Héroes, 10 de febrero: Julián Galarza Ayastuy, Ángel García Rabadán, Domingo Puente Marín y Rafael Martínez Emperador

Libertad Digital.

El 10 de febrero de 1976, al día siguiente del asesinato del alcalde de Galdácano, Víctor Legorburu Ibarreche, es asesinado a tiros en Cizúrquil (Guipúzcoa) el mecánico JULIÁN GALARZA AYASTUY. ETA creía que asesinaba también al alcalde de la localidad, Antonio Vicuña, pero se confundió, pues Julián era mecánico. Dos días después, el 12 de febrero, la banda asesina emitió un comunicado en el que reconocía haberse equivocado de blanco al asesinar a Julián.
Julián Galarza acababa de salir de su puesto de trabajo en la factoría Kramer de Cizúrquil a las doce y cuarto. Como todos los días fue a tomarse un blanco al bar Pago-Enea en compañía de un amigo. A la salida del bar se encontró con sus tíos, con los que charló un rato, despidiéndose de ellos seguidamente para dirigirse a su domicilio, que se encontraba a unos cien metros del lugar. Cuando se disponía a cruzar la calle fue tiroteado por varios jóvenes, causándole la muerte en el acto.
Los etarras que acabaron con la vida de Julián fueron José Miguel Retolaza Urbina, alias Ereki, e Isidro María Garalde, alias Mamarru.
Julián Galarza Ayastuy, tenía 37 años. Había contraído matrimonio hacía poco más de dos meses en Loyola, concretamente el día 7 de diciembre de 1975.
A la una menos veinte de la madrugada del 10 de febrero de 1992, ETA asesinaba en Murcia al policía nacional ÁNGEL GARCÍA RABADÁN mediante la colocación de un coche bomba que explotó junto a la Comandancia de la Guardia Civil de Murcia.
La explosión se produjo en la calle de Diego Rodríguez de Almena, en el barrio de Vista Alegre. Ángel formaba parte de la patrulla policial que acudió al lugar tras recibirse en la comisaría una llamada anónima. El comunicante advertía de la existencia de un coche-bomba y de que no se hacían responsables de lo que pudiese ocurrir. Con él iba su compañero Antonio Peñalver Pérez. En el instante en el que Ángel se acercó a examinar el vehículo, el etarra José Luis Urrusolo Sistiaga accionó el artefacto explosivo por radio-control. La onda expansiva le mató en el acto.
Murcia no ha sido una región especialmente golpeada por el terrorismo de ETA. En septiembre de 1990 se produjo la explosión de un vehículo cargado con 200 kilos de amonal, que destruyó el cuartel de la Guardia Civil de Cartagena, además de los atentados con pequeños paquetes-bomba que afectaron a varios hoteles de La Manga a principios de los 90, que provocaron una gran psicosis entre los veraneantes e importantes perjuicios para el sector turístico. El atentado contra Ángel García Rabadán es el único que ha tenido lugar en Murcia con resultado de muerte. Sin embargo,41 murcianos han sido víctimas directas de la violencia etarra: 14 fallecidos y 27 heridos en atentados. Si a ello sumamos las viudas e hijos de los asesinados, el número de afectados en esta Comunidad Autónoma se acerca al centenar.
En 1994 fue condenado por el asesinato de Ángel el etarra Fernando Díaz Torres a 30 años de reclusión mayor.
