Remember in The Godfather how young Michael Corleone first appears, a dignified and principled Army captain who disdains the workings of the Cosa Nostra? But when his family is threatened, Michael transforms into a ruthless Mafia don with a code of honor that, for all its rituals and sanctimony, is chaotic and evil.
A similar character-driven drama is playing out in Syria where the son and heir of the monstrous Hafez al-Assad has followed in his father's footsteps, murdering over two thousand peaceful protesters to keep his grip on power. This same young man, Bashar al-Assad, once promised reform and freedom in his country. Returning from England, where he studied ophthalmology, he briefly encouraged a free press and countenanced dissenting voices. Bashar befriended the popular Syrian political cartoonist Ali Farzat, attending a gallery opening of a collection of his gently satirical works. He expressed admiration and encouraged their publication in a new magazine...for a little while.
Bashar either changed or he dropped his façade. Everyday we read of further atrocities in Syria's streets at his behest.
The cartoons here are by Ali Farzat. The one on top is from 2007 and states a universal truth about the alacrity with which nations go to war. Last Thursday, Assad's thugs kidnapped Farzat, beat him brutally, and broke his hands. But earlier today he seems to have overcome his injuries and sketched himself in his hospital bed. Click on the picture for a closer look at his gesture of defiance. Also, more of his work is displayed on his Facebook page, but the captions are in Arabic.