Gaddafi Dead — So What?

October 22, 2011 – 9:48 am - by Raymond Ibrahim

What a myopic view the Western media and its array of “experts” have concerning the so-called “Arab Spring” — a myopia that naturally metastasizes among the general public.

Consider the Libyan crisis. As usual, the focus is entirely on the individual, the tangible — the now dead Gaddafi — whom all the blame can be heaped upon, while the existentialist elephant in the room, the real mover and shaker, the spirit of the age behind all these uprisings, is never acknowledged.

So another Arab dictator has been eliminated, and the talking heads are abuzz: some, whose knowledge of the world and reality is chronically limited to their own experience, naively cry “democracy!” (even as those who butchered Gaddafi were crying “Allahu Akbar!”); others cautiously include the usual boilerplate caveats in their analyses, which otherwise also remain parochial.

Either way, as many interpret events in Libya, they project their own values and notions of right and wrong, good and bad — most notably by portraying the Arab uprisings as positive signs of democracy — thereby demonstrating, yet again, their inability to comprehend Islam’s distinct civilization, let alone the Closing of the Muslim Mind.

I am reminded of an especially pertinent observation by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:

The discovery of truth is prevented most effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, nor directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice [in this case, by the Western notion that all people want a secular, liberal democracy], which as a pseudo a priori stands in the path of truth and is then like a contrary wind driving a ship away from land, so that sail and rudder [reality and those who present it] labor in vain.

Indeed, other 19th century Germans, such as Hegel, understood that world events, far from being inextricably tied to individual leaders, were products of the Zeitgeist, defined as: “The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation … the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period … the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people.”

Consider Libya’s neighbor, Egypt, as described in Inside Egypt. The author’s otherwise prescient argument was that revolution was in the air; however, he too took the narrow view, ignoring the “spirit of the time.” My review of the book, written before the Egyptian revolution, is especially applicable today:

Unfortunately, there is a myopic tendency to view nearly every problem in Egypt as a byproduct of Husni Mubarak, Egypt’s president since 1981, and in [the author] Bradley’s view, the “most corrupt offender of them all.” Even things one might have supposed were products of time or chance — from the condition of Egypt’s Bedouin, who have led the same desperate lifestyle for centuries, to the radicalization of Muslims, a worldwide phenomenon—are somehow traced back to Mubarak. … Indeed, this is the book’s chief problem. Bradley is convinced that, given a chance, through the elimination of Mubarak, Egyptians would create a liberal, egalitarian, and gender-neutral society. … And while he is convinced that Egypt is a byproduct of Mubarak, one is left wondering instead whether Mubarak is a byproduct of Egypt.

In fact, since the Mubarak scapegoat has been ousted, and after Western media and politicians gushed and hailed “democracy,” Egypt has seen the worst Islamist inspired violence — especially from the state itself — against its non-Muslim minorities.

The lesson? To understand grand scale events, stop focusing on individuals — whether ousted Arab dictators (Tunisia’s ben Ali, Egypt’s Mubarak, now Libya’s Gaddafi) or slain jihadist leaders (Osama bin Laden and the various no-names the administration boasts of killing) — and start focusing on the forces, the “spirit of the time,” in this case, Islam, which creates bin Ladens no less than the tyrannical autocrats who suppress them.

Nor is this approach limited to comprehending the significance of the “Arab Spring.” To the many who think that America’s problems begin and end with Obama, consider the logic of the following quote, attributed to a Czech newspaper:

The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting an inexperienced man like him with the presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.

In short, individual leaders do not cause societies to become what they are; rather, these leaders are symptoms — reflections — of their respective societies.

Also read: A UN Probe Into Death of Gaddafi? They’ve Got to Be Kidding…

Jobs and Deficits: The Moral Equation

The Genesis account of creation tells us that from the beginning, humanity was created to work. God puts Adam in the garden to “work and watch over it.” The Scripture provides an insight into our nature: We are all, man and woman, called into this life to find our vocation, the work that is uniquely ours and contributes to the flourishing of the wider community.

This explains why we are naturally so troubled about what appear to be merely economic problems: intractable unemployment and the various schemes put forth by policy makers to spur job creation. But behind the question is the reality that we naturally prefer people to be productive contributors to our economic life.

