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July 2011

Watani Feirouz

Free Syrian Army Founded by Seven Officers to Fight the Syrian Army

[youtube http://youtu.be/SZcCbIPM37w?]

They say that based on their “patriotic feelings…[which require] an end to the massacres of the Syrian regime” they “announce the formation of the Free Syrian Army to work hand in hand with the people to obtain freedom and dignity, to overthrow the regime, to protect the uprising and the country’s wealth and to stand in the face of the irresponsible army that protects the regime.”

“We call on all the honest people in the army, officers and soldiers, to immediately defect from the Syrian army… and to join the Free Syrian Army [which aims] at forming a national army capable of protecting the uprising and all the components of the Syrian civil society of all sects,” the  officers also say in the video.

“From this moment on, we will deal with the security forces that are killing the civilians and encircling cities. We will target them in all Syrian territories with no exception.”

“We ask all honest people in the army to stand by the people and their uprising and leave the army that no longer represents the Syrian people.”

To read more: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=253828#ixzz1TaiVpM7K
Only 25% of a given NOW Lebanon article can be republished. For information on republishing rights from NOW Lebanon: http://www.nowlebanon.com/Sub.aspx?ID=125478

What are you afraid of ?

[youtube http://youtu.be/v-UpWA_d5Vo?]

VETERANS: Senator Murray Chairs Hearing to Examine the Human and Financial Costs of War

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 (202) 224-2834

Hearing shines a light on the often overlooked long-term costs that must be paid to support veterans and their families and how we must protect and plan for this lifetime of care in the current budget climate

· WATCH the hearing

· The full text of witness testimonies can be viewed here.

· Senator Murray’s opening statement MP3 audio file can be found here.

· Crystal Nicely’s opening testimony MP3 audio file can be found here.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing to examine the real human and financial costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how as a nation we need to plan to keep our promise to these veterans for the rest of their lives.

As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it’s not just the costs of fighting that war that must be accounted for.  We must also

includ the cost of caring for our veterans and families long

after the fighting is over,” said Senator Murray.  “No matter what 

 fiscal crisis we face, no matter how dividied

we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and

no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets

— we must remember that we can’t balance our budget at the

expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have

earned. Their sacrifices have been too great. They have done every-

thing that has been asked of them.  They have been separated

from their families through repeat deployments. They have

sacrificed life and limb in combat. And they have done all of this

selflessly and with honor to our country. And the commitment

we have to them is non-negotiable.”

At the hearing, Senator Murray heard from Crystal Nicely, the wife of Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee veteran of the War in Afghanistan. Nicely described the lifetime of support her and her husband will require and about the red tape she has already faced in her daily struggle to provide Todd with the care he needs. She also discussed their continued frustration over the lack of consistent care and attention her husband has received.

The Senator also heard testimony from Paul Rieckhoff, the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Rieckhoff outlined the high unemployment rate for new veterans and highlighted the wide range of specific skill sets they hold that translate to civilian trades. Reickhoff also called on the public, private and nonprofit sectors to work together in order to ensure returning servicemembers are able to easily transition into the American workforce.

Finally, the hearing featured the views of budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and the RAND Corporation on the long-term costs associated with providing mental and physical health care, supporting caregivers, maintaining prosthetics, and providing benefits.

The full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement follows:

“Welcome to today’s hearing, where we will examine the lifetime costs of supporting our newest generation of veterans. As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it’s not just the costs of

fighting that war that must be accounted for.  We must also

includ the cost of caring for our veterans and families long

after the fighting is over.

“And that is particularly true today, at a time when we have more

than half-a-million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the VA health

care system — an over 100% increase since 2008.

This presents a big challenge – and one that we have no choice

but to step up to meet if we are going to avoid many of the same

mistakes we saw with the Vietnam generation. But it’s more

than just the sheer number of new veterans that will be coming

home that poses a challenge to the VA.

It’s also the extent of their wounds — both visible and invisible 

— and the resources it will take to provide our veterans with

quality care.

