A BBC News article from 15 December 2011 gives us a picture of the time:
Syria 'authorised forces to shoot to kill' in crackdown
Syrian soldiers said their commanders told them to stop anti-government protests "by all means necessary", Human Rights Watch has said.
The group spoke to dozens of defectors who said they had understood this as authorisation to use lethal force.
Anti-government protests have continued despite President Bashar al-Assad's attempts to stifle them.
The UN believes more than 5,000 people have died in seven months of unrest, which Syria blames on armed gangs.
The death toll has risen so dramatically because Assad has continuously increased the level of violence he has employed in his effort to put down the resistance and the resistance, rather than submitting, has responded by escalating its armed struggle to topple the regime.
A year ago it was well known that Assad was shooting unarmed protesters, and since there was no effective international action, he increased the use of his army.
He started using his artillery and tanks to kill Syrians in opposition communities even faster, and when that got a pass from the international powers, he started using his helicopters and war planes. Just a little at first, and when he saw that nobody was seriously proposing a "no-fly" zone, he started using them more and more. He uses them all time now and 2012 may mark the first year the world came to accept the bombing of communities by its own air force as something routine and not to be interfered with.
In the last half of 2012 Assad had escalated his killing through the use of incendiary weapons, cluster bombs and barrel bombs. In August, President Obama warned him that the use of "a whole bunch of chemical weapons" was a red-line so to date, we have only seen reports of him using chemical weapons in small doses.
Bashar al-Assad has learned well from the mistakes of his farther. His father became notorious for killing 18,000 Syrians in a few weeks in Hama, 1982. He has already killed twice that many but has spread the deaths out over a whole year. No really big massacres, just too many small ones to count or track or call breaking news anymore.
A year ago, the UN swung into action to protect the Syrian people. They issued a report:
In 2011 the world hadn't seen anything compared to the carnage the coming year would bring.
UN report: Syria committed crimes against humanity
REUTERS - A United Nations commission of inquiry on Syria said on Monday Syrian military and security forces had committed crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape and the government of President Bashar al-Assad bore responsibility.
The panel, which interviewed 223 victims and witnesses including defectors, called on Syria to halt the gross human rights violations, release prisoners rounded up in mass arrests and allow media, aid workers and rights monitors access to the country.
Syria is responsible for wrongful acts, including crimes against humanity, committed by members of its military and security forces as documented in the present report, the three-member panel said in a 39-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
It catalogues executions, torture, rapes including of children, arbitrary detentions and abductions carried out since March by Syrian forces quashing pro-democracy demonstrations while enjoying systemic impunity for their crimes, it said.
The commission therefore believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government, said the team, led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro.
In March 2012, the UN put Kofi Annan on the case. He came up with the basic 6 point plan the UN has been peddling ever since. At the end of May, he reported back about his meeting with Assad "I appealed to him for bold steps now -- not tomorrow, now -- to create momentum for the implementation of the plan."
He never succeeding in doing much more than giving Assad diplomatic cover for increased carnage. In August, he quit, saying he could do no more. He got $7.5 million for his peace making while thousands more Syrians died.
Kofi Annan was replaced by Lakhdar Brahimi who, one year and 40,000 Syrian lives later, is still peddling the same trash from the international "community" of gangsters, still trying to force Assad down the throats of the Syrian people in a "political settlement."
This, actually, [is] what we discussed in Syria and in Moscow and are discussing with the US and Russia you know that I met with Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov and with their aides William Burns and Michael Bogdanov as well, Mr. Brahimi said. God-willing, we will continue our contacts, cooperation and meetings seeking this necessary and urgent peaceful solution.Everybody but the Syrian people are consulted.
This is what he had to say Sunday after his latest round of jet set diplomacy:
In his remarks to the journalists, Mr. Brahimi reiterated his belief in a political solution to the crisis in Syria, noting that the choice is between the political solution and the entire collapse of the Syrian State referring to the so-called 'Geneva communiqué,' which, he said, could form the basis of a peace process.
The document was issued after a meeting in the Swiss city of the Action Group for Syria made up of interested parties in late June. It lays out key steps in a process to end the violence in Syria. Amongst other items, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.
In point of fact that's exactly what a revolution is. Its about collapsing the state and replacing it with a new one.
That is not an easy task, but it is one that can be done. The experiences of Libya in 2012 illustrates both of these points. In Libya, the Qaddafi state was completely collapsed, the Qaddafi armed forces were completely defeated on the field of battle. That is how they began 2012.
One thing that the last year's experience in Syria should show is that those who claim that the Libyan revolution was on the verge of defeat when NATO intervened were wrong. The Libyan revolution would have no more been defeated without NATO intervention than the Syrian revolution has been. If the world community had not intervened to level the battlefield in Libya by denying Qaddafi the use of his armor and air force, the Libyan thuwar would most likely still be sloughing it out with horrendous casualties today just like their brothers and sisters in Syria, but they wouldn't been defeated and they wouldn't have given up.
Instead they have been able to spent 2012 rebuilding their country and building a new democratic state and while that has not been without trouble, several hundred Libyans and four prominent US citizens fell to political violence in Libya in 2012, it was nothing like it was in 2011 and nothing like it was in Syria in 2012.
In Syria the struggle continued between a people left to their own devices and denied heavy weapons by an arms embargo enforced by the United States and a dictatorial government with the best modern weapons money could buy and the continuing military supply lines of its allies Iran and Russia.
Fortunately for the people's defense, the ranks of the Free Syrian Army have been swelled by a growing tide of defections along with citizen soldiers that have withstood the tests of combat and Arabs and Muslims from everywhere that came to fight the fascists in an internationalist spirit that most others seem to have forgotten.
In spite of the willingness of world leaders, that prefer Assad to the freedom fighter's vision of Syria, to allow the regime virtually a free hand in using its military might to suppress the rebellion, the opposition not only held its ground in 2012, it has actually turned the tide of battle and looks likely to be victorious in 2013.
Hence these new diplomatic moves to the get a "political solution" which is code for a "transitional" government that includes members of the Assad regime including may be even Assad himself. In other words the UN is still demanding that the people that it said a year ago were guilty of "crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape" be part of the solution.
The international community is still offering no real support for the Syrian people. Russia continues to insist that Assad be part of any future government. The United States will now allow that Assad must go, but insists that his apparatus be part of any future government. The Syrians that have shed so much blood to be rid of Assad will not back down, and so the "stalemate" continues.
When Brahimi said Sunday:
I am unable to see another solution out of two possibilities: either a political solution ... or Syria to be transformed into hell.He was denying not only what is possible but also most desirable - the revolutionary transformation of the Syrian state.
That is the cat that all the "great powers" don't want to let get out of the bag and that it why Assad remains in powers with free reign to brutally suppress the rebellion.
That is the task it is hoped will face the Syrian people in 2013.