How we accomplish that is the subject of the debate over our unsustainable budget and debt trajectory. Do we choose those policies that make room for more freedom in the market, unleashing the creative potential of the American worker, business owner and entrepreneur? Or do we default, once more, to political and bureaucratic measures that require heavier burdens of taxation and regulation?

A government that actively sustains poverty by removing natural incentives to work is gravely in the wrong. Such government is without its essential anchor, which is that understanding of humanity as creative and productive.

The super committee created by Congress’ debt-ceiling compromise has begun its work to find $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts ($2 trillion if the committee accepts the cuts corresponding to President Obama’s proposed stimulus). Even after this reduction, though, the nation’s debt will be unacceptably burdensome.

In 2011, for the first time since World War II, the amount of our total federal debt will surpass annual GDP. This is perilous, because economic capacity begins to be seriously affected when a country’s debt reaches 80 percent of GDP.

The super committee should begin by cutting social programs that perpetuate cycles of poverty. The only way to rise from poverty is to contribute to economic activity — a job is the best poverty program ever devised.

The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the “War on Poverty” since Lyndon B. Johnson declared it, but we have next to nothing to show for the expense. And the agenda put forward by the religious left devalues the human person, treating the poor as objects of charity rather than as economic contributors.

The federal government does have real obligations to current generations that must be met. But without substantive reform of our largest entitlement programs, the country’s long-term fiscal health cannot be secured.

We cannot leave future generations with the full burden of our debt, which becomes a heavier weight the longer it is left unaddressed.

Congress must remember that economic growth is driven by innovations — by improvements in how the population produces goods and delivers them. The incentives caused by an expanding government run counter to economic growth because they run counter to human nature.

As reform of federal spending is undertaken, all cuts must be made with an eye to freeing citizens of every class to pursue their economic potential — to engage in the kind of dignified work that is essential to our nature, properly understood.

This column originally appeared in the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review.

Values Voters 2011

What other political event would have a speaker saying, “Public service is a ministry” ? That was Rep Vicky Hartzler, who was outspent 22-to-1 but was victorious in Missouri in the amazing repudiation of Liberalism that occurred in 2010. This was supported by the previous speaker, Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) another alumnus of 2010, who said, “It’s not the money; it’s the issues.”

Here at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, those issues are “faith, family and freedom.” Our question of participants here will be, “Has the economic downturn helped or hindered the issues of faith, family and freedom?”

Un-sustainable indebtedness and un-keep-able promises by politicians (or anyone!) are really a moral issue.

Matt Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation suggests we “start with the big things” when beginning to dismantle ‘big government.’ “Obamacare, for example is blatantly un-constitutional. … We need to change the paradigm from investing in the government – because that’s what taxation is, really – to investing in our own futures.” The alternative paradigm plan is what Stuart Butler calls “a giant IRA”

“The objective of the modern Liberal Progressive is to fundamentally change the character of this nation, into something like Europe. They are pretending that this process is inevitable and that any deviation from this ‘progress’  will be unacceptably painful and destructive to “Americas, as we know it.” This is simply not true! We have to remember that our real purpose in the current struggle is to save our country.” Matt Spaulding.

Matthew Staver of Liberty University, emphasizes “America will always support Israel. America and Israel have a common enemy – radical Islam!” Peace will come to the Palestinians if their leader would simply say “We recognize Israel’s right to exist,” but that is unlikely to happen because they do not want peace – they want to destroy Israel.

He concludes, “Let it not be said that, on our watch, we let Western Civilization fail!”

Rick Santorum reminds us that, at the time of our founding, the definition of happiness was the liberty to pursue what is right.

It gets down to the moral cause of saving our country.  If the changes the progressive liberals want take place, we may still have the name America, but it will no longer be the land of the free.

The so-called “stimulus” programs were deliberately created so that we would become so dependent on government and – not incidentally – so indebted that the liberals could say that any reductions would destroy the country.  Not so!  They say it is the inevitable course of capitalism.  Not so!  In fact, the Heritage Foundation has a plan that will bring us a balanced budget in just 10 years!  That is only one plan of many out there, and none of the plans on the conservative side will hurt the down and out, the truly needy, the children or the elderly.  Those plans, however, won’t help the greedy, the power-hungry nor the so-called ‘elites’ who think they know better than we do how we should live.

Some wonder why we’re at a values voter’s summit when the economy is so bad and what does the economy have to do with values?  Isn’t capitalism dog-eat-dog, or at least value-neutral?  Not at all!  It is a promise to all generations that this country will give you the framework to be your best and will not confiscate your property.   Now, alot of people don’t think that promises are moral, they are just something to say now and then and we have the option to change our minds, even just because we feel like changing our minds.  When we bring morality back into the country, promises – and credit – will mean something again.

Another point well made today was that many Americans now believe that ‘regulations’ are the same as ‘laws.’  So little is taught to our citizens about how our government should work that they are easily led to believe anything.  We’ve got to recognize the greatness of our founding principles and love them again, live them again and teach them again.

2:25pm  More people than ever are standing to welcome Rick Perry to the podium after a rousing introduction by Pastor Jeffers. Another applause line from Gov Perry, “When you hear the left talking about about “fair share” you know they’re playing fast and furious with the truth.”

Perry’s three pillars, “a strong economy, strong families and a strong military.” “All human life… all human life… is created in the image of our Creator.”  When Texas (under Perry) defunded Planned Parenthood, an astonishing $47,000,000 was diverted from this death-dealing organization.  ”The demise of the family is the demise of any great society.” [do we suspect Perry of deliberately indicating LBJ's infamous "Great Society" war on poverty?]

“A key component of keeping America secure, is keeping Israel secure. … and when I’m President of the United States, America will once again stand with our friends.” applause.

“There is no homeland security without border security.”

“The government exists to serve the American people… not the other way around… and certainly not to serve people that just figured out some way to sneak in here… like the Obama’s relatives!” Laura Ingraham 3:48pm Her demonstration sign, held out from the podium “Hug the rich!”

Herman Cain “Leaders fix stuff instead of talkin’ about stuff.”  Every other line gets applause, some so strong he talks through… like he’s not used to it yet. “Wall Street didn’t write these failed economic policies, the White House did. The problem is at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Move the demonstrations!” “When you get to the part about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”… keep reading!” He quotes Reagan on foreign policy, “Peace through strength.  The Cain version is “Peace through strength and clarity.” “Clarify who our friends are. Clarify who our enemies are. Stop giving money to our enemies.” “Upgrade the Aegis missle-defense system and then say to Ack-muh-dini-jad MAKE MY DAY!”  Thunderous applause. “America has problems, I’m a problem solver. That’s why I’m running for President… to be President!  What did I miss?”  ”America wants to raise some Cain… not more money.” This guy just gets better and better as we approach November 2012.

 

Informal reactions to the question “Has the economic downturn helped or hindered the issues of faith, family and freedom?” This is America, so opinion is not unanimous. More than half of the (very small) sample we questioned concluded that the economy was a “distraction,” that it was taking attention away from the “social values” issues. The others indicated that the economic suffering was driving people to give more attention to what’s “really important.” One man immediately recognized “this is a two-level issue.” He mentioned the “occupy Wall Street” demonstrations as sucking up “those first seven seconds” of our attention, and that’s how “the economy” usually affects us. But, upon reflection, we are more likely to turn away from what’s failing and turn back (repent?) toward what has ‘real value.’ “The economy and our values are inseparable,” said the last person I spoke with.  This corresponds to our own understanding of the unavoidable interrelation of morality, economy and politics. One might even say Politics and Prayer.

Eye-Witness Report from Syria

Delegation to Syria

by Patrick Henry Reardon

During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic-speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Honeycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson; and an expert in international law, James Perry, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its executive director.

The following narrative is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned.

Let me begin by expressing a deep, sincere gratitude to Metropolitan Philip, both for the golden opportunity to visit Syria and for the confidence he placed in myself and the others he sent.

Most of this trip was devoted to matters not directly related to its purpose—namely, visits to shrines and other places of cultural interest. We began, in fact, by first paying our respects at the house of St. Ananias, the first bishop of Damascus, who baptized Saul of Tarsus. We also saw the window in the city wall, through which the Apostle was lowered in a basket. We walked many blocks along and around the “street called Straight,” passing through the Christian and Jewish sections of the city. (There are still 3,000 Jews in Syria, by the way, another of the minorities who find a secure home in that country.)

