Assad 311 reuters.
(photo credit: reuters)
delivered that much heralded, if little appreciated, speech in what
passes here for a parliament, and having then been whisked away while
staring through my limousine into a black-clad woman’s fired eyes and
clenched fist – I climbed the palace’s rooftop.
Putting behind me
another eventful day’s endless chain of unpredicted reports, rumors,
arrests, phone calls, meetings, bravados and whispers – I took a deep
breath and inhaled the crisp air that breezed in from beyond the
Anti-Lebanon summits, where the sun was setting as peaceful as I used to
be until that wretched peddler torched himself in godforsaken Tunis. As
the ophthalmologist in me always preferred the sight of the eye to the
sound of the ear, I let my exhausted gaze travel north, east, south and
up, around the city, the land and the entire world, through the horizon,
above the clouds, past the crescent, and into the heavens that dominate
the sorry world into which I was born.
Riding the gathering
crest of neon and traffic lights, dusk arrived wrapped in a happy
mixture of orange, red and pinkish stripes, oblivious of the fresh blood
puddles and empty cartridges that now ringed the land on which it was
I love dusk. Like my political philosophy, it offers a
unique mixture of maximum color, minimum change and imminent darkness.
So as the winds of Palmyra crept to this beloved rooftop of mine, it
came naturally to me to join dusk’s blurring of the lines between beauty
and gloom, and to see in my hard day’s toil none of what my many
pontiffs decried about it, and all the resolve, domination, power,
honor, respect and fear that father commanded me to foster, command and
Ha, those idiots marching through the streets. “Freedom,
freedom,” they shout. What do they know about freedom? If let loose for
even just one hour, they wouldn’t have any idea where to turn and what
to do. How would they get their little-people’s several monthly liras if
not attached to our leash? Who would protect them if not my mustachioed
generals, spies, cops and detectives, and who would tell them what to
think, and who would tell them who their enemies are and what they are
up to, if not me and the party I command? Not that idiocy is limited to
one side of the field. When I cracked up today in front of the entire
world’s TV cameras, I didn’t know what to laugh at harder: the
self-styled experts who predicted I would announce a multiparty system,
or the cheerleader who rose from the seat I gave him in the legislature
and in the middle of my speech yelping: “Ya Bashar, you should be the
leader of the whole world.”
I laughed because I suddenly
remembered a visit I once paid to the House of Commons during my heady
days in London, and now imagined this dude landing there and seeing what
real lawmakers do, how they voice ideas that are actually theirs, how
they hammer out bills, how they talk to the press, how they supervise
government, yell at the prime minister, call elections and, if they feel
like it, even besmirch duchess and prince.
Ah, the idiocy of it all. Hamas just said it stands by both the Syrian
leadership and the Syrian people. I know it knows that’s a perfect
paradox, much like my own statement to that applause machine, “we can
delay the announcement of a political party’s formation but not a
child’s meal,” as if one precludes the other.
Well, my country isn’t Britain, and my father wasn’t Churchill. We were
not born so serve the people, but to rule them. Right? “RIGHT,” A hoarse
voice suddenly emerged from the dark.
“Who is there?” I demanded.
“I am thy father’s spirit,” said the voice.
“Doomed for a certain term to walk the night And for the day confined to
fast in fire Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt
and purged away.’ “Ya baba!” I cried and fell on my knees.
”Ya Bashar, rise up on your long feet and tell me: it’s been un-peaceful
up here of late, what’s going on down there, where I last left you and
the great Arab nation.”
“Ah, the people, that wretched lot, they see too much TV and they want what we cannot give.”
“They always wanted things, but while things we seldom gave, wanting we never banned.”
“Yes, but these people don’t just want; they demand, rampage, shout and
march, they have ripped my photos and axed your statues.”
“Yes, yes, here too, a thousand fingers chase after me daily, cursing,
fuming, abusing and shouting: ‘The serpent that stung Dar’a and
whiplashed Latakia now wears his father’s crown.’ How far has all this
reached?” “From Morocco to Bahrain, from Tunis to Yemen, and from Cairo
“And don’t you all know what to do to? It’s getting out of hand up here,
with all these fingers poking me in the eye while invisible mouths
shout into my eardrums, ‘The gallows of Damascus, the dungeons of
Aleppo, the tears of Latakia, the babies of Hama,’ as if out to further
stoke the flames on which I already spend my days and chill the clouds
which are the blankets of my sleep.”
“Times have changed, ya baba. Remember Gaddafi?” “How can I forget him?”
“Well, he is old school. He went your way and did what you did.”
“And?” “They are now bombing him.”
“Who is ‘they’?”
“NATO. Americans, Brits, Italians, a whole Tower of Babel.”
“Even Greeks?” “Even Danes.”
“And tell me, what about our beloved Greater Syria? Have you clutched Beirut?” “I lost it to the Persians.”
“Gave up on it, only to now hear the Turk join my moralizers.”
“And the Golan?”
"Never been more distant.”
“Walla, ya Bashar, you don’t mean to tell me you have been sitting idly
in the face of all this. What have you harvested today, ya ibni: a
hundred? Fifty? Or was it a mere dozen skulls?”
“Well herein lies the problem: Am I to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles?
To end up like you, neither sleep today nor die tomorrow? Is there really a way to end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.
To die, – to sleep; –
To sleep! perchance to dream For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, the generals’ orders, the family’s nags,
The media’s censure, the spooks’ alarm, the people’s abuse,
Our enemies’ approach, and our allies retreat?
So now To kill a lot, or to kill a hell of a lot – that is the question.”