I just read a harrowing account by Pierre Piccinin, a Belgian historian and political scientist, who has visited Syria three times since the beginning of the revolt against Baathist rule there. The first two times he went with the approval of the Syrian government. The latest time he went in without approval, spent some time with the rebels, and on his way into another town, supposedly with government troops' approval, he was arrested, tortured quite horribly, and thrown into a cell with political prisoners from all over the world. He was lucky enough to get word to the Belgian embassy and back to his home. He was tortured for a day, and freed after six days, but he witnessed much worse torture of others, who died under the treatment.
From glancing at his publications he seems to be quite leftwing; for example, he wrote an article for Counterpunch on August 4, 2011 entitled "Syria - the Hama Affair (How 10,000 Protestors Multiply Overnight to be 500,000)" and then another one on March 6, 2012 entitled "The Syrian Mirage - From the Alawite Fantasy to the Surrealism of the UN."
His opinions have now changed totally about what must be done in Syria. He writes.
Until now, as far as Syria goes I have always defended the principles of Westphalian law and those of national sovereignty and no intervention. I have denounced neo-colonial wars in Afghanistan, in Iraq or in Libya, led by economic motives and geostrategic considerations, whose “humanitarian” aims were no more than crudely dressed-up pretences.
But in view of the horror I have witnessed, for each of those men I have seen atrociously mutilated by barbarians serving a dictatorship whose outrages and degree of ferocity I could never have imagined, I now join in their call for military intervention in Syria, which will overthrow the abominable Baath regime: even if the country has to sink into civil war, if that terrible descent is necessary, it must be pursued in order to put an end to forty-two years of an organised terror, of whose proportions I had no idea.
I would never pretend to speak for the Syrians. I am merely passing on the unanimous message which was given me by the fighters of the SLA, the prison companions tortured to death, the friends in Bab al Musalla....
Syria has no economic value to attract the western powers and motivate them to intervene. Quite the opposite: from a geostrategic view the government of Bashar al-Assad has the actual support of the United States, which has been conducting a policy of rapprochement since 2001; of Israel which congratulates itself on this outspoken neighbour but provides it with a strong frontier along the Golan; of the European Union which purchased 98% of Syrian oil and looks anxiously at the destabilisation of this pivotal power in the middle East; of China and of Russia, for whom Syria is the only remaining Arab ally, and with a window on the Mediterranean.
A western military intervention, which would force the Russian position, would certainly represent a unique case of the engagement of powers in an enterprise from which they could acquire no profit whatsoever. Incha’Allah.For the complete report, see SYRIA – A Journey to Hell: in the heart of the Syrian Intelligence Service Prinsons by Pierre Piccinin. It has been published in Le Monde, L'Espresso, and Le Soir.
Warning: explicit descriptions of torture and murder.