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Posts Tagged ‘Imperialism

Many on the Left state rational opposition to Air strikes, other go loudly Mad – John Wight makes a Comeback.

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“Pattern of alleged chemical weapons attacks”.

By now the pattern of these alleged chemical weapons attacks is set in stone. They come at seminal junctures in the conflict, when Syrian government forces are on the verge of a significant strategic victory or advance against the alphabet soup of Salafi-jihadi groups that are operating in the country.

On Sputnik News RT writer  John Wight (lately of Socialist Unity until he fell out with Andy Newman)  continues,

Though no one is suggesting (at least certainly not me) that no attack took place, or that the footage of children stricken in the aftermath was fabricated, until independent verification is forthcoming the claim of Syrian army culpability cannot be taken at face value — not when we are dealing with probably the most heavily propagandized conflict of modern times, wherein the information war has been elevated beyond the status of an adjunct to the conflict on the ground to the point where it is now a key and crucial front in of itself.

 …

The clamour for Western military intervention follows these alleged attacks is deafening, whipped up by the usual complement of neocon ideologues and regime change fanatics for whom every day is a cruise missile day. Meanwhile, Trump’s threat that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would pay a “big price” is redolent of the posse-speak that has come to exemplify his administration’s engagement with a world that has long been straining under the weight of US hegemony.

By contrast Comrade Paul Mason has written a reasonable article on the Syrian crisis.

Futile air strikes on Syria won’t defeat Assad and Putin

The West should impose punitive economic and diplomatic measures on Russia and Iran, and back a secular-led military opposition.

I am against Britain joining a military strike on Assad’s Syria. It’s an inadequate and cynical gesture designed for domestic consumption by governments whose own legitimacy is being eroded. The idea that it will save significant numbers of lives is rubbish, and known to be rubbish, by the politicians and retired military people advocating it.

What would, in the short-term, save lives in Eastern Ghouta would be to place massive economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia and Iran, who are the real powers controlling Assad’s war in Syria; and to back or re-create a secular-led military opposition on the ground, starting with the Kurds of Rojava. But that is not going to happen.

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A left foreign policy and defence strategy for Britain in a disintegrating global order has to start from the principle of defending human rights and observing international law and building capacity for democratic opposition in the countries stirring up conflict. The alternatives to a shower of guided missiles require more than bravado and rhetoric.

To bring the perpetrators of the war crime in Douma to justice means unblocking the multilateral system at the UN and the International Criminal Court. That in turn means persuading the Russian people to elect a government that does not sanction torture, chemical weapons attack, the assassination of opponents and the conquest of territory by brute force.

..

But strategically what’s going to end the regimes of Putin, Assad and Rouhani is the one event the west won’t countenance: their political overthrow by secular, democratic and pro-social justice movements. That’s my weapon of choice against the perpetrators of the Douma attack.

Meanwhile if you think this reasonable Wight does not.

Paul Mason replies to this kind of rubbish:

The big demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq gathered a very broad group of people together.

They included parties of the far-left, many Labour members, unions, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and, under the aegis of the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain, a group led by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. (1)

Today will we see MAB demonstrate against air strikes in Syria?

It is doubtful.

MAB deplores Syrian regime war crimes and massacre of innocent civilians

8th of April.

Last night forces loyal to Syrian dictator and war criminal Bashar Al-Assad used chlorine gas and other unidentified chemical weapons, banned under international law, in Douma near the capital Damascus. To date, 70 people have suffocated to death, with scores more still suffering, including women and children. The death toll is expected to rise. This comes amid continuous bombardment of the surrounding areas in Ghouta, which has levelled complete neighbourhoods and has left thousands dead and wounded.

What we will see is people like Wight who clearly back the Assad regime.

As in here, (September 2016).

Why the Syrian People Won’t Accept a Deal to Remove Assad

The Syrian government’s crime in the eyes of the West is not the lack of democracy – how could it possibly be given the longstanding alliance between Western governments and Saudi Arabia, run by a clutch of medieval potentates? – but rather the fact that Syria under Assad has long refused to bend the knee to US and Western hegemony, especially with regard to the country’s support for the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, and its friendship and alliance with Iran. Together they make up an axis of resistance which Washington and its regional allies have long been intent on breaking.

Despite the courage and tenacity of the Syrian Arab Army and people, there is little doubt they would have succeeded in this endeavour without Russia’s intervention in the conflict, beginning at the end of September 2015. When Vladimir Putin addressed the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations days prior to Russian aircraft flying their first sorties against anti-government forces in Syria, he effectively announced the birth of the multipolar world demanded by Russia’s recovery from the lost decade of the 1990s, caused by Washington and its European allies’ attempt to impose a Carthaginian peace on the country in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union, along with China’s ferocious economic growth and global footprint.

