by Ken Stone
Right in the middle of downtown Homs sits the newly-restored clock tower. On one side is the central bank
In 2011, when the terrorist mercenaries invaded Homs, besides executing all those whom they considered government supporters or followers of faiths repugnant to them, besides kidnapping hundreds more to use as human shields in other parts of the country, and besides pillaging anything of value they could lay their hands on, they held several mass meetings in the square in front of the clock tower. For this reason,
Al Jazeera, the TV voice of the Emir of Qatar, one of the principal funders of the covert war of aggression against Syria, labelled the Homs clock tower as “the symbol of the Syrian revolution.”
So the clock tower is now an iconic building for the entire world.
What are we to make of the contention that the human tragedy starting into its sixth year in Syria is actually a revolution? Was it ever a revolution? Was it a revolution hijacked by terrorist mercenaries?
Before I left Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, to join the Second International Tour of Peace, a retired teacher colleague of mine made a special trip to my place to deliver a copy of the New Internationalist magazine (Sept. 2015) for me to read about “The forgotten revolution of Syria.”
The article contends that what happened in Syria in 2011 in the context of the so-called “Arab Spring” was a “flowering of civil society” and that Assad deliberately released Islamist prisoners from jail to hijack the allegedly peaceful protests. It blames the Ghouta gas attacks on the Syrian government and calls for a “no-fly zone” to protect the still-existing Syrian “revolutionaries” and the “white hats” from Syrian government “barrel bombs.” It would take too long here to catalogue all the lies and distortions inherent in the article. And they have been ably exposed already on this website (crescent-online.net), at syriasolidaritymovement.org, at Global Research.ca, in Professor Tim Anderson’s excellent new e-book, “The Dirty War Against Syria” and in many other places.
The point for me is to ask why otherwise intelligent people can fall for such shit, and not just once but repeatedly. It’s not as if Syria is the very first government targeted for regime change by the USA. It’s not that people are unaware of that fact that the first casualty of war is the truth. Yet, starting with the post-Cold War bombing of the former Yugoslavia, through Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Libya, Somalia, and now Syria, there is never a shortage of “leftists” in the West who can be either bought or convinced through their incredible naivete that the motives of the Empire are good.
After the imperialists get the latest installment of their permanent war of terror started and have accomplished their objectives, it doesn’t matter at all if propaganda pieces (such as Kuwaiti incubator babies or the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) are exposed as lies. Once the dust of war has settled, it’s all over, baby.
So, we are here in Homs today to see how the survivors have manged to pick up the pieces of their lives after the story of alleged Syrian “revolutionaries” was used to market naked aggression against Syria for five long years by the West.
Across from the clock tower lie the ruins of the old city of Homs. By now, everyone in the world has seen photos of the devastation. Still, it takes one’s breath away to witness up close large reinforced-concrete buildings completely missing their facades on every side, floors pancaked on each other, yawning craters in the ground, rubble strewn everywhere, parts of buildings leaning against each other.
Before the war, Homs was the third largest Syrian city, with a population of 1,200,000. Today, crowded with 400,000 internally displaced people, Homs can only boast a population of about 900,000 people. What happened to half of Homsians? The truthful answer is that nobody knows for sure. Obviously, some are external refugees, some internal refugees, and some are dead. Judging from the many corpses found buried around the city, some of which were missing eyes and various internal organs, many have speculated that the terrorists ran a lucrative trade in human organs, besides their human trafficking in Syrian women, boys, and children, and their other rackets such as rapine and pillage. It surprizes the other members of the peace delegation to hear this but not me. The terrorists were working in accordance with a well-rehearsed imperial script here in Homs. The KLA , NATO’s footsoldiers in Kosovo, (formerly part of Yugoslavia) also ran an organ-smuggling operation out of a house in Pristina in 1999.
The main cause of the devastation in Homs was the battle for control of the old city and a working class neighbourhood further out called Bab Amar. The government recaptured Homs once but lost it again. When they returned, the terrorists were better-trained. They broke loopholes through the walls of adjoining houses, attached mattresses to the ceilings of rooms and planted gas canisters in each room, connected to remote detonators. When the Syrian army attempted to retake the old city a second time, the terrorists blew up whole blocks of buildings at once, killing many soldiers. So, the army resorted to air strikes and artillery to flush out the terrorists. Thus, the devastation. But even with massive firepower, it took a reconciliation project to persuade 10,000 mostly-foreign fighters finally to abandon the city.
