Sunday, October 16, 2005

Assisted Suicide in Syria

Clark Clifford Described the choices open to the United States as he saw them: (1) expansion of the war—a major increase in ground troops, national mobilization, extension of ground action in Laos, Cambodia and perhaps the southern part of North Vietnam, stepped up bombing in the North; (2) muddle along—perhaps a few thousand more troops for Vietnam but no change in national strategy; and (3) a “reduced strategy”—reduction in the bombing, abandonment of isolated positions such as Khe Sanh, and the use of American troops as a shield around populated areas while the Vietnamese government and its troops were given time to assume the burden of war.
                              —From Tet!, by Don Oberdorfer (1971)

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials. It illustrated the dangers facing American troops as Washington tries to apply more political and military pressure on a country that President Bush last week labeled one of the "allies of convenience" with Islamic extremists. He also named Iran.
                              —The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2005

But whose assisted suicide? It’s clear enough that Syria, along with Oregon, but not as verdantly, is in the vanguard of states willing to give assisted suicide a chance, or assisted assassination anyway; that seems to be the case of the assisted self-cleansing of Ghazi Kanaan, the Syrian minister and Ricardo Montalban understudy who for so many years tirelessly gave of himself to assist in various forms of cleansing in Lebanon, when that spit of real estate belonged entirely to the Assad stock fund. But now that the United States has decided to make Syria its Mideastern Cambodia, it’s just as possible that the American experiment in this latest of over theres has opened the gas vat in its own kind of assisted suicide, with Syria for a Kevorkian VW bus and (should that fail) Iran waiting to pick up the slack. Curious though that the Times uncovers this incursive newsflash several months after it’s been happening. More curious still: the possibility of special operation missions inside Syrian territory is referred to like the possibility that, say, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office might send a canine unit to Nashville to observe correctional practices at the Supermax state penitentiary: a nice excursion, but nothing out of the ordinary for your average police force. It’s in character with the way Our Lord and Savior President has been conducting his $200 million-a-day war (Afghanistan’s batteries not included), so it should be in character with what may happen next, as such things go.

No one would mourn the cleansing (by any means necessary, as X and so-and-so would have it) of the Assad branch of the Arab world’s triffids, but then what? In these deserts of leadership and oases of opportunism and corruption and bedlam and cruelty for GDP the next man could just as easily be a turbanized Pol-Pot (redundancy here: the Khmers wore turbans) as a Damascene Bin Laden. Put aside Syria’s dearth of parliamentary spellings and rituals for the last millennium; what are the chances that even an enlightened follicle would rise up to replace the Ass-man, as Kramer so eloquently put it? As good as the chances that today’s vote in Iraq will either reverse global warming or enable a democracy spelling bee in Ramadi as part of the Eid festivities when Ramadan ends almost in time for Halloween. At least there’s been dress-up democracy in Iraq for three years and dress-up thrills for the special-ops in Syria (better training than the Mojave desert’s Park Rangers would ever allow). It’s been Halloween every day. And of course every day it’s been All Souls’ day too, a day more accurately known as the Day of the Dead—those in purgatory, anyway. That is, us poor souls in this fifth year of our Lord and Savior President’s regency. (In whose name is he really ruling: that’s the real but not exactly unanswered question.)