Russia’s military intervention was and continues to be a remarkable achievement of logistics, planning, and organization, necessary in the successful projection of hard power thousands of miles beyond its own borders. It has allowed it to showcase some of the most advanced aircraft, missile systems, and technologically advanced weaponry in the world today, beating Washington at its own game in the process. This, to be sure, is the real reason for the demonisation of Putin that has been a mainstay of Western media coverage over the past year and more.

The presence of such individuals, not to mention Wight’s new best friend, the notorious Neil Clarke (Hard Facts is with Neil Clark) and their groups will create great problems for an anti-War movement.

Who wants to march with those defending war criminals?

******

(1) On the latter’s involvement see Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent : inside British Islam  Bowen, Innes, 2013.

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As Alternative Facts Sites Deny Growing Proof, Anti-War Patrick Cockburn, “Mounting Evidence” of Chlorine Gas Attack in Douma.

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Alternative Fact media and Web sites continue to cast doubt on the Chlorine gas attacks in Syria.

Yesterday  the Morning Star published this,

Today, the pretext for escalating Britain’s military involvement in Syria is that the Assad regime — the internationally recognised, legitimate and elected government in Damascus — is guilty of a poison gas attack on the citizens of Douma.

Film of the aftermath, broadcast across the world in recent days, shows a troupe of very camera-conscious young men washing down the victims, all of whom are children, most of them looking more bewildered than wounded or incapacitated, and without a distressed parent or relative in sight.

Skwawkbox peddles this line,

The gas attack

The video footage of distressed children and adults being given inhalers and oxygen in Douma has been powerful – but has not been verified.

Russia has said it found no trace of a chlorine attack in Douma when its personnel visited the town. Many will immediately and understandably dismiss that statement – but the Russians may not have been the only ones to visit.

Russian media claim that the Red Crescent – the equivalent of the Red Cross in Muslim areas – also visited the city and found nothing to suggest a chemical attack had taken place. This information can currently be found only in Russian sources – but should be easily verifiable if true. The SKWAWKBOX has sent a press enquiry to Red Cross headquarters to ask whether the organisation will verify or deny the claims.

Horrific incidents in the Middle East have been fabricated on at least one occasion. The ‘Nayirah testimony’ to US politicians in 1990, for example, helped to cement the case for the 1990-91 invasion of Iraq.

The Canary makes the following speculations,

1) Syrian opposition forces may have chemical weapons.

2) Assad regime was on the verge of victory in the area anyway.

3) The sources are linked to the anti-Assad opposition.

By contrast on the ground reporter and long-term writer on the region Patrick Cockburn writes today,

How can we know that a chemical weapons attack took place in Syria?

Analysis: Even seemingly blatant war crimes can be denied in a war characterised by lack of access. But evidence pointing to chemical attack continues to mount

…the Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.

But there is mounting evidence from neutral observers to confirm that chlorine was used last Saturday. The World Health Organisation says that local health authorities in Douma, with whom it is cooperating, confirm that on the day of the alleged bombing they treated 500 patients with the symptoms of exposure to toxic chemicals. It reports that “there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to the central nervous systems of those exposed”.

Other evidence for the gassing of civilians is cumulatively convincing: large gas cylinders, like those used in past chlorine gas attacks, were filmed on the roof of the building where most bodies were found. Local people report that Syrian government helicopters were seen in the area at the time of the attack. Such helicopters have been used in chlorine gas bombings in the past.

The Russian and Syrian government accounts of what happened, varying between saying there were no attacks or that evidence for them has been fabricated, are contradictory. A Russian spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the use of “smart missiles” on Syrian government forces could be an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Will an attack by the USA, endorsed by President Macron and Teras May help?

For all the furore about the proposed missile strike on Syrian forces – likely to happen in the very near future – it is difficult to see what it will achieve other than as a general sign of international disapproval of the use of chemical weapons. Hawks in the US and Europe may want to use the occasion to reopen the door to armed intervention in the Syrian civil war with the aim of weakening or displacing Assad, but the time for this is long past, if it was ever there.

There is a widely held myth that US air strikes against government forces in 2013, which President Barack Obama is blamed for not having carried out, would have brought the war to a different and happier conclusion. But such air strikes would only have been effective if they had been conducted on a mass scale and on a daily basis in support of ground troops. These would either have been Sunni Arab armed opposition forces, which were already dominated by al-Qaeda-type movements, or the US army in a rerun of the Iraq War of 2003.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Afrin Falls to Jihadists and Turkish Army but Fight and Solidarity Continue!

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Turkish Backed Jihadists Demolish, “blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.”

Just breaking….

Syria war: Turkey-backed forces oust Kurds from heart of Afrin

BBC.

Turkish-backed forces have taken full control of the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin.

Fighters waved flags and tore down the statue of a legendary Kurdish figure after claiming the city centre on Sunday.

The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.

Activists say 280 civilians have died, although this is denied by Ankara.

Pictures and video footage emerged of forces tearing down a Kurdish statue with a bulldozer.

The monument depicted the blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.

A statement on a Whatsapp group for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces called it the “first blatant violation of Kurdish people’s culture and history since the takeover of Afrin”.

A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation’s flag in Afrin’s centre.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm

New Arms Race? Putin announces new strategic, nuclear-capable weapons

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Putin, “new high-speed cruise missile” “unlimited range” “can penetrate any missile defence”

The Guardian reports.

Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had developed and was testing a new line of strategic, nuclear-capable weapons that would be able to outmanoeuvre US antiballistic missile defences, suggesting a new arms race between Moscow and the west.

Speaking in a nationally televised address to Russia’s political elite, the president showed both video and animation of Russian ICBMs, cruise missiles, and other weapons that he said Russia had developed as a result of the US pulling out of the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union.

“You didn’t listen to our country then,” Putin said during the speech, where he said that some of the weapons were already being tested. “Listen to us now.”

The remarks came during a state of the union speech heavy on economic promises for the Russian people and sabre-rattling against the US in a presentation widely viewed as Putin’s first stump speech for Russian elections, set for 18 March. He is expected to win a fourth term as president.

More details soon …

The Russian state funded French language Sputnik adds that ‘supersonic’ weapons are planned,

La Russie possède des armes hypersoniques, a déclaré jeudi le Président Poutine dans son message annuel au Parlement.

«La Russie possède des armes de ce type [hypersoniques]», a déclaré Vladimir Poutine jeudi en prononçant son discours annuel devant l’Assemblée fédérale (parlement) russe.

Sky News has just confirmed this,

Russia developing nuclear arsenal ‘immune to interception’, Vladimir Putin claims

The Russian President claims a new high-speed cruise missile has an unlimited range and can penetrate any missile defence.

Comment.

There will doubtless be  renewed concern about nuclear weapons.

It would be unfortunate if left-wing opinion were now  to focus on this issue.

It would be extremely unhelpful if, for example, the Stop the War Coalition were to mount a campaign on a potential new nuclear arms race.

The horrors of Syria, in which Russian intervention and the actions of Assad’s regime, Turkey’s armed incursion against the Kurds and their allies, not to mention the killings by the genociders of Daesh, have have taken place without nuclear arms playing any part.

One may not agree with everything Patrick Cockburn says but his latest article puts these issues where they rightly are, centre stage.

Syria: Attack on Afrin will bring devastation and suffering like that seen in Eastern Ghouta, Kurds warn

The Wars in Syria: In the first of a new series, a senior Kurdish official tells Patrick Cockburn that conflict in Syria will last at least another four years, with no end in sight for civilian suffering

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Stop pretending that you can’t do anything to save Syrians.

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“Hours into second attempt at implementing Russian truce, government shelling intensifies in towns near front lines.” Al Jazeera.

Lois Proyect has just published this from Pulse.

It should have the widest circulation.

“This open letter was first published at the New York Review of Books.”

The World Must Act Now on Syria

Stop pretending that you can’t do anything to save Syrians

The UN says it has run out of words on Syria, but we, the undersigned, still have some for the governments, parliamentarians, electorates and opinion leaders of the powers on whom the international legal order has hitherto depended.

The world is a bystander to the carnage that has ravaged the lives of Syrians. All has happened in full view of a global audience that sees everything but refuses to act.

Through Russian obstruction and western irresolution, the UN Security Council has failed to protect Syrians. To the extent that it has been able to pass resolutions, they have proved ineffectual. All they have done is provide a fig leaf to an institution that appears moribund. Perhaps conscious of the stain this might leave on its legacy, the UN has even stopped counting Syria’s dead. After seven years, these nations appear united only in their apathy.

It will be redundant to list the nature and magnitude of all the crimes that the Assad regime has committed against Syrians, aided by local and foreign militias, by Iranian strategic and financial aid, by Russian airpower and mercenaries—and by international indifference. The world that watched and averted its eyes is its passive enabler.

Syrians were shot and killed in broad daylight for protesting injustice. They were imprisoned, tortured and executed. They were bombed and shelled. They were besieged, raped and humiliated. They were gassed. They were displaced and dispossessed.

Those with the power to act have been generous with expressions of sympathy but have offered nothing beyond the wish that this war on civilians—which they grotesquely call a “civil war”—would end. They call on “all parties” to show restraint, even though one side alone has a virtual monopoly on violence; they encourage all parties to negotiate, even though the opposition is entirely without leverage. They say there is “no military solution” though the regime has given no indication that it believes in a solution of any other kind.  Meanwhile, pleas from aid agencies and endangered Syrians fall on deaf ears.