Ángel García Rabadán tenía 47 años y era natural de Rincón de Beniscornia (Murcia). Estaba casado con Francisca Guerrero y era padre de tres hijos: Ángel, Francisco Javier y José Antonio. Había sido condecorado en 1989 por su actuación en un incendio en Murcia en el que salvó la vida de dos niños. Su funeral en la catedral de Murcia congregó a más de cinco mil personas. Cuatro días después, el 14 de febrero de 1992, unas cincuenta mil personas se manifestaron en Murcia, con el apoyo de todos los grupos políticos con representación en la Asamblea Autonómica: PSOE, PP e IU.A las siete y cuarto de la mañana del 10 de febrero de 1997 ETA hizo explotar un Fiat Tipo con cincuenta kilos de amonal en el lateral de la carretera de Armilla (Granada), al paso de una furgoneta camuflada del Ejército del Aire. El vehículo era utilizado por el personal civil y militar que prestaba sus servicios en la base aérea. La explosión provocó la muerte en el acto de DOMINGO PUENTE MARÍN, peluquero de la base, que salió despedido del vehículo.
El furgón, camuflado para disimular su pertenencia al Ejército, realizaba el mismo itinerario desde hacía casi cinco años. Un acelerón del conductor para pasar un semáforo en ámbar evitó una masacre. Sin embargo, la brutalidad de la explosión dejó a otras 17 personas heridas, entre ellas ocho compañeros de Domingo. Dos de ellos quedaron heridos de gravedad: Fernando Orbén Payán, de 43 años (que perdió un ojo), empleado civil de la base, y Miguel Ángel Rabadán, de 40, con traumatismo facial y ocular. Varios bloques de viviendas próximas quedaron muy afectados y tuvieron que ser desalojados ciento veinticinco vecinos. 
El resto de los heridos fueron el cabo primero Juan Pedro Laguna, de 24 años, hospitalizado con heridas en las piernas; su compañero de la misma graduación Jorge Arias Fernández, de 22 años y conductor del furgón, que fue dado de alta; al igual que los cuatro vecinos: José Luis Hidalgo Huerta, de 27 años; Jorge Rodríguez Fernández, de 23, y los hermanos José Antonio y María Galán Vera, de 13 y 17 años, respectivamente. Los dos adolescentes, hijos de un militar que también trabajaba en Armilla, sufrieron cortes al caérseles encima las ventanas de su cuarto por la explosión. Hubo otros nueve heridos de menor gravedad.
La Audiencia Nacional condenó en 2001 al etarra José Luis Martín Barrios a 25 años por el asesinato de Domingo y a 11 años por cada uno de los diecisiete delitos de asesinato en grado de tentativa.
Domingo Puente Marín de 51 años, estaba casado y tenía tres hijos de 21, 18 y 15 años. Era del pueblo granadino de Güéjar Sierra. Sus restos mortales fueron trasladados desde la base de Armilla a su pueblo natal, quedando expuesto en el Ayuntamiento hasta las 16:30 horas. A su entierro, esa misma tarde, acudió todo el pueblo. El 12 de febrero se celebró en Granada una multitudinaria manifestación contra el terrorismo que fue convocada por todos los partidos políticos, sindicatos y asociaciones.
Siete horas después, a las 14:30 horas de ese 10 de febrero de 1997, era asesinado en Madrid el magistrado de lo Social del Tribunal Supremo RAFAEL MARTÍNEZ EMPERADOR
El atentado se produjo poco después de que Rafael se hubiera apeado de su coche oficial en la esquina de la calle de Narváez con la de Menorca. Tras decirle a su chófer que iba a recoger unos documentos, caminó unos metros hasta llegar al portal de su domicilio. Un pistolero de ETA se acercó a él cuando llamaba al timbre del portal de su casa y le disparó un tiro en la cabeza. 
El magistrado había ido a su casa para recoger los folios de una conferencia que iba a impartir en la Universidad Pompeu Fabra, de Barcelona, en donde tenía previsto asistir el mismo lunes 10 por la tarde a un curso sobre Actualización de Jurisprudencia Laboral. La Universidad decidió mantener el acto académico y convertirlo en un homenaje al magistrado asesinado.
Martínez Emperador fue trasladado al hospital Gregorio Marañón, situado tan sólo a unos 200 metros de su vivienda. Ingresó cadáver sobre las tres de la tarde como consecuencia de una herida por arma de fuego, con orificio de entrada "a nivel de la región occipital izquierda y orificio de salida por la región frontoparietal derecha", según el parte médico. Al hospital acudieron minutos después el vicepresidente del Gobierno, Francisco Álvarez Cascos; el presidente del Tribunal Constitucional, Álvaro Rodríguez Bereijo; el presidente del Consejo General del Poder Judicial, Javier Delgado, y el presidente de la Comunidad de Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, así como decenas de compañeros de la víctima.
Como declaró el presidente de la Audiencia Nacional, Clemente Auger, el asesinato del magistrado, que no tenía escolta, supone "un brutal intento de amedrentamiento al Poder Judicial para que no cumpla su función".
El secretario de Estado de Seguridad, Ricardo Martí Fluxá, declaró tras el asesinato que varios testigos habían reconocido fotográficamente al terrorista Jon Bienzobas Arrexte, alias Karaka, que asesinó al ex presidente del Tribunal Constitucional Francisco Tomás y Valiente el 14 de febrero de 1996. Sin embargo, Bienzobas no fue juzgado por el asesinato del magistrado.
Sí lo fue el etarra Javier Abaunza Martínez, imputado por este asesinato en 2007. Abaunza Martínez había sido detenido en Francia en mayo de 2002 y condenado por la justicia gala a dos penas, una de doce años de cárcel por amenazas de muerte, robo, tenencia y transporte de armas y asociación de malhechores, y otra de catorce por ser responsable del aparato de adiestramiento de los miembros de ETA. El 12 de septiembre de 2007 fue entregado temporalmente a las autoridades españolas para que fuese juzgado en la Audiencia Nacional por el asesinato de Rafael Martínez Emperador, por organizar una red de pisos en Madrid en los que ETA ocultaba armamento y por reclutar a un implicado en el asesinato de un ertzaina en 1997. En julio de 2009 la Audiencia Nacional le condenó a 35 años de cárcel como autor del asesinato a tiros del magistrado del Tribunal Supremo pese a no quedar acreditado si fue él o el otro terrorista que le acompañaba quién disparó. Para la Sala carece de relevancia que "uno sea el que dispare y el otro el que acompañe, vigile o colabore". Lo que sí queda probado en la sentencia es que fue Abaunza el que, sobre las 14:35 horas, abordó a Martínez Emperador "en el momento en que iba abrir la puerta de acceso al portal" de su casa en la calle de Menorca. El arma empleada en este atentado, reivindicado el 3 de abril de 1997 en el diario Egin, fue incautada posteriormente al etarra Aitzol Gogorza, detenido en Francia el 16 de diciembre de 1999. Según fuentes del Ministerio del Interior, Javier Abaunza también participó en el asesinato del teniente coronel Jesús Cuesta Abril.
Rafael Martínez Emperador, 68 años, estaba casado y tenía tres hijos. Inició en 1954 su carrera como juez, dedicada preferentemente a la jurisdicción laboral. Fue asesinado precisamente el día en que cumplía nueve años en la Sala de lo Social del Tribunal Supremo. En los años setenta tuvo un paréntesis en su actividad judicial. En 1970 fue designado subdelegado general del Instituto Nacional de Previsión, en 1973 director general de Trabajo, en 1975 director general de la Seguridad Social y en 1976 director general de la Jurisdicción del Trabajo. En 1980 fue elegido vocal del primer Consejo General del Poder Judicial (CGPJ), cargo que ocupó hasta 1985. Regresó a la jurisdicción laboral y en 1988 fue designado por el CGPJ magistrado de la Sala de lo Social del Supremo.

