Sunday, October 4, 2015

Robert Fisk: Syria's civilians have disappeared..& there are no good guys

Its been a busy news cycle. The day after a hundred Free Syrian Army officers in Homs signed and published a statement protesting the Russian attack, and just a few hours before I republished it here, Robert Fisk publish an article in The Independent claiming that they didn't even exist. Now I am very glad that I included a video in my report:
Syria’s ‘moderates’ have disappeared... and there are no good guys

4 October 2015 20:08 BST
The Russian air force in Syria has flown straight into the West’s fantasy air space. The Russians, we are now informed, are bombing the “moderates” in Syria – “moderates” whom even the Americans admitted two months ago, no longer existed.
Robert Fisk talks like only fighters are killed by the Russian bombs. He never speaks of the 33 civilian killed by Russian bombs in Homs on their first day of attacks. That number included 3 children. But not to worry, Robert Fisk assures us that there are no "moderates" [a category created by Western journalists and politicians, not Syrians] in Syria any more. And "no good guys." Does that include the children?

How is it possible to have a whole country in struggle and no good guys are produced? Unless we are talking about a nationality so depraved, root and branch, that in struggle it produces only bad people. Is that how Fisk see Syrians? And what about civilians, even apolitical ones? Should they be considered "moderates" or something else?

Robert Fisk tells us "The preposterous Free Syrian Army (FSA)" is history:
This rubbish has reached its crescendo in the on-again off-again saga of the Syrian “moderates”.

These men were originally military defectors to the FSA, which America and European countries regarded as a possible pro-Western force to be used against the Syrian government army. But the FSA fell to pieces, corrupted, and the “moderates” defected all over again, this time to the Islamist Nusrah Front or to Isis, selling their American-supplied weapons to the highest bidder or merely retiring quietly – and wisely – to the countryside where they maintained a few scattered checkpoints.

Washington admitted their disappearance, bemoaned their fate,
Nobody told the Free Syrian Army that its didn't exist, so while Robert Fisk was ignoring the civilian deaths and telling the world not to worry about the Russian bombing because there are no good guys in Syria, the Free Syrian Army of Homs made this video and issued this statement:

Free Syrian Army declares war on Russia at meeting in Homs | 4 Oct 2015

The officers of Homs Liberation movement and the rest of their fellow free comrades stress that Russia had put itself in a direct confrontation with the rebelling Syrian people and the free people of the whole world who are supporting them when it publicly moved from a supporter of a criminal person into a supporter of a criminal who kills children. The first targets of its planes were the densely populated villages inhibited by unarmed villagers fleeing from the Assad regime in Homs. In these villages there is no presence of any extremist organization.

We, as the biggest gathering of the Free Army in Homs, which gathers more than 100 officers in its ranks, who had defected from the criminal regime, and who are acknowledged by the Russian occupation minister of foreign affairs as part of the political solution, emphasize our total rejection of any initiative or any convergent step, which Russia sponsors as long as it remains biased to criminal Bashar instead of siding with the oppressed Syrian revolution’s people.
It has been obvious for some time now that ex-journalist Robert Fisk has turned to the dark side. Now he is merely a propagandists selling the Assad/Putin line that the only choice for Syria is between the Assad Regime and the Islamic extremists, and really, we shouldn't care too much what happens because there are no good guys in Syria.

More on Robert Fisk:
01/28/2014Ex-journalist Robert Fisk: One is reminded of Goebbels
01/13/2014Re-examing ex-journalist Robert Fisk on the "Syrian Rebels"
09/26/2013More on ex-journalist Robert Fisk's defense of Assad
09/25/2013Where Robert Fisk's defense of Assad falls down
08/30/2012Free Syria responds to Robert Fisk

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Free Syrian Army of Homs Statement on Russian Aggression

The simple truth of the Syrian Civil War is that a revolutionary people have risen up against the fascist police state they had lived under for more than 40 years. For 4 years, the Assad regime has been allowed to use the most brutal and terrifying methods to put down that uprising, while western leaders shed crocodile tears from eyes that watched a quarter million Syrians get slaughtered to teach them a lesson. ISIS has been aided and abetted by Assad as a tool to spread terror in areas Assad can no longer control and now Russian forces are joining in the slaughter of what now is really shaping up to become the first holocaust of the 21st century.
This statement was signed by a hundred FSA officers which makes it about as close to an official Free Syrian Army statement as we are likely to see. This statement was found at

The Syrian Arab Republic
Free Syrian Army
Homs Liberation Movement

In the name of Allah the Merciful and the Companionate

Statement issued by: The Officers of the Movement

On the Russian aggression and their response to its Minister of Foreign Affairs

The officers of Homs Liberation movement and the rest of their fellow free comrades stress that Russia had put itself in a direct confrontation with the rebelling Syrian people and the free people of the whole world who are supporting them when it publicly moved from a supporter of a criminal person into a supporter of a criminal who kills children. The first targets of its planes were the densely populated villages inhibited by unarmed villagers fleeing from the Assad regime in Homs. In these villages there is no presence of any extremist organization.

We, as the biggest gathering of the Free Army in Homs, which gathers more than 100 officers in its ranks, who had defected from the criminal regime, and who are acknowledged by the Russian occupation minister of foreign affairs as part of the political solution, emphasize our total rejection of any initiative or any convergent step, which Russia sponsors as long as it remains biased to criminal Bashar instead of siding with the oppressed Syrian revolution’s people.

To implement the orders of our general command, we declare that we have put all our strengths, means and expertise at the disposal of a unified operations room to confront the Russian and Iranian occupation and to clean Syria up from the abomination of criminal Bashar and his cronies. We will not stop our march until we reach victory or martyrdom.

God is predominant

Homs Liberation Movement

3 October 2015

Free Syrian Army declares war on Russia at meeting in Homs | 4 Oct 2015

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Patrick Cockburn: Let's welcome Russian bombs into this war

When you don't count the dead, it can really warp your perception of war. That is the main conclusion I came to after reading Patrick Cockburn's latest treatment of the Syrian civil war in The Independent, 3 October 2015, and titled Syria crisis: Let's welcome Russia's entry into this war

Well, in the first place, Cockburn's suggestion, such as it is, is about four years too late. Putin has been bank-rolling Assad from the beginning, and not just with money, but with weapons, with bombs and shells, military advisers and diplomatic cover since the start of his brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Iranian and Hezbollah support also come with his approval and backing. Patrick Cockburn is suppose to be the big Middle East expert. I'm just a guy who fixes Linux computers for a living. Why do I have to school him on Russian support for Assad? Has he forgotten that Russian special forces were sent to Syria as early as March 2012? Did he forget that the Free Syrian Army killed a Russian General in Syria in August 2012? That Russia sent a naval flotilla to Syria in July 2012? That the British stopped Russian ships carrying attack helicopters to Syria in June 2012? I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Apparently Patrick Cockburn doesn't, because here we are in the final quarter of 2015, and he wants to "welcome" Russia to the Syrian Civil War! If this guy ran a college, he'd probably want to schedule freshman orientation for the senior class! Is he not aware of the fact that without massive financial, military and political support from Russia, Bashar al-Assad would have been overthrown long ago?

This is a very old cartoon but it news to Cockburn
The very first sentence of this pro-war essay makes it clear Cockburn regards "Russia’s military intervention in Syria,.." as something new, like he is talking about current events and not history. News Flash Patrick: Those have been Russian supplied helicopters dropping barrel-bombs on Syrian hospitals, schools and breadlines. It has been Russian made warplanes delivering the "Death from Above" that has forced so many Syrians to flee the country and a virtually endless supply of Russian ordinances that have fueled the Assad Death Machine. It has been the Russian veto that has protected Assad from ICC prosecution for war crimes and forced the United Nations to settle for harsh language as their strongest weapon in the struggle for peace.

Its almost obligatory to include some description of the Syrian calamity in the first paragraph of one of these Russia does Syria articles. This is how Cockburn words it:
There are no simple solutions to this terrible war which has destroyed Syria. Out of a population of 22 million, four million Syrians are refugees abroad and seven million have been displaced inside the country.
Usually, the headline of any such description is the number of Syrians killed, but not with Cockburn. That might lead to the sticky question of how they died and there are some simple solutions to the terrible problem of barrel-bombs dropping on civilians, and Cockburn knows what they are. As we shall see, he regards those ordinary people as disposable chips in a big Geo-political game. His road to world peace is through superpower domination and he longs for the good ole days of the Cold War:
But the US-Soviet Cold War, and the global competition that went with it, had benefits for much of the world. Both superpowers sought to support their own allies and prevent political vacuums from developing which its opposite number might exploit. Crises did not fester in the way they do today, and Russians and Americans could see the dangers of them slipping wholly out of control and provoking an international crisis.
Of course, the whole world did live under daily threat of nuclear holocaust. There was the Korean War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet Afghan War. In the "American War" the Vietnamese lost 3.4 million people, by McNamara's reckoning, but at least it wasn't an "international crisis." The bodycount would have been higher had not the Russians and the Chineses provided the Vietnamese insurgents with what was then the most advanced air defense weapons because the United States was using B52s to do to Vietnam what Cockburn is welcoming Russia to do to Syria. He thinks massive military power can end this quickly because "Russia is at least a heavy hitter, capable of shaping events by its own actions." Did Cockburn say that when the French escalated the Vietnam "problem" to the United States? I'm sure a lot of people did. The US bankrolled the French effort from 1948 on and had US pilots flying air support over the battle Dien Bien Phu in 1954, but I'll bet Cockburn didn't "welcome" the US entry into that war until US Marines landed at Da Nang in 1964.

Having a superpower settle a civil war with its military might sounds like a good solution if one has no sense of history or concern for the innocent people a military solution will grind up. That appears to be where Cockburn is coming from because he never mentions all those dead Syrians and wants to "welcome" Russia as a force for peace:
Overall, it is better to have Russia fully involved in Syria than on the sidelines so it has the opportunity to help regain control over a situation that long ago spun out of control. It can keep Assad in power in Damascus, but the power to do so means that it can also modify his behaviour and force movement towards reducing violence, local ceasefires and sharing power regionally.
The Syrian "situation" didn't just spin out of control, Assad and Putin have been the spin masters, unless what he means by that is that prior to 2011, Assad had Syria safely locked down and then the people got out of his control. That is the way Cockburn sees it. That's why he pays no-never-mind to Assad's brutal methods, that's why he wants to welcome another "heavy hitter" to the civil war. Those ordinary Syrians have to be brought back under control no matter how many lives it costs them.

The rest of that selection just makes my points for me. Russia has kept Assad in power in Damascus, and I agree, that does give it the power to modify his behavior and force movement towards reducing violence. But they have not done so, and there is no reason to believe they will do so just because Patrick Cockburn is rolling out the welcome mat.

Cockburn doesn't see an independent role for Syrians in shaping the future of their country. He sees them all as proxies or agents of the various foreign powers, so it is those foreign powers that should decide the future of Syria:
The Russians and Iranians should be integrated as far as possible into any talks about the future of Syria. But there should be an immediate price for this: such as insisting that if Assad is going to stay for the moment, then his forces must stop shelling and using barrel bombs against opposition-held civilian areas
I find this statement to be his most deplorable. He knows Assad is shelling and using barrel-bombs against civilian areas. He says it, and these are war crimes.  He sees these war crimes as chips to be used in the grand bargain. We'll need to work out "an immediate price for this." But if the Russians and Iranians have the power to stop Assad from shelling and barrel-bombing civilian areas, shouldn't their putting a stop to it be the immediate demand, even before the "price" of sparing these lives is worked out Cockburn style?

In many ways, I find Patrick Cockburn's support for Bashar al Assad even more depraved and morally bankrupted than that of the straight up Assadists. Both want to see Assad hang on to power. They have this in common. But most Assadists will deny that Assad is a war criminal, will deny that he shells and barrel-bombs civilian areas. They may even believe it. Cockburn knows Assad is guilty of war crimes, he knows what Assad has done and is doing and still he want to keep him in a position where he will still have the power to burn the country. I'm not sure if there is a worst position on the Syrian struggle, or a worst resolution. 


Damascus, October 2, 2015

For the second consecutive day, Russian aircraft have conducted attacks on Syrian soil. These air strikes, in cities and towns devoid of Islamic State (ISIS) combatants, have resulted in more than 40 civilian casualties, including women and children. These attacks expose Russian allegations that they are targeting ISIS, and confirm that Russia’s goal in directly intervening in the conflict is to assure the survival of the Assad regime.

Russian troops are now openly fighting alongside the army of the dictator. Despite international consensus that the attacks have not targeted ISIS positions, we have yet to see any forceful condemnations regarding the killing of civilians, and this leads us to believe that the international community is tacitly approving of these attacks. We believe that any partnership with Russia, which claims to target ISIS and which has the blessing of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, will serve only to accelerate the pace of killing and widen the circle of devastation. These conditions will inevitably lead to even more extremism.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria joins Syrians across the country in categorically condemning the Russian intervention in Syria. In our mourning and sadness, we share the pain of all those who have lost loved ones due to this barbaric aggression.

The LCC calls upon all revolutionary forces and factions to unite by any means and respond to the Russian aggression. We further call upon the international community to uphold its moral and legal responsibilities regarding the strategic direction of current events in Syria.

Mercy upon our martyrs. Long live our Revolution for a free and democratic Syria.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Has Russia already killed more civilians in Syria than NATO did in Libya?

Is it even conceivable that Russia has killed even more civilians with air strikes in Syria in just a few days than NATO killed in its 8 month "Operation Unified Protector" campaign over Libya?

The high probability that this question will be answered in the affirmative is owing to a number of causes:

In spite of baseless ravings by "anti-imperialists" about the "huge loss of life" and "massive infrastructure damage" they say was caused to Libya by the NATO assault, a factual history of what happened does not support those conclusions. The studies that have been done by the New York Times [40-70], Human Rights Watch [72] Amnesty International [55], and the United Nations [60] puts the number of innocent civilian deaths caused by NATO attacks at between 40 and 72. This very low figure is owed largely to a very different use of military air power in Libya as compared to Afghanistan, Iraq or in any previous NATO combat mission. Rules of engagement meant that only smart bombs were used. Targets were carefully marked, missions carefully planned and often aborted if conditions weren't right. There was very little infrastructure damage. NATO commanders prided themselves on accomplishing feats like taking out a tank parked below a bridge without harming the bridge, and they did it! Libya certainly has it problems today, but if oil production is now down to 30% of Qaddafi era levels, its because of internal political strife not infrastructure damage cause by NATO. It was up to 90% not 6 months after Qaddafi was overthrown.

I think it commendable that in the very exceptional case of Libya, NATO commanders showed what they could accomplish in sparing innocent life and national infrastructure while fighting a war if they wanted to. I think they set a new standard for aerial warfare that should be demanded so long as aerial warfare is still practiced. Beyond that, the NATO mission over Libya didn't make killing civilians that hard to avoid. In the first place, maybe a majority of the NATO air sorties over Libya were against air defense installations, essentially self-serving attacks. Most others were likely to be purely military targets like bases, air fields, military units and heavy weapons. It must also be recognized that NATO killed thousands of Libyan soldiers and some targeted civilians, but that was the mission, as long as those Libyan soldiers and officials were making war on civilians.

Russia, on the other hand, said it is bombing the Islamic State and it has become clear that they are also attacking the Free Syrian Army and other militias fighting the Assad regime. Now, while there are vast political differences between ISIS, al Nusra, FSA and others, they all have this in common: They don't make the greatest targets to attack from the air. They don't have big bases, air fields, or infrastructure. They don't have a lot heavy weapons to take out, and unlike most regular armies, they tend to live and operate among the people. That means it will be almost impossible to wage an air war against any of them without at the same time inflicting heavy civilian causalities. This applies to all the forces that say they are bombing ISIS in Syria. From the air, Syria looks a lot different than Libya. Also, unlike the NATO operation over Libya, there isn't even the pretense that they are there to protect civilians. They are there, and this goes not only for Russia, but all the countries bombing Syria, to kill "terrorists," however each country defines the term. They aren't there to protect anyone. Its not even in the mission statement!

Photo released by Russian Defense Ministry appears to show them using indiscriminate cluster bombs in Syria
Let me say, at this juncture, that another fruit of the "anti-imperialist" non-interventionist policy in Syria is a dangerous and chaotic air space with 10 countries bombing Syria. Now the name "Unified Protector" for the name of the NATO mission can be given its due, because, at least in name, the mission was to protect, which created pressure to be careful with civilians, and while 18 countries were involved, there was one unified command under a UN mandate that could avoid the world war dangers we now face in Syrian skies. For four years, the non-interventionists opposed the demands of the Syrian people for a "no-fly zone." They didn't want a "Libyan style" intervention. Now as a result, we have a "free-fire zone."

Thanks in part to Obama's enforcement of an embargo against heavy air defense weapons for the rebels. Russia doesn't even have to bother with those pesky air defense missions that so occupied NATO over Libya. The Russian warplanes can focus 100% on destroying people on the ground and the from the bomb sight camera footage proudly released by the Russians, they ain't using smart bombs. Those pictures remind me of the carpet bombing photos from the Vietnam War. That is what is known as an area bombardment, as opposed to a surgical attack, and when used in a civilian area, will kill large numbers of civilians.

Destruction Of The First Two Days Of Russian Air Strikes In Syria | 2 Oct 2015

So what have been the results so far?

On the first day of the Russian air strikes, 30 September 2015,  the Syrian National Council said 36 civilians, including 5 children were killed north of Homs city. CNN reported 28 civilians being killed:
Syrian activist Khdaier Khushfa in Homs told CNN via Skype that 17 civilians had been killed in Talbiseh and 11 others in Zafaraniya by the Russian airstrikes Wednesday, and 46 people had been critically wounded.
Numbers for Thursday's attacks are harder to pin down, al Jazerra reported:
In the Hama suburb of Habeet, an airstrike at around 8:30 pm local time killed three civilians, including a 5-year-old girl, and injured 12 others, according to opposition activist Hadi al-Abdullah.

“The destruction caused by the strike was massive. A two-story house was completely flattened to the ground,” he told Al Jazeera.

Earlier, an attack on Jisr al-Shoghour in the northwestern province of Idlib destroyed a mosque and killed two civilians, other activists told Al Jazeera.

In Idlib’s Jabal al-Zawya region, two children were among at least seven civilians killed in suspected Russian airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UK-based monitoring group said Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed 30 civilians since they were launched on Wednesday.
Syrian opposition and civilians from air attack by Russian aircraft | 2 Oct 2015

IDLIB, SYRIA - OCTOBER 1: Syrian people receive treatment at a field hospital after being injured in the Russian strikes targeting a camp near Belyun town in Jabal al-Zawiya area of Idlib province, Syria on 1 October, 2015. At least 4 people were killed and 8 other wounded in Russian airstrikes on Syrian opposition forces and civilians at a camp near Idlib province. ...

So have the Russian's already killed more civilians in Syria than NATO killed in 8 months over Libya? As I put this post to bed tonight, that question is still very much in doubt, but another day's bombing by Russia should pretty much cinch it, and they have promised this will go on for three or four months. 4000 people were killed in Syria in September. Now comes Russia to add to be bodycount. Welcome to October!

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Is Syria also the 1st holocaust of the 21st Century?

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Does White Helmet fumble prove Russian bombs don't kill civilians?

When you are mounting a propaganda campaign to cover up imperialist mass murder from the sky, you need to do everything you can to discredit and malign the people you are killing. We have seen the imperialist media play this game many times. Now it is time for "anti-imperialist" media to play this dirty game.

The White Helmets is a civil defense rescue group in Syria that has earned a well deserved reputation for pulling people from the rubble of Assad's barrel bombs. After the first Russian air attack on Wednesday, they sent out this tweet:

33 civilians including 3 children and 1 volunteer had been killed, but there was a problem with this tweet. The photo clearly wasn't meant to represent the people killed since the two people in it are clearly alive. The problem was that the photo was not from the Russian attack but from another attack 5 days earlier. Here is the While Helmet rescue worker carrying the child in this SNHR tweet from last Friday:

Ten minutes after the White Helmets sent out the tweet about the Russian attack with the wrong photo in it, they caught their error and sent out another tweet with a replacement photo that did show the Russian attack, without however, formally retracting the first photo, as near as I can tell:

Maybe they thought nobody would catch their mistake. However, the damage was done and the "anti-imperialists" were already preparing to take this fumble and run with it. rushed to press with this:
US-Funded NGO in Syria Uses Old Photo to Claim Civilian Death in Russian Airstrikes

Group Lashes Russian Official on Twitter for Noting Picture Wasn't Real
by Jason Ditz
30 September 2015
From the moment the first Russian warplanes started launching attacks inside Syria, a new campaign in the information war was also launched, with various groups trying to get their stamps on conflicting stories about what exactly Russia attacked, whether they hit ISIS, ISIS allies, pro-US rebels, or just random Syrian civilians.

At the center of one of the bigger controversies was the “White Helmets” organization. Formerly known as the Syria Civil Defense, the group is heavily funded by the US State Department, and while the group claims to be purely an aid group, and not to be taking any side in the war, their statements overwhelmingly tow the official US line, leading to allegations that the group is little more than a “propaganda outlet."

Early in the day, the group claimed Russia killed 33 civilians in its attacks, including three children, and attached a photo to the story which was quickly pointed out to be from an incident five days prior, which had nothing to do with Russia. More...
And RT was ready to be outraged:

Information warfare: Russia accused of killing civilians in Syria

The link Jason Ditz uses to show "the group is heavily funded by the US State Department" turns out to only come this close:
the U.S. has funded $13 million so far in humanitarian aid to civil defense teams like the SCD.
$13 million in humanitarian aid from the richest government on the planet is a joke. That's less than $4 for each Syrian killed and a lot less when divided among the injured and needing to be rescued. calls that "heavily funded," but when you are rooting for the side doing the bombing, I guess any amount tagged for rescue seems like a huge amount. And the link that shows they tow the US line is to Mint Press which in turn links to a writer with the Syria Solidarity Movement which I have shown in other posts to be an Assadist organization.

Apparently these "anti-war" activists are hoping to use this White Helmet fumble to convince you that Russian bombs don't kill civilians.
Groups that are doing something about Assad's holocaust that could use your help:

The Syria Campaign
Syria Calling
Syrian American Council
White Helmets
Doctors Without Borders
Thanks to Brian O. for the heads-up on this.
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