A savage observes savagery and doesn’t find it frightening 242

If you find yourself plunged now and then into cynicism and enjoy a bitter laugh, try this report from the Washington Post:

A team of Arab League monitors began its second day of work in Syria on Wednesday as the death toll continued to climb in the restive cities of Homs and Hama and questions mounted about the observers’ methods and credibility.

The delegation, which was in Homs, is tasked with observing whether Syrian authorities are upholding an agreement to withdraw troops from cities, free political prisoners and end the use of deadly force to quell a nine-month-old uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian forces fired teargas and reportedly live ammunition at protesters in central Syrian cities despite the presence of an Arab League observer team on hand to monitor compliance with plans to stop the bloodshed.

On the monitors’ first day in Homs, residents gathered by the thousands to demonstrate against the government and plead for help from the outside world.

Saleem al-Qabani, a member of the Local Coordination Committees opposition group, said in a telephone interview that he had canceled a planned meeting with the observers because they insisted on having army officers with them, including at least one whom Qabani said he recognized as having killed protesters. …

Another activist, who is in contact with people in the area, said government forces fired from buildings in Baba Amr while observers were nearby.

Because Syria has closed its borders to journalists, it is not possible to independently confirm such reports. …

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch … expressed concern about reports obtained by the rights group that …  detainees [ie prisoners] were being moved, possibly in advance of planned inspections by the monitors. 

Whitson also raised concerns about whether the Arab League monitors are properly qualified for their mission. About 60 monitors are in Syria, with more due to arrive. Their names have not been released. She said the Arab League should have offered some assurances that the group had received training in human rights investigations before being deployed to Syria.

“It’s not enough to have once been in government. They need training in finding things that governments are trying to hide,” Whitson said.

She must be sitting somewhere very safe and remote from the scene to imagine that that is possible. Somewhere in the West. A bureau. Air-conditioned, sound-proofed, comfortable, where all tyranny and violence are only theoretical. Still, she has valid concerns:

Specifically, Whitson questioned what she called “troubling” information about the head of the delegation, Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, a veteran of the Sudanese intelligence service.

A Facebook group of Damascus-based doctors said Dabi was a senior army officer in the 1990s, when Sudanese forces played a brutal role in their country’s ethnic war. “Many questions were raised about his knowledge of Darfur massacres,” a statement by the group said.

Questions such as: “Could he have been one of the leading perpetrators of the massacres?” With an answer such as: “Could have been and was.”  

The Arab League did not respond to requests for comments about how its monitors were selected and trained, or the circumstances under which they are conducting their mission.

Opposition activists said shelling and gunfire continued in Homs on Wednesday, killing at least three people. They also reported troops opening fire on unarmed protesters in Hama, killing at least six.

But Dabi told Reuters news agency that “the situation seemed reassuring so far” in Homs and that he had seen “nothing frightening.” 

And in any case there’s nothing much to worry about because the “international community” is keeping an eye on the Syrian civil war, even though it can receive no reliable information about it so is staring into the dark.

“Used to the dilatory maneuvers of the Damascus regime, the international community will be vigilant in the face of all attempts at dissimulation or manipulation,” Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, said in Paris.

– Another observer in a comfy bureau.

And here’s one more reason why we can all rest easy about Syria. The  Russians, renowned for their strictness when it comes to truthfulness and disinterested impartiality, are also seeing to it that only independent, objective monitoring will be acceptable:

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government until recently was a staunch ally of Assad, told reporters: “The mission [Dabi and co] should be able to visit any part of the country, any towns or villages, and come up with its own independent, objective opinion about what is happening and where.”

Ha-ha-ha!  Whoo!  Let us recover our breath.

In the Arab world it’s a farce without end!