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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Update: World allows Assad's murder spree to continue

There is little sense of justice among most primates and even less among other animals. Probably for the first million years of humanity's existence, people could kill each other with relative impunity, even serial killers could practise their craft with little interference. Fortunately, the lack of technology limited the toll that could be taken by a mass murderer.

As we developed technology and emerged from the jungle, it became one of the fundamental tenets of civilized social behaviour, one of the top ten commandments, if you will, that murder is to be prevented and the murderer punished. One can see a trend towards a general enlargement of those basic protections against murder until quite recently. A hundred years ago, the then most recent technological leap in mass murder, the use of chemical weapons, poison gases like chlorine and nerve agents like VX and sarin, was declared outlaw, and that prohibition was generally respected through another world war and beyond. We can only wish that nukes had been treated with similar disdain. After that second world war, and the holocaust that saw more than 6 million civilians murdered with industrial efficiency, the world declared never again would it allow state run mass murder.

In the Syrian conflict, we may be seeing a sorrowful reversal of this anti-murder trend. Certainly, we have witnessed the return of the state use of chemical weapons to commit mass murder. The Syrian government has been using prohibited chemical weapons to kill its own citizens, including children, since December 2012, and continues to do so today and tomorrow. The world looks the other way and no one steps forward to stop these murders. Assad can most likely enjoy another Springtime of killing with gas and no one stopping him, like a serial killer before there was law enforcement.

In a world where the US state of Oklahoma will go to barbaric lengths to make sure its murderers are not only tried and convicted but executed anyway they can manage it, state mass murder is an everyday occurrence in Syria, as demonstrated by another school bombing reported by AP today. This sort of thing is not civil war, or anti-terrorist war, or any kind of war waged without criminal intent. This sort of thing is simply murder:
Airstrike on Syrian school kills 19, activists say

30 April 2014
Diaa Hadid
BEIRUT (AP) - A Syrian fighter jet struck a school with a missile in the northern city of Aleppo Wednesday as teachers and students were preparing an exhibit of children's drawings depicting their country at war, killing at least 19 people, including 10 children, activists said.

Bulldozers removed rubble from the smashed building, with children's drawings and paintings scattered in the debris, according to activist videos of the government airstrike on a school in the opposition-held eastern part of the city. One of the drawings showed a hanging skeleton surrounded by skulls with a child nearby being shot by a gunman in a ditch. The child has a speech bubble written above her head in broken English that partly reads: "Syria will still free."

In another video by opposition activists, the bodies of 10 children wrapped in brown and blue sheets are seen on the floor of a hospital ward while a woman screams in the background.

The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to Associated Press reporting of the events. More...
The Aleppo Media Center said 25 were killed, most of them children.
Ein Jalout school was flatten by the attack
The United Nations Children's Fund put out a statement, saying it was "outraged by the latest wave of indiscriminate attacks perpetrated against schools and other civilian targets across Syria." So what? This mass murder goes on unabated because a mass murderer runs a government and the world looks the other way.

Inside Ein Jalout school. Blood on the desks
Certainly, Bashar al-Assad has gotten away with murder. Whatever else has happened, whatever other forces are at work, there can be no doubt that Bashar al-Assad is a mass murderer many times over. There may be as many as three hundred thousand dead already and all of that blood, even that from his own soldiers, is on Assad's hands because he set out from the very beginning to solve Syria's political problems through the widespread use of the crime of murder. By the logic applied in criminal courts around the world, those who set out on a criminal enterprise are held responsible for all the deaths that result, whether directly caused by them or even those caused in stopping their crimes.
Chips & Candy Bars in Blood - after the bombing of Ein Jalout school
Video of Ein Jalout school after the bombing | 30 April 2014

This is how we should allocate all these deaths that have occurred in Syria since people first took to the streets in peaceful protests in the beginning of 2011 and we now have dramatic new insider testimony as to how Bashar al-Assad decided to use murder as his chief tool in meeting the protests.

On Monday NORIA published the testimony of General Ahmed Tlass, who was a senior police chief with 20 years experience in the Syrian regime before he defected. This is how he describes the beginning of what would become the Syrian Revolution:
What is known as "the explosion of March 15, 2011," actually began several years ago in Syria. In the months preceding the revolution, writings – leaflets and graffiti – had emerged, either distributed or drawn on walls, around Damascus and on the walls at the Ministry of the Interior. There was no mention of regime change. All people wanted was the implementation of genuine reforms and they demanded the rights and freedoms that they felt deprived of. For a long time in our country, young people and students, between 18 and 30 years old, had suffered from unemployment. They were unable to establish a family life. We had also for a long time, a large population of prisoners. They were not criminals but opponents. Their families did not understand why they had been arrested and they demanded to be released.
He notes that from the beginning, the regime was presented with two fundamentally different approaches to the mass protests:
Some members of the intelligence services thought that it would be better to let these demands find expression to ease the tension. They were not in fact unfamiliar with this multiplication of leaflets and posters. Others felt on the contrary, that it was preferable to put an end to a movement that could expand and radicalize as soon as possible.
Tlass tells us Syria is really run by a state within the state, in which Bashar al-Assad personally controls the most important functions:
I must say a few words here about the decision making process in Syria. Everyone has heard of the Crisis Management Division, established at the beginning of the uprising and placed under the formal authority of the Assistant Regional Secretary of the Baath Party. Everyone also knows that the Syrian Ministry of Defence develops plans regularly to protect the country from aggression. What nobody knows, however, is that there is another instance of decision. It does not officially exist. It does not include the Minister of the Interior, or the Minister of Defence. It never acts in broad daylight but in the shade and this is where the decisions are made.

It is here that strategy is defined, not with the Crisis Management Division. It consists of officers from different services, selected one by one, by name, who are specifically assigned to their tasks and who work at the Presidential Palace. This committee, if one can call it such, since it has no name, is headed by Bashar al-Assad in person. And it is his will that prevails.
So how did this committee without a name, headed by Bashar al-Assad, elect to handle the protests?
In the spring of 2011, it would have been possible to contain the protest movement that later developed in the country. But for this to happen it would have been necessary to listen to the protesters’ demands, in Daraa, Homs, Hama, it would have been necessary to bring reasonable answers that would have allowed them to believe in a resolution of their grievances. Instead, violence was used against them. A violence that their behaviour did not justify.

In Homs, the General Mounir Adanov, Deputy Chief of Staff, and a general named Ali, a deputy director of the Military Security whose name I cannot recall, had been asked to restore order. But some radical Alawite officers, I am sorry to speak in a way that I disapprove, "wanted blood". The former gave instructions not to open fire unless express orders from them were given. The latter therefore petitioned the local Police Chief, General Hamid Mer’ei. He refused to give them a power that was not in his prerogatives to give. I must add immediately that as a result of his refusal to give the order to fire on the demonstrators, General Adanov and the other General, were later dismissed for "health issues". Their extremist colleagues had got them, and they were publicly bragging about it.

