Something really bad happened in Tremseh, Syria, near the central city of Homs. But it seems not to have been the “massacre” that the propaganda-minded Free Syrian Army and its ilk say that it was.
In a stunning report, the New York Times on July 14 actually suggested that the Syrian government’s version of the violence may have been the right one:
Although what actually happened in Tremseh remains murky, the evidence available suggested that events on Thursday more closely followed the Syrian government account.
Nearly all of the dead in the mostly Sunni town were men between 19 and 36, and they appeared to have mostly died in combat. That’s not surprising, since the conflict in Syria has now been semi-officially dubbed a “civil war” by the International Committee of the Red Cross. There’s little doubt that the ruthless Syrian armed forces moved on Tremseh when they learned that a large concentration of armed fighters had set up camp there. As the Times points out, details are murky, and there’s no doubt that some atrocities occurred. But it certainly seems not to have been the massacre of unarmed, protesting civilians that the United States and the Syrian rebels claimed it to have been.
By itself, the events in Tremseh mean that there’s absolutely no justification for Western intervention in Syria. Indeed, the United States ought to urge its allies, including Saudi Arabia, to back off, and start seeking a real diplomatic solution that may well leave parts of President Assad’s government intact, if not Assad himself.
As the Times points out in the story:
Syrian state television paraded several captured fighters on air on Saturday who said Tremseh had been a regional center of operations for the past 20 days. The captives said that 200 to 300 fighters had gathered there to plot attacks on checkpoints and other military targets.
An July 12 report in the Times, not based on any local reporting—but liberally quoting the rebels, including the bloodthirsty Muslim Brotherhood of Syria—portrayed the Tremseh events as a massacre of innocents. The Muslim Brotherhood specifically used the violence in Tremseh as a means to attack not only Assad but Russia and Iran:
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, one of Mr. Assad’s most outspoken foes, issued a statement blaming not only Mr. Assad but also his foreign backers for the massacre. It singled out Russia, Iran and Mr. Annan. “The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria do not consider Bashar the Beast the only one responsible for this horrific massacre,” it said. “Responsibility for this and for previous massacres also lies with Annan, with the Russians and the Iranians, and all those states who claim they are protecting peace and stability yet stay silent and skulk away from taking any responsibility.”
Instant condemnations from regime change–minded Western officials slammed Assad for the “massacre” without any fact-checking. To wit, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague:
“More than 200 men, women and children appear to have been killed in this latest atrocity. Everything we have seen of the Syrian regime’s behavior over the last 17 months suggests that these reports are credible.”
Secretary of State Clinton, also jumping the gun, echoed Hague. In a Washington Postarticle titled, not subtly, “Clinton condemns massacre in Syrian village, accuses government of murder,” Clinton was quoted saying that the Tremseh events provide “indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.”