Monday, June 18, 2012

The Taste of Blood

The Israeli journalist Alexander Maistrovoy returns with an analysis of the current violence in Syria as a reflection of events in Central Asia and the Caucasus more than two decades ago.

Under Islam there are only two choices: murderous chaos, or a strongman. The people of the region understand these choices all too well, but the well-meaning busybodies in the West do not. Pushing the peoples of the Middle East into “democracy” means ushering in a reign of fire and blood and rape and slaughter. No other outcome is possible once the rule of the despot is destroyed.

Pogrom in Baku, January 1990

Syria does not want Bashar al-Assad. However, does it want… Hafez al-Assad?

by Alexander Maistrovoy

A quarter of a century ago the people of Central Asia and the Caucasus also tasted freedom. It was the taste of blood.

“The first task of the historian is to make a careful sketch of the manner in which the events he recounts took place. The history of religious beginnings transports us into a world of women and children, of brains ardent or foolish. These facts, placed before minds of a positive order, are absurd and unintelligible, and this is why countries such as England, of ponderous intellects, find it impossible to comprehend anything about it.”

This is how Ernest Renan[1] described the way in which the psychology of people in the time of Jesus was frustratingly misunderstood by English philosophers.

Replace “England” with “the West”, ancient history with modern times, and you’ll understand the fatal error in the assessment of the events in Syria.

One glance at the commentaries on current events in Syria reveals that they were dictated by the same person. The similar expressions and identical evaluation: “democratic forces” on the one hand, and the “repressive regime” on the other; the “revolution” against “the bloody dictatorship”; “freedom” against “tyranny”.

It is a very simplified, schematic picture. It does not explain much, and does not attempt to explain. Why, even after the massacre in Houla and Hama, don’t we see mass defections from the Syrian army, although lower-ranking officers and soldiers are Sunnis and representatives of other minorities? Why don’t they swing to the Free Syrian Army? Why haven’t the resistance and the mass protests spread to Damascus, even though its population consists of 90% Sunnis? How can one explain the neutrality of the Kurds (not second-, but third-class citizens!), and the Druze? What is the Free Syrian Army?

It is evident from the news reports (including unofficial ones on YouTube) that the militants have no shortage of weaponry (including RPGs and heavy machine guns) and ammunition. Who supplies the arms and ammo to them? Finally, there isn’t any evidence that the massacre in Houla and Hama was accomplished by special units deployed by Assad. Can we rule out the possibility that the infamous gloomy “Račak massacre” repeats itself?

I’m not going to whitewash the Assad regime. But what is in fact happening in this country? Have the Western clichés become a reality?

We are called upon to reject “ill-founded fears”. After all, “the situation could not be worse than it is in Syria now anyway” believes Lee Smith (The Weekly Standard). This is a typical example of Western optimism and naivety. I’m sure that it could be worse, much worse, because I know how violence and hatred in the East can spiral when the regime loses power.

… In the middle of the 80s Uzbekistan was the epitome of a “New Historical Community” — “Soviet People” (a type of “multiculturalism”) with a diversity of nationalities peacefully coexisting side by side with one another. However, in the late 1980s the firm grip of the regime had weakened, and in May 1989 the dormant fervors sprang forth.

The first victims were Russians; the second were Meskhetian Turks that were transferred there from the Meskheti region of Georgia by Stalin in the 1940s. This massacre entered history as the “Pogrom in Fergana Valley”. We still do not know how many Turks were slaughtered. Armed with crowbars, pitchforks and axes, the crowds burned alive, dismembered and raped people under the slogan “Uzbekistan for Uzbeks”, “Strangle the Turks, smother the Russians”, and “Long live the Islamic flag”.

“Snapshots-testimony of debauchery (in Fergana), of madness and sadism: a burnt corpse; a murdered man and a teenager (probably father and son) and a bludgeon — the murder weapon; the mutilated corpse of a woman, thrown into a ditch; burned-out houses. …Approaching Kokand …we saw pillars of black smoke and then bright torches of burning houses. We were able to distinguish angry faces, sticks in hands… They were thugs 25-30 years of age. They threatened us with fists and bludgeons; others tossed stones at the helicopter with impotent rage. We saw how they dragged Turkish girls from the buses and raped them. We saw how they threw a Russian man from the roof of a house …and then burnt him alive …” [2] (Resembles Syrian “sketches”, or doesn’t it?).

The pogroms recurred in June 1990 in Osh (this time the Kyrgyz were the victims), and again in Namangan in 1991. Mass atrocities ended only when Islam Karimov, the current president of Uzbekistan, came to power and suppressed the mad crowds with an iron fist. Since then Uzbekistan has been a stable country with many people coexisting peacefully. When the 1997 riots renewed in Namangan, Karimov rigorously suppressed them again. The West rushed to accuse him of violation of human rights without realizing that if he hadn’t done it with maximum determination and force, there wouldn’t be any “human rights” — or humans — left in Namangan in particular, and in the country in general.

In Kazakhstan in 1986 the nationalists attempted to settle old scores with the Russians by a pogrom in the center of Alma-Ata. A large crowd armed with sticks and stones in demanded that a Kazakh native be elected the First Secretary of the Communist Party. Many were killed and hundreds injured as a result of the pogrom. The period of turmoil ended when the current President Nursultan Nazarbayev came to power. Since then Kazakhstan has been a prosperous and rapidly developing country. Like Uzbekistan, it is not a liberal democracy, but people who live there have the basic rights — the rights to life and feeling of security.

Events in Tajikistan evolved in a similar matter. In February, 1990 crowds of rioters, screaming “Death to Armenians”, destroyed the homes of Armenians and other minorities. Arson, mass murder, and cruel rapes swept Dushanbe. Life was paralyzed. Rioters burned people in their own homes, caught them, tortured them to death, raped girls and women and in the end murdered them. The country was blazing for several years until Emomalii Rahmon took power into his hands in 1994. Since then, Tajikistan has rarely been mentioned in international news reports. Life went back to normal in the country.

Pogroms of Armenians, provoked by the Karabakh conflict, swept Azerbaijan in 1989-90. First there was the Sumgait in February 1988. “Thugs broke into previously marked apartments. Armenians were killed in their own homes, but sometimes they were pulled out into the streets or into the yards for public mockery. Only a few were “lucky” to die from an ax or a knife. Most died in painful humiliation and suffering. Murderers pounded them, tormented them, doused them with gasoline and burned them alive. Gang-rapes of women and girls occurred, often in front of their relatives. Eventually the torturers killed their victims. They had mercy neither for old men nor for children”. [3]

“I saw dismembered bodies with my own eyes; one body was chopped with an ax; legs, arms were chopped off from the body — almost nothing was left. They (murderers) collected leaves from the ground, tossed them over the corpses, then poured gasoline from cars and fired them up. These bodies looked horrible,” wrote the British journalist Thomas de Waal. [4]

Pogroms resumed in Baku in 1990. According to de Waal, an area densely populated by Armenians, turned into a scene of mass murder: people were thrown from the balconies of the upper floors, lynched, and burned alive. Rape was accompanied by sadism and barbarity.

The period of instability ended when Heydar Aliyev, a tough and dodgy politician, came to power, and subsequently handed over authority to his son — Ilham Aliyev. Now Azerbaijan, like other Central Asia republics an authoritarian regime with quasi-democratic institutions, is regardless very popular among the people, because it provides the main thing that they need — security, stability and tranquility.

The Middle East is not that different from Central Asia and the Caucasus: there are same unwritten laws and rules. An example of this was the massacre of Christians by Palestinian militants in Damour (Lebanon) and retaliation in the Sabra and Shatila by Christian Phalangists. Similar things are occurring in Libya today. We have yet to see a repetition of the atrocities in Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere, where the regime is unable to restrain the instinctual brutality of the crowd.

Alas, as politically incorrect it may sound, the Middle East and the Central Asia (excluding the fiasco of the Ataturk experiment in Turkey) have always known only two forms of existence (I emphasize — not the reign, but existence): the domination of crazed mobs or despotism (in the form autocracy, military junta or theocracy). There is no other choice, and there never will be. Without any doubt the second form of existence (with all its flaws) is to be preferred, because it sets rigorous rules for the game and allows the mass of ordinary people to survive.

The Syrians are very well aware of this eternal order of things. I think they would prefer Hafez al-Assad’s tyranny to empty and meaningless declarations about “revolution,” “democracy,” “liberal values”, and “human rights”.


