These ARE our issues! ‘Srebrenica’ no more! We are all one.

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There’s a very good article by Roy Gutman from The Daily Beast, published in February this year, about the moral underpinnings – or lack thereof – of the United Nations and the US and other powerful countries’ failure to take effective action against the massacres of the Assad regime.

The killings have gone on for many years now, from about 5,000 deaths in 2011 when the Syrian popular revolt broke out to many more thousands each year – around half a million killed so far.  More than 6 million have been displaced within Syria, and an additional 5 million have fled the country.

Gutman refers to the failure of the UN and US and allies to take effective action against the Assad regime as a ‘Srebrenica moment’.

He writes that, 23 years (in 1995) ago:

‘… the world sat mostly mute, watching events unfold in and around the small village of Srebrenica in a remote corner of eastern Bosnia. No government was ready to lift a finger to save the population of some 27,000, at least half of them displaced from other areas.

‘At a critical moment, the United Nations Protection Force  decided not to bomb Bosnian Serb forces marching on the town. That was taken as the all-clear for Gen. Radko Mladic to capture Srebrenica, expel the women and children, and exterminate the male population of some 8,000’.

In all, about 100,000 were killed during the Bosnian war but the killings were ultimately halted when a NATO force of 60,000 peace-keeping troops occupied the region. Prior to that, there had been NATO air strikes to enforce and defend ‘safe zones’. This is one of the interventions Syria has needed for several years, desperately. A No Fly Zone imposed by the US and NATO, and anyone else willing to help.

In 1994, a year prior to Srebrenica, more than half a million Rawandans were massacred over a hundred day period. Again, there was no effective intervention on the part of the powerful west. We just watched, deplored what was happening, a French military force established a ‘safe humanitarian zone’ in part of Rawanda which saved around 15,000 people, but we did nothing to stop the actual genocide.

In 2013, former US president Bill Clinton reflected on the failure of the US government (during his presidency) to intervene in the genocide as one of his main foreign policy failings. He estimated that 300,000 lives could have been saved by US military intervention.

Following such tragic events, it seemed that an internationalist sense of responsibility was developing – an understanding that ‘we are all one’, that we share a common humanity and that the massacre of people anywhere is an issue for all of us, that separation by oceans or continents is irrelevant. And most importantly, that when all else fails, such as diplomatic pressure and sanctions, military intervention can be the best humanitarian option.

In 1999, the NATO bombing campaign to protect Kosovor Albanians from ethnic cleansing did not have the approval of the United Nations but it averted a much greater bloodbath. The aim of the military campaign was to end the violence and ethnic cleansing policies of the Milosevic national-socialist government, the withdrawal of all military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo, the stationing of a UN peacekeeping presence in Kosovo, unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons, and the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo in conformity with international law and the Charter of the UN.

The NATO led force is still there, with a strength of 4,600.

While the pseudo-left protested against the military action, in defence of ‘national sovereignty’ and against US imperialism (as though it was in any way an imperialist venture), the UN itself was moving ahead of such antiquated and pernicious thinking and in 2005 adopted in principle the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ or ‘R2P’.

R2P means:

‘The Responsibility to Protect – known as R2P – refers to the obligation of states toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. R2P stipulates three pillars of responsibility:

‘Pillar One: Every state has the Responsibility to Protect its populations from four mass atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

‘Pillar Two: The wider international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility.

‘Pillar Three: If a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter’.

R2P was and is a step in the right direction, as it openly challenges the previously sacred nation of ‘national sovereignty’.

Roy Gutman points out that Eastern Ghouta’s population is 15 times that of Srebrenica’s. While the people in Eastern Ghouta were being attacked by Syrian Army ground forces backed by Russian air power, the US had 2000 troops to the north-east fighting Daesh (ISIS). The result was that 1,700 civilians perished in Eastern Ghouta, and the regime again deployed chlorine gas and probably sarin gas against the rebel-stronghold. The city has become a wasteland, suffering more than a thousand aerial attacks. Hospitals, schools, markets, bakeries and mosques were targeted. (Hardly worth making the point, at it’s so obvious, that Daesh/ISIS has no air power, neither do the pro-democracy rebels).

Gutman quotes a US colonel, John Thomas, of the US Central Command’s public affairs office, as saying ‘CENTCOM has no part in anything in Syria other than the defeat of ISIS’.

That was the case in early February, when the article was written, but since then – two weeks ago – US president Trump called Assad an ‘Animal’ and called for his overthrow.

