Friday, April 10, 2015

Crisis in Yarmouk: How Amy backs Assad's play

Tuesday, on Democracy Now, producer and host Amy Goodman reported on the tragedy that is happening in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp near Damascus:
UNRWA: Crisis in ISIL-Controlled Palestinian Refugee Camp
"Beyond Inhumane"

The United Nations has demanded access to a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria invaded by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, warning of a humanitarian catastrophe. About 18,000 people have been trapped in Yarmouk, just a few miles outside the capital Damascus, the stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There were reports of sporadic fighting Monday between Palestinian fighters and ISIL militants. ISIL is reportedly collaborating with rivals from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front to maintain its siege of the camp. Before boarding a flight earlier today, Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, spoke to Democracy Now! and described the situation.
Christopher Gunness: "The situation in Yarmouk is beyond inhumane. The camp has descended into levels of inhumanity which are unknown even in Yarmouk, and this was a society in which women died in childbirth for lack of medicine, and children died of malnutrition. Now ISIS have moved into the camp and people are cowering in their battered homes, too terrified to go outside. We in UNRWA have not had access since the fighting started, so there is no U.N. food, no U.N. water, no U.N. medicine. Electricity is in very, very short supply. It is astonishing that the civilized world can stand by while 18,000 civilians including 3,500 children can face potential imminent slaughter and do nothing."
This report might lead you to think that Yarmouk has been under siege by one "al-Qaeda-linked" group and now they have been joined in that siege by the worst al-Qaeda like group, the Islamic State, and all of this dangerously close to Damascus, Syria's capital. If it does, it leads you far from reality. I have made bold the sentence above in which that lie was deftly slipped into the narrative.

Democracy Now has been all over the Yarmouk story ever since the Islamic State invaded and became the latest plague on the Palestinian refugees still left in the camp. Since the beginning of the month it has run five stories on the crisis, this one, U.N.: "Grave and Desperate" Crisis inside Palestinian Refugee Camp under ISIS Control on Tuesday, Islamic State Fighters Seize Large Parts of Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria on last Thursday, a new one this Thursday, Red Cross Demands Immediate Access to Besieged Yarmouk Camp in Syria, in which Amy Goodman tell us Yarmouk "is under siege by the Islamic State" and never mentions the Assad regime or its barrel-bomb dropping helicopters, and another headline today, U.N.: Yarmouk Refugee Camp in "Deepest Circle of Hell".

* all pictures are from Yarmouk prior to the IS invasion and have appeared in this blog before.

Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp reduced to rubble by Assad's bombardment
Yarmouk has been under siege by the Assad Regime for over two years. He has had it surrounded and he has been bombing it. Democracy Now has already shown more concern for the people suffering and dying in Yarmouk since IS became the story's lead, than it has shown in almost two-and-a-half years of siege and slaughter by the Assad regime. In those years, it has covered Yarmouk just a few times; 18 December 2012, when the siege was beginning, Democracy Now reported:
Syrian Military Surrounds Palestinian Refugee Camp

The Syrian military has surrounded a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus one day after launching air strikes that killed at least eight people. The standoff at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp could see new fighting between Syrian forces and rebels controlling the camp.
Bringing food into Yarmouk
Although the bombardment and siege by the Assad regime continued unabated, it took ten months for Democracy Now to revisit the camp. On 21 October 2013, Amy Goodman reported:
Syria: Clerics Permit Eating of Dogs, Cats
amid Starvation in Rebel-Held Areas

In a lesser-told side of Syria’s civil war, Muslim clerics have reportedly issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, allowing people to eat dogs, cats and donkeys as residents of rebel-held South Damascus face starvation conditions. The Financial Times reports areas, including parts of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, have faced an almost total blockade of supplies since the summer, leaving some residents to subsist on leaves, animal feed and the contents of garbage bins. Signs on pro-government checkpoints read "hunger or kneel." The area is just a short drive from where United Nations weapons inspectors are staying as they carry out an international mandate to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.
The blockade has been Assad's attempt to starve them into submission. The bombardment has been his attempt to kill them because they won't. For years now the civilized world, including Democracy Now, has stood by and done nothing while thousands of civilians including hundreds of children have been slaughtered in Yarmouk. For that matter, the same could be said about the rest of Syria.
Women come to collect food baskets in Yarmouk
The question Democracy Now doesn't address, the question that is not being addressed by many reporting this Yarmouk tragedy as the latest Islamic State horror story, is this: If the Assad regime has had Yarmouk surrounded and under siege, as it has for more than two years now, how could a thousand soldiers from the Islamic State "invade" Yarmouk without the connivance of the Assad regime? Because nobody is reporting a big battle in which IS defeated the ring of steel Assad maintains around the camp. For example, the Telegraph reported Tuesday:
After two years under regime blockade, Isil's militants arrived last week, deepening the humanitarian nightmare.
What's wrong with this picture? How did IS just "arrive" at a place that is surrounded and under siege by the Assad regime? As the article goes on to point out, coming and going to Yarmouk ain't easy:
A Syrian aid worker living near Yarmouk described his desperate search to find openings through which to smuggle the dying.
...
No official aid convoy has been able to break the siege since December. A spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, Chris Gunness, described the conditions as "beyond inhumane".
The article goes on to describe the crisis:
Fighting inside Yarmouk this week has largely pitted Isil against Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a Palestinian faction opposed to Mr Assad. Local residents say the jihadists now control at least 80 per cent of the neighbourhood. Other estimates put the area the jihadists control at more than 90 per cent of the entire camp, which is one square mile in size.

