My Reaction to "Canadians React to Chemical Massacre in Syria Video"

The Video:

In a new video posted on YouTube, a young Canadian-Palestinian man features interviews with Canadians in Dundas Square asking them about their impression of the recent chemical attack that took place in Ghouta.

He also compares what has taken place in Ghouta with the the Holocaust in reference to Hitler's usage of chemical weapons to exterminate Jews en masse.

Presumably, the idea behind this video is to educate the general public about the atrocities committed by the Assad regime; however, such a video, if not put in the proper political and historical context, can be extremely misleading.


The general culture of clicktivism is pervasive in our society. People, looking for simple explanations, seek neatly made videos on the Internet to find answers and hear what they want to hear. In this case, what they want to hear is "Assad is a war criminal and he must be stopped." They click on "like" or "share" and think that they have done their duty of "raising awareness."

I am not saying that this is the intention of the makers of the above mentioned video; but I can comfortably say that this is one of its general consequences.

This is not the first time such an event has taken place in the cyber sphere. We have seen it happen with KONY2012 when a group of enthusiasts who call themselves "the Fourth Estate" produced a video showcasing atrocities committed by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

Within a very short period of time, the video reached over a million views and all of sudden everybody became an expert on Uganda. People from all walks of life began demanding that President Obama take action against Kony. Hundreds of thousands of impressionable youth joined what they called "the movement." The popularity of this "cause" reached a point where the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant against Kony and top leaders in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Without any consideration given to Acholi conflict resolution methods, their utter rejection of an international intervention, and their insistence on giving general amnesty to LRA members; supporters of the KONY2012 movement and interventionists continued to lobby the United States government to intervene.

KONY2012 activists made no effort to highlight war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Ugandan president, Yoweri Mueseveni. A warlord by training, Mueseveni is notorious for his many massacres against Ugandan dissidents. Just like Kony, he has ordered the murder, rape and maiming of Ugandan men, women and children. His forces loot villages, destroy houses and commit atrocities that can land him multiple death sentences in any American court. Yet, the direction adopted by KONY2012 activists demands an active engagement with this war criminal and assisting him with ending the LRA rebellion.


There is no denial that Bashar Assad and his Shabiha are committing what can easily amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. His top commanders do not hesitate before they order their troops to shoot at armless civilians and organizers of peaceful protests. His regime, and his father's before him, designed an immaculate security apparatus that arrests and tortures civilians for simply having opinions that might appear as "threatening" to the regime.

There is also no denial that what began as a revolution has descended into an armed insurgency and a bloody civil war. Decisions made by Assad and his supporters opened the doors for self-proclaimed Jihadis from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Somalia, Chechnya and other places to enter the country in order to participate in what they call "the rebellion." Videos of foreign Jihadis amputating heads and executing civilians are not hard to find.

To make things more complicated, chemical weapons are now being used by both the regime and the armed insurgents. There exists enough raw footage uploaded to YouTube by local activists to suggest that chemical attacks were conducted in Aleppo and Homs. These sporadic attacks makes it more difficult for Syrians who are trapped in these regions to find an easy exist from their tumultuous situation.

No-Fly Zone:

Self-proclaimed activists are now demanding that the US and its allies impose a no-fly zone over Syria. They think that such an operation can deter Assad and paralyze his military operations. However, they fail to understand the parameters of such an operation, the military arsenal required to make it successful and more importantly its consequences. I have discussed this in a previous post.

Yet, the demand for an intervention is there, and it is relatively popular. The general argument is "you do not live there, so you have no right to speak on behalf of Syrians." Sometimes, this line of reasoning is supplemented with "you are sitting behind your computer pontificating in an air conditioned cafe, while hundreds continue to be killed on a daily basis."

As if it requires one to be on the other side of a scud missile to know the level of carnage that it can cause.

Misleading or informing?

Raising awareness about the Syrian civil war is a duty for anybody with a conscious. What is happening there is an outrage by every moral standard. Murder is wrong no matter who commits it. However, things should always be put in context.

There is no point in demonizing one side without shedding light at the general context in which things are taking place. The Assad regime is committing war crimes, so are the rebels. The regime is incompetent and does not have control over a lot of its commanders, so is the Free Syria Army (FSA). International intervention will only lead to the escalation of the conflict and the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) insistence on such an intervention can only mean more death and more carnage.

A no-fly zone is not going to end the conflict. Having said that, I do not know how it can be ended, and nobody can claim to have the solution. However, one can seek methods in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. This can be done through forging proper coalitions with people of conscious, effectively connecting and communicating with the Syrian people, paying special attention to the concerns of the Syrians and providing them with moral and financial support that can help them have a some sort of venue for better living.

Crises do not end when a no-fly zone is imposed, and without a proper understanding of the conflict, without following up on events continuously and regularly, and without putting things in their proper context, one can fall into the trap of misleading instead of informing.


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