1. “The Life of Jesus”
2. The colonel and journalist Peter Studenkin
3. Officer of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs Victor Krivipuskov
4. Thomas de Waal, Black Garden

Previous posts by Alexander Maistrovoy:

2009 Jul 10 A Pinnacle of Self-Destruction
2010 Jun 24 The Samson Option


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but when you write that "there isn't any evidence" that the massacres are the work of the Assad regime, you can only mean, no evidence that you've considered.

Because there's quite a bit of evidence. The strongest bit is the fact that the massacres are coordinated with artillery barrages. No one but the Assad regime has artillery to play with in this fighting.

That, of itself, proves that Assad's hand is behind the massacres. But there is more. There are eyewitness reports. Individually, such evidence is weak, but evidence is cumulative. And it has accumulated. We have multiple independent sources. Some of them are western journalists. Others are children. Others still, UN observers. How could all these people get "on the same page"?

Only if they're reading from the book of reality.

And finally, there's this: Assad "pere" wrote the manual. His son is not doing anything that would be out of character.

And, in a complete nonsequitur, if a robot wrote this, then the singularity is at hand and none of this discussion matters.

Anonymous said...

Good article. The author rightly points out that Democracy isn't the answer in many regions. The people in many areas are simply unfit to handle it. It's not politically correct but it's reality.

One only has to look at Democratized Iraq where the first order of business was the killing of Assyrian Christians, secular Iraqis, Sufis, Yadzis by our newly Democratized allies.

Libya has turned into a violent basket case of fighting tribes.

Tunisia has regressed and become a shariah state. Being secular is bad for your health.

Egypt, once Mubarack was gone turned on it's Coptic Christians and more secular Muslims.

In regards to Syria, the MSM coverage has been a joke. They routinely ignore the mass killings of Christians by the opposition who is composed of Al-Qeada and other more traditionalist Sunni groups - IOW people who will kill those who don't believe like they do.

If Iraq and Libya are any indication, should the Assad regime fall, there will be a mass murder/genocide of Christians, Alawites, Druzes and anyone else the Sunni elite deem a problem.

Of course the Western supporters of this bloodshed will simply lean back in their recliners and ignore it all. Just like their Marxist predecessors did with the Gulags of the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

Assad will not be unseated, he is an Alawite and has nowhere else to go. If he gave up power he would soon be dead or if lucky, in prison. It is irrelevant who did these massacres,
there is a sort of civil war going on
in case you didn't realise it 11:59.
I expect some Western European country will also kick-off in the next 3 or 4 years.

bewick said...

“war is deceit” said mohammed. At least he had that one right.
What you choose to believe as “cumulative evidence” is worth sweet Fanny Adams It is hearsay pure and simple. Worse is that it is likely “Chinese whispers” and those recounting, as so often in court cases, are simply repeating what they have been told and , as in “send 3 and fourpence. We’re going to a dance” (Charge of the Light Brigade) is a much corrupted message. Embellishment , and poor hearing, can so change things and is a peculiarly human trait.

They may well have convinced themselves that they actually saw it even though being 20 miles away at the time. Imagination is wonderful and particularly if it helps your cause as many muslims in Pakistan have discovered by accusing others of blasphemy - without cause – often in land grabs or in spite. NOW I shall commit blasphemy and forever be banned from muslim countries.(never intended going anyway) Mo was a totally false, self invented, prophet and Islam is a totally false religion.

Journalists in these situations are only allowed to see what the protagonists wish them to see and can only report what they are allowed to see – complete with totally deceptive “uniforms” – as in WW2. You though anonymous likely reject as hearsay the story by Alex Thomson, a UK Channel 4 journalist, who reports that Syrian “protesters” deliberately set him up for killing by Syrian troops. He believes it was done because having a western journalist killed by Syrian troops would be such a major propaganda victory. War is deceit.

I happen to be Christian, and a non gambler, I would bet my shirt that you totally believe the film footage, much of which proven to be false and staged, of Israeli “atrocities”.
Some of that was created by Hamas but one infamous one was created by a French film crew. The “shot dead” boy was later filmed, cleaned of make-up, smiling and climbing into a 4x4.
I would also guess that, in your selective choices, you would prefer not to believe the widescale reports of the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Syria and the whole Middle East and North Africa despite that being “cumulative evidence”.

