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Monday, July 21, 2014

Russian lies on #MH17 are so easy to bust!

The Russian lies and fabrications relating to Malaysia Air flight MH 17 have been coming fast and furious in the past last 48 hours. The general theme appears to be to push a false flag narrative similar to the one they had some success in selling about the sarin gas attacks that took place in the Damascus suburbs the night of 21th August. There, in spite of all the damning evidence that Assad was behind the deed, including the UN conclusion that the sarin used came from his stockpiles, Putin and his minions supported a story that Assad's opposition poisoned their own people and made it look like Assad did it in the vain hope that it would provoke western military intervention on their side.

Now they are selling the narrative that the downing of MH17 was actually a false-flag attack. They are "implying" that the Ukrainian government shot down the plane and fabricated evidence to pin it on the pro-Russian forces in the hopes that it will provoke western military intervention on their side.

Fortunately, some of their stories have been put together so quickly and are so sloppy that they can easily be disproved, even by a blogger in Venice that isn't an expert in anything. Call this the Case of the Plane that couldn't fly that high. Take, for example this story from the Chinese news service Xinhuanet:
Russian DM says Ukrainian fighter jet near MH17 before crash

2014-07-21 21:46:01
MOSCOW, July 21 (Xinhua) -- A Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet was flying close to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 before it crashed in eastern Ukraine, a Russian military official said on Monday.

The Ukrainian fighter jet flew within 3-5 km of the ill-fated Malaysian airliner before it was downed, Andrei Kartopolov, chief of the main operative department of the General Staff, told reporters.

Moscow would ask for explanation from Kiev, he added. More...
RT even includes a colorful graph with their report:
Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to
MH17 before crash - Moscow

Published time: July 21, 2014 12:59
The Russian military detected a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe. Kiev must explain why the military jet was tracking the passenger airplane, the Russian Defense Ministry said. More...
Here is the problem with these reports: Malaysia Air flight MH17 was flying at 10km. attitude. The Su-25 has an operational ceiling of 7km. It simply can't fly high enough to do what the Russians are saying it was doing.

From the Air Force Technology write up on the Su-25:
The Su-25 can climb at the rate of 58m/s. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 950km/h. The combat radius and ferry range of the aircraft are 375km and 7,500km respectively. The normal range of the Su-25 is 750km. The service ceiling is 7,000m.
Wikipedia gives this as its service ceiling: 7,000 m (22,960 ft) clean, 5,000 m (16,000 ft) with max weapons. Military Factory says "Su-25's operational service ceiling is reached at approximately 23,000 feet." FighterPlanes.com agrees Ceiling: 22,965 ft

This one was just too easy to debunk. They need to get better at "fact checking" their lies before they go public with them, otherwise people might start saying RT stands for "Relative Truths."

FLASH TRAFFIC!!! As I'm about to publish, the Aviationist.com is reporting on a failed attempt to by someone with a Russian IP address to "update" the Wikipedia specifications for the Su-25! They also say the above graphic came from the Russian Defense Ministry and they note it has a US EF-111 flying close to MH17 as well as the Su-25 flying well over its ceiling.  

Here are my other posts on MH 17:
US: recordings on pro-Russian downing of #MH17 are real
You listen & decide - Is this voice of man who shot down MH 17?
Who was Igor Bezler before he shot down MH 17?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

US: recordings on pro-Russian downing of #MH17 are real

Igor Bezler
Linux Beach pointed to the responsibility of Russian GRU agent Igor Bezler, and his crew of "pro-Russian" BUK advanced air defense system operators, for the shooting down of Malaysia Air MH17 and the murder of all 298 people on board the day after the accident on the strength of recordings released by the Ukrainian security service [SBU] which included an intercept of Igor Bezler telling a Russian military intelligence officer "We have just shot down a plane," 25 minutes after MH17 was lost.

I was able to very quickly "authenticate" this recording before I cited it because I found "prior art" from the same YouTube channel of many similar claimed telephone intercepts that shared the same style and production values even though some had as few as 2 and 5 views. One, posted on 24 April 2014, claimed to be of an earlier intercept involving the same Igor Bezler.