According to Palestinian Network of Civil Society Organizations in Syria, the surrounding area had been hit by 23 barrel bombs and six air strikes since Saturday, as the regime has lashed out at positions held by Palestinian factions and other rebel groups.

Mr Assad's air force has focused fewer attacks on Isil targets, a Western diplomat told The Telegraph. The Syrian president has repeatedly been accused of abetting the group's rise while portraying himself as a bulwark against any jihadist takeover.
People queueing to collect food baskets in Yarmouk
We can only speculate why all these Democracy Now reports on Yarmouk could fail to mention "23 barrel bombs and six air strikes since Saturday" against Palestinians in the camp. Didn't Amy Goodman say the "Palestinian fighters" were opposing the "ISIL militants," and here we have Assad bombing the Palestinian fighters but not the ISIL militants.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have gone into great detail about the connections of the Assad regime to IS, alias ISIS or ISIL, in many posts. I would highlight these:
I would also bring the reader's attention to a new book by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, ISIS, Inside the Army of Terror, for a very comprehensive review of the Assad regime's role in creating and managing IS.

The short story is that the regime pro-actively helped to create IS. In the past Assad used it as a tool against the US occupation of neighbouring Iraq and today he uses it as a tool against the Syrian revolution. While I don't think the regime controls IS, I think it has "influence" including Syrian security officers embedded in leading positions.

Palestinians in Yarmouk talk to reporter
Assad has always claimed that he was only fighting terrorism in Syria. When he started shooting down peaceful pro-democracy protesters in the Spring of 2011, he claimed he was only shooting terrorists. When they finally started shooting back, Assad declared all his efforts to suppress the rebellion were truly a part of the US led international war on terrorism. IS has given him a worthy target for his propaganda even while he has spared it his bombs.

Assad has also benefited from IS attacks on the rebel opposition, even while IS atrocities tarnish the Syrian revolutionary movement, so again the question has to be asked. How was IS able to "invade" this surrounded camp?

We can see how the Assad regime is playing this Yarmouk crisis for maximum benefit. Part of the deal it is selling is that there are only two choices for Syria: IS or Assad. Bashar al-Assad is using IS to scare everybody, both inside Syria and internationally, into supporting his continued rule as the only viable alternative to the monster that he helped to create.

Sadly, many in the "Left" have supported this fascist dictator from the beginning. In the past, many of the imperialists, US President Obama included, have hidden their closet support for tyranny behind the rhetoric of democracy. Now even they are becoming comfortable saying Assad must stay now that the IS threat has taken center stage.

He's choked with tears & couldn't talk just said "don't forget us in here."
Within Syria, the emergence of the IS threat has made the Assad dictatorship seem more palatable.  Seeing IS take over once liberated areas like Raqqa, and impose their own autocracy, has dispirited many of the revolutionaries and caused many ordinary people to resolve to settle for Assad.

This is Assad's grand strategy and it is working.
Diyala and Halla want to leave the camp.
Wednesday the Globe and Mail, has an article who's title, Islamic State conquers Yarmouk in macabre win for Syrian troops, shows they understand that IS is trying to do for Assad from the inside what he has not been able do with more than two years of siege from the outside. It confirms my thesis:
Remarkably, the advance of the widely feared jihadi movement that has terrorized communities across Syria and Iraq with its brutal and mass executions met no resistance from nearby Syrian military units even though IS positions now are established just a few kilometres from Bashar al-Assad’s presidential palace.

Syrian troops have set their sights on other rebel targets, it would seem, such as the al-Qaeda-connected Nusra Front, and are counting on Islamic State’s presence to, in effect, shore up the regime’s southern defences.
...
In a peculiar turn, Islamic State has indicated it prefers to refrain from attacking the Assad regime as it concentrates on building its caliphate state-within-a-state.
...
It is “crucial for Assad” to damage the Nusra Front’s credibility, said Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

In what she describes as “a wily and tactical manoeuvre,” the Syrian regime actually facilitated IS access to Yarmouk in order to embarrass the Nusra Front leaders.
...
The regime is “enabling IS access to the south because this serves the regime’s aim of crushing the moderate opposition in the area,” Ms. Khatib concludes.
This is the very different story than the one Amy Goodman is telling with her tale that "ISIL is reportedly collaborating with rivals from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front." As it turns out, the story we heard on Democracy Now is exactly the one Bashar al-Assad would want to be told, one in which IS and al Nusra are partners in putting Yarmouk under siege and he and his regime are the innocent by-standers. In fact, Bashar al-Assad would likely have no complaint with Amy's handling of the Yarmouk story altogether.  She gave the years of regime siege and slaughter minimal coverage, and now that the regime is promoting the IS invasion of Yarmouk, she is all over the story but with reports that won't make Bashar blush.

Now in one of his most cynical moves to date, and that's saying a lot, Bashar al-Assad is offering to help the Palestinians fight IS in Yarmouk. The Middle East Eye reported Tuesday:
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday that it is ready to offer Palestinians firepower to support their battle with the Islamic State (IS) group in a refugee camp devastated by clashes and aerial attacks.
This is classic Bashar at his best. The good doctor first kicks dirt in your eye and then offers to pick it out. This has been his game plan with IS all along. One of the major reasons he helped the jihadist "rat-line" through Syria florish during the Iraq War was so that he could use his power to shut it down as a bargaining chip with Bush. When the Syrian Revolution threaten to take away all in 2011, he dusted the old tool off again and helped it florish, never minding that heads would roll, as long as it wasn't his. Now he offers his continued brutal rule as the indispensable remedy to the monster he help create. What we have seen in Yarmouk this month is how he plays this game on a local scale, and I find it disturbing to see how an icon of the Left is supporting his play.

Diyala and daughter Halla, "Get me out of here … save my daughter."

UPDATE: ISIS Losing in Yarmouk!

From Lindsey Hilsum at Channel 4, we have:
Islamic State 'withdraws from Yarmouk camp'

13 April 2015
They are still fighting Aknaf Beit al Maqdis, a local militia allied to Hamas, on the outskirts of Yarmouk.

"Today there are no more IS militants inside Yarmouk," said "Mustafa Ahmed", who uses a pseudonym to disguise his identity. "Most of the militants are at the frontline between IS and the Aknaf brigades in the south eastern part near the hospital."

Last Wednesday night Syrian government aircraft dropped barrel bombs on the Palestine Hospital, the only functioning healthcare facility in Yarmouk, after IS militants started to use it as a base. More...

Naharnet Newsdesk is reporting:
IS Loses Ground in Syria's Yarmuk Camp

14 April 2015
Jihadists from the Islamic State group have lost ground to Palestinian fighters in Syria's Yarmuk camp, Palestinian officials and a resident said on Tuesday.

U.N. officials in Syria said, meanwhile, they were discussing ways of getting humanitarian aid into the camp and helping residents who have fled Yarmuk.

IS fighters have retreated from much of the territory they seized in the camp in southern Damascus after entering it on April 1, a resident calling himself Samer told AFP.

"We haven't even seen any Daesh members in over three days," he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The withdrawal was confirmed by an official from a pro-Syrian regime Palestinian faction fighting against IS inside Yarmuk.

"There are intermittent but ongoing clashes between Palestinian factions and IS," said Khaled Abdel Majid, head of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, adding that IS had withdrawn from most of the neighborhoods it previously controlled.

IS fighters were now confined largely to the camp's southwest, with Palestinian factions -- both pro- and anti-Syrian regime -- controlling most of the east and north, Palestinian sources said. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Noam Chomsky cleans up Mummar Qaddafi

Recently, the whole world was horrified after witnessing the live burning death of a Jordanian pilot by the terror group ISIS. It was less widely publicized that the late Libyan dictator Mummar Qaddafi also fancied this way of doing away with his enemies. This YouTube video was posted 14 June 2011 with the title "A Libyan Freedom Fighter Burned Alive for Not Saying Gaddafi is King of Kings." Warning, it contains disturbing images. The description reads:
One of Gaddafi's military orders a Libyan freedom fighter to say "al-fateh" (in reference to Gaddafi's 1969 revolution) and say that Gaddafi is the 'King of Kings'. The Libyan freedom fighter refuses and instead repeatedly says "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Ar-Rasool Allah" (There is only one God and Muhammad is His Messenger). Gaddafi's agent then pours gasoline on the freedom fighter and burns him to death.
Qaddafi apologist Steve Walt of Harvard University wasn't telling the truth when he said in Foreign Policy, 4 April 2011, that "Despite ubiquitous cellphone cameras, there are no images of genocidal violence," while implying that claims of atrocity "smacks of rebel propaganda."

Even though many of the YouTube channels that once carried this material have disappeared, there is still plenty of video proof of Mummar Qaddafi's wanton disregard for human life. Consider this brief selection, watch them for an education, but be forewarned, they contain extreme graphic violence:
This last atrocity was also reported by France24. The video carries the description:
Tyrant Gaddafi burnt soldiers in Benghazi, Libya who refused his orders to attack innocent citizens in Libya. About 60 were burnt with a military flame blower. The hysterical crying of men can be heard.
The same day that video was uploaded Qaddafi's forces slaughtered seven hundred peaceful protesters in Green Square. I reported on it in February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night. The burning alive of his own soldiers demonstrates the methods Qaddafi used to get his forces to commit such atrocities. This is how he ruled Libya for 42 years with extreme terror and violence among his many methods.

In February 2011 a widespread revolt against his rule became the Libyan contribution to the Arab Spring. Everywhere it was met by massive state violence. As a result, the fight against the dictatorship soon became an armed struggle. It was strongest in the East where rebels first armed themselves by taking a local military post with home-made weapons. When Qaddafi sent General Abdul Fattah Younis east to put down the revolt and he instead joined it, together with his command of 8,000, including 3,000 Libyan Special Forces, it was "game on."

Very quickly, Qaddafi loyalists where routed from Benghazi and much of eastern Libya. Tobruk, Misrata, Bayda, Zawiya, Zuwara, Sabratha, and Sorman were also freed from Qaddafi rule. He also lost the important harbors at Ra's Lanuf and Brega. Tripoli was six hundred miles away and mercenaries had to be flown in from as far away as Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Video: Mercenaries from Chad, Niger, Mali & Sudan Captured in Zliten | 9 Aug 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Ukrainian Snipers Caught in Abu-Salim, Tripoli | 25 Aug 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Mercenaries from Chad & Mali in Nafusa Mountain | Jun 2011

It took time to bring up reinforcements. Then came the counter-attack. When it came, it was brutal. This was before NATO got involved.

By 15 March Qaddafi's army had captured Brega and was advancing on Ajdabiya, a city of 76,000 that stood on the strategic roads to Tobruk and Egypt and was the gateway to Benghazi, a city of 670,000. Ajdabiya had been liberated in the first days of the revolution. After pro-Qaddafi snipers killed 10 protesters in anti-government demonstrations, 17 February 2011, protesters burned down the local government building and declared it a "Free City."

Now this city, and its civilian population, were under a merciless assault by the Qaddafi forces. They had been subjected to three days of air strikes and artillery barrages before the ground assault began. The Libyan navy had also been pounding the city from the sea. By the end of that day Qaddafi's tanks had made it to the city center. As night fell, the tanks withdrew to the outskirts of the surrounded city as the artillery barrage was resumed. The Telegraph quoted Sherif Layas, 34, who was a marketing manager before he took up arms and joined Libya's revolution:
"They are bombing everywhere. They are killing people, civilians, whatever"
The next day, 16 March, the fight was back and forth all day as the rebels put up stiff resistance. They managed to open a small corridor between Ajdabiya and Benghazi and bring in some reinforcements but by the morning of the 17th, the city was once again firmly surrounded and more government troops had landed in an amphibious attack from the sea,

Gaddafi Bombing of Ajdabiya Killing Children & The Innocent | 16 March 2011

Inside a hospital in the city of Ajdabiya, Libya, March 16, 2011. Today, Gaddafi's Air Force bombed the city indiscriminately.

After subduing Ajdabiya, Qaddafi's forces set their sights on Benghazi with its much larger population. A movement was building in the United Nations to take concrete steps to avoid this coming massacre. The United Nations Security Council had earlier condemned the use of lethal force by the Libyan government against the protesters with Resolution 1970 on 26 Feb 2011; however, this did nothing to deter Qaddafi. Now they were debating their own use of force to stop him.

In a radio interview provocatively timed just before the UNSC vote, 17 March, Qaddafi told the people of Benghazi:
"We will come zenga, zenga [neighborhood by neighborhood], House by house, room by room." ... "We are coming tonight," ... "there won't be any mercy" and "We will find you in your closets."
The Libyan air force had already carried out three air raids over Benghazi when he said this.

In spite of these words, backed by indiscriminate bombing, Steve Walt thought "the threat of a bloodbath ...slight," and while he admits that Qaddafi threatened "no mercy," he apologetically adds "but Gadhafi directed this threat only at rebels," as if the new "Left" position was to support the right of a fascist dictator to threaten massacres as long as "his violent threats to wreak vengeance on Benghazi were directed at those who continued to resist his rule, not at innocent bystanders."

At the Doha conference on Libya, April 2011, Qatar's Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani cut through this sort of "Left" nonsense that distinguishes between "rebels" and "innocent bystanders" in the fight against fascism when he said "And what are the rebels except civilians who have taken up arms to defend themselves in a difficult situation and an uneven battle?"

The question of how seriously to take Qaddafi's threat might be an academic one at Harvard and MIT, but in Benghazi, at the time, it was no joke. They knew what Qaddafi was capable of. They had just seen what he had done to Ajdabiya. They were hearing first hand from the Ajdabiya refugees that where pouring into Benghazi, and now the promise was that Benghazi would be next!

Extremely Graphic Video: Gaddafi's War Crimes in Ajdabiya | 26 Mar 2011

In Tripoli, Qaddafi's son, Saif el-Islam, spoke defiantly about the upcoming UN vote on French TV:
“Military operations are over. Within 48 hours everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi. Whatever the decision, it will be too late.”
The Qaddafis were crowing because their heavy weapons were already on the road from Ajdabiya to Benghazi and the almost a million people in that area were going to be their next targets.

17 March 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 which demanded the establishment of a ceasefire and an end to all attacks on civilians. It also imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas except for a "foreign occupation force." Wikipedia reports Qaddafi's response to the ceasefire demand:
On 18 March, Muammar Gaddafi's government announced that they would comply with the resolution and implement a ceasefire.[11] However, it quickly became clear that no ceasefire had in fact been implemented.[12]
NBC News reported:
Earlier Saturday in Libya, Gadhafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi after a unilateral cease-fire declared by his government failed to materialize, prompting western leaders meeting in Paris to announce the start of military intervention.
Gaddafi's Forces Advance to Benghazi Before They Got Bombed | 19 Mar 2011

Uploaded on Mar 24, 2011
This video was taken as Gaddafi's forces were advancing to take the city of Benghazi (Libya) on March 19, 2011. The convoy is shown in the area between Gmenis and Tika. The video was confiscated from a captured soldier who was with Gaddafi's military convoy. Later that evening, the French air force bombed Gaddafi's troops and saved the city from a total annihilation.

Video: Brave Libyans Face Gaddafi's Tank in Benghazi | 19 Mar 2011

The UNSC ended the meeting that passed Resolution 1973 authorizing military action at 23:20 GMT on the 17th. Qaddafi's tanks were already in the outskirts of Benghazi when French war planes first struck Qaddafi's advancing column less than 42 hours later at 16:45 GMT on the 19th. Shortly after that US and British submarines hit air defense targets in Libya with cruise missiles.

Video: Precision Bombing by French Air Force of Gaddafi's Military Convoy, Gymenis | 19 Mar 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Military Convoy After the French Attack Near Benghazi | 20 Mar 2011

There should be no serious doubt that these French air strikes and the air campaign that followed saved many lives in Benghazi. Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, spoke truth a week later when he said, 27 March 2011:
[W]e should acknowledge what could be happening in eastern Libya right now had Qaddafi’s forces continued their march. The dozens of burned out tanks, rocket launchers, and missiles bombed at the eleventh hour on the road to Benghazi would have devastated the rebel stronghold if Qaddafi’s forces had been able to unleash them indiscriminately, as they did in other, smaller rebel-held towns, like Zawiyah, Misrata, and Adjabiya. Qaddafi’s long track-record of arresting, torturing, disappearing, and killing his political opponents to maintain control suggests that had he recaptured the east, a similar fate would have awaited those who supported the opposition there. Over a hundred thousand Libyans already fled to Egypt fearing Qaddafi’s assault; hundreds of thousands more could have followed if the east had fallen. The remaining population, and those living in refugee camps abroad, would have felt betrayed by the West, which groups like Al Qaeda would undoubtedly have tried to exploit.
Although they followed very different dress codes, Mummar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad were "brothers-in-arms" among Arab dictators. Assad fully supported Qaddafi's methods, and if there was ever any question of what would have happened to Benghazi and the rest of Libya if the non-interventionist line had held sway, as it has on Syria, and Qaddafi had been allowed to lay siege to Benghazi with his air force, tanks and long range artillery, the answer to that question has been written with the blood of over 200,000 Syrians by Assad in Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, East Ghouta, and elsewhere. In doing so, he has created the greatest refugee crisis of this century and the rise of ISIS from the festering wound of Syria proves that last bit in Malinowski's prediction about how a failure to intervene in Libya would have been a boon to Islamic extremists. ISIS may now have its fans in Libya but that is not the conflict that gave birth to it, the one in Syria is.


On Democracy Now last week, we heard how an icon of the Left now discounts these events of four years ago. Aaron Maté was interviewing Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus Noam Chomsky and the question of Libya came up:
AARON MATÉ: You spoke before about how the U.S. invasion set off the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, and out of that came ISIS. I wonder if you see a parallel in Libya, where the U.S. and NATO had a mandate to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi, but then went much further than a no-fly zone and helped topple Gaddafi. And now, four years later, we have ISIS in Libya, and they’re beheading Coptic Christians, Egypt now bombing. And with the U.S. debating this expansive war measure, Libya could be next on the U.S. target list.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s a very important analogy. What happened is, as you say, there was a claim that there might be a massacre in Benghazi, and in response to that, there was a U.N. resolution, which had several elements. One, a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, which apparently Gaddafi accepted. Another was a no-fly zone, OK, to stop attacks on Benghazi. The three traditional imperial powers—Britain, France and the United States—immediately violated the resolution. No diplomacy, no ceasefire. They immediately became the air force of the rebel forces. And, in fact, the war itself had plenty of brutality—violent militias, attacks on Africans living in Libya, all sorts of things. The end result is just to tear Libya to shreds. By now, it’s torn between two major warring militias, many other small ones. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil. It’s just a disaster, total disaster. That’s what happens when you strike vulnerable systems, as I said, with a sledgehammer. All kind of horrible things can happen.
"Warring militias" sounds more like restless natives than political struggle and class warfare. The struggle against counter-revolution in Libya today is a direct continuation of the revolution against the fascist regime. Sweeping aside evidence that Qaddafi money and influence has played a role in promoting this chaos and the Islamist militias causing it, or that attacks on Africans living in Libya was a biased but inevitable result of Qaddafi's use of African mercenaries to terrorize his people, Noam Chomsky is intend on laying the whole blame for the mess that is Libya today at NATO's doorstep. To accomplish this sleight-of-hand he is forced to revise recent history, write the Libyan people - their suffering and their heroic struggle - out of the story, and prettify Mummar Qaddafi. His strongest condemnation of the Libyan revolution reflects his entirely Western priorities, "It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil." Chomsky's last three sentences sound like a warning against any revolution, anywhere, ever.


Postscript:

The dishonesty of these voices of the Left in their defense of Qaddafi is amazing. I found this Counterpunch version of these events while researching this blog post. Contradicting all the other reports of Qaddafi's march on Benghazi, Counterpunch says in it's "The Top Ten Myths in the War Against Libya:"
Not only did French jets bomb a retreating column, what we saw was a very short column that included trucks and ambulances, and that clearly could have neither destroyed nor occupied Benghazi.
If we bother to follow the link that has been provided, presumably as a show of support for the "retreating column," we get a very different story:
A French defence ministry official said “a number of tanks and armoured vehicles” were destroyed in the region of Benghazi, with initial action focusing on stopping Gaddafi's forces from advancing on the rebels' eastern stronghold.

Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday after a unilateral ceasefire declared by his government failed to materialise, prompting leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday to announce the start of military intervention.
...
Residents set up make-shift barricades with furniture, benches, road signs and even a barbecue in one case at intervals along main streets. Each barricade was manned by half a dozen rebels, but only about half of those were armed.
Please remember again the Harvard professor's distinction between "rebels" and "innocent bystanders."
Hundreds of cars full of refugees fled Benghazi towards the Egyptian border after the city came under a bombardment overnight. One family of 13 women from a grandmother to small children, rested at a roadside hotel.

“I'm here because when the bombing started last night my children were vomiting from fear,” said one of them, a doctor. “All I want to do is get my family to a safe place and then get back to Benghazi to help. My husband is still there.”

In the besieged western city of Misrata, residents said government forces shelled the rebel town again on Saturday and they were facing a humanitarian crisis as water supplies had been cut off for a third day.
And this is the link Counterpunch provides as support for their myth of Qaddafi in retreat on the eve of UN action. This is simple, banal, intellectual dishonesty that illustrates why you should believe nothing you've read in Counterpunch that you haven't second sourced elsewhere.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why the revolutions in Libya & Syria failed(so far) - the short version

As the rise of the extreme right-wing ISIS is heralded as final nail in the coffin of the Arab Spring's most revolutionary struggles, we find a bit of crowing in the bourgeois press. This week's crop gives us Libya's Arab spring: the revolution that ate its children by Chris Stephen in The Guardian on Monday and Syria’s Lost Spring by Robyn Creswell in the New York Review of Books.

IMHO it basically comes down to this: The Syrians have failed to realize the full potential of the Arab Spring, and the Libyans too, because of a lack of revolutionary Marxist leadership. That is the short story. Finito. Over and out.

They had the material conditions. They had the revolutionary situation. They had the masses! What they lacked was largely on the leadership side. How to organize and lead those forces. How to pilot the revolution through all the narrow inlets and shoals of its dangerous journey. They lacked this because any real possibility of revolutionary Marxist leadership for these struggles was denied them by those that long ago stole the banners of the Left, including Marxism, and have been using them as props as they shill for imperialism.

In both these revolutions it was pretty much guaranteed that the people would not look left for leadership since what passes for the Left these days, what occupies the ramparts we should be fighting from, either marched with Qaddafi and Assad, or stayed home while millions of thuwar (revolutionary fighters) were taking to the barricades.

I know that those who already think they know Marxism as a failed project itself, based on their contact with the past hundred years of its corruption will naturally disagree with me. Unfortunately, there is no time to bridge that gap this morning, as I said: This is the short version.







Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab Spring

Monday, February 16, 2015

#Libya: Hailed as a Model Journalist Glenn Greenwald Proves to be the Exact Opposite

Before Glenn Greenwald ever joined and quit The Guardian, its summary of NATO's Operation Unified Protector reported, 31 October 2011, that the combined military forces from the US, UK, France, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece had hit over 3,000 targets in Libya, including 304 ammunition dumps, 100 tanks and 55 rocket launchers. In addition:
Nato ships have also stopped over 3,000 vessels and boarded another 250 while enforcing the arms embargo.
I assume Greenwald & Company also opposed this rarely mentioned arms interdiction role NATO played in overthrowing Qaddafi. In their not so humble opinion, the "Hands Off Libya" crowd would have preferred it if Qaddafi's still active air force was able to be freely resupplied with bombs and spare parts from whoever was willing to trade stolen Libyan oil for Libyan blood and make the arms dealers' profit using Putin's line-of-credit when Qaddafi's cash ran out. They would've preferred it if Libya was still suffering as Syria is today with a death toll many times the 30,000 it took to defeat Qaddafi, because, make no mistake about it, the Libyan people are no more willing continue kneeling before a fascist dictator than the Syrian people are. So the alternative to NATO intervention in Libya was not the "peaceful and progressive" Libya of some people's fantasies. It is Syria today.

We can debate whether more than 30,000 Libyans would have met with a violent end had that world intervention not taken place, just as we can debate whether 200,000 Syrians are really dead. For some people it doesn't matter because it is not about them. Its about US. Its about the Western world, and its about scoring points for our side in political debates that see "those" countries as stages for our political dramas and "those" people as the replaceable "extras" that every "shoot" requires. Doing that with present-day Libya means replacing the real history of recent events with Western Left caricatures and fantasies. This is far from the field of journalism but it is exactly where Glenn Greenwald has wandered in his latest rant against "our own imperialist" using the Libya playhouse:

Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention,
Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite
16 February 2015
When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 by U.S. forces, Iraq War advocates boastfully celebrated the event as proof that they were right and used it to mock war opponents (Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, for instance, gleefully exploited the event to demand that Howard Dean admit his war opposition was wrong). When Muammar Gaddafi was forced by NATO bombing in August, 2011 to flee Tripoli,

So in Greenwald's learned opinion, only NATO bombing explains Qaddafi's overthrow. Unlike Greenwald, my same-day description didn't give NATO all the credit:
Shortly after nightfall in Tripoli Saturday night the Libyan liberation army encircling Tripoli combined with an uprising by freedom fighters and protesters inside of the city and NATO air support in Operation Mermaid Dawn, the final battle to liberate Tripoli and with it, the entire country of Libya from Qaddafi's 42 year dictatorship. Many people are dying tonight as Qaddafi forces are shelling parts of Tripoli at the same time DSL [The Internet connectivity that was so vital to my ability to cover these real-time events.] is coming back on in other sections.
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, then head of the National Transitional Council told Al Jazeera:
“We planned this operation with NATO, our Arab associates and our rebel fighters in Tripoli with commanders in Benghazi.”
After a week of gathering reports and assembling the facts, I summarized:
The campaign that routed Qaddafi's Tripoli defenses in a few days was masterful! First there were the coordinated campaigns in the west coming down from the Nafusah Mountains and from in the east, west of Misrata, then the convergence on Tripoli via three major roads, from the west, east and south, together with an amphibious landing of a brigade from Misrata and the uprising by secret forces already in Tripoli. It was a brilliant victory. It showed great unity and coordination by freedom fighters from separate parts of Libya and the leadership of their command staff in spite of the assassination of their chief of staff, most likely by Qaddafi agents, only weeks before. It will go down in military history as a classic victory.
This victory wasn't all about NATO bombing. Probably the most important NATO role was providing naval transport and support for the amphibious assault from Misrata. But nevermind about that. In Greenwald's world these Libyans don't exist. They have no agency and aren't worth mentioning except as puppets and you certainly don't credit puppets along with the puppeteers. Greenwald continues:

advocates of U.S. intervention played the same game ...

Once Gadaffi was brutally killed by a mob,

If this was about Libyans and not about US, the victorious Libyan revolutionaries wouldn't be referred to as "a mob" and Qaddafi wouldn't be the first brutally killed Libyan mentioned. There would the untold thousands disappeared during his regime - they are still finding mass graves in the desert - the 1270 massacred in a day in Abu Salim prison, the 700 protesters in Green Square killed the long night of 21 February 2011 in Tripoli and maybe 2000 shot down in Benghazi before that. Certainly Libyans would acknowledge the roughly 30,000 lives it cost them to be rid of him. Most were killed by Qaddafi. Nobody who's looked at the facts says NATO bombing killed more than 75 civilians they weren't aiming at, not the New York Times, Human Rights Watch or the United Nations. But this ain't about Libyans, so we'll mourn the passing of Qaddafi first.

Does Greenwald consider how people in Libya felt about the death of Qaddafi?

advocates of intervention threw a giddy party for themselves, celebrating their own rightness and righteousness and declaring Libya a model for future western interventions.

Does anyone else get the feeling that Greenwald is not talking about the mass celebrations that broke out in Martyr's Square, until recently Qaddafi's Green Square, or all over Libya upon news of his departure? And I'll bet Greenwald wasn't thinking about Libyan followers of this blog that for the first time ever felt safe enough to start using their real names.

He can't admit to that or to the cheers that greeted NATO bombing from Tripoli rooftops [video]. Glenn Greenwald continues:

Upon Gadaffi’s fleeing, The New York Times, which editorially supported the war, published a front-page article declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” While acknowledging that “it would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests,”

Naturally, since the New York Times is the biggest bourgeois paper in the US, its criteria for a good outcome in any foreign land is what's best for "United States interests." Is this also the POV of Greenwald? Because the New York Times may well argue, or has argued in the past, that its best for US interests if some countries are ruled by a Qaddafi or an Assad no matter how many brutal murders have to go unmentioned. To continue with the Greenwald piece:

the paper noted that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”

The reason Obama "had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind,” is that the US played such a minor role in the battle to overthrown Qaddafi. In the first place, to give proper credit, it was the Libyans that did the really heavy lifting and all of the ground combat. Then in terms of air support, NATO strike missions carried out by France, Britain, Italy and others played a bigger role. As I reported in July 2011:
AFRICOM spokeswoman Nicole Dalrymple said in a statement on June 29th. “As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.” That was only 16.1% of the 4,963 strike sorties conducted by NATO as of June 29th with a total of 132 targets being hit.
So in the crucial first five months of the struggle to overthrow Qaddafi, US warplanes actually "dropped ordinances" to use the Pentagon euphemism, a paltry 132 times. Given, the sole Superpower status of the US, some might call that hiding in the rear, rather than leading from it. To give you a number to compare that with, between the beginning of the US air campaign against the Islamic State in August 2014 and 15 January 2015, the "allies" have carried out over 16,000 strike sorties, 60% were carried out by the US Air Force and 40% were carried out by "the US Navy and allied nations," according DefenseNews.

It could have been just a baker's dozen NATO air strikes against Qaddafi, that would have been 13 more than Obama has carried out against Assad, but that still would have been enough to allow the US Left to declare the Libyan people puppets and their revolution a NATO-backed regime change scheme.

Once the fighting stopped, the Pentagon wanted to come forward and take credit for heroic deeds, and of course, the shills of the Left like Greenward were there to help them make the story stick.

Maybe Greenwald has taken a page from the ANSWER Coalition because the rest of his piece reminded me of "No Libyans Allowed!" It reads like a who's who of Western players ..."Anne-Marie Slaughter and Nick Kristof"..."British and French leaders" ... "American and Canadian officials"..."Hillary Clinton" and so on.

Greenwald sees the conflict in Libya as very similar to the US War on Iraq. It matters little that one was started by the Libyan people and the other was started by George Bush. Greenwald is also far more concerned about whether the US participation in this UN sanctioned coalition of 19 countries was legal under US law than he is about the aerial slaughter averted in Libya.

He notes that both Iraq and Libya are a mess today. Another way to say that is that both war and revolution are messy. Greenwald probably thinks that both should be avoided. That's the main point upon which we differ. I think the heroic Libyan effort to throw off the Qaddafi dictatorship was entirely within their rights to make. I also think that they had the right to ask for international assistance. The question at the heart of the difference between Glenn Greenward and myself is the answer to the question of whether the international community, through the instrument of NATO, should have answered in the affirmative that request for assistance. It was never NATO's war to start so it was never NATO's war to end. The proper situation to compare Libya to is not Iraq, where NATO started a war; it is Syria, where NATO has claimed no responsibility to protect. The main question Greenwald should be addressing in this piece is: Would Libya be better off now if it was more like Syria today? Because last I heard, bad as it is in Libya, nobody is dropping barrel bombs on the people from helicopters.

Greenwald proclaims:

The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute.

Greenwald blames NATO for helping to create this situation and then just going home and taking no responsibility even though that is precisely what NATO signed on to do. They had no mandate to organized a replacement Libyan state or even put boots on the ground. Their mandate was to protect Libyan civilians as long as Qaddafi was trying to kill them. Qaddafi was trying to kill them until the day he died but that day marked the end of the NATO mandate.

Greenwald & Company sound like their new complaint about this NATO enterprise is that it wasn't imperialist enough. NATO didn't go in and set up a proper colonial administration. Instead they just flew off into the sunset. That's why it's all their fault! After all, Greewald can hardly claim that after bombing Qaddafi out of power, the US is secretly running things. The CIA in Libya has been an absolute embarrassment.

No, the mess the Libyans are in is one they have made, 90%, themselves and one they are going to have to dig themselves out of. NATO had no mandate to fix the social effects of four decades of dictatorship. Just because you save someone's life, that doesn't make you responsible for them thereafter.

What occasions all this "I told you so" cackling by Greenwald about the current dire straits of the Libyan people is the recent killing of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by Egyptian jihadists living in Libya [source BBC WorldNews this evening] who claim to be members of the Islamic State. Historically, struggles in neighboring countries have often spilled over into Libya. One look at the map of Africa will show you why. Libya is almost twice the size of Egypt but compared to Egypt's 79 million people, Libya has about 6 million bunched up along the coast. A lot of Libya is pretty empty and hard for any central government to control. Qaddafi would simply send in helicopter gunships to settle tribal disputes in the outlands, but Libya is trying to move beyond that now.

The gist of this latest Greenwald piece is essentially: You overthrew Qaddafi. So now you have ISIS. Now see what you've done! He conveniently over looks any connection between the rise of the Islamists in Libya and the remnants of the Qaddafi regime. There is a lot of evidence that regime money and military expertise has played an important role in the rise of the jihadists in Libya just as it has in Iraq and Syria. It may be no accident that those Coptic Christians were abducted and murdered in Sirte, the old Qaddafi stronghold. I'm sure Greenwald remembers how Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam declared allegiance to the Islamists and warned that the final outcome of the civil war in Libya might be an "Islamic State" just a few weeks before the fall of Tripoli? They wrote about it in the Guardian.

Greenwald sees the biggest problem with ISIS in Libya is that it is so close to Europe, again it's not about them:

Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS,
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Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.”

Oh, most assuredly! Syria, that non-interventionist masterpiece, also known as the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, also the real center of ISIS development, not some piss ant Egyptian jihadists imitating them in the Libyan desert, Syria! That's the model we should use going forward!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Friday, February 6, 2015

On Democracy Now today: Amy sends another Valentine to Bashar

This is what Amy Goodman had to say about yesterday's carnage in Syria on Democracy Now this morning:
Scores of people were killed in and around the Syrian capital of Damascus on Thursday when rebels fired a barrage of rockets into several neighborhoods and government warplanes bombed opposition-held areas.
Other than the fact that she has the rebels attacking neighborhoods and the regime attacking military positions, the report sounds pretty even handed. So why do I say this is pro-Assad propaganda? Because according to a more detailed report from EAWorldView, yesterday was one of Assad's bloodiest. 130 people were killed by the Assad regime while 6 may have been were killed by the rebel rockets Amy chose to highlight. This is typical of Democracy Now's shameful reporting on Syria and why I say "even-handed" Amy's reports on Syria are Valentines to Bashar. As Desmond Tutu famously said "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

This is how EAWorldView reported yesterday's deaths in Syria:
In one of the deadliest days in Syria in months, regime operations killed more than 130 people — most of them civilians — while insurgents launched more than 100 rockets into Damascus.

The headline developments were in the capital, with the faction Jaish al-Islam firing the rockets towards military positions in southern Damascus and the regime using mortars in its own attacks, apparently seeking to discredit the insurgency. State media said at least six civilians died and scores were wounded, without giving further details of the locations.

However, almost all the deaths were from regime operations elsewhere. Even as the insurgents said they were attacking Damascus in response to Syrian airstrikes on civilians in the East Ghouta area near the capital, the bombing continued. More than 40 airstrikes were carried out on Douma, northeast of Damascus, with other deadly aerial, artillery, and mortar assaults nearby.

The Local Coordinating Committees said at least 76 people were killed and hundreds wounded in East Ghouta on Thursday. The Douma attacks left 29 dead, and another 29, mostly women and children, were killed by five airstrikes on a public market in Kafar Batna.
Of course, it would be highly embarrassing and quite out character for Amy to report on deaths from regime airstrikes in East Ghouta yesterday because at the time of Assad's sarin attack on East Ghouta on 21, August 2013, the only time such attacks made it to the mainstream media, Amy paraded one conspiracy theory after another on Democracy Now to explain how Assad was being framed for the chemical deaths and those alibis look like cover stories for mass murder once it is revealed that Assad was attacking East Ghouta for many months with conventional bombs before he turned to sarin, and is still bombing and killing in East Ghouta, with conventional bombs more than a year later.

So of course, no comment from Amy.

While Victoria has her Secrets, this bombardment of Douma is one of Amy's "unmentionables."

Video Published on Feb 6, 2015


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria