Once, very many years ago, I had the temerity to argue a point of law with a public prosecutor. I say ‘temerity’, for one thing because he was a prominent public prosecutor whom I held in awe. More importantly, though, I knew nothing of law, and was arguing merely on the basis of what I thought was ‘just’. I thought, back then, that I knew the difference between justice and injustice.
He kindly listened to me for a few minutes and then suddenly flared: “Do you really imagine that any of this is about ‘justice’!”
I shall never forget that, not least since I have since learnt that my interlocutor was a man with an acute sense of justice.
For some years now, the world has been watching the painstaking deletion of what was once a proud and highly civilised nation: Syria. We have witnessed in dismay (or looked away ) as Syrians were starved, executed, tortured, poisoned or exterminated in other ways day after day, month after month, year after year. How many years has this been going on now?
Where are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Do you see the dividing line between justice and injustice in this particular picture? I don’t.
Let’s say that Assad is a callous dictator. There is certainly no doubt that the Syrian authorities cracked down viciously on peaceful demonstrators back when it all started. The viciousness stunned us all, whereas the demonstrators insisted in going to their death unarmed.
I remember how, reading the paper over a coffee break at work, I felt tears welling to my eyes and, looking up, met the equally tearful eye of my colleague, who said – and I nodded – “surely, the Syrians must be the bravest people on earth!”
Do you remember? Demonstrating was suicidal in Syria, yet thousands and thousands did. Why? Why did they insist on demonstrating knowing that they would be shot at and that no demonstrating could force the authorities to satisfy their demands. What was their strategy?
Of course I don’t know, but maybe in a decade or four, we will learn that indications had been given to opposition leaders that certain governments would be interested in intervening, directly or indirectly, in the event of a Syrian debacle.
Meanwhile, let us look at the opposition. Assad is the press’s pet hate these days. Assad’s forces have engaged in chlorine warfare, we read, and there is every reason to suspect that the past Sarin massacres were perpetrated by ‘him’. I repeat: I have no sympathy with Assad, but what on earth can you say in the defence of the “opposition forces” who are holding the population hostage?! Do you really imagine that they want ‘democracy’? Do you really think, still, after all these years, that these guys are the good guys? Grow up: It’s not as though with Assad gone, the good guys will have their day.
However, that does not mean that there are not millions of honest and, not least, kind, brave and generous Syrians out there, most of them homeless, of course, like the Jews of old, and more recently, the Palestinians.
God help us for the mess we have all made of the Middle East!