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Reality vs. (The Imperial Media’s) Crimea

5:34 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

1. Obama also rejected the Crimean lawmakers’ decision to call a referendum, saying: “In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.”

Wait, what? By “democratic leaders” you’re referring to the folks who took power at the front of a neo-Nazi muscled anti-democratic coup? And who is attempting to go over the heads of these coup-installed “democratic leaders”? Look! It’s that somehow undemocratic but nonetheless democratically elected Supreme Council of Crimea.

2. “This (Crimea government) is a fake parliament because it was not elected and it was proclaimed under the Russian occupation — the democratic procedure under the guns of a foreign army does not work,” said Yaroslav Pylynskyi, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, a policy research institute in Kiev.

Wait, what? By “not elected” do you mean elected? Every member of the Supreme Council of Crimea was elected in parliamentary elections of 2010, when the Party of the Regions, Victor Yanukovych’s party, won 80 of council’s 100 seats. Now, as for the Kiev coup government, the show is run by the losers of the nationwide 2010 and 2012 elections. The Kiev coup’s prime minister is from the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko’s party, which won 0 seats in the 2010 Crimean parliamentary election.

And, what Russian army? Links, photos? We all saw local armed men barging into and guarding the parliament building. Are you already calling Crimeans Russians? Why not wait on that, till Crimeans democratically decide, in a democratic process the coup backers oppose, on union with Russia.

3. On Saturday, the interim president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov …

Perhaps a relatively small point but let’s keep it real: Turchynov is the _disputed_ interim president of Ukraine. The Crimean region leadership considers Viktor Yanukovych the legitimate president of Ukraine. It is a good idea to understand that when you assess the Crimean situation, and it is important to understand that Yanukovych has the far more legitimate claim on the office, since he was elected to it and not carried into office on the backs of armed right-wing thugs. And not that legitimacy is everything, but you _do_ hear that and ‘legality’ bandied about freely in anti-Russian propaganda these days.

4. Although Russian speakers make up about 60% of the population, around a quarter are Ukrainian and 12% are Crimean Tatar, a predominately Muslim minority.

Those data are from the commonly cited 2001 survey and are accurate about ethnicity, but as for language, here are the 2001 Crimea data:

77% of Crimean inhabitants named Russian as their native language; 11.4% – Crimean Tatar; and 10.1% – Ukrainian. In Crimea government business is carried out mainly in Russian. Attempts to expand the usage of Ukrainian in education and government affairs have been less successful in Crimea than in other areas of the nation.

The first act passed by the coup parliament revoked Russian language rights. That must have been felt with particular pain and fear in 77% Russian-speaking Crimea.

maya1971: the chaos and thuggery inside Ukraine

2:33 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

During the Ukraine crisis, it has been exceptionally difficult to figure out what exactly is going on there. The best on-the-ground source I’ve found is maya1971, a commenter at The Guardian who very much seems to be a non-aligned, authentic Ukrainian populist/patriot. If you want to understand why so many across Ukraine are resisting the new Kiev regime, mainly but not only in the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine, read this part of one of her March 1 comments, which I’ve edited for paragraphing and ‘English mistakes’:
Ukraine!

… it is not reported anywhere but the new regime … has asked every civil and public service official in all major cities to resign if they belong to the party of the run-away president. If they refuse to resign, they are forced to do so under threat of harm to them personally and/or their families. The same happens to every police and military official.

Of course these officials are not white and fluffy bunnies by any means, but they are citizens of Ukraine and many of them have simply been going to work every day and trying to do their jobs, not matter how badly, one might say. But, there was no court or proper legal action taken against anybody. It simply is a dismissal by force.

Hatred and a sense of revenge have been planted amongst many. Nobody is trying to understand anything anymore, there is only a sense of unlimited rage and despair.

Why aren’t these roving bands of neo-mafiosi enforcers ‘news’ in the West? Why are we being denied important news? I hate that!

Another maya1971 comment tells us a lot about life in Ukraine, though it is directly a response to Vitaly Klitschko’s call for a “general mobilization” following the Russian parliament decision to approve deployment of troops to Crimea (again, I correct for ‘English mistakes’:

What mobilization is he calling for? There are not even traffic police on the streets, no orders, no control, only some sort of self-proclaimed, self-appointed “people’s patrols,” consisting of unspecified, unknown people in masks. Even in Kiev, who is he going to mobilize? There is no such thing as yet that one could call a democratically elected government, or president. The army, whatever is left of it, if there is any at all, have sworn their allegiances to the previous government and president. Those cowards have run away, and new thugs have taken over. Who wants to die for these people?

As for myself, I just keep attacking the hopelessly neoconservative, warmongering mainstream media, in the form of The Guardian. You’d think the self-consciously ‘progressive/liberal’ Guardian would hold on to some objectivity or humanity even these days, but on Ukraine it’s pure embarrassing and warmongering neoconservative propaganda. Here is one of my comments, placed under the Guardian piece entitled “Ukraine places forces on combat alert and threatens war as UN security council meets“:

The Kiev regime, installed by neo-Nazi paramilitaries fire-bombing the parliament and physically intimidating legislators, is not “Ukraine.” The Guardian should begin to retrace its steps — those weren’t “protesters” who overthrew the government last week. Also, after the takeover, the Guardian decided NOT to report the first act of the new government — the revoking of Russian (and other minority language speakers’) language rights. Everything that counters the Western anti-Russian spin has deliberately been ignored, and now the Guardian is stuck in a neoconservative, warmongering narrative that I’m sure Victoria Nuland absolutely loves.

Oh what the heck, here’s another quick one:

What the Guardian doesn’t understand is that a city council in Donetsk has more popular and democratic legitimacy than the Kiev regime installed by right-wing thugs and U.S. money. The Kiev coup government could start toward legitimacy by jailing those who were firebombing the parliament building and intimidating legislators with physical violence a week ago.

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Elias Groll vs. Ghouta, Syria’s ‘most plausible hypothesis’

12:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Though discussing evidence (‘Why don’t you show us the evidence, Mr. Kerry?’) and assertions and plausibility does not matter to the Congressional dolts who will vote for their owners in a few days, it does matter to those attempting to keep resistance strong. In that light, I’ve noticed that the most plausible account of what happened in Ghouta, based on evidence and not assertions, is that there was an accidental release of chemical weapons agents by the rebels. Good to know the learned and insightful Diana Johnstone is thinking along the same lines (which are grounded in an in-Ghouta mintnews.com report and perhaps an International Business Times report):

… the most plausible hypothesis so far is that the incident was an accident. Indeed, rebel sources themselves have been quoted as saying that the incident occurred as a result of their own mishandling of chemical weapons obtained from Saudi Arabia. In that case, the victims were the “collateral damage” so frequent in war.

But more important than its plausibility is that the accident hypothesis is now reaching dangerously large numbers of Americans. For confirmation of that good news, we see that the mainstream media now can’t ignore the hypothesis and must go on the attack. And that’s where Foreign Policy Magazine’s Elias Groll comes in. Here’s his entire case for why the ‘accident hypothesis’ is “crazy” (and yes, note the extreme, trollish rhetoric):

… The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands. Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread. Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime. To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves. Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

A sentence-by sentence response:

The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands.

We all know the government is firing missiles at rebel-held territory, but how does Groll know the missiles fired from government-controlled territory were chemically laden? He doesn’t, of course, it’s a bald assertion backed by no evidence provided to the public. Instead of pretending assertions are evidence, why doesn’t Mr. Groll join his more enlightened colleagues and demand evidence for what the U.S. says happened?

Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread.

“Western” as in Israeli, why not just say it? Anyway, none of these calls have been released to the public, so again your argument is rooted in interested assertions about whether the calls are authentic, and if they’re real about their content and context and who was making and receiving them. Secondly, reports by those who have listened to the calls agree that Syrian government (i.e., ‘Assad regime’) officials were rightfully panicked and apparently confused by the release of the poison gas. None of this seems to be evidence for who perpetrated the attack or whether or not it was an accident. Again, though, maybe if the public could hear the calls the preceding would be cleared up. Why don’t you ask for the evidence to be released, Mr. Groll, so you can then make a reasoned rather than groundless judgement?

Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime.

