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September 2014

8 reminders of how horrible Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been to his people

(AFP/Getty Images)

In the shadow of the Islamic State, which has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq — and has made beheading a thing it does — the world seems to have forgotten about the evil deeds of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Many Syrians are upset that US President Barack Obama decided to intervene to stop the brutality of the Islamic State, but refrained from using its robust military force to stop the brutality of the Syrian government. Some US allies even believe that it is Assad who is actuallythe root of the problem. It is the terror of the Syrian leader that allowed room for the terror of the Islamic State, the story goes.

“Why now?” one Syrian told a writer for Buzzfeed reporting from Turkey, near the Syrian border. “Is it because of the crime of the beheading of two American journalists? Or is it because this is really a terrorist group that terrorizes people in Syria? If so, then the regime has committed more crimes than ISIS. With much cruelty. People are dead in the prisons by the thousands. What about this?”

There was a time — in 2011 — when Syrians were peacefully calling for simple democratic reforms. Then Assad’s security forces decided they would have none of it and violently cracked down on civilian demonstrators. An armed rebel alliance arose as a result, full-blown civil war erupted, foreign extremists entered the country, religious extremism took hold and all hell broke loose.

Through it all, Assad continued to massacre Syrians. The United Nations says nearly 200,000 have been killed since fighting began. But no matter what Assad did — mass murdering civilians, torturing children, killing American journalist Marie Colvin — the United States refrained from intervening.

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US Strikes In Syria

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2014

Since 2011 Assad has progressively escalated his war against the Syrian people. His regime set the daily killing quotas, they escalated from small arms fire to tanks, cannon, rockets and airplanes. As the days turned into weeks and the months turned into years we were subjected to the same diatribe demanding that innocent unarmed people die for the principles of those watching them from a thousand miles away. Anybody who thought otherwise was dismissed as a warmonger. The chemical attacks came, and still the world did nothing. Then ISIS emerged, it almost overran the north of Syria before the Free Syrian Army along with Jabhat al Nusra pushed it out, and it went on to overrun most of Iraq. Then the world took notice but that was only because ISIS were about to commit the mother of all massacres against the Azidis of Iraq. Nobody complained about the airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Today those airstrikes began in Syria, and like earthworms after the rain the people who were silent before have now appeared and are able to speak.

Now they wring their hands in anguish. They pray for Syria. They wish there was another way. They worry about the innocents whose lives would be lost if the US led strikes against Syria materialised. Maybe to them a death by a US made bomb is a far worse fate than being killed by a Russian made one. So they shake their heads, “No, this won’t do at all. It is one thing to watch a country bleed white over the course of three years, but to have the United States cauterise the cancer that is ISIS immediately, well that’s just outrageous”.

There’s only one reason why the United States is bombing ISIS in northern Syria, and that’s because the Assad regime gunned down innocent protesters in 2011. In his first speech after the protests in Deraa, and when his regime could no longer pretend like nothing was happening, he ranted and raved about a terrorism that didn’t exist in Syria yet. He warned, no he threatened, that Syria will turn into another Afghanistan. He abandoned the north east of Syria, he struck oil deals with ISIS, he deliberately avoided bombing their headquarters whilst raining his wrath on the parts of Syria in control by the Free Syrian Army. His army obliterated parts of Homs, and eviscerated Aleppo, in a scorched earth policy that his soldiers spray-paint christened as “Assad or this country burns”. If there is anybody who holds the moral blame for all that has befallen Syrians since then, it is this bankrupt regime and its Russian and Iranian backers.

Syrians have had three years of this murder. Three years of his apologists using smoke and mirrors and every trick in the book to paralyse the international community and prevent it from doing anything about the barrel bombs and the chlorine bombs dropping on the heads of civilians. Again and again the spectre of Iraq is raised, not so that anybody can learn anything, but to frighten anyone from action, however much needed, to help Syrians. The anti-imperialist camp must, at any cost, oppose intervention in Syria and they are pathologically incapable of comprehending its necessity. Others will get on to the moral high horse and say that strikes on Syria will lead to innocent lives being lost. Of course, they don’t seem to mind much that the very next day those lives could be lost either by an overzealous ISIS fanatic enforcing his apocalyptic vision of a utopian society, or that death could come by Assad’s barrel bombs or rocket attacks or air strikes. No, for that they can only offer the potential victims a lot of moral anguish, hand wringing and anxiety as they are crushed between Assad and ISIS. Heaven forbid that anybody interfere, that anybody try to do something.

