A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bashar and Barbara Walters: Out of Touch, Delusional, or Just Plain Lying?

The headline does not refer to Barbara Walters.

The world's most famous/notorious ophthalmologist, Bashar al-Asad, talked to ABC news journalist and big-name celebrity interviewer Barbara Walters, and explained that he knew nothing — NOTHING — about these alleged killings of protesters. He also said essentially that he doesn't  control the security forces, since he doesn't own Syria, and questioned the validity of some of the videos. (The former head of the Syrian Computer Society must not ever check YouTube.)

Some US officials have suggested he is either out of touch or "delusional," which I suspect is a diplomatic way of not calling him a bald-faced liar.

He even had an ophthalmologist's comment at one point:
Assad: No, no, no it's not news. I met with his father, the father of that child and he said that he wasn't tortured and he appeared on the media, you have to see, we have to see things with a stereoscopic vision with two eyes, not with one eye to be frank.
Oh, sure, the President who ordered your son tortured asks you if your son was tortured, and is told no. Glad we cleared THAT up.

The whole interview has not yet been aired I think, but here are some excerpts. and the full transcript is available.

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The complete transcript is available here. 

More appeared on Nightline  last night,  but I gather the print transcript is of the whole thing.

My ranking is 1) lying and knows it; 2) genuinely delusional because everyone is lying to him; 3) out of touch.

Some excerpts:
Walters: You don't know?  

Assad: No. I didn't hear this story, it's the first time for the child I met with his father and there were special investigation committee to see if there was torture, there was no torture. This is only false allegations to be frank with you that's what I said at the very beginning of my message for the media to tell the truth not to listen to rumors.
Walters: Well in the beginning these protests, the women were marching with children carrying olive branches nobody at that point was asking for you to step down. It has escalated. Do you think that your forces cracked down too hard?
Assad: They are not my forces, they are military forces belong to the government.
Walters: OK, but you are the government.
Assad: I don't own them. I am president. I don't own the country, so they are not my forces.
Walters: No, but you have to give the order?
Assad: No, no, no. We have, in the constitution, in the law, the mission of the institution to protect the people to stand against any chaos or any terrorists, that their job, according to the constitution to their-- to the law of the institution.
Walters: The crackdown was without your permission?
Assad: Would you mind, what do you mean by crackdown?
Walters: The, the reaction to the people, the some of the murders some of the things that happened?
Assad: No, there is a difference between having policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials, there is a big difference. For example, when you talk about policy it's like what happened in Guantanamo when you have policy of torture for example we don't have such a policy to crack down or to torture people, you have mistakes committed by some people or we heard we have some allegations about mistakes, that is why we have a special committee to investigate what happened and then we can tell according to the evidences we have mistakes or not. But as a policy, no.
Walters: Have there been mistakes made in this crackdown, yes?
Assad: Yes, for one reason because we don't, when you don't prepare yourself for new situation you are going to make mistakes.
Walters: OK, have the people who made the mistakes been found accountable, have they been punished?
Assad: Some of them yes, according to the evidences, but you cannot puni--, punish anyone according to rumors or allegations so this is judicial committee independent judicial committee, it's, it's, uh, job to detain people if they are guilty and to send them to the court for prosecution.
Walters: So some people have been found accountable?
Assad: Yes, according to my knowledge from the very beginning.
Walters: Last week an independent United Nations Commission who interviewed more than two hundred and twenty five people issued a report what it said was that your government committed crimes against humanity and they went on torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence against protesters including against children, what do you say to them, I mean what I am saying again and again is that protesters were, were beaten, things happened to them, um, do you acknowledge that, do you acknowledge what the U.N. said?
Assad: Very simply I would say send us the documents and the concrete evidences that you have and we will see if that is true or not, you have not offered allegations now.
Walters: Did the U.N. not send you these documents?
Assad: Nothing at all.
Walters: You mean the first you're hear--
Assad: They didn't say. They don't have even the names, who are the rape people or who are the tortured people who are they, we don't have any names, they didn't.

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