General Ali Habib, the Minister of Defence, who had refused to give the army the order to enter Hama, after opposing their entry into Daraa, experienced the same fate for the same reasons. It was said he was "sick". I saw him afterwards. He was in fine health. All the other advocates within the government of a moderate strategy were gradually marginalized.
He goes on to describe how violence "erupted" in Hama in 2011:
To illustrate my point, here is what happened in Hama. The people of this city were peaceful and friendly. I know this because I lived and worked there for many years. They refused to resort to arms, the same as the people of Homs and other cities too. Traffickers and traders, whose names I know but I do not want to mention here, offered them weapons at any price that suited them. But they refused. They wanted to make a stand with words and not violence. They had rights and they maintained their claims that they wanted to be heard. They did not want to express themselves in armed confrontation. And they were willing to accept the consequences of their decisions. On July 1st 2011, the day of a huge gathering attended by perhaps half a million people, they unfurled a huge Syrian flag. They also erected a gallows for the "criminal" Bashar al-Assad, which they later removed.

I was there that day, on the terrace of the local Baath party headquarters, along with the political, administrative, military and security heads of the city. Governor Ahmed Abdel-Aziz was there, a very respectable man, the Commander of the Police, General Mahmoud Sa’oudi, the head of Military Security, Mohammed Muflih and the branch secretary of the Baath. Men responsible for ensuring security were gathered downstairs, in the same building. They watched the protest. The Governor had expressly forbidden anyone to open fire. All the previous protests had been held in peace. In fact, after the demonstrations, young people returned to the protest spots with brooms to clean up the streets.

The protest happened in front of us without any incident. None of the protesters were armed. But when the crowd reached Orontes Square, about 300 meters from where I was standing, gunfire erupted. According to an investigation by the police to which I had access, it came from twenty people, 22 to be precise from the Military Security, who had been joined by one member of State Security. All were Officers and all were Alawite Kurds. They had been transported to Al-Yaroubieh, then dispatched and hidden in different places. Mohammed Muflih was as startled and angry as I was regarding this unjustifiable intervention. It violated all instructions and it resulted in dozens of deaths. Since none of us had authorized this intervention – who had given the order?
This order to commit mass murder came from this shadowy state-within-a-state, criminal even by Syrian law, that is headed by Bashar al-Assad.
So, the 23 men I mentioned above were transferred elsewhere without any proper investigation, and most importantly, without being condemned for what they had done. The same thing happened in Homs, a large number of peaceful citizens were killed in identical conditions.

Young people gathered on April 18 for a sit-in in the centre of the city, at the base of the old clock. All officials involved in security were at the Police Head Quarters, close by. Envoys went to negotiate with those who occupied the square to convince them to evacuate. They were a few thousand demonstrators, between 5,000 and 10,000 perhaps. They refused to leave. In the middle of the night, we held a meeting with General Mounir Adanov, who was already there, to decide what was to be done. We asked the young people once more to leave the square, taking any route they wanted. But while talks continued, officers of mukhabarat jawwiyeh – the Security Service of the Air Force – which had been dispatched from Damascus to "disperse the thugs" began to spray the crowd with bullets. They killed dozens of people. They were obeying orders to shoot on sight that were given by senior security officials.

Once again we are speaking about invisible forces, but powerful enough to give direct instructions to the members of their organization. These members are agents from diverse intelligence services. They can also come from other departments, such as Education. It is, no more no less, as I have said, a state within the state.
Tlass's state within a state is nothing less than a criminal gang, headed by the Assad family, that is running a country and this criminal gang is even today, after three years of carnage, being allowed to commit mass murder into the six figures on its subject population. The prospects for humanity are not good if that is what passes for rule of law on this planet.

Tlass also tells us about Assad's history of using false-flag attacks, as could be expected of a criminal gang. This practise of staging attacks and blaming the opposition must always be remembered when considering the claims of the Assad regime about deaths caused by the revolutionaries:
I must now say a few words about the indiscriminate attacks that occurred in Damascus at the end of 2011 and in early 2012. I can confirm that all these spectacular operations were carried out by the regime. And if not all of them, very nearly all of them. You can take this as reliable and corroborated information. Either way I will only speak here of attacks for which I have first-hand information, transmitted by officers who conducted the investigation. I’m not talking about ordinary officers, but members of the secret cell I mentioned previously.

The first attack took place December 23, 2011, outside the headquarters of the Kafr Sousseh State Security. Others followed, on March 17, 2012, outside the headquarters of the Air Force’s Intelligence Service, the mukhabarat jawwiyeh, and in front of the Criminal Safety Department.

Regarding the attack against the Air Force’s Intelligence Service, it should be noted that the building was empty. It was guarded, but in advance of the attack, it had been emptied of its furniture and the occupants evacuated. As surveillance cameras attest, the minibus that exploded in front of its wall was parked there for two days before it exploded… We were presented with the bodies of 25 victims on the television. Two or three, at most, were killed in the attack. Unfortunately they were just passing by. Some residents of the nearby Christian area – Qasaa – had been traumatized by the sound of the explosion. Others were injured by flying glass. But none of them had been killed. As soon as the Minister of the Interior reached the scene with the heads of various intelligence services he inquired to the losses suffered by the Christians. When he heard that no Christians had died in the explosion, he exclaimed: "What, there are no Christians among the victims. That’s impossible – none of them are dead?" as if, in fact, the operation had failed because its objective was to terrorize the community by killing some of its members!

One of the attacks on the 23 December 2011 had targeted the headquarters of the so-called Far’ al-Mintaqa of the State Security (General Intelligence). Minutes after the explosion, General Rustom Ghazaleh, head of this branch, was on site. State media claimed the operation had killed 45 people, a record. But I can assure you that the majority of people believed to have died at that time were in fact killed elsewhere and otherwise.
Although Assad was forced to give up most of his most portent chemical weapons stores in return for a waving of consequence for nine months of sarin use, it is becoming increasingly clear that he has more recently returned to committing mass murder with chemicals. This was reported in The Telegraph Tuesday:
Syria chemical weapons: the proof that Assad regime launching chlorine attacks on children
Exclusive: Scientific analysis of samples from multiple gas attacks in Syria shows Assad regime still launching chemical weapons attacks on children, The Telegraph can reveal
By Ruth Sherlock
29 Apr 2014
President Bashar al-Assad is still using chemical weapons against civilians, a scientific analysis of samples from multiple gas attacks has shown.

In the first independent testing of its kind, conducted exclusively for The Telegraph, soil samples from the scene of three recent attacks in the country were collected by trained individuals known to this news organisation and analysed by a chemical warfare expert.

Our results show sizeable and unambiguous traces of chlorine and ammonia present at the site of all three attacks.

The use in war of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases” - both of which can be produced by chlorine and ammonia - is banned by the Geneva Protocol, of which Syria is a signatory.

The attacks, which in some cases used canisters marked with their chemical contents, were conducted by helicopter. In the Syrian civil war, only the regime has access to aerial power, making it now certain that the recent chemical attacks could only have been carried out by the regime, not the opposition. More...
Also on Tuesday, the Guardian reported:
Chemical weapons body to investigate claims of chlorine gas use in Syria
US and France believe gas has been used at least nine times since February, killing scores and wounding hundreds

By Martin Chulov
29 April 2014
The global body supervising the surrender of Syria's chemical weapons is to investigate fresh claims that a less dangerous – but still lethal – chlorine gas has been used in recent attacks on opposition areas.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced it will investigate allegations that chlorine has been used at least nine times since February, killing scores of people and wounding hundreds more.

The move follows intensive lobbying from the US and France who have both indicated in the past fortnight that they believe the Syrian government has been responsible for the attacks.

Activists have chronicled the aftermath of all the incidents and, in some cases, shot video of helicopters dropping large explosive barrels that emitted noxious clouds across areas in which residents showed symptoms of being exposed to gas. More...
These new poison gas attacks have been going on for some time now, since February, and yet they have received little notice in the US mainstream media, there has almost been a media blackout on these attacks. Why is that and what will Bashar al-Assad conclude from the silence?

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How the Left has helped radical Islam grow in Syria

While discussing the recruitment by radical Islam of fighters for Syria in the West, someone in a France24 debate this week compared this movement to the Lincoln Brigade and the other left-wing groups that formed up to fight fascism in what was later seen as the pre-conflict to the last world war, the Spanish Civil War. The point was that in both cases, young people were motivated to leave relatively comfortable lives in the West to risk theirs because they saw the need to right a great wrong even while others whistled past it.

Today, young people all over the world are connected to what is happening through the Internet, and social media is their platform. This has given them a way to follow the agony of Syria in spite of the wilful ignorance of the mainstream media. If they are Muslim, read Arabic or are religiously inclined, because it is a basic tenet of Islam to help people in need, they will find a community of support for the Syrian people among Muslims, and through the most extreme Islamists, a path directly to the frontline, if they want to go that route. If they are more secular, progressive, and look left for guidance and leadership, say to the likes of KPFK in Los Angeles, ICUJP, VFP and such, they will find them at one with the mainstream media's boycott of Syria except for occasional outbursts of support for Bashar al-Assad.

Young people aren't being drawn to radical Islam because they have been seized by a burning desire for the Caliphate. They are being drawn to radical Islam because they have refused to bury their heads in the sand like so many of their elders. They see what is going on in Syria, and with all the energy and idealism of youth, they want to fight back. When they seek ways to help, look for groups that share their concerns and can give them a path to support the Syrian people in this struggle, they don't find the Left. They will, in fact, be repelled by the Left.

Through Islamic groups they may find a way, and through the most radical Islamic groups they may even find a way to fight, Lincoln Brigade style, although they will be tutored in an ideology very different from those of the 1930's leftists. They will be schooled by a radical version of Islam that is extremely reactionary but incorporates many features attractive to the young and has an explanation as to why the so-called more "progressive" and more "western" parts of the world are so willing to sit on their hands while a hundred thousand people are slaughtered on YouTube.

The US Left is in decline and one important reason is because it has chosen to ignore, or worst -  support the prosecution of, the greatest humanitarian crisis and the greatest social injustice of our time. As a young man who turned 20 in 1968, I wasn't won to the Left by Marx or Mao or the ideologies of any of the left groups, not at first, but I wanted badly to do something about the Vietnam War. I wanted to feel connected to this great tragedy of our time and to be able to do something about it, so I was drawn to the people and groups that were leading that struggle, the anti-war movement, and the Left that was leading it.

The re-invigorated Left that grew out of the civil rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam war movement received a badly needed injection of youth when it led Western opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Radical Islam also grew by opposing these US wars. They were able to use these wars to make propaganda points for their argument that the West was carrying out a systematic war against Islam, use US atrocities as recruiting tools, and with the help of President Bashar al-Assad, who ran the jihadist rat-line through Syria, send these new recruits to engage US troops in Iraq. Thus, while Assad was building his ties to the jihadists, ties that serve him so well in the double-game he is playing now, he was endearing himself to so many in the American Left as an "anti-imperialist."

That may go a long ways towards explaining the silence of the Left on Syria. There has always been a section of die-hard Assad supporters, most notably ANSWER Coalition and International Action Committee, and they had played a leading role in the Iraq and Afghanistan anti-war movement. Others, while not as forthright about their support for Assad, see his opposition as little more than puppets of the GCC and the West. They deny the agency of the Syrian people. The Syrian situation is extremely complicated and requires a lot of time to understand, so most on the Left have tried to avoid Syria all together and otherwise made themselves agreeable to whatever builds "unity." 

Nonetheless, the Syrian conflict grinds on and the death count grows. Some are saying the likely real count now is close to three hundred thousand and the number of people driven from their homes is around nine million, as a government uses starvation, scuds, barrel-bombs, helicopters, chemical weapons and mass bombardment against its own people with impunity. This is the 21st century and anyone who chooses to look can see exactly what is going on. The most caring and concerned among us cannot help but be drawn to the plight of these people and we will seek leadership from those who share our concerns, not those who invite us to look away.

Frankly, I think it unfortunate that there isn't the equivalent of a Left led Lincoln Brigade sending people to Syria, and certainly more Left led peace and justice projects designed to support the Syrian people by providing direct aid to refugees and building political pressure for international intervention. Instead of developing a revolutionary socialist analysis of the Syrian struggle from participation in it, these so-called leftists prefer to sit back and point to a lack of Left leadership in the Syrian struggle. Maybe the fact that the two so-called communist parties in Syria sided with Assad had something to do with that?

When it comes to leadership in or support for the Syrian Revolution, the Left has all but abandoned the field, so there is irony in the refusal of many on the Left to support the Syrian Revolution because they think it is dominated by Islamists. In Syria, Assad has this trick where he allows Islamists to take Christian villages by withdrawing. Then he claims atrocities and condemns the whole revolution. It seems like the US Left has adopted a similar strategy.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Syrian activist Qusai Zakarya speech in Los Angeles

Syrian activist Qusai Zakarya spoke at USC, Taper Hall in Los Angeles on Friday evening, 25 April, 2014. The talk was organized by a Muslim student group working with representatives of the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian American Council.

Qusia has personally witnessed children and other townspeople in Moadamiya starve to death. He is an Engish-fluent eyewitness to the chemical attacks of August 21, 2013 and to the suffering of Moadamiya from the regime’s starvation siege. His nonviolent action of hunger strike from Nov 26-Dec 28 inspired an International Solidarity Hunger Strike that includes highly credible world luminaries. In the video below, he talks about these and other things happening in Syria and how he was forced to leave.