Daesh is largely defeated. It’s bizarre plans for a Caliphate, headquartered in Raqqa, shattered by military force in October last year. It is beaten in Mosul, Iraq, as well.

Call it what you may: internationalist solidarity against fascistic regimes, or R2P. Military intervention is urgently required to overthrow the Assad regime to end the slaughter, to allow the return of refugees and displaced Syrians, and to assist the Syrian people in building an inclusive democratic system.

 

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“We retain the dignity of the revolution’s early days” – Marcell Shehwaro

The following is written by Syrian writer, Marcell Shehwaro. I came across it this morning on a facebook page called ‘Ghouta’. She is a journalist and activist from Aleppo, and executive director of Kesh Malek, a group that ran schools in opposition-held areas of Aleppo.

Two things strike me about the post. First, the question of ‘surrender’. There is a view among some in what passes for ‘the left’ today that the Syrian people could never win their struggle against the Assad regime. It has even been put to me that they were wrong to challenge an ‘unbeatable’ regime. This view, logically, also opposes the entire Arab Spring – or, more precisely, the bourgeois democratic revolution occurring in the region. As with Iraq, the stability of fascism, with all its regime horrors, is regarded as preferable to the chaos of revolutionary democratic change, with its potential for liberation.

The writer makes it clear why surrender is not an option.

Secondly, a profound point is made in the following sentence:

‘I and my group of friends never imagined as we hid from the bullets that shot at our peaceful demonstration that we could defeat Russian planes all by ourselves’. 

Who, other than a US-led coalition, can provide the military support necessary to defeat the Russian (and Syrian regime) planes? Failure to confront this reality results in the absurd proposition that one should oppose both Russian/Iranian and US/UK/French military intervention; that the recent bombardment and destruction of a chemical weapons storage facility, a research centre and command post by the US/UK/France was morally equivalent to the death toll of about 500,000 and refugee toll (half the population), for which Russia/Assad are overwhelmingly responsible. Not to mention the destruction by aerial bombardment by the regime and Russia of vast areas of cities, towns and camps, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, and bakeries.

Trump persists with his pledge to wash his hands of Syria but has targeted the regime in a way that Obama never did. The epithet ‘Animal Assad’, used by Trump in a tweet, is now used by the Syrian and Arab democrats.

Meanwhile, the overt far-Right and the pseudo-left take to the streets demanding ‘Hands of Syria!’

Where is the moral compass?

We find one in the Syrian voice in the following post.

 

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What if we accept Bashar Al Assad?

Let’s discuss “peacefully” that “elephant in the room”, as you say, what if we accept that Assad remains in power?

We are asked the question sometimes obliquely, and sometimes filtered through the closed circles that decide on Syrian affairs without the attendance of any Syrians. Sometimes it is brought up in ways that infantalize as if we are children who don’t dare to confront the “truth realistically”.

In the harshest times, this question is posed to us as a negotiation over the bodies of our children. Instead of the answer of “why we don’t accept that Assad remain in power” is obvious because he killed our children and the scars of their smiles are etched on our hearts. The blackmailing question becomes: He will kill your children and their smiles, why don’t you just accept him?

Excuse us for a moment! We need some time to understand this world’s logic, the world ruled by Trump, Putin and a bunch of politicians who only care about their 4-year period in office.

Hafez al-Assad has blocked us from the outside world. Now his son follows in his footsteps. The liberationists amongst us gazed towards the United Nations Charters and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Some of us believed that those charters mean something. When the revolution broke out, we discovered that those charters are ruined due to the misuse of the members in the U.N.’s Security Council.

Apologies for the digression. So: why don’t we accept Assad?

We wish you tell your people the “harsh truth”. We want to challenge your empty words and courtesy rhetoric. We know you mean nothing when you say things like: using chemical weapon is a red line, or Aleppo is a red line, or Assad lost his legitimacy.

The truth is that Assad is more your ally than the naïve group of dreamers that we are, believing like we do in democracy, justice and accountability.


Isn’t this the message of bombing in Idlib and Ghouta today? To convince us, “gently”, to accept a political solution—the only solution that you lectured us about—as we are being killed?

You say that we are defeated. Well, gentlemen, I and my group of friends never imagined as we hid from the bullets that shot at our peaceful demonstration that we could defeat Russian planes all by ourselves. We never thought that we can win the “war” while we were being tortured, or suffocated by chemical weapons, destroyed by shelling, rape and detention.


It may be true that we have lost. But this defeat made me aware of something I never wanted to know.

