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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Syrian American Council Revolution Anniversary in Los Angeles

Pictures by SAC
Well, not in Los Angeles actually but in Fullerton, Orange County, but still in Los Angeles area and organized by the Syrian American Council, Los Angeles, this commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of the begin of the Syrian Revolution on 15 March 2011 took place on Saturday, three years after that "Day of Rage." Before the program got underway Congressman Ed Royce came to talk about HR 520 on Syria Attacks on Civilians and Humanitarian Access submitted to congress by chairman Royce and ranking member Engel on Friday. The event drew over two hundred people and involved children's activities, traditional delicacies, revolutionary exhibits and a Damascus Cultural display. The highlight was a symposium that included a diverse group of Syrian and non-Syrian speakers providing different perspectives on the revolution. A Q&A followed the talks.

I was honored to be one of the speakers. I spoke about the history of this revolutionary struggle and the need for the demand for a no-fly zone to come from the people.

Other speakers included Deric Mendes, an investigative journalist based in Los Angeles; last spring he traveled to Camp Zaatari in Jordan to capture the human story behind the Syrian revolution, and Dr. Mazen Hashem, a Fellow at ISPU and a Lecturer at the University of Southern California.

These are my prepared remarks for the event. This is not what I actually said, for one thing, I ran out of time but they are included here for reference:
On this 3rd Anniversary of the "Day of Rage" protest of March 15th 2011, which marked the official beginning of the Syrian Revolution, we should celebrate the children, because it was the children of Syria that really started the revolution 9 days earlier on March 6th when the Assad regime arrested a group of young boys in Daraa for writing on official walls "The People Demand the Downfall of the Regime."

It has been a long and bloody three years because the dictator, Bashar al-Assad has not been willing to heed the will of his people and cede power to them. Instead, he turned even more viscous and violent than he was before the revolution, and he has adopted the strategy of maintaining his power through shear terror. After three years he still thinks that if he kills enough innocents, the people will give up. His strategy involves targeting civilians even more than he targets the fighters. Therefore he is happy to use indiscriminate weapons like tank fire, barrel bombs and poison gas because he is targeting whole communities. Because he is targeting the whole people., And because his goal is to create as much pain and horror as possible, he targets the children first and foremost. It is the children that have suffered the most in this revolution.

The children of Syria have been bombed, shot, tortured and starved, but nothing shows Assad's desire to target children first like his use of sarin gas in East Ghouta last August.

You know, poison gas really isn't that good of a weapon to use against soldiers. They will most likely be young people in good health. Plus they are likely to be trained and prepared. Likely to have gas masks and protective gear. Likely to have the right medicine available, know better than to try to hide in the basement like untrained civilians and their children.

They learned that even in World War 1, that is why it has been used so rarely against armies since then.

It is a much better weapons for targeting civilians as Assad has done. It kills the very old and very young first, and those in poor health. It kills precisely those who pose the least threat to his sacred "state security." It kills first those closest to the ground, those with the smallest body mass and the littlest lungs.,, Parents have to watch their children die before they themselves succumb. Poison gas is the perfect weapon for targeting children, and Assad knows it!

While shamefully few countries have come to the aid of the Syrian people, Assad has had the full support of an imperialist superpower on a come-back mission, Russia, and a regional mini-imperialist, Iran, that have gone out of their way to make sure the Assad Death Machine never lacks for bombs to drop or shells to shoot. And when many of his soldiers have defected and joined the revolution; just when it looked that he might be running out of Syrian's willing to kill other Syrians, he brought in foreign fighters from Iraq, Iran and Hezbullah to do his dirty work and started with the barrel bombs none stop.

Putin, I mean Russia, as one of five members of the United Nations with the power to give any country or dictator a license to kill, has elected to give one to Bashar al-Assad, and used his veto power to assure that no effective UN action could be taken against him. By the way, I believe that if the international community had taken action to reign in his boy, Assad, last year or even the year before, Ukraine wouldn't be facing the problems it is today, with Russian troops occupying part of that country, Appeasement of dictators never works. Hasn't history taught us that already? It only makes them more aggressive. Now the war clouds are growing again in Europe, for Putin has carried out actual acts of war in Ukraine, so no matter what happens going forward, I want it recorded for history that the appeasement of Putin began with Syria.

From the beginning, Assad claimed he was fighting "terrorists" not the people. And to make his dream come true, he let more than a thousand terrorists and criminals out of jail as the democracy movement was gaining momentum. He may claim that he just let them out to make room for the protesters, but I think his motives were more sinister than that. He helped to create the jihadist threats of ISIS and al Nusra so that these jihadists could gnaw at the revolution from within, while at the same time giving substance to his cries of "terrorists on the lose." All the while he is buying stolen oil from them. But even that trick is playing out. People are wising up and the jihadists are being exposed and thrown out.

Assad also controls the news where ever he can. Fabricates the news even. Claims fake massacres while creating real ones. Tortures reporters who tell the truth. Shoots doctors who heal the wounded. Assad has used rape as a weapon of war. Assad has an estimated 185,000 detainees, most are tortured, all are starved.

