In his interview with Walters, his first sit down with an American journalist since the protests began, Assad denied he ordered a crackdown and blamed the violence on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al Qaeda he claims are mixed in with peaceful demonstrators.
He said the victims of the street violence were not civilians protesters battling decades of one-party rule, he insisted.
“Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa,” he said. The dead have included 1,100 soldiers and police, he said.
Assad conceded only that some members of his armed forces went too far, but claims they were punished for their actions.
“Every ‘brute reaction’ was by an individual, not by an institution, that’s what you have to know,” he said. “There is a difference between having a policy to crackdown and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference,” said Assad.
“But you have to give the order,” countered Walters.
“We don’t kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad said.
At another point he said, “There was no command to kill or be brutal.”
The whole thing is well worth reading and watching, if only to ask yourself if he really does believe what he’s saying. If he doesn’t, he’s a bold-faced liar who won’t take responsibility for his own actions. If he does, he is drinking way too much of his own Kool Aid. I’m not sure which of the two possibilities would be more disturbing.
Andrew Sullivan did a pretty good job juxtaposing images of the unrest in Syria [Warning: Graphic photos/videos] with al-Assad’s comments to Walters.
Kudos to Walters and ABC for getting the big interview and pressing al-Assad on his regime’s crackdown against the opposition.