See also, from the Huffington Post:
Syrian Activist Forced From Hometown Pledges To Keep Publicizing Atrocities

8 March 2014
By Max J. Rosenthal
BEIRUT -- The rockets came in the early morning, shattering both the peace and the buildings as the residents of Moadamiyeh were barely standing up from their prayer rugs.

There were five of them, Qusai Zakarya recalls. He had yet to go to bed, having moved straight from a laptop to a late-night dinner to the fajr, the first of the day's five prayers. As he finally prepared for bed, he heard a distant air raid siren. Then the rockets landed and sarin gas erupted from their warheads.

It was around 4:45 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2013, in a suburb to the southwest of Damascus, the last of several neighborhoods to be struck that morning by chemical weapons. In the days that followed, the attacks would become an international scandal, as the United States accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of launching the rockets and prepared for potential military retaliation.

Zakarya himself, a 27-year-old former hotel worker raised in Moadamiyeh, would soon emerge as one of the most powerful voices within the ranks of Syrian media activists, who provided the world with a glimpse into the most devastating acts of the Syrian civil war.

"I wish I had one of him in every major city in Syria," says Bayan Khatib, a member of the Syrian opposition's media office, who helped Zakarya contact journalists worldwide reporting on the war. While other towns suffered as much as Moadamiyeh, she says, none had an advocate as influential as Zakarya, who does not use his given name out of safety concerns for his family.

The rocket strikes marked the start of Zakarya's evolution from just another Syrian nursing grievances against Assad into a tireless public opponent of the regime. He lived through the signature events of the war, from chemical attacks to forced starvation to complicated efforts to halt the violence. And like millions of others, the conflict would eventually force him into exile. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Assad's strategy & why exposing his crimes is so critical

As the Syrian conflict grinds into its forth year, the sad truth is that most people wish that it would just go away. The Syrian people would like to see it end much more than most. They most badly need to see an end to the killing and the dying. The children need to get back to being children and the refugees need to be able to go home. This requires not the end of the uprising, but its successful conclusion. People vested in the revolution understood that even when victory seemed remote, as it did in the beginning .

Others, less personally involved, especially the broad mass of people in say, United States, that haven't paid close attention and just know something very ugly and terrible is happening in Syria, may well settle for any outcome that just makes it go away, even if that means the same violence is going on at night and behind "detention center" walls.

Bashar al-Assad is well aware of that and he hopes to sell the "international community" on the notion that the quickest and easiest way to resolve the Syria mess is to let Assad win, i.e. turn a blind eye to his atrocities, foreign armies and foreign suppliers, while putting the kibosh on support for the revolution. That is why he is putting the hard sell on the idea that he is winning, and acting as if he has already won, planning his re-election and such. Nevermind his recent loses in Aleppo, Latakia and Homs. That is why he has his minions preaching this fable high and low. That is why he used the CW concessions to show that he is a reasonable guy that can be worked with, even while he continues to use CW to kill.

Like the guy in the movie, who while trying to save a life, starts thinking "it might be better for me if this person dies" and then shrinks back, Assad is hoping that Western fears of the "jihadist threat" that he has so carefully nurtured will cause them to shrink back and leave the Syrian people at the mercy of the lions.

The thought of allowing such a war criminal to not only go free, but to continue to run a country, should be an anathema, but that is exactly the proposition that Assad is trying to sell. Therefore it is incumbent on those of us that have made it our business to expose the crimes of the Assad regime to redouble our efforts.

These are some of the aspects of the struggle that make the work of social media activists for a free Syria indispensable to the victory of the Syrian revolution. The fascists certainly understand that the blogosphere is a battlefield. That's why Putin pays bloggers and Assad spends millions on the Syrian Electronic Army. We know that too. In the face of the silence of the mainstream media about Assad's daily atrocities, we are the ones spreading the news. We are now set with the strategic task of making that news so well known that anyone still in touch with reality would be too embarrassed to say he is an acceptable leader for Syria. 

While leaders of the so-called "international community" may be willing to shake the blood-soaked hands of Bashar al-Assad and welcome him back into the exclusive club of world leaders, it should be such a moral outrage to the people of Earth that they would never allow a war criminal like Assad to stand for president in any country.

Therefore, we must strengthen our efforts to expose the criminal deeds of this regime. Bashar al-Assad needs to be in custody and preparing his defense before the International Criminal Court, not ruling a country and running for re-election.  

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

How Seymour Hersh confuses Syria with Libya

In his most recent essay, The Red-line and the rat line, Seymour Hersh argues that the 21 August sarin attack in Syria was a "false flag" carried out by the opposition in the hopes that it would bring the US into the war. He says Obama had information pointing to this and Hersh uses the yard stick of NATO Libyan intervention to argue that Obama's failure to intervene similarly in Syria indicates that he knew he had no legitimate case for intervention. Hersh writes:
Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
He makes the same argument a different way in a recent CNN interview:
HERSH: And then the question then is if it's such a wonderful case he has and they're so sure, why so quick to walk away? Why say after a little heat, why say that we're going to go all of a sudden, he's a constitutionalist? The guy who invaded Tripoli without one worry about the War Powers act, all of a sudden he's a constitutionalist and wants to go to Congress?
Because Sy Hersh thinks Obama is as supportive of regime change in Syria as he was in Libya, he concludes Obama's failure to take military action against Bashar al-Assad after the chemical attack can be taken as de-facto proof that the President knew that the Assad regime really wasn't responsible for the sarin attack.

His logic simply makes no sense and shows how far he is willing to stray from rational thought in his effort to prove Obama "knows" Assad didn't do it.

Since Obama intervened in Libya near the very beginning of that conflict and the use of chemical weapons never became an issue, the answer to why he hasn't treated Syria in the same manner cannot possibly be explained by events almost three years after the killing began and after probably twenty times the number of deaths that sparked the Libyan intervention. Since Sy Hersh brings up the yard stick of Libya to measure Obama's Syria response by, he must first explain this almost three year delay in intervention before he can use events around Obama's red-line bluff and the August sarin attack to explain why these might be reasons for further delay. Remember, the kick-off date for the Libya Revolution, was 17 February 2011, and less than 5 weeks later and within a week of the start of the uprising in Syria, French warplanes were stopping Qaddafi's armor from doing to Benghazi what Assad has been able to do to Homs, Idlib and Aleppo. US warplanes were only a few days behind them. So Hersh can't possibly explain why Obama or NATO failed to protect the people of Syria with a similar resolve in 2011, 2012 or two-thirds of 2013 by spinning a tale about administration conflict over the red-line in September 2013. It simply isn't logical.

