Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Syrian Military Moves To Crush Opposition In Hama

History doesn't just repeat itself. It stutters. So it should come as no surprise that Bashar al Assad is following in his father's footsteps in ordering his security forces to bombard and open fire on civilians inside the city of Hama.

Hama was razed nearly 30 years ago by Hafez Assad in order to crush an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, his son is moving in that same direction, this time against peaceful protesters seeking political and social reforms.
The city was under nearly continuous gunfire since the early hours of the morning, said the Syrian activists, who reported many casualties. They said that residents tried to defend the city by setting up barricades, but that they stood little chance against the military’s armored vehicles and tanks.

“The army is now stationed in Assi Square,” read a post on the Syrian Revolution Facebook page. “The heroic youths of Hama are confronting them and banning them from entering neighborhoods.”

The accounts could not be independently confirmed because Syria has not allowed media to enter the country to report.

Water, electricity and communication lines including Internet services have been cut in Hama and its surrounding villages and towns, according to online posts on social networking sites, and there were reports of many casualties.

Shaam, an online video channel that is sympathetic to protesters, posted a video dated Aug. 3 that showed at least one tank attacking a neighborhood that the narrator said was Hayy al-Hader in Hama; heavy plumes of smoke could be seen rising in the sky.

Assad's crackdown is stirring passions once again throughout the Middle East, but regimes are largely silent - many of whom have not been shy about using force to quell protests against their own ongoing brutal regimes.

Thus far, there's been only words of condemnation and the ongoing imposition or strengthening of sanctions from the UN, EU, US, and various countries. There's been no talk of imposing a no-fly zone or other protective measures to prevent the wholesale slaughter of Syrians at the hands of their despotic leader.

One of the things Assad has done is limit his use of airpower to go after the opposition; it was one of the things that brought NATO in to thwart Libya's Khadafi from attacking the opposition/rebel groups there. Assad is sticking to ground assaults and artillery bombardments to eliminate his opposition.

Tom Friedman, who coined the term Hama rules, has issued another editorial today, in which he believes that the residents of Syria have declared their own Hama rules to counter the brutality emanating from Assad's regime.
But, this time, the Syrian people are answering with their own Hama Rules, which are quite remarkable. They say: “We know that every time we walk out the door to protest, you will gun us down, without mercy. But we are not afraid anymore, and we will not be powerless anymore. Now, you leaders will be afraid of us. Those are our Hama Rules.”

This is the struggle today across the Arab world — the new Hama Rules versus the old Hama Rules — “I will make you afraid” versus “We are not afraid anymore.”

Good for the people. It is hard to exaggerate how much these Arab regimes wasted the lives of an entire Arab generation, with their foolish wars with Israel and each other and their fraudulent ideologies that masked their naked power grabs and predatory behavior. Nothing good was possible with these leaders. The big question today, though, is this: Is progress possible without them?

That is, once these regimes are shucked off, can the different Arab communities come together as citizens and write social contracts for how to live together without iron-fisted dictators — can they write a positive set of Hama Rules based not on anyone fearing anyone else, but rather on mutual respect, protection of minority and women’s rights and consensual government?
That's the billion dollar question, and thus far the answer is decidedly mixed. Egypt's new era of governance is off to a shaky start even as Mubarak is in the docket (on a hospital cot). Tunisia is muddling by, Yemen remains racked by conflict, and the Saudis and Bahrainis appear to have bought off the opposition buying them some time. Payoffs aren't a substitute for real change.

Social change is coming, and these regimes are resisting that change and it's a test of wills to see which side will prevail.

The UN Security Council has issued a statement condemning Assad's bloody suppression of protests.
After more than three months of deadlock and silence on the escalating violence in Syria, the council adopted a presidential statement Wednesday afternoon condemning President Bashar Assad's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The trigger for the council to start negotiations on a text was the intense military assault launched by they Syrian government over the weekend that sent troops and tanks into the besieged city of Hama.

Presidential statements require approval from all 15 council members. Lebanon, a neighbor and close ally of Syria, didn't block adoption of the statement, but it invoked a procedure last used 35 years ago and dissociated itself from the text.

The White House also hardened its stance against Assad on Wednesday, saying the United States viewed him as the cause of instability in the country.

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