Again this is a bald assertion not supported by any evidence released to the public. This conception of what happened also conflicts with the fact that the Syrian government allowed access by UN inspectors within 24 hours of the UN’s initial request, so that looks like an “apparent attempt” NOT to cover up anything. But I’ll of course grant that it’s reasonable to assume the military had been bombing the rebel areas with conventional weapons before, during, and after the chemical accident or attack. There’s a civil war going on, after all. What government adn military motives were is ‘apparent’ only to mind readers until we see actual evidence. Where is that, why isn’t the public shown it? Just saying, but not releasing evidence indicates to this skeptical person that the U.S. government might be hiding a lack of evidence for its assertions.

To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves.

How does the accident hypothesis equate with “the opposition did all of this to themselves” or “pulled this off”? It doesn’t. An accident is not ‘pulling something off’ or doing something to yourself, it’s an accident.

Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

And … how is that well-known fact evidence of anything? Or is this argument by absence, where you mention one well-known fact but not the other not so well-known fact, that the rebels have been caught with sarin gas supplies?

I would love to hear from Mr. Groll about how I’ve shown him the error of his ways, which in a nutshell was accepting one side’s assertions as fact even though it refuses to provide the evidence for its claims. Instead, if he wants someday to be a good journalist, Mr. Groll should become very skeptical when sources refuse to provide evidence for their claims. On the other hand, if he wants to become a mainstream Washington insider and make a big-time salary, Groll is well on his way and should change nothing about the way he argues/trolls life-and-death foreign policy issues. Have fun virtually riding the missiles into Damascus dude! ;-/

P.S. 1: BIG hip tat to Gareth Porter — in How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria — for some of the insights and links provided above.

P.S. 2: Contrasting the mintnews.com account and the Kerry/Obama’s assertions, Jim Naureckas of FAIR has a wise commentary, Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?:

… As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”

This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.

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“Syria opposition in dire straits” … the counter-narrative

6:02 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

AFP quickly wraps up the latest from Syria:

Already weakened by political infighting, Syria’s opposition has been dealt another blow by the posting online of videos purporting to show rebel fighters committing atrocities, analysts say.

And on the back foot due to army advances on the ground, the opposition is also under international pressure to enter into dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Videos posted online that showed a rebel mutilating a soldier’s corpse, and of a jihadist summarily executing 11 Assad supporters “will undermine the opposition’s narrative of an uprising against a dictator”, said Swedish expert on Syria, Aron Lund.

Oh yeah, our mainstream propaganda’s precious narrative. Don’t speak too soon Aron, the narrative lives, at least in the U.S., in ways like this courtesy of Angry Arab (links in original and I always modify AA’s crappy grammar):

Syria

Syria

Syrian rebels eating internal organs: Guardian versus the New York Times

Look how the Guardian reports it: “‘Anti-Assad fighter appears to eat internal organ of dead government soldier in horrific video’: “The figure in the video cuts the heart and liver out of the body and uses sectarian language to insult Alawites [Assad's minority sect]. At the end of the video [the man] is filmed putting the corpse’s heart into his mouth, as if he is taking a bite out of it.”

And now look at how Syrian “revolution” groupie Anne Barnard [of the New York Times] reports it, and notice the title is about Syrian regime crime: “One rebel commander recently filmed himself cutting out an organ of a dead pro-government fighter, biting it and promising the same fate to Alawites, members of Mr. Assad’s Shiite Muslim sect.”

AA doesn’t clarify that this first reference, to an atrocity recorded proudly by its perpetrator on video, is buried in the second sentence (the first sentence is propaganda accusing the Syrian army of being anti-Islamic) of the fourth paragraph of a ‘story’ whose first three paragraphs transcribe evidence-free atrocity accusations against the Syrian government. Angry Arab sums up Western ‘reporting’
on the incident:

That face of Syrian “revolutionaries”: munching on body organs
Did you notice how defensive Western media are about that video? I note these reactions:
1) The New York Times as usual buries the story under a different story about crimes of the regime.
2) Many news media reported that the guy is really upset because he saw crimes by the Syrian regime.
3) Some media actually quibbled with the facts: that he did not really eat the heart of the man but ate parts of the lung.
4) Many news media opted to totally ignore the story.
5) Many media put the story in the context of war crimes in Syria where the regime is solely responsible.
6) Some media focused on the man, saying that he really is not representative.

