Annan in Damascus as the slaughter continues
Another 41 civilians were killed by President Assad's troops on Sunday, just hours after the UN Security Council condemned the Syrian government for the Houla massacre of 109 men, women, and children near Homs on Friday.
Annan can properly be seen as a successor to Saint Jude - the patron of lost causes. He is in Syria trying to breathe some life into the peace plan that Assad isn't even pretending to follow any more.
Peace envoy Kofi Annan condemned the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla as "an appalling crime" on Monday and urged President Bashar al-Assad to prove he wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis racking his country.
U.N. monitors say at least 108 people were killed, among them dozens of children. Many of the victims were also hacked to death or shot at close range, as shown in graphic images distributed by activists.
Assad's forces killed at least 41 people in an artillery assault on the city of Hama, activists said, shortly after the U.N. Security Council condemned the massacre in nearby Houla which took place on Friday.
With international criticism growing of Assad's methods in trying to crush a 14-month-old uprising, now accompanied by a lightly armed insurgency, U.N./Arab League envoy Annan arrived in Damascus for talks on his faltering peace plan.
He explicitly urged the Syrian government to "take bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully" before adding: "This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun."
Russia and China, which had previously vetoed resolutions condening Assad, both approved a non-binding text in New York that criticised the use of artillery and tank shells on homes in Houla, but declined to blame the government alone. The rebels do not have artillery and tanks.
China also used strong words about the killings.
"China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
The shelling of Houla was followed up by a visit from Assad's black clad assassins, the Shabbiha:
A video distributed by activists showed an injured woman, who said she had survived the massacre, blaming members of Assad's shabbiha militia for the carnage.
"They entered our homes ... men wearing fatigues herding us like sheep in the room and started spraying bullets at us," the woman said. "My father died and my brother, my mother's only son. Seven sisters were killed," the woman said lying next to another injured woman and near a baby with a chest wound.
The Shabbiha plays a prominent role in these massacres, usually standing behind Syrian troops and killing any of them who refuse to fire on civilians. They are also looters who go door to door, terrorizing civilians, taking anything that isn't nailed down, and putting a bullet in anyone they suspect of harboring disloyal thoughts.
If Assad has totally unleashed the Shabbiha, that is extremely bad news for civilians.
Meanwhile, what is Kofi Annan doing pretending the peace plan still has a chance? He is enabling foot dragging by China and Russia who should be demanding their ally Assad cease his attacks on civilians and either leave or come to terms with the opposition. That latter won't happen, so perhaps Russia's greatest contribution to peace in Syria would be to offer Assad a dachau on the Black Sea where he can retire.
Otherwise, they remain part of the problem.