Last year many of those same people cheered with joy that strikes against the Assad regime were averted after he used chemical weapons against the Syrian people. Since then the death toll in Syria has risen to over 200,000. But they have nothing to say about that. They’ve been too busy spending the last year basking in the warm glow of their own self righteousness. Since then Assad and his Shiite allies have managed to push back the Free Syrian Army (without ever challenging ISIS seriously) and ISIS has emerged from a fringe lunatic group to a lunatic messianic state controlling an area larger than the size of England. The non-interventionists are responsible for this turn of events, and they are responsible for the rise of ISIS. They offered no solutions, only obstacles. They don’t have a position you can criticise. They just insist that nobody have a position either, that Syrians die for the principles of somebody else; somebody who can rubber-stamp the revolution and say, “Yes, you’re a bonafide revolution and we approve of you”, and say to them, “We will sing your praises in post-graduate Middle East courses across the Western world for all time, and write books about your sacrifices”. 

The fact is non-interventionists have no right to talk about who may or may not get hurt in Syria, to pretend to be concerned for the innocent, and they have no right to hold the moral high ground after the debacle we’ve seen in Syria for the last twelve months. This is a disaster, step aside and let someone do something about it.  

First dog On The Moon

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SOURCE

Three Monsters

September 23, 2014 

threemonstersPart of me, of course, is happy to see bombs fall on the heads of the international jihad-fascists tormenting the Syrian people (I refer to ISIS, not the Shia jihad-fascists fighting for Assad, who I’d love to see bombed too). Mostly, I’m just disgusted. In the name of disengagement the West not only refused to arm and supply the democratic Syrian opposition – even as Assad launched a genocide against the people – the United States actually prevented other states from providing the heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weaponry the Free Army so desperately needed. It was obvious what would happen next. The Free Army – and the Syrian people – were increasingly squeezed between Assad and the ISIS monster. And now the Americans are bombing both Iraq and Syria. This is where ‘disengagement’  and ‘realism’ has brought us.

ISIS, like Assad, can be hurt from the air but defeated only on the ground. Obama and the Congress have just agreed to spend $500 million on training 5000 vetted members of the Free Syrian Army – the same people that Obama mocked as irrelevant “pharmacists, farmers and students” a few months ago. The training won’t be finished for eight months, and anyway will be of little use. The Free Army now houses some of the best, most battle-hardened fighters in the world. They don’t need training; they need weapons. In the present balance of forces, in any case, the wounds inflicted by America’s photogenic bombing run may not translate into any improvement on the ground. Only Syrians can improve things on the ground.

The West was not moved to act by 200,000 (at least) slaughtered, or nine million homeless, or by barrel bombs, rape campaigns, starvation sieges or sarin gas. It was only moved when an American was beheaded. The inconsistency is noted well by Syrians. In some quarters, an assault on ISIS which is not accompanied by strikes on Assad and aid to the Free Army will be perceived as a Western-Shia-Assadist alliance against persecuted Sunnis. This could increase the appeal of ISIS and successor Sunni extremist groups.

ISIS has many parents, but the first of these, in Syria at least, is Assad. He released extremists from prison while he was assassinating unarmed democrats. He sectarianised the conflict by setting up sectarian death squads and by bringing in Iran-backed Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanon. His scorched earth policy made normal life impossible in the liberated areas, creating the vacuum in which organisations like ISIS thrived. And until this June, he had an effective non-aggression pact with ISIS, not fighting it, buying oil from it. From January, on the other hand, all opposition militias – the Free Army groups and the Islamic Front groups – have been fighting ISIS (and losing thousands of men in the struggle). These fighters are not about to become an on-the-ground anti-ISIS militia, as the Americans seem to want. They know the truth – that both states, the Assadist and the psychotic-Islamist, are absolute enemies. There’s no destroying one without the other. And both must be destroyed by Syrian hands, not by foreign planes.

Worth reading Yassin al-Haj’s comment, from here:

I am ambivalent about a Western attack against ISIS.