“Through the wonders of modern medicine, service members

who would have been lost in previous conflicts are coming

home to live productive and fulfilling lives. But they will need

a lifetime of care from the VA.

Today, we will hear from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the RAND Corporation and

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in an effort to help

us quantify and understand those costs, and to ensure that we

can meet the future needs of our veterans.

“But today’s hearing is also important to better understanding

the social and economic costs borne by veterans and their

families. And today we are so fortunate to be joined by one

of those brave family members — Crystal Nicely — who is not

only a wife but also a caregiver to her husband, Marine Corporal

Todd Nicely.

“Todd was seriously injured by an I.E.D. in the southern

Helmand Province of Afghanistan and since that time has

come home to fight every day, focus on his recovery, and I

even heard yesterday that he has already started to drive

again.

“I want to take a moment to say thank you so much for your

service to our country. You have shown bravery not only as

a Marine in Afghanistan, but also through the courage you have displayed during your road to recovery. I invited Crystal here

today because I think it is incredibly important that we hear

her perspective.

“The costs we have incurred for the wars in Iraq and

Afghanistan — and will continue to incur for a very long time —

extend far beyond dollars and cents. And when I first met

Crystal last month while touring Bethesda Naval Base her story

illustrated that. Crystal is here today to talk about the human

cost.

“And that cost is not limited exclusively to the servicemembers

and veterans who have fought and fighting these wars, but it

also is felt by the families of these heroes who work tirelessly

to support their loved ones through deployments and re-

habilitation — day in and day out.  Many, like Crystal, have given

up their own jobs to become full time caregivers and advocates

for their loved ones.

“Last month, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations

Subcommittee on Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of

Staff, Admiral Mullen told me that ‘without the family members

we would be nowhere in these wars.’  I couldn’t agree more —

and after we hear Crystal’s story that will be even more clear.

“As the members of this Committee know, over the course of the

last few hearings we’ve examined how the veterans of today’s

conflicts are faced with unique challenges that VA and DoD are

often falling short of meeting.

“We have explored mental health care gaps that need to be filled,

cutting edge prosthetics that must be maintained, a wave of new

and more complex benefit claims that are taking too long to

complete, the need to fulfill the promise of the post 9/11 GI Bill,

and the need to support veterans who are winding up out-of-work

and on the streets.

“All of these unmet challenges come with costs. Some costs

we will be able to calculate.  Some will not be fully known for

decades. But today’s hearings will be a reminder that in order

to meet these costs we must safeguard the direct investments

we make in veterans care and benefits, get the most value out

of every dollar we spend, and start planning today — at a time

when critical long-term budget decisions are being made.

“As we all know, there is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation’s debt and

deficit.

“But no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how dividied

we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and

no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets

— we must remember that we can’t balance our budget at the

expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have

earned.

“Their sacrifices have been too great. They have done every-

thing that has been asked of them.  They have been separated

from their families through repeat deployments. They have

sacrificed life and limb in combat. And they have done all of this

selflessly and with honor to our country. And the commitment

we have to them is non-negotiable.

“Not just today, but far into the future.

“Thank you all for being here today, I will now turn to Senator

Brown for his opening statement.”

 

Israelis Debate on the Web: Did Norway Get What It Deserved?

By J.J. Goldberg

The Norway massacre has touched off a nasty war of words on the Israeli Internet over the meaning of the event and its implications for Israel. And I do mean nasty: Judging by the comments sections on the main Hebrew websites, the main questions under debate seem to be whether Norwegians deserve any sympathy from Israelis given the country’s pro-Palestinian policies, whether the killer deserves any sympathy given his self-declared intention of fighting Islamic extremism and, perhaps ironically, whether calling attention to this debate is in itself an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic act.

The debate seems to be taking place almost entirely on Hebrew websites. There’s a bit of bile popping up on the English-language Jerusalem Post site as well (for example, there are a handful of choice comments of a now-they’ll-know-what-it-feels-like variety following this Post news article reporting on Israel’s official offer of sympathy and aid). In Hebrew, though, no holds are barred. I’ve translated some of the back-and-forth from the Ynet and Maariv websites below, to give you taste.

The debate exploded aboveground on Saturday in an opinion essay at Ynet (in Hebrew only) by Ziv Lenchner, a left-leaning Tel Aviv artist and one of Ynet’s large, bipartisan stable of columnists. It’s called “Dancing the Hora on Norwegian Blood.” He argues that the comment sections on news websites are a fair barometer of public sentiment (a questionable premise) and that the overwhelming response is schadenfreude, pleasure at Norway’s pain. As I’ll show below, that judgment seems pretty accurate.

He goes on to blame the Netanyahu government, which he accuses of whipping up a constant mood of “the whole world is against us.” Again, a stretch—a government can exacerbate a mood, but it can’t create it out of whole cloth. Israelis have been scared and angry since long before this government came in two and a half years ago, for a whole variety of reasons. The government isn’t working overtime to dispel the mood, but it can’t be blamed for creating it. Finally, Lenchner argues, on very solid ground, that the vindictive mood reflected on the Web is immoral and un-Jewish, citing the biblical injunction “do not rejoice in the fall of your enemy.”

His article has drawn hundreds of responses—more than any of the articles he complains about. They fall into four basic categories in roughly equal proportions: 1.) Hurray, the Norwegians had it coming; 2.) What happened is horrible but maybe now they’ll understand what we’re up against; 3.) What happened is horrible and the celebrations here are appalling; 4.) This article is a bunch of lies, Ziv Lenchner invented this whole schadenfreude thing because he’s a lying leftist who wants to destroy Israel.

It’s worth noting that at some point late on Saturday several readers found links to Norwegian news sites showing that some kids at the campground where the shooting took place had been brandishing signs a day or two earlier calling for a boycott of Israel. These links were posted (here and here) and the mood quickly got darker—sympathy for the shooting victims dropped fast.

The background to this, as Ynet reported in a news article, is that Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store had visited the campsite on Wednesday, two days before the shootings, as he does every year (he was a camper there as a kid) and addressed the group. He was asked from the audience about Palestinian statehood, and he said Norway was looking forward to the Palestinians’ U.N. bid, but he wouldn’t recognize a Palestinian state before that. He was also asked about boycotting Israel. He said it was a bad idea and would make the conflict worse rather than help bring peace. At some point during the day, some of the campers held up the signs that appear in the photos. Israeli readers seem to have concluded that the pictures show the camp program was anti-Israel and therefore fair game.

Here are some of the responses to Lenchner’s article:

15. Almog, Beer Sheva: they have it coming, period. Your article is pointless. Anyone who acts without mercy towards us, there’s no reason I should pity them!!!! Let them continue to respect and honor Muslims.

16. Gidon: I never enjoyed any support from Norway all these years when there were terror attacks in Israel just the opposite you bent, corrupt person let them understand that terror is not a solution to anything you self-righteous Jew

54. Roi, Bet Shemesh: Ziv Lenchner you’re a leftist!! If you haven’t noticed you’re a leftist like the rest of the media!!! Enough with the leftist incitement!!! There’s no getting away from it Norway was always against the state of Israel it’s not new and never will be!! We’re not in favor of the attack but to say that maybe they’ll understand us better after what happened is entirely legitimate!!!

103. Yossi, the north: Oslo … Maybe they’ll learn in Oslo that they’re not immune they’ll feel what many Israelis have felt and some of them can no longer feel because of the activity of Israelis and Norwegians in Oslo.

104. Ilan, on the stoning of gays [sic]: Anti-Jewish? Have you ever heard of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Suddenly a few little Jew-boys have popped up and “invented” a new Torah! Before the Torah is moral it is first of all for survival and the destruction of all enemies! Sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea [Exodus 17:21, after the drowning of Pharaoh’s army—JJG]

303. Effie: I feel no sorrow about it!!!! Anyone who doesn’t feel the no pain of my people shouldn’t ask sympathy for his own pain.

