Exhibit A: the shocking video of Syrian rebels killing government soldiers execution-style. Seven soldiers, lying face down on the ground, are systematically shot to death by the rebel group after their leader declares, “We will take revenge.”
The video showing the cold-blooded slaughter was smuggled out of Syria recently by a former rebel disillusioned by the murders which occurred during the spring of 2012, the New York Times reported. The incident illustrates the problem of identifying “moderate opposition” that might be backed by the United States with money, weapons and training.
Instead of a fight between good guys and bad guys, Syria is “an increasingly criminal environment populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers,” the Times article said. The various groups fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad include some known al-Qaida allies. Two groups that have been identified are the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, whose avowed aim is to impose Islamic law on the people of Syria.
These groups now have a strong presence in two provinces and areas bordering Iraq. Instead of fighting to oust Assad, the jihadists want to gain control of an area including Iraq’s Anbar Province and Syria’s eastern desert region with the aim of setting up an Islamic territory, according to some analysts and diplomats, the Times said.
The facts of the situation in Syria — as opposed to what the Obama administration thinks or wishes — should dictate a go-slow or no-go when it comes to backing any of the opposition groups in that country. Secretary of State John Kerry in testimony before a House committee insisted that “a real moderate opposition” exists. Of the 70,000 to 100,000 “oppositionists,” he said 15 to 20 percent were “bad guys.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said information given in briefings estimated half of the opposition fighters were extremists.
The point is: Who knows? Another point: Remember Egypt. At the outset, the “good guys,” young people and many other citizens stood up against dictator Mubarak with all-out backing from President Obama. Remember the mantra was “Mubarak must go.” But then came the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi and his imposition of Sharia law, a dream come true for Islamists, but a nightmare for Christians and other non-Muslims.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, in a scathing Washington Post opinion piece wrote that Obama’s “path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.” He said professionals in the military “are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about ‘red lines.’ These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president.”
And they could end up helping the wrong people.