On the one hand, I would like to see this thuggish gang wiped from the face of the earth. ISIS is a criminal organization that has killed thousands of Syrians and Iraqis while leaving intact another criminal organization—the Assad regime—that is responsible for the deaths of close to 200,000 people. ISIS has destroyed the cause of the Syrian revolution as much as the Assad regime has destroyed our country and society.

On the other hand, an attack against ISIS will send a message to many Syrians (and Iraqis and other Arabs) that this intervention isn’t about seeking justice for heinous crimes, but is rather an attack against those who challenged Western powers. This will lead to more resentment against and suspicion of the outside world, which is the very nihilist mood on which ISIS capitalizes and profits.

Western powers could have avoided this had they helped the Syrian resistance in its battle against the fascist Assad regime. The right thing to do, ethically and politically, is to build a coalition against both ISIS andthe Assad regime, and to help Syrians bring about significant changes in their country’s political environment.

Let me finally say that I am very skeptical of the plans and intentions of the American administration. ISIS is the terrible outcome of our monstrous regimes and the West’s role in the region for decades, as much as it is the result of grave illnesses within Islam. Three monsters are treading on Syria’s exhausted body.

—Yassin al-Haj Saleh, one of the leading writers and intellectual figures of the Syrian uprising, imprisoned from 1980 to 1996 for left-wing activities, now living in exile in Istanbul

source

The Man Who Planted Trees ( L’homme qui plantait des arbres )

The Man Who Planted Trees (French title L’homme qui plantait des arbres), also known as The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met, and The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness, is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953.

It tells the story of one shepherd’s long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century. The tale is quite short—only about 4000 words long. It was composed in French, but first published in English.

 

 

Capitalism vs. the Climate: Naomi Klein on Need for New Economic Model to Address Ecological Crisis

CLICK ON IMAGE
Naomi Klein publicity shot.

AND WATCH : Naomi Klein on the People’s Climate March & the Global Grassroots Movement Fighting Fossil Fuels Order the book ? Click on image

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SYRIA: Who’s Afraid of Razan Zaitouneh?

FreeRazanBy Karam Nachar

There was a time, not too long ago, when a young woman headed one of the largest networks of Syrian activists working against the Assad regime. She had blue eyes and uncovered blond hair; she spoke English and held a degree in law; and she was a staunch secularist. But Razan Zaitouneh was utterly uninterested in showcasing any of these ‘qualities’, or in becoming an international icon. She believed in the universality of freedom and human rights, but it was only through very local battles that she thought such values could acquire life and meaning.

It was in 2005 that I first heard of Razan. She had taken part in a small demonstration in Damascus, and soon thereafter stories circulated of her exceptional bravery. Razan Zaitouneh had raised chants against the Assad family when, for most Syrians, the mere mention of the president or his father was reason enough to shudder with fear. She had spoken the radical truth when older activists and most international observers were content with their vague demands for ‘reform’ or ‘gradual change’ in Syria.

And so when the Syrian countryside rose up in rebellion in 2011, Razan did not hesitate to join the struggle. With her husband Wael Hamadeh and many old and new friends, she had soon built a formidable constellation of ‘Local Coordination Committees’, which covered around fifty different locations in the country. The LCCs organized and documented demonstrations on film; they tracked the rising numbers of the dead, the wounded, and the missing; and they started to provide and coordinate humanitarian assistance to the displaced families. They also elected a political committee that debated all matters related to the Syrian uprising, and offered a detailed vision for a truly democratic and pluralistic post-Assad Syria.

It was all the stuff of true revolutions, and for those of us who took part or helped from outside, the experience was often truly euphoric. But by the time the uprising had entered its second year, the inclinations of the mostly secular and pacifist members of the LCCs seemed at odds with the grand political realities and ideological forces that were now at work in their country. The savage repression of the Assad regime had made it impossible for the people to continue with their non-violent protests. They started to carry arms, and with that, their need for an ideology of confrontation and martyrdom started to eclipse their earlier enthusiasm for forgiveness and reconciliation.

