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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Open Borders Manifesto

In light of recent revival of an anti-immigration push in Australia, which seems to have divided the two major parties internally, I’m rerunning this post from 2015.

Also highly recommend this article by David McMullen (originally published at On Line Opinion).

 

workers have no country

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I have added my name to this Manifesto for Open Borders because in principle I believe in freedom of movement and that the workers of the world have no country. Also, I think the various groups in Australia who oppose the policies of the Labor and Coalition parties need to think beyond the paradigm that divides people into genuine and non-genuine, and political and economic, asylum seekers. It doesn’t matter. Just let them in and share the chaos. It’s time for ‘open borders’ to be part of the public discussion and debate on immigration.

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On Open Borders Day 2015, the 16th day of March, we marked the third anniversary of Open Borders: The Case. We also published the Open Borders Manifesto, a brief document summarising the objectives of the open borders movement.

The list of signatories is in alphabetical order, based on surname, and is current as of March 16, 2015. If you would like to add yourself to the signatory list, please contact us (preferably via email: openborders@googlegroups.com) and provide your name, with professional or academic affiliations if applicable.

Open Borders Manifesto

Freedom of movement is a basic liberty that governments should respect and protect unless justified by extenuating circumstances. This extends to movement across international boundaries.
International law and many domestic laws already recognise the right of any individual to leave his or her country. This right may only be circumscribed in extreme circumstances, where threats to public safety or order are imminent.

We believe international and domestic law should similarly extend such protections to individuals seeking to enter another country. Although there may be times when governments should treat foreign nationals differently from domestic citizens, freedom of movement and residence are fundamental rights that should only be circumscribed when the situation absolutely warrants.

The border enforcement status quo is both morally unconscionable and economically destructive. Border controls predominantly restrict the movement of people who bear no ill intentions. Most of the people legally barred from moving across international borders today are fleeing persecution or poverty, desire a better job or home, or simply want to see the city lights.

The border status quo bars ordinary people from pursuing the life and opportunity they desire, not because they lack merit or because they pose a danger to others. Billions of people are legally barred from realising their full potential and ambitions purely on the basis of an accident of birth: where they were born. This is both a drain on the economic and innovative potential of human societies across the world, and indefensible in any order that recognises the moral worth and dignity of every human being.

We seek legal and policy reforms that will reduce and eventually remove these bars to movement for billions of ordinary people around the world. The economic toll of the modern restrictive border regime is vast, the human toll incalculable. To end this, we do not need a philosopher’s utopia or a world government. As citizens and human beings, we only demand accountability from our own governments for the senseless immigration laws that they enact in our name. Border controls should be minimised to only the extent required to protect public health and security. International borders should be open for all to cross, in both directions.

Signatories, listed in alphabetical order by surname:

Thorvald Aagaard, Associate Professor, Director of Theater, Pacific Union College
Brian C. Albrecht, PhD candidate, Economics, University of Minnesota
Pedro H. Albuquerque, Associate Professor, KEDGE Business School
Jesús Alfaro, Professor of Law, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Shanu Athiparambath
Ben Bachrach
Dave Barnes
Simon Bedford
David Bennion, Attorney
Daniel Bier
Niklas Blanchard, PhD candidate, Human Capital Management, Bellevue University
Luke Blanshard
Joseph Bonneau, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Computer Science, Stanford University
Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, George Mason University
Sam Bowman, Deputy Director, Adam Smith Institute
Geoffrey Brand
Jason Brennan, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Georgetown University
Beno Brito, Projects Director, Instituto Liberal do Centro-Oeste
Steve Buller
Jason Lee Byas, Fellow, Center for a Stateless Society
Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics, George Mason University
Leonel Caraciki
Ryan Carey
Simon Cartledge
Richard Yetter Chappell, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York
Grieve Chelwa, PhD candidate, Economics, University of Cape Town
Lars Christensen
Andrew Jason Cohen, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Georgia State University
Phillip Cole, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of West of England
Paul Crider
Christopher Dobrogosz
Bryan Joseph Dodson
Eli Dourado
Charles DuHadway
Robert Eckerson, Attorney
Margaret A. Elberson
Ross B. Emmett, Professor of Political Economy and Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy, James Madison College, Michigan State University
Mustafa Erdogan, Professor of Political and Constitutional Theory, Istanbul Commerce University
Daniel Fernández Méndez, Professor, Economics, Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Luis Figueroa, Professor of Ethics of Freedom, Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Bryan T. Fine
Nicholas Fletcher
Scott Freeman
Joshua Gans, Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Toronto
Paul Geddes, Economics Instructor, Columbia College
Jacob Aaron Geller
Giuseppe Germinario
Casey C. Glick, Graduate Researcher in Physics, UC Berkeley
Zachary Gochenour, Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics, Western Carolina University
Nathan Goodman, Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society
Maithreyi Gopalan, Ph.D. candidate, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Manick Govinda, Visiting Artists Co-ordinator, Manifesto Club
Jameson Graber
Joe Green, Associate Professor of Political Science, Dixie State University
Priscila Guinovart
Jeff Hallman
John Halstead, PhD candidate, Political Philosophy, St Anne’s College, Oxford University
Robin Hanson, Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
Mikael Hellstrom, Instructor, Political Science, University of Alberta
Christopher Hendrix
Javier S. Hidalgo, Assistant Professor, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
Fergus Hodgson, Editor-in-Chief, PanAm Post
Jeffrey Horn
Steven Horwitz, Charles A. Dana Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, St. Lawrence University
Michael Huemer, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado
Giancarlo Ibarguen, Former President, Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Tom Jackson
Peter Martin Jaworski, Assistant Teaching Professor, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
Scott A. Jenks, Instructor, Department of Medicine, Emory University
Nathan Jones
Emmanuelle Baya Julien
Valdenor M. Brito Júnior, Attorney
Angela Keaton
Rick Kelo
William Kiely
Milo King
Gavin A. Kitchens
Thomas L. Knapp, Director, William Lloyd Garrison Center
Anna Krupitsky
Chandran Kukathas, Chair of Political Theory, Department of Government, London School of Economics
Michelangelo Geovanny Landgrave Lara
Daniele Latella
Mark LeBar
John Lee
Daniel Lin, Professorial Lecturer, American University
Anthony Ling, Editor-in-Chief, Caos Planejado
Raffaele Lo Moro
Ryan P. Long
Roderick T. Long, Professor of Philosophy, Auburn University and President, Molinari Institute
Ray Lopez
Trent MacDonald, PhD candidate, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University
Pedro Magalhães, Attorney and PhD candidate, Law and Economics, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Akiva Malamet
Rafael Bortoluzzi Massaiol
Kevin McGartland
Jeremy McLellan
Justin Merrill
Jared Meyer, Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
Gary Miguel
Walter Morris, Director, Acton School of Ballet
Joe Munson
Darren Nah, PhD candidate, Politics, Yale University
Vipul Naik
Janet Neilson, Program Developer, Institute for Liberal Studies
Chad Nelson, Attorney and Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society
Russell Nelson
Jeremy L. Neufeld
Joel Newman
Sebastian Nickel
Eric Nielsen
Federico Oliveri, Research Fellow, Sciences for Peace Interdisciplinary Centre, University of Pisa
Yaël Ossowski, Programs Director, European Students for Liberty
George Pareja
Andrew Pearson
Ryan Pelkey
Luis Pellicano
Alicia Perez
Graham Peterson, PhD candidate, Sociology, University of Chicago
Kaveh Pourvand, PhD candidate, Political Theory, London School of Economics
Lukas Puettmann, PhD candidate, Economics, University of Bonn
Shaun Raviv
Jose L. Ricon
Dylan Risenhoover
Fabio Rojas, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Indiana University
John Roccia
Trish Ruebottom, Assistant Professor, Goodman School of Business, Brock University
Antonio Saravia, Assistant Professor of Economics and Director, BB&T Center for Undergraduate Research in Public Policy and Capitalism, Mercer University
Paul Sas
Philip Saunders
Yaakov Schatz
Eric Schmidt
James Schumacher
Andrew Scobie
Hafiz Noor Shams, Founding Associate, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs
Jay Shooster
Joshua Shurley, PhD candidate, Politics, University of Manchester
Sarah Skwire, Fellow, Liberty Fund, Inc.
Ben Smith
Evelyn Smith
Nathan Smith, Assistant Professor of Economics and Finance at Fresno Pacific University
Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at the George Mason University School of Law
Piero Stanig, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Università Bocconi
Marilyn Steffen
Wouter Stekelenburg
Barry Stocker, Assistant Professor in Philosophy, Istanbul Technical University
Drew Stonebraker
Scott Sumner, Professor, Economics, Bentley University
Kyle Swan, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, California State University Sacramento
Alex Tabarrok, Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Batur Talu
Laron Tamaye
Fernando R. Tesón, Tobias Simon Eminent Scholar, Florida State University
Pedro Trujillo Alvarez, Director, Department of Political Science, Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Bas Van der Vossen, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosopy, UNC Greensboro
Brian Wagers
Tyler Walker
Hansjörg Walther
Ladan Weheliye
Nicholas Weininger
Christoph Widenhorn
Michael Wiebe, PhD candidate, Economics, University of British Columbia
Samuel Wilson
Stephen Winkler
Barrett Young
Barry York OAM, Historian
Zachary Yost
David Zetland, Assistant Professor of Economics, Leiden University College
Matt Zwolinski, Associate Professor, Philosophy, University of San Diego
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Crippling Assad and bringing him to justice is an international responsibility

free syria fsa

 

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (ETILAF) has issued a statement calling for the continuation of military strikes against the Assad regime with a view to stopping it, and its allies, from massacring Syrian civilians. ETILAF sees the air strikes as “an important new step”.

The statement calls for enforcement of the Geneva Communique of 2012 and UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2245 as a strategic objective of the military strikes. In other words, for the political transition from Assad dictatorship to democracy.

ETILAF and the Free Syrian Army and the Local Coordinating Committees are the ‘good guys’ that reactionaries like Tony Abbott and John Pilger say don’t exist. They are the equivalent of the National Liberation Front in Vietnam in the 1960s and the fighters against apartheid in South Africa.

Whether secular or Islamist, those fighting for democracy must be supported by the international community, as the massacres and suffering have gone on for way too long. The ‘international community’ is a euphemism for ‘United States and anyone else willing to take effective action against the fascist regime in a way that strengthens the hand of the people relative to the regime’.

ETILAF is recognized as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people by 120 states and organizations, including the United States, the European Union, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. ETILAF seeks a “democratic, inclusive and pluralistic civil state” for Syria.

The big question now is whether the recent US-led air strikes will be a ‘one off’ or develop into a strategy along the lines sought by ETILAF.

An important lesson to those who fear ‘war with Russia’ is the very weak response of the chest-beating Putin. Russia is unlikely to go to war with the US over Assad. It would be his downfall if he did, with the Russian economy already feeling the effects of sanctions, and the Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, saying: “Bashar al-Assad is not our friend. Putin is now saving Assad with the money of Russian retirees. This must be stopped.”

 

Here is the ETILAF statement:

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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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