‘Freedom. Down with the regime. Your turn, Doctor’

These young blokes are true heroes. I hope they survive and thrive in a democratic Syria. A single spark can start a prairie fire!

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(Photo of them in 2011, after arrest and torture)

From eNCA:

“Your turn, Doctor.” Seven years after scribbling the anti-Assad slogan that sparked Syria’s war, activists-turned-rebels Moawiya and Samer Sayasina are bracing for a regime assault on their hometown of Daraa.

They were just 15 when they and friends, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions they saw on television, daubed a groundbreaking message on one of the southern city’s walls in the spring of 2011.

“We’d been following the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and we saw them writing slogans on their walls like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Down with the regime’,” said Moawiya, now 23.

“We got a can of spray paint and we wrote ‘Freedom. Down with the regime. Your turn, Doctor’,” referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist.

Within two days, security forces stormed their homes and detained the boys, who are unrelated but share a common family name.

“They tortured us to find out who had provoked us to write it,” Moawiya said.

The teenagers’ detention prompted a wave of angry protests demanding their release, in what many point to as the spark to Syria’s nationwide uprising.”

The rest of the report can be read here.

 

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The barbarism of Assad. No more ‘kneel or starve’!

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‘When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”‘

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Translation of ‘Assad ou le lion nu‘, the op-ed by the Syrian writer and poet Omar Kaddour, on the barbarism of the Assad regime (Assad means ‘lion’ in Arabic). Originally published in Le Monde – 11/05/2018.

Born in 1966, Omar Kaddour is a Syrian poet, novelist and journalist. He has published two collections of poems in the 1990s and four novels between 2002 and 2013, none of which have been translated. In 2014, he left Damascus for Lebanon and has lived in France since 2015.

Translation by Joey Ayoub. Republications allowed as long as you credit author and translator. (Thanks to Hummus for Thought) .


Towards mid March 2018, the regime-affiliated television station Al-Ikhbariya showed brief interviews with the inhabitants leaving Eastern Ghouta following the long military campaigns against the rebel enclave. The journalist, whose face did not appear on screen, was speaking to one of the evacuated in an accusatory manner: “People are saying that the inhabitants [of Eastern Ghouta] supported the armed factions” to which an elderly man responded “we are a poor and defenseless people”.

At the same time, a young man takes the initiative to tell his young girl to say that she is “Habiba, the ‘daughter’ of Bashar al-Assad”. But instead, the girl yelled out of anger, in a conclusive tone, to say that no, she is not the daughter of Bashar! Syrians would understand here that the man would only ask such a thing of his daughter to beg for aman (mercy) as he is of fighting age. We know that men his age, after leaving the besieged areas, are either arrested and tortured, or forced to join Assad’s forces to fight opposition groups. Syrians would also understand that for this public blunder the father, and perhaps even the girl, could pay the price.

The little Habiba reminds us of the famous tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes (known in Syria under the title of ‘the naked emperor’) by Hans Andersen because she has yet to become aware of fear and of the caution it demands. Except that in her case, we can imagine that this goes even further than for the child who yelled ‘the king is naked!’. After all, this girl has lived her whole life under the siege, barrel bombs, shells, and even chemical weapons. It is not unlikely that one of her friends or one of her relatives was killed by these weapons of mass destruction. In this context of death and famine, Habiba heard that the one responsible for their ordeal was Bashar al-Assad. Then came the day where her father asks her to declare that she is the daughter of Bashar. This is how the return to Assad’s supremacy works: accepting him despite all that he has made people endure and all that he will continue to make them endure.

In an Orwell novel

The case of Habiba, as with many others, elucidates this great paradox: portraits of Bashar excessively hanged over the ruins of the zones he has reconquered. In politics, we are supposed to avoid psychological interpretations – such as speaking of necrophiliacs. However, if we observe the discourse of the Assad regimes – both of the father and the son – we find this drunken language of destruction. I was a teenager when Hafez Al-Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood uprising. His troops had just committed a massacre in Hama, killing over 30,000 people, not to mention the destruction inflicted on the city.

At that moment, portraits of Assad senior invaded all of Syria’s roads. I also remember a banner that we’d see everywhere accompanied by a saying of the president which read: “There is no life in this country other than for progress and socialism”. For a long time, I thought of this banner covered in portraits of Hafez Al-Assad over the lifeless rubble. Before that, we would read another saying written by his men on walls or on banners: “I am the Baath [party in power in Syria since 1963], death to its enemies!” Here and there, the goal was to threaten adversaries with death, in the name of the party in one case, in the name of progress and socialism in another.

As it happens, I entered university in 1984, when the world was re-reading George Orwell’s 1984. I read the novel – Assad’s censorship allows the book to circulate while it banned its movie version, because it knew that readers were far fewer than viewers. Regardless, for people like me who read 1984 in Syria, the novel brought nothing new. We lived in a reality similar to what it was imagining, with Big Brother seeing everything, with his intelligence services interfering in every aspect of our existence.

That year, Hafez Al-Assad had finished destroying the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, he was busying himself imprisoning communists, including those who abandoned any opposition to support him in his war against the Brotherhood. Between 1984 and 1987, many of my leftwing friends were arrested and condemned to harsh sentences in front of special courts which didn’t allow them to defend themselves. Nevertheless, they were luckier than those who claimed to be with the Muslim Brotherhood because those were judged by “campaign” tribunals which generally chose the death penalty.

A distant relative connects me to two brothers who were arrested for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. No one in their family had heard of them since. They had children who grew up without knowing them. Their mother became hopeless for knowing nothing about them. And if there was a glimmer of hope, it was no doubt extinguished when ISIS/Daesh took control of Palmyra prison without anyone knowing what happened to its archives.

Like an Occupation Force.

Outside of prison, where we lived like the characters in Orwell’s novel, people abstained from doing anything that would remotely look political. If someone denounced you, even if out of personal vengeance, it could lead to your disappearance. All that was needed was for a simple quidam to accuse you of having insulted ‘the commanding father’ for your destiny to sink into a dark unknown. There is a word for that: “Al-istibaha” (the act of declaring the violation of human rights legal). In other words, the whole of society was at the mercy of a powerful elite and no one had dignity. There are no laws forbidding that group from degrading people, or killing them, or stealing their possessions. It’s an expression inherited from past wars, when conquerors allowed their soldiers to do whatever they wanted to do to the inhabitants of the cities they occupied.

Concretely, the power of Assad senior soon resembled an occupation force allowing itself to trample upon a whole population. The concept of istibaha implies that those who find themselves outside the circle of power have no rights. And if that circle abandons any responsibility in terms of public services, it considers it a form of generosity. This is how school students had to study about the ‘generosity’ of the ‘commanding father’: The fact that he brought electricity in certain villages, for example, as though it didn’t exists in homes in countries poorer than Syria. Also, when they increased the salaries of public officials, they announced it like it was a generous act by the president, as if he were paying for it from his own pocket, even though it was also accompanied by a higher rate of inflation which affected these employees  salaries.

“Kneel or Starve”

When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”

As the regime applies its scorched earth policy and starves the population to bring it to heel, it insists on showing that in the regions it controls, life follows its natural course. It’s not only an image sent abroad to prove the regime’s resilience. It’s only a way of bringing Syrians to accept the idea that there is nothing abnormal happening in their lives while thousands of others are crammed into internment camps and that, every day, security services tell new families of the death of a detained son with no explanation and without returning his corpse.

The standard for Assad is for its repressive machine to kill Syrians wherever it finds them. The world was made aware of the reports by ‘Caesar’ on the systemic usage of torture for the purpose of murder. It was also made aware, a year ago, of a report by the US state department of the existence of a crematorium next to Saydnaya prison. But all of that was just the tip of the iceberg compared to everything we know now and to what the Assad regime will continue to do. The regime isn’t seeking a one-off victory, but a permanent one, a victory that guarantees that no revolution will ever be able to exist. And this means a perpetual war against Syrian society.

We have a president whose legitimacy is still recognised by the world. And yet, in a speech given on the 20th of August, 2017, he said: “Yes, we lost our best youth and infrastructure which cost us a lot of money, we lost whole generations, but in return we gained a society that is sane and homogeneous.” Assad declared that losing thousands of combatants and millions of exiled creates a better society. His concept of homogeneity is inspired by the worst Nazi literature, where he also got his idea of a holocaust.

However, Assad’s victory doesn’t only consist of committing unimaginable crimes, but to make sure they become something banal even to the outside world. The more he kills Syrians, the less the international community is interesting in their tragedy. This is the criteria for his success. Indeed, in the foreign press, these killings do not make the headlines anymore, regardless of how much we talk about them. As for international efforts in favor of a democratic transition, they have practically stopped. Certain world powers which demanded Assad’s departure when he had made only a few thousand victims are now declaring their willingness to see him maintain power now that he has hundreds of thousands of victims.

