Execution video should make Cameron think again on Syria
Clip of rebels executing Syrian Army soldiers shows why conflict is not as black and white as PM thinks
IN HIS SPEECH to the Commons last Thursday, the Prime Minister suggested at one point that MPs should force themselves to watch videos of the suffering and death caused by chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on 21 August.
Now in St Petersburg, still whistling the same tune, David Cameron remains absolutely sure that he is in the right about western military intervention.
He may have lost the Commons vote on Syria, and the majority attending the G20 may be against intervention, but the emotionally charged moral hierarchy he and some of the British media have sought to create is alive and well. Cameron and the interventionists care about dead children and those who oppose his madcap military scheme do not.
Maybe he should force himself to watch this shocking video unearthed by the New York Times.
It was recently smuggled out of Syria by a former fighter disgusted at the casual violence of some opposition groups. It claims to show the execution in 2012 of seven captured Syrian Army soldiers at the hands of a nasty piece of work by the name of Abdul Samad Issa, who leads a group of 300 or so anti-Assad fighters – precisely the kind of people Cameron wishes to help.
The Syrian Army soldiers lie, trussed and naked, their faces pressed to the earth, while the rebels stand over them, guns in hand, waiting for Issa to finish reading a revolutionary poem. The video goes black when Issa reaches the end of his verse. According to the New York Times, he immediately fires a bullet into the back of the first prisoner's head and his gunmen follow suit, killing all the men at their feet.
Under questioning by US Congressmen on Wednesday, Secretary of State Kerry admitted that 15-20 per cent of the armed Syrian opposition were extremists. One Texas Republican drawled that he had been told in private briefings it was more like 50 per cent.
And there is other stuff going on that Cameron made no mention of last week – not was there any sign of it in the recent JIC Assessment: namely that al-Qaeda seems to be on a roll in parts of Syria.
On Wednesday, according to multiple media reports confirmed by the British-based Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian rebels, including members of the al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, attacked the Christian village of Maaloula 4,500 feet up in the mountains, 40 miles north east of Damascus. The attack began with a suicide car bomb directed at a Syrian Army checkpoint controlling access to the town.
Maaloula is a picturesque village much visited by tourists before the civil war. It has been mainly Christian since time immemorial, equally split these days between Melkite Greek Catholics who acknowledge the Pope in Rome, and Orthodox Christians who come under the Patriarch of Antioch.
Wonderfully, many of its inhabitants still speak a form of Western Aramaic – the language that Jesus himself spoke, the language of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Lord's Prayer.
The Syrian Army is currently in action defending this community. Reports suggest that they have managed to chase the rebels back into the mountains.
Tony Abbott, the Australian Opposition leader who is expected to win the general election on Saturday, said this recently about Syria: "It's not goodies versus baddies, it's baddies versus baddies and that's why it's very important that we don't make a very difficult situation worse."
At first sight, Abbott's comments seem to make good sense. Actually, like many other politicians, he has completely missed the point. It's not baddies versus baddies at all. In some parts of Syria, President Assad's soldiers are very much the good guys. Wherever they are protecting towns and villages from the brutal encroachments of Islamist fanatics, they deserve the West's sympathy and support. ·