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Bashar Assad Painted With A Cruel Brush in the US Media – Who is he anyway?

February 26, 2020

by a Guest Blogger.

Asma and Bashar al Assad in 2012…

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Last night during our KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues (February 25, 2020) a caller made disparaging remarks about Syrian President Bashar al Assad, referring to him as “the dictator Assad” and to his government as “his criminal murderous regime.” Mainstream narrative par excellence – whether he was listening to Fox News or CNN – taking his cues from the Obama or Trump Administrations.

In fact the portrayal of Assad in this manner – along with the calls that he resign in order that peace be achieved – as an essential part of what might be considered “the mainstream narrative – the pretext for the U.S. led and organized proxy war to bring down the Assad government.

Many Americans have taken such a description of Assad as accurate, referred to the Syrian government as “a regime”etc. 

In response both to the program itself and to the caller’s description of “the dictator Assad” and “his criminal murderous regime” an informed friend living in the Mid West wrote a lengthy response. Her thoughts focused around two themes – first on Assad himself – a portrait far different, almost diametrically opposed to the caller’s common-enough harsh description. Just for that, this commentary is worth publishing. But also, she goes on to describe how Syria was not prepared for the kind of proxy-mercenary war – 4th generation hybrid warfare as it is called – that it found itself engaged in from 2011 onward, also accurate. 

Keep in mind that before the U.S. goes to war – whether directly as in the case of Iraq in 2003, through NATO in Libya in 2012 or in Syria using regional proxies giving it the cover of “plausible deniability” of responsibility – regardless – Washington vilifies the leaders of the countries involved – be it Saddam Hussein, Muammar Khadaffi or Bashar al Assad.

The “Hitler analogy” is dragged out to soften public opinion for American war-making. No doubt, had Washington had its way, Bashar al Assad would have met the same fate as Saddam Hussein and Khadaffi.

You’d think the U.S. public would be on to this cynical tactic by now, but no, seems to work like a charm every time

Here is an entirely different view of Assad – one much more honest and closer to the truth about the man. When it comes to Syria, the American public must keep in mind the degree to which the truth has been turned into pulp fiction, starting with the description of the country’s president. 

Finding these remarks well written and well thought out – I am publishing them as “a guest blog entry.

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Very informative, authoritative, and educational (the KGNU Middle East Dialogues segment).

It really is one of those eras where your task is educating one mind at a time. I realized that after listening to the first caller, who perfectly parroted the “Washington Consensus” propaganda about the ‘evil, brutal Syria dictator, bla, bla, bla.’ At first I thought the caller was doing a parody, but towards the end of his call, I changed my mind – he was serious!

President al-Assad, who is indeed a great leader and very much a man of the people, has, because of his steadfastness and commitment to his people, acquired great charisma, prestige, and hard-earned respect among his own citizens and in the Arab and Muslim world for standing up to the US, himself has said in many interviews with foreign press and international visits that his power depends on the people of Syria and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). He has bluntly said that if the people and the Army didn’t want him as president, he would have left, or been ousted long ago.

President al-Assad, who is indeed a great leader and very much a man of the people, has, because of his steadfastness and commitment to his people, acquired great charisma, prestige, and hard-earned respect among his own citizens and in the Arab and Muslim world for standing up to the US, himself has said in many interviews with foreign press and international visits that his power depends on the people of Syria and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). He has bluntly said that if the people and the Army didn’t want him as president, he would have left, or been ousted long ago.

President al-Assad and his wife are so confident of where they stand with the Syrians, that they freely travel anywhere in Syria on planned and unplanned trips and visits with very little in the way of presidential security and pomp. He drives himself and his family in a common, unarmed family vehicle, and there might be one or two cars, again, regular unmarked cars, transporting his security personnel. Assad routinely walks and drives around Damascus visiting markets, shops and businesses. He often makes trips to the front lines to meet with combat commanders and take meals with the troops down in the dirt and trenches, particularly on Muslim holy days.

