Saturday, 16 April 2016

Thanks to UK and US intervention, al-Qaeda now has a mini-state in Yemen. It's Iraq and Isis all over again

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 Patrick Cockburn shows more clearly than ever that he prefers dictators to popular revolution. It would be nice if his admirers, from Noam Chomsky to Jeremy Corbyn, would acknowledge this. There is extreme dissonance if you say, "I'm not saying things were better when Gadaffi was in power, but...", or "I'm not pro-Assad, but...", and then promote a man who is saying precisely that, that it is better when the tyrants are in charge, that the people love them, that the opposition is just a Western-backed illusion that paved the way for dangerous extremist Muslims.

 "There was the same lethal pretence by Western powers in Libya and Syria that the rebels they backed represented the mass of the population and were capable of taking over from existing regimes. In reality, the weakening or destruction of central government created a power vacuum promptly filled by extreme jihadi groups."

 It's noticeable that in Yemen, Cockburn presents everything as being the fault of Saudi Arabia - and the West that should be backing dictators, though not the Saudi ones for some reason. He refers a couple of times to suggestions that the pro-the previous dictator and Houthi side has any Iranian backing as inaccurate labelling and having little evidence for it, but gives no reason why we should take his word for it. And this feels a bit like traditional stereotyping of Arabs:

Yemeni politics is exceptionally complicated and often violent, but violence has traditionally been followed by compromise between warring parties."

 In truth it is allowing Assad to proceed with his genocide against Sunni Muslims that has wrecked "
a whole country and enable al Qaeda and Isis to use the chaos to establish safe havens." The Institute For War & Peace Reporting* shows how much there is nothing but a barbarous kleptocracy where the Syrian state once was, where it hasn't simply handed over parts of the country to Iran. There can be no end to ISIS while this cancer persists, the very disease Cockburn wants us to preserve.

My family and I fled Syria on January 24, 2012. Too many of us had already been arrested and it was no longer safe.

 The government had eyes and ears everywhere. Young men were being paid handsome amounts of money to join the ranks of the shabiha paramilitaries. They were on every corner, in every neighbourhood. They were the worst kind of human beings, with no moral scruples.  
 My family and many others suffered a great deal because of the shabiha. They detained people for trivial reasons without a second thought as to what would become of them. They didn’t care if the person was a man or a woman, young or old.
 We fled our country because of these villains.

 One woman told us how she had been detained in al-Qusur street. She was carrying a laptop the shabiha probably wanted for themselves. They accused her of participating in terrorist activities and threw her in jail. When her youngest son went to the local intelligence headquarters to ask after her, he too was thrown in one of their cells. The woman was later released, but her son remained in prison for two years. He was tortured until he died.

 A friend of mine from a village in Latakia’s countryside also suffered at their hands. “They took my husband and held him for three years, following which they executed him. He died before meeting his youngest daughter. He was an aircraft engineer and was caught while sabotaging one of their military aircrafts.”
 Then there was the woman from the village of al-Bayda in Banyas. The village was one of the first in the governorate of Tartus to announce its support for the revolution. The woman I met told me about a massacre in May 2013 in which at least 250 people were killed as a punishment for the uprising.
 “They divided the men, women and children into separate groups, then killed them in the ugliest of ways. It was indiscriminate murder. Neither gender nor age mattered to them. They even set the wounded on fire. When they left, those of us who had survived gathered the bodies of the dead and buried them in mass graves. Then more than 500 families fled, and we were amongst them,” she said.

 The woman’s elderly father-in-law was slaughtered along with his two sons, while his third son watched in horror. That third son was her husband. The couple sold their house in Banyas for a fraction of what it was worth to fund their journey to Turkey and then to Europe where they hoped to find medical care, jobs and a future for their young children.

 Umm Mohammed last saw her son Mohammed on November 6, 2012. That day, the government launched a major offensive on her town of Saraqib. Mohammed’s wife was martyred. When they found her she was still clutching the loaf of bread she had gone out to buy for her children. Umm Mohammed searched amongst the bodies of the martyrs for her son, but she could not find him. She took his children and fled to Reyhanli in Turkey where she how lives with her daughter.'

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