For many civilian activists, the transformation of the Syrian uprising into what seemed like a full-blown civil war was unbearable. Of those who escaped death or detention, many decided to flee the country; and, from the bitterness of their exile, they began to tell a story of loss and disillusionment. But for Razan, Wael, and many of their close friends, these same developments called for more, not less, engagement. They argued that civilian activists had the responsibility now to monitor the actions of the armed rebels, to resist their excesses, and to set up the institutions for good governance in the liberated parts of the country. They also believed, much like their friend the renowned writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh, that their task as secularists was not to preach ‘enlightenment’ from a safe distance, but to join the more ordinary and devout folk in their struggle for a life lived with dignity. Only then could liberal secularism earn its ‘place’ in Syrian society and truly challenge its primordialist detractors.

It was these beliefs that set Razan Zaitouneh on her last journey in late April 2013. After two years of living underground in Damascus, she followed the example of Yassin al-Haj Saleh and moved to the liberated town of Douma. There, among a starving population that was constantly under shelling by the regime forces, Razan launched a project for women empowerment and a community development center, all while continuing her work in documenting and assisting the victims of the war. By August, al-Haj Saleh had already left for the north, but his wife Samira al-Khalil, Razan and her husband, and their friend, the poet and activist Nazem Hammadi were all settled in Douma, sharing two apartments in the same building. In the middle of the night of December 9, they were abducted from their new homes by a group of armed men that were later linked to Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam. To this day, their fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Razan Zaitouneh did not cover her hair in Douma, nor did Samira al-Khalil. They did not ‘go native’ in the conservative town, because they believed that to be a native of Syria should not require conforming to any one cultural or political mold. This alone seems to have terrified the new Islamo-fascist forces in the area in the same way mass protests had terrified the Assad regime. But beyond these local actors, the presence of people like Razan Zaitouneh also disturbed the narrative that the world had found most convenient to adopt about Syria, in which true democrats were seen as weak or entirely absent in what was now only a sectarian civil war. If this statement has a ring of truth now, it is only because for two years the true democrats have been left to fight a brutal dictatorship, Al-Qaeda extremists, and corrupt warlords all by themselves. Already in December 2011, when Amy Goodman asked her what she expected from the world, Razan replied “I do not expect anything anymore”. She was right. The world has done nothing for Syrians like Razan. At least not yet.

SOURCE: therepublicgs

We Can’t Destroy ISIS Without Destroying Bashar al Assad First

 

By Fred Hof

On Wednesday evening, President Obama took 14 minutes to articulate, in clear and persuasive language, a counter-terrorism strategy “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.” Yet the problem presented by an ersatz caliph and an amalgam of criminals, terrorists, executioners, and foreign fighters goes far beyond one of counter-terrorism. The Islamic State—just like its parent, Al Qaeda in Iraq—cannot be killed unless the causes of state failure in Syria and Iraq are addressed and rectified. Although such a task cannot be the exclusive or even principal responsibility of the American taxpayer, the president’s strategy, its implementation, and its outcome will be incomplete if it remains solely one of counter-terrorism.

The essential problem that has permitted the Islamic State to roam freely in parts of Iraq and Syria amounting in size to New England is state failure in both places. Redressing this failure is far beyond the unilateral capacity of the United States, as occupation in Iraq and ongoing operations in Afghanistan demonstrate. Still the fact remains that until Syria and Iraq move from state failure to political legitimacy—to systems reflecting public consensus about the rules of the political game—the Islamic State will remain undead no matter how many of its kings, queens, bishops, rooks, and pawns are swept from the table. And yet a strategy that does not address how America and its partners can influence the endgame—keeping the Islamic State in its grave—is simply incomplete.

Iraq and Syria are extreme examples of the fundamental grievances embodied by the 2011 Arab Spring.  Since the 1920s, much of the Arab World has been struggling to answer one fundamental question: what is it that follows the Ottoman Sultan-Caliph as the source of political legitimacy? The answer suggested by protesters in Tunis, Cairo, Deraa, and elsewhere was compellingly correct: the consent of the governed. That autocrats should reject the answer and push back is hardly surprising. Today only Tunisia seems to be on a clear path to legitimacy. Other Arab Spring countries—notably Libya and Yemen—teeter on the brink of state failure. Syria has taken the plunge. Iraq, though not an Arab Spring country per se, is likewise in the pit.

