By Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Translated by Abdul-Wahab Kayyali [Original Text in Arabic]
On the third anniversary of the chemical massacre in Syria, this article discusses the criminals of the chemical attack, the criminals of the chemical deal, the close proximity between both criminals, and the Syrian state of today’s world.
Only two weeks after the horrific chemical massacre on the dawn of August 21, 2013 which killed 1,466 men, women and children, another horrific massacre occurred: the chemical deal between Russia and the United States. The carcasses of the latter massacre’s three victims were dumped near the mass graves of Al-Ghouta to poison the lives of Syrians, their country’s chances of rehabilitation, and the world today: the carcasses of truth, justice, and politics.
The Carcass of Truth
The beginning entailed the murder and burial of the truth. Despite regime loyalists’ celebration and distribution of baklava as a sign of happiness, the regime denied its responsibility for the massacre. Some of Syria’s erstwhile fascists spoke of spraying Al-Ghouta with Pif-Paf (insecticide). As for Bashar Al-Assad’s rabidly sectarian advisor Buthaina Shaaban, not only did she state that “terrorists” (all those who happen to resist the Assadist state) carried out the attack, but that the victims were from Syria’s coast – undeniably insinuating that they were Alawites – and that they were abducted from their homes and poisoned in Al-Ghouta so that the opposition can blame the regime. The strangest occurrence was when the United Nations (UN) heeded the Russian request not to identify the offenders in an international delegation’s investigation of … no, not the massacre, but the usage of chemical weapons.
That the international delegation’s mandate was restricted to confirm the usage of chemical weaponry – as if any confirmation was needed – was unbelievably despicable. What makes it even more despicable was that the requesting state, Russia, has denied the responsibility of the Assadist state all along. This showed that our world is corrupt from its higher echelons, that the international system very clearly wanted to lie to itself and to seven billion global inhabitants in order to absolve itself from the moral discomfort of protecting a rare public killer – Bashar Al-Assad.
Of course, it did not help that some Syrian opposition figures in the National Coordination Committee (NCC) contributed to the public campaign of blaming those resisting the Assadist state. Salih Muslim, a member of this committee and co-chairman of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), volunteered to accuse the Assadist state’s oppositionists of killing themselves. None of these false witnesses have revised their stance in the last three years. Moreover, some anti-establishment Westerners joined the choir. Seymour Hersh wrote this long feature in the London Review of Books (LRB) about Turkey’s and Al-Nusra Front’s complicity in using chemical weaponry.
No one consulted the people of Al-Ghouta, a region that was and remains densely populated, or even communicated with them to ask if they suspected anyone else’s responsibility for the massacre – anyone but the Assad regime – or if they had noticed any suspicious activity before the massacre. This was neither a matter of oversight nor a lack of professionalism. It originated in a firm practice of denying local inhabitants the ability to speak for themselves, to say what they believe is true about their life and death. It is only the Western journalist or researcher, he/she who manages to cloak dishonest or weak words with shiny and often insensate packaging, who owns the right to speak and write about the massacre – neither the victims, nor their citizen partners. That is why this practice persists, and the global information system is a partner in crime.
All of the above entities and powers contributed in the murder of the truth, and the dumping of its corpse alongside the mass graves of the massacre’s victims.
The day after the massacre, the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), under the directorship of the brilliant Razan Zaitouneh and with the help of assistants on the ground, published a detailed report about the crime. A few days later, another report followed. These two reports were preceded by a few others on the usage of poisonous gasses. No one had a doubt that the Assad regime committed the crime. Alongside Razan, there was also Samira Al-Khalil, an activist and previous detainee, who published her daily observations at the time on her Facebook page. She also had no doubt about the responsibility of the Assadist state.
The testimonies of Razan and Samira from Al-Ghouta were perhaps one of the reasons why three months after the chemical weapons deal, they were abducted by a Salafi militia loyal to Saudi Arabia. A month after the massacre, this militia promoted itself to the rank of “Army.” A bit more than a month after the massacre, Razan received a death threat from a known person within this militia, incited by another known person within this militia (the current legislator of “Jaysh Al-Islam” – The “Army of Islam”). Samira was also the victim of incitement by known persons at the time – though we had no knowledge of their ties to the militia then.
Razan and Samira were abducted with Wael Hamada (Razan’s husband) and Nazem Hammadi (lawyer and poet) – both of whom worked with Razan in the VDC. Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria, vaguely (and suspiciously) told some of his Syrian interlocutors not to accuse Jaysh Al-Islam of the abduction.
The Carcass of Justice
Not only was the Assadist state unpunished for its crime, in fact it was given a license to continue killing Syrians with its other weaponry. It was granted a full mandate to continue punishing the Syrians who had revolted against it, with an international guarantee for its impunity. The barrel bombs that the regime used were a continuation of the chemical massacre, albeit with a much more lethal and destructive weapon – one that actually had and continues to have more devastating effects.
That is because the massacre was never a problem for the world’s most influential international actors, only the weaponry used to carry it out. The violation of Syrian sanctity of life was never a problem. The problem was the violation of a law enshrined by the most powerful many years ago to protect themselves from each other.
The reaction of the most influential state actors and international organizations to the massacre intensified a previous method of dealing with our causes, an example of which are the Syrian and Palestinian causes. This method is based on marginalizing justice, freedom and democracy, and denying the political agency and moral worthiness of Syrians, Palestinians, and others. This method is partial to regimes that are disciplined in dealing with the most powerful, and able to discipline the most vulnerable who fall under their rule. This also is neither a matter of oversight nor misjudgment. It emanates from the structure of international dominion in the Middle East, and representations of its inhabitants that are attributed to “culture” and “mentality” – in sum, to “Islam.” It is a method that is partial to “states” versus the corrupted heads of those they rule, albeit conditioned by stripping these very “states” of their sovereignty and their independence in return for protecting their rule.