Syrian civilians have made great contributions to the war effort, particularly when times were so very lean and dismal for the Army, and mismatched and patched uniforms were the norm. Local people and restaurants cooked the meals and provided food for the soldiers gratis where ever they went. Private trucking operations contracted (and just as often volunteered services asking only for precious fuel costs) with the army to haul tanks and armored vehicles back and forth across the country. I remember the miles and miles long convoys of rag-tag battalions of soldiers on the road traveling from one theater to another riding in privately owned pickups and passenger cars, buses and army trucks, with dozens of civilian long-haul truckers carrying the tanks and armored vehicles on open bed trailers.

Syrian Army Prepared for a different kind of warfare

The SAA/NDF (National Defense Force) and all of its allied paramilitaries, including Lebanese Hezbollah, and the internal Syrian Palestinian Liwa al-Quds Brigade, as well as the volunteer foreign Shia brigades organized under Soleimani’s Quds Force, is now the most battle-hardened, and professional, army in the world. Damascus was caught on the back foot before Russia and Suleimani came in.

All of the Ministry of Defense’s planning was constructed around expected conventional warfare with Israel, with very little understanding of and preparation for the West’s “4th generation hybrid warfare” and reign of terrorists that was unloaded on Syria. The SAA was completely untrained on how to conduct operations with irregular fighting units and operational warfare on the fly, which was Suleimani’s expertise as commander of the Quds Force.

Russia contributed to the SAA cutting-edge, highly capable special forces trainers and technology, as well as contributing a good number of Russian advisers and trainers to all branches of the SAA and NDF groups who were gradually able to tighten up fighting discipline and organization, and reduce the insane numbers of troop casualties that was decimating the SAA. Now, troops are finally being rotated out of the SAA to go home, some having spent seven years fighting, as new enlistments (the military academies are jam-packed) and conscripts among the young men that have come of age are filling out the ranks again.

Because of the secularization of the SAA, there are no internal divisions along religious lines inside the army. The Christian serves in the same unit alongside Sunni, Shia, Druze and secular, they fight, eat, bleed, and pray together.

Because of the secularization of the SAA, there are no internal divisions along religious lines inside the army. The Christian serves in the same unit alongside Sunni, Shia, Druze and secular, they fight, eat, bleed, and pray together.

Because of conscription, the Syrian people are deeply invested in the Army because these are their conscripted fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, and nephews, and in some cases, their volunteer mothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins fighting and dying to save and defend their country. The vast majority of army personnel are Sunni, because conscription simply follows demographics, the great majority of Syrians are Sunni. If this was actually a religious sectarian war — Sunni v. Shia — as the liars in the District of Criminals have always maintained, the Sunnis would have ousted al-Assad years ago.

Bashar el Assad – not a typical politician

There is something about President al-Assad that I believe many people miss. He is not a typical politician, he is a physician. He was not the designated heir to assume the presidency, his brother, Bassel, was, who was killed in a car accident in 1994. Wikipedia writes:

In 1988, Assad graduated from medical school and began working as an army doctor at the Tishrin Military Hospital on the outskirts of Damascus.[43][44] Four years later, he settled in London to start postgraduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital.[45] He was described as a “geeky I.T. guy” during his time in London.[46] Bashar had few political aspirations,[47] and his father had been grooming Bashar’s older brother Bassel as the future president.[48] However, Bassel died in a car accident in 1994 and Bashar was recalled to the Syrian Army shortly thereafter.

Soon after the death of Bassel, Hafez al-Assad decided to make Bashar the new heir apparent.[49] Over the next six and a half years, until his death in 2000, Hafez prepared Bashar for taking over power. Preparations for a smooth transition were made on three levels. First, support was built up for Bashar in the military and security apparatus. Second, Bashar’s image was established with the public. And lastly, Bashar was familiarised with the mechanisms of running the country.[50]

To establish his credentials in the military, Bashar entered the military academy at Homs in 1994 and was propelled through the ranks to become a colonel of the elite Syrian Republican Guard in January 1999.[43][51][52] To establish a power base for Bashar in the military, old divisional commanders were pushed into retirement, and new, young, Alawite officers with loyalties to him took their place.[53]

