Nonviolent Syrians Resist Foreign Intervention

From the July-August 2012 PNL #816

Seth Rutledge

Editor’s Note: The situation in Syria is complex with many players promoting their own agendas and analyses. It can be hard to differentiate between fact and propaganda. We thank Seth for helping sort this out and for remembering SU student Bassel Shahadeh. This was shown to a good friend of Bassel; she assured us that Bassel was against foreign intervention and a supporter of nonviolent resistance. She called for more journalists to cover Syria from a similar perspective.

On May 28, 2012, Bassel Al Shahade was killed by explosives while filming in the city of Homs, Syria. Bassel was a Fulbright Scholar at SU pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in film but returned to Syria to work as a citizen journalist. He taught filming and editing to activists, and documented repression and violence. On June 4, friends and supporters of Bassel gathered for a silent vigil on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. They denounced the Assad government but did not support foreign intervention. Bassel remained committed to peaceful activism despite the violence and chaos surrounding him. From his film Singing to Freedom: “If your intuition is that nonviolence works, you’re’s the most reliable source of change in the world...we find that having an armed wing doesn’t help movements and can actually reduce the level of participation that the movement has already built up.”

Like most Syrians, Bassel was an opponent of foreign intervention. The Local Coordination Committees, National Coordination Committee and the Popular Front are opposition groups that stand against foreign intervention. Yet not all opponents of the Assad government are advocating nonviolence and non-intervention. The Syrian National Council is calling for foreign intervention as well as military aid to the Free Syrian Army, the umbrella name for the multitude of armed groups operating in Syria. This internationally-based organization has been presented to the world as the official representative of Syria by the US.

Syrian opposition blogger Yazan Badran writes, “Members of the ‘opposition’ that have been embraced by the ‘West’ and the Gulf, especially the Syrian National Council (SNC), have failed and they do not represent me. These groups have fabricated events, exaggerated incidents, spoken in sectarian terms, have promised to end certain political relationships to attract supporters, and have been thuggish with other oppositional groups who do not toe the same line.”

The violence of insurgent groups in Syria was documented by the Arab League mission and more recently by UN observers.  Favored groups have received millions in military aid from the US, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations. Some have been responsible for kidnapping, torture, attacks on civilians, and bombings.

Massacres purportedly committed by the army may have actually been perpetrated by insurgents seeking to embarrass the government. One example is the May 27th massacre in Houla. The western media first claimed that the killings were the result of artillery shelling by the army, but now blame militias loyal to Assad. It is possible that the Assad government is waging a proxy terror campaign through militias.

On the other hand, Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Syria’s ANNA network have published eyewitness accounts blaming opposition terrorists who are attempting to bring about a military intervention1.

As unbelievable as tactics such as these may seem, this strategy has been employed by the US, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident used as a pretext for war in Vietnam, Operation AJAX used to rally religious leaders around the coup in Iran, and the proposed Operation Northwoods plan to provide a pretext for invading Cuba.

A program of proxy violence was implemented by John Negroponte in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In 2004, Negroponte and Robert Ford trained Shia militias to target the Sunni resistance inside Iraq and across the border into Syria. It is no coincidence that Robert Ford served as ambassador to Syria in 2011. It appears that the US is seeking to use the pretext of humanitarian intervention to install the Syrian National Council as their puppet government.

In a 12/29/11 interview on Democracy Now! Bassel called for more observers to stop the repression. “The killing is continuing where there [are] no observers. But it stopped [when] the observers are there. The problem [is] with the size of the delegations, like there [are] 20 persons only in Homs…we all agree we need some kind of protection, some kind of observers and journalism.  We need press to come here and be free to move; this is the protection we need.” Unfortunately the UN observer mission was prematurely canceled due to the violence.

Bassel’s death should not be used as a pretext to supply military aid or justify a foreign intervention. Let us respect the will of the peaceful Syrian opposition by resisting all calls for military intervention, denouncing the illegitimate Syrian National Council, denouncing military aid to all armed groups, and calling for observers to re-establish a presence in Syria.




Ref.1 Syrian Arab News Agency 5-21-12 Ladsous: There is a third side and terrorist explosions that should be taken seriously

Ref 2. UN Press conference by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on the status of deployment of the UN Observers in Syria 2012-05-01

Ref 3. NY Times 4-1-12 US Joins Effort to Equip and Pay Rebels in Syria

Ref 4. Human Rights Watch Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing Abuses 3-20-12 ing-abuse

Ref 5. League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria Report of the Head of the League of Arab State Observer Mission to Syria for the period from 24 December 2011 to 12 January 2012 “75. Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups.”

Ref 6. Final Report of the Iran/Contra Special Prosecutor

Ref 7. What Syria Deserves 12-27-2011 by Yazan

Ref 8. “The Vision of the Local Coordination Committees on International Protection”

Ref 9. “National Coordination Body for Democratic Change has produced a draft document of proposals” 12-08-12

Ref 10. “Popular Front for Change and Liberation in Syria established… Rejections of all forms of pressure, foreign interference” 8-10-2011



Seth is a resident of the Westcott Nation, painter ( and blogger at