The governments of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar al-Assad have been in the cross-hairs of the United States for a number of decades. What is surprising about America’s antipathy toward to Assads is that whenever the United States called on the assistance of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leaders have responded energetically.
During Operation Desert Storm, Syria committed troops to the U.S.-led coalition force that drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s troops from Saudi and Kuwaiti soil and subsequently entered Iraq. The United States was able to capitalize on the long-standing bitter rivalry between the Arab Ba’athist governments of Syria and Iraq.
It was the government of Bashar al-Assad that assisted the CIA in its “extraordinary rendition” program, largely the brainchild of President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser John O. Brennan. Brennan, who was in charge of the CIA’s counter-terrorism program, counted on Syria, particularly the Syrian intelligence chief Asef Shawkat, to conduct interrogations, including torture sessions, of suspected terrorists kidnaped by CIA operatives and flown to CIA “black sites” in Syria.
Some six years before President George H. W. Bush, with the assistance of then-UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, convinced Hafez al-Assad to join the military coalition against Saddam Hussein, the insider “confidential” newsletter with strong links to the U.S. intelligence community, “Early Warning,” co-owned by John Rees and consummate Washington fixture Arnaud de Borchgrave, the then-editor of the Sun Myung Moon-owned Washington Times, ran a dubiously-sourced story on Hafez al-Assad training “kamikaze” pilots and suicide bombers to launch attacks on “Western, Israeli, and moderate Arab” targets.
The report appeared to have been spun from the same whole cloth as current reports about Bashar al-Assad’s government conducting brutal human rights abuses throughout Syria. These reports have been augmented by fabrications that Syria is moving its chemical weapons out of storage for deployment on the battlefield. The sources for such propaganda, masked as legitimate news reports, are the same disinformation factories that produced falsified stories about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction and massive genocide by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. The same neo-conservative construct has been used in the campaign against Assad. These falsified reports have included blaming Assad’s forces for carrying out atrocities on civilians for which the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army rebels have been responsible.
It is interesting to compare the present Western propaganda onslaught against Bashar al-Assad to the one waged by the CIA and its news media organs, such as “Early Warning,” against Assad’s father in the 1980s. “Early Warning” of June 1985 discussed Hafez al-Assad’s alleged “kamikaze pilots.” The report stated, under the headline “Syria’s Kamikazes,” that “there are disturbing indications that Syria’s President Hafiz [sic] al-Assad has decided to sponsor a new wave of terrorist attacks on Western, Israeli, and moderate Arab targets in which suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots will attempt acts of mass destruction. The recent release of 1,150 captive terrorists by the Israelis in a prisoner exchange with Syria will provide plenty of new recruits for this offensive.”
And just like the present attempt to link Russia to Bashar al-Assad, the CIA and neo-conservative provocateurs during the administration of President Ronald Reagan attempted to the same with Hafez al-Assad, terrorism, and the Soviet Union. The “Early Warning” report continued by stating: “According to informed sources in Damascus, President Assad expects Soviet blessing for his plans. Syrian intelligence already provides the KGB with useful channels to the Shi’ite terrorist networks. There is now the prospect that Assad could play marriage broker in sealing a new accommodation between Moscow and the fundamentalist rulers of Iran – though this would require the Soviets to cut back on arms deliveries to Iraq and to speed the flow of weapons and materiel to Teheran.”
The rhetoric was the same in 1985 as it is today. There was then, as there is now, a clear attempt to construct an “axis” between Damascus, Tehran, Moscow, and the Shi’as of Lebanon. In 1985, Hafez al-Assad was being portrayed by dubious sources in the West, all having links to the CIA and Israel, in the same manner that his son is today: a “madman” dedicated to killing as many innocent people as possible.
From the 1985 “Early Warning” report comes the following on Hafez al-Assad:
“Assad has been profoundly impressed by the success of Lebanese Shi’ite suicide squads in forcing a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Beirut and in “breaking Israel’s fighting spirit” – as he has expressed himself in recent conversations with his brother Rifaat and his key intelligence aide, General Muhammad al-Kholi. Some veteran observers believe that Assad has himself has undergone a dramatic psychological change in recent months, and that he is inspired today by the Islamic cult of shahadah (martyrdom in a holy cause), which is characteristic of the Shi’ite extremist terrorists, as much as he is by any political calculations.”
The report quotes Assad, inter alia, from a speech he made to the National Federation of Syrian Students on May 4, 1985. The quote should have been taken with a grain if salt because inter alia means that the quote was extracted from meeting minutes but combined with information obtained from a fuller record on other matters. Such is a favorite tactic of propagandists, that is, quoting someone out of context in order to push a wider or incongruous agenda. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a favorite target for neo-conservative propaganda tacticians who practice such tradecraft.
Assad, inter alia, reportedly said, “Early in my military life, I used to discuss with my colleagues the necessity for the state to form suicide squads from among the pilots. We used the word ‘suicidals’ [intinhariyin] and well well-known Japanese word ‘kamikaze.’ We used to say: True, every pilot is already a commando [fida’i] by virtue of his profession. Still, we must differentiate between the ordinary mission which requires the pilot to pounce on the enemy target and strike enemy ships, airports and other targets by turning himself, his plane and the bombs into one fireball. Such attacks can inflict heavy losses on the enemy. They guarantee results, in terms of scoring a direct hit, spreading terror among enemy ranks, raising people’s morale, and enhancing citizens’ awareness of the importance or martyrdom. Thus, waves of popular martyrdom will follow successively and the enemy will not be able to endure them.”
The report then states that Assad, along with al-Kholi, was personally supervising the training of handpicked Syrian kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers. The information came from “reliable intelligence sources” that sounded ,much like Israeli government propaganda interlocutors.
Some six years later, Hafez al-Assad, the “kamikaze pilot trainer,” was a full member of the George H. W. Bush global coalition against Iraq. And just a few years after they participated in Brennan’s CIA extraordinary rendition program, Bashar al-Assad and the assassinated Syrian intelligence chief Asef Shawkat, like the deceased Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, faced coordinated action by the United States, NATO, and Israel to topple their regimes. The lesson for any leader, democratic or otherwise, and including the Assads; Saddam Hussein; Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who died during medical “tests” in Cleveland within hours of the bomb assassination of Shawkat in Damascus; Qaddafi; and Manuel Noriega is that one plays with fire and their own lives any time they make a deal with the CIA and an American president…
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