In Syria, the war is getting nasty. One recent massacre of women and children is being touted as the reason for someone (NATO? Turkey? The UN?) to step in and stop the killing. And news reports of the government bombing civilian areas make many shudder.

StrategyPage points out that a lot of the massacres are being done not by the government but by tribal militias.

Starting on May 25th, pro-government militias began murdering large numbers of civilians. On the 25th, over a hundred people were killed, about half of them children. The killers believed the victims were pro-rebel and that this sort of thing would persuade the rebels to back off. The Syrian government does not have tight control over these militias, who were allowed to form so pro-government minorities (especially Alawites) could protect themselves from the growing number of armed rebels.

The Russians point to Saudi funded groups among the rebels.

 Saudi Arabia and Qatar, ruled by Sunni monarchies that are at odds with Syria’s mainly Shiite ally, Iran, have publicly voiced support for arming the rebels. Syria’s ambassador to Russia said last week that the two countries are sabotaging the UN plan by continuing to arm rebels in violation of a cease-fire agreement reached in April.

Some conspiracy sites point out that this includes AlQaeda types, meaning a “rebel” government would quickly result in a (Sunni) dictatorship where Shiite/Alawite/Christian Syrians would be unwelcome.

Which is why Iraq is backing Assad, and given Russia’s long history of protecting Orthodox Christians, might explain why Russia has historical reasons behind their threatened UN veto of any UN intervention against that country’s dictatorship.

Assad is a “bad guy”, but what is the alternative? The Shah of Iran was a “bad guy” too, but removing him resulted in a worse government. Similarly, Saddam Hussein was one of the twentieth century’s worse mass murderers, yet the near civil wary that resulted from Saddam’s Sunni henchmen and Alqaeda terrorists who fought against the Shiite/Kurd government  was terrible.  Although many of the Iraqi Sunnis have now joined in the government in Iraq, or fled to Syria, it bodes ill if they now decide to cause trouble in Syria.

And then there are all those weapons of mass destruction that no one wants to talk about. So far Assad has guarded them well, but what happens if the rebels (including Alqaeda volunteers)  get hold of them? This was a problem in Libya, and will be even a worse problem in Syria, but won’t hit the newspapers for obvious reasons.

And if this doesn’t confuse you enough: Then there is Turkey, once the home of the Ottoman empire that once ruled the area. They too are Sunni and support the rebels, and since they are a member of NATO, that could lead to a lot of trouble.

The spinning of the “bad Assad massacres” of women and children make good headlines, but the real danger is that the entire area could descend into a civil war similar to that in Lebanon’s terrible civil war a couple decades ago.

One reason to follow more than one news source is to counteract the propaganda from all sides.

So when one reads about government massacres in Syria, one also needs an alternative source of news.

For example, the Catholic news site Fides has a different story ONE;

In Homs, called the “martyred city”, “opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics,” the Archimandrite told Fides. “The picture for us – he continues – is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Fides story Two:

Exodus of Christians in the west of Syria: the Christian population has left the town of Qusayr, near Homs, following an ultimatum from the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba… Fides sources insist that Islamic Salafist extremist groups, that are in the ranks of the armed opposition, consider Christians “infidels”, they confiscate the goods, commit brief executions and are ready to start a “sectarian war”

I’ve read similar reports on the Russian news (which I take with a grain of salt)…but now the reports have hit the National Review

… according to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ),  the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants,  and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad.

The reason I cited the Catholic news is because sometimes the only news from areas that throw out reporters are the clergy and the missionaries.

When I worked in Africa, the Catholic bishops collected information on all atrocities, including those by the rebels, the government, and unknown soldiers who were government soldiers pretending to be rebels.  We were “neutral”, and usually safe at the start of the war, since we treated casualties on both sides.

Often the one in charge would be thrown out of the country or leave from the stress, but the work was valuable. And often photos or reports had to be “smuggled” out by visitors or those going on home leave, because our mail and telephone calls were monitored.

Usually we could figure out who did what, via rumors. Since the suspects who killed the bishop “escaped” while in custody, we figure that the government was behind that one. But we are pretty sure the our sisters were killed by rebels in retaliation for government attacks on their camps.

But sometimes the worst atrocities were by rogue groups, or by deserters who took their guns and decided to rob, rape and steal “because they could”, as the saying goes.  So one physician friend of mine was killed by some who were after money and drugs (and maybe a young nurse or two) from her hospital…

Sometimes it isn’t the war per se that is good or bad, but the anarchy that goes along with wars. even just wars, that causes the problem. But the worst wars are civil wars, where neighbors kill neighbors and hatred rules the land.

It sounds like things are getting bad in Syria, and either UN intervention or a civil war could be the result. So when the conspiracy sites tell me that plans for regime change were being argued at the Bilderberg conference last week, I don’t get upset: Indeed, I hope that this is true.

One clue to the worsening situation: until recently, the Filipino workers there didn’t want to leave, but now our government is now attempting to extract the 1600 Filipino OFWs from that country…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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