First you have to understand why Obama failed to intervene militarily even after a hundred thousands deaths, before the August sarin attacks added another thousand or so to the death count. Then you can go into why that attack failed to make him change his tune, in spite of his red-line bluff. Hersh operates under false assumption that Obama has not only been in support of regime change, but actively promoting it. Sy Hersh may believe that because that is the way Obama has always talked about Assad, but actions speak louder than words. When it comes to the Syrian opposition, Obama plays "good cop" to Putin's "bad cop," that's why he talks a different way, but he started working with Bashar al-Assad the same week Obama became President-elect in November 2008 and he would really like to see that regime survive. So would Israel. That is why he has failed to take any military action against Assad, or provide anything more than token support for the opposition, not just after the 21 August 2013 sarin attack, but also for the two and a half years before it.

Obama never planned to carry out a military attack against Assad the way he did against Qaddafi. Obama never expected his bluff to be called. When Obama made his famous "red-line" statement, I said it was a green light to keep killing big time without chemicals. That was the role it played until Assad called Obama's bluff by finally using "a whole bunch of chemical weapons." Then for Obama it became a matter of finding a way to weasel out of his promise. Going to Congress gave him that out. It simply makes no sense to take Obama's failure to change his policy as proof that this continued unwillingness to act against the Syrian regime shows Assad is innocent.

Barack Obama has been in Bashar al-Assad's corner all along:

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Socialism and the State of Libya

I'm not going to make some elaborate argument that the Libya Revolution is somehow groping towards socialism because Marxists already know that is true of the whole world simply because it is the next historic phase in successful human development. No system is eternal. Just as surely as feudalism had to eventually give way to capitalism, as capitalism ceases to be a benefit to humanity and instead threatens to drag it down with it, it too must give way to a system that is more just, and most importantly, more in tune with humanity's needs at this already post-capitalist stage of our development.

Capitalism gave rise to industrial production and that created vast wealth. This is a good thing, but the control of that wealth, by and for the benefit of an ever shrinking portion of humanity, now increasingly endangers, not only all the people, but the viability of life on Earth. It must be overthrown. This is the most important historic task of humanity in the present era.

Still it must be admitted that the first dozen or so attempts at socialism in a handful of countries makes for a poor showing. It will probably take a lot more attempts and especially in countries with advanced socialized production and the freest forms of capitalist democracy, before really workable models start to take shape.  Good things sometimes take time.

One might wish that the first horse be a thoroughbred, the first car a Mercedes, but that just isn't the way development works. Good things sometimes take time.

A child that has suffered from decades of abuse doesn't recover from the repeated trauma, just because the abuser has been removed. This also takes time.

Because many in the so-called anti-imperialist Left anointed Mummar Qaddafi and his Green Book "socialism" with a kind of sainthood, they opposed the uprising of the Libyan people against his dictatorship from the very beginning. They declared the National Transitional Council and the Revolutionary Brigades creations or tools of US imperialism, and when NATO entered the fray, they expressed little doubt that the whole fiasco would end with NATO boots on the ground and a puppet government in Tripoli.

When Tripoli fell and Qaddafi was killed with no NATO boots on the ground, they robbed the Libyan people of this hard won victory, declared it the first war ever won by air power, and gave all the credit (or blame from their non-Libyan POV) to NATO.

With no puppet government and NATO "boots" to kick around, with the failure of all of their original predictions about the post-Qaddafi outcome for Libya, (no DU to clean up, no bombed out infrastructure, etc.) these "anti-imperialists" resorted to claiming that Libya now had no state at all or was a "failed state" and a "mess" rather than recognizing it for what it is, a country were the state has been destroyed and now has to be rebuilt, a country carrying out the second half of a successful revolution.

They forged a great deal of unity with the sour grapes pro-Qaddafi, pro-Putin camps, and the imperialists, who naturally want to see any revolution declared a failure. They readily parrot every report about Libya in the bourgeois media designed to warn people off of even thinking about revolution, and except for these negative reports, they pay little attention to what is actually happening in Libya and so fail to sympathize the real world lessons of the Libyan experience into revolutionary theory that can help us all move forward.

Two and a half years after the Qaddafi regime was overthrown, Libya is still a mess. It could hardly be otherwise after 40 years of maniacal dictatorship. It is tasked with recreating the state from scratch, and there are many competing interests, so naturally there has been intense political struggle and this struggle has involved the masses in ways they never could have under the "Green" dictatorship, and slowly but surely, the Libyan people are lurching forward and the new Libyan state is taking shape. What follows are three articles published today that address the current state of the Libyan state.

Middle East Institute has just published this assessment of the current state of state building in Libya:
The Political Process in Libya

22 April 2014
By Karim Mezran
Libya’s road to democracy is shaky at best. Security is deteriorating, with targeted killings, criminal attacks, and bombings on the rise and clashes between rival armed groups—some apparently with government legitimacy and others not—growing more frequent. While these negative trends put tremendous pressure on the transition, Libya’s political process, albeit fickle, manages to keep moving. The efforts at institution building in Libya present a nuanced landscape: for every step forward in one aspect, there are steps backward in others.

Two years ago, expectations and hopes were high in Libya regarding the constitutional committee, considered the most important transitional body involved in institution building. Originally, the National Transitional Council (NTC) mandated that the General National Congress (GNC), elected in July 2012, was to serve as the constitutional drafting committee. A few months before the GNC elections, however, in an effort to appease the eastern federalist movement—which is weak but nevertheless vocal—the provision was changed so that the GNC would appoint the 60-member constitutional committee. Just a few days before the elections, the NTC changed its mind again and, in another act of appeasement toward the federalists, decided that the constitutional committee would be elected by the people. The federalists were mistrustful of a nationally elected body and claimed the right for the people of the eastern regions to elect their own representatives to the constitutional committee directly. These decisions created a conflict insofar as they deprived the GNC of its original mandate to draft a constitution and left it as a legislative body with no clear areas or limits of authority and responsibility. More...
Please note that while Libya certainly has its problems, being a client state of the NATO powers isn't one of them. Yet, that is precisely the outcome the so called "anti-imperialists" [Qaddafi lovers] predicted, not that after the revolution there would be a period of disorganization and discomfort. Oh My!

Also today in Libya, from AFP:
Libyan charter panel elects liberal as head

Tue, Apr 22nd 2014, 8:23AM
Ali Tarhuni, a liberal politician and former rebel minister, was elected to head Libya's constituent assembly, a spokesman for the body charged with drawing up a new constitution said Tuesday.

Tarhuni, an exiled opponent of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, returned to Libya to take part in the 2011 revolt which toppled his regime.

He held a ministerial post in a transitional government set up by the rebels, and went on to found the National Centrist Party, part of the liberal National Forces Alliance.

Libya's constituent assembly launched its work Monday in Al-Baida, in the country's east. More...
The Libyans who will draft the new constitution
And from Reuters:
Libya starts voter registration for general elections

22 April 2014
by Ahmed Elumami
(Reuters) - Libya will start registering voters for general elections, officials said on Tuesday, in the first concrete step indicating a vote will take place later this year.

