FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Reporting Syria: I Talked to Everyone, Except Assad

Photograph Source: Zyzzzzzy – CC BY 2.0

I’ve spent months these past eight years in Syria’s amputated cities. They are a scar on all our lives – the Russians, the Syrians, the armed Islamists, the western powers that spent more time trying to destroy Syria than the Syrian regime.

The bodies buried deep within these heaps of concrete, the survivors, and those invisibly but forever mentally wounded have paid the price of our military cruelty and indifference. Many of those who fled these gaunt cities are now in Europe – or at the bottom of the Mediterranean. And we don’t even know – or care? – about the statistics. Did 350,000 die here? Or 450,000? Or 500,000? These figures have all been used, a careless 150,000 separating the first from the last.

Beirut, Mostar, Sarajevo, Aleppo, Homs, and now Mosul and Raqqa – we are forced to ask ourselves if these sepulchral ruins are something we have come to regard as natural, something we accept or have accepted for hundreds of years: that destruction is a natural part of history.

I hope I don’t believe this. I’ve driven thousands of miles across Syria, with no minders (they are mostly called up into the army) and no protection to reach front lines where Syrian government soldiers, often wounded, have run and crawled through the broken concrete to show me Isis flags in the next field or broken house.

If they cross the lines, journalists will have their heads cut off – which is why there are no Western reporters based in the government-besieged province of Idlib (they only very rarely ever visit). And I’ve always believed that regimes are to be avoided. I’m one of the few journalists I know who has not interviewed Assad. Talking to armies can reveal the truth.

I reckon half the Syrian soldiers I’ve interviewed have later been killed. The total dead of the entire army is a state secret, but I’ve discovered the real figure: around 85,000 – quite a toll for the Assad regime’s only real defenders. Until the Russians came.

I talk to them all. It’s my job. One general, ‘The Tiger’, was so used to gunfire that he spoke while sitting in a field erupting with shell explosions – until I realised he was already, in his own mind, ready to be killed, and I explained that I could hear him more clearly if we were in a trench.

That’s what you’ve got to remember in all wars: that you are going there to report – not to die.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail