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Power Corrupts the Assads

A drama written about the Assad family could be a great character study and an important work. Bashar was human enough to win a charming, bright, British-born educated woman, Asma, when he was studying in England to be an eye-surgeon. They became husband and wife in 2000 when Bashar inherited power from his father – formalized by a phony election to a seven-year term in which he won 97 percent of the vote and was the only candidate.

That was the first compromise – some dishonesty for the sake of autocratic rule. Bashar was interested in reforms, in ending political imprisonments and torture and making the political process more democratic. It was called the Damascus Spring. But that came to an end in 2001, under family pressure it seems. The Assad family came to perceive the Damascus Spring as a threat to its political and perhaps financial position – another compromise.

I don't believe that power always corrupts. Some people are able to handle power and its rough circumstances and remain true to something broadly recognized as truth and decency. Some may even take advantage of their power to do right regardless of the chance that it will lead to their loss of power.

Bashar stuck with this brothers and mother, and Asma was sticking with her husband as he moved against demonstrators. There were those in Syria's military who did the right thing in response to government repression and murder. They deserted. The Assad regime treated the deserters as criminals and began hunting them down. Deserters had arms with which to defend themselves and others of their community under attack.

The Assad regime tried to protect itself with lies. With cash it tried to buy favorable coverage in the international media. Nevertheless, Bashar and Asma remained hated by many within Syria and appeared to be villains to many outside Syria. They had, in my opinion, allowed themselves to be corrupted by power – a common occurrence in history. Both Caligula and Nero began their rule wanting to be good emperors.

Perhaps in a decade or so a drama will be written that portrays Bashar al-Assad and his wife similar to Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth committed regicide in order to gain power. This would be a story about an inheritance of power and the slaughter of many thousands in order to maintain power.

Meanwhile an article unfavorable to the Assads has appeared in a British newspaper, the Times of India, titled "Asma al-Assad: A "desert rose" crushed by Syria's strife."

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