A performing Seale among the Syrian butchers

Wednesday, 25 July, 2012

“When the matter of human rights is raised with Syrian officials — particularly the jailing under harsh conditions of civil rights activists and political opponents — they point to far greater abuses by the United States and Israel. Western actions, they claim, have damaged the cause of democracy and human rights. Nevertheless, Syria’s record on human rights is improving, says Foreign Minister Muallem. It needs encouragement to improve still further, he adds.”

Who speaks there? And when? And do those “harsh conditions” include torture, rape and murder? OK, enough suspense. It’s Patrick Seale, the hagiographer of the “Butcher of Hama”, Hafez al-Assad, and those offensive comments about the US and Israel were part of a tract titled “Syria’s Peace Offensive” by Patrick Seale, dated 8 November 2006.

By the way, the original Syrian butcher was Abul Abbas al-Saffah (the last designation there meaning “shedder of blood”). In 750 AD, al-Saffah marched into Damascus and overthrew the Umayyad Caliphate. Fretful about a possible Umayyad revival, he invited the remaining family members to dinner and clubbed them to death before the appetizer.

Asad The more recent Syrian butcher was Hafez al-Assad, who massacred 20,000 to 30,000 people in Hama on a single evening in 1982. Hafez intended his oldest son, Bassel — every bit as murderous as his father — as his successor, but Bassel had a wild side and died driving a Maserati at 150 miles an hour. And so the torch was passed to the next-oldest son, Bashar. When blood-soaked old Hafez died in July 2000, Bashar was in London, enrolled in a post-doctoral program at the Western Eye Hospital. Upon his return to the killing fields, he declared himself to be an ophthalmologist, an eye surgeon, a qualification that equipped him, no doubt, to oversee those “harsh conditions” the regime deemed fit for “civil rights activists and political opponents”. Interestingly, the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman Zawaheri, is a pediatrician. The Hippocratic Oath, clearly, does not prevent those who claim to adhere to it from being monsters.
But back to Seale’s piece from 2008: “Expectations are also placed on Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and especially on his Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is well-liked in Damascus, where he has been a frequent visitor. The Syrians also appreciated German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent remark that ‘We can’t deny that Syria is a main player in the region.'” That was very much then. Meanwhile, “Syria’s Peace Offensive” is heading towards Aleppo.

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