Flavin’s Corner April 11, 2003

Tossing the Baby Out with the Ba’ath

Michel Aflaq and Iraqi Ba'ath Party membership certificate.

As the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath party buddies in Iraq comes to an end, some are suggesting that Syria should be the next target in the War on Terrorism.  Such an action would be akin to tossing the baby out with the bathwater, as Syria has long been the problem-child of the Near East and what’s needed is a tough love approach and not tactical bombing raids.  Syria and pre-liberated Iraq shared much, but that was then and this is now.  Syria can be bought and we should be investigating how much it’ll cost us.

Ahmed Michel Aflaq, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, and Zaki al-Arsuzi, wrote and lectured tirelessly throughout the 1930s on pan-Arab nationalism and promoted freedom from the colonialism of the French and British.  During the early 1940s, the name Ba’ath (Arabic for “renaissance” or “resurgence”) was applied to the emerging movement, and with its first party conference in Damascus on April 7, 1947, when an executive committee was established and a constitution approved, the Ba’ath party in Syria became a formidable fixture in regional politics.  Its platform of Arab unity, freedom from colonialism and anti-Marxist socialism seemed to be just what too many of the Syrian peasantry and military wannabes (read: thugs with a uniform fetish) wanted.  The Ba’athists were welcomed by Iraqis in 1954 and became the dominant party in February 1963, a month before a similar success in Syria.  Anti-Marxist socialism?

I’d rather not give description to a punk political theory such as anti-Marxist socialism at this time.  The tag is fake, faux, and phoney on one hand, and fascist, foul and fatalistic on the other.  Anti-Marxist socialists are thugs and gangsters, with only a slight difference in cheap suits and savings accounts separating them.  Yeah, I’m not a fan of anti-Marxist socialism in Near Eastern (or other regional) politics.  I mean, look what happened to Jesus.  Socialism will always remain beyond achievement, where imagination rules, and all the rest is problematic and worse.  Let’s get back to thugs and gangsters.

I will, however, flip an opinion that Syria and Iraq (read: the modern governments thereof) have always been concerned with cash and that sympathetic secularism, literary blustering, and the beating and killing of enemies to shut them up have been their means to an end.  That the Syrian Ba’athists renounced socialism a few years ago and let their capitalism out of the closet, only reenforces the belief that the prime motivation of the rich is to get richer.

The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad amassed a fortune in excess of two billion dollars (impressive, but lagging behind Saddam’s estimated six billion) and left it all to his ophthalmologist son, Bashar.  As well as the presidency.  Nepotism is common among thugs and gangsters (unless, like the German National Socialists or Nazis, prevented by aberrant sexuality), as demonstrated in America with Coppola’s The Godfather Saga and a great many union jobs.

Sure, Syria gets all rabid frothy when it comes to Israel, but a serious donation into the party coffer should take care of that reaction.  The support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PKK should cease with the independence of Palestine and Kurdistan.  Syria wants western investments and should offer some NBC WMD as collateral.  Should, though being mindful that not very much in life is guaranteed.

Working within the framework of the American-led so-called War on Terrorism, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested, last December, that Iraq had moved chemical or biological weapons into Syria.  A month later, former Secretary of State Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr. (Ret.) had his usual liquid lunch and shared a strategy that Syria should be taken out before Iraq.  As Operation Iraqi Freedom took shape and in its opening weeks, those faucets of facts, the infamous “unnamed senior government officials,” began leaking conflicting statements regarding Syria.  Defense Secretary Donny Rumsfeld, fresh from accusing Russia of selling night-vision goggles to Iraq, then tried to blame Syria for the same thing.  And, continuing to use his newfound ability to talk with his foot in his mouth, Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) strongly denied last week that anyone in the American administration was talking about invading Iran or Syria.  Prolonged exposure to Republicans has not been good for Powell.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has telephoned Syrian President. Dr. Bashar al-Assad and said his government disagrees with any suggestions to target Syria once the smoke clears in Iraq.  Prolonged exposure to Republicans hasn't been good for Blair, either.

After meeting with Vatican officials this past Wednesday, Johnny “Shaking the dust from my sandals before I put my feet in my mouth” Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Syria to forswear the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and, as with other governments in the region, to see if there are not new possibilities in the Middle East peace process.”  Pro-active humility.  Kind of like standing outside of a Weight Watchers meeting and discussing the merits of McDonald’s future plans to retro their Big Mac special sauce and include more fat in the recipe.  Okay, maybe it’s nothing like that and I just wanted to include a mention of McDonald’s.  Back to thugs and gangsters.

Syria has its own arsenal of NBC WMD and wouldn’t significantly benefit from renting storage space to a fallen regime.  Perhaps some Iraqi military personal and Ba’athists hoofed it to the Syrian border to escape capture, but now they’ve got to try and make a living alongside Syrian thugs and gangsters (as well as the many visiting terrorist groups).  The problem of the vanished Iraqi troops should be taken back to the abacus and not used as a threat to invade Syria.  Bashar al-Assad might well be slightly more charismatic than pita bread, but he seems far more approachable than his old man.  Syria, as a secular and non-fundamentalist Islamic nation, should be allowed to sell-out before any discussions of further war.  So, Turkey got offered thirty billion...

I met the late Andy Warhol at a book-signing in Chicago sometime around 1985.  I’d recently rented and watched a video-tape of his film, Bad (1971), which featured Susan Blond as an angry mother giving her baby a bath and then tossing the baby out of the window of her high-rise apartment.  The splat on the sidewalk and the horrified looks on the faces of the passers by were especially disturbing.  When it was my turn to get Andy’s new book of photographs personalized, I said “Andy, I saw your film, Bad, recently and ...yeah, it was bad.”  He smiled and asked for my name.  “Rick,” I replied.  “How do you spell that?” he asked.

Much of the earliest Ba’athist thought was expressed by a Greek Orthodox Christian short story writer, Ahmed Michel Aflaq.  All that’s left of those expressions is a name and even the name means different things to different people in different countries (read: it’s practically meaningless).

Klaatu barada nikto,
Rick

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