I am not a robot (in answer to your rather peculiar final sentence) nor do I have singular views. I simply prefer to be absolutely sure of the facts – a professional need.

Anonymous said...

So, "...The strongest bit is the fact that the massacres are coordinated with artillery barrages"? You seriously mean that Assad send his own units under the artillery barrages?

Anonymous said...

There prerequisites and there are necessary and sufficient conditions that must be satisfied before democracy can be implemented and yet our leaders are always trying to foist democracy on countries apparently without ever considering what those conditions are.

laine said...

Muslims make messes of any place they dominate and are the biggest killers of Muslim civilians in the world. The West should have learned its lesson from Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya never to interfere in Muslim battles. Our blood and treasure is totally wasted on people who turn around and vote for sharia law, the sow's ear that can never be made into a silk purse of functioning economically sound non-aggressive democracy. 57 out of 57 Muslim run states are primitive swamps except for the ones with a civilizational gloss from unearned oil wealth and NONE give equal rights to non-Muslims, while many persecute or kill them. Never interfere when Muslims are killing Muslims. They'll happily kill any western do-gooder and then go back to killing their co-religionists according to their barbaric tribal ideology disguised as a religion.

southwood said...

Anonymous at 11.59 (can't you and all the other anonymouses think up some name to help differentiate here ? ), have a look at this. If i see the alternative view on Houla I will post that too. I would prefer Assad to the rebels any day.

Anonymous said...

"Under Islam there are only two choices: murderous chaos, or a strongman."

Correct, Alex.

Seneca III.

Anonymous said...

It is not an eternal situation. Some day, the Muslim peoples will be fed up with the violence - like the ancient Romans did in their slave fuelled empire - and will thirst for true dignity and to realise their better potentials as human beings.

Islam will not last forever. In fact, I think it will not last much longer. It is every day being demasked by people who no longer fear it.
As the story of Mohammed's life and actions become globally known, a - spiritual, and collective - reaction is bound to come.
Fear has great power, but is not the strongest power in the world.
Like Christian slaves conquered the Roman slave owners, someone, some idea or vision too strong to be subdued will rise to conquer Mohammed's submission of the peoples.

Henry said...

"Mass atrocities ended only when Islam Karimov, the current president of Uzbekistan, came to power and suppressed the mad crowds with an iron fist. Since then Uzbekistan has been a stable country with many people coexisting peacefully."

Uh, no. There really is no "many people coexisting" in Uzbekistan, certainly not anymore, due to rapid and tremendous exodus of ethnic Russians, Armenians and Crimean Tatars and of other Russian-speaking Soviet-era settlers that has taken place in the last 15 years or so. In fact, among the non-Uzbeks, the only ones that largely remain now in Uzbekistan are the Tajiks and Lyuli gypsies - the Central Asian minorities from pre-Russian times.

bewick said...

@ Anonymous 6/19/2012 4:24 PM

" It is not an eternal situation. .....

Islam will not last forever. In fact, I think it will not last much longer. "
I wish that I had your confidence. It HAS lasted for 1400 years and looks to be in resurgence. I'm with laine - let them kill one another and never ever interfere.

Nemesis said...

A good post, and one that any journalist who believes they could be better at what they write should catch up on.

The West remains largely ignorant of the politics of Islam and those who are subject to it. It must be made incumbent on those who profess to educate us and those we elect to protect us from our enemies, that we become familiar with how Islam operates.

To continuely remain ignorant of Islam after 1400 years of such a violent history, a history that continues to dominate Islamic influence, is only serving to expose the arrogance of Western thinking in that all cultures aspire to the same ideals, which plainly, and as historical and recent events show, is a false logic.

Anonymous said...

What a refreshing article! I totally agree with the author in that all attemps to introduce some sort of Western-style democracy in a Muslim country will always result in bloodshed and chaos. Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia are obvious examples. Unfortunately, Western public is so much blinded by its quasi-religious worship of liberal democracy that it cannot see the obvious. In fact, this democracy-worship has evolved in a sort of collective madness.
I would just like to correct two mistakes. Osh is not in Uzbekistan, it is in Kyrgyztan (alias Kirghizia). Azerbaijan is not in Central Asia, it is in the Caucasus.

Cowboy Philosopher said...

I discussed Syria in my latest blog post. To read, here's the link