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September 5, 2012

Assad’s Massacre Strategy

The Syrian leader believes that a campaign of mass murder will be his path to victory. Is he right?

BY HASSAN HASSAN | SEPTEMBER 4, 2012

What is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thinking? Over the past several weeks, his regime has escalated military operations throughout the country — shelling neighborhoods in previously loyal cities, using airplanes to drop what rebel fighters call “TNT barrels” containing hundreds of kilograms worth of explosives, and unleashing its militias to commit gruesome massacres such as the one in the city of Daraya, where more than 400 people were slaughtered on Aug. 27. Approximately 5,000 Syrians were killed in August — making it the deadliest month of the17-monthconflict.

At the same time, the Syrian regime has embarked on a PR offensive. Damascus invited the Independent’s Robert Fisk into the country — allowing him to interview Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, embed with Syrian forces battling insurgents in Aleppo, and interview imprisoned foreign fighters and Syria jihadists. Most prominently, Assad himself granted an interview to the pro-regime Addounia TV on Aug. 29 where he insisted “Syria will return to the Syria before the crisis.”

Western and Arab media dismissed the interview as detached from reality: Assad’s comments appeared to be directed at an outside audience, and he did not offer any concessions to the opposition. But the interview merits a closer look, as it can offer insights into a recent shift in the regime’s thinking and tactics.

In the interview, Assad explained that a recent “public understanding” has allowed the regime to escalate its offensive, unlike during the early stages of the uprising. “Some wanted us to handle that stage as we handle the stage today,” he said. “This is illogical. The stage was different, their [rebels’] modus operandi was different, even the public understanding of what’s happening was different.”

There is of course no public consent as such, but some of Syria’s internal dynamics have shifted in favor of the regime. Many in Syria have made up their minds about standing with the regime until the end. Though some do not support the violence, they believe that blood is a price that has to be paid to prevent the country from lapsing into chaos. Others want a decisive end to the conflict, regardless of who delivers, and currently see the opposition as unable to tip the balance.

The country is more divided than ever. Syrians have largely split into two camps, whereas before there had been a large group in the middle that supported neither the regime nor the opposition. Slipping into the regime camp are mainly minority groups that were previously on the fence — Christians, Druze, and Ismailis– but have grown disenchanted with the rebels. Bassam Haddad, a Syrian commentator and director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, addressed this theme in a recent article, writing, “both camps have solidified into two concrete walls, crushing nuance and humanity.”

The opposition, having clearly failed to unite, present a viable alternative to Assad, and reassure the country’s minorities, is partly to blame for the impasse. Last week, the opposition Syrian National Council was attacked by the Joint Military Council, which claims to represent around 60 percent of fighters, for failing to unite the opposition behind a coherent political alternative. The rebels have also engaged in some atrocious sectarian violence, such asthe killing of five Alawite officers in a police station outside Damascus, while sparing the rest — which three days later led the regime’s militias to slaughter at least 20 of the town’s residents on Aug. 1. International media have also reported extensively on the rise of extremism among the opposition’s fighters, a trend the regime had long highlighted even before it became true.

 Full article here

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In French or German and very interesting 

availabe for a few days only, a film from Arte TV

Understanding the war and the Syrian opposition: Interview with Soubhi Dachan

Posted: 09/05/2012 by Mary Rizzo

Soubhi Dachan

Syria has finally earned a place in the Italian news after almost a year and a half since it began. In the eyes of the Italian public it is “another war that no one can figure out” that erupts between the usual squabbles of our politicians in our news. Opposition to the regime in Italy has its own path, but in many instances, it matches that in Syria. To help us understand this war and these oppositions that are already part of history, we interviewed a Syrian opposition figure in Italy, Soubhi Dachan. His words bring us to think that even though there are now two factions that are clearly military, this cannot be called a civil war, but rather a response to genocide born of the violent response to the peaceful popular uprising. And not only is it a declared genocide, but it uses a strong propaganda to paint itself in a different way, a genocide that is “observed” by all the powers in the region and beyond, when it is not actually being fuelled by them. 

How did the revolt in Syria begin? Who is rebelling and to what?

28 Children in Daraa. 28 Children were the fuse that sparked the revolt. 28 elementary school children who returned from school, had written a phrase written on the wall that they had seen on satellite broadcasters, taken from the huge demonstrations in the Arab world: the people want the fall of the regime.

28 children have unleashed the fury of demons in power for 40 years in the Syrian state, who have used 18 different security services to repress the people.

During the night, a unit of these services led by a relative of the tyrant Assad made a house to house raid and took all 28 children.

The lifeless body of 13 year old Hamza al Khatib, tortured and killed by Assad’s security forces

The next day, the chief of the tribe (in Daraa there is a very strong concept that a tribal chief is more respected and followed than the mayor of the city or other important figure) went to the police station where he met the cousin of the president.

The tribal chief asked him to release the children and bring them back to their families, safe and sound, and he promised to severely punish their misbehaviour and their offense and promised to pay a tax for this uncouth act.

The commander literally said: “Tell their families that their children no longer exist. Tell them to make different ones. And if the women’s husbands do not know how to do it, bring them to us, we’ll take care of getting them pregnant.”

The tribal chief who wore the white veil on his head with a black band, took the black band and put it on the table. In Bedouin language this means that there is no room for dialogue, and that children will be freed by force.

And so began the revolt.

Is it part of the wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa for an ideal of freedom and change, or has it got aspects that make it different from other revolts?

When we saw the satellite broadcasters with the first Arab uprisings we erupted with joy. When we saw the first movements in Syria, we immediately were concerned because only the Syrians know the criminality of this system and how it is supported by various powers for a variety of regional / international
interests

Map by Limes Rivista Geopolitica

Is it a civil war fueled by sectarianism?

In Syria, Civil War is a card that the regime is trying to use all costs, in order to show to that the minority that the regime is their only salvation. In Syria there is no sectarian problem, unlike other countries we are talking about hundreds of years of peaceful coexistence and not just tolerance. Syria was an example of civilisation where even the Christian denominations or less persecuted people in Europe found refuge.

In Syria, there is an ongoing revolt against a tyrant where all members of civil society, ethnic and religious groups are taking part. Not for nothing in Homs, the first military formation of deserters was made ​​up of Christians, Muslims and Alawites.

Does it makes sense to talk about reforms, elections, governance systems and democracies during an uprising or war?

Not only does it not make sense, but it is a way to continue to give further legitimacy to a tyrant who has no equal in recent history. Even the tyrants of past history used their cruelty in the conquest of other peoples and not to defend the interests of some other nation, massacring its own people.

To talk about all these things is to continue to justify the genocide of the Syrian people.

The revolt is armed or peaceful, given the reason for the revolt, is there a prejudice against the nature of the uprising, does it lose its value if it ceases being peaceful?

The uprising has been the most peaceful revolt in living memory. For nine months, the people responded to gunfire and bombs with flowers. They started their protest demanding reforms, the snipers are what they got in return. They then went out more numerous in street demonstrations, demanding justice, with chants, processions, prayers. In return their unarmed crowds were shelled. For nine months the Syrian people responded to torture, abuse, rapes, kidnappings, well, the people responded with the slogan “the Syrian people are one and united, the Syrian people want freedom, the Syrian people want the fall of the regime”.

Photo by Salah Methnany

The main slogan of the revolution was and remains today “Peaceful, Peaceful, Peaceful.”

The revolution has been dubbed by opponents as the “revolution of dignity and freedom”.

After nine months of massacres, deserters and not the people have decided to take up arms in defense of the people and not as a form of attack. After 12 months of bloodshed even some sections of the people had taken up arms, exclusively in defense of their dignity, their families, their people.

And despite this, even today the rebels beg the people to continue to demonstrate peacefully, even in the refugee camps, roads, cemeteries, at every march.

Is the terminology that the mass media uses “revolt, opposition, rebel” and so on correct? What are the words to properly report what is happening in Syria?

The media has behaved in a shameful manner. They still speak of the Syrian revolution of the flowers from the mouth of the Syrian regime or its affiliates. The peaceful demonstrators were called rebels. The deserters were called armed groups. The unarmed people has been called faction in the war.

The media have contributed significantly to the massacre of the Syrian people.

Syria is undergoing a mass genocide. The puppet Assad, has strict orders not to leave power until Syria will no longer have an army, it will have no more security, no more facilities, infrastructure, civil and military institutions etc. .. In Syria the cancellation of a civilisation is taking place, the destruction of churches and mosques, the systematic violation of human rights, of international conventions.

In Syria there is an ongoing genocide. Mass rapes, slashing the throats of people, women, elderly and children. Destruction of everything, cultivated fields, houses, monuments with thousands of years of history. In Syria there is the destruction of humanity.

Who is the SNC and what role does it have in the revolt?

The SNC is the Syrian National Council. It was born after about 6 months from the start of the uprising with the aim to give a voice to the Syrian people in all its facets and not be merely a show entity. This is because the word opposition in Syria has remained a taboo for 40 years, the only form of opposition that has remained for 40 years has been the Muslim Brotherhood, which is why there was a law that immediately put to death anyone suspected of belong to this organisation.

The Syrian National Council was created as a technical  and diplomatic support abroad for the revolution. It incorporated within itself the majority of members of Syrian society, secular people, Christians, Alawites, Sunnis, Shias, Druze, Kurds, members of tribal societies, secular formations, Islamic formations, etc. ..

It was chaired by Burhan Ghalioun for two terms, a secular Muslim and in third term the mandate was given to Abdulbasit Sida, a Syrian Kurd.

One of the reasons why at the international level it has not been recognised for a long time is that the Syrian National Council includes the various components of Syrian society, and the willingness of some world powers was to isolate some important components of Syrian society, in perfect dictatorial style.

In this regard a round of applause goes to the previous and current Italian government which have listened unlike the media and other institutions, very carefully the Syrian people and not the genocidal regime and has been one of the first governments in the world to send assistance and field hospitals and it has been busy at an international diplomatic level in support of the Syrian people.

Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood is a grassroots movement that is inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. It is a peaceful movement that joins together aspects of governance, education, religion, politics and diplomacy, civil status and rights of minorities. It was founded in Syria by Syrian intellectuals and religious people, and has had tremendous popular support. When Hafez al-Assad came to power he persecuted them and forced them to take up arms to defend themselves, but then given the massacre of Hama in 1982 (more than 50,000 dead) the brotherhood were deprived of their arms and were exiled (in those lucky instances in which they were able to escape,) tortured, imprisoned, killed and denied their existence in Syria. Even their relatives were persecuted, this is why they left Syria.

Free Syrian Army in Azzaz

Who is the Free Syrian Army?

The first soldier to desert was a soldier of Daraa. They ordered him to shoot shells on people demonstrating peacefully. He called his father and asked him, what should I do, my father? He said, “Never must you bear arms against your people.” He was the first soldier to be killed by the regime. Then the first unofficial faction was that of Al Rastan, Homs about 5 months after the revolt started. An entire division turned their backs on the officers. This division still today resists. Then there was the one in Lattakia, where its soldiers took refuge in the Palestinian refugee camp, only to be bombed from the sky and from the sea by the militias of Assad.

The Free Syrian Army was officially founded around the eighth month of the uprising, when several commanders who had defected decided to constitute it and give some kind of organisation to all the soldiers who had decided not to turn their weapons against their own people, their own blood. Signing a pact of honour in defense of the Syrian people and asking the Syrian people not to join the army but to continue to demonstrate peacefully. Then the situation evolved and many of the protesters have joined the army. Today the volunteers of the free Syrian army not of military origin are about 50% of the forces.

How come there is no global attention on the Syrian issue, and why even with multiple reports also being published by global organisations like the UN and Human Rights Watch, does there seem to begreat indifference?

Syria is at the crossroads of world interests. The strategic location, the proximity to Israel, the ability of the system to play with popular topics such as the Palestinian issue, defense and protection of minorities etc. .. means that the regime is still supported today by world powers, in that it is convenient for the protection of their interests in the area. The Syrian regime has never allowed a different point of view, has never allowed in Syria anything at all but the voice of the regime itself. It put all the people of the leader’s sect in key centres of power, from the institutions as simple as those of workers, up to the military.

The media willingly speaks little of Syria and when they do, it is done in a chaotic way. And this is despite the massive presence of videos, documents, photos and eyewitnesses as the UN forces or satellites. In any other part of the world headlines would have documented daily what happens. But not for the Syrian issue.

This is why journalists and their sponsors are criminals in equal measure to the tyrant and his henchmen with their shameful complicity and their disgraceful silence.

What role could the external forces, the UN, NATO, the ICC, the European Union, the Arab League, and so on undertake and what you think their objectives should be?

All these forces are bound by the opinion of the great powers. Those who say that the international community is unable to support the Syrian people are obviously liars. If the international community decided to help the Syrian people, within a week Syria would be free. It would take 100 stinger missiles and weapons to the rebels. Something that so many claim is taking place, but no one is actually doing.

Unfortunately Syria is going through a complex of international isolation. Even when countries such as Turkey, Italy and other countries still sincerely want to help the Syrian people, they find themselves blocked by the various powers from east to west. The story of the veto is a farce, everyone is in agreement to keeping the puppet in place, each for its own purposes. There are those who have the will to destabilise the entire Middle East area. This is why all these interests join together in the support of the puppet Assad. Who continues to serve his masters undaunted in order to remain in power.

Devotion to Assad

Has Assad got support in Syria?

Assad is backed by his confessional group, the Alawites but not all of them, and by the various people with whom he entertained business and other opportunists who lived the good life at the expense of the entire population. Some parts of the ethnic and religious minorities support him not for love, but for fear of being left in the cold in the future Syria. Which is clearly a result of the regime’s propaganda, because minorities were ministers and officials in the Islamic governments or any rate in the times prior to the Assads. This is part of the work of the regime, which, as has been shown now, tried to spark a civil war in Lebanon targeting the Christian patriarch who would have to visit a Muslim quarter. Thank God the plot was discovered in time.

His power is governed only by military force, Assad has no support in Syria. And the military is strong thanks to the continuous reinforcements arriving from neighbouring states in both arms in soldiers and mercenaries.

You as insurgents abroad, why you oppose the regime?

Opponents abroad fall into two categories: those who have opposed for 40 years and those who opposed during the uprising. What is certain is that both have never loved the regime. The first reason why we object to is the humanitarian cause. In Syria, there is an ongoing humanitarian disaster. And as opponents who have had the feeling of enjoying the freedom, the dignity we find in European countries and elsewhere we certainly cannot stand in this historical era, the era of the Internet, to see these abuses, the destruction of the countries of origin of our parents. Many like me, thanks to this regime have never set foot in Syria. We are free men and women and we are opposed to tyranny, whether in Syria or elsewhere.

Thanks to several million Syrians abroad some aid arrives in Syria. Businessman, university professors, employees, workers, entrepreneurs, are giving their blood and all their belongings to not abandon their Syrian brothers.

Protest in Italy “The Syrian People Ask for Protection of the Civilians”

How is the opposition in Italy organised? How was it founded?

The opposition in Italy has been present for years with people who have left Syria 40 years ago, who at the time were students and did not have a way to return as free men in a dictatorial country. During the uprising, the opposition the young and the old met one another on equal terms, they overcame the various divisions which the regime had attempted to render permanent in the Syrian people. Now with different groups and ways all are trying to support the revolution, who at the diplomatic level, some at the humanitarian level, some with the use of information through the internet, some through newspapers, others with blogs, some in their own spheres of study and work , some by means of holding public events, some in street demonstrations and protests. From Lombardy to Sicily there were demonstrations of solidarity and support to the Syrian people. Everyone contributes in their own way to support this revolution.

There are members of the regime who are trying to sneak into the opposition, but the rot will always come out into the open, and they are quickly isolated.

By whom do you feel represented?

The answer to this question is that which was given by the Syrian people in the streets: “The Syrian National Council represents me, the Free Syrian Army represents me, the local committees of the Opposition represent me.”

What can one do in Italy and Europe to support the revolution?

Work is underway to try to have united fronts of opposition, trying to do lobbying towards the political class to support the collection of humanitarian aid, attempts to act diplomatically to support the opposition and the international decisions. Certainly it would be a good omen if Europe was courageous enough to recognise the Syrian National Council, I think it then would also encourage the Arab countries to take this step.

Right now what is most urgently needed is to put an end to this humanitarian catastrophe and constitute a humanitarian corridor, especially for internally displaced Syria and the borders of neighbouring countries.

Europe could still freeze several billion of the Assad family assets and those of his cronies and it could give them to the opposition to supply aid the Syrian people. Many things could be done, but very few things are actually being done.

The establishment of a no-fly zone would mean the death of the regime within a few days.

What conclusions do you have, after a year and a half of revolt?

30,000 dead, 300,000 imprisoned, 70,000 missing. Two and a half million refugees. In Syria, the dead, imprisoned or missing are mathematically dead.

The conclusion is that the regime is simply a loose cannon, constantly humiliated by the Free Syrian Army despite the inferiority of tactical warfare and number, it destroys everything it can destroy. Since we are dealing with a cowardly regime, as are the mercenaries that follow it, they take it out on defenseless civilians, cutting their throats, cutting their bodies to pieces, putting the snipers where there is a crowd to the create the greatest number of deaths, for example where there is the bread line. The regime has now created death squads that spread death all over Syria, posing as the Free Syrian Army. This is because the people have supported and continue to support the Free Syrian Army and, despite the hunger, the lack of water, electricity, gas, medicine, and so forth, the Free Syrian Army has liberated 70% of Syria, The Syrian regime controls the air, using cluster bombs (banned by the Geneva Convention), it rounds up of civilians from house to house, rapes every human being, man, woman, child. It’s a regime that has no equal in crime in history. It castrates boys cuts children to and adults to pieces. They disconnected the incubators in hospitals, killing babies.

They destroy everything, churches, mosques, homes, culture, monuments. The important thing for them is to stay in power. To conclude: the conclusion I draw is dramatic. But the Syrian people have said and repeated: either freedom or death. There is no third way. And the Syrians sing at the funeral of their loved ones the songs of victory.

Assad will perish or escape. And the long-awaited victory will be even sweeter and Syria will be the beacon of freedom of all people in the world, as the Syrians themselves have defeated a regime supported by half the world.

The Syrians are giving everything they hold dear, family, home, friends, belongings. They are giving everything. Not to Syria. But for every free and righteous man. For every man who refuses to bow his head to the tyrant and accept his abuse and violence. This is the conclusion. Syria will be  free, and the revolution continues ..

source

Grappling with Israel: From Sontag to Lacan and the Maoists in Between

0 Sep 03 2012 by Hanan Toukan
[Still image from [Still image from “Promised Lands.”]

Susan Sontag, Promised Lands. Poland/France, 1974.

Groupe Cinéma Vincennes, L’Olivier. France/Palestine, 1976.

Mike Hoolboom, Lacan Palestine. Canada, 2012.

In 1973, Susan Sontag, the visual critic and essayist, traveled to the Middle East to film in Israel, just before the end of the October War that saw Egypt and Syria uniting to launch a surprise attack in retaliation for the colossal losses of the 1967 war. To watch Susan Sontag’s Promised Lands in April 2012 as part of the London Palestine Film Festival, playing to a full house, is a testament to the changing mode of representing Israel in western cultural capitals. It is also probably an entirely different aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional experience than viewing the film when it first premiered in 1974 in New York City. It is impossible to engage this film today, along with others such as L’Olivier (1976) and Lacan Palestine (2012) that were shown at the same festival, without contextualizing them against the backdrop of the shifting dynamics of representation.
Against Interpretation? The Politics and Poetics of Israeli Trauma

Upon its release in 1974, Promised Lands was banned in Israel. This ban was not a result of a fear of the Palestinian perspective, for there is hardly any of this in the film. Sontag was more interested in capturing the vulnerability of Israel, as she and her liberal New York intellectual cohort understood it, during the period from the foundation of the state in 1948 to 1974, when the film was released. This was a period when the “Palestinian,” and the very idea of “Palestine,” was either non-existent or simply a synonym for “terrorist” in mainstream Western (especially American) society. Through a collage of images of a fearful, traumatized, and insecure nation, Promised Lands could be read as an early attempt to uncover the young Israeli state’s narrative of a heroic national liberation. This was a narrative resting on a deep belief—ironically held by many supporters of anti-colonial nationalist struggles prominent in the leftist intellectual New York circles of the 1960s and 1970s—that a civilized and western Jewish state was liberated from Arabs by Holocaust survivors against all odds, rather than forcefully expelled by colonial settlers armed with the latest in European military technology and racist ideology. Read more

Democracy Now Sept 4

Headlines

September 4, 2012

Stories

September 4, 2012

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