published Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Telling the truth about Syria

One purpose of diplomacy is to put as good a face on an issue as possible. Sometimes that is relatively easy. At other times, it is so fiendishly difficult that the truth is lost in process.

The latter was most certainly the case Monday when Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, told the United Nations that the deadly conflict in his country was the fault of other nations. Moallem, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters and a few of Syria's closest international allies might believe that or say they do, but few others around the globe would publicly agree with the veracity of the statements.

That's because evidence suggests otherwise.

What the Syrian government calls a terrorist uprising against a legitimate government is viewed by almost everyone else as a violent put-down of a peaceful movement that sought political change. The toll so far is somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 civilians dead, several times that many injured and at least 300,000 refugees who fled Syria in search of safety. It takes gall for a government that turns with such ferocity on its own people to blame outsiders for the carnage that threatens to destabilize the entire Mideast.

That's what Syria has done and continues to do. Most nations won't buy the explanation. Indeed, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized "the continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the [Syrian] government" in a private meeting with Moallem on Monday. Other nations would like to intercede to help halt the bloodshed, but U.N. Security Council vetoes by Russia and China have made that impossible so far. Some Arab leaders have even called for intervention, but nothing has resulted from the call.

Syrian diplomats and the dwindling number of Assad backers can claim whatever they want, but the truth remains just that.

Assad's powerful military continues to repress all opponents of his dictatorial regime. Assad's determination to remain in power -- not outside machinations -- is the reason that the armed conflict continues, that so many Syrians have died, that so many Syrians have been wounded, jailed or tortured and that as many as 300,000 or more Syrians have become refugees in other nations or that perhaps 1.5 million have become displaced in their own country.

Claims to the contrary by a diplomat at the United Nations or at any other venue stretch the truth to or past the breaking point.

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