Bashar al-Assad Is Very Good at Trolling

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 9 2013 2:31 PM

Bashar al-Assad Is Very Good at Trolling

The transcript from Charlie Rose's interview with Bashar al-Assad reveals the fruits of decades of Western diplomacy and education. The man knows how to undermine his enemies, especially when prodded by an interviewer ready with questions like "What do you want to say in this very important week in America, and in Washington, to the American people, to members of Congress, to the president of the United States?"

Oh, he has so much to say, about how "the polls show that the majority now don’t want a war anywhere," that "this is the war that is going to support Al Qaeda and the same people that kill Americans in the 11 of September," and how the United States is repeating the mistakes of Iraq in selling the wa r...

That reminds me about what Kerry said, about the big lie that Colin Powell said in front of the world on satellites about the W.M.D. in Iran before going to war when he said, “This is our evidence.” Actually, he give — false evidence. In this case, Kerry didn’t even present any evidence. He talk, “We have evidence.” And he didn’t present anything, not yet. Nothing so far.

The first argument appeals to every politician—well, maybe it loses some appeal when Assad mouths it himself. Let's use the word "pander." The second argument panders to Republicans like Ted Cruz, who suggested that striking on behalf of the rebels in Syria would be tantamount to the United States becoming "al Qaeda's air force."

The third argument panders to liberals who opposed the Iraq War, as if photos of potential weapons faciilites that could be used at some point and video of weapons victims were one and the same. "You are a reporter," snarks Assad to Rose. "Get the evidence, and show it to the public in your country." And then back to the Republican argument: "Any strike will be as direct support to Al Qaeda offshoot that’s called Al Nusra, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.