Al-Assad is a barbarian; al-Bashir is not
No doubt, we are living in a world author Susan Sontag once described as: “[O]ne person’s barbarian is another person’s ‘just doing what everybody else is doing.’” And the world turns increasingly bitter but amusing when barbarians accuse each other of barbarism.
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in May that “we are against foreign intervention in Syria” – at a time when the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah’s fighters were first spotted in Syria’s killing fields – he deserved a nomination for the world’s funniest political statement award. The disagreeing pro-Erdoğan reader is advised to make a quick and easy search to see how many hundreds of times, before and after May, Mr. Erdoğan has called for Western and (non-Syrian) Arab intervention in Syria.
Most recently, Mr. Erdoğan accused Western and Arab nations of “double standards” for failing to condemn the ousting of Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, by the military.
“Countries which embrace and care about democracy should not behave with double standards toward these kinds of events [coups]. They should say something is wrong when it is wrong,” he said. Precisely.
“Why aren’t you speaking up? Come on, speak up, against this [the coup in Egypt]. There is no point in being ambivalent. If you are not going to speak up here, where are you going to speak up?” he also said. Precisely.
Mr. Erdoğan is increasingly less convincing even when he speaks the truth – the part-time truth. He probably falls into the category of people President John F. Kennedy once portrayed as: “You cannot negotiate with people who say that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”
These days, in addition to the Syrian barbarian Bashar al-Assad, Mr. Erdoğan’s chosen barbarian is Egypt’s military coup leader, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who unwillingly shattered the prime minister’s dreams of a Sunni Islamist crescent in this part of the world. But who is Mr. Erdoğan’s forgotten “just doing what everybody else is doing?”
Mr. Erdoğan’s faultless democratic ally, friend and strategic partner, Omar al-Bashir, is, sadly, not a man who came to rule Sudan through Mr. Erdoğan’s favorite piece of carpentry: the ballot box.
Mr. al-Bashir came to power in 1989 as a brigadier in the Sudanese Army, not by the ballot box – but through the kind of “horrible event” that just occurred in Egypt, like the one Mr. Erdoğan fiercely complains of. He had ousted the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
In July 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused Sudan’s coup leader of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, and issued an arrest warrant. Mr. al-Bashir became the first sitting head of state indicted by the ICC.
A while after that, in defense of his Sudanese friend, Mr. Erdoğan publicly said: “Muslims don’t commit genocide… I went to Darfur myself and saw no genocide there.”
What would Mr. Erdoğan say about his friend’s democratic credentials? “In 1989, I was in Istanbul and did not see any military coup in Sudan?” How would he defend his long friendship with the barbarian in Damascus, al-Assad, prior to his enmity with him? “I was in Ankara and I thought al-Assad had been popularly elected at the ballot box?”
How would the prime minister justify his – one-time – alliance with Saudi and Qatari leaders? “I was traveling half the world and did not know my Saudi and Qatari allies were not elected leaders of their respective countries?” Would Mr. Erdoğan agree if any Iranian leader said: “I went to Syria myself and did not see any killing there?” Where would Mr. Erdoğan’s Darfur statement differ if any Burmese leader said: “Buddhists never resort to violence. I went to Arakan myself and saw no violence there?”
You are absolutely right, Prime Minister Erdoğan: One should say something is wrong when it is wrong.