assad
© SANA / Reuters
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad
"Assad is a dictator." I hear it a lot, in the news, in conversations with people in person and from callers to the radio show I co-host. But I'm still taken aback every time I hear it. To be fully honest, I guess I should start out with a shocker: I don't necessarily think a dictator is a bad thing. Take a moment to compose yourself before I continue.

The word 'dictator' comes from ancient Rome, where the office of dictator was filled by an individual for a period of 6 months originally, and for the express purpose of performing a specific task. Gaius Julius Caesar modified the office to full-year terms, before being voted dictator perpetuo - dictator for life.

Like any public office, the position can be abused, as it was by Sulla in ancient Rome. But that's not always the case. If a leader is genuinely well-intentioned towards the people and has their support, a 'benevolent dictatorship' has several advantages over a system where the head office changes every 4 years or so. For example, a short-term system favors short-term goals. What's the use of long-term planning if you'll be booted out of office in just a few years? That's the problem Caesar faced: his enemies in the reactionary aristocratic oligarchy could simply rescind any laws or projects he had initiated while in office. What's the point in even trying to make beneficial, lasting changes in a government like that? As long as a leader continues to live up to the standard of making wise decisions that benefit the state, why not keep them in power as long as possible, rather than have them replaced after a few years by some mediocre, corporate shill.

But even if the term had a very specific meaning in ancient Rome, nowadays it tends to conjure up images of the "evil dictator": usually a man who rules for life (or at least decades), wields a lot of power, and, most importantly, oppresses his own people. If that's how you define it, sure, a dictator would be a bad thing, simply because by definition that person would be evil. But is there anything wrong, in theory, about serving for life or wielding a lot of power?

Even in Western 'democracies', it's not uncommon for leaders to rule for extended periods of time. In Canada, prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Sir John A. Macdonald served for 21.5 and 19 years, respectively. More recently, current PM Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre Trudeau, served for 15.5 years.

Today, Syria's Bashar al-Assad has been serving his country as president for over 15 years. Russia's Vladimir Putin has served as president or prime minister for just over 16. Iceland's Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has been president for over 19 years. Is Iceland a dictatorship? If so, they're doing something right. Just recently, for example, they jailed another 26 bankers for their part in the 2008 financial crisis. Good luck getting that kind of justice in any of the "world's greatest democracies".

Grímsson arguably doesn't hold 'all the power'. But Muammar Gaddafi, who led Libya for 42 years before he was murdered, arguably did have a lot more 'power' than someone like Grímsson. And, contrary to the image presented to us in the West, he practically created a utopia of a state when compared to anywhere else on the planet: affordable housing, free electricity, education and healthcare, massive public works, and more. Of course, Libya has none of that anymore; NATO and the U.S. destroyed it in the name of freedom and democracy. For more info, check out these articles: But back to Assad. Today, Russian Communist party MP Aleksandr Yushenko told the TASS news agency that Assad "is ready to discuss amendments to the constitution, hold parliamentary elections and, if the people of Syria deem necessary, expressed a readiness to hold presidential elections." Yushenko was part of a Russian delegation that arrived in Damascus on Friday, accompanying a humanitarian aid shipment, which included medicine and food for children.
According to Yushenko, who met the Syrian president in Damascus, Assad "is absolutely confident of his chances [of victory]," should the elections take place.

During the meeting, the Syrian leader stressed that "the fight against terrorism will become the foundation for a new and just world based on sovereignty and cooperation."
Assad is massively popular in Syria, but this fact cannot be given any credence by Western media or politicians. The reason is simple: the U.S. wants Assad gone. To do so, they have been training terrorists, arming them and funding them, in order to do to Syria what they did to Libya. And they've been harping on about the so-called "moderate opposition" whom they support. But the problem is, Syrians do not support this 'opposition'. It doesn't even exist as such. All the armed groups that Assad's military is fighting use the same methods of terror and want the same thing - an "Islamic State". To support such groups - which is to work to ensure they take over the government of Syria - is akin to Russia funding, arming and training the Green Party in the United States to storm the White House and take the reins of power - if the Green Party were a radically religious group of extremist head-choppers, that is.

To give such support to any foreign opposition is completely undemocratic in principle. To even suggest that it's acceptable to tell another country that their democratically elected leader "has to go" should insult the intelligence of any thinking person on this planet. It totally violates the alleged foundation of democracy: the will of the people. Not only that. But the 'opposition' that the West supports in Syria are literally terrorists! It boggles my mind. And I've got to admit, I don't know how the Russians keep their composure. For example, after Putin's speech at the plenary session of this year's Valdai conference in Sochi, Niel Buckley from the Financial Times asked this question: "Could I ask you to use this forum to tell us more concretely and in more detail how you envisage the shape of any peace process and eventual settlement in Syria? Is Russia ready to accept, for example, a partition for Syria? Will Mr. Assad ultimately have to stand aside? And if he does, what kind of leader might replace him?"

Putin responded:
On the matter of whether al-Assad should go or not, I have said many times already that I think it wrong to even ask this question. How can we ask and decide from outside whether this or that country's leader should stay or go? This is a matter for the Syrian people to decide. Let me add though that we must be certain that government is formed on the basis of transparent democratic procedures. We can talk of having some kind of international monitoring of these procedures, including election procedures, but this must be objective monitoring, and most importantly, it must not have a bias in favour of any one country or group of countries.
God bless him. In his position I might have been tempted to say, "Excuse me?! What freaking planet do you live on?" The number of arrogant, imperialistic assumptions behind Buckley's questions just goes to show how inured Americans like him are in a totally self- and U.S.-centered worldview, where the Empire is always right, makes all the decisions, and can't even conceive that anyone could think otherwise. His first question was innocent enough: what will the peace process look like? But who would be responsible for a 'partition' of Syria? Obviously, foreign powers. By what authority will Assad "have to" stand aside? Obviously, foreign powers. Who will determine "what kind" of leader replaces him? Obviously, foreign powers. It's utter nonsense. As Putin points out, the answers are obvious: elections should be held and the Syrian people will decide. How else should it be?!

It's astounding that people like Buckley can blithely accept the ideas that countries like the U.S. can decide whether or not a democratically elected leader can "stay or go"; that they can decide the borders of a sovereign nation; that they can decide "what kind" of leader should replace the one they don't like. It's complete and utter hogwash.

Putin put it in perspective in another answer at Valdai:
Another of our colleagues said that it is wrong to interpret things as suggesting that the United States seeks to change the political system and government in Russia. It is hard for me to agree with that argument. The United States has a law that concerns Ukraine, but it directly mentions Russia, and this law states that the goal is democratisation of the Russian Federation. Just imagine if we were to write into Russian law that our goal is to democratise the United States, though in principle we could do this, and let me tell you why.

There are grounds for this. Everyone knows that there were two occasions in US history when a president came to power with the votes of the majority of the electoral college members but the minority of voters. Is this democratic? No, democracy is the people's power, the will of the majority. How can you have someone elected to the country's highest office by only a minority of voters? This is a problem in your constitution, but we do not demand that you change your constitution.

We can debate all of this forever, but if you have a country writing such things into its domestic laws and financing the domestic opposition [of another country]... Having an opposition is a normal thing, but it must survive on its own resources, and if you have a country openly spending billions on supporting it, is this normal political practice? Will this help to build a spirit of trust at the interstate level? I don't think so.
I've gotta agree with Putin here. In fact, when it comes to elections and the leaders elected as a result, Russia and Syria seem a whole lot more democratic than the U.S. of A. For example, take the 2000 presidential elections in the U.S.:
  • 54.2% of the population turned out to vote,
  • 47.87% of whom voted for Bush (48.38% voted for Gore).
In other words, out of all eligible American voters, 25.9% voted for Bush. He won, of course, despite Gore receiving more votes, as Putin pointed out. But can you imagine a Russian journalist asking David Cameron a question like this?
"Mr. Cameron, given the horrific abuse of power by the Obama regime, the violence against peaceful protesters and the murder of civilians by the security services called the 'police', how do you envisage the shape of any peace process and eventual settlement in the United States? Is the UK ready to accept, for example, a partition for the U.S.? Will Mr. Obama ultimately have to stand aside? And if he does, what kind of leader might replace him?"
Not gonna happen.

Now, take the 2012 American presidential elections:
  • 58.2% of the population turned out to vote,
  • 51.06% of whom voted for Obama.
  • Thus, 29.7% of eligible voters voted for Obama.
That's not bad, or at least it's not as bad as the Bush election.

Now, let's cross the pond and look at Russia's 2012 elections:
  • 65.25% of the population turned out to vote,
  • 63.64% of whom voted for Putin.
  • Thus, 41.5% of Russian voters actually voted for Putin.
Even better! And better yet, 90% of Russians, regardless of if they voted for him or not, support him and think he's doing his job well! In contrast, Obama's approval rating is sitting at around 46% - hardly a base of popular support.

And Assad? Many armchair critics of this 'dictator' are probably unaware that he was re-elected just last year, after 3 years of fighting a war against foreign mercenaries. In the 2014 elections:
  • 73.42% of the population turned out to vote,
  • 88.7% of whom voted for Assad.
  • So, 65% of Syrians voted for Assad.
This was in the midst of a refugee crisis. While many countries allowed Syrians within their borders to vote at their respective embassies, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE and the United States did not allow the elections to be held in their Syrian embassies.

Two out of every three Syrians voted for Assad. One out of four Americans voted for Bush. One out of three Americans voted for Obama. Obviously something is wrong with this picture. Maybe it's just me. Perhaps democracies are when a minority of people vote for the person in power. Either that, or Syria is more democratic than the U.S.

If Syria holds elections relatively soon, it will be another masterstroke in the war against U.S./NATO imperialism and terrorism. Every major Western politician is obliged to repeat mindlessly the approved talking points: "Assad is a dictator. He kills his own people. He has to go." They're all lies or smears, of course. But with Syria and Russia in the news, it's the perfect time for a free and democratic Syrian election. Assad knows he'll win, because he too has Putin-level approval ratings within his country. What can the U.S. say, then? They will have to openly refuse to support democracy in Syria - in the name of democracy for Syria. It won't be the first time they'll see themselves caught in their own web of lies. Russia and Syria have already exposed them for the shameless, murderous hypocrites they are by getting them to openly defend the terrorists operating in Syria.

Putin gave the Americans a chance (he's still giving them chances, just like Caesar gave his enemies the chance to come around to reason, right to the end). If they are serious about fighting terrorism, then help out. But they won't. And they won't because they can't. They were never serious about fighting terrorism. In fact, they were actively supporting, creating, and exploiting terror the whole time. Now it's becoming plain for all the world to see. And that is a good thing, for real freedom and democracy.