Where Is Karfan?
The Syrian opposition needs the greatest of all Middle Eastern bloggers now more than ever.
6:14 PM, Mar 7, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified today on Syria. It seems that a large part of the administration’s thinking concerning military intervention touches on the regime’s air defenses.
“That air defense system,” said Panetta, “is pretty sophisticated.”
How sophisticated? “Approximately five times more sophisticated,” says Gen. Dempsey, “than existed in Libya,”
All this talk of sophisticated Syrian air defenses puts me in mind of “Karfan,” author of the now defunct, or perhaps merely stalled, blog, Syria Exposed. Karfan, which means “Disgusted,” started to post around 2005, a moment of real hopefulness throughout much of the Arabic-speaking Middle East. Iraqi elections, Lebanon’s March 14 movement, and the subsequent Syrian withdrawal gave rise to a host of bloggers around the region, writing in English and Arabic. Among the more popular citizen journalists pushing the freedom agenda were “Iraq the Model,” Egypt’s “Big Pharoah” and “Sand Monkey,” and dozens of different Lebanese sites. Syria, as I recall, offered only one blogger of note—the inimitable Karfan.
He posted irregularly and rarely, only 13 times over the period of his brief career. But his audience treasured each post, for their insight, mordant wit, and obvious anger at a world in which no one holds violent thugs responsible for wasting the lives of those whom they rule. More than one reader likened Karfan’s accounts of life under the Assad regime to a Kafkaesque account of the modern Arab nationalist police state.
The blog’s conceit was simple: Its English-language author was ostensibly a friend of Karfan, and narrated his thoughts and ideas.
Here’s Karfan’s recollection of his time in the Syrian army:
I’m certainly not suggesting that the Pentagon use Karfan’s post as a basis for military planning, should Obama decide to, say, level the presidential palace in Damascus, or turn the headquarters of Syrian Military Intelligence into rubble. But it should help American policymakers put the Damascus regime into context. This is hardly the formidable adversary that many seem to be imagining. Rather, the Assads and their friends are violent thugs, and nowhere are their evils, pettiness, and stupidity depicted more fully than in Syria Exposed.
Indeed, rereading Karfan for the first time after more than half a decade, it strikes me that you can already feel the revolution starting to take shape. I wish Karfan would pick up his blog where he left off and inherit the rebellion he gave voice to five years before it happened. Come back, Karfan—assuming that, nearly one year into an uprising which has left, by some estimates, more than 10,000 dead, you are still among the living.
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