392. We’re more unfortunate: Enough demagoguery! The Norwegians and Europe generally are super-anti-Semitic. So 100 people were killed there are 7 billion more people in the world. I don’t pity them they’re my enemies they hate Israel so they have it coming!!!

393. The whole world dances on Jewish blood. Europe is the same Europe and even more anti-Semitic. The killer is right!!! Europe is defeated, Norwegians are becoming a minority.

458. Very sorry: With all due sorrow they were waving a sign on the island the day before calling to boycott us. So I really don’t feeling like showing empathy. Very sorry. If you don’t believe me here the link to the lovely picture:

When the first news report appeared Friday on Ynet, the Yediot Ahronot website and Israel’s most trafficked news site, comments seemed to run about 3- or 4-to-1 (at a rough eyeball guess) hostile rather than sympathetic. The reported death toll at this point was 11, and the perpetrators were assumed to be Islamic extremists. Here are a few typical comments:

181. Noam: Ha Ha Ha! Europeans, this is your “liberalism”

240. D.A.: Bring the Oslo criminals to justice?

242. Radical Dreamer: Let them eat what they cooked.

243. Just a Person: Speedy recovery to the wounded and condolences to the families.

260. Shai, Tel Aviv: Give Norway back to the Arabs! End the occupation of Norway!

268. Shimon: Good news for Shabbat. So may they increase and learn the hard way.

285. Nir, Hasela Ha’adom: Allow me a few moments of pleasure.

315. Moshe, Haifa: I’m sorry, it doesn’t move me. From my point of view, let them drown in blood.

Ynetnews, the English website, carried an English translation of the story. The comments are far more moderate: almost none express outright pleasure, and there’s a rough balance between sympathy and sarcasm.

When the news came out on Saturday that the killer was not a Muslim but a right-wing Norwegian nationalist angered at multiculturalism, liberalism and tolerance of Islam, the tone sharpened. Suddenly there was a rush of comments claiming the killer was right and the victims had it coming. Here is Maariv’s report on the killer’s 1,500 page manifesto, calling for a European-wide uprising to “reclaim” the continent (here, for you English-language readers, is NPR’s report on the same document). Maariv’s readers piled on.

1. Y.: The best thing to come out of this is that Norway will be divided.

12. Gandi: the boy wanted to send a message. Extreme, yes, but they don’t understand anything else.

13. Yossi: To commenter no. 1: You’re mentally ill. How can you see anything good the depraved murder of boys and girls think for a minute (if you’re capable) what if some of them were your relatives

  • To self-righteous Yossi: Coming soon to all the Norwegians. And all the Europeans.
  • Y.: My relatives aren’t Muslims. It’s time for Europe to deal with these Arabs. From my point of view they could kill 1,000,000 of them here too.
  • AA: You leftists have to be wiped out too. And it will happen soon. When the economic house of cards comes down, even your shoes won’t be left (unlike last time)…

18. Anti-Left: Of course I condemn this terrible murder but in a larger sense he was right!

19. Ron: A freedom fighter for Norway cleared of foreigners…!!! But this time it won’t be easy for you … Muslims aren’t Jews — who go willingly to death!

  • Horrifying but correct, Muslims will teach them a few lessons. They won’t go like sheep to the slaughter, but today neither will we!
  • We also let them piss on us

Way out of the Syrian crisis

Some observers believe that a dialogue between the regime and the opposition is the safest way forward

Way out of the Syrian crisis

  • Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/Gulf News
  • The opposition faces a stark choice: either to go all out to bring the regime down, or to cooperate with it in building a new and better Syria.

The Syrian protest movement, which started in mid-March, has this week entered its fourth month. Week after week, the Friday demonstrations have grown and their tone has hardened. Increasingly, the strident call is for the fall of the regime. Angry protesters say that more than 1,500 of their number have been shot dead in the streets and well over 10,000 arrested, while the regime retorts that 400 of its soldiers and policemen have been killed by ‘armed gangs’.