La verdad, asunto de Estado

Arcadi Espada.



Francia va a castigar penalmente la negación del genocidio. No es el primer país que castiga determinadas mentiras sobre la historia. La gran mayoría de mentiras sobre la ciencias naturales tienen consecuencias tan inmediatas y drásticas que hacen inútiles los tribunales. Nadie discute los cálculos que permiten a un avión elevarse. Pero en las ciencias sociales siempre hay margen para mentir, con independencia de que las mentiras sean igual de redondas e irrevocables que las científicas. No todas las mentiras sobre la historia tienen el mismo efecto. Si alguien dijera hoy que Cartago destruyó Roma sería llevado al psiquiátrico y no a la cárcel. Pero no sucede lo mismo, para poner el ejemplo canónico, con los crímenes nazis: hay mentiras que operan dañinamente sobre la actualidad. Se argumenta, en nombre de la libertad de expresión, que los estados no deben perseguir las mentiras. Pero estas almas bellas no siempre se rebelan cuando desde los estados se propagan y se imponen las mentiras, y cuando con ellas se diseña la política de los gobiernos: de tan obvio y tan próximo, casi no es necesario subrayar hasta qué punto los gobiernos nacionalistas españoles se han identificado con esta conducta. La verdad es siempre vulnerable, aunque solo sea por inferioridad numérica: sobre cualquier hecho hay una sola verdad y mentiras innumerables. La situación se ha agravado con internet y el eco exponencial que obtienen los relatos falsos: la verdad no suele gozar de la plusvalía de la novedad y las mentiras suelen ser más excitantes que anodinas.
En estas condiciones la pregunta clave es si la verdad es un bien a proteger, como los tigres blancos o los glaciares, y si los ciudadanos tienen derecho a reclamar  protección contra las mentiras, empezando, claro está, por las mentiras fabricadas por los propios gobiernos. Pocas cosas tienen un sentido público tan necesario e indiscutible como la verdad. Ese sentido, por ejemplo, que ha alumbrado instituciones incluso privadas como la de la Enciclopedia Británica, y cuya vigencia debe defender cualquier propósito político razonable. Tentado estoy, dada mi filiación orwelliana, a reclamar un ministerio de la Verdad. Pero también me conformaría con una dirección general dependiente de un verdadero ministerio de Educacion. El ciudadano una y mil veces mentido, que no sabe muchas a veces a quién o a dónde acudir para saber a ciencia cierta, tiene derecho a disponer, también en este trámite, de su ventanilla. Única, desde luego.
(El Mundo, 31 de enero de 2012)

The End of Charity

Theodore Dalrymple.



A short while ago in Sao Paulo I witnessed in a restaurant something that moved me. Among the waiters, dressed in the same uniform as the others - that is, white shirt, black trousers and burgundy bow tie – was a young man with Down’s Syndrome. He was clearly very happy and proud to work there and to make himself useful: he cleared dishes, wiped glasses, and so forth. (The restaurant, incidentally, was a good one.)
I do not know whether or not the waiter with Down’s Syndrome was connected in any way with the owner or manager of the restaurant, but his employment there seemed to me an imaginative and efficient act of management, and not merely a charitable one. Of course, the young man in question benefited – you could see that by the pride on his face; but so did the restaurant as a business, in more ways than one.
The effect on both customers and staff of employing the young man was likely to be highly beneficial. Customers would probably see him and conclude that the owner was a decent and therefore an honest man, not unscrupulous, trustworthy. The presence of someone patently more unfortunate than they would inhibit their inclination, if any, to petty complaint; they would feel ashamed to carp. Satisfaction rushes in where complaint fears to tread.
As for the staff, they, in keeping an eye open for the welfare and safety of the young man, would be aware that they were performing a meritorious social duty and not just helping the owner to a profit; and behaving well self-reinforces good behaviour. Their propensity to complain, if any, would likewise be reduced. Though strict and narrow analysis might demonstrate that the waiter with Down’s Syndrome was not worth his wages – slowness, low productivity, breakages, etc. – his intangible morale-boosting outweighed by far his deficiencies as an employee.
I have noticed this effect before. For example, I have been asked several times to a certain radio studio to give the public the inestimable benefit of my opinion, usually in a few seconds flat. (All opinions should be expressed as concisely as possible, but not more concisely than possible.) And at this certain studio is employed as a receptionist, who shows guests to the various rooms in which they will give vent, a young black woman who is both blind and somewhat physically handicapped, requiring sticks to walk.
From the point of view of Taylorian, time-and-motion efficiency, perhaps, this would seem a foolish arrangement. The person whom she is supposed to be assisting ends up assisting her in the performance of her duty. Is this political correctness gone mad?
No. The young woman has a delightful personality, a cheerful disposition, an evident liking for the public with whom she has to deal. Once again, factious complaint about trifling inconvenience – being kept waiting a few minutes, for example - is rendered not only shameful but absurd. For what are a few minutes’ wait to set against a lifetime of blindness and a deformity that makes each step an effort of will? One would have to be a swine to complain in her presence (not that such egotistical swine cannot be found, of course).
On the way to the recording room, the receptionist asks the guest whether he would mind helping her with the various doors en route. By the time he sits down before the microphone, therefore, he is in a thoroughly good or mellow mood, aware of what a nice fellow he is for having helped a poor unfortunate with such good grace: though, of course, it is in fact she who has helped him.
When, then, someone else says something foolish, preposterous or even nasty on air, the guest feels no anger, and replies as if a soft answer not only turned away wrath but convinced the foolish. Indeed, if the young woman should ever be sacked from her job, it will be because of her calming effect, because broadcasters increasingly demand (at least in Britain) that there should be confrontation rather than discussion, the former – supposedly - being infinitely more entertaining than the latter. Broadcast confrontations are now to the British what gladiatorial combat was to the Romans.
I shall give just one more example of the salutary presence of the obviously handicapped (if you give too many examples you become boring, if you give few you are accused of being anecdotal). One day a young mentally handicapped man was admitted to the prison in which I worked as a doctor, on a charge of having sexually molested a young woman. The assault was alarming to her rather than dangerous; the young man was of such a physique that it was difficult to imagine him overpowering anyone, though he had not even tried to do so.
He was sent to prison not because it was the right place for him, but because it was the only place that could be found for him at the time: a flurry of humanitarianism having previously closed down all the other institutions that might have cared for him.
Normally sex offenders, of whatever kind, are regarded by other prisoners as the lowest of the low: it is only thus that prisoners can boost their own morale by conceiving of people worse than themselves. Indeed, sex offenders have generally to be separated for their own safety from other prisoners; if not, they are attacked and injured, sometimes seriously. Moral depravity is not incompatible with moral indignation – and, of course, vice versa.
On this occasion, however, the prisoners recognised that the young man was worthier of pity than indignation: they made an exception in his case. Indeed, they looked after him with solicitude because he was so obviously distressed by a situation that he could not understand. (I shall not easily forget his howls of distress.)
They comforted him, they shared their things with him; they succeeded in calming him down. And while he remained in the prison, the prisoners in his location behaved better; they were softened by the licence his presence gave them to relax their hardness, their toughness, their cynicism that was otherwise essential to survival in the social, or anti-social, world of prison. Normally, such a lowering of the guard brings instant retribution; but not in this case.
Now the politico-bureaucratic soul, when it becomes apprised of such cases, immediately perceives in them an opportunity for increasing its own dominion. For if it the case that the presence of the handicapped often improves morale, and even morality, is it not obvious that such a presence should be made obligatory, decreed by law? Will this not make the occasional the general, and thus add to the happiness of mankind? After all, not every manager is as charitable and imaginative as those of the restaurant or radio studio, nor does every prison location have its handicapped person to soften the mores of the other prisoners. Acts of charity, understanding and solidarity must therefore be legislated for, so that they become institutionalised. For what is possible on one occasion must be possible on all occasions.  
Justice and equity demand it. Why, for example, should the young man in the Sao Paulo restaurant have benefited from the enlightenment of the manager or owner when others, perhaps thousands of others, had no such lucky chance? Worse still, it is likely, even probable, that the young man in question benefited from some personal connection from which, by definition, others, just as deserving as he, could not benefit. And nothing – nothing – is worse than injustice.
Now of course where equity is concerned, it would be far easier to insist that the young man in the restaurant be made redundant than that other such young men (and women) be employed. There could then be no accusation of unfairness or injustice, since all in his position would be treated alike. But such a solution to the problem would provide no opportunity, or very little opportunity, for the politico-bureaucratic class to intervene in the affairs of men. Much better, and more obvious, from that class’s point of view, would be legislation to compel what was previously only voluntary. Indeed, a decree that every enterprise should take on handicapped staff offers a rich field for inspection and bureaucratic bullying in the name of humanity.
How delightful are the prospects! Needless to say, what constitutes handicap is a matter of endless possible dispute, because handicap is not categorical, it is dimensional. What is a serious handicap for a footballer is not necessarily an serious handicap for an accountant, and vice versa.  
Many delightful, intractable and therefore profitable disputes loom. Is drug-addiction, for example, a medical condition, and therefore a handicap? Should enterprises therefore be obliged to take as employees the percentage of drug-addicts that exist in the wider world? And how wide should that wider world be? If an enterprise happens to be sited in a community in which there are no drug addicts to employ, should it go looking for them?
But the fundamental objection to institutionalising charitable acts by government fiat is that it hardens the heart and makes compassion almost impossible: there can be cruelty without discretion, but not compassion or real feeling (this is not quite true, but almost true).
Let me illustrate what I mean by reference to the social workers in the hospital in which I once worked. I take it as being beyond reasonable doubt that there are some people who fall on hard times through no fault of their own and who are therefore particularly deserving of assistance. But I was unable to persuade many of the social workers in my hospital of this, because if some cases were particularly deserving of assistance it followed that others were not; and it was part of the ideology of the social workers that they should not assist people according to their desert, but only according to their need.
This had the horrible consequence that the social workers were not able to exert themselves in proportion to a person’s desert; and since the worst-behaved were adept at manufacturing need, it meant that the most deserving were often comparatively neglected. Moreover, this took its toll on the social workers themselves, for with rare and saintly exceptions, it is impossible for people to feel compassion to all equally, irrespective of desert. In other words, the social workers had to suppress their natural feelings; and when such feelings are suppressed long enough, they atrophy and cease to exist. And that is precisely what I observed among them.
It is, of course, true that judgments of desert vary, and even where it is agreed as to what constitutes desert error is possible and indeed inevitable: the deserving might be taken for the undeserving, and vice versa. But the consequences of making no judgments are worse than the consequences of sometimes making the wrong ones: indeed, refraining from making a judgment is itself to make a judgment of a sort.
What is given as of right is harmful alike to the donor and the recipient. It shrivels the donor’s heart and turns kindness into an unwanted obligation; it renders the recipient incapable of gratitude, to such an extent that he might not even realise that he has received anything (the rioters in London, for example, said they had nothing, when those of them who had never worked or been net taxpayers had never gone hungry, never lacked for clothes or shelter, were provided with electronic gadgets, were guaranteed free healthcare and had received a free education – for them, this was nothing because it all came as of right).
That judgments in the past were harsh or unfeeling is, alas, the case. But that is a reason for refining our judgment, not for refraining from exercising it at all. If we do that, we shall end up with a society of cold comfort, where the faculty of kindness will wither, and where the expression of human solidarity will be confined to paying taxes, an indefinitely large proportion of which will never even reach their supposed beneficiaries.  

Qué cinco malas opciones se pueden tomar en Siria

Jordi Pérez Colomé.


El ejército sirio ha lanzado un ataque a los principales focos de la oposición. El caso más claro son algunos barrios de Homs. Pero también ha ocurrido en Deraa, Idlib, Zabadani o los suburbios de Damasco. La acción empezó el sábado.

Es difícil saber qué ocurre con certeza, pero al menos en Homs la ofensiva ha crecido: primero fueron bombardeos de lejos; el aspecto de la ciudad es terrible:



Seguir leyendo en Obamaworld.

Yes, nonviolence, even now

Daniel Serwer.



TheAtlantic.com published my call for a return to nonviolence in Syria this morning, under the infelicitous title “Why the Syrian Free Army Should Put Down Their Guns”:
Nonviolent organization has a better chance at unseating Assad’s regime than an armed uprising.
It is remarkable how quickly we’ve forgotten about nonviolence in Syria. Only a few months ago, the White House was testifying unequivocally in favor of nonviolent protest, rather than armed opposition, against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime’s awful crackdown. Even today, President Obama eschews military intervention. Yesterday, Yahoo News’ Laura Rozen offered the views of four experts on moving forward in Syria. While one doubted the efficacy of arming the opposition, none advocated nonviolence. When blogger Jasmin Ramsey wrote up a rundown of the debate over intervention in Syria, nonviolence wasn’t even mentioned.
There are reasons for this. No one is going to march around Homs singingkumbaya while the Syrian army shells the city. It is correct to believe that Syrians have the right to defend themselves from a state that is attacking them. Certainly international military intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo, and arguably Libya saved a lot of lives. Why should Syrians not be entitled to protection? Isn’t it ourresponsibility to meet that expectation?
First on protection: the responsibility belongs in the first instance to the Syrian government. The international community is not obligated to intervene. It may do so under particular circumstances, when the government has clearly failed to protect the population. I don’t see a stomach for overt intervention in the U.S. Nor do I think the Arab League or Turkey will do it without the U.S., as Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests.If the violence continues to spiral, the regime is going to win.
The Syrian government has not only failed to protect, it has in fact attacked its own citizens, indiscriminately and ferociously. Self-defense and intervention are justified. The question is whether they are possible or wise, which they do not appear to be.
The Free Syria Army, an informal collection of anti-regime insurgents, is nowhere near able to protect the population. Their activities provoke the government and its unfree Army to even worse violence. It would be far better if defected soldiers worked for strictly defensive purposes, accompanying street demonstrators and rooting out agents provocateurs rather than suicidally contesting forces that are clearly stronger and better armed. A few automatic weapon rounds fired in the general direction of the artillery regiments bombarding Homs are going to help the artillery with targeting and do little else.
Violence also reduces the likelihood of future defections from the security forces. For current Syrian soldiers weighing defection, it is one thing to refuse to fire on unarmed demonstrators. It is another to desert to join the people who are shooting at you. Defections are important — eventually, they may thin the regime’s support. But they aren’t going to happen as quickly or easily if rebels are shooting at the soldiers they want to see defect.
But if you can’t march around singing kumbaya, what are you going to do? There are a number of options, few of which have been tried. Banging pans at a fixed hour of the night is a tried and true protest technique that demonstrates and encourages opposition, but makes it hard for the authorities to figure out just who is opposing them. The Arab variation is Allahu akbar called out for 15 minutes every evening. A Libyan who helped organize the revolutionary takeover of Tripoli explained to me that their effort began with hundreds of empty mosques playing the call to prayer, recorded on CDs, at an odd hour over their loudspeakers. A general strike gives clear political signals and makes it hard for the authorities to punish all those involved. Coordinated graffiti, marking sidewalks with identical symbols, wearing of the national flag — consult Gene Sharp’s 198 methods for more.
The point is to demonstrate wide participation, mock the authorities, and deprive them of their capacity to generate fear. When I studied Arabic in Damascus a few years ago, I asked an experienced agitator friend about the efficacy of the security forces. She said they were lousy. “What keeps everyone in line?” I asked. “Fear,” she replied. If the oppositions resorts to violence, it helps the authorities: by responding with sometimes random violence, they hope to re-instill fear.
Could the Syrians return to nonviolence after everything that’s happened? As long as they are hoping for foreign intervention or foreign arms, it’s not likely. Steve Heydemann, my former colleague at the United States Institute of Peace, recentlysuggested on PBS Newshour that we need a “framework” for arming the opposition that would establish civilian control over Free Syria Army. This is a bad idea if you have any hope of getting back to nonviolence, as it taints the civilians, making even the nonviolent complicit in the violence. It’s also unlikely to work: forming an army during a battle is not much easier than building your airplane as you head down the runway.
What is needed now is an effort to calm the situation in Homs, Hama, Deraa, and other conflict spots. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is visiting Damascus, could help. The continuing assault on Homs and other population centers is a major diplomatic embarrassment to Moscow. The opposition should ask for a ceasefire and the return of the Arab League observers, who clearly had a moderating influence on the activities of the regime. And, this time around, they should be beefed up with UN human rights observers.
If the violence continues to spiral, the regime is going to win. They are better armed and better organized. The Syrian revolt could come to look like the Iranian street demonstrations of 2009, or more likely the bloody Shia revolt in Iraq in 1991, or the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982, which ended with the regime killing thousands. There is nothing inevitable about the fall of this or any other regime — that is little more than a White House talking point. What will make it inevitable is strategic thinking, careful planning, and nonviolent discipline. Yes, even now.