Jun 29, 2005 2:12 pm


If you doubt the fear Bush's call for democratization in the ME strikes in the hearts of the liberal foreign policy establishment, read coluninst Trudy Rubin's article "U.S. has chance, not plan, for ending control in Syria." It begins by describing the positive effect Bush had on Syria's premier human right activist, Anwar al-Bunni:

Anwar al-Bunni works in a low-ceilinged, wood-paneled apartment office, in a middle-class district of the Syrian capital, trying to free political prisoners. He's been doing it for years, during which his brothers, sister, brother-in law, and sister-in-law served a cumulative 60 years in prison for opposing the Baath party regime.

For most of that time the rest of the world ignored him. But since President Bush's democracy campaign, Damascus' small, brave group of human-rights advocates and lawyers, former political prisoners, and opposition intellectuals, have become hot media items. They are sought out by U.S. and European visitors, and Arab and Western press, almost like a packaged Arab democracy tour.

They deserve the attention, but as Bunni is the first to tell you, they don't add up to any kind of an organized opposition. They are small in number, their open supporters are few, and demonstrations are extremely rare. Organized Islamist opposition groups are banned.

"For decades we have had no political life," Bunni says."All civil society and political movements have been killed." He is describing a country where the Assad family has ruled for 35 years.

If you expect her to go describing Bunni's demand that the EU tie signing an association agreement with the EU to the demand that Assad Jr. end the emergency rule his father began in 1963 you are mistaken. She does not she describe the anti-Bunni campaign the state controlled Syrian media is conducting. Nor about EU's support for Bunni’s advocacy of human rights to the promised tune of half a million Euros. For that information you have to turn to Syria chides activists over EU pact comments"> in the Lebanese Daily Star. If you will look for specific cases of Nor will you find informaton about the fact that Families flock to Syria court for word of detained teenagers or Bunni's involvement in the case:

The families had had no word of the youngsters, aged between 14 and 17, since their detention in January in the central city of Homs, said Anwar Bunni, who specialises in human rights cases.

No charges have been announced against any of the teenagers, he added.

There is no right of appeal against sentences handed down by Syria’s state security court, which operates under the state of emergency in force since the ruling Baath party first seized power in 1963.

Bunni hit out at the persistent use of emergency powers to detain people in cases unrelated to state security, despite promises to the contrary at a Baath party congress earlier this month.

He cited the example of a letter sent by Damascus governor Mohammed Bashar Mufti to Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri on June 15 asking for the detention of 43 people accused of breaches of planning regulations.

Instead, Rubin warns that complains that"There seems to be little interest in Washington in the survival of the Assad regime, even for a few years, during which the weak opposition might gain experience and traction. After Assad, the deluge; let the Syrians pick up the pieces. Sound familiar?" In other words, she misses the good old day of the"tolerant" Saddam Hussein. Just in case you miss the point, she spells it out:

So even though Syria is a tolerant society, and even though the Muslim Brotherhood is banned, a sudden regime collapse could produce a surge of Islamic groups trying to take power. Many worry about a Sunni burst of vengeance against the despised Alawite minority that now rules. Members of Syria's many Christian churches worry that fundamentalists will threaten them. And every Syrian Arab, even the handful of liberals, worries that the Syrian Kurds will try to emulate their Iraqi cousins and secede in all but name. A sudden collapse of the Assad regime could tear Syria's complex social fabric apart, unless it occurs after a transition that allows Syria's tiny opposition to develop. That regime will collapse soon enough, unless it reforms. But does America want to push Syria toward reform or toward the chaotic Iraqi model? Every Syrian intellectual I met asked me that question. I had no good answer.

The fact that Bunni clearly disagrees, she conveniently leaves out of her article.

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