This is Dr. Assad, an ophthalmologist who trained in Damascus and London. He is 46 years old, his wife was born in London to Syrian parents and is an investment banker. They have three children. In addition to his native language, Dr. Assad speaks fluent English and French, and has traveled widely in the world. He is a very modern man.
And did I mention that Dr. Assad is the brutal Syrian dictator whose security forces torture and murder civilians? He's the kind of guy who, in addition to giving you a thorough eye examination, would also probably enjoy pulling your eye out of it's socket with his fingers (probably not a technique he learned in medical school)!
How do educated people like Assad become monsters? And why does the rest of the world put up with guys like him? The answers are, as usual, politics. Answer 1: Assad wants to stay in power; answer 2: world governments have made the usual choice of political expediency over human rights.
I watched a portion of an Anderson Cooper (CNN) report about the situation In Syria, a report that held nothing back. The violence captured on cell phone videos was shocking and disturbing. Assad's forces are seemingly beating and killing everyone in their sight. Children are being "arrested" and their tortured, mutilated bodies returned to the parents weeks later. The Syrian forces are operating under a scorched earth policy - leave nothing standing, leave no one alive.
And what is the response by the rest of the world? Elected leaders have harsh words and a few economic sanctions. But world leaders are being extremely cautious, because a Syria without Assad could be a bad geopolitical situation that could make matters in the Middle East worse than they have been under Assad's tight control.
What we are witnessing, yet again, is the critical failure of humanity to live up to it's potential. Instead of progress and improvement for everyone, we see brutal repression for the benefit of the few, and world indifference for political reasons. The same old same old, endlessly repeated.
Dr. Assad, how do you live with your actions? How do you hug your children knowing that your storm troopers are torturing and murdering other people's children? How do you justify the extreme violence being committed in your name? Are you a human or a monster?
I recently attended my niece's graduation from medical school. Part of the ceremony was the recitation of the Declaration of Geneva physician's oath. This declaration includes the following statements:
"I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;"
"I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception, even under threat...."
Maybe Dr. Assad had his fingers crossed under his gown.
I truly wish I could do something to help the Syrian people. I'll contact my elected representatives and implore them to act, but the reality is that the Syrian people are on their own. The rest of us can only sit and watch the horror on CNN.