I know today the terminology of violence: The Golan cluster bombs, the difference between Sarin and Chlorine, and the new version of bunker blaster that can destroy our “safe” basements. I learned even how to pronounce these words in English.

You say we were defeated in Sochi! We were not even at Sochi. Sochi was the costume party that gathered the regime himself with you.

You have all our sympathy for the time you are forced to spend with them.
I keep digressing away from that nightmare, Bashar Assad’s ruling Syria, excuse me!

What if we “accept” that Bashar al-Assad stays in power? First, Who are “we”? The cities that are besieged and bombed, the people that must cross a thousand barriers to visit one another. Who are “we”? The refugees who fail to have a proper family reunion? Or need an official permission to breathe?

And if some of us actually accept Bashar al-Assad as president, what can we do with all those of us who are “rude” enough to reject giving up their dignity? What can we do with all those who still believe in their right to their homeland? What if mothers who buried their sons refused to believe that justice had died also? We have to let them die.

So the suggestion is that some of us surrender, so that others die in silence. Or maybe we can give you the names and coordinates of all those who oppose Bashar al-Assad, so that you and your Russian friends can ensure their disappearance?

What if some of us actually accepted that Bashar Al Assad stays in power, do you guarantee that the war will stop? That the brutal dictator won’t celebrate his victory with taste of our defeated blood?


You say that you want him to stay for a transitional period. Funny joke, this one. Do you logically believe in your power to pressure Russia and the regime?

We have asked you for years to stop the shelling. We then felt sorry for you so we minimized our demands and asked you to stop the shelling of hospitals and schools. You failed here too. For years we have asked you to send relief convoys to the besieged areas; to move the sick for a distance of 10 kilometers, or to guarantee the families’ right to know the fate of their disappeared sons , and you failed to do so. You repeatedly explained that you are failing to put pressure on “Damascus.”

What logic do you want to believe, that “You cannot stop a school bombing and you can guarantee Bashar Assad’s removal after a transitional period?”


So the offer, that you are in a shock that we are refusing is, that we have to surrender without restriction, guaranties or condition and preferably silently.


Even if that means killing those who do not give up, we have to accept.
Even if that means that the form of death going only to change from one form to another, we must accept.

Even if that means that he will rule us with iron and fire, and that our children, who will believe again in their own freedom, will may be killed by nuclear weapons this time, we must accept.
So the equation is
Whether

To accept Bashar Al Assad, surrender and die.
Or oppose Bashar Al Assad, resist and die.

We reject the whole equation then, and learn to resist the idea of choosing between death and death through thousands of borders that limit us every day.

And we retain all the anger caused by the killings of our people, who we were unable to grieve amidst the ongoing massacre, we retain the dignity of the revolution’s early days. We retain all of our memory and the choice of life. We retain the fragment of a beautiful dream we had one day to have a homeland.


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More bogus ‘anti-war’ responses to Ghouta chemical attack

With thanks again to Bill Weinberg, of Countervortex.

 

6. “Do you want a nuclear war?” This is some high irony. The “anti-war” (sic) left has basically been saying for five years that the Syrians should submit to genocide as the price of world peace. It’s really been working out great, hasn’t it? All the “anti-war” fools who abetted Assad’s genocide over the past five years by denying it or making excuses for it are utterly complicit in having brought the world to the brink. They helped make use of WMD acceptable. They helped place us on the slippery slope to Armageddon that they now sanctimoniously warn against.

7. “I’ll bet you believed there were WMD in Iraq too.” Talk about fighting the last war! To say this days after a deadly chemical attack (once again) betrays an unthinking analogy to Iraq, overlooking obvious, overwhelming context. This is akin to denying that Saddam had WMD after the Halabja chemical attack in 1988—not in 2003, when he had long since been disarmed and Dubya was looking for an excuse to go to war. Assad has had a blank check to carry out acts of genocide for years now. That analogy is bogus to the core.

Alas, we’re even hearing this crap on the deplorable Amy Goodman‘s ironically named Democracy Now, in which co-host Juan Gonzalez joins with the left’s perennial Mideast expert Phyllis Bennis to spin this as Iraq redux, recalling “the horrific stories about the invasion force of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait marching into a hospital and killing babies.” This is of course a reference to “Nurse Nayirah,” whose bogus testimony about non-existent Iraqi war crimes in Kuwait helped lubricate Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Except that Nayirah testified before Congress months after the Kuwait invasion, and was groomed by the Kuwaiti regime’s public relations firm Hill & Knowlton. So what does this have to do with fresh reports from aid workers from several organizations on the ground in Douma (Syrian-American Medical SocietyWhite HelmetsSyria Civil Defence), with harrowing video evidence, and not even enough time for any PR grooming? Oh that’s right, nothing.