In February, the Libyan parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), agreed to hold early elections, in an apparent effort to assuage Libyans frustrated at political chaos nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Deputies initially agreed to extend their term after their mandate ran out on February 7, to allow a special committee time to draft a new constitution. But that move provoked protests from Libyans angry at the slow pace of political change.

Voter registration will start from Wednesday, Emad al-Shadi al-Saih, head of the elections commission, told reporters. He gave no date for the vote but analysts say it might take place in summer or early autumn.

Saih called on Libyans to avoid "being negative" and participate in the elections in order to rebuild the country. More...

Libya's constitution-drafting body starts work

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why does the mass media ignore mass murder in Syria?

I recall when the mantra of the media was "if it bleeds, it leads." That certainly isn't the case with regards to Syria. If more than a hundred people and a dozen children met with a violent end almost anywhere else in the world, it would make the morning news cycle. It happens every day in Syria without so much as a notice.

It can't be for lack of visuals. We all know TV news is a sucker for graphic video. A good video will even make a story where otherwise there wouldn't be one. The Syrian conflict has produced some of the most graphic and tense, or in the case of Syrian refugee children, compelling and heart-rending, videos the world has ever seen, available for free from YouTube, and with today's HD consumer grade cameras, not bad quality. Yet very little of this video ever makes it into the evening news. The true picture of this conflict and the human suffering it is causing is being hidden from us. Even Amy Goodman on Democracy Now fails in her notice of the dead or her concern for the children.

When the media was trying to rally people to fight Saddam Hussein, they made a big deal out of a false story that had Iraq troops throwing babies out of incubators in Kuwait, now we have Assad's planes bombing play grounds, schools, breadlines and hospitals, and mums the word. Why are they covering up Assad's crimes when they should be reporting them?

One of the best indications this is the mainstream media's policy came this week when the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition traded accusations over who was using poison gas again in Syria. This should be a big news story for the mainstream media but it has raised hardly a murmur.

The media paid attention to Syria as never before after the 21 August sarin attack because it involved Obama's called bluff and it showed the bodies as never before. As if a hundred thousand people had not been slaughtered already by non-chemical means, the media jumped all over the chemical attack as though it was a fetish. The shameless pro-Assad forces in the blogosphere took up the defense of Assad as if proving he didn't do the sarin attack was the same as exonerating him of mass murder. Even while the media failed to report on Assad's continuing siege of Ghouta, using both bombardment and starvation as weapons, they gave coverage for everybody's opinions and findings on the chemical attack.

There can be little doubt that there have been new chemical attacks in Syria, since both sides agree there have been. While they both predictively point the finger at get other, if the reports that the gas bombs there dropped out of helicopters are accurate, there can be little doubt that those were Assad regime helicopters. Given the history of coverage on the chemical question in Syria, one would expect reports of a new chemical attack to break through this news blackout.

Why hasn't it?

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rest In Peace John Johnson of Change-Links

I have two friends that were born on the 4th of July, Ron Kovac, who wrote a book with that title and John Johnson, who passed away, at the age of 69, yesterday . John Johnson had a name like mine where the first name is repeated in the last name with a reference to ones origins, and like me, he was a life long radical, one of the original SDSers.

John Johnson was perhaps best known for publishing the monthly calender of events, Change-Links, that provided much of the glue that held the progressive community in Los Angeles together for the past 20 years. The front page always had topical and insightful articles about the issues of the day, but its heart was the calendar section that covered all the up coming programs, meetings, film showings and scheduled demonstrations. It was like a program for the movement in L.A. Every month you would have to seek out your Change-Links to know what was happening.

I would repair his computers in return for advertising in Change-Links when he was short of cash, or buy ads in Change-Links when I was flush. Once, when he was picking up a fixed computer from my place, he found out that my bike had been stolen. The next day he drove back to Venice from the valley to bring me an "extra" bike he had.
In January 2013, John had heart surgery and as a result, there was no paper version of Change-Links for about six months.  I don't think his health ever fully recovered but his spirits and activity did and we all got complaisant  about getting out Change-Links every month as usual again. Then two weeks ago he had a stroke and fell. He also had a very bad MSRA bacterial infection that got into his bloodstream, Last night he died.

Rest in Peace John Johnson. You will be remember wherever people fight for justice,

I believe this is the last blog post John made to the Change-Links website:
The Perils of Progressive Media

31 January 2014
by John Johnson
Last month we got an email from the Getty Foundation. They demanded $350 from Change- Links, claiming that we used one of their photos on a page from our Website from about three months ago. On it, we’d ran an article about a homeless families. To illustrate it I chose a photo I found on the Web of a homeless family.

A number of years ago the Getty empire started buying up all the photos they could, especially ones with news value, then charging for their use. Many artists and others waged a large campaign to stop this monopolization of art but so far it hasn’t stopped them.

Change-Links continues to eke itself out without any corporate or think tank support. We’re one of the few remaining examples of genuine public media. And one of the very few progressive publications still in operation. It’s a lot of work to get out.

It’s also critical at this time for us to build a more organized progressive movement in the US. Occasional progressive and radical outbreaks, like the Occupy movement, infuse us with hope, but they don’t last. We no longer have the base of college movements that were once a vital source of energy and continuity to keep things moving.

During the Seventies we tried to build a working class movement, focusing on both community and the work place. But we couldn’t sustain it after a few years. And by then the student actions were already ebbing.

Today corporations dominate the country and our lives. Wall Street rakes in billions in exchange for ruining the lives of untold poor and working class families. Corporations work hand in glove with government officials to bilk and funnel massive amounts of taxpayer money into their own pockets.

Not that it ever existed, but democracy is next to dead in this country. And it’s pretty much the same throughout the rest of the world, worse in some places, better in others. Dictators have figured out that fraud works better than brute force to keep the population in tow, though they don’t hesitate to use both.

The best news sources on broadcast media are Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” and Thom Hartmann. Rachael Madow can be good, but we took a big hit when they got rid of Keith Obermann.

The corporations and the government are not going to establish a fair and balanced public broadcast or print media, much less a progressive one. We’ve got to do it ourselves. Amy Goodman gets a lot of support, and can always use more. But Change-Links is hanging by a thread that gets more frayed with every issue. If you value the news and information we provide, we need your donations and/or volunteer time. Now!
Martin Sheen & John Johnson

Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria

Linux Beach is honored to find itself on an exclusive list published yesterday by Pulse Media:

Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria

13 April 2014
The responses of most leftists to the Syrian uprising and subsequent war (it’s often forgotten that it started as an uprising — indeed a nonviolent and nonsectarian one) have been deeply disappointing. Disappointing to many Syrian activists, and to many of us on the Left who support the Syrian struggle for dignity and justice, which is now a struggle against both Assad’s killing machine and the jihadi counter-revolutionary forces.

