Syria's Assad insists the world is lying
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has defiantly rejected widespread allegations his government is waging a brutal crackdown on opposition protesters.
In an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, the increasingly isolated Assad answers a question about children being dragged from their homes and arrested with a simple, "I don't believe you."
"Every 'brute reaction' was by an individual, not by an institution, that's what you have to know," he told Walters. "There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials," said Assad, acknowledging, backhandedly, that some violence against protesters might have occurred.
He flatly denies, however, giving any orders to his security forces "to kill or be brutal."
"We don't kill our people... no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," Assad said.
The United Nations said in a recent report that at least 4,000 people have been killed, almost all of them protesters. Myriad videos on YouTube have shown armed police and pro-regime militias opening fire on crowds of unarmed protesters.
Assad dismisses all the evidence as fiction, suggesting to ABC that, "most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa." He said 1,100 police and soldiers had been killed in the clashes.
Walters seems to have been a rare exception to the rule regarding foreign journalists in Syria. Assad's government has allowed virtually no international reporters into the country, and it is safe to assume that while Walters was in Syria, she was under tight control and close watch by Syrian security forces.
To get a rare, first-hand glimpse of what's really going on inside Syria, CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward posed as a tourist to cross the nation's border.
Ward's series of special reports on "The Evening News" show, undeniably, that there is a large protest movement going on, and those taking part live in constant fear of attack from police, soldiers and heavily-armed, pro-regime militia members who show up in civilian clothes at opposition gatherings.
Many Syrian soldiers have defected to the opposition, and they tell CBS News that orders from superiors to use violence on Syrian civilians were, in some cases, what prompted their defections.
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