Given that the chemical deal was carried out with the consensus of international powers and the submission of the UN, the logical conclusion to be made is that there simply is no justice in a world led by these powers. That he who cannot extract his right by the might of his fist will be crushed, not only without receiving any support, but without a description or testimony to what befalls him. No might, no right.
The chemical deal left Syrians completely exposed, in fact worthy of more massacres and destruction, in part due to the Daesh (ISIS) obsession that Western media outlets worked tirelessly to nurture – relegating to the darkness what befalls Syrians from the Assadists and their masters. That media obsession campaign only waned a few months ago, perhaps after Western media outlets realized that they were giving the fascist colonial “Islamic State” free publicity. This is worthy of additional research, but if in fact this assessment is proven, it reflects poorly on the West’s largest media establishments, and on the state of democracy in the West before the rest. It also shows the connection between assassinating the truth and assassinating justice, or the necessity of disposing from the truth in order to facilitate the assassination of justice. This is a connection we know well in Syria. The assassination of the truth, and the spreading of disinformation and fabrications was the gateway of the Baathists, and particularly the Assadists, to deny Syrians justice and politics.
The Carcass of Politics
The chemical massacre and the international outcry that followed it represented an opportunity to reach a somewhat just political solution in Syria. Such a solution would have been one that enforces an essential change in the political system’s formation, which would allow for the construction of a new Syrian political majority. Such a solution would have responded to the aspirations of Syrians, which they had expressed for two and a half years at the time. It would have also corresponded with the political instincts of the international powers, who refused to support the Syrian resistors militarily because they preferred … a “political solution.”
The global climate was perfectly suited for a serious push for change in Syria. Yet this was neither what the Russians, nor the Americans, nor the Israelis wanted – the latter of whom transmitted the special omen of the chemical deal. Three years since those disgraceful two weeks, the exact opposite has occurred. The international powers have provided the perfect conditions for the Assadists and their masters to reject a political solution that would end the prolonged national ordeal.
The chemical deal was a resolution to the problem of chemical weapons usage. It was not an objection to the massacre in which the chemical weapons were used. Neither was it a resolution to the problem of Syrian deaths, the number of which had reached 100,000 at the time. The problem that was resolved with the chemical deal concerned Israel, the United States, and Russia. It was not a problem that concerned Syrians – at all.
The chemical deal ignored Syrians’ political demands and their struggle, in a continuation of the Assadist method of denying Syrians their political demands and rights in their own country. As far as the Syrian is concerned, he/she who aspires for freedom, justice and dignity in his/her country, there is no difference between the parties who orchestrated the chemical deal and the Assadist state. What we were told by the criminals of the chemical deal is exactly what we were told by the criminals of the chemical attack: you are outside of politics, you are not to possess politics; you will be confronted with war, and war only!
This is how the corpse of politics was thrown over the corpses of justice and truth. It facilitated for the Assadist state and its partners the continuation of their killing enterprise, to reach half a million victims today. Their horizons for killing are as open today as they ever were, with no indication of a near closure.
The Geneva Conferences are the political continuation of the chemical deal: their patrons are those of the disgraceful deal itself, and they refrain from applying any pressure on the Assadist state whatsoever. In fact, one of the international patrons of the Geneva Conferences, Russia, is the leader of the Assadist state’s war effort today. Moreover, neither the regime nor its international backers have ever indicated their willingness to concede anything to those who oppose it, made any moves towards ending the oligarchy in Syria, or accepted the full withdrawal of international forces from Syria as a goal of this “peace process.” Not once has the regime or its international backers indicated their acceptance of any political concessions in Syria, or even committed to the delivery of food and medicine to besieged areas, let alone ending the sieges or releasing those miserably detained in Assad’s unparalleled torture chambers.
Amidst these conditions, the Geneva Conferences are an international effort to push Syrians towards destroying their cause with their own hands, after their country and lives have been destroyed by the Assadists, their masters, and their patrons.
The World’s Naked Disgrace
What is astounding about this story of public killing is the amount of impertinence: impertinence in lying, in misleading, in burying the truth; impertinence in protecting the public killer, in assassinating justice, in protecting war and guaranteeing its continuity; impertinence in facilitating the work of the Iranian and Russian invaders of Syria, and that of their subordinates. Today’s world is very naked in its disgrace.
For all of the above reasons, the American-Russian chemical deal was a much more abhorrent massacre than the chemical massacre – because truth, justice, and politics are the values that protect the lives of people. Thus, when all three are killed, people’s lives lose all sanctity or value, and their murder becomes permissible – perhaps even desired. This is exactly what happened on a wide scale in our country for the last three years under international patronage, after it had been happening for more than forty years under a patronage that was less global.
That is why, since that disgraceful day, the problem is no longer about Syria, it’s about the world. The world whose soul carries three huge corpses in addition to half a million dead human bodies is a poisoned world. The symptoms of this poisoned condition are seen in the rise of fascist currents all over the world, in the erosion of democracy everywhere, and in the deterioration of currents of liberation, renewal, and hope. The Syrian cause is a global cause, more so than any other cause in the world today. It is eligible to become a point on which the world’s political, intellectual and ethical paths hinge for decades to come.
Because the world is our cause, we Syrians should work tirelessly to show the Syrianization of the world, and the universality of our Syrian cause. Our first task is to show that the chemical massacre in Syria, and the chemical deal which ensued, are unforgettable Syrian and global incidents. In Syria and all around the world, we should crown the heroes and false witnesses of these incidents with their deserved disgrace.