Refugees—the only Syrians to have received some assistance—have seen their plight depoliticized, isolated from the terror that forced them to flee.

Today, as Idlib and Afrin burn, the inevitable is unfolding in Ghouta, the huge open air concentration camp about to enter its fifth year under siege. What happens next is predictable because the same formula has been applied repeatedly over the past seven years. After holding a civilian population hostage, blocking food, medicine and aid of any kind, the regime bombs the area relentlessly, in particular its medical facilities, until it capitulates. Those that survive are then forced from their homes that are then expropriated for demographic engineering with the aim of creating politically homogenous geographies.

While there are no longer any illusions about the role of the Security Council, every member state has nevertheless adopted and pledged to uphold the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine under the UN’s Office on Genocide Prevention. The destruction of Syria was preventable, and can now only be ended by the elected and appointed members of democratic bodies if they fulfill their obligations under R2P to protect Syria’s endangered population from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and what UN war crimes investigators have themselves labeled the “crime of extermination”.

For the agony of the people of Syria to come to an end, it must be forcibly stopped. The perpetrators of these colossal crimes against humanity must be halted once and for all. There are myriad geopolitical reasons why this is an imperative, but none as immediate and important as the sanctity of life and the exercise of free will. Inaction would reduce these principles to the status of platitudes devoid of all meaning. To their misfortune, Syrians dared to believe in these principles; they dared to believe that while their struggle for dignity was theirs alone, they wouldn’t be abandoned to such a fate in the 21st century.

Today, appealing once more to the ethics and the codes of moral conduct on which democracy and international law are built, we ask you to act now to stop the Syrian genocide: demand an immediate ceasefire, an immediate lifting of all sieges, immediate access for relief aid agencies, release of political detainees, and immediate protection for all Syrian lives.

Affiliations for identification purposes only

  • Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, writer, Berlin
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab, writer, Scotland
  • Rime Allaf, Writer
  • Leila Al Shami, Syrian writer and human rights activist, UK
  • Mohammad Al Attar, Syrian Playwright, Berlin
  • Michel Kilo, Syrian writer and Politician, Paris
  • Moncef Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia
  • Burhan Ghalioun, Academician and Thinker, Paris
  • Karam Nachar, Syrian Writer and Academic, Istanbul
  • Mohammad Ali Atassi, Journalist and Filmmaker, Beirut
  • Ossama Mohammed, Filmmaker, Paris
  • Yasmin Fedda, Filmmaker, UK
  • Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairperson of the Syrian Network for Human Rights
  • Ebrahim Alyousef, President of Human Rights Association in Syria, Germany
  • Nisrin Al Zahre, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
  • Nadia Aissaoui, Sociologist, Paris
  • Leila Nachawati Rego, Writer, Spain
  • Hala Mohammad, Syrian Poet, Paris
  • Afra Jalabi, Syrian Writer, Canada
  • Mohja Kahf, Syrian writer
  • Yasser Munif, Emerson College
  • Mohammed Hanif, Writer and Journalist, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Samih Choukaer, Syrian Musician, Paris
  • Professor, Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsink
  • Professor, Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki
  • Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS

Further list on site.

For reasons to back the call see Shiraz Socialist,  The bombing has not stopped: Ghouta after the ‘ceasefire’.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Pro-Assad Conspiracy Theories add to Syrian Suffering.

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Image result for Ghouta conspiracy theories

As more and more news about the plight of Ghouta reaches the world people are deeply concerned.

Al Jazeera reports,

More than 440 civilians have died in just six days in Eastern Ghouta alone.

The area is now being hit by incendiary bombs that are appearing in the night skies, weapons that are intended to start large fires when they hit the ground.

There are many reasons to stand by the people, as the Guardian today reports: ‘We can change this reality’: the women sharing news of war in Ghouta.

One troubling feature of the war is the attempts of pro-Assad groups to smear those under attack.

Just to cite one example, French comrades are disgusted by pro-Assad supporters who have been calling the inhabitants of  Ghouta ‘cafards’, cockroaches.

As they point out one of the nerve centres for pro-Assad propaganda in the Francophone world is the UPR, Union Populaire Républicaine.

They describe themselves as the “mouvement de libération nationale” for French people. The ideology of the party is a Eurosceptic and seeks the withdrawal of  France from the European Union and NATO.  They seek nationalisation of entities such as TF1La PosteGaz de France, motorways (privately managed at present), water management and troubled banks.

Its leader, François Asselineau, a hard-right sovereigntist, is also known for his conspiracy theories.

Like Réseau Voltaire or Alain Soral‘s Égalité et Réconciliation  (both equally strongly ‘anti-Zionist’)  Asselineau is pro-Assad.

This is just one example of the international reach of Pro-Assad propagandists.

At the end of last year the following indicated the direction the regime’s supporters were going in.

How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian organisation made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.