Also in Damascus (the world’s oldest, continually existing city) we spent some time at the National Archeological Museum, which displays many of the excavated articles (those not absconded in former times by the occupying French!) which reflect the very long and rich history of the region. Foremost among these, in my opinion was the entire 4th century synagogue from Dura Europos, on the Tigris River, uncovered in 1932. If we had seen nothing else, the sight of the frescoes on the walls of that synagogue would have made the entire trip more than worthwhile. I could have stayed in that museum for the whole time!

In addition to Damascus, our group was privileged to pray at the shrine and tomb of St. Thecla in the village of Maalula and to visit the monastery in Saydnaya, where we reverenced St. Luke’s icon of the Virgin Mary and her young Son.

Security

When my parishioners in Chicago learned that Metropolitan Philip was sending me as part of the delegation to Syria, their reaction was uniformly negative. Simply put, the people were concerned for my physical safety. I tried to reassure them that the Metropolitan would never send his priests into danger. I also mentioned that our new bishops-elect would be going to Syria later in the year for their episcopal consecration. That could not happen, if their safety was in doubt.

My argument, however, was to no avail. Parishioners pleaded with me—some with tears—“Don’t go, Father Pat!”

I recognized that my parishioners were taking their cue from the view popularized by CNN, FOX News, and other media outlets that have been, for months, promoting a general and irresponsible hysteria about Syria. As for myself, I was not the slightest bit concerned about safety.

Candor compels the confession, nonetheless, that at one point in the journey, I did feel just a wee bit unsafe: Our little group was conducted into a large room full of scary-looking people, where a security force of more than twenty husky uniformed officers met us, all of them carrying side arms, and several holding assault rifles. As we walked through their midst, this security force gave our group a suspicious once-over. It is worth mentioning that this scene took place in the boarding area in an airport. The city was Chicago.

From the moment we actually boarded our plane, however, and during the entire remainder of the trip—in Jordan and Syria—I did not see a single side arm on any person at all, and I saw only two rifles: one held by a guard in front of the Defense Ministry in Damascus, and the other by the man who opened the front gate for us at the Presidential Palace.

During our whole time in Syria, I saw not a single armed policeman, nor—except for that guard at the Defense Ministry—a single soldier. I saw only one military vehicle, and that was near the Defense Ministry.

The only other weapons I saw in Syria were the 10-inch batons used by the local police to direct the flow of traffic in Damascus. Indeed, the only moments of apprehension we felt in Syria were occasioned by extraordinary displays of spontaneity and boldness on the part of its cab drivers.

In Syria our delegation—together and singly—was permitted to walk wherever we wished and to ask any questions of anybody we wanted. There was only one restriction: the tourist agency, assigned to guide us, mentioned two cities where, out of concern for our safety, it could not take responsibility for us. This concern, they said, was prompted by patterns of violence among some of the “armed gangs and criminal elements” active in those cities—not the Syrian government.

Prior to traveling to Syria, I had checked out the web page of our State Department, where I was warned that travel in Syria was currently very dangerous. Normally I would take such warnings seriously.

Over many years, however, I have done a lot of foreign travel, so I also trust my instincts with respect to safety. Long ago I walked the dark streets of Athens during a period when there were riots and insurrections throughout Greece. That same year—just after the civil war in Cyprus—I roamed all over that island, which was policed by U.N. peacekeepers.

In Kosovo not long ago, again at night, I strolled from the south (Albanian) side of Mitrovica, across the bridge, to the north (Serbian) side—and back again—without incident. I have walked around, after dark, in the neighborhoods of numerous foreign cities, such as London, Paris, Milan, Istanbul, and Tel-Aviv. In 1973 I was at the Athens airport, when terrorists stormed the El-Al customer desk with grenades and machine guns. I believe I can recognize danger when I see it.

I also know what it feels like to move around in a police state. Last year, for instance, I spent a week in Guatemala, where there were guns galore on nearly every street. At the time, the murder statistics in Guatemala City were staggering. One of our group on the Syrian trip, Father Timothy Ferguson, had spent a year in Guatemala, during which he followed the murder reports in the newspaper; he told me that there were 87 women murdered in his immediate neighborhood during that year, but not a single person was ever arrested for those murders. As for myself, within five minutes of entering Guatemala City, I was aware of danger.

So, let me sum up my impression of security in Syria. On a security scale of 1-to-10, I would give Syria 9.7. Using that same scale, I would give Detroit 4, Philadelphia 6, and Disney World 8.5.

Greeting the President

When Metropolitan Philip sent our little delegation to visit Syria, he asked us to make an honest and polite inquiry about the current political situation in that country, especially with regard to its Christian minority. Our interview with President Assad of Syria was probably the centerpiece of that inquiry.

We met with the President for about 90 minutes in the early evening. As the appointed spokesman for our delegation, I endeavored to set the tone in my introductory statement:

“Mr. President, Bashar al-Assad, we are a delegation of American Christians, sent by Metropolitan Philip, our archbishop in the United States and Canada, as a renewed expression of his loyal friendship with you and his concern for the people of Syria.

“Metropolitan Philip has charged us with the responsibility of learning—first-hand—your assessment of the political conditions in Syria.

“Our mission here is likewise an expression of the concern of American Christians for the well-being of this beloved country of Syria, to which our debt is incalculable with respect to religion, history, and culture. To most of the members of this delegation, and certainly to myself, our visit to Damascus represents the dream of a lifetime.

“To us, Syria is not just any country in the world. It is, rather, the hearth of our culture as Christians. To the extent that anyone in this room can be described as a cultured person, he is indebted to Syria.

“Our journey to Damascus, therefore, expresses a return to the roots of our identity. Please, believe this declaration of our deep respect for Syria and our love for its people.

“In the inquiries we humbly make of you today, we beg you to see both this respect and this love.

“We bring you the warmest greeting of Metropolitan Philip, who holds your name and person in the highest honor, and we sincerely thank you for meeting with us.”

I confess that our experience of the previous few days disposed us to think favorably of President Assad, right from the start. For example, the abbess at the Shrine of St. Thecla in Maalula, described his visit there this past Pascha. According to her, Dr. Assad drove his car, accompanied only by his wife—with no one else in attendance, neither security personnel nor press. They dined with the orphans who live near the shrine and are cared for by the nuns.

The couple spent the rest of the day with the orphans, who—the abbess said—look upon the President as a father. I think I speak for our whole delegation in remarking that the testimony of the abbess seemed very sincere and was most convincing. An identical impression was also conveyed to us, when we met with two Antiochian bishops at the Patriarchate the next day.

Such impressions were difficult to reconcile with the usual image of President Assad on American TV, where he is referred to as a murderer and “butcher.”

President Assad

After my greeting to President Assad, he invited us to ask any questions we wished, and he promised to be as open and frank as possible.

For our part, the delegation kept Metropolitan Philip’s directive in mind. Although he had not dictated or limited the scope of our inquiry, he had made clear what he did want: Information about the current internal order in Syria, particularly with respect to that country’s Christians.

Without exception, our group adhered to that focus. Consequently, we made no inquiries about Syrian foreign policy or its role in geopolitics. We never mentioned Syria’s relationship to Iran. We spoke not one word about Hezbollah, or Lebanon, or Israel. These subjects would have been distractions, so we stuck to the subject indicated by Metropolitan Philip.

As we entered the building, it was very instructive to observe the lack of security surrounding the executive leader of a nation. No one in our group was frisked or patted down, nor were we obliged to pass through a metal detector. We were simply escorted into the Presidential Palace and greeted at the door of the conference room by President Assad himself.

Dr. Assad, speaking excellent English, showed himself to be very cordial and personable. There was not the faintest suggestion of a maniacal dictator like Castro, Noriega, Hussein, or Ghadafi. This was a man of obvious culture, refinement, modesty, and gentility. Our meeting, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, was informal, candid, and unhurried.

The President said the economy—chiefly widespread poverty—was at the heart of the problem in Syria. He went on to declare, however, that the originally peaceful demonstrators were later infiltrated by right wing extremists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and a small very dangerous group from Iraq. He confessed that neither he nor his government was prepared for the violence that erupted so suddenly.

In response to a specific question on the subject, President Assad admitted that the military force over-reacted to this violence, on occasion, so that some demonstrators were killed and others tortured. These developments, he insisted, were contrary to his own policies. Other reported tortures, according to the President, were actually acts of revenge undertaken by emotional military personnel, who had lost colleagues during the demonstrations.

The President estimated that the demonstrators represented about 150 to 200 thousand people, out of a population of 23 million.

Syria’s greater problem, he believed, came from the portrayal of Syria conveyed in the Western media. The latter were allowed free range in the country in the first month of the uprisings, but when their depiction of the situation became unfair, distorted, and unbalanced, the government determined to send them packing.

The President believed the Syrian people were ready for reform, and he declared his intention to give it to them. He already started with educational and election reforms and made a start towards weeding out political corruption. Much more is planned, he said, but it takes time.

One of our questioners, persuaded that the Syrian government employed a large number of secret informants, make inquiry of President Assad on this point. He responded, “If I really had a large number of secret informants eavesdropping on the population, I don’t know how the strength of the uprising could take me by surprise. If we had a larger intelligence service, we would not need such a large army.”

In answer to a direct question from myself, President Assad insisted that no aircraft of any kind has been used against Syria’s demonstrators—a flat contradiction to TV reporting in the United States—and that no shots have been fired on the crowds from the tanks used as cover by Syrian soldiers under attack. (This was confirmed by Michel Kilo, a representative of Opposition, about whom I will write shortly.)

Our group was particularly interested in the President’s view of Syria’s Christian minority, which he believes is necessary in order to keep the country “secular.” (By this adjective, he explained, he meant a political setting in which no one religion can dictate to, or have advantage over, another.) Christianity has a moderating influence on Islam in Syria, he declared, and people are free to practice whatever religion they choose. “There can be no democracy in Syria,” said President Assad, “without Christians. A completely Muslim country would have not the counterbalance of influence necessary for democracy.”

Other Testimonies

In addition to our conversation with President Assad, our delegation also met with other important Syrians:

First among these were the two bishops who spent more than an hour with us at the cathedral office of the Antiochian Patriarchate. Both of them were very vocal about the current situation in Syria. Testifying that they had visited the sites where the reports of large-scale violence had taken place, they expressed a vehement protest against the inaccurate portrayal of their country in the Western news media. They claimed to have regular contact with their people in those communities, who insist that the local uprisings are blown completely out of proportion on American and European television.

These bishops also could not say enough positive things about the President, Bashar al Assad. We found this message to be a consistent and common theme from virtually everyone we talked with on the trip.

This was true even with respect to the “opposition figures” with whom we met. Chief and most outspoken among these was Michel Kilo, a representative of the Intellectual Party, who has consistently been a peaceful member of the opposition. A former Marxist, Kilo described himself as very pro-democracy but not necessarily anti-regime. In fact, he said, if President Assad is successful in introducing reforms, such as a fair and democratic election, he would vote for him!

Kilo acknowledged that there is much more than meets the eye with respect to the demonstrators, and he avowed that they do not all have the same agenda. He also believed the peaceful demonstrators’ agenda was being hi-jacked by extremists who, even among themselves, pursued other agendas, or none at all! Kilo called for an end to the violence on both sides and a faster pace toward needed reforms in the country, especially those dealing with corruption in the government.

On our last day in Damascus, we had an unexpected meeting with seven sheiks from northeast Syria (if memory serves), who learned of our presence in the country and journeyed to meet with us. These men, who represented 7 million Syrians, were dressed in the traditional garb common in Bedouin areas. They insisted on three points: (1) There is one God; (2) There is one Syria; and (3) There is one President Assad. These men, let me say, were in no mood to compromise!

Our last meeting, which lasted until about three o’clock in the morning of our final day in Syria, was with the leading Islamic cleric in the country known as the Grand Mufti, the spiritual father of Syria’s 70% Sunni majority. We found him to be very charismatic, warm, and friendly. Indeed, he was so irenic that I caught myself fancying I was talking with a Hindu! He deplored violence of any kind and preached to us about the dignity of humanity whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, or otherwise.

The Grand Mufti was also very pro-Assad and criticized what he called the huge fabrication the Western media was advancing by using unverified You-Tube films in its reports. He had been at those locations, he declared, exactly when some of the alleged uprisings and violence were occurring, and he saw nothing to support the exaggerations of the Western press. The Grand Mufti speculated that there was a 90% approval rating for President Assad in Syria, compared to the current 39% approval for President Obama in the United States.

Conclusions and Speculations

Let me summarize my impressions of the political situation in Syria:

First, I can only form opinions on what we saw and heard which did not include the alleged “hot spots.” I specifically requested to be taken to one of these places, explaining that, as a normal Chicagoan, I am completely devoid of fear. Concerned about safety, however, they politely declined my request.

Second, given the fact Damascus is the capital and the most populous region of Syria, one imagines we would see at least a hint of a revolution if there really were one. We did not.

Third, Christians in Syria are safe and happy. They worship in freedom without oppression. Both before and after this trip, several friends suggested that Christian support for the government in Syria is an example of the “Stockholm Syndrome.” That is to say, they speculated that the Christians in Syria are identifying with their oppressors to the point of supporting them. Let me affirm categorically that this is not the case in Syria. Christians in that country are not an oppressed minority, as they are, for example, in Egypt. Muslims in Syria have no political advantage over Christians.

Fourth, the TV reporting on Syria in this country is anything but “fair and balanced.” With a view to correcting this problem, our delegation suggested to President Assad that he begin by inviting one well-trusted television reporter from the United States to sit and talk with him, much as we did. Our recommendation was specific; we named such a reporter, who happens to be Orthodox. The President said he would give it serious consideration.

Fifth, it is my impression (and I speak for myself alone) that the stability of Middle Eastern governments, including the Syrian, depends a great deal on the support of the military. For this reason, it is not unknown for the leaders of such countries to have only a limited authority over their military establishments. If this is the case in Syria, it would explain, at least in part, why President Assad has not been able to stop all violence from the government’s side, even though such violence is diametrically at odds with his own policies.

Sixth, unless I am dreadfully mistaken, the current Syrian government is in no immediate danger from an internal revolution. There is far more rioting in the United States, and in almost every country of Western Europe, than there is in Syria. Even as I write this, there are more demonstrators camping out on Wall Street (where they voice utter vacuities, at all hours, to the press corps) than there are anywhere in Syria.

More Recent Developments

Since our return from Syria, two related developments have come to my attention:

First, shortly after we left Syria, a journalist from the BBC, Lyce Doucet, filed a report called “Inside Damascus, a city on edge” (9/26/11). This title (surely chosen by someone else) disguises Doucet’s actual report, which is compatible with everything I have written above. The distress she found in Damascus was chiefly related to the city’s loss of tourism, the result of the bad press the county has endured through most of this year. As I commend Doucet’s carefully crafted account, I also would like to believe it represents a much-needed return to factual reporting about Syria in the Western press.

Second, there continue to be targeted assassinations of Syria’s cultural and religious leaders, such as Hassan Eid, a surgeon at Homs’ general hospital; Aws Abdel Karim Khalil, a nuclear engineering specialist and charge d’affaires at al-Baath University; Mohammad Ali Aqil, deputy dean of its architecture faculty; Nael Dakhil, director of the military petrochemical school; and Saria Hassoun, the young son of the Grand Mufti himself.

Of these recent victims of violence, Khalil and Eid belonged to the Alawite sect (to which President Assad also belongs), Aqil was a Shiite Muslim, Dakhil a Christian, and Hassoun a Sunni.

What did these men have in common? Two things: First, they were all supporters of President Assad. Second, their murders have gone almost unmentioned in the Western press. For the Western media to report such murders, after all, would undermine the biased impression it wants to convey about the nature of the disturbances in Syria.

A Final Word

As the chosen spokesman for our delegation while we were in Syria, it fell to me to give two television interviews while we were there, the first one for SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) and the second for a private commercial channel.

My first interviewer, who was an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, began with the hope that I would consider Syria my “second home.” “No,” I replied, “Syria is my first home.” I went on to explain my regard for Syria, because it is the geographical and historical link between the cultures of the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean Basin. As such Syria is the capstone, the link that holds Western Civilization together. It was Syria—specifically Ras Shamra—that taught us the alphabet. Consequently, if anyone wants to disagree about his level of debt to Syria, I will insist that he communicates the disagreement in either cuneiform or hieroglyphics; he certainly has no right to use the alphabet. Syria is, in short, at the absolute root of who we are.

Let me end by expressing, once more, my profound gratitude to Metropolitan Philip, to our Syrian hosts, to all those who made this journey possible, and to everyone who prayed for us. 