It is very fortunate for the world that Assad doesn't have any nukes, because he has used every weapon he has against his own people and even invented a few. But perhaps his most cynical weapon is food, or rather the withholding of it.

In Guantanamo, prisoners go on hunger strikes to demand justice; in Assad's prisons, they don't have the option. They are given no food to refuse.

In the neighbourhoods too, it is his new favorite weapon. Barricade a resistive community, put it under siege and don't let any food in. See how they like that! To the people's cry of "Liberty or Death" Assad responses "Kneel or Starve". Here again it is the children who suffer the most, because adults who were starved near down-to-the-bone may still regain their normal body weight and health, whereas children will have their growth stunted and forever suffer the consequence.

Beyond the incredible human statistics, hundreds of thousands dead or disappeared and 9 million displaced, there is another aspect to Assad's destructive rampage that bears mentioning.

You know there was an exhibit about the history of Syria and the many world-historic buildings and structures as you might expect to find in some of the oldest cities on Earth, at the Pico House in Los Angeles last month. It was named "A Country Called Syria." I went to his exhibition on opening day and it was completely apolitical but it did a fine presentation of more than a dozen world heritage sites like the oldest mosul in the world, the oldest church in the world, the oldest fort, etc., and as I was signing the guest book, I asked the women behind it, if any of these sites had been damaged by the recent fighting. She said "Sadly, they all have." This is a great lost that Assad has cost all of humanity, because the Levant has been the birth place of three great religions and so much of early human history that this lost of heritage is a lost to us all.

And yet, this struggle, as painful as it is, as devastating as it is, is necessary. Because tyrants can no longer be allowed to rule. Because it is no longer acceptable to live in terror in a police state. Because liberty must rule the day and because life on Earth will soon no longer even be possible unless it belongs to the meek.

It is the future of Syrian that is at stake in this revolution, in important ways, it is the future of the whole world that is at stake in its outcome because if Assad succeeds there, tyrants everywhere, and make no mistake about it, tyrants will emerge everywhere as the struggle between rich and poor intensifies, they will follow Assad's example and try to slaughter their way to victory. If Assad fails, tyrants will look for "negotiated solutions." So the fight in Syria is not for Syria alone, it is for all of us.

And so I see that the tremendous burden of this revolutionary struggle, much more terrible than any others of the Arab Revolts, being bravely born by the Syrian people because this revolution is not so much about today as it is about tomorrow. This revolution is for the children.

And for the children we must demand international protection. Veto or no veto, we must demand a no-fly zone now!

Syrian's should have had a "no-fly zone" years ago, on top of which the people have been denied modern anti-aircraft weapons, so that for three years now, Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" has not been effectively throttled. It's been kinda like "shooting fish in a barrel", except Assad has another way of using barrels to kill.

So we must put it to the world's people and the so-called "world leaders", Is this to be a world where a government can murder its children by dropping bombs on hospitals, schools and playgrounds? Is the United Nations to be respected when a permanent member can give a dictator a license to kill children?

I know stopping the fighting on the ground is another thing entirely, and nobody wants more foreign boots on the ground, but stopping military aircraft from bombing civilians targets is entirely doable and will save the lives of many children, clear that cloud of terror from the liberated areas, and greatly slow creation of new refugees.

The Libyan people were lucky. They got air support from NATO that stopped Qaddafi from carrying out the extended campaign of "Death from Above" that has allowed Assad to so grossly over stay his welcome. The Libyan people were lucky because they are sitting on the world's biggest supply of light-sweet crude that is irreplaceable for some European refineries and Europe was in a financial crisis. They couldn't afford to have that Libyan oil off the market any longer than necessary. They couldn't afford to let the civil war drag on for years so they made a "humanitarian intervention" to save their own butts. Unfortunately for the Syrian people, Assad had a lot less oil and a lot better air defense system than Qaddafi, so their has been no fake "humanitarian intervention" for Syria.

That is why it is going to take a grass roots campaign, from the ground up, from the people, to demand that those that have the means work together to establish a no-fly zone over Syria now. We have waited three years for the responsible world bodies and responsible world leaders to do this one thing that would have saved so many lives.. Do you know how they solved the problem of Syria's rising death toll? They stopped counting!

Many people around the world are just now waking up to the tragedy that is Syria. They have been asleep for three years. And they want to know what they can do to help? They can demand a no-fly zone!

Many see "humanitarian aid" as the non-violent answer. Humanitarian aid is important but it alone can never be enough. We can never make prosthetics as fast as Assad can blow off libs. Never feed all the people who've had their lives destroyed. Never find substitutes for all the parents who have lost children or children who have lost parents. We can't even put up tents as fast as Assad can knock down houses.

Delivering "humanitarian aid" while doing nothing to stay Assad's murderous hand is madness, and the one thing that is clearly can be done is the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria

We must demand a no-fly zone over Syria now!
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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