As casualties mount on both sides, so the rift widens between the regime and its opponents. Ramadan is fast approaching. When the daytime fast is ended at sunset, the tradition is for the rich to feed the poor, often at trestle tables in the courtyards of mosques — or so it was before mosques became centres of protest. If large crowds gather next month for occasions of this sort, there could be serious trouble.

The opposition faces a stark choice: either to go all out to bring the regime down, or to cooperate with it in building a new and better Syria. The first course is hazardous: if the Baathist state is torn down, what will replace it? The future is uncharted. The second course requires an act of faith: it means accepting that the regime truly wants to implement radical reforms by means of a national dialogue. Its attempt to launch such a dialogue has so far failed to convince.

The regime has mishandled the protest movement. Slow to grasp the nature of the popular challenge, it has been violent and incompetent in confronting it. The security services, like President Bashar Al Assad himself, seem to have been taken by surprise. By resorting to live fire against the protesters, they displayed indiscipline and arrogant contempt for the lives of ordinary citizens. Ordinary people want respect. This has been one of the motors of the Arab Spring.

Al Assad himself has fumbled. Of his three speeches in the past four months, two were public relations disasters and the third far from the rousing, dramatic appeal to the nation that his supporters had expected and the occasion demanded. Above all, he has failed to put an end to the killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture which have sullied his and the country’s reputation.

Meanwhile, the Baath party — ‘leader of state and society’, according to the notorious article 8 of the Constitution — has been virtually silent, confirming the widespread belief that it has become a hollow shell, concerned only to protect its privileges and its corrupt network of patronage.

No forceful leadership

If the regime has shown itself to be weak, the opposition is weaker still. It wants to challenge the system, but it evidently does not know how to proceed. It is split in a dozen ways between secularists, civil rights activists, democrats — and Islamists; between angry unemployed youths in the street and venerable figures of the opposition, hallowed by years in prison; between the opposition in Syria and the exiles abroad; between those who call for western intervention and those who reject any form of foreign interference.

The opposition met at Antalya in Turkey some weeks ago, and then more recently in Istanbul, but no forceful leadership or clear programme has emerged, let alone anything which might look like an alternative government. The opposition movements that have declared themselves — the National Democratic Grouping, the Damascus Declaration signatories, the National Salvation Council formed last week in Istanbul, the local coordination committees in Syria itself — are loose groupings of individuals with little structure or popular base and few clear ideas.

The truth is that, as Tunisia and Egypt have discovered, it is exceedingly difficult to bring about a transition from an autocratic, highly centralised, one-party system to anything resembling democratic pluralism. In Tunisia, no fewer than 90 political parties are planning to contest next October’s elections in conditions of great confusion.

In Syria — and for that matter in most Arab countries — there is no experience of free elections, no real political parties, no free trade unions, no state or civil society institutions, no separation of powers, no independent judiciary, little real political education. The Syrian parliament is a farce. And, as in Egypt and Tunisia, the problem of how to integrate Islamic movements into a democratic political system remains a puzzle.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — renamed the Freedom and Justice Party in preparation for the elections — and Tunisia’s Al Nahda tend to frighten the western-educated middle and upper classes. That is why many worried secularists across the region look to Turkey as an inspiring model because Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP has proved that Islam is compatible with democracy.

In Syria, everything will have to be rebuilt from the ground up — including the ideology of the state. The old slogans of anti-colonialism, Arab unity and Arab nationalism, Baathism, radical Islamism, Arabism itself, all will need to be rethought and redefined for the political challenge ahead.

Since the task is so vast, and since any viable transition must inevitably take time, some observers have come to the view that a dialogue between the regime and the opposition is the safest way forward. Creating a new political system is not the only problem. Equally urgent is tackling the huge social and economic problems with which countries like Syria are faced: an exploding population, rampant youth unemployment, an impoverished middle class and a semi-destitute working class, a soaring cost of living, policies of economic liberalisation which have gone wrong and benefited only a tiny and corrupt elite; the neglect of workers’ rights whether on the land or in shops and factories. Syria needs a new social contract.

