Saturday, 20 December 2014

How socialists of Lenin’s time responded to colonialism

Schoolchildren, Dutch East Indies, photo by Hendrick Van Kol

One might think that this heritage would mean today, supporting the Syrian people in their struggle against Assad, and his Russian and Iranian patrons.
"Lenin called for support to revolutionary movements for national liberation, even if they were not socialist in character. But many of Lenin’s allies did not support struggles for national self-determination; for example, Karl Radek and Leon Trotsky dismissed the 1916 Irish uprising against British rule.
Resurgent social struggles in such dependent countries usually aim first at restoring a measure of democratic control of the national government. There are elements of national liberation in such a process, in which ideas from the anti-colonial struggles of old can have relevance in a new context."

Karl reMarks: The 1,500 year old schism fuelling the clash between Russia and the West

If you don't get the point, it's that those who talk about Syria as a manifestation of an ancient Sunni-Shia divide in Islam are similarly missing any understanding of the conflict.
"To most outsiders these disagreements about calendars and theological debates appear outdated and irrelevant. They prefer to talk instead of geopolitical and economic factors, obscuring the role of the ancient East-West schism in the process. But the reality is that Ukraine, and probably other countries too, will become the stage for a proxy war between those rival power, with Russia on the one side representing Orthodox Christianity and the US on the other leading the Western Christian alliance. Can we stop this descent into madness? Let’s pray."

Friday, 19 December 2014

Syrian refugee children find their voice through theatre in Jordan

' "We have been arrested, destroyed and our childhood has been destroyed."

Some scenes in the play depicted what happens at Syrian government checkpoints and other scenes showed Syrian girls who have become responsible for their families after the death of both parents.
Ten-year-old Salam Hussein said, "I am here to raise my voice to the world and tell them what has happened to us in Syria and the suffering we are living." '

A Dictator’s Best Friend


 It doesn't help that the truth about Assad is mixed up with a lot of garbage about Cuba, but it is true nonetheless.

 "In the late summer of 2013 Bashar Assad was caught using chemical weapons against his own people. The president and his secretary of state decried this violation of international norms and pledged, in televised addresses, to punish the Syrian tyrant for wanton slaughter and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The application of deadly force against Assad’s air force and military installations would cripple the regime and hasten the end of a civil war that has taken the lives of some 200,000 Syrians. But suddenly Obama reversed course. He signed on to a Russian proposal to prevent a military strike in exchange for Assad’s “giving up” his barbaric tools.

 Today Bashar Assad remains in power, his opposition is divided, he has entered into an alliance of convenience with the medieval Islamic State that governs from Raqaa to Mosul. The weapons? Earlier this month the U.S. government—Barack Obama’s government—accused Syria of ongoing “systematic use” of chemical arms. I repeat: ongoing.

 Not only has Obama failed to achieve his stated aims of removing Assad and ending the WMD threat. The situation is more dangerous than it was a year ago because the Islamic State’s menagerie of Saddam loyalists and itinerant holy warriors is securing ground from which to launch attacks on targets throughout the world. Baathist dictators, chemical agents, refugees, Islamic armies are the consequence of this president’s curious mixture of false promises and aggrieved passivity.

 Barack Obama threw the Castros a lifeline, rescued Assad."

Should We Oppose the Intervention Against ISIS?

Rime Allaf: "Let’s be very clear that for the longest time, the Syrian opposition was not asking for a “boots on the ground”-style intervention, or even for a bombing campaign led by the U.S. What was being requested early on was the establishment of humanitarian corridors with the help of a “no-fly-zone” and/or weapons for the FSA to defend liberated areas from the relentless barrel bombing campaign of the regime. Since none of this happened, it was to be expected that these Islamist groups have been able to gain so much ground and find themselves with a weakened opponent in the FSA. Now the Assad regime doesn’t even need to worry about ISIS because it’s got the U.S. fighting [ISIS]."

Venezuela's Maduro: 'US Knows Where It Can Stick Its Sanctions'

'Maduro also called on his country to form a committee to investigate "imperialist nations which have bombed Libya, Iraq and Syria and that have destroyed our brothers." '

That would be his friend Assad who has bombed Syria, with bombers and bombs supplied by his friend Putin. He can stick his hypocritical condemnation of US atrocities, real and imagined.

Syria: where modern and medieval warfare combines

Syrian children in the Bab al-Salama refugee camp on the border with Turkey

"It must be made clear to those who target or indiscriminately attack civilians and civilian infrastructure that such crimes cannot be committed with impunity. The recent rise in attacks on schools – once places of learning, safety and fraternity – is illustrative of the depths to which Syria’s belligerents will sink if left unchecked, and a stark reminder that an entire generation of Syrian children is being lost to this conflict."

The FSA doesn't target schools, none of the Syrian rebel groups do. The overwhelming majority of attacks on civilians have been by Assad's forces, with ISIS a distant second, and the Syrian rebel groups nowhere. Jabhat al-Nusra has occasionally shelled government controlled areas without caring too much about civilian casualties. And that's about it. One bloke last year chopped out the liver of a rapist and murderer, and there was no other image of horror from Syria for months.
People like Miliband know that the Assad government is virtually the sole perpetrator here. But his business is working with the realpolitik of international diplomacy, so tries to put things in an even-handed way, in the hope that if nobody feels threatened, some good can be done. It isn't going to work, as Assad's survival strategy is based on delivering unimaginable horror on his people. As for the UN representative de Mistura's plan to freeze the struggle of Syrians against Assad while everyone fights ISIS which the writers praise, as Robin Yassin-Kassab puts it, it's like a plan to cool the ovens at Auschwitz.
But we can expect a lot more of this even-handed blaming of both sides by world powers and their media, while Syrians are tortured and killed by Assad's forces every day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Rights Group: 215,000 Detained in Syria Since Uprising

FILE - Syrian detainees, who were arrested for participating in protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, are seen at a detention facility in Damascus.

' “I heard the sound of children and women screaming and men being tortured all the time.” 
Much of the report is focused on a secret detention center at Der Shmiel, which the authors say is run by up to 1,500 shabiha drawn from surrounding villages. The camp is located in the countryside 20 kilometers from the town of Misyaf. A former prisoner's testimony suggests the camp has two functions - to inflict torture on dissidents and their families and anyone suspected of disloyalty held at the camp, and to trade prisoners for cash.
According to the former prisoner, who was held for three months at Der Shmiel, about 2,500 detainees are at the camp - 250 children and 400 women among them. Local residents told SNHR researchers they had seen bodies dumped from the camp bearing signs of beatings and torture. The detainee said he was regularly lashed with one of his hands tied to the ceiling, and without his feet being able to touch the ground."

Map by Syrian Opposition sources for situation in N-#Aleppo

Embedded image permalink

Assad and ISIS forces both attacking Syrian rebels, not attacking each other.

The Syrian Army Is Shrinking, And Assad Is Running Out Of Soldiers

Assad Fire

"U.S. airstrikes, concentrated in areas with a heavy Islamic State presence, have allowed Assad to reallocate some resources, but his army is facing a huge problem: It's running out of soldiers. Ground forces have shrunk from 315,000 to roughly 150,000 troops since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.

To fill the gaps, Assad has to lean on “irregular forces,” made up of the National Defense Force (NDF) militias, regime-armed local militias and a largely Sunni reservist group, experts said. Regime forces also include Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian forces.
“You don’t see very many pure Syrian army formations anymore,” according to Jeff White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This is what basically kept the regime in the war.”
U.S. president Obama announced Tuesday that he was set to sign legislation that would impose sanctions on Russian companies involved in supporting Syria. This would further cripple Russia’s already steeply devalued ruble, and decrease its ability to support the Syrian regime."

FSA North’s New Vids Show US TOWs Still Arriving


It might be added that if Jabhat al-Nusra used the TOW's they seized to drive Assad's forces out of most of Idlib province, that's a bit of a win too.
"1. Don’t jump the gun. The CIA-run TOWs program is nominally a covert operation. They don’t do daily press briefings about it at the Pentagon or at Central Command. Operational decisions — who to arm, who not to arm, why and why not — are not discussed publicly, so we’re stuck with sorting through almost purely circumstantial evidence if we want to figure out what is really going on. And sometimes it takes time for circumstantial evidence to emerge — days, or weeks even.
2. It should be no surprise to anyone if the FSA doesn’t get paid on time every time or if weapons shipments are delayed. The U.S. isn’t paying people via direct deposit and getting weapons from Turkey (or Jordan) to the front lines in Syria is a perilous process given how many factions there are, their shifting/unclear alignments and allegiances, and just the general the fog of war.
3. FSA’s SRF in northern Syria is pretty much dead after getting its clock cleaned by Jabhat al-Nusra and its Islamist allies earlier this year. What is going on with the non-SRF FSA is less clear and southern SRF is still alive and kicking judging by the mutual defense pact they co-signed.
4. The CIA’s TOWs program has been a success. Even if it is true that 6 TOWs fell into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, something like 300 TOWs were shipped by the U.S. to FSA groups through 2014 which means roughly 98% of the weapons given to moderate rebels were used by moderate rebels."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Life after Guantanamo

Image result for life after guantanamo al jazeera

Moazzem Begg: "It's really important we note this, when the West-led airstrikes were carried out against ISIS, they didn't just strike ISIS. They struck at Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Nusra Front, they struck Ahrar al-Sham, which is part of the Islamic Front, the largest Islamic front which is fighting Assad as well as ISIS, and they struck all of these groups. The only conclusion you can reach is one of two: either they are extremely uninformed, which I doubt; or it was done on purpose, and if that's the case, it was to drive those who were fighting ISIS into ISIS' lap. Now, that sort of ridiculous and unthoughtful campaign has turned the entire Syrian population, the population of the Syrian opposition, against any American intervention. In fact they say, we've been killed in the numbers of 200,000, we've been killed by chemical weapons, we went to war with Iraq because there might have been chemical weapons, yet when they were used, nothing was done, the red lines that President Obama said if they were crossed, the West would do something about it; nothing was done, and in fact now, Britain, America, are on the same side as the Iraqi government, the Iranian government, as Hezbollah, and the PKK, the last two banned terrorist organisations."

The Russians will not let go of Assad and neither will we

"Moscow is behind the extension of the Syrian humanitarian tragedy, a tragedy which the region has not hitherto seen the likes of. They are with Assad as long as he’s alive and in the presidential palace in Damascus. The opposition’s option is to organize its ranks and place its bets on the ground military option. It is the only way the Russians and the Americans will listen. The Russian and American governments, caught between besieged Assad and brutal terrorism, have no other choice but to deal with the opposition."

Talal Alyan Headshot

The Death of Palestine: Two Years of Siege in Yarmouk

"At least 135 Palestinians have died directly from the siege. It was the cruelty of starvation that initially haunted the camp. However, the protruding misery in Yarmouk today is a result of a drought manufactured by the Syrian regime since June 2014. It has aggravated the already extensive suffering of the 18,000 or so Palestinians that remain trapped inside the camp. Yarmouk has been without water for over 90 days.
The siege on Yarmouk, the issue of who is at fault, boils down to one essential point: the practice of collective punishment. Either one opposes this cruel practice, whether in Gaza or Yarmouk, or they don't. Neither the complexities of Yarmouk nor the crimes of the opposition, of which there have been many, alter that basic point."

Raed ShekhFares

"Idlib: Massacre in Kafranbel : 13 civlians were killed after the Assad regime bombed the Orient hospital in Kafranbel today. Death toll rising."
The BBC announced earlier, "we have an update on the death toll," but that wasn't about Syria, because whenever the news is about Syria, it's never about Assad.
Raed Fares is that nice man who comes up with the revolutionary slogans, like "We Stand In Solidarity With The Oppressed Who Cannot Breathe‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬". I don't think it is too much to ask for him to expect some solidarity in return.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Opinion: An Empty, Token Gesture

"Syrians will continue to resist whether they are trained or not, or armed or not, because war is not a matter of choice today and it cannot be put on hold while Syrians wait for a political solution or until the military training program is completed. There are nine million displaced Syrians inside and outside Syria, and they cannot accept the simple provision of blankets and bread and continue to sleep in the open every winter. This is why the war will continue. Many Syrians are fighting dressed in rags and using simple weapons. Even those who are tired of this cannot go home except through force. This is their only hope. The next two years may pass with the regime staying in Damascus while still depending on the support of its Iranian ally. However, the war will not stop without seeing the end of the regime, whether by war or through a political solution.
We all know that if the moderate opposition possessed advanced weapons, the regime wouldn’t have survived, and the losses of the regime’s allies would’ve exceeded their capability to continue in this bloodbath until today. There is no shortage in the number of volunteers willing to fight the Assad regime. Their number in the south alone is over 30,000, although they are poorly equipped and their arms are limited to simple weapons. It’s neither the US nor the European countries that back the FSA who are training the opposition fighting on the ground. Most of them received limited training from Turkey and the Arab countries who are supporting and helping them."
Turkey-Syria Border Explosion
Scholars: ISIS Abhorent To Islam Followers
'The Assad government is using the fear of ISIS to stay in power, Awad said. The current policy of attacking ISIS will fail unless it also comes to include bringing down Assad, he said.
"The Assad regime is kept alive by ISIS," Awad said. "If you ask the Syrian people, they will tell you ISIS and the regime are the threat." '

Monday, 15 December 2014

U.S. Says Europeans Tortured by Assad's Death Machine

<p>Caesar's day in Congress.</p>
 Photographer: Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

 That's how Pinochet was nearly brought to justice, torture and kill enough people and eventually they'll be some Europeans among them. Of course Dr Abbas Khan is one of them, but the British government doesn't seem that interested in Syria if it can avoid it.

