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Commentary: The tragedy in Syria
Published on March 22, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version


By Jean H Charles

One picture is worth a thousand words. This line represents men and women seeking food from the United Nations after a deal was brokered to let the people under siege in their own homes get some badly needed relief. I have been following Syria since I met an old Syrian expatriate, owner of a supermarket in Petionville, Haiti. It was more than three years ago, I asked him bluntly to describe for me what was happening in Syria. He told me Assad was a good man who provided free schooling, free healthcare to all. I should not give in, to the propaganda of the Syrian haters who want to break down the house built by the Assad dynasty.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
This picture describes devastation in human values and in infrastructure which is of biblical proportions. How can good men like Assad described by a transplanted Syrian allow such a disintegration of his own society? I believe the reason goes back to the story of humanity.

Before Abraham, it was a world where barbarity was the norm practiced by the rulers and the people. This atrocity goes back to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain killed his brother for a banality. Yet he claimed he is not his brother’s keeper upon being questioned by his father about the well-being of his brother.

It was a world when rulers like Julius Cesar, calling himself Divus Julius, Julius the God, exercised his prerogative in one invasion in Gaul (France) in killing one million people in the battle and took another million into slavery. He repeated this atrocity later in Germany with the sadism of butchering wives, children and toddlers of surrendered German soldiers.

Abraham bought the Law, a set of rules of conduct for man. A whole series of prophets have followed suit urging men to be hospitable to each other. There was not much progress in the mind and the spirit of the rulers and the people. Herod, who ruled Palestine when Jesus the Christ came on earth, did not hesitate to have all the newborn males killed, hoping he would eliminate baby Jesus at the same time.

Jesus went beyond the Law to teach charity, compassion and love for each other. His teaching, hitchhiked on the back of the Roman Empire, spread towards the entire world. The culture of inhospitality to the stranger faces the punishment imposed by God upon man and reproduced in the game Babel Rising 3D. It is manifested in the tribes of the same country in Africa who ignore the sentiment of national solidarity. It is also manifested in people of different creeds in the Middle East who fight each other until the elimination of one of the groups.

Syria finds itself in this dilemma. Its civilization might be one of the oldest in the world after the civilization of Mesopotamia (Iraq), which produced the Code of Hammurabi that preceded the ethical principles of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God.

In antiquity, the Grand Syria (Assyria) includes Judea, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. It was conquered by different empires, starting with the Roman Empire. During the early days of Christianity, St Paul spent considerable time in Syria converting the citizens to the new doctrine of solidarity to each other.

Syria, occupied by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, was given to the French as a protectorate after World War I. Upon leaving Syria, the French, instead of promoting the doctrine of one of their own sons, Ernest Renan, preached instead the doctrine of Napoleon, division to continue to rule better.

They armed, and solidified the power of the smallest group, the Alawite to the detriment of the two major clans, the Sunnis and the Kurds that formed the majority of the Syrian population. The house of Assad has ruled Syria with such a vengeance and a lack of hospitality towards the other two groups that hatred is so deep in the souls of the children that le vivre en commun is compromised for future generations.

While the whole world, including France, is revolted today by the barbarity of the Syrian ruler, some 100,000 people have been killed, 6 million people displaced and 500,000 refugees in Lebanon alone. Yet Assad has found an ally in Putin, the strong man of Russia. Any sanction imposed by the United Nations upon Assad is being weakened by Russian support. In addition, the concept of le vivre en commun is being discarded by the opposition forces, making almost two evil forces fighting each other, clouding the choice for raising one finger for either party.

This tragedy in Syria is reminiscent of the tragedy in Zimbabwe that has been endured for the last 30 years by the citizens of that country. Its ruler Robert Mugabe is living in the age that predated Abraham’s time where the ruler has infinite malefic power over its citizens. This malevolent culture is so widespread in the ethos of the citizens that they would willingly prefer Barabbas to Jesus.

Where do we go from there, how can the people of Syria can have their own Jericho, and be delivered from the yoke of their tyrant? The United Nations has been in the past an impotent tool to resolve those multi-ethnic conflicts.

There was a time when my old alma mater Columbia University School of Social Work was talented enough to offer negotiators that could talk to the wolf and to the lamb with reasoning and evidence strong enough to deflect the tendency to use barbarity as a form of combat. Frances Piven, albeit old, is still alive; the other lions such as George Bragger are dead. They have not been replaced.

Ernest Renan, as the spiritual father of the concept of nation building, might have been brilliant, but he did not succeed in creating his own school in his own nation. The United Nations, the universal instrument created to bring harmony, peace and prosperity on earth, is only a shadow of that instrument.

The concept of nation building in American international politics is not only alien but inimical to the policymakers. “We don’t do nation building,” said one recent American president.

The only solution for Syria and for all those nations similarly situated, Ukraine, Mali, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq is to enter into the concept of nation building. How to make the people cherish and consolidate the house built by the founding fathers for the enjoyment of all who live in that nation? How to make the people rooted in their own environment with adequate infrastructure and decent institutions so they will not become nomads in their own country? And how, last but not least, to engage the citizenry to support appropriate movement of affirmative action on behalf of those who have been left behind?

These are the road maps for the United Nations, NATO, the United States, the European Union and Russia in solving international conflicts, including the tragedy in Syria that has taken too many lives. It is time in this year of the Lord 2014 that this tragedy finds a happy solution. We might need yet another Ronald Reagan to tell Assad and Putin, let my people go! They have suffered enough!
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