In 1998, Bashar took charge of Syria’s Lebanon file, which had since the 1970s been handled by Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who had until then been a potential contender for president.[53] By taking charge of Syrian affairs in Lebanon, Bashar was able to push Khaddam aside and establish his own power base in Lebanon.[54] In the same year, after minor consultation with Lebanese politicians, Bashar installed Emile Lahoud, a loyal ally of his, as the President of Lebanon and pushed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri aside, by not placing his political weight behind his nomination as prime minister.[55] To further weaken the old Syrian order in Lebanon, Bashar replaced the long serving de facto Syrian High Commissioner of Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, with Rustum Ghazaleh.[56]

Parallel to his military career, Bashar was engaged in public affairs. He was granted wide powers and became head of the bureau to receive complaints and appeals of citizens, and led a campaign against corruption. As a result of this campaign, many of Bashar’s potential rivals for president were put on trial for corruption.[43] Bashar also became the President of the Syrian Computer Society and helped to introduce the internet in Syria, which aided his image as a moderniser and reformer.

President al-Assad is first and foremost a physician, and Syria is his patient.

Circumstances put him on the path to the presidency. It was not something he personally chose for himself out of ambition, but responded to as a dutiful son and patriot. Everything that he does is devoted to saving his patient’s life, and making his patient well again. He speaks to the Syrian people, the military, to government officials, the parliament, civil society, to foreign press, to the world with the honesty, earnestness and patient bedside manner of a doctor discussing diagnoses with his patient, and on behalf of his patient.

I have watched President al-Assad and First Lady Asma visit the usually humble homes and villages of wounded veterans (having usually driven himself, wife, and sometimes their children), happily receive the family’s hospitality, and then sit down to talk with the vets, family and friends. Invariably, President al-Assad, not shrinking from a wounded and disabled vet’s injuries in the least, would turn to discussing the vet’s medical concerns, therapy and rehab possibilities for particular injuries, make promises, and given the shortages of everything medical, do everything he could to make good on those promises.

The most heart-warming parts of these visits was President al-Assad’s complete lack of self-consciousness around the sick and injured vets. If a vet was in a wheelchair, and if a gathering was called inside the house to eat, for example, the doctor in President al-Assad took over, and he would expertly and naturally push the wheelchair and continue to chat as they moved. Amputees, paraplegics, and quadriplegics confined to bed for lack of therapeutic and rehab resources, got President al-Assad’s unflinching physician’s visual attention and appraisal of their injuries. Back in his element for a few minutes that he was actually trained in, Dr. al-Assad really shone through.

Then there were the ravaged Christian communities, churches and monasteries thanks to the takfiri al-Qaeda and ISIS. President al-Assad visited many of them after their areas were liberated. As he met with the Christian clergy and people, and went through the vandalized and desecrated holy places, he sized them up not as political points he could score, but as patients he wanted to patch up and cure. He was no different when he visited the mosques and shrines of Sunni, Shi’ites, Druzes damaged and destroyed by the Wahabi terrorists — more disfigurement of his beloved patient, Mother Syria, ravaged by the cancer of Western-backed Zionist-jihadist war on the Syrian people.

President al-Assad congratulates the Syrian people for their patience, steadfastness, and courage, but it is an organic unity and synergy between President, People and Army. If they didn’t have such an “accidental” president as he to inspire and encourage them, Syria would have been dismembered and fed to the wolves years ago.

The physician in Dr. al-Assad, alongside the patriotic native son in President al-Assad wouldn’t let him cut and run under outside pressure, because that would be abandoning his patient when his patient needed him the most.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil Jones permalink
    February 27, 2020 9:40 am

    Other than the Wikipedia entry, this description of Assad sounds like it’s written by his government’s public info department. True, he may not be the devil that your caller described, but I doubt he is the sinless saint that this cheerleader describes. It’s a rough world in the Middle East.

  2. tim mccarthy permalink
    February 28, 2020 3:39 pm

    Thanks Rob for this piece. We don’t get too far away from the CNN descriptions of those we try to overthrow in the popular press

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