Robin Yassin-Kassab being interviewed from BBC Arabic's first film and documentary festival"In Syria, there is so much going on culturally. Again, this is a story which isn't being told, so as well as the films we're going to see this afternoon, we've got free newspapers, free radio stations; these are being set up even in places that are being starved and bombed every day. So, despite the horror of the Assad régime, and the horror of ISIS and the extremist jihadist groups and so on, in the middle of that, there are still people doing their best in awful circumstances to express themselves, to develop culture, to develop ideas, and that's one hopeful thing in this big mess."
The rest of his answers:
"I think it's really significant because we hear all kinds of political discourses about the Arab world, the Middle East, we hear about the wars, and the Islamism, and the sectarianism, and the international intervention, and the proxy wars and so on;but we hear very little actual human stories, what's actually happening to people on the ground, and I think therefore we in the West don't have the material to understand what's happening on a human level, why people have been revolting against their régimes, why in some countries it has all collapsed in a horrible way, what's the background to this, what's going on in people's heads, so we need a lot more of this kind of stuff.
I fear that this kind of thing is drowned out by the stereotypical images of peple with guns and beards, and so on, by the big news events.But we hope, and we keep going, there is as well as all the chaos and nastiness in the Arab world at the moment, there is also a bottom-up cultural revolution, and I think that will inevitably become more and more visible as time goes on. I think the Arabs themselves will demand to be heard, they are demanding to be heard, and I think eventually they will be heard much more than they are now.So thanks to the BBC for doing this, it's a great thing, and I hope it gets some notice.
I think there should be a huge London audience for this kind of thing. Firstly because we have lots of communities in London from all over the world, we've got lots of Arab communities, we've got lots of people who maybe for religious, or political reasons, or just because of their personal interest, people want to know what's going on in the world. So, someone may have a purely English background, but they want to understand this turmoil not far away, in the Southern and eastern Mediterranean. So, I think there is an audience, I think we've got quite a sophisticated cultural audience in London, and I hope it gets bigger and bigger, for this kind of thing in particular.
Some people suggested about some Iranian films, some aspects of Iranian cinema, that after Iranian cinema got a lot of international recognition, some people suggested that there were directors making films primarily with the Cannes Film Festival in mind, the foreign audience in mind, rather than people in Iran. I don't know enough about it to comment whether that is true or not, but I don't think that is going to happen with the Arab cinema, because there are so many urgent social issues, and I think that Arab directors, or Middle Eastern directors of all kinds of backgrounds, at the moment, want to address their people. They want to take part in very real debates which are happening in those countries. So I think inevitably the cinema from the Middle East will develop, and change, and diversify. I don't think that process is going to be governed by the reception of these films abroad, I think it's going to be governed by realities inside those countries.
I think it would be great if people could understand that the Middle East is made up of human beings, complicated human beings, self-contradictory human beings, all kinds of ideas are bubbling up, all kinds of strange events are happening. it's impossible to reduce or simplify this without losing the reality of the story. That's what the media does in general, it reduces and simplifies, perhaps necessarily, and in some ways not at all necessarily. I think that cultural artifacts like this can convey the human reality, and that's what everyone should be engaging with. I think we could all forget our grand narratives of what's happening in the world, and just engage with human beings and cultural products from this part of the world, and learn a lot more lessons."
Forty-four Months and Forty-four Years/ 1- Two Blindfolds
"While the Assad state cuts off those lesser Syrians internally, the approach adopted by the Western and international media sources is based generally on the isolation and infantilizing of the Syrians, and is not concerned with knowing anything behind the wall. On the contrary, they repay the regime for its isolation of its citizens by ignoring them. The Western ‘experts’ on Syria very rarely know anything of value about it, but give prominence to the ‘upper’ discourse of world capitals, great conflicts, and the names of rulers. They know little, and sense even less.
That one of us should strongly oppose Bashar’s regime, as well as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, without being a ‘local informer’ dreaming of nothing but life in the West, seems impossible.
Yet it is by no means impossible. We do exist, and we are visible to whoever wants to see. We are many, both women and men, joined in a fight on multiple fronts, on behalf of justice and freedom in our country and in the world. We confront hegemony on the global level without reactionary gestures rooted in identity, and we confront the isolating positions of identity without abandoning our positions in the struggle, here and now, on behalf of freedom, justice, and dignity."

Op-Ed: Southern Syria a different story from the media narrative

Image result for digital journal Southern Syria a different story from the media narrative

 "The leadership of the Southern Front believes the regime of Bashar al-Assad will collapse at some point. There are various reasons for this. The first is the duration of this terrible war which has sapped a lot of energy out of the Syrian military in terms of manpower. Both sides of this conflict are tired after four years of fighting, but the areas loyal to the Assad regime are becoming uncomfortable at how many of their men are being lost in this war while Assad sits comfortably in his palace in Damascus. The second reason is economic and is closely linked to the price of oil. War is hugely expensive and the Assad regime is dependent on both Iran and Russia. Iran for funding and Russia for weapons. As the price of oil has collapsed over the last few months it becomes increasingly difficult for Iran to fund Bashar al-Assad so he can buy weapons from Russia. Russia cannot afford to simply give weapons away, as it has its own financial problems also due to the price of oil and the effect of sanctions. If oil prices stay low well into 2015 then it will become extremely difficult for the Syrian regime to hold on to power.
 The Southern Front senses this and is preparing for Bashar al-Assad to lose his grip on power. The biggest challenge when this happens will be to stop Damascus descending into chaos and allowing the extremists an opportunity to try and fill the vacuum."
Image result for cbs Raw reporting from the Syrian civil war