The Left’s responses fall into three main categories:
  1. explicit support for the Assad regime
  2. monochrome opposition to Western intervention, end of discussion (with either implicit or explicit neutrality on the conflict itself)
  3. general silence caused by deep confusion
The first camp, while relatively small, represents a truly hideous, morally obscene and, I would argue, deeply reactionary position – siding with a mass murderer and war criminal who presides over a quasi-fascist police state.

The second camp, which encompasses a majority of peace activists and soi-disant anti-imperialists in the West, represents an (ironically) Eurocentric/US-centric stance (it’s all about the West, not the Syrian people) – a total abandonment of internationalism.

The third camp is at least understandable, given the complexity of the Syrian conflict. The book I co-edited on the subject is titled The Syria Dilemma for a reason. Yet this stance remains disconcerting: silence in the face of what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world” is a cop-out. Complexity is not a gag order.

There is a fourth camp, however: a small but growing group of progressives who embrace the goals of the Syrian revolution. There are several shades within this camp – it includes Marxists, pacifists, feminists, Third Worldists and leftists of various sorts. Some support the armed struggle in Syria, others do not, standing instead with the nonviolence activists in Syria. But what unites this camp is its solidarity with the Syrian struggle for dignity, justice and self-determination.

The body of writings and arguments this camp has produced directly challenge the dominant narratives on the Left about Syria and offer a critical alternative to it. Here, collected in one place, are some of the key texts of this dissident left camp. Emphasis on some of the key texts – this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s limited to English-language sources. We offer it here as a living resource, one that is expanding on a daily basis. (If you have suggestions for other texts, please post them here.) Here ’tis (in no particular order):

Molly Crabapple
How the Western left ignored Syria’s activists as inconvenient glitches in a story about ourselves

Firas Massouh
Left Out? The Syrian Revolution and the Crisis of the Left

Mohammed Al Attar
What Kind of Support Do Syrians Want?
Solidarity With the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and Freedom
The Campaign for Peace and Democracy Salutes Syria’s Courageous Democratic Movement
A Personal Statement from Campaign for Peace and Democracy Co-Directors Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy

Louis Proyect
A tale of two Syria conferences

Robin Yassin-Kassab
Reporting Syria: How Robert Fisk, Nir Rosen & Joseph Massad have framed Syria all wrong
Blanket Thinkers

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
On Monsterphilia and Assad: The problems with the “anti-imperialist” position on Syria
Why Bosnia is a better analogy than Iraq in the Syria debate

Gilbert Achcar
Syria in the Context of the Arab Uprisings
Welcoming the vote of the British Parliament while supporting the Syrian uprising
Interview with Gilbert Achcar

Afra Jalabi
Streams of Light: The Heroic Struggle of the Syrian People
Anxiously Anticipating a New Dawn: Voices of Syrian Activists, in The Syria Dilemma (not available online, alas — but get the book)

Mohja Kahf
Then and Now: The Syrian Revolution to Date — A young nonviolent resistance and the ensuing armed struggle
Syria: It’s Still a Revolution, My Friends
Lack of U.S. Peace Movement Solidarity with Syrian Uprising and the “No Good Guys” Excuse

Danny Postel
Mission Accomplished? Syria, the Antiwar Movement, and the Spirit of Internationalism

Nader Hashemi
Syria, savagery, and self-determination
International Appeal to Stop the Starvation Sieges/End the Blockades in Syria

Danny Postel & Nader Hashemi
Break Syria’s Starvation Sieges—By Any Means Necessary

Max Blumenthal
The right to resist is universal: A farewell to Al Akhbar and Assad’s apologists
‘We Just Wish for the Hit to Put an End to the Massacres’: a report from the Zaatari refugee camp
Syria and the Left–a conversation between Max Blumenthal & Danny Postel

Talal Alyan
Shell Shocked and Rouged: Syria Is Not a Disposable Bride
While you were neutral about Yarmouk
Yarmouk: an unnerving silence about the ongoing siege of a Palestinian camp in Damascus
An Interview with Syrian Writer and Former Political Prisoner Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Yassin Al Haj Saleh
The Syrian Shabiha and Their State
From the Kingdom of Assad to the Third Republic

Yassin Al Haj Saleh & Rime Allaf
Syria dispatches: Robert Fisk’s independence

Rana Issa
The Destruction of Syria: In Memory of Edward Said

Thomas Pierret
No Stability in Syria Without Political Change

Wendy Pearlman
On the Third Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising
Intervening Against Assad: Reflections From Syrian Refugees
Love in the Syrian Revolution

Ian Williams
From the Spanish Civil War to Syria: Parceling Out Truth Subverts Justice

Bill Weinberg
Syria: civil wars in the civil war
Syria: denialism delegitimizes ‘anti-war’ position
‘Anti-war’ movement still betraying Syrian people
Why I am renouncing my Project Censored award

Mary Kaldor
Bordering on a new World War 1
What to do in Syria?

Richard Falk
What Can Be Done About Syria? Tragedy and Impotence
On Syria: What is to be done?

Syrian leftist sends devastating reply to Assad apologist Tariq Ali and ‘Stop The War’

Syrian Anarchist Challenges the Rebel/Regime Binary View of Resistance–an interview with Nader Atassi

Virtually everything Scott Lucas has written for EA WorldView’s outstanding Syria section

Clay Claiborne’s Syria diaries on his Linux Beach blog

Sunday, April 13, 2014

After Hersh lays smoke screen, Assad lobes gas bombs

The Blogosphere is a Battlefield

Karl Marx famously quoted Carl von Clausewitz to the effect that war is the continuation of politics by other means. It should also be said that propaganda in times of armed conflict is war by other means. Even though the strength of the contending armed bodies is critical in war, their propaganda efforts among their own forces, against the enemy forces, and towards international observers, play an extremely important role as well. That is why I say the blogosphere is a battlefield. Certainly Assad understands that, and so does Putin. They both see the value of creating and promoting a narrative designed to justify their aggression. They both see the value of demonizing their opposition, creating smoke screens, muddying waters, and creating distractions. Today, to a large extent, these goals are accomplished with the help of the Internet, and they both have created sophisticated machinery and spent a lot of money on political support for the Assad regime.

Sy Hersh goes on the warpath again ahead of new regime attacks

Seemingly out of the blue, Bashar al-Assad's most prominent defender came out with a new 5,000 word essay again attempting to absolve the Assad regime for past chemical attacks. Even though the muzzled UN came as close as allowed to putting the blame on the regime when it said that the sarin used in both Ghouta and Khan Al-Assal came from the Assad arsenal and was used by a large chemical weapons component of a professional army, Seymour Hersh's rehash of the old arguments put forth again on 8 April 2014 in the London Review of Books, reopened a discussion that many had thought settled.