The rich monarchies of the Gulf can spend their way out of trouble. Saudi Arabia, for example, has announced plans to spend $70billion (Dh257billion) on low-cost housing. Syria, with about the same size of population, can only dream of such figures. If the Syrian economy is not to collapse, it will no doubt need bailing out. Iran may have to come to the rescue.

No one should suppose that the Syrian regime will go down without a fight. Most regimes seek to destroy their enemies. China had its Tiananmen Square massacre and Russia its bitter war in Chechnya. Iran crushed the Green movement. In 1982, Israel killed 17,000 people in Lebanon in an attempt to destroy the PLO and install a pro-Israeli vassal in Beirut. The use of live fire is an Israeli speciality, as Lebanon discovered in 2006 (1,600 dead), Gaza in 2008-9 (another 1,400 dead) and the Palestinians for the past 60 years.

When America was attacked on 9/11, that great bastion of democracy invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq. Hundreds of thousands died. Millions were displaced or forced to flee abroad. Many were tortured. Was it 160 times or 180 times that Khalid Shaikh Mohammad was water-boarded? Syria still plays host to about a million Iraqis, victims of America’s war.

A sectarian civil war on the Iraqi or Lebanese model is every Syrian’s nightmare. There must surely be another way out of the crisis.

Patrick Seale is a commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs, including Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Norwegian victims ‘got what they deserved,’ say some Israeli commenters

by Philip Weiss on July 26, 2011

Remember when they kept saying that some Palestinians cheered the 9/11 attacks? Well, JJ Goldberg has a thorough report in the Forward on nasty sentiment throughout Hebrew websites in Israel, Israelis saying Norway got what it deserved because of its pro-Palestinian positions. This is true self-isolation.  Excerpt:

And I do mean nasty: Judging by the comments sections on the main Hebrew websites, the main questions under debate seem to be whether Norwegians deserve any sympathy from Israelis given the country’s pro-Palestinian policies, whether the killer deserves any sympathy given his self-declared intention of fighting Islamic extremism and, perhaps ironically, whether calling attention to this debate is in itself an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic act.

The debate seems to be taking place almost entirely on Hebrew websites. There’s a bit of bile popping up on the English-language Jerusalem Post site as well (for example, there are a handful of choice comments of a now-they’ll-know-what-it-feels-like variety following this Post news article reporting on Israel’s official offer of sympathy and aid). In Hebrew, though, no holds are barred. I’ve translated some of the back-and-forth from the Ynet and Maariv websites below, to give you taste.

The debate exploded aboveground on Saturday in an opinion essay at Ynet (in Hebrew only) by Ziv Lenchner, a left-leaning Tel Aviv artist and one of Ynet’s large, bipartisan stable of columnists. It’s called “Dancing the Hora on Norwegian Blood.” He argues that the comment sections on news websites are a fair barometer of public sentiment (a questionable premise) and that the overwhelming response is schadenfreude, pleasure at Norway’s pain. As I’ll show below, that judgment seems pretty accurate.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Rights and Security on the Situation in Syria

[youtube http://youtu.be/WlV6OD6LJhs?]

The show is hosted by Salah Basalamah and produced by Maher Arar

The guests begin talking around the 8 minute mark. That is a good place to begin.

The order of speakers is:

Prof. Fred Reed – 8:00

  • What is Syria? What is the Baath Party? Are Alawites Muslims?

Haytham al-Malah – 17:30

  • The history and reasons for the uprising

Joshua Landis – 31:00

  • The State of US-Syria Relations. What dos the US want in Syria? Where is US policy heading? Israel? Iran? Are Alawites Muslims and why that question is important?

Question and answer period at the end

Can dialogue with the government be carried out or is regime-change necessary – 58:30 minutes

 

source

Inside Assad’s Syria – وثائقي داخل سورية الأسد مترجم

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