for your children and Bashar’s kid, who may be even dumber. And how predictable is he as a fellow-traveler with the Iranians, whose questionable future forks before us? But the change might be for the worse, a voice says. Maybe so. But it’s going to change anyway. If you don’t change it, someone else will.Mature people who achieve some reasonable security and comfort fear change, while young men blow things up in other countries. Call it exporting passion. It has seemed cheaper to your manipulative rulers to export the passion, at your expense. If it goes on, the rate of change will increase, and the types of change will become even less pleasant. Not a good recipe for controlled change.Someone asked about predicting consequences. People predict all the time, mostly they’re wrong. Nobody has come up with a good crystal ball yet. That’s part of why so many people can point their fingers at other people’s mistakes.Of course, I’m just a crazy American. From my perspective, you have never had any control, and you have little to lose. Your comment about superpowers is very realistic. I can understand fearing things might get worse, but from here it looks as though in the range of probabilities, few are worse, and most are better. But the future is coming either way, and if the comfortable and secure are already at risk to lose everything, what will they have to show for it, after it’s gone?

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