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It is an open secret that Syria is behind most of the terrorism in Iraq. The Syrian regime let’s in would-be Sunni terrorists, arms them, trains them, serves as a supply base, and then helps them cross the border. They murder Iraqi civilians and American soldiers alike.
But here’s something else that’s an open secret: Syria is cooperating with Usama bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization to do so. I can prove that to you within one minute. Ready? Check your watch and read on.
Terrorists get into Iraq almost exclusively through Syria. Syria provides assistance to the terrorists. The U.S. government provides statistics of how many terrorists infiltrate across the Syria-Iraq border every month.
Oh, yes, and the terrorists belong to al-Qaida, the leading organization in the anti-Shia, anti-American insurgency in Iraq.
Therefore: Syria works with the terrorists, the terrorists are al-Qaida, Syria works with al-Qaida.
Beat my deadline by 15 seconds! And no one can refute the previous paragraphs two linkages.
Here’s another logical progression that doesn’t work out so well
The United States says it is at war with al-Qaida and its partners, Syria is a partner of al-Qaida, therefore Washington perceives Syria as part of its war against al-Qaida? No, on the contrary, the United States is seeking engagement with Syria.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s government played a videotape of a captured al-Qaida terrorist, Muhammad Hassan al-Shemari, a Saudi arrested in Iraq as a leader of al-Qaida. He describes an al-Qaida training camp in Syria, headed by a well-known Syrian intelligence agent.
But there’s another element to this story that tells all too much about the current sad state of academia and intellectual exchange. A student at American university who I know and is very credible, after reading the article you’ve just finished, wrote me as follows:
“I made the argument you presented in Middle East class; The retort by my pro-Syrian professor, `well it’s much more complicated than that. This sounds a bit neo-conservative to me.'”
Note that, as so often happens nowadays, the response is not a series of well-honed arguments with proof provided but a slogan, an insult.
There are sectors in Western democratic society–including areas of academia, social enclaves, journalism, and publishing–where norms of discussion increasingly seem to resemble those of a Stalinist state. One need merely respond with such well-chosen names as “racist,” “imperialist,” “Islamophobic,” “Zionist,” “conservative,” or “pro-American” to claim triumphantly to have won the argument.
Yet this methodology must be used precisely because of the weakness of the arguments purveyed by the newly imposed conventional wisdom from the far left disguised as liberalism, enthusiasts for dictatorships concealed as the friends of the masses who those dictatorships repress, and apologists of anti-democratic ideologies who pretend to be the champions of an even higher freedom.
There is no better response to this sad state of affairs than that made by George Orwell, a man of both the left and the Enlightenment, both socialism and democracy, in 1944:
“The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is…that it attacks the concept of objective truth….There is some hope…that the liberal habit of mind, which thinks of truth as something outside yourself, something to be discovered, and not as something you can make up as you go along, will survive….A certain degree of truthfulness was possible so long as it was admitted that a fact may be true even if you don’t like it.”
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.