They have also exposed, through first-hand video footage, war crimes including a chemical attack in April. Their work was the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and the recipient of two Nobel peace prize nominations.

Despite this positive international recognition, there’s a counter-narrative pushed by a vocal network of individuals who write for alternative news sites countering the “MSM agenda”. Their views align with the positions of Syria and Russia and attract an enormous online audience, amplified by high-profile alt-right personalities, appearances on Russian state TV and an army of Twitter bots.

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.

Here, this week,  is a deeply saddening account of the effect these lies can have.

Syrians explain how pro-Assad conspiracy theories are hurting them

The background of this unrelenting human suffering are the increasingly high-pitched squeals emanating from the keyboards and social media accounts of Western supporters and defenders of Assad.

An amalgam of far-left and far-right bloggers, cranks, conspiracy theorists and loons have converged since the beginning of the conflict to disseminate pro-Russia generated propaganda that serves only to conceal both Russia and Assad’s war crimes, and smear victims of their genocide.

No doubt you’ve heard each one of these entirely and widely debunked pro-Assad conspiracy theories by now: that the peaceful protests against Assad were the product of a foreign driven “regime change” operation; that the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group that has been credited with saving more than 100,000 lives in rebel held territory, is somehow either a “regime change” propaganda tool or a public relations front for al Qaeda or both; that Assad didn’t use chemical weapons but the rebels used them on their own families to gain international sympathy; that Assad is fighting “terrorists,”; that the entirety or majority of Assad’s opponents are foreign-born jihadists; that the rebels poisoned Damascus’ water supply; and so on and so on.

The purpose of this article is not to debunk all of these smears, false narratives, and crackpot conspiracies. They’ve been comprehensively debunked and discredited here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and also here.

“The sad thing is that so many Syrian activists and journalists spend a lot of time refuting these s**t conspiracies because they can have such a damaging impact on real people and their lives,” tweeted Leila al Shami, a Syrian human rights activist and author, in response to a claim that the White Helmets belong to Al Qaeda.

These pro-Assad conspiracies have gotten so out of hand that Vanessa Beeley — who has become one of the most prominent dispensers of total and utter nonsense — called on Russia to carry out airstrikes against the White Helmets, and for me to be imprisoned for “enabling the destruction of Syria and its people”.

Others like Eva Bartlett have falsely accused the White Helmets of either being a figment of Hollywood’s imagination, or staging their videos.

Patrick Hilsman, a freelance journalist who has visited rebel held territory three times, laughed when I mentioned these claims about the White Helmets.

“I first encountered them by simply asking my driver what the building to our right was, and he said ‘It’s civil defense.’ We then walked in unannounced and encountered people without weapons, hard at the unglamorous work of digging a well,” he told me.

“I wasn’t helped by any think tank, no one told me what to say, no one warned the rescuers to start acting for the freelancers with their crappy cameras.”

Unfortunately, however, pro-Assad/Russia loons and propagandists have been so effective in muddying the waters, casting aspersions on Assad’s victims, and deflecting criticism away from this century’s most brutal dictator that they undermine any coordinated and sustained international effort to protect the Syrian people from a genocide.

So I asked a number of Syrians what damage these debunked conspiracy theories have imparted on the Syrian people and the pro-democracy revolution.

“This propaganda facilitates the gas attacks, hospital bombings, sectarian cleansing, and so on, “Robin Yassin-Kassab, co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, told me.

“It also contributes to the general demonization of Muslims and Arabs in our culture. Beyond hurting Syrians, Arabs and Muslims, it is also damaging our civic and political life in the West, but the main purpose of this propaganda, because it has been carefully planted and guided, is to distract attention from the crimes committed by Assad and the Iranian and Russian occupations against civilians in Syria, and to prevent solidarity with those victims.”

When I interviewed Alaa al Ahmad, a Syrian journalist, he told me finds it deeply distressing to read pro-Assad Westerners describe him and the 300,000 other Syrians he is trapped alongside with in besieged Eastern Ghouta as a “terrorist,” asking, “Am I terrorist because I demand a civil state and I fight the factions that seek to establish an Islamic caliphate or the like?”

Qusay Noor, another Syrian journalist who is documenting the Assad’s regimes crimes against humanity in Ghouta also believes these conspiracy theories are meant only to smear Assad’s opposition as “terrorists,” and thus have only empowered Assad’s authoritarian rule, setting back the ideals of the revolution.

Ultimately, these conspiracy theories will evaporate any international pressure on the Assad regime, and at a time when Syrians need that pressure the most.

“It is essential the international community remains united with those in Syria who want a democratic solution, free from Assad and free from terrorism. That is why we need the international community to apply pressure on Russia to cease its bombing and its support for Assad, so that we can work towards a peaceful political settlement,” writes Mardini.

And when all has been said and done, a peaceful political settlement was the only thing demanded of Assad in the first place, seven long and bloody years ago.

