ISIS has become the overwhelming obsession of Western governments, clouding all other issues

An extract from Jonathan Littell’s new book, Syrian Notebooks, begins:

The world is not yours alone
There is a place for all of us
You don’t have the right to own it all.

– An anonymous Syrian yelling in the night at a regime sniper

It starts, as always, with a dream, a dream of youth, liberty, and collective joy; and it ends, as all too often, in a nightmare. The nightmare still goes on and will last much longer than the dream: struggle as they can, no one knows how to wake up from it. And it keeps spilling over, infecting ever wider zones, all the while seeping through our screens to come lap up against our gray mornings, tingeing them with a distant bitterness we do our best to ignore. A vague and remote nightmare, highly cinematographic, a kaleidoscope of mass executions, orange jumpsuits, and severed heads, triumphant columns of looted American armor, beards and black masks, and a black banner all too reminiscent of the pirate flags of our childhoods. Spectacular images that have served to mask, even erase, those forming the undertow of the same nightmare: thousands of naked bodies tortured and meticulously recorded by an obscenely precise administration, barrels of explosives tossed at random on neighborhoods full of women and children, toxic gasses sending hundreds into foaming convulsions, flags, parades, posters, a tall smiling ophthalmologist and his triumphant “re-election.” The medieval barbarians on one side, the pitiless dictator on the other, the only two images we retain of a reality far more complex, opposing them when in fact they are but two sides of the same coin, one coin among many in a variety of currencies for which no exchange rate was ever set. [Continue reading…]

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