This is my rendition of the political cartoon used for the cover page of the book: Asad, by Patrick Seale.
I was watching the interview with Bashar al-Assad by Barbara Walters when suddenly I noticed my mind was beginning to change.
In my thoughts, I was attacking almost everything he was saying, judging his every move, and questioning his intentions.
I knew something was wrong however, because I usually don’t feel this way about Mr. Assad, and I usually never analyze things in such a negative way.
Normally, I do my best to discern the truth without any bias in order to be as objective as possible.
My ultimate goal is to determine what is the most JUST perspective, and that is the one I follow. Nothing is greater than the good of justice.
As I watched the interview however, I had a change of mind. I felt something happened to me internally, something spiritual. But it wasn’t good. It wasn’t a healthy feeling. It was as if my spirit was diluted with something, as if it were being suppressed by something.
I believe what was happening was my pride was getting the best of me. I was seeing through an egocentric perspective – that is, I was not thinking with a pure mind and listening with a pure heart. I was not looking for the good. I had forgotten the good.
At that very moment, I remembered something I once read by Plato. It was something like:
Ordinary men can’t help their forgetfulness. They can’t help the fact that they slip into states of impurity, evil, and ignorance. That is why they need leaders, intellectuals, philosophers. They need martyrs like Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, etc, etc, to remind them of the greater good which is so easily forgot; the greater good which is God.
And that’s when I turned back to the interview.
I pressed play, and listened closely.
Suddenly my heart changed.
Suddenly, I saw the good again.
As Part II of my segment on the Full Barbara Walters interview with Bashar Al-Assad, which was, to our intellectual misfortune, not aired on national television in its full length, I will provide the highlights of the interview, summarizing key points and, more specifically, those that have been largely overlooked by analysts, the media, and the international community.
When Barbara Walters asked Bashar al-Assad why he believed the United Nations was not a credible institution, he responded with the following:
“They never implemented any of the resolutions that are related to the Arab World, to the Palestinians, the Syrian land. If they talk about human rights, what about the Palestinians suffering in the occupied territory. What about my land and my people that left their land because it is occupied by Israel?”
Barbara Walters then asked Assad about Turkey and the Arab League’s more aggressive approach to Syria, more specifically, the recent sanctions they slapped against Syria.
“Turkey and the Arab League have a hidden agenda. They don’t care about the demonstrations, the Syrian people, democracy,” Bashar responded.
“We still have good relations with neighboring countries.”
“Does the Arab League want to destroy you?” Walters replied.
“You have to ask them. I don’t know their will to be frank.”
“Will you allow outside monitors to come into your country, and to allow them to go to cities like Homs?”
“Under what circumstances?”
“To be in line with our sovereignty.”
“What does that mean?”
“To do everything in cooperation with the Syrian government: how to move, how to prepare, how to protect them. We asked for monitors before they (the Arab League) did. They didn’t want to discuss with us. If they don’t want to discuss, then no.”
“Can outside foreign reporters come? They have not been allowed.”
“No – they were allowed, and you are here.”
“I am here and I have a correspondent here with me.”
“But you’ve been here for two days now. Did anybody tell you where to go and where not to go? Nobody. You are free to go wherever you want.”
Author’s Note: This is the end of Part II. Part III will be coming shortly and will be comprised mainly of the segment of the interview during which Bashar speaks about his wife, his father, his brother, and his children.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was recently interviewed by American journalist Barbara Walters in the first official interview by a western journalist since Syria became the center of international attention last February.
Walters asked Assad if he believed he still had the support of his people after having commanded what the international community has referred to as a brutal crackdown on “peaceful protesters”.
“I believe the majority of the people are in the middle,” he responded.
Walters then referred to specific incidents within Syria. She mentioned pictures and videos released on the internet showing people being shot and killed, and rumors of children being kidnapped and mutilated.
“How do you know this is true?” he responded. “Have you verified these pictures? I visited the family of the boy [who you said was kidnapped and tortured] and his father told me his child was not tortured.”
Walters told Assad that the United Nations had evidence of the Syrian government committing crimes against humanity.
“Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” he responded defiantly.
Al-Assad suggested that outside forces were responsible for inciting the uprising in Syria.
Even ordinary people inside and outside of Syria have questioned the validity of the videos and pictures on the internet.
They often ask questions like:
“Why aren’t we seeing videos of pro-Assad demonstrations? Why don’t we hear about the number of pro-Assad Syrians being killed? How do we know these uprisings are not incited by extremists and neighboring interest groups?”
Later on in the interview, Walters asked the president why Syria had an ambassador to the United Nations if it were indeed an illegitimate institution.
“It is a game we have to play,” he replied.
When the interview concluded, Walters described her overall outlook on the president.
“He is soft spoken. He is calm. He answered every question…”
“He is not as grim as Mubarak, and he is not crazy like Gaddafi.”
Before going to Damascus, Walters was told not to leave her residence. She was cautioned that it was a very dangerous atmosphere and that her life could be threatened.
But based on her direct personal experience, Walters said that she faced no such danger. Things seemed to be carrying on as usual in Damascus.
Author’s Note: The original interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad was much longer than what was made available to viewers. I found to this be unfair, biased, and completely unprofessional on the side of ABC and Walters herself. Although I believe she did a great job, I do think that the entire interview should be made available for viewers in order for them to form their own perspectives and opinions.
Last night I was going to call myself a Deist.
I felt distant from my emotions and from the person I was becoming over the last few weeks.
I told myself that I was being too emotional, too irrational, and too spiritual. What I needed was for someone to bring me back down to earth. I needed to be more r-e-a-l-i-s-t-i-c.
So I began thinking more with reason. I said to myself, Danny, you need to really organize your life. You need to stop being all over the place and focus on just one thing. But something strange happened at that moment.
I began to feel a coldness. The colors in my mind started to change. Instead of seeing in blues, yellows, and whites, everything became red. Red and light brown. Simultaneously, I became more intolerant. I felt ready to attack anybody who didn’t think like me, who didn’t see like me, and who I saw as weak. Even my political ideology changed in that moment. I noticed I started drifting further right from my liberal position.
In fact, I was turning into a Conservative. I started seeing myself as an individualist, a self-reliant egoistic libertarian conservative.
I was thinking with anger.
That’s when I realized I was in the wrong. My ego got hold of me, and I had to let it go. So I did. That’s when the blues and yellows came back. That’s when I felt human again.
“No man is fit to judge another, for no man is nearer to God than he who sees himself equal to others.”