Assad tells Charlie Rose: Obama runs a 'social media administration'. Shamefully, he has a point
By Mic Wright Politics and tech Last updated: September 10th, 2013
Bashar al-Assad didn’t look like a thug in his interview with Charlie Rose. He isn’t a thug; he has thugs and murderers who can do his dirty work for him. His brother, Maher al-Assad, commands the regime’s Republican Guard and controls the Syrian Army’s 4th Armoured Division. It is they that the opposition and Western governments both suggest were behind the chemical weapons attack on August 21. Like most tyrants, Assad keeps his own hands clean and leaves the blood to the butchers. Maher is a butcher.
Maher’s record as a military strong man is long and brutal. Most infamously, he was in charge of crushing a prison riot in 2008 where 25 people were killed. Human rights groups verified footage of Maher snapping pictures of dismembered bodies with his mobile phone. That use of technology to record his crimes sits oddly with his older brother’s jibes at the American administration during the Charlie Rose interview. Bashar al-Assad said to Rose:
How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidence? We’re not like the American administration. We’re not a social media administration or government. We are a government that deals in reality.
The fabrications of the past – fantasies about yellowcake uranium peddled by Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, the infamous 45-minute claim in the “dodgy dossier” – contributed to this situation. Assad is able to present the case for intervention against Syria as a he-said/she-said social media dispute. He is brazenly dismissing the claims of the rebels and Western governments. He’s putting the pictures of dead Syrians in the same category as a cat meme or a staged video of a fat woman falling down a hole.
By mugging to the online audience with stunts – such as when the White House tweeted a picture referencing Mean Girls – Obama’s administration has made itself open to satire. The Syrian despot tried a Jon Stewart act on Rose. He presented the US as liars – a charge also thrown at Obama by Putin. And it's true that the lies of the past made the case for intervention unconvincing to the British public and Parliament alike.
Now Assad is able to dismiss America as a Twitter- and Facebook-obsessed group of posers. He’s identified a truth. Image is still triumphing over substance in the Syria debate. Most of the conversation is not about the lives of men, women and children but about how the narrative is playing out. It’s shameful.