Seeking sanity

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Look at your everyday life — your toils and troubles at work and at home — and think about some of the people you have to deal with.

You may have an unruly employee, a sadistic boss or a paranoid sibling. Some people in your life may be simply unhinged.

Now, imagine you’re U.S. President Barack Obama — or any other G7 leader — and you’re in Russia talking to that country’s autocratic leader about the tyrannical lunatic ruling Syria.

If high blood pressure doesn’t kill you, the ulcers will.

How do you deal with people like Vladamir Putin and Bashar al-Assad?

Putin, who fancies himself a cross between James Bond and Chuck Norris, has plunged Russia back into czarist times. He is at alternate times a populist and an iron-fisted monarch.

Few images stick in the mind more than Putin’s solitary march up a gilded hallway last year, celebrating his renewed mandate as president with an expressionless, impervious stare.

It’s a cover for his superhero alter ego.

When forest fires threaten, Putin doesn’t just passively tour the region by helicopter. He grabs the controls of a water-bomber and puts it out himself.

He’s pulled the stuntman schtick many times. In 2010, he almost crashed a Formula One racer at speeds reaching 250 kilometres an hour.

And then, of course, there’s his dark side. He’s been merciless in his dealings with breakaway caucuses. He’s jailed sacrilegious punk stars and outlawed free speech for gays.

Columnist Gwynne Dyer describes Putin’s 13-year reign this way:

“The media obey orders, political opponents are jailed on trumped-up corruption charges, and individuals who dig too deep into the murky history of Putin’s rapid rise to power (Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Yuri Shchekochikhin) die mysteriously of bullet wounds or poison.”

Yet Putin is a pussycat compared to the world’s latest contender for genocidal maniac of the year.

Syria’s Assad is a deranged, deluded man who still lives in a bubble, one in which Syria can somehow remain the same old police state it’s always been under his family’s rule.

He is a storybook madman, greeting guests at the palace with a mild manner and warm smile as hundreds of gassed civilians die in the streets, unable to draw a breath.

It is the height of diplomatic genius to be able to accommodate such people. But when delay and duplicity serve only to allow mass slaughter to prevail unchecked, diplomacy must give way to action.

Bombing Syria may be a losing game. In the Mideast these days, peeling back the scabs of tyranny only seems to spread the infection of civil war.

But to take no action now is to endorse and encourage further atrocities.

At least one thing is clear. Now is the time for all world leaders — eccentric and otherwise — to speak with one voice.

Geographic location: Russia, U.S., Syria

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  • Abdul Saieed
    September 06, 2013 - 09:19

    Did I miss something? Putin is the one threatening war? So 'we' should go to war because... not to would encourage atrocities? Didn't a certain Canadian by the name of Maher Arar get kidnapped by the CIA in New York, sent to Syria where he spent two years being beaten and tortured while the Canadian authorities sat on their hands? In fact, wasn't Assad a key ally with the United States in the so-called "War on Terror,” as a host state to CIA black ops? But that was before he was a “genocidal maniac.”

  • Cashin Delaney
    September 06, 2013 - 08:56

    Putin is a scapegoat, just like Danny WIlliams, or Harper. You can't blame it all on one, little short-arsed Napoleon wannabe pretend tough populist hero who's pig-iron ham-fist happens to fit snugly into the velvet glove of pure public PR swinery sewed up for him by our own stupidity. The world is being resettled, and these psuedo-civil wars are the method.

  • Politically Incorrect
    September 06, 2013 - 08:06

    Ad homonym attacks aside, where is the evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for these attacks? Why did Obama do everything in his power to hamper UN inspectors? While Jordan takes in millions of refugees (think about that, Canada) we are ready to use the Syrian people as pawns so Obama doesn’t “lose credibility."

  • Joe
    September 06, 2013 - 07:37

    ?????? The leader of what I believe Noam Chomsky describes as the world's leading terrorist nation, they have over thrown more democracies than any other country, has a problem, really.