For an important summary of more ‘fake news’ about Syria see:  Truth wars, continued Bob From Brockley.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 24, 2018 at 11:53 am

Haiti, Oxfam – In Defence of Mary Beard; Contre Priyamvada Gopal. 

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Image result for Mary Beard

“Familiar posture of wounded white innocence” says Priyamvada Gopal.

I confess, I really like Mary Beard.

She wrote one of the best ever books on Roman history, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome  (2015).

Since the Renaissance at least, many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty have been formed, and tested, in dialogue with the Romans and their writing.

From that you can guess she is not a reborn 18th century writer who uncritically admires the ‘glory that was Rome’, lauds the Republic, and ignores issues about the role of slavery, class conflicts, the position of women, and above all the violence that went with Empire in its history, up to the Caesars.

On the last issue the BBC last week showed Beard’s latest programme, Julius Caesar Revealed  which put his genocidal conquests at the heart of his rise to power, and underlined the narrow nature of the ‘republican’ claims to defend liberty against the ‘populist’ rise of Caesarism (a term used by a variety of political thinkers, including Gramsci, to refer to the role of a “great personality” in conditions where catastrophe looms).

Mary Beard has recently published this book, Women and Power.

As Rachel Cook outlines its theme,

Beard’s primary subject is female silence; she hopes to take a “long view on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment”, the better to get beyond “the simple diagnosis of misogyny that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on”. Calling out misogyny isn’t, she understands, the same thing as explaining it, and it’s only by doing the latter that we’re likely ever to find an effective means of combating it. The question is: where should we look for answers? Beard acknowledges that misogyny has multiple sources; its roots are deep and wide. But in this book, she looks mostly (she is a classicist, after all) at Greek and Roman antiquity, a realm that even now, she believes, casts a shadow over our traditions of public speaking, whether we are considering the timbre of a person’s voice, or their authority to pronounce on any given subject.

She continues,

Personally, I might have found this argument a bit strained a month ago; 3,000 years lie between us and Homer’s Odyssey, which is where she begins, with Telemachus effectively telling his mother Penelope to “shut up”. But reading it in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it seems utterly, dreadfully convincing. Mute women; brutal men; shame as a mechanism for control; androgyny and avoidance as a strategy for survival. On every page, bells ring too loudly for comfort.

Mary Beard now has her own confrontation with efforts to shout her down.

After this,

The Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard has been left “sitting here crying” after a provocative tweet concerning the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal exposed her to a torrent of abuse on Twitter.

The Academic tweeted on Friday that “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti and elsewhere. But I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain “civilised” values in a disaster zone. And overall I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us wd not tread”.

The tweet has sparked controversy over the last two days. One of hundreds to engage in the Twitter backlash was fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal whose series of tweets against Beard included “this kind of thing is the *progressive* end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out” and “Cambridge desperately needs a Breaking the Silence on racism. About time and beyond”.

In a following tweet Gopal directly satirised Beard: “Obviously it’s not a great idea to randomly get your dick out, rape people etc. But it’s not easy to be politically correct while in shitholes. And overall I still respect people who head out to shitholes ‘cos I sure as hell wouldn’t dream of it’.”

Cambridge Student.

A Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal,   “an upper-caste woman from a liberal-ish Hindu family in India” as she puts it, has taken the time to Lecture Beard.

Gopal is keenly aware of her caste, but who’s had “a lot painful listening and learning from Dalit and other non-upper-caste intellectuals and campaigners”.

Associating Beard with the “genteel liberal racism that is the very lifeblood of Cambridge social intercourse” she talks, as they do over a cup of Earl Grey, of Theodor Adorno, and wishes to tell Beard about the Heart of Darkness, Black Agency,  Michel-Rolph Trouillot and the history of Haiti.

Not to mention “civilised values”.

Or to put it another way Gopal offers and over-intellectualises by a kilometre and ten by a “post-colonial”analysis of an emotional tweet.

Response to Mary Beard

I’m afraid that your good intentions notwithstanding, it is precisely this genteel patrician racist manner and this context of entrenched denial in which your tweet on Haiti, ‘civilised’ values (scare quotes noted but not enough, I’m afraid) and disaster zones was received. It was, as you now know, received with enormous shock. (Not by me though — I’m used to this kind of casual magisterial apologetic coming out of the mouths of my Cambridge colleagues; it’s the stuff of everyday college lunch table conversations and hence I’ve taken the simple step of not dining in colleges as far as is feasible ).

Your subsequent blog post, to not put too fine a point on it, did little to help your cause and is regarded by many as a ‘no-pology’, a stubborn refusal to see what was wrong with your original post and taking refuge instead in the familiar posture of wounded white innocence. This too is familiar to me at Cambridge: on the rare occasions I’ve bothered to raise questions of, let us say, ‘racially dodgy’ remarks that bring Cambridge or particular colleges into disrepute, I’ve been instantly shut down by what you would recognise, I am sure, as ‘snowflake’ behaviour: outrage, wounded innocence, protestations of good intentions, and finally the declaration that it’s not the racist pronouncements that are the problem but the person (me, in this instance) who calls them out. It is accompanied by another gesture which also manifests in your blogpost: a pronouncement that self-evidently the person who made the remark cannot possibly have made a racist observation because they do not consider themselves to be racist. Imagine if every misogynist you encountered made the same gesture — and they usually do: ‘I love women, OF COURSE I am not sexist, everyone knows I am not sexist.’ What would you say to him?

Your blogpost is not an adequate intellectual response to your, well, frankly outrageous tweet; it’s a series of postures of innocence and a continued refusal to analyse a problem in all its thorny difficulty. To those who felt violated and aggressed by the original tweet, your blogpost was a further slap in the face: a stubborn refusal to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong with your claims in addition to bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers. What is striking in both tweet and putatively exculpatory blogpost is your inability to see beyond Western agency: Western aid workers as resistance fighters, white aid workers as Mr Kurtz figures caving in the strain of ‘The horror, the horror.’

It is very generous for Gopal to speak for the Haitians, the French Resistance, and for all those who “feel violated” by a Tweet .

No less open-hearted and welcoming is her invitation to Beard to “come and meet my third years who next week will be discussing precisely Haiti and the Haitian revolution as they read Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s work on the elision of black agency in European historiography and European habits of thought. “

Yes, we Europeans have definite “habits of thought”…..

The row proceeds.

Some would say that another shouter-down made a pretty racist tweet.

The following is about the only sensible Tweet I have found.

********

More Background.

Launching an impassioned defence of her actions in the wake of the backlash, Beard tweeted “I am amazed that after decades of Lord of the Flies being a gcse English set book we haven’t got the point about the breakdown of morality in danger zones!! Just saying and this is NOT to condone the actions of a few aid workers”.

Beard then took to her Times Literary Supplement blog to further her defense, but admitted in a tweet that she was left “sitting here crying”. Her blog told of the torrent of abuse she had experienced: “the predictable name calling ‘pervert’, ‘sick cow’, ‘disgusting creature’ or gross misreadings… ‘how hard is it not to gangrape women in a disaster zone?’. ‘you’ve lost your house, your family are dead, fancy a shag? Do you take PayPal?’ (I didn’t really want to include that, but I felt that you needed to see the tasteless too.)”

She added: “I find it hard to imagine that anyone out there could possibly think that I am wanting to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women and children” and that ” while we deplore what has happened and expect better, it is worth thinking of the context in which it took place. 99% of us have no idea of the stresses of working in these environments (and yes, living in them is worse, as there is no escape route). Most aid workers deal with that, I suspect, by drink and cigarettes. But that kind of societal, infrastructural breakdown provides a space for much worse.

“That is not to condone the awful things that happened but to contextualise them. And that is what we need to do, if we want to stop this happening again.”

Cambridge Student.

Update (from Roger). Gopal’s previous ordure:

9/11 and the Mumbai attacks

In the title of her December 4, 2008 Guardian editorial on the Mumbai attacks, Priyamvada Gopal asserts that “Comparing Mumbai to 9/11 diminishes both tragedies.” But even this title is deceitful, since, as her readers soon discover, the piece is not concerned with the particularities of the two events. Nor does the danger of “diminishing” 9/11 give Gopal pause. On the contrary, diminishing and displacing 9/11 from our active preoccupations is her intent. Allowing the November attack on Mumbai to be deemed “India’s 9/11” would be, she argues, “to privilege the experience of the United States” and to be complicit with India’s “relentless Americanization.” 9/11 is either another brand name in McWorld or something even more sinister, an event so “fetishized” as to “sanction endless vengeance,” even as it obscures “the experience of millions [elsewhere] who have suffered as much” as those who died or were injured in the attack on the U.S. on that day. 9/11 “legitimized a false war,” “created legal abominations,” and “strengthened neoconservatism.”

While Gopal’s piece makes perfunctory mention of the suffering of the victims of 9/11, it says nothing of the actual contours of that event, much less the intentions behind it. The U.S. reaction concerns her more than the attack itself does. Rather than offering any analysis of the event about which she was writing, Gopal strains to change the subject. Presumably the killing spree that took place in Mumbai from November 26th to November 29th 2008 (and has now come to be referred to “11/26”), requires no analysis. But when we actually specify what 9/11 was, can the comparison with it really be so easily avoided?

The crucial point to be made about 9/11 — and the one that Gopal studiously avoids — makes the comparison with the Mumbai attacks inevitable: both were attacks inspired by Islamism on intensely cosmopolitan urban populations with the intention of inflicting the maximum number of casualties. Moreover, like New York, Mumbai is an old colonial port city with a rich if submerged history of radical democratic struggle. Like New York, Mumbai is the commercial and cultural, though not the political, capital of a pluralistic democracy. In short, like New York, Mumbai is one of world’s great nerve-centers of contemporary capitalism. Also, the attacks on Mumbai were not on the Hindu chauvinist politics of Bal Thackeray, just as the 9/11 attack was not on the neo-liberalism of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg. In both cases, the targets were the profane pleasures of modern society. In both cases, the attacks were made, so to speak, in plain view, so that the fascistic menace was unmistakable (albeit in the absurdly comic form of expressionless young men who might, but for the assault rifles in their hands, be easily mistaken for ravers en route to Goa). Finally, as with 9/11, the regional strategic consequences bound to flow from the Mumbai attacks are profound.

In a certain respect, the semiotics of the attacks in Mumbai were even more ghastly than those of 9/11, since it witnessed the deliberate hunting of Jews qua Jews, especially at the Chabad House, where Jews were subjected to savage beatings before their execution, unlike even the Americans and Britons who were also singled out. For those who planned the attacks killing Jews was a priority and it was executed in the midst of a police siege by killers who had, in all likelihood, never so much as seen a Jewish person before. Though the murderous anti-Semitism on display in Mumbai ought by now to be an all-too-familiar aspect of Islamist ideology, Guardian correspondent Richard Silverstein, like Gopal on the editorial page, declines to acknowledge the obvious. Instead he insists that the attack on Chabad House was “not necessarily anti-Semitic,” claiming that the attackers were seeking “redress for crimes against Palestine” [“Why did the Attackers Choose to Attack Chabad House” Guardian 12/4/2008, cf. Alex Stein “Inspiration from India” Guardian 12/4/2008]. From this we may safely conclude that, for Silverstein, anytime a Muslim kills a Jew he need only utter the magic word “Palestine” to have his guilt absolved: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza means that it is open season on Jews all over the world. In the same vein, William Dalrymple, informs the wised-up readers of the Guardian that “the horrific events have to be seen in the context of. . . the abject failure of the Bush administration” and the “ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir” [“Mumbai Atrocities Highlight Need for a Solution in Kashmir” Guardian 11/30/08]. In Arundhati Roy’s column, too, we rely upon the terrorists to tell the truth and to remind “us” of the “things we don’t want to talk about any more” [“The Monster in the Mirror,” 12/13/08]. It is one thing for a journalist to report the content of authoritarian manifestoes or the statements terrorists make in the course of an attack; it is quite another matter to rationalize such statements in the manner of Silverstein, Dalrymple, and Roy.

Highlighting the political significance of the attack on Chabad House cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that there was also something quite discriminating about the seemingly more indiscriminate killing of commuters at the Victoria Terminus. It is not enough to say simply that, compared to the foreigners and the rich people at the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, the victims there were poorer, working people, though this is true. It is also worth pointing out that at the train station, the attackers fired directly into crowds. The Muslims among the dead there were not unintended victims. They were punished for living and working in peace in secular democratic India, i.e. of having failed to join the jihad. Of course, the Hindus regarded as pagans were positively marked for slaughter. As for the attacks on Mumbai’s elite hotels, likewise, the clear intent was to comingle on their marble floors the blood of dying unbelievers of all sorts — Zionist, Crusader, and Infidel. There again was the same unbridled murderousness that has been a significant feature of previous attacks, such as the 2006 commuter train in Mumbai and the serial bombings earlier in 2008 in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Delhi, to name just a few. These rather elementary aspects of the politics behind the Mumbai attacks rarely merit mention in the analysis to be found in the Guardian. But while the “Left” cannot remain at this elementary level of analysis, neither can it afford to ignore the obvious.

While Gopal is right to claim that in many respects 9/11 is not unique as a point of comparison (there have been many other Islamist terrorist attacks besides 9/11), her aim seems not to locate the attacks in an alternative history of recent Islamist terrorism, as, for instance, in relation to the bombing in Pakistan in September of the Islamabad Marriott that killed 53 and injured more than 250. Rather, the Mumbai attacks are treated as have no determinate character whatsoever, Gopal preferring to speak only of a “massacre of defenceless innocents.” Presumably the same is true of the bomb detonated December 5th, 2008 in a market outside a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar in which 22 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded. While 9/11 posed for everyone worldwide the question of modern Islamism, Gopal’s editorial reveals once again how the Left continues to rely on its old reflex responses — supposed “anti-imperialism” — to defer any confrontation with the full scope of the barbarism in our time. In this way, the piece tends to obscure or deny what is salient for advancing (or even imagining) a politics genuinely capable of both countering fascism and reconstituting an emancipatory politics in South Asia.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm