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Arab League Monitors Blithely Ignoring Government Killing in Syria

This Arab League monitoring process in Syria is quickly turning into a catastrophe. After visiting Homs just as the tanks pulled out, the monitors declared “nothing frightening” in the epicenter of protest and government repression.

“Some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening,” Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi, the chief of the monitoring contingent, told Reuters by telephone from Damascus.

“The situation seemed reassuring so far,” he added after his team’s short visit to the city of one million people, Syria’s third largest.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that security forces fired tear gas at tens of thousands of protesters in Homs, and that 40 people were killed in the city on Monday and Tuesday alone.

Good lord, these monitors have all the perceptive qualities of a Ralph Furley. I mean, there’s video of residents of the Baba Amr district, scene of the harshest fighting, pleading with the monitors to walk 50 feet with them to see the gunfire taking place, and the monitors rebuffing them.

Of course, with the lead monitor looking into government-sanctioned murder of citizens in Syria being a Sudanese general, you can understand why they’d be a little lax in the fact-finding department. This is a man who previously held a leadership role in the Sudanese military in Darfur. His superior officer, the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, has an open warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide. Somehow I distrust the human rights concerns of a Sudanese general. Human rights organizations are predictably outraged, both by the choice of Dabi and the apparent negligence of the monitors overall.

And I think that the Syrians understand all too well the fecklessness of the monitoring effort. That’s why they’re killing protesters under the noses of the monitors.

Arab League monitors spent a second day in the Syrian city of Homs Wednesday gathering accounts about the government’s crackdown on dissent as troops in nearby Hama opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters and killed at least six, according to activists.

Though President Bashar Assad’s regime has made some concessions to the observers, including the release of nearly 800 prisoners on Wednesday, the military at the same time is pressing ahead with a violent campaign to put down mostly peaceful protests. Activists said at least 39 people have been killed in the two days since the monitors began work.

I guess the monitors have no cable package or Slingbox, otherwise they could have flipped on Al Jazeera and seen the gunfire erupting in Hama, as well as chants of “Where are the Arab monitors.”

Pretty clear they have no interest in helping.

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David Dayen

David Dayen