By now, we’ve all heard about the amazing work performed by Syria’s finest crack squad of counter-terrorism constables, who rounded up the Shaker Al-Absi Gang lickety split and had them confess to their wicked deeds on national television.
It looks like the war on terror is finally producing tangible and satisfying results.
Sami Moubayed, writing in Asia Times this week, expertly dismisses the arguments of those who would doubt the authenticity of the primetime confession special. He writes:
Naturally, the anti-Syrian team in Lebanon writes off the entire story as a hoax. They claimed from day one that Fatah al-Islam was created by the Syrians. That is difficult to believe, since [Shaker al-Absi’s] prison record in Damascus – along with Syria’s history of combating Islamic fundamentalism – would certainly prevent it from engaging in such a risky scheme with such a notorious terrorist. Additionally, the terrorist bombing of September 27 adds proof that if anything, Fatah al-Islam is certainly not allied to Damascus. On the contrary, it is bent on destroying Syria.
Those doubting the entire story will continue doing so, claiming that the program aired on Syrian TV was doctored by the Syrians. That too is hard to believe. These terrorists were watched by millions of people around the world and in Syria. They gave out real names and appeared clearly on screen. If the Syrians asked them to stage the entire operation, how can they continue with their ordinary lives and not be spotted as frauds?
By golly, he’s right. After all, they appeared on television, for Pete’s sake! What they said has to be true, it just has to!
Is it me, or is Sami Moubayed slowly turning into an employee of the Syrian Ministry of Information? I used to like his pieces, but these days he is starting to sound as credible as… well, as the poor schmoes on the made-for-TV confession special. Isn’t the point of being a journalist to interrogate the official narratives of government, rather than to help circulate them? Where is the swashbuckling cynicism that accompanies his critiques of American foreign policy? When was it replaced with the plaintive cry, “The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming…”? Does it really only take a government-produced documentary to gain his confidence? If so, America take note, and consider outsourcing the War on Terror to Hollywood.
Why doesn’t Sami just state the obvious, namely that nobody really has any idea what Fatah al-Islam is. All the theories are more or less outlandish, ranging from Seymour Hersh’s spooky conspiracy tale in The New Yorker (which I’m convinced he heard from a Lebanese service taxi driver and later had ‘confirmed’ by Michel Samaha), to the notion that it was created by the Syrian mukhabarat and controlled directly from Damascus. Who knows what is really true? There is nothing resembling actual proof, just more or less glorified conspiracy theories supported by anonymous sources and government-sponsored confessions.
Sami, please, come back down to earth. Where is the journalist who used to be so unsparing in his criticism of the follies of Arab politics, yet also constructive and realistic? Why not treat Syria in the same way that you treat Lebanon, namely with both criticism and tough love? I understand that you may face different kinds of pressures in Syria, but if it is not possible to expose and dismantle your government’s propoganda, surely it is within your means to ignore it. Talk about something else! Write a cultural piece about Zenobia. Make fun of Dubai. There are plenty of ways to avoid lowering yourself by applauding a scapegoating operation.
Could someone pass the popcorn?