Al-Qaeda: that's what the late Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, cried too, in sad desperation, toward the end of his dictatorial rule.
When the eccentric strongman claimed the international terrorist network was behind the revolution to overthrow his regime, “exploiting” teens by serving them “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe,” the world sneered. Its response to the Syrian regime’s claim that Al-Qaeda is responsible for the recent bombings in Damascus should be no different.
What word other than “laughable” could best describe Syrian state television’s prompt announcement that the terrorists who blew themselves up in twin suicide bombings on December 23 had been arrested?
“Terrorists who carried out the suicide bombings today have been arrested.” (Photo via worldaffairsjournal.org)
The affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades denied Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the attacks, but no matter, the radical Islamic organization - considered by many to be the single most serious threat to US security - has nevertheless been deemed the star of Syria’s political theatre in yet another spastic attempt to keep President Bashar al-Assad’s regime afloat.
“We said it from the beginning: this is terrorism,” Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad proudly proclaimed to the Associated Press. The world cannot agree on a definition of terrorism, but the politics of fear can - and will - be used by corrupt people in positions of power to justify their words and actions.
How else could one explain Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn’s bogus assertion that Al-Qaeda has set up a base for operations in the town of Aarsal and consequently infiltrated Syria, while the prime minister of the country, Najib Mikati, insists there is “no firm evidence of an Al-Qaeda presence” in the border area? President Michel Sleiman and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel have also denied Ghosn’s claim, leaving Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh - a puppet of the Assad regime - to pick up the slack and join the near-comical charade.
It is unacceptable for the men who lead this country to present such contradictory views on what could be a potentially serious threat. But then again, there is no danger. Not from Al-Qaeda. The threat of terrorism on Syrian soil is, for the most part, a bogeyman; a guise to demonize and discredit regime opponents while attempting to keep the population in check. This is not leadership. It’s a matter of grasping at straws.
Fictional enemies come with many political advantages. And in an age of deception, lies and disinformation, “terrorism” has become an all-purpose term of convenience, wielded as a weapon to maneuver politics, justify the slaughter of innocent people, abuse power, erode stability and manipulate law and order.
The greatest lie of America’s “war on terror” is that Islamic militants have an irrational hatred and envy of its freedom, derived from religious antagonism and cultural hostility. So what do we make of the same Islamic militants - belonging to an organization touted by the US government as virtually inoperable - now striking at one of the most ruthless leaders from the very region from which they first spawned? The Assad regime is not the victim of terrorism, but the heavy-handed perpetrator of violence itself.
“Assad has previously tried to blame the Syrian revolution on ‘Salafists,’ ‘armed gangs’, the CIA and ‘Zionists’. International human rights monitors, Syrian army defectors, Western investigative journalists and on-the-ground activists have proven this to be propaganda. So now it's al-Qaeda's turn,” Michael Weiss writes for The Telegraph.
At the heart of the Syrian revolution is an outstanding propaganda war. When the man with the militant moustache and his media circus can no longer pacify the majority of people, the regime will crumble into a pile of absurdity and rubble.
Nice try, Bashar.
Angie Nassar is a reporter and blogger at NOW Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter @angienassar.