Raw reporting from the Syrian civil warMagalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: Tell me about the evolution of Basset. We see him starting out as a pretty secular person, well-known. But he's evolved into a relatively militant character. He wasn't interested in an Islamic state, which is what ISIS is interested in. He wanted to get rid of Assad. Now he's angry at the West because he hasn't gotten the help that he's asked for.
Bob Simon: He's been angry at the West for some time. It's not only at the governments that he's angry at, he's angry at all of us. The media gave him a lot of play in the early days, but now he's in Syria. We were at the Turkish/Syrian border. And while we had all the apparatus, phones and Skype and all that, to make contact with him, he didn't wanna have anything to do with us.
Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: The West had let him down.
Bob Simon: The West had let him down entirely.

Image result for washington post Former Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg, in his own words

Former Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg, in his own words
"They came [to Syria] for a benign reason, which was to fight against the Assad regime. But our government can't see the difference. It says everyone is the same. And thus, it feeds into the ISIS argument.
Whether it's James Foley, whether it’s Alan Henning, whether it's Steven Sotloff, whoever it was, I'm convinced that every single one of these people was assisting Syrians in the way that few others could. If you take James Foley for example, he was serving in Libya, getting out pictures of crimes committed by the Gaddafi regime. He was doing the same thing in Syria and he was a vital lifeline for the people in terms of what was happening there. Alan Henning, goodness. He'd been to Syria several times. A simple man, but one who cared so much that he was prepared to place himself in danger to help people. Peter Kessig, he became a Muslim.
People on the ground are more disgusted than the West is because they have seen their own compatriots killed by these people. They have more reason to be disgusted by the West, but not at the expense of their revolution."


With English subtitles.
"Human rights are the main aim of the Southern Front.
No one shall be subject to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Humanitarian aid is important but won’t stop the war

"I couldn’t care less what the US establishment or its opponents think about Syria. The uprising is not about them. It’s about people who are being starved, murdered and besieged simply for wanting to be free from a cowardly and murderous tyrant. And at the end of the day, I’d rather show solidarity with them than fake ‘anti-imperialists’ sitting in the West."

Support the women saving Syria from the bombs

"To make matter worse, air attacks from the regime have significantly increased in some areas since the US-led strikes began."

Obama says no change in Syria policy, Assad still not priority

Obama says no change in Syria policy, Assad still not priority

 This is actually the policy that people like Noam Chomsky say they want him to follow, and the policy that has made the disaster in Syria go from bad to worse.

 “The people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players -- Turkey, Iran, Assad's patrons like Russia -- are going to have to engage in a political conversation.”
bus aid syria.jpg

UN still struggling to move aid into Syria

"Millions of families have been torn apart, pushed out of ancestral homes and forced to flee unspeakable horrors in search of safety and dignity.
The Assad regime has waged a cruel and unrelenting campaign of bloodshed and starvation against its own people for almost four years."

Still Failing Syria’s Refugees

"The refusal of China and Russia to reach out is especially galling, since they consider themselves world leaders and have fueled the conflict through resolute support for Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad."
Syrian refugees protect themselves with a blanket during a rainy day in Istanbul on Nov. 25, 2014. Canada has admitted fewer than 1,000 Syrian refugees this year.

For Syrian refugees, it’s shame Canada: Burman

"Is it because they are mostly Muslim?
The Canadian government defends its approach toward Syria by pointing out that Canada is a significant cash contributor to the UN’s humanitarian efforts. 
But cash is not enough. Just as Africans need actual medical help, Syrian refugees need a genuine home. And Canada’s record pales in comparison with countries such as Sweden, with a population of only 10 million people, which is now home to 60,000 Syrian refugees."