Friday, September 27, 2013

Misquoted and Misused!

 Recently, I learned a harsh lesson about being misquoted. With a B.A. in Communication and Political, Legal, & Economic Analysis, I’ve always been keenly aware of how the “telephone game” sows the seeds of misunderstanding, but this instance left me feeling USED. That feeling is appropriate to the topic: Syria. As the crisis has become international, it has also taken a turn that is alarming to Arabs: once again the West insists it not only has the moral superiority to judge the situation but also the right to interfere even though the majority of the mortal cost will be paid by Arab civilians. What used to be called imperialism, the US now insists on calling “global policing” or being “the world’s conscience,” while it consistently works to undermine the United Nations who are the agreed upon agency for those things. Never mind that civil rights barely exist in the US anymore, or all those guys still imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay who haven’t had trials. The US doesn’t participate in the world court. They just want to be the world court.

On September 2, 2013 one of my godfathers e-mailed me asking for insights about the situation in Syria for a homily he was to deliver to his Roman Catholic congregation the following Sunday. He was particularly concerned about what he called the Christian minorities.

Because I do not have his permission to share a verbatim copy of his homily, I will only include his misquotes regarding me.  He made me sound juvenile and bent on Assad’s destruction. One is wrong and the other wrong as well as dangerous to my life and my family. He also made it sound like some of my Syrian relatives were Christian and that there is currently a rift between my Christian and Muslim Mahayni relatives!

After fuming for a long time, I’ve finally decided that I must at least set the record straight regarding what I did say to him about my feelings on the US proposing to bomb Syrian military sites at the beginning of September. I also have to defend myself because he posted his homily online with my name attached, so his misquotes are there for the world to see until he or his Roman Catholic bosses take them down.

Below are excerpts from his homily, followed by excerpts from what I really e-mailed to him.

What he claimed I said:
She said that bombing would “engender a certain degree of righteous general satisfaction…as long as nobody except bad people get [taken out] and the damage is done against Assad’s military assets, with maybe surgical strikes against one or two of his palaces thrown in.” But it’s awfully hard to control the purposed “limited intervention” to Assad and his supporters and assets only.”

What I actually wrote:
The US has no more hope of success in Syria than it had in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Syrian people, my father among them, are cowering in their homes, now, waiting for US bombs to kill them, not knowing where they can go for safety. No matter what claims the US makes about accuracy, there will always be stray bombs, "collateral damage."

And what would any strike accomplish? The military has apparently abandoned military targets, leaving empty buildings. And, if the US hits any of the Syrian infra-structure, Syria will not be able to rebuild it. They aren't as oil rich as Iraq. Instead, Syrians will freeze and starve in their homes this winter because of rationing and not being able to safely harvest foods locally. Even if they could harvest foods, would [the food] be edible? Ghouta is orchard country, growing peaches, apples, plums, apricots, etc. How much of Syria's food supply is now poisoned? Whatever the US has planned, will it really make Syrians safe, feed them, shelter them?

What he claimed I said:
Lemia continues by saying that if President Obama [and the US] had earlier armed the rebels while they were still “relatively respectable secularists” and before Al Qaeda and other Islamists murderers got so involved, there might have been some hope of an “Assad-free” outcome. We in effect have blown that chance.

What I actually wrote:
The crux of things at this moment is that while the US has promised humanitarian aid, they haven't done nearly as much as they implied they would, and yet they have also blocked a lot of UN efforts to define and address the situation. In this case, the UN is the only plausible authority that could have success…
One thing that the US could do, that they should have done from the beginning is to work with the Assad government to ferret out terrorist cells among the rebels. It would be easier to [evaluate] the rebels if the Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood type elements could be defanged or at least identified. It would also be easier to evaluate the Syrian government's reactions if we knew how much terrorists were involved in stirring things up. It is clear that some fundamentalist Muslims, some of them quite extreme, are eager to oust Assad. We can only guess what they would do if they replaced him. Otherwise, the US should stop dabbling in post-colonial imperialism. That's how [the US is] seen in the Middle East: imperialists.

What he claimed I said:
As far as the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, she has doubts and refers to an article by Peter Osborne of the “Telegraph” newspaper in London (August 29).

What I actually wrote:
While perfectly well-meaning people want someone, anyone, to step in and end decades of oppression, there is clearly more going on than a simple rebellion. Some things attributed to the "Assad Regime" simply don't fit the pattern of rationale or serve a strategy for keeping the regime in power. [For instance], why would Assad ask the UN to come and inspect the earlier alleged gassing sites and then launch such an obvious attack while everyone was watching? The pattern of the [Assad] regime that has been firmly established is to OPENLY retaliate against dissidents so that others [will] learn to keep quiet, know exactly whom they should fear most.

What he claimed I said:
Many of her family members are Muslim and although historically they have gotten along, lately there has been a good deal of tension because of the rise of Militant Islam thoughout the region.

What I actually wrote:
Old time Damascenes have been proud to call Christians their neighbors, but in less educated areas, there might be problems that I haven't heard of. In Sunni Islam, all "brothers and sisters of the book" are to be respected (i.e. if you believe in the basic tenets of the Old Testament, [Christians] are equal with Jews and Muslims who follow the same God). It is only the statuses of the "Prophet Jesus" and the "Prophet Muhammad" that separate the three religions. I hear that this has changed because Christians are perceived to be on Assad's side, but I think that is a double-edged propaganda tool. There are a lot of villages that have a mixed population, so the damage of such a propaganda-generated rift might be minimized by intimacy or doubled. It's hard to say how people react.

             [This is born out by the recent rebel attack on Maaloula. Although it was
             later found that some Muslim youth from the village participated in the  
            attack, Muslim neighbors did not attack the Christians in the village,  
           “Muslim” extremists attacked in the name of the rebels. In fact, Muslims 
           in the village are reported to have been shielding their Christian 
           neighbors from rebel harassment for months.]

         I believe ALL my Syrian family members are Muslim, and none of them
         approve of extremists, so there is NO TENSION between me and my  

Well, I’ve learned my lesson about trusting someone else to represent me accurately. I pray each day that Syria remains a place safe for mixed faiths and that the Syrian people will work together to find a solution that paves a road to a brighter future for all of us. It sounds na├»ve, I know, but I do pray for the best case scenario, nothing less.

God’s Peace be with you.