As the U.S. debates whether to intervene on behalf of the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, evidence continues to mount that the resistance has adopted many of Assad’s brutal tactics
September 5, 2013

The Times' video editors have kindly cut to black as the shots were fired.

Update: From the NYT article linked to in this post: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 6, 2013

An article on Thursday about the brutal and ruthless tactics adopted by some rebel groups in Syria misstated the date of a video that showed a band of rebels executing seven captured Syrian soldiers. The video, which was smuggled out of Syria by a former rebel, was made in the spring of 2012, not April 2013.

Additionally, because of a production error in some copies, a passage in the last paragraph on the front-page portion was omitted. The full paragraph should have read: “In the more than two years this civil war has carried on, a large part of the Syrian opposition has formed a loose command structure that has found support from several Arab nations, and, to a more limited degree, the West. Other elements of the opposition have assumed an extremist cast, and openly allied with Al Qaeda.

Clearly, if the U.S. is to play any role in Syria, the focus should only be on aid to the millions of refugees, and the nations allowing them to cross into their borders. While Assad is a brutal, murderous dictator, any action that also indirectly aids Al Qaeda would be suicide.


As the U.S. debates whether to intervene on behalf of the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, evidence continues to mount that the resistance has adopted many of Assad’s brutal tactics. A new video leaked by a disaffected rebel shows his comrades performing a ritual execution of captured Syrian soldiers, teasing them before killing them with point-blank gunfire to the head. Across Syria, guerrilla fighter groups and criminal gangs have joined the rough rebel coalition. Secretary of State John Kerry has downplayed the role of Islamic extremists and other “bad guys” in the opposition, but U.S. representatives say their briefings on the war showed the opposition’s dark side more clearly.


"The Syrian rebels posed casually, standing over their prisoners with firearms pointed down at the shirtless and terrified men.

The prisoners, seven in all, were captured Syrian soldiers. Five were trussed, their backs marked with red welts. They kept their faces pressed to the dirt as the rebels’ commander recited a bitter revolutionary verse.

“For fifty years, they are companions to corruption,” he said. “We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.”

The moment the poem ended, the commander, known as “the Uncle,” fired a bullet into the back of the first prisoner’s head. His gunmen followed suit, promptly killing all the men at their feet."

There are numerous similarly brutal videos on YouTube and elsewhere, most notably was a video of an opposition rebel attempting to cut out and eat the heart of a dead soldier. However, as the Time's reporter C.J. Chivers notes, "many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the regime they are trying to overthrow."

The scene documented in the video, was smuggled out of Syria recently by a former rebel who had become disgusted by the killings, according to Chivers.

Given the same opportunity, would these rebels use chemical weapons against those they consider enemies? If that question can't be answered with near certainty, there shouldn't be any more discussion of a U.S. strike in Syria.

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