So, I disagree with the sense that imperial propaganda’s narrative no longer reigns supreme, though it is surely shaken in the _immediate_ aftermath of the grisly body parts eating video. The real hope, though, is for an ever-rapider decline in the credibility and viewership of that propaganda and that media. The imperial media takes hit after hit but its careerism requires that it not abandon its narrative no matter how foolish, so it suffers the consequences. And those are good consequences for anyone who wants a public better-informed, or at least less disinformed by capitalist and imperial greed.

The real news alternatives — more accurate and more fun — are out there just waiting to be better organized and delivered. Here are some very recent Syria accounts from what might be, in a sane and democratic media, a counter-narrative at least on an equal footing with the imperial one:

May 18: Vote Reflects Shift in Syrian Public Opinion (Franklin Lamb: “Opinion in Damascus and surrounding areas visited this past week, confirms this observer’s experience the past five months of a sharp and fairly rapid shift in opinion that now strongly favors letting the Syrian people themselves decide, without outside interference, whether the Assad regime will stay, and indeed, whether, the Baathist party will continue to represent majority opinion, not through wanton violence but rather via next June’s election.”)

May 17: The main opposition National Coalition now has to decide whether to take part in an international conference called by Moscow and Washington to push for a political solution … The [group], which insists that Assad’s departure is a key condition for a political solution, will decide in an Istanbul meeting on May 23 whether it will take part in the international conference.

May 17: Syria – FSA rebels under SAA heavy fire 17/05

May 15: Syria: Civilians Come Under Fire From Rebels (“The demonstrators were predominantly Syrian Palestinians, many from the Yarmouk district of Damascus who had fled when it was taken over by opposition forces eight months ago. Some screamed at us: ‘Please tell the world the truth! We don’t want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!”)

May 14: Syrian Rebels Face Increasing Criticism For Human Rights Violations – Analysis (by IRIN, “the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”)

May 14: In Cairo, desperate Egyptian men search in vain for Syrian brides (“Men across the region are now seeking Syrian brides. In Turkey and Jordan, where refugee camps pepper the landscape, the desperation of the Syrians is far easier to spot as rich Persian Gulf men scour the camps to buy brides living in tents. Rape, child brides and temporary marriages are prevalent.”)
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‘Afghanistan veterans who commit suicide are not cowardly, they are victims of the war.’

3:41 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

For anyone thinking of enlisting, the video above is essential listening. It has the somewhat odd title of “Afghanistan veterans commit suicide from a good conscience,” but don’t let that discourage you. Partial transcript below.

Potential enlistees, don’t become a killer of people you have never met, about whom you know very little or nothing. More morality lessons here.

Hakim: Some people who hear your story may think your mind was weak; you wanted to commit suicide.

Nao Rozi: Veterans who commit suicide are not cowardly, they are victims of the war. They were persuaded to do things they didn’t want to do. Or, if they chose to do those things, don’t we sometimes regret things we’ve done, or feel ashamed? That was exactly what happened in my crisis. I felt ashamed. I regretted what I had done. … Life becomes meaningless. … You think you’ve done something such that you feel you no longer have the right to live. …

The U.S. veterans who have committed suicide had a conscience. They fought in Afghanistan and some killed or were killed. Those thoughts afflicted them day and night. I myself experienced them. When I was sleeping, I would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night shouting. It was not fear, they were nightmares. At times I slept walked. I even thought I was a murderer, though now I think I was not because I didn’t kill anyone. [But] even those who may have killed others should not keep thinking those thoughts.

Hakim: What message do you have for friends and for the world?

Nao Rozi: … How I wish that every human in the world would, just for once, sit down alone and ask, ‘What are we here for? How have we been deceived? How true to self have we been?’ These questions are important.

… I was a captive of the things I heard from society and the media, but now I am free!

Nao Rozi currently lives with and struggles for the Afghan Peace Volunteers, seeking a better life and a better world.

Syria: Give War Another Chance?

