Assad: I Didn't Order Crackdown
He feels no guilt, says he tried to protect his people
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2011 7:29 AM CST

(Newser) – A defiant Bashar al-Assad sat down with Barbara Walters and denied ordering a brutal crackdown against Syrian protesters, saying that he feels no guilt because "I did my best to protect the people." In fact, most of the dead are his own supporters and troops, Assad insisted, blaming the violence on terrorists, criminals, extremists, and al-Qaeda sympathizers rather than his own troops.

Asked directly by Walters about pictures of children being arrested, Assad said, "To be frank with you, Barbara, I don't believe you." One 13-year-old boy in particular, whose death got global attention, "wasn't tortured as he appeared in the media," Assad insisted. "There was no command to kill or be brutal," and while some troops went too far, those were "individual" mistakes, he said. Assad also, not surprisingly, rejected calls to step down and said he's not worried about sanctions.