Asad Interview with Charlie Rose (Aired March 27, 2006)
The full transcript of President Asad's interview with Charlie Rose, which was shown Monday on PBS is now up at SANA.
Addendum: It can be viewed in its entirety here.
The President did fairly well. I did not see the show, which does not allow me to read his body language, which is often as important as the actual words.
He criticized US policy in Iraq severely, claiming America was sinking into the Iraqi swamp. This is no longer shocking to an American audience that has become accustomed to the notion that the US is failing in Iraq. He did the right thing in insisting that Syria wants better relations with the US, the most technically advanced and powerful country in the world. And tried to explain Syrian support for Hizbullah and Hamas, organizations Washington considers terrorist.
The low point of the interview was Asad's response to Rose's questions about the Holocaust. Asad was evasive. Here is the exchange.
President Assad: If you ask many people in the region they would say to you that the West exaggerated the Holocaust. People say there was a Holocaust but they exaggerated it.When Asad said, "I don’t have any clue how many were killed or how they were killed," he enrages an American audience. He should have found out how many were killed by now. He has been asked this many times. There is no excuse or need to obfuscate on this. It doesn't detract from the Palestinian issue to admit the size and extent of the holocaust. By making the Holocaust a perennial sticking point between West and East, the Palestinian issue is diminished. It takes Asad off message and undermines his credibility.
Journalist: You don’t believe that though, do you?
President Assad: It’s not a matter of how many were killed, half a million, six million or one person. Killing is killing. For example, eight million Soviets were killed, so why don’t we talk about them? The problem is not the number of those killed but rather how they use the Holocaust. What do the Palestinians have to do with the Holocaust to pay the price?
Journalist: Even people that I know in Iran say they don’t believe what the President is saying. There are people who believe it…
President Assad: In my country you’d see two opinions as well.
Journalist: I want to make sure I understand what you believe. You believe there was a Holocaust where the anti-Semite Nazis killed millions…
President Assad: We, Arabs, are Semitic too. Definitely there were massacres that happened against the Jews during the Second World War, but I’m talking about the concept and how they use it. But I don’t have any clue how many were killed or how they were killed, by gas, by shooting... we don’t know. Journalist: Part of the Nazi policy was to exterminate the Jews. This is not just a massacre.
US commentary about the interview will turn into a debate over the holocaust and not the issues Asad hoped to address, such as terrorism, US policy in the region, and how to improve relations between Syria and the US.