Friday, September 07, 2007

Supererogatory Syria

From Robert Fisk (or here; emphasis in red):

“Lebanon's Shias and Sunnis and Christians all have friends and family in Iraq. Many have visited their loved ones who have appeared amid the Iraqi refugee masses that have poured into neighbouring Damascus. For their care, of course, the Syrians have received not a scintilla of gratitude from the Americans who were responsible for creating the hell-disaster of Iraq in the first place. It's worth comparing the vital statistics (though not on CNN or Fox News): Syria has accepted almost one and a half million Iraqi refugees – caring for them, providing them with welfare and free hospital services – while Washington, when it isn't cursing Iraq's prime minister, has accepted a measly 800 Iraqis.”

Riverbend finally escaped to Syria:

“Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.”


“The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees – rich or poor. And refugees all look the same – there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe – even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?”

Countries like Jordan, Lebanon and, in this case, Syria, doing more than could be expected – supererogatory acts – are left with the expensive and politically destabilizing job of cleaning up the human misery caused by the Americans and Israelis.  The thanks that Syria gets is being threatened with war and buzzed by Israeli warplanes (and note this little bit of typical amusement).