In addition, since Igor Bezler is a very vocal fellow, there are other recordings of him on the Internet. This allows for comparison between the voice that is claimed to be from Igor Bezler taking credit for shooting down the plane and the other samples of his voice. I have also produced a composite video that allows easy comparison between the various samples. I concluded that this is the same voice and that understanding the language would only be a distraction in making that determination. This is how I authenticated the SBU recording. This Yahoo News 9 hours ago doesn't say how the US authenticated the recording. Maybe they read my blog?
US says recordings of Ukraine rebels admitting MH17 downing 'authentic'

Kiev (AFP) - Alleged intercepted phone conversations released by Ukraine’s security service of pro-Russian rebels discussing how they shot down Malaysian airliner MH17 are genuine, the US embassy in Kiev said Sunday.

Ukraine's SBU security agency on Thursday released recordings of what it claimed were phone talks involving rebels and a Russian military intelligence officer admitting that they had hit the passenger jet after mistaking it for a military aircraft.

The recordings were presented as key evidence to back up Kiev's claims that rebels -- supported by Russia -- downed the jet while the separatists accused Ukraine's army of being responsible.

"Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by Intelligence Community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders," the US embassy in Ukraine said in a statement. More...
Quite predictably, as quickly as the US government announced its conclusion that the recording were genuine, Russian sources came forward to pronounce them fakes. The Itar-Tass News Agency has published this today:
Kiev’s evidence of militia’s responsibility for airliner crash faked - expert

July 20, 14:37 UTC
MOSCOW, A tape posted by Ukrainian security services in the Internet and allegedly recording a talk between self-defense fighters about the destruction of a Malaysian airliner is a fake, experts said on Sunday.

A group of experts studied the tape and came to the conclusion that it was made up of numerous unrelated recordings.

“This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments,” said Nikolai Popov, a reputable expert in sound and voice analysis. More...
The Russian website Customs, Voice of Sevastopol, goes into greater detail and includes a graphic that shows the voice waves and is suppose to support their analysis.

They go on to argue:
The tape’s second fragment consists of three pieces but was presented as a single audio recording. However, a spectral and time analysis has showed that the dialog was cut into pieces and then assembled. Short pauses in the tape are very indicative: the audio file has preserved time marks which show that the dialog was assembled from various episodes, the expert said.
Generally speaking, when confronting such claims of authenticity or the lack of it by governments and their "experts," we amateur investigators and "bloggers" operate with a serious handicap because we generally don't have access to the same high quality source material or the high calibre tools of government spies. In this case the field is more level because everybody outside of the Ukrainian government is dealing with the same AAC audio stream being delivered by YouTube. It became apparent that we both use the same high calibre software audio editing and analysis program, as soon as I loaded the disputed YouTube video into my favorite Linux audio tool, Audacity:

Look familar? Clearly their graphic is also a screenshot from Audacity of the same soundtrack with a few green arrows and notes added. They would have you believe that they are showing you the tell-tale signs that the recording is a fake. I don't see that, but I say more

I don't see how their experts could see what they claim to see. Specifically I say I don't see how they could say "the audio file has preserved time marks which show that the dialog was assembled from various episodes." Whatever editing, compositing and manipulation was done to this audio stream before it was uploaded to YouTube, and whatever were the "time marks" or other specifics of the original source material, what we all get on download from YouTube is a single Stereo AAC encoded audio stream @ 44100 Hz, s16, 95 kb/s with a new time code to sync it to the video stream. It simply no longer contains the information these Russia experts are claiming to find in it.

The subject is very technical and complex and they throw "experts" at you who say they have proven by this or that that the recording is fake but I think I know a thing or two about the subject matter and I just don't buy a YouTube AAC stream that preserves past time marks. Sorry, not buying it.

I think the intercepts of Igor Bezler are genuine and the Russian audio experts are fake.

You listen & decide - Is this voice of man who shot down #MH17?

On the same day that Malaysia Air flight MH 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile with the loss of life of all 298 passengers and crew aboard on 17 July 2014, the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] posted a video to You Tube which they said contained a recording of Igor Bezler, A Russian GRU agent saying they had just shot down an aircraft. I reported on this in my blog on Thursday.

