Once again the Guardian has scooped the world. This time with a trove of e-mails purportedly written by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, and others of their inner circle.
Today a new name was thrown into the mix, that of Assad's father-in-law, Fawaz Akhras, who is a cardiologist based in London.
Apparently over the last few months he has been offering fatherly advice to his son-in-law on how to spin the British press.
This e-mail, dated December 10th, offers 12 talking points including reminding the press about U.S. "torture POLICY … not just in Guantanamo bay but in Abu Ghraib, Busra and the rendition prisons [typos are his.]"
Point number 9 is:
"Advocating free speech and expression should not provoke such a harsh and inhuman attacks on the demonstrators in Wall Street and the London and subsequently England streets."
Just as fascinating as the e-mails, is this interpretation of the personalities behind the e-mails in the Daily Telegraph. It is by author Theodore Dalrymple, who in his first career was a consultant psychiatrist in British prisons and so has deep knowledge of the mindset of murderers and the criminally insane.
Assad is a particular type according to Dalrymple: the weak man forced into a corner. "A cornered rat … is a ferocious and dangerous beast, even if he remains in essence weak and highly vulnerable."
Of Assad's wife Asma, he writes, "Her metamorphosis from Mrs Assad to Eva Peron and then to Elena Ceausescu was by a process not altogether of her choosing. Furthermore, power not only corrupts but insulates from reality, both physical and moral. Bad actions come to be rationalized as necessary and then even as good."
And as for his remarkably cheap taste in music, Dalrymple points out that most mass murderers - Hitler, Stalin, Saddam - love popular kitsch.
Dalrymple's essay is worth a look.