4:54 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Kinda sad when the U.S., the West and their corporate media lead the fight for war and against reconciliation in Syria. (More Nobel Peace Prizes likely in the mix!) Once again all the pro-civil-war, pro-terrorism statements are being voiced by U.S. and Western officials, and their media are as biased as ever against peace and for more death and destruction. Not to mention Ban Ki-Moon … and the rebels themselves: “To date, opposition leaders have refused to consider any form of negotiations or compromise with the regime.”

Despite the predictable response, once again Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has presented a national reconciliation process leading to democratic elections, and the proposal is instantly rejected by the rebels, the U.S. and the West (and this is presented as ‘normal’ and ‘honorable’ in the corporate media). On Sunday Assad described his three-part plan:

Phase I would … entail making contact with the full spectrum of Syrian society, political parties and administrative bodies. These would include “all forces inside and outside the country who are interested in a solution,” he said.

In Phase II, the current government would chair a “comprehensive national dialogue conference” with these groups with the goal of drafting a national charter.

This document would uphold Syria’s sovereignty and unity, reject terrorism and “pave the way for the political future of Syria,” said Assad.

The charter would be put to a national referendum for approval.

Parliamentary elections would then be held within the framework of the constitution to form a new government that would represent all segments of Syrian society. …

In Phase III, a new government would be formed in accordance with constitutional law.

Now, what exactly is wrong with the preceding? Well, that’s pretty clear: it’s not a proposal for immediate regime change, which is the first and only demand of the rebels and their sponsors. Those sponsors unfortunately include the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon, who said he rejected Assad’s plan because it did not include “a political transition and the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that would include representatives of all Syrians.”

But Assad’s plan allows for transition, if that’s what Syrians vote for in elections. In contrast, Ban’s suggested path is anti-democratic, not allowing Syrians to choose “representatives of all Syrians” in any sort of election.

Me, uh, I’m for democracy … guess that ain’t cool anymore.

A final note on one of the imperial media lies about Assad’s Sunday speech, that he had “dismissed any chance of dialogue with the opposition.” In fact Assad asked for dialogue with the opposition, but lamented “that his government had not yet found any partners willing to back a solution to Syria’s ongoing crisis.” And who can deny his description of the violent opposition as largely Western puppets or terrorists? Or deny the good sense of his desire to dialogue with “the master not the servants”? And, finally, isn’t the opposition at the moment, as it has always been, badly fractured and riddled with sleaze?

Finally, a bit of optimism. In part because regime change in Syria by and for the West was never a very coherent plan, there are hints of peace despite its latest knee-jerk rejections. And after all, if the choice is really between “‘Somalia-ization’ of Syria Or a Political Settlement,” then whispers that the U.S. is secretly negotiating with Russia on a quiet, peaceful, end to the civil war might be true. Certainly almost all Syrians prefer peace to their present hell. Instituting a democratic transition that would lead to democratic governance and, if the Syrian people will it, Assad stepping down would also be real nice.

It’s just particularly cruel to fight against peace now, when both sides seem exhausted, and the winter is cold and food scarce in both government and rebel-held areas.

Everyone in Syria’s seen this beheading video, no one in U.S. has (warning: graphic image)

11:07 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

And you know why that’s the case. Because a credible video of an 11 or 12-year-old Free Syrian Army boy beheading an Allawite Assad loyalist [apologies if youtube has disappeared it by now] doesn’t fit the narrative of “kill to protect” (KTP) or whatever is the current justification for the U.S. sponsoring and funneling Qatari/Saudi money to ‘our guys in Syria’. (Preemptive disclaimer for non-reality-based attacks on anything anti Syrian rebel: that doesn’t mean I’m pro-Assad, in the same way that any criticism of the U.S. invasion of Iraq did not mean we were pro Saddam Hussein.)

youtube screengrab via humanrightsinvestigations.org

Anyway, thank you to Patrick Cockburn in Syria, who’s written an excellent column — Descent Into Holy War — on what is going on inside Syria, especially in Damascus, right now. He writes:

…a basically false and propagandistic account of events in Syria has been created by a foreign media credulous in using pro-opposition sources as if they were objective reporting.

The execution video is a case in point. I have not met a Syrian in Damascus who has not seen it. It is having great influence on how Syrians judge their future, but the mainstream media outside Syria has scarcely mentioned it. Some may be repulsed by its casual savagery, but more probably it is not shown because it contradicts so much of what foreign leaders and reporters claim is happening here.

Besides the glaring imperial propaganda substituting for news (why do we pretend it is otherwise, why do we stand for it?) and the lessons that should teach us, here’s the impression the video is making in Syria:

The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq’s descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria’s non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win. … The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince [Shiites and other Assad supporters] that they have no alternative but to fight to the end.

So the video and the bizarre anti-news ‘reporting’ on Syria remind Cockburn of the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi descent into sectarian war/hell, and how that didn’t appear in U.S. news until it was impossible not to report. The same descent into sectarian and worse war/hell is happening in Libya of course in the wake of our KTP invasion there, but the imperial propaganda sheets aren’t forced to report that.

Ahmadinejad Flattens CNN’s Zakaria

11:40 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Source: http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/87/72087-004-CDFDD10E.jpg

Because raw imperialism can’t be defended, its defenders tend to be morons.

For example there’s the U.S. war on Iran, and therefore warrior for imperialism Fareed Zakaria vs. Iran. That country is suffering under the most brutal sanctions a corporate globalist hegemon can conjure, crushing the everyday hopes and lives of working and middle class Iranians. The victim’s duly elected president (the illegitimacy of the 2009 election is just more lies), although in most respects a bigoted right-winger himself, nonetheless consistently wins the debate with the intellectual warriors of corporate globalist imperialism. CNN a couple nights ago:

ZAKARIA: More with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I quote the Koran to him to show him that he might be wrong about something. …

Oh I bet you will ;->, looking forward to that Fareed …

ZAKARIA: You’re a student of history, and you said something that I was struck by in one of the gatherings that you were at. You spoke about Israel and you said it has no roots in history in the region. And I was wondering whether you really believe that because as you know, of course, Jews have lived there for thousands of years, and we know this, of course, because there are repeated references to the children of Israel in the Koran. There are 43 references to the children of Israel. In fact, one of them, chapter 17 Sura 104 says, we say onto the children of Israel, dwell in this land, live in this land, referring to the land that is now Israel. So do you dispute these facts or do you accept that there is some connection between the children of Israel and this land?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): So we’re trying to fabricate to make the roots a connection? So you do not draw any distinction between the Zionists and the Jews?

ZAKARIA: I’m asking you.

AHMADINEJAD: I am — I have always maintained that the Zionist regime has no historical roots in the region. I — why would I say that the Jews have no historical root? They were also in Iran, a great many of them. So that means that Iran belongs to the Jews? Iran belongs to Iranians, whether they’re Jews, whether they’re Muslims or Christians. Please pay close attention here, sir. The borderline is quite thin. Zionism is a doctrine, is a school of thought, is an aggressive school of thought. It has nothing to do with the Jewish people. At the same time, the majority of those who are there now have come from other lands. They’re immigrants. Many of them recently converted to Judaism. So the way this regime took shape doesn’t matter. Yes, for a long time, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in Palestine with one another in peace and stability and they will continue to do so in the future. It is not a Jewish/Christian/Muslim fight. We’re speaking of a group of Zionists who came and gained the reins of power.

Change the subject Fareed, you just been floored! (By the way, does the Ahmadinejad you read in that final paragraph in any way resemble the corporate imperial media Ahmadinejad?)

Obama runs Syria war out of Incirlik air base in Turkey

8:41 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The Syria headline today is Kofi Annan resigns as Special Envoy to Syria. But I think yesterday’s headline was much more enlightening: Obama authorized secret support for Syrian rebels. If you have even minimal understanding of real world power politics, you can learn exactly what imperialism looks like from that mainstream media source. The key information begins in paragraphs six and seven:

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

I’d guess “a long time ago” and “anything goes,” based on the U.S. imperial track record. But the key paragraphs are nine to eleven:

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

“Turkey and its allies” means Turkey and the two Gulf dictatorships, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Knowing the real relationship between the U.S. and those powers, translate “the United States was collaborating with” into “the United States was commanding.” And confirm that by noting the ‘secret’ base is essentially at a longstanding U.S. military and intelligence base.

Which leads to the following headline from Lebanon, NOT something allowed into the U.S. mainstream: Damascus says U.S., Turkey, Israel, Gulf states directing ‘terrorists’ in Syria. Obviously true, but misleading if it directs us away from the fact that the boss of bosses is the U.S. and its puppets and underlings better not forget that.

Which takes us to the next true headline, also, of course, not allowed into the U.S. mainstream: No happy outcome in Syria as conflict turns into proxy war, which begins:

Regional powers are pouring in money and guns, jihadists are joining rebels battling to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, while his own well-armed but hard-pressed forces are fighting back ruthlessly with combat aircraft and artillery.

Gruesome scenes of slaughtered civilians or executed rebel fighters provide daily snapshots of the worsening conflict in Syria. Video [Syrian rebels execute pro-Assad militiamen in Aleppo] apparently showing rebels gunning down Assad militiamen in cold blood suggests the insurgents are capable of brutality to match their enemies.

Brought to you by the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself.

Finally, to really get at what is going on inside Syria, I strongly recommend the short article Syria & blanket thinkers. I agree with all four of his main points, but will blockquote just one of them:

It is correct to deny the broad label of ‘sectarian gangs’ to describe armed opposition groups operating in Syria. Nevertheless, evidence exists that these groups are not uniform and there is no united leadership or central command. A sectarian dynamic exists in the current conflict and some of these groups have been galvanised by anti-Shi’a hatred preached by Saudi aligned Salafi preachers (Sheikh ‘Adnan al-’Arour being one prominent example). Human Rights Watch and United Nations reports agree on violence committed by some opposition armed groups (Human Rights Watch makes salient the sectarian dimension of some of these abuses).

The kidnapping of Iranian engineers and Lebanese pilgrims, for example, are examples of this sectarian dimension. Leading Syrian opposition figures (e.g. Burhan Ghalioun and Haitham al-Maleh) justified the kidnapping of Lebanese civilians, perpetuating the narrative of leading Hezbollah officers being captured. Further, documents and news are frequently fabricated from an array of opposition factions (armed and civilian) to establish, on sectarian terms, the armed presence of thousands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Sadr Brigades and Hezbollah fighters (a propaganda industry in coordination with the different Saudi monarchy owned media stations). It is not coincidental that this orchestrated scheme of fabrication is largely run on sectarian lines. In other words, it is not only the regime and its backers that may operate along communal lines but also opposition groups.

Also, specific wordings and ideas from anti-Shi’a Salafi polemics and tracts, initially mass distributed during the Iran/Iraq war (e.g. the book ‘The Magians (Zoroastrians) turn has come’), has now become common currency across some opposition factions (it is common to find, in this discourse of derision, talk of the dangers of the Shi’ite esoterics [in this context meaning a communal trait of treachery], the Zoroastrian Twelver Shi’ite rejectionists, the expansionist conspiracies of the Safavids etc.). Popular Facebook pages, such as Shaam News Network and the Syrian Revolution, regularly repeat terms initially concocted by Wahabi preachers (whether Saudi aligned or not), though it is not clear if they realise the theological background of the terms used (these terms are used within a Salafi discourse to excommunicate Twelver Shi’ism from Islam and treat their beliefs and practices as both pagan and idolatrous. This de-humanising language is also used to establish communal traits of treachery and expansionist visions as part of this supposed belief system).

So, do we accept that our country, the U.S., is the critical actor in this tragedy? Do we understand that if the U.S. told its forces to accept and respect a ceasefire – i.e., to do the opposite of what the rebels did when there was a ceasefire in May – that that would of course stop the killing and be the key contribution toward a negotiated settlement of this part civil war part foreign intervention?

To most Syrians, I think, this war has lost any point aside from sectarian score settling. Let’s pressure our government to stop the killing. It has the power, and therefore so do the citizens of the U.S. Or do we?
 

 

NPR Bull%#t Hides OUR Responsibility for Libya Refugee Crisis

2:10 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

To judge the propaganda from the pro-imperial media, look at this from yesterday’s NPR, April 28:

When Gadhafi was in charge of the [Dhiba] border post, Libyans weren’t allowed to cross into Tunisia. . . .

That contrasts a LOT with this:

Libya: Tunisia Closes Dhiba Border Post
21 April , 17:45

(ANSAmed) – TUNIS, APRIL 21 – The Tunisian authorities have closed the border crossing at Dhiba. The decision was taken after Libyan rebels attacked the post this morning, forcing Gaddafi loyalists to flee towards the border with Tunisia, where some of them crossed over into the country and were promptly arrested. (ANSAmed).

And with this, a report Microsoft Translator-ated from (at last!) a reasonably even-handed source, the French language La Presse de Tunisie:

Massive influx of Libyan refugees
April 19, 2011

… Refugees continue to arrive en masse from the Libyan cities located in the Jabal Al-Gharbi, fleeing from the intensive bombing which destroyed many houses.

Over the last two days, their number has reached 3,000, including women and children.

A total of 11,000 Libyans crossed the border post of Dhiba last week.

Here’s three more NPR pro-imperial propaganda test sentences:

Refugees crossing the border say Gadhafi’s forces are terrorizing people any way they can. They are gunning down flocks of sheep just to wreck livelihoods, the refugees say. But they say Arabs and Berbers are now united in their opposition to Gadhafi.

Funny how even pro-rebel Al Jazeera doesn’t have that “gunning down flocks of sheep” stuff or the classic pro-imperial “Arabs and Berbers are now united” hacksterism. Could it have a lower tolerance than NPR for what sounds like complete cheerleading and/or demonizing bull%#t? Jazeera’s source, the UNHCR, says the refugees are escaping from our war (that the imperial powers have massively escalated and refuse to let the Libyans stop), not from one side or another:

4:33pm [April 29] The fighting at the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing has stopped the flow of refugees from Libya’s Western Mountains, seeking refuge in neighbouring Tunisia, according to the UNHCR.

The UN’s human rights agency warned in a statement on Friday:

UNHCR is very concerned that people fleeing Libya could be caught in the cross-fire as government and opposition forces battle for control in the border area. …

Another Le Presse report, this from April 26, confirms the very probably real reason the refugees cross into Tunisia (one that makes a lot of common sense), “fear of the renewal of military operations between the two parties in conflict on the Libyan side of the border.”:

An eyewitness in the locality of Dhehiba [Dhiba] has indicated, in a telephone communication with the correspondent of the TAP agency, that the last days were marked by the escape of more than 3000 Libyan citizens, originating in Wazen, only 3 km from the Dhehiba border crossing point, who entered into Tunisian territory with large herds of sheep and cattle. …

These persons, including women and children, suffer from a very difficult situation. A sense of anxiety prevails in the locality, with the fear of the renewal of military operations between the two parties in conflict on the Libyan side of the border area.

In addition, the increase in the number of Libyan citizens residing in several localities of Tataouine governorate, and their membership of the two parties to the conflict in Libya, animate other fears, in particular the possibility of clashes between them.

Today, Le Presse reports on a large group of Libyan refugees who prefer to take refuge in the Tunisian desert rather than near “Libyan insurgents and their families.” You’ll never get this perspective from NPR:

Des familles libyennes se réfugient dans le désert tunisien
Libyan Families Take Refuge in the Tunisian Desert
April 29, 2011

A thousand Libyans originating from Wezen (Libya), village located about 3 km from the Dhehiba border crossing point, have preferred to take refuge in the Tunisian desert camps and urban areas. They left their homes after the takeover by the insurgents from their village and the point of border crossing on the Libyan side.

Security sources and eyewitnesses reported to the correspondent of agency TAP that the Libyans have preferred to settle near the localities of Tunisian Martba, Om Zougar and El Ouni, to stay away from Libyan insurgents and their families in the towns and villages in the region of Tataouine and the camps of refugees.

Moreover, citizens of Tataouine told the correspondent of agency TAP that the Libyans continued to flow to the region to escape the war. They have expressed their fear that this situation generates conflicts, either between the insurgents and the troops of the Gaddafi regime or at the level of the refugees in the camps, emphasizing the imperative to establish a distance from each other.

Aid is provided by the population, the host committees and civil society to all Libyan refugees without distinction.

Donate to the UNHCR fund for the refugees from our war.