Of her visit to Syria and her three-hour meeting with the Syrian President, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had this to say:
“We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.”
Friendship? Hope? For whom exactly? My dissident colleagues, that is, the few who were granted an audience with her Congressional Highness, felt completely snubbed by her, their entire encounter did not last but for a few icy minutes, I am told. Mrs. Pelosi’s friendship and hope seem reserved to the corrupt and oppressive bunch responsible for letting jihadi elements cross freely into Iraq, except, that is, when they need a headline in the proliferating journals out there willing to celebrate their anti-Bush stances, the criminal nature of their various enterprises notwithstanding. The realists are now out full-steam ahead to reestablish old ties with the very despotic regimes that thrive by exporting their problems elsewhere. How very creative. And how very conducive to peace.
Meanwhile, my colleague, Kamal Labwani, is rotting away in a morbid cell in a Syrian prison. His crime: speaking out against the oppression of the realists’ new friends, the Assads:
Kamal, as we are told by his recent visitors, is now
“in a solitary cell. He looked very tired and yellow. He has lost about 10 kg in weight. He cannot eat properly because of the dirty smells that come from the toilet in his cell. The toilet is broken and full of sewage. His clothes are very dirty and he has not been able to wash with soap for fifteen days. They have not allowed him to take a bath. He is wearing a thin and dirty uniform. His skin is red and bleeding. He has scabies and lice. Also the room is cold and no sunlight enters it. We think he has been put in this cell because of his defense statement. The next hearing will be on the 10th April and it will be the final judgment session. The worst signals are that now, before the final session, they have changed all the judges in the case. We think they have changed them because they have prepared the verdict and want the chief justice just to read it. People say that this justice is weaker than the former one… His beard and hair are very long now. They are trying to kill him slowly because they cannot do it fast.”
Oh how quickly people forget in these civilized parts that the prime organizer of 9/11, one Muhammad Atta, was initiated into the path that led him to al-Qaeda circles while carrying out his Islamic studies in Aleppo, Syria, under the auspices of the current regime. No, the Assads may not be directly involved in this, but they are most definitely and directly involved in setting up the “right” environment where such a development can place with their penchant for supporting extremist groups, while cracking down on the voices of reason and moderation.
If attempting to promote democracy through invasion was wrong, and indeed it was, ignoring democracy promotion all together while commiserating with the region’s most unsavory autocrats, in the name of whatever lofty ideals, is even more so. Two wrongs don’t make a right as we all know. Indeed, successful engagement cannot take place in a moral and ethical vacuum. There are so many people these days who claim to be realists, but their actions and stands betray a deeply cynical nature rather than a realist one. Yet cynical leaders have often been as guilty of moral turpitude as messianic ones.
More on Pelosi’s visit in this excellent article by Nadim Khouri and Radwan Ziadeh writing for the Daily Star:
“Journalists and commentators will use a lot of ink debating the merits of Pelosi’s visit. But one thing is clear. She missed an opportunity to send a strong message to the Syrian authorities that Washington’s desire to cooperate with Syria does not mean it will turn a blind eye to Syria’s human rights violations. She also missed the opportunity to send a message to Syrians and other Arabs that the US still values respect for human rights.”