You can be sure that the same New Internationalist type of western “leftists” who thought it was so cool in 2011 for Syrian “revolutionaries” to release thousands of ping pong balls in the streets with the word “freedom” written on each, or stuff sticky bank cards into ATM’s, were appalled that the Syrian government used its armed forces against the terrorists. Heaven forbid that a sovereign state should exercise its right and duty to protect its citizens and to repel foreigners!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough. During the time that the terrorists controlled parts of Homs, they systematically destroyed historic sites. For example, they very nearly brought down the Khaled Ibn Alwalid Mosque, a shrine to a famous Sunni leader. Their plan was to pin the blame on the Syrian government. However, typically they filmed themselves committing the crime (of destroying the mosque from inside), this giving the lie to their own claim.
Today, our solidarity delegation has the pleasure of touring the reconstruction project with a team of three engineers, the senior of whom is a woman, who detail the meticulous work involved in restoring this shrine to its original condition. Jeff Klein from Boston, a writer for Counterpunch, hits the nail on the head. He remarks that he’s pleased to see that Syrian government is restoring historic buildings damaged during the war because “these sites are part of our common human heritage.”
Another site you wouldn’t know about from the New Internationalist is the Saint Mary Church of the Holy Belt. According to Christian tradition, St. Thomas left the belt of the Virgin Mary in Homs on his journey to spread the gospels in India. The terrorists were determined to find that belt and, when they didn’t, they took their vengeance out on the parishioners, tore up the icons, and burnt part of church.
Then, there was there was the ancient souk (covered market). There, the terrorists looted the goldsmitheries and laid waste to the rest of this, the commercial heart of the city. When our delegation arrived in that part of the souk, there were only three or four stalls open, though others were in the process of restoration. The shopkeepers, who offered us tea, told us that even though there was little business to handle, they simply could not stand to see the shops occupied by their fathers and grandfathers sit idle. So staying open was their contribution to the return to normality in Homs.
Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit, remained in Homs during its control by the foreign-backed mercenaries. He ministered peacefully to his congregation, focussing on persons with disabilities, until on April 7, 2014, Al Nusra terrorists came to the garden of the Jesuit monastery and ordered him to leave Homs. When he refused to abandon his flock, they cowardly gunned him down in cold blood at the age of 76. His tomb, in the form of cross, is laid in that very garden. Father Frans was the second foreign Jesuit martyred in Syria. Father Paolo Dell’Oglio was lionized by phony western “leftists” because he criticized the Syrian government’s handing of the crisis. However, that didn’t stop ISIS from murdering him and, according to various reports, dropping his body into a hole in Raqqa.
Then there was the formerly beautiful Beit al Algha Restaurant which the terrorists destroyed simply because it was the most famous spot to eat in Homs, where even the president and his wife had once to come to dinner.
Our tour organizers worked overtime to get us an interview with the Governor of Homs. And at 1:45 pm, we were ushered into his office. Talal al Barazi, formerly a Syrian businessman in Dubai, returned home to contribute to the growth of his native country. Today, he apologized for being a bit worn out. He explained he hadn’t slept for 48 hours during the election process.
He began by showing us a nine-minute video on the ambitious proposed reconstruction program for Homs. Unsurprisingly, the video began with a clip of the unveiling of the restored clock tower, which the terrorists had destroyed before they abandonned the city. In it, the two-star Syrian flag was proudly raised to the top of the tower. The reconstruction project includes, as only a first step, a plan completely to raze the ruins in Bab Amar and build 465 12-storey apartment buildings in its place. The governor insisted the plan is not only doable but could be completed in four years. It’s part of a national plan to build one million new housing units.
The problems, he said were two-fold: the economic sanctions levelled by western governments against Syria affect the financing of the projects and the availability of materiel; the threat of terrorism limits the availability of foreign investment.
After answering some of our questions, the governor asked if our delegation would like to accompany him to a student performance in the nearby cultural centre. We accepted and, to our surprise, the governor decided to accompany us there on our bus.
The performance, which dealt with the integration of down syndrome children into the normal activities of life, was moving.
As we left Homs, we passed the clock tower with a new appreciation of its significance. We were heartened by focus in Homs, not on the devastation, but rather on the reconstruction.
But one has to ask, where are the forgotten “revolutionaries” of Syria lamented by the New Internationlist? I’ll tell you. Like the foreign terrorist mercenaries, the “revolutionaries” adored by phony western “leftists”, are disposable tools for the western powers just like the paintbrushes you buy at the dollar store.
Use ’em once. Throw ’em away.
Visit the Facbook page for International Tours of Peace to Syria, where many photos and explanations from the Second Tour are posted.