His piece became like a call to action for Assad supporters everywhere to renew the claims that Assad didn't do it, repeat all the Fall conspiracy theories, and try to build unity among the conflicting versions. For example, Mint Press came out in support of Hersh, in spite of the fact that they had been supporting a version of how the rebels gassed themselves that involved untrained rebels in a tunnel bungling a big tank of sarin given to them by Saudi Prince Bandar. Hersh's current version has the Turks ramroding al Nursa, and using missiles, no Bandar, no tank, no tunnel. But nevermind about that, these Assad supporters are flexible, the main point is that Assad didn't do it and the rebels did. That is why all those that had formerly promoted a version that had the CIA and/or Qatar masterminding the chemical attacks were as quick as Mint Press to jump on the Hersh campaign bus.

As a result, just when the UN's 5 March report had done so much to clear the air and settle the question of responsibility, at least for the two most deadly sarin attacks, Hersh comes along, completely ignores the UN report, and leads the charge in another smoke and mirrors attack with his pro-Assad LRP propaganda bomb and they have been successful in raising a lot of dust and confusion.

Many of us on the other side of this battle in the blogosphere have been writing tooth and nail to discredit this latest Sy Hersh piece as well as his whole Assad-didn't-do-it thesis, but he is like a giant of journalism while we are the Lilliputians. He dismisses us as bloogers. We are working hard to clear the air, but every time the Hersh piece is reprinted or regurgitated, it is like another smoke grenade going off.

Now we know why this propaganda war is so important, because in the past few days the reports have been coming in that Assad is again killing with poison gas, now the laying of smoke before these operations makes strategic sense.

Was the timing of these new chemical weapons attacks, less than a week after the publication of the latest Sy Hersh defense of Assad, a coincidence, an opportunistic move on the part of Assad or was it part of a plan?

Below are some of the latest pieces on the chemical attacks:

From Associated Press:
Poison gas claims complicate Syrian civil war

By Bassem Mroue
April 12, 2014
BEIRUT — Both sides in Syria's bloody civil war said Saturday that a rural village fell victim to a poison gas attack, an assault that reportedly injured scores of people amid an ongoing international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons.

What exactly happened Friday in Kfar Zeita, a rebel-held village in Hama province some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus, remains unclear and likely won't be known for some time. It took United Nations weapons inspectors months to say it was likely some chemical weapons attacks happened last year, including an August attack that killed hundreds and nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad's forces.

But online videos posted by rebel activists from Kfar Zeita echoed earlier images that sparked a world outcry, showing pale-faced men, women and children gasping for breath at a field hospital. They suggest an affliction by some kind of poison — and yet another clouded incident where both sides blame each other in a conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people with no end in sight.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said the poison gas attack hurt dozens of people, though it did not identify the gas used.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group that relies on a network of on-the-ground volunteers, said the gas attack happened during air raids that left heavy smoke over the area. It reported that people suffered from suffocation and breathing problems after the attack, but gave no further details.

State-run Syrian television blamed members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebel group for the attack, saying they used chlorine gas to kill two people and injure more than 100. It did not say how it confirmed chlorine was used.

Chlorine, one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the U.S., is used to purify drinking water. But as a gas, it can be deadly, with the German army using it in warfare in World War I. The Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Syria signed, banned its use in battle. More...
From EA WorldView:
Regime Uses Chlorine Gas on Kafrzita in Hama Province

By Scott Lucas
April 13, 2014 12:16
On Saturday, we compiled videos of a claimed chemical attack on Kafrzita in Hama Province, probably from this airstrike and its “yellow-tinged cloud”

See “Poison Gas” Attacks Near Damascus & in Hama Province
To our surprise, Syrian State media admitted the attack, although they claimed — despite the airstrike — that it was the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra Front who was responsible, using chlorine gas that killed two people and injured more than 100.

Now Eliot Higgins, on his Brown Moses blog, puts together audio-visual and photographic evidence. His conclusion is that, even as the Assad regime claims it is shipping out its chemical weapons for destruction, only the Syrian military could have carried out Friday’s attack with “poison gas”. More...
From Syria Deeply:
Week in Review: Amid New Chemical Attacks and Battlefield Shifts, Assad Looks Ahead

April 13th, 2014
by Lara Setrakian
Even by Syrian war standards, this was a brutal week.

By the end of it, reports had surfaced of a poison gas attack in the central Syrian town of Kafr Zeita. One hundred people were left sick from exposure; the Syrian regime and rebel forces blamed each other for the incident. In weeks past,Syrian doctors told us of repeated small-scale chemical attacks around Damascus – a signal that the chemical destruction plan brokered by the U.S. and Russia last year hasn’t stopped the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield.

Then there are the more conventional forms of destruction, which seem to be accelerating in pace. On Wednesday two car bombs struck an Alawite neighborhood of Homs, killing at least 25 people. \Rebels are advancing on government-held areas of Aleppo, Al Jazeera reports, while the Los Angeles Times profiled the practically apocalyptic scenes of life for Aleppines, struggling to get by in a once-prosperous city. More...
From BBCNews:
Claims of new poison gas attack in Syria

12 April 2014
The government and opposition forces in Syria have accused each other of using poison gas in an attack on a village on Friday.

State TV said the jihadist Nusra Front group launched the attack on Kafr Zita in Hama province, killing two people and injuring dozens of others.

But opposition groups quoted doctors as saying that an attack by regime planes led to suffocation and poisoning.

There was no independent verification of either of the claims.

"Regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odours and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning," said Rami Abdel Rahman, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More...
From The New York Times:
Damascus and Rebels Trade Blame in Gas Attack

12 April 2014
By Anne Barnard and Ben Hubbard
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian state television and antigovernment activists reported Saturday that poison gas had been used in a rebel-held village in the central province of Hama, with each side blaming its enemies for an attack they both said sickened more than 100 people.

The attack took place Friday evening in the village of Kfar Zeita, sending streams of choking patients, including children, to poorly equipped field hospitals, according to local medics and videos posted online. Opposition activists said government helicopters had dropped improvised bombs on the village, covering it with a thick smoke that smelled of chlorine.

While the opposition reported the attack soon after it happened, Syrian state television first mentioned it the day after in an urgent news banner during a broadcast. It blamed the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, for the attack, adding that two people were killed and more than 100 others affected by the gas. A subsequent banner announcement said the Nusra Front was preparing two more chemical attacks. It was the first time since last year that both sides agreed that toxic weapons had been used. More...
From Brown Moses Blog:
Evidence Chlorine Gas Was Used In A Second, Failed, Chemical Attack On Kafr Zita
Sunday, 13 April 2014
On April 11th, reports supported by video from the town of Kafr Zita, Hama, claimed to show the aftermath of a chemical attack on the town.  Reports claimed helicopters had dropped a "barrel bomb" containing a toxic gas on the town, with the below video claiming to show the attack as it happened. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria