In a first interview given by President Bashar al-Assad since the outbreak of the deadly riots in Syria, Assad told veteran reporter Barbara Walters that he never ordered the violent suppression of the demonstrations, and he denied that he is in any way responsible for the violence in Syria.
According to Assad, the majority of the people who were killed in the confrontations are soldiers and supporters of the current government.
Walters asked Assad whether he regrets the violence in his country that has brought about the deaths of thousands [At this writing the number of dead is reported to have reached over 5,000 – Ed.] Assad insisted that he has done his best to protect the citizens. Assad said, “I have done my best to protect the citizens.” He continued, “You can’t feel guilty when you do your best. Of course you experience regret about the lives that have been lost but you don’t feel guilt if you haven’t killed people, so that guilt is not relevant.”
When Barbara Walters confronted Assad with a UN report of over 4,000 dead since the beginning of the uprisings, his reaction was: “Who said the UN is a reliable institution?”
So who is responsible for the severe violence? According to Assad, those responsible for the killings in Syria are criminals, religious extremists, and terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda. According to Assad, “Among the dead there are 1,100 soldiers and policeman,” he said. He added that he is concerned that some of the security forces have gone too far, but he claimed that they had been punished for their actions. “All violent acts have been carried out by individuals… there is a difference between a systematic policy of suppression and a number of wrongful acts that have been committed by individual officers.” In response to this statement, Walters said to Assad, “But you give the commands.” Assad replied, “We don’t kill our people. No leader will order the killing of his citizens, unless he is a madman. There was no order to kill or to employ or to act cruelly.”
Issacharoff, Avi and Cohen, Gili (December 8, 2011). Assad in an interview to ABC: “Only a madman would kill his people”: In a first interview to the American network since the beginning of demonstrations the President of Syria denied that he is responsible for the violence in his country and claimed that the majority of the dead are supporters of his government. The White House: “He is not reliable.” Haaretz (Hebrew).
Goldman, Russell (December 7, 2011). Defiant Assad Ordering Bloody Syrian Crackdown. ABC News.go.com, http://abcnews.go.com/International/bashar-al-assad-interview-defiant-syrian-president-denies/story?id=15098612#.TuXjs7KkxuM
Guardian (December 7, 2011). Syria: Assad distances himself from army violence. Middle East Live. Middle East Live: Blogging the Uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2011/dec/07/syria-assad-distances-himself-from-army-violence-live-updates?newsfeed=true