Tuesday, April 25, 2006

All change in the Temple of Truth

All change in the Temple of Truth:

"All change in the Temple of Truth

Amid quotes from Blake, he would explain Baathist teachings with a roll of the eyes

By Robert Fisk

04/23/06 'The Independent' -- - - We used to call it the Temple of Truth. The 10-storey cube of brown and cream marble on the Mezze Boulevard in Damascus had vast, sand-covered windows that were never cleaned, a set of four battered silver elevators that took up to 15 minutes to reach the dreaded top floor and a bust of President Hafez el-Assad which appeared to be made of dark yellow margarine. Herein sat the cigarette-smoking priests of the temple whose sullen fate was to ensure that foreign journalists - alas for them, Fisk among this number - understood the avuncular, humanist, Arab nationalist values of Baathism.

In the days of Old Syria, this was a harsh task for any attendant lord. Iskander Ahmed Iskander was the minister of information when I first arrived in Damascus, a slim, moustachioed helmsman whose title belied his proximity to the Great Man. He ruled from an office with a heavily bolted security door in a building which housed the Syrian Arab News Agency; its indigestible dispatches filled the pages of each day's Syria Times, a tabloid-sized journal invariably recording the completion of five-year industrial plans and telegrams from delirious agricultural workers congratulating the president on the anniversary of his corrective revolution."

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