Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daley of Damascus

Fairfax columnist Paul Daley is one of those corporate fence-sitting types who, while not going over to the Zionist dark side entirely, never fail to cut the Israelis lots of slack, as in:

"I've been to Israel many times. I like its people, Arab and Jewish. As someone who acknowledges Israel's right to exist, I also accept its right to defend its borders... I do not consider it contradictory that I also have reservations about Israel's conduct during the invasions of Gaza and Lebanon, and its occasional excesses in the West Bank. So, too, do many Israelis." (With friends like Israel..., Sydney Morning Herald, 27/2/10)

Reservations about... occasional excesses... To say Daley's shallow is to enter the realm of the bleeding obvious.

However, where the dirty deeds of a certain Arab regime are concerned, one BTW that has never colonised another people or exiled them or stolen their land or lashed out at its neighbours, Daley doesn't just have reservations, he hearts a NATO-style intervention by - wait for it - "the civilised world":

"When should the civilised world intervene and use military force to stem murder and human rights abuses? How many bodies do we need to count before we act? History, some of it much too recent for our moral comfort, has a way of repeatedly posing such questions to us - and then aswering them. Think Armenia. Think Nazi Germany. Think Rwanda and Bosnia. Now think Syria." (An uncomfortable lesson, The Sun-Herald, 11/12/11)

But that opener wasn't what struck me at first. It was in fact this:

"Two years ago when I was last in Syria, the seeds of democratic uprising were sprouting. There was an intense curiosity in the new president of the US, Barack Obama, and a sense that he could well be the one to bridge the chasm that had grown between the West and Arab countries - not least Syria - since the September 11, 2001, attacks on America." (ibid)

Let's quantify this intense curiosity in Obomber, shall we? A 2009 Gallup Poll revealed an increase in Obomber's approval rating among Syrians from 4% in 2008 to 15%. FIFTEEN PER CENT. And if this staggeringly small percentage of incorrigible Syrian optimists had been asked why they felt as they did, they'd have answered, simply: 'Well, he's not Bush'. So much for bridging chasms with the West.

And this:

"People spoke with resignation about Syria's continuing ties to Iran and its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. But they spoke of it lamentably, albeit with a faint flicker of hope that things might change if the Syrian leadership made good its promise to ease up its oppressive internal rule and look just a little to the West." (ibid)

This, of course, presupposes Daley wandering around Syria, quizzing the multitudes, in fluent Arabic, of course, on their thoughts about Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It then presupposes said multitudes lamenting thus: 'Oh, Paul, if only we could free ourselves of these terrible ties to Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and rush, unfettered, into the warm and eager embrace of the country which provides Israel with the wherewithal to occupy part of our country'. Yeah right.

And this:

"As the so-called Arab Spring took hold, the people of Syria watched the force of change in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. And they watched the West, through NATO, help to militarily push regime change in Libya, having done so by different military means in Iraq and Afghanistan." (ibid)

Oh yeah. Iraq - every Syrian's hope and inspiration! I guess if Daley (and his fluent Arabic) were doing the rounds in Syria today, he'd be 'reporting' the multitudes lamenting the complete absence of some of that good old 2003 Iraqi shock & awe, not to mention the 100,000+ bloodbath which followed.

Finally, from the author of Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia's Forgotten War (2009), comes this little concluding homily on history:

"Australian history with Syria runs deep. Our mounted troops were the first to Damascus when it was liberated from the Turks in late 1918. Too many Australian soldiers are buried there. That's history. And the problem with history is that we know its lessons too well but always allow them to repeat." (ibid)

Is it just me or do you get the suggestion of an impression here that without Australian troops Damascus would still be in Turkish hands today? Now the indigenes couldn't possibly have had a hand in rolling back the Turks, could they? Well, as it happens, yes they did:

"Meanwhile, British cavalry had forced their way across the Jordan to the south and north of the Sea of Galilee and were riding at a gallop, fighting their way stubbornly towards Damascus. The Arab regulars covered their right flank, dogging the steps of the [Turkish] Fourth Army; while the tribal hosts, always at their deadliest in a war of movement, charged wildly at the retreating Turks, galloping and fighting as they went, in a mad race towards the goal of the [Arab] Revolt. The first to arrive were the Sharif Naser and Nuri Sha'lan with their forces who, having ridden 70 miles in 24 hours, fighting part of the way, reached the outskirts of Damascus on the evening of the 30th of September; but, in deference to the wishes expressed by the commander-in-chief, they abstained from entering it that night and contented themselves with sending in a strong contingent to carry the tidings to the population and a message enjoining the setting up of an Arab government. This had already been done, and Naser's messengers, as they reached the main square, beheld the Arab flag flying. Four hundred years of Ottoman domination had passed into history. Early on the following day - the 1st of October - a detachment of British cavalry entered the town, closely followed by the Sharif Naser, Nuri Sha'lan and their retinues. Two days later, Allenby drove in from Jerusalem just as Faisal, attended by some 1,200 retainers, was making his entry on horseback at full gallop into the former capital of the Arab Empire." (The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement, George Antonius, 1938, pp 237-238)

Forgive me if I see a connection between Daley's imperial hyping of Australia's role in the liberation of Damascus in 1918 and his current interventionist fantasies centring on that mysterious entity he calls the "civilised world."

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