Bennis skirted the edges of denialism after the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack. She seems to be getting worse. (Note, by the way, that Nurse Nayirah was invoked by some paranoid bloggers to plug the notion that the shooting of Malala Yousafzai was a hoax.)

8. “Assad is innocent until proven guilty.” This is more high irony. The same people who will refuse to believe what the facts all indicate until there is an exhaustive investigation are the last ones to protest when Russia uses its Security Council veto to block an investgation. Apparently, they prefer the comfort of their ignorance.

Putin’s useful idiots on the Internet are also avidly reposting clips from Russian state media (RTSputnikTASS) to the effect that the Red Crescent found no evidence of poisonous gas having been used at Douma. Look past the headlines (heaven forbid), and the claims come from two individual workers with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and the quotes make it ambiguous whether they are refering to the current attack or previous ones. These are completely misleading headlines, and those who share them without even bothering to read them (let alone vet them) are spreading bullshit. Go to the actual website of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and there is not a word about any of this. Their most recent update from Eastern Ghouta is dated Feb. 23.

BBC also quotes Moscow’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying: “Our military specialists have visited this place, along with representatives of the Syrian Red Crescent… and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.” OK, could we please get a quote from the Red Crescent on this? They can presumably speak for themselves, rather than through the Russian foreign minister. Thank you.

This innocent-until-proven-guilty line is kind of a soft-sell on the “false flag” tack, but possibly even loopier when you really scratch it, since it implies the attack didn’t even happen. Maybe all those traumatized children in the videos are “crisis actors”?

9. “You sound like John Bolton.” OK, we are to judge facts on the basis of their convenience to imperial propaganda (or our own)? Talk about “post-truth.” And you denialists, by the way, sound like Fox News. Their predictable Tucker Carlson was last night spewing identical shit: “All the geniuses tell us that Assad killed those children. But do they really know that? Of course, they don’t really know that, they’re making it up. They have no real idea what happened. Actually, both sides in the Syrian Civil War possess chemical weapons. How would it benefit Assad, from using chlorine gas last weekend?”

As Mediaite notes, Carlson then brought on the grievous Glenn Greenwald (who is turning into a regular on Fox News) to spin bankrupt Iraq analogies.

So don’t lecture me about strange bedfellows, Assad-suckers.

Bogus ‘anti-war’ responses to Ghouta chemical attack

Bogus ‘anti-war’ responses to Ghouta chemical attack – republished with permission of the author, Bill Weinberg.

You can already hear them coming. Expect to see on Facebook and the “anti-war” (sic) blogosphere in the coming days the following propaganda tactics:

1. “False flag.” Even the increasingly problematic Noam Chomsky is parroting this malarky. Every time there is a chemical attack in Syria, it is speculated, on no evidence, that the rebels did it as a provocation—even as the attacks come amid massive Assad-Putin bombardment of the same locales. Funny how the rebels have so much poisonous gas yet they only ever seem to use it against themselves. Has there been one single report of a gas attack on regime-held territory throughout the course of the war? This is contemptible denialist bullshit of the lowest order.

What’s particularly ironic is that the folks who spew this jive think they are such cognescenti, seeing through the lies of the dreaded “mainstream media.” In fact, it is mainstream outlets like Newsweek that are increasingly floating such theories, particularly in the recent writings of a self-promoting ex-spook named Ian Wilkie.
Meanwhile, his transparent lies are being called out by truly alternative media such as EA Worldview, which closely and seriously monitors the Syrian war, and independent investigative websites like Eliot Higgins’ Bellingcat.
Serial pro-Assad propagandist James Carden has also engaged in such baseless theorizing in The Nation—a publication which has now repeatedly served as a vehicle for the Assad regime’s lying propaganda. (Carden may protest that he is not “pro-Assad,” but when you rally to the defense of the regime every time it carries out some ghastly atrocity, we would love to know in what sense this does not constitute support.)

2. “Not our problem.” This response is an exercise in imperial narcissism which makes every question about “us.” There are obvious problems with any extension of US military power in Syria or anywhere else, which we presumably do not have to elaborate on here. But if you have greater outrage for whatever military action Trump takes in response to this attack than you do for the attack itself, there is something seriously wrong with you.
It was just a year ago, when “anti-war” types took to the streets of New York to protest Trump’s air-strikes in response to the chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, that I was quoted on Eyewitness News calling out their hypocrisy. Even if you think we have no responsibility to protest any atrocity not directly carried out by the US or its client states such as Israel (itself a problematic position), note that in the weeks prior to Trump’s air-strikes in response to Khan Shaykhun, some 600 (overwhelmingly civilians) had been killed in the US bombardment of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul—eliciting no street protests whatsoever. But an Assad regime airbase gets bombed and a few warpanes destroyed, and then they all take to the streets. Whatever else this may be, it is certainly not a consistent “anti-war” position! Sadly, we are probably looking at a replay of such morally depraved “anti-war” (sic) protests in the coming days.

3. “But what about Gaza?” Amnesty International calls this tactic “”Whataboutery“” and notes that Bashar Assad uses it himself when cornered by interviewers about his campaigns of mass murder. When you talk about Syria, you have to talk about Syria, and not immediately change the subject. Those who use Gaza as a distraction from Ghouta are exploiting dead Palestinians. Why is the response to the latest ghastly news from Gaza never “What about Ghouta?” (Except, of course, from reactionary Zionists who we’re all supposed to hate.)

4. “The CIA stirred up trouble, so Assad isn’t to blame.” File this one under “blame the victim.” For starters, it is based on a lie. The Syrian revolution was sparked by an incident in which school-children were tortured after painting anti-regime slogans on a wall in Deraa in March 2011. And now, seven years later, Assad is getting a pass for gassing children. Even if the Syrian Revolution was entirely CIA astroturf (which is total ahistorical baloney), it would in no sense justify mass murder and chemical attacks.

5. “The rebels are all al-Qaeda.” Again, that is (first of all) not true (the make-up of the rebel factions at Ghouta is clear for those who care to look), and (more to the point) irrelevant even if it were true. Justifying war crimes and acts of genocide as necessary to counterinsurgency against a demonized enemy is the logic of Guernica and My Lai. Nice company you are in, “anti-war” (sic) fools.

It’s an indication of just how far through the looking glass we are that Seymour Hersh, who broke the My Lai story in 1968, has now become an open supporter of the genocidal Assad regime.

Once again, there is nothing worse than pro-war “anti-war” jive.

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The U.S. and Canada Should Open Their Borders to Syrian Refugees

bridges-not-walls

Many thanks to Joel Newman and Open Borders: the Case for permission to run this piece.

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I had hoped that the Syrian civil war would produce, against the odds, a democracy which protected the diverse ethnic groups who live in the country. Either non-jihadist democratic Syrian rebels would prevail and be charitable towards those who have supported the Assad government, or an agreement between the rebels and the Syrian regime would transition the country toward democracy.

None of this has materialized, Syria is devastated, and with the oppressive Assad regime firmly in control of the western portions of the country, political progress appears impossible.

According to David Lesch, writing in The New York Times, most Syrians now live in extreme poverty, the unemployment rate is over 50%, half of Syrian children are not enrolled in school, typhoid, tuberculosis, and other diseases are endemic, hundreds of thousands are dead, and millions are injured. Different forces, including the Islamic State, control different parts of the country, and fighting likely will continue between these groups. Hundreds of billions of dollars would be needed to rebuild the country, and Mr. Lesch believes that other countries will not step up to provide reconstruction money.

Not surprisingly, almost five million Syrians have fled their country, not including millions of others who have been displaced within Syria. Almost a million have migrated to Europe. About 18,000 Syrians have been resettled in the U.S., and about 40,000 Syrians have gone to Canada. Most of the refugees are stranded in Turkey (about 2.5 million), Lebanon (about 1 million), and Jordan (about a half million), with limited opportunities to resettle elsewhere.

It is past time for the U.S. and Canada to allow the millions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan to immigrate to their countries. In addition to the fundamental moral reasons that oblige countries to open their borders to almost all immigrants, there are several compelling reasons why there should be swift acceptance of these refugees.

First, while multiple nations and groups have been involved in the Syrian war, the U.S. bears some responsibility for the catastrophe. Since the U.S. has the world’s mightiest military, it always has the option to intervene and have an impact on a conflict. In Syria, the U.S. intervened by providing some support to rebels fighting the Assad regime, but the intervention never was forceful enough to quickly resolve the conflict.

According to Philip Gordon, who worked on Middle Eastern affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2013 to 2015, the U.S. has only prolonged the Syrian war: “… our policy was to support the opposition to the point that it was strong enough to lead the regime and its backers to come to the table and negotiate away the regime. And that was an unrealistic objective…I think it is fair to say that we ended up doing enough to perpetuate a conflict, but not enough to bring it to a resolution.”

The U.S. could have disabled the regime’s air force, as Senator McCain has recently advocated, especially before the Russian military became directly involved in the conflict. That might have saved the lives of many civilians targeted by Syrian aircraft and perhaps led to a settlement between the rebels and the government. (I recognize that direct military action doesn’t always lead to positive outcomes, considering the results in Iraq and Libya.)

In addition, other actions short of direct attacks on the Syrian military could have been undertaken to protect civilians, as Nicholas Kristof has noted. These include creating safe zones in Syria protected by the U.S. military and destroying military runways so Syrian warplanes couldn’t be employed. Accepting Syrian refugees would be some compensation for the U.S. failure in Syria to resolve the conflict and protect civilians.

Second, Syrians in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are struggling. (Some refugees are also struggling in Greece.) Many children are not able to go to school, it is difficult for adults to get work, and the refugees are becoming impoverished. Some Mercy Corps teams “have seen families living in rooms with no heat or running water, in abandoned chicken coops and in storage sheds.” The desperation of the refugees is reflected in the attempt by many of them to reach Europe by making risky sea crossings, during which some have perished.

The host countries are apparently unwilling and/or unable to incorporate the newcomers into their societies. According to Mercy Corps, in Jordan and Lebanon, “weak infrastructure and limited resources are nearing a breaking point under the strain.”

As to Turkey, one observer stated: “It remains unclear how the embattled country – which is also dealing with declining GDP, multiple attacks, and a war against Kurdish fighters in the southeast – will be able to accommodate nearly three million refugees, the vast majority of whom are young adults and children seeking jobs and education.” The U.S. and Canada, with wealthier economies, more political stability, and a tradition of incorporating immigrants, would provide a better refuge for the Syrians than the Middle Eastern countries.

Third, the rapid migration of Syrian refugees to Canada and the U.S. could diminish the threat of terrorism. It is risky to continue the Obama policy of allowing very few Syrian refugees to enter or maintain the Trump policy, which indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from the country. The longer Syrian refugees are stuck in their host Middle Eastern countries, the greater the risk that they will become radicalized.

According to a Brookings Institution article, “the risk of radicalization is especially heightened where IDPs and refugees find themselves in protracted situations: marginalized, disenfranchised, and excluded. Finding solutions for displaced populations should be an urgent priority for humanitarian reasons but also as a security issue.” (See also here. )

While ideally the Obama administration’s thorough vetting of refugees for admission into the U.S. would continue, its sluggish nature makes it imprudent to maintain. A faster screening process must be implemented in order to bring the refugees into economically advanced, mostly tolerant North America, where they could thrive and become more immune to radicalization.

In addition to rescuing the refugees from potentially radicalizing conditions in the Middle East, there is another mechanism by which admitting them might prevent terrorism. In a previous post, I suggested how open borders could help protect receiving countries from terrorism, including by freeing up resources for screening immigrants for terrorist threats, by improving government relations with Muslim immigrant communities which could assist with stopping terrorism, and by providing more Muslim immigrants who could join Western intelligence agencies. Similarly, admitting Syrian refugees from the Middle East could generate goodwill among the American and Canadian Muslim communities, perhaps resulting in an increase in the number of Muslims willing to assist in preventing terrorism.

Evidence of this may be found in the German government’s recent admittance of over a million immigrants, many of whom are Syrian refugees. This may have earned Germany more support from its Muslim community in efforts to prevent terrorism, according to Robert Verkaik, writing on CNN‘s website. He notes that
“In October last year, two Syrians managed to capture a terror suspect in Leipzig who was planning a bomb attack on German airports… And in November last year, a German Muslim man who had returned from fighting ISIS in Syria provided information to German security services that led to the arrest of a major extremist cell. These examples show that the German security services, in common with agencies across Europe, critically rely on intelligence passed on by members of its Muslim communities”.

He also seems to suggest that a Muslim informant warned the security services about the suspect before the attack on the Berlin Christmas market last year.
Many people are concerned that Syrian refugees could commit acts of terrorism in the U.S. However, they should consider that about half of the refugees are children, who “don’t fit the typical profile for terrorists.” And, as noted elsewhere, most Muslims are peaceful. (Some Syrian refugees are not even Muslim.) Furthermore, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute has determined, based on historical data, the statistical chance of being killed by a foreigner committing a terrorist act in the U.S.: 1 in 3.6 million per year. For the risk of being killed by such an act by a refugee, the risk is 1 in 3.64 billion per year. If the 9/11 attacks are excluded, “21 foreign-born terrorists succeeded in murdering 41 people from 1975 through 2015.” Nowrasteh’s conclusion is that “foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low-probability event.” Its risks are minuscule when compared to other causes of death.

