Notes from the Chair: Syria, the Tragedy Continues

by Kevin Henning, KCDP Chair
for the KCDP weekly newsletter, October 20, 2019

Kevin Henning

It has been personally alarming for me to follow the destruction of Syria resulting from a tragic civil war, ISIS insurgency and most recently the Turkish invasion in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull out. Becky will provide some insights into the civil war but I want to shed some light on a country that could have been unique in the Middle East.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s I had occasion to travel to Syria frequently. Prior to WWII, Syria was a French protectorate. Following the war, it tried to be a democracy but after numerous military coups, an alignment with Egypt and destructive war with Israel, Hafez Assad took over and killed or scared off his opposition. The Russians became their main ally. I was working on a development project which keyed off of my company’s natural gas discovery. In the 80’s and 90’s the country was quite western in dress and attitude, allowed under the absolute rule of Hafez Assad. Syria was sorely short on electricity with rolling blackouts an everyday occurrence. There were military on almost every corner with machine guns and our office had a soldier out front when it was open. I never knew if he was guarding us or protecting us. I can say that I routinely jogged early in the morning in Damascus and never felt threatened. You were safe as long as Assad didn’t want to get you. Our local workforce was extremely well educated. They typically spoke French, Arabic, English and many spoke Russian. I was able to travel throughout the country and had a chance to visit amazing archaeological and historical sites in places like Palmyra and Damascus.

For a brief time in the early 1990’s Turkey and Syria decided to get along. My company would generate electricity from the natural gas. The electricity would be distributed in Syria and also sent to Turkey in exchange for much needed access water resources. Unfortunately, prior to reaching a final deal a dispute arose between Turkey and Syria and entire World Bank supported project evaporated. The rulers let their people down because they were corrupt, arrogant, distrustful and uncaring. Of course, the loss of this project is nothing in comparison to the evil Bashir Assad has inflicted on his own people.

Here in the United States, we must be ever vigilant to guard against the corrupt influences that have become commonplace since Donald Trump took office. Turning Texas Blue must be more than just a hopeful phase. Also, we must always work with people of goodwill who care about our nation and the world.

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