Today I am presenting a You Tube video I have produced that is a composition of three different recordings all of which claim to be of Igor Bezler. In the first [1] he is reporting that they have just shot down a plane 25 minutes after flight MH 17 goes missing. It is from http://youtu.be/BbyZYgSXdyw The 2nd [2] is from an earlier intercept on 17 April 2014 of someone identified as Igor Bezler plotting kidnap and murder and uploaded to YouTube by the SBU on 24 April 2014. It is from http://youtu.be/sA8Co1Sglgs. The 3rd [3] is from a video presentation by Igor Bezler on 12 June 2014. It is a studio recording and of higher quality than the intercepts. It is from http://youtu.be/Xb4xyvWKTrw. You will hear nothing in this video but those three segments. The order is [1] [2] [1] [3] [1]. Are they they same voice? Is the person claiming credit for killing 298 people on 17th July, the same one who is speaking here on 17 April and 12 June? Is Igor Bezler guilty of the murder of 298 people? You listen and you decide.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who was Igor Bezler before he shot down #MH17?

Twenty-five minutes after MH 17 disappears from radar:
                "We have just shot down a plane."
                                                                          --Igor Bezler
Igor Bezler
Everyone wants to know who was behind the downing of Malaysia Air MH 17 and the murder of 298 civilians completely uninvolved with the conflict over which they died in Eastern Ukraine. The most damning evidence to come out so far in that regard has to be the recording which Ukrainian officials have released in which they say Igor Bezler takes credit for downing the plane in a conversation with a Russian military intelligence officer named Vasili Geranin.

From the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) supplied English translation at 14:40 GMT, about 25 minutes after the plane went missing we have this:
Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. That was "miner's group. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?

IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.

VG: How many minutes ago?

IB: About 30 minutes ago.
SBU also released this conversation between 'Major' and 'Grek' which took place 15:33 gmt as it becomes clear that what they thought was a Ukrainian Air Force IL-76 Transport was really a civilian airliner:
"Greek": Well, what do you have there?

"Major": In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.

"Greek": Are many people there?

"Major": Holy sh-t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).

"Greek": What kind of aircraft?

"Major": I haven't ascertained this. I haven't been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.

"Greek": Is there anything left of the weapon?

"Major": Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

"Greek": Are there documents?

"Major": Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.

According to Total War, Igor Bezler is a Russian GRU agent and according to Reuters he is one of the leaders of self-proclaimed militia of Horlivka. He was born in Simferopol in Crimea in 1965. He served in the Airborne Troops of the Soviet Army in their war in Afghanistan and was awarded the Order of the Red Star. Until 2002 he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian intelligence agency GRU. A few years ago he retired and settled in the Gorlovka region of Donetsk. He became active earlier in February 2014 as a leader in the Self Defense forces that took over Crimea. Then he aided the People's Republic of Donestsk and has been prominently involved in the separatist movement.

If this recording is authentic it is very strong evidence that pro-Russian forces are behind the tragedy of MH 17. There are a number of reasons for believing this is the real thing. For one thing, this video claims to be recordings of conversations that took place within hours of MH 17 going missing and it was posted to YouTube the same day. That doesn't leave a lot of time for fabricating these recordings, unless one is going to make the argument that the fabricators of the tapes and downers of the aircraft were involved in a massive plot in which all such details where worked out in advanced.

For another, we have the 24 April 2014 posting below from the same source, Служба безпеки України of a 17 April 2014 conversation between Igor Bezler and someone called "Alph" about the murder of Gorovskoy Deputy City Council member Volodymyr Rybak. Rybak was kidnapped in Horlivka on 16 April 2014. His tortured body turned up in the Seversky-Donets river on 22 April 2014.

This is the description and translation given by Paul Roderick Greogory in the Kyiv Post:
On April 17, Russian special ops officer, Igor Bezler (code name “Bes”) telephones Russian operative “Alph”. The first conversation (available on You Tube) proceeds as follows:

Bezler (Bes): "Alph," listen carefully, go into the City Hall, Rybak is there raising a ruckus. People are trying to cool him down. Take him out and torture him (otpressyuete, prison slang). Get him in the car and take him some place far away. Then let me know where to go. Do you understand? Stay connected! Muzhiki (guys), wrap him up and get him in the car. Tie him up - his arms, his eyes- so that he can’t see anything.

Notable in this conversation is that Bes wants to know where Rybak is being taken so he can deal with him himself. This would put Bes at the torture/murder site.

The second conversation follows shortly thereafter. Apparently Bezler asks whether any special ops people have been caught on the videotape:

Alph: "Bes," we watched the video, you can't see anything there: you can only see that he is trying to remove the flag