The Obama administration’s strategy, though counter-terrorist in its essence, hints at the broader problem. In a fact sheet issued on September 10, the White House cites “Supporting effective governance in Iraq” as a key pillar of the president’s strategy. It argues, quite correctly, that “only a united Iraq—with a government in Baghdad that has support from all of Iraq’s communities can defeat ISIL.” An important obstacle to legitimate governance in Iraq will be Iran’s arming and financing of Shia militias, which see Iraqi Sunnis—all of them—as supporters of the Islamic State. Interestingly, however, the fact sheet makes no mention of promoting effective, legitimate governance in Syria.

Today’s crisis—that which obligated the President to speak on September 10—has its roots in the March 2011 decision of Syrian President Bashar al Assad to respond with lethal violence to peaceful demonstrators seeking his protection from police brutality. The Assad regime initially escorted Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives from Syria to Iraq between 2003 and 2011, but its violently sectarian response to peaceful protest drew much of what was left of the seemingly beaten Al Qaeda in Iraq back to Syria, where it was joined by foreign fighters and split into two groups: the Islamic State and the Nusra Front.  Both groups compete with the nationalist opposition to Assad—indeed, the Islamic State engages in de facto collaboration with the regime in western Syria to erase the nationalists, even as Assad and the caliph clash in eastern Syria over oil fields and air bases. And it was from secure bases in eastern Syria that the Islamic State launched its recent assault into Iraq, taking advantage of the depredations of yet another illegitimate, sectarian leader: Nouri al Maliki.

Indeed, if sidelining Maliki was the essential first step to getting to legitimate governance in Iraq, what about Assad in Syria? He is the face of Islamic State recruitment around the world. He is the author of war crimes and crimes against humanity that are breathtaking in scope and consequences.

President Obama decided, correctly if belatedly, to seek more robust assistance for beleaguered Syrian nationalists fighting in two directions: against the Islamic State and the regime. Will it work? It would have been easier two years ago, but now there is no choice. Airstrikes will not suffice in executing the counter-terrorism strategy. A ground element is essential, as it has been in Iraq. Indeed, airstrikes in Syria should focus first on Islamic State targets in western Syria, where nationalist forces are desperately trying to repulse the caliph and his forces.

Over three years ago, President Obama called on Bashar al Assad to step aside. Moving this murderous regime offstage will be neither easy nor quick. Yet unless it is a major facet of American strategy, the Islamic State will not be killed. It has been a gift to the Assad regime, one that will keep on giving so long as that regime exists. Legitimate governance in Syria will require much more than removing Assad. But regime removal is the first step, and without legitimate governance in Syria (as well as Iraq) the undead Islamic State will continue to march.

Fred Hof is a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. He worked on Syria-related issues in the State Department from 2009 through 2012.

source

 

Dozens of reserve soldiers from Israeli intelligence unit publicly declare their refusal to operate in Palestine.

Israeli reservists refuse to serve

The letter was delivered weeks after Operation Protective Edge killed more than 2,200 people [Reuters]

Dozens reservists and former members of an elite Israeli army intelligence unit have condemned alleged “abuses” of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The forty-three reserve soldiers expressed their condemnation in an open letter addressed to Israel’s prime minister, armed forces chief, head of military intelligence and distributed to media on Thursday.

“We veterans of Unit 8200, reservists past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in activity against Palestinians and refuse to be tools to deepen the military control in the occupied territories,” the soldiers wrote.

“There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence, we cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people” they wrote.

The soldiers went on to express their concern towards human rights abuses and the disruption of Palestinians everyday lives.

They clarified that they will no longer take part in any act that harms innocent people and called upon all soldiers to join their cause and speak out.

“We call for all soldiers serving in the Intelligence Corps, present and future, along with all the citizens of Israel, to speak out against these injustices and to take action to bring them to an end.”

One soldier also told Channel 10 TV he feels most of the work was motivated by “political reasons”  to cement Israel’s control over the West Bank and not security concerns.

The letter was published less than three weeks after the military’s fierce offensive against Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip killed more than 2,200 people, many of them civilians.

The 8200 army unit is one of Israel’s best and brightest unit , taking care of surveillance and communications monitoring in addition to sharing information with Israel’s civilian intelligence agencies.

A former commander of the unit, reserve Brigadier General Hanan Gefen, accused the letter’s authors of a grave breach of trust.

“If this is true and if I were the current unit commander, I would put them all on trial and would demand prison sentences for them, and I would remove them from the unit,” General Hanan Gefen said on Friday.

source

 

 

 

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