Documented and filmed atrocities

Even the notion of going after Assad for his use of chemical weapons is a victory to him, as it is a humiliation to Syrians, because it implies that their lives are despised to promote a convention on the interdiction of chemical weapons. What more could we have hoped for? We have powers responsible for peace in the world, as permanent members of the Security Council, invoking the Russian veto when the life and the future of Syrians are at risk. And yet, these same powers act on their own, regardless of that veto, when Assad violates the accord on chemical weapons!

Assad also wins when his Mufti threatens Europe with suicide bombers ready for action and that these threats are realised, only for people to then say that Assad ‘only’ kills his people while ISIS is a threat to the planet! Assad also wins in becoming the first to commit so many documented and filmed atrocities in plain sight for the whole world to see, with no strong international reaction demanding that he be brought to justice.

But his biggest victory is that people now see us as characters in a terrifying tale, and that they may even be sincerely shocked by what is happening to us just as we are shocked when we read a horrible story or watch a tragic film – except that this stays within the realm of imaginary characters. If our story stopped with the little Habiba refusing to be Bashar’s daughter, we might see an optimistic end. Alas, Syrian children like Habiba will grow up, and the first leson that they will learn is that the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood will eat them with the assistance of the gamekeeper. And it’s not impossible that in the Syrian version of the tale, the gamekeeper trains the children to call the wolf “daddy” before he devours them.

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See also: Occupy Syria!

 

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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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Syrian Coalition Calls for Military Strikes Against Assad Regime in Response to Douma Massacre

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With the defeat of Daesh (ISIS) more or less complete, it is no longer possible for the Assad regime to hide behind the lie that it should be supported against terrorists. The regime itself has engaged in terrorism to the extent that nearly 500,000 have been killed (overwhelmingly by Assad/Russian forces), six million are internally displaced and there are five million refugees who fled to other countries.

The Syrian struggle is not a socialist one but rather a struggle for democracy, encompassing many different factions and ways of thinking, including Islamists. The principal enemy has always been the fascist regime.

Trump has called Assad an “animal” and indicated that, unlike Obama, he will not allow a ‘second red line’ to be ignored. With support from France and Britain, Trump has said the US will act against the regime with or without United Nations support. Hopefully, he can build a wider coalition.

Will this be the turning point that the people of Syria and their supporters have been hoping for?

If it is, then prepare for the pseudo-left to launch a ‘Hands of Syria’ campaign of exactly the same reactionary kind as the overt neo-fascist admirers of Assad.

And also prepare for an advance in the position of the revolutionary forces on the ground in Syria.

 

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Below is the text of the statement by the Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces calling for military strikes against the Assad regime. 

The Syrian Coalition called upon permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely the United States, Great Britain and France to launch military strikes against the Assad regime in response to the repeated use of chemical weapons. The latest of these chemical weapons attacks took place in the town of Douma late on Saturday claiming the lives of more than 100 civilians.

In a press release issued on Sunday, the Coalition said that the use of force to strike the Assad regime’s army positions and airbases is part of the responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

“Calling a UN Security Council session has proved futile given Russia’s repeated blocking of any action by the Council. The Syrian Coalition, therefore, calls on the Council’s permanent members and the concerned countries, namely the United States, Great Britain, and France, to take urgent action in accordance with their responsibilities for maintaining international peace and security,” the Coalition said.

The Syrian Coalition also called for the urgent referral of the Assad regimes’ crimes to the International Criminal Court. “It is the responsibility of everyone to put an end to the brutal onslaught on Douma and eastern Ghouta and protect about 200,000 civilians who are still trapped in the liberated part of eastern Ghouta.”

The Coalition said that the attack on Douma was carried out in blatant defiance and utter disregard for all human values. It stressed that the use chemical weapons, inflammable napalm, and the white phosphorus in the bombings of eastern Ghouta constituted a war crime and genocide.

Moreover, the Coalition said that Russia and the Assad regime “bear total and direct responsibility for these barbaric crimes,” adding that the violent Saturday bombings targeted women and children who sought shelter in makeshift underground basements in Douma.

The Coalition called upon the Syrian and Arab communities and all free people around the world to speak up against the Assad regime’s crimes and exert pressure on the governments of the countries that remain silent over these heinous crimes.

The Coalition said it was communicating with the countries concerned to urge a response to Russia’s military escalation and the genocide taking place in eastern Ghouta as well as to ensure accountability for these crimes and protection for the people in Douma. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)