Legacy of deceit

Damaged buildings are seen at juret al-Shayah in Homs July 23, 2012. Picture taken July 23, 2012. (REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout)

Almost daily, various Lebanese politicians, officials and party leaders throw in their two cents on the situation in Syria: Largely however, their assessments of the uprising seem fundamentally detached from reality.

To judge the events next door by their words alone, one might be forgiven for imagining a Syria largely calm, with a few sporadic skirmishes involving foreign elements. Echoing the official stance of the Syrian regime, this rhetoric is hugely insulting, dangerous and does nothing to further their cause.

Repeating these nonsensical lines verbatim reveals just how little regard these politicians have for their Lebanese electorate, treating voters as less intelligent than young children, beings somehow unaware of their own immediate surroundings, and with apparently no access to media.

They depict a country, not one where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says some 19,000 have been killed, but one which was more reminiscent of the words of Iran’s foreign minister, who recently said the situation in Damascus was quiet, peaceful and a reasonable destination for a weekend jaunt out of Beirut.

What is most difficult to understand is exactly who they are trying to convince, or deceive, with their words. No one could genuinely believe that the situation in Syria is anything other than a civil war, so it is mere wishful thinking to describe the country this way. A 5-year-old child could turn on the radio or the television and understand immediately that these politicians are instead speaking of an imagined reality.

Of course there are differences of opinion on what is happening in Syria: Who is acting and who is reacting, and what exactly are their motivations. This is politics. But to deny so obtusely the facts of the situation is an insult. At the end of the day, not only is it not fooling anyone, but this stance will only serve to damage the speakers themselves.

Regardless of what pans out in Syria, the reputation of those people now describing the situation as a series of mini-scuffles, will be permanently damaged. Their political and personal credibility will be shattered and these dangerous utterances, whether driven by sectarian or material factors, will not be forgotten.

Ahead of an election year in Lebanon, these political players, with their lies and their deceit, are losing the respect of their potential voters. They are insulting the intelligence and the experience of the Lebanese people, attempting to manipulate memories for their own ends.

To support the Assads or the Alawites is anyone’s right. But to create fairy tales and false realities is something else entirely.

The Nazis were pioneers when it came to political propaganda and spreading untruths, as were the Soviet Union’s Communists who followed suit. But eventually their regimes collapsed, proving you cannot build policy based on lies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 25, 2012, on page 7.




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