Rami G. Khouri: Syria and Iraq Wrestle With Their Past





Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by The Daily Star.

This has been a bad publicity week for the Baath Party that ruled Iraq and Syria for much of the past half-century. Consider the two following lead paragraphs from two news stories from the Associated Press Tuesday.The first was datelined Damascus: "After a bloody, weeklong siege in the Syrian capital, residents who stayed behind are facing hourslong lines for gasoline and bread, stinking piles of garbage in the streets and scenes of destruction unimaginable in a city that had long been spared the worst ravages of the country’s uprising. It’s a gruesome turn for the distinguished Middle Eastern city of Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and a sign that Syria’s civil war appears doomed to escalate."

The second was datelined Baghdad: "A startling spasm of violence shook more than a dozen Iraqi cities Monday, killing over 100 people in coordinated bombings and shootings and wounding twice as many in the country’s deadliest day in more than two years. The attacks came only days after Al-Qaeda announced it would attempt a comeback with a new offensive against Iraq’s weakened government."

What should we make of the fact that the two countries where the Arab Socialist Baath Party ruled for many decades are now poster children for wrecks of modern Arab statehood that have descended into urban warfare? Syria and Iraq are not only sad places today for the suffering their people endure in conditions of rampant violence. They are sad also for their modern legacy as police states that demeaned their people so grievously that they provoked several popular uprisings the regimes tried to put down with brute force...



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