Ignoring the Scandal of the Century

September 28, 2011 – 9:33 am - by Bob Owens at Pajamas Media.

Monday’s revelations by Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars and David Codrea at the Gun Rights Examiner, corroborated here at PJMedia and expounded upon at Fox News, comprise a “smoking gun” of the one of the most stunning political scandals in U.S. history.

As William Lajeunesse writes at Fox:

Not only did U.S. officials approve, allow and assist in the sale of more than 2,000 guns to the Sinaloa cartel — the federal government used taxpayer money to buy semi-automatic weapons, sold them to criminals and then watched as the guns disappeared.

I don’t wish to understate it: elements of the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury are responsible for supplying an arsenal to narco-terrorists waging a civil war against an American ally. Our federal government may bear responsibility for at least 200 murders committed with “walked” firearms, in what Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales describes as a “betrayal” of her country by the Obama administration.

Are there legal ramifications? Perhaps. According to Title 18, 2331 of the U.S. Code, Operation Fast and Furious may amount to international terrorism, which carries with it stiff penalties for conspiracies that result in homicide. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act — which was originally used to prosecute the mafia — and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) may also fit, as may assorted state and federal charges. Charges may also result from two investigations launched by Mexican authorities, and Mexico could conceivably file charges with the International Criminal Court.

This is objectively the most important political and legal story in America right now.

But despite the revelations from of documents and testimony obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and repeated calls for full disclosure from senators and congressmen, mainstream media organizations have done everything in their power to bury the scandal. This can only be viewed as a partisan media’s attempt to protect a criminal executive branch.

Let’s play “if Bush did it.”

If thousands of firearms had been provided to the Sinaloa cocaine cartel by the Justice Department; and if those guns had been blamed for not one or two, but hundreds of murders by Mexico’s lead prosecutor, would there not be wall-to-wall front page coverage every day on the pages of the New York Times … if Bush were still president?

Under Bush, the MSM did provide blanket coverage for the warrantless wiretapping program — which was deemed legal by the courts and caused no deaths.

If circumstantial evidence, political speeches, and talking points from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and President Bush all suggested that the solitary goal of a gunwalking conspiracy was to put American weapons in the hands of criminals in hopes they would commit violent crimes in order to undermine the Constitution and Bill of Rights … the Washington Post columnists would call for impeachment and criminal prosecution each day.

Recall how they breathlessly reported the minute details and speculations of the Valerie Plame affair, which had much smaller stakes.

Instead, both the New York Times and Washington Post have responded to Gunwalker with attempted character assassinations of Congressman Darrell Issa, the lead investigator.

The Post ran a desperate hit piece on Issa, a story turned down by at least two other news organizations and left-wing blog Talking Points Memo for being too thinly sourced. They gave the byline to a reporter returning from a plagiarism suspension.

After that failed to stop Issa, the New York Times produced a hit piece so rife with errors that it amounted to fiction.

Among the MSM, only Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, and William Lajeunesse of Fox News have faithfully reported on the story.

Nobody died in the Watergate break-ins, but the Washington Post’s dogged coverage of the story created a reputation that the now clearly partisan newsletter coasts upon to this day. The New York Times spent untold man-hours and and money exposing the FISA warrantless wiretapping program — to the detriment of the nation’s national security — even though no laws were broken by the wiretaps.

Yet perhaps hundreds have died as a result of this administration’s conspiracy to supply weapons to a narco-terrorist organization, and the crack ABC News investigative team at the Blotter can’t be bothered. 60 Minutes is more enthralled by the murder of an American Nazi than the Obama adminstration’s Reichstag fire. CNN may as well be protecting Saddam again. Need we mention PBS or MSNBC?

The Gunwalker conspiracy is the kind of story that journalists dream of breaking their entire careers. It is now in the palms of their hands: a story in which they can make a difference, take down the evil and corrupt, and ensure justice is served.

Instead of reporting, however, they are complicit. They have chosen to acquiesce to a clear and obvious evil, an aberration of our most basic values. They are no longer watchdogs, but docile sheep.

More news organizations are shrinking, merging, and consolidating as they face a decrease in circulation and credibility. When they die, point back to this moment in time, and write as their epitaph:

They could have lived, but chose death.

Unlike those they allow this government to terrorize and murder with impunity.

 

See also:  Gunwalker: Under White House Control?