It is also notable that, as co-blogger Hansjörg points out, the German experience with the recent influx of Muslim refugees belies the predictions by restrictionists that their admittance would result in lots of terrorist acts there. Hansjörg notes that the number of lethal Islamist terrorist attacks in Germany (ever) is in the low single digits. There is minimal risk involved for Canada and the U.S. to accept millions of Syrian refugees, even without consideration for the aforementioned ways their admittance could actually help prevent terrorism.

Furthermore, it might be better for the Syrian refugees to go to North America than to some European countries. Many argue that the U.S. does a better job than European countries at integrating immigrants. One writer notes that “the conditions of Muslims in some European countries can create fertile breeding grounds for extremism, whereas societies with more-integrated Muslim populations like the United States are less susceptible.” (See also here, here, and here.) David Frum, writing in The Atlantic, states: “Europe is coping poorly with its large population of alienated, under-employed, and in some cases radicalized Muslim immigrants and their children. It seems then the zenith of recklessness to make that population larger still.”

Another writer even suggests that radical Muslims in Europe will infect Syrian refugees with their ideology, although he proposes vigorous integration efforts rather than exclusion from Europe.
At the same time, some are sanguine about European integration of its Muslim residents. Shada Islam of Friends of Europe asserts: “Make no mistake; while extremists of all ilk may decry multi-cultural Europe, the process of adaptation, accommodation, integration, of Europe and Islam is already well underway… Europe’s once solely security-focused approach to dealing with Muslims has been replaced with a more balanced view that includes an integration agenda and migrant outreach programmes.”

Similarly, co-blogger Hansjörg, who lives in Germany, states that “on the whole, my personal impression is that integration works quite well also in Europe. There is a tendency, especially in the US (but also in Europe from those who are critical), to present this as a story of severe problems, divides that cannot be bridged, etc. I don’t think that is true (not to say there are not some problems).”
Finally, admitting millions of Syrian refugees into the U.S. and Canada may not be very disruptive in other respects.

A study for the Centre for European Economic Research on the recent migrant influx into Germany has found that there are “no signs of quick and clear deleterious effects in Germany post ‘migrant crisis’ involving, as the authors conclude, ‘more than a million’ migrants entering Germany in 2014-15 on native employment, crime, or anti-immigrant politics specifically linked to the presence of migrants on the county level.” In the U.S. it is notable that “eleven percent of Syrian immigrants to the U.S. own businesses, according to a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress. That compares to four percent of immigrants overall and three percent of people born in the United States.” According to one Syrian immigrant, self reliance is emphasized in Syrian culture, a trait that is compatible with American culture. Moreover, a research director at the Fiscal Policy Institute states that Syrian immigrants in the U.S. have generally been successful and could help the refugees adapt to life here.
The economic impact on the U.S. actually could be positive.

People throughout the U.S. welcome refugees because they know from experience the beneficial effect that refugees have on communities, according to David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee. He writes that “to take one example, over the course of a decade, refugees created at least 38 new businesses in the Cleveland area alone. In turn, these businesses created an additional 175 jobs, and in 2012 provided a $12 million stimulus to the local economy.” In Rutland, Vermont, the mayor has advocated resettling refugees from Syria and Iraq in his city to help address a declining and aging city population. Population loss there could lead employers like General Electric to leave the city. (A 2013 post looks at efforts by various American cities to attract immigrants in order to help their economies.)

In summary, allowing millions of Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. and Canada not only would be morally warranted, it could minimize the risk of future terrorism, relieve the suffering of many, and enrich both countries. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is moving in the opposite direction, with Trump ordering an indefinite stop to the entry of Syrian refugees into the U.S. The longer he blocks their entry, the greater the perils for both the refugees and the West.

(Joel Newman has a bachelor’s degree in history from Pomona College and works as a teacher in Beaverton, Oregon, USA).

Opening the borders – is it really unpopular?

The notion of opening borders is no longer a fringe idea of those on the Marxist Left and classical liberal Right. It has been implemented by Europe’s power-house and, to her great credit, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is standing by her policy. And recent state elections and opinion polls show that the German people are not repudiating her. 

