Just how the Fairfax press hopes to lay claim to being a source of so-called quality journalism with its July 16 editorial, Time to tighten the screws on Syria's Assad, is beyond me:
"Another massacre has reportedly been carried out in Syria, possibly bigger than anything before in an uprising turning steadily into a civil war. Accounts relayed from the Sunni opposition say it followed a familiar pattern: bombardment of a rebellious village by the Assad government's helicopter gunships and tanks, then Shiite militiamen sent in with guns and knives to finish off survivors. The work of 'terrorists', says the government. The truth will gradually emerge, but is an imperfect picture."
That's July 16. And yet, the same issue contains a July 14 New York Times report that completely contradicts the preceding paragraph:
"New details emerging Saturday about what local Syrian activists called a massacre of civilians near the central city of Hama indicated that it was more likely an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons." (Young fighters, not civilians, the victims of slaughter in Syria, Neil MacFarquhar)
Now where did those knife-weilding Shiite (Shiite for God's sake?) militiamen go?
OK, so Asad's biggest massacre yet, complete with shelling, shabiha and helicopter gunships, has been whittled down in the same issue to just another clash between the Syrian army and the armed opposition. And yet, on the basis of this hyped version of events in the village of Tremseh, drawn presumably from such oracles of truth as the Saudi/Qatari-funded Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Ziocon-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,* the editorialist sees fit to launch into the following bizarre speculation:
"Already the shape of a worldwide violent schism in Islam, akin to the Reformation wars in medieval Christendom, can be visualised. As far afield as East Java in Indonesia, where Shiites are being jailed for heresy, or Mali, where ancient folk shrines to Islamic saints are being demolished, those who believe they hold to purity of belief are exerting their oppressive ways. Syria is the emerging vortex of this sectarian war, threatening to spill conflict into neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq - and with Israel and the Palestinians nervous close onlookers."
Where do I begin?
First the obvious historical errors: 1) The Reformation wasn't "in medieval Christendom" (5th-15th centuries), it followed it (16th century); 2) We are not today witnessing a "schism" in Islam. The split between Sunni and Shia Islam occurred as long ago as the 7th century.
Anyway, what I can't quite get my poor old head around here is that if Asad is the target of the editorial, why is the editorialist blathering on about those who "hold to purity of belief" and are "exerting their oppressive ways"? Obviously, he can't mean the secular, multi-confessional Ba'athist regime of Asad, oppressive though it undoubtedly is. (After all he talks elsewhere about "Syrian Christians clinging to [Asad's] regime out of fear of what Sunni dominance and the influential Muslim Brotherhood might bring.") So is he hush hush about the armed and highly sectarian Salafite/Muslim Brotherhood opposition to Asad because this would contradict his call for tightening the screws on Asad?
Truly this is undergraduate stuff.
Finally, and so predictably for a Fairfax outlet, there's the area's always innocent bystander, Israel, off on the side, nervously fretting over the carnage across the border. The cluelessness is complete.
So what to do? Join the party, of course:
"As much as the Western powers are weary of intervention in the Islamic world, the time has approached for force to be more closely considered."
Now don't you just love that bit about the "Western powers [being] weary of intervention in the Islamic world"?
My God, is the lion weary of preying on the wildebeest? Is the great white shark weary of lunging at the surfer? Is heat hot? From what far-flung galaxy does our editorialist hail?
Take it away, Gina! Someone! Anyone!
[*See The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking? Charlie Skelton, The Guardian, 12/7/12.]