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The Christian Democrat Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, opened Germany’s borders to more than a million asylum seekers, mostly those fleeing the barrel bombs of the fascist regime in Syria.

The recent elections in three German states resulted in a new right-wing party, the AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) which opposes the ‘open borders’ policy, receiving 25% of the vote in one electorate, 15% and 12% in the other two.

Googling ‘Merkel’ and ‘elections’, the headlines overwhelmingly suggest this is a defeat for Merkel’s open borders policy: a “disaster” for her. She has been “punished” by the voters for her open borders’ stance. So say the media headlines.

Yet further examination of the actual results in the three electorates – Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttenberg – indicate that the results are a defeat for those who claimed the new party represents the silent majority.

In the elections, opponents of Merkel’s policy had their chance to test public opinion. And the result shows that they are marginal, averaging less than 15% of the vote.

It is true that the Christian Democrats, Merkel’s party, were defeated in Baden-Wuerttenberg. But they lost to the Green Party, which supported Merkel’s policy. Yes, they lost in Rhineland-Palatinate to the Social Democrats but the Christian Democrat candidate, Julia Klockner, stood as an opponent of her party leader’s open borders stance. The Social Democrat candidate was more favourably disposed to it.

In Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD did well with a quarter of the vote, but Merkel’s party came first with only a minor reduction in the Christian Democrat vote.

Moreover, opinion polls find that Merkel’s popularity hovers around the 50% mark. Currently, her approval rating is 54%.

A poll of voters about refugee policy in the three electorates found that Merkel’s approval rating is 58% in Rhineland-Palatinate, 54% in Baden-Wuerttenberg and 43% in Sachsen-Anhalt.

So, here we have a Chancellor who has shown that borders can be opened and, despite the inevitable chaos, the masses do not run from that Chancellor and her policy in anger and fear. Only a minority does that.

What Merkel has done is to change the paradigm of the debate over immigration and borders. Not just in Germany but everywhere.

The notion of opening borders is no longer a fringe idea of those on the Marxist Left and classical liberal Right. It has been implemented by Europe’s power-house and, to her great credit, Chancellor Merkel is standing by her policy. And the German people are not repudiating her.

She understands that ‘they’ are ‘us’ and ‘we’ are ‘they’, and that sharing the chaos does not preclude supporting measures to tackle the problem at its main source: the Assad regime.

She recently said that a million people is not many when you consider that Europe’s population is 500 million. The pity is that other governments are closing their borders rather than sharing the chaos caused by barrel bombs in a not-too-distant land.

Syria’s bourgeois-democratic revolution and the need for boots on the ground.

I share the following view by the Antiwar Committee in Solidarity with the Struggle for Selfdetermination but the important question is how can any decisions arising from the negotiations be enforced and maintained without a military force on the ground that is committed to enforcing and maintaining the transition.

The question of ‘boots on the ground’ needs to be tackled pro-actively by the governments and the UN that established the opportunity presented by the coming negotiations.

Boots on the ground that are sympathetic to the Syrian people would make delivery of humanitarian supplies more likely on the scale that is required.

Apart from needing to protect Syrians from the likes of Daesh, a military coalition on the ground (and backed by air support) will be necessary to guarantee that people can vote freely and to protect the Assad loyalists among the Alawite community once he is tossed out.

Comments welcome.

 

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We support efforts by the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition to negotiate a political settlement which will lead to a transitional governing body, and to human rights for all, rule of law, and democracy for Syria. Given the scale of documented atrocities carried out by the Assad regime, it follows that such a process must bring an end to regime rule.

We further support the demand by the High Negotiations Committee that the international community implement in full the humanitarian provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 prior to negotiations.

The current Geneva III Conference has begun against a background of escalating Russian and regime bombardment of populated areas and civilian infrastructure, escalating starvation sieges, and ongoing mass detention and torture of political prisoners.

UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which set out the international endorsement for these talks, called on the parties to “allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, release any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children,” and demanded the full implementation of the long list of unenforced Security Council resolutions on Syria: 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and any other applicable resolutions.

Resolution 2254 further demanded “that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”

These items are the express will of the Security Council and as such are not for negotiation between parties. The international community should never preside over a process where humanitarian relief is allowed to be used as a card in political negotiation.

As long as the international community fails to enforce its own resolutions, the Syrian people can have little faith in the peace process. If the international community can’t deliver baby milk to besieged areas, how can they be trusted to deliver free and fair elections?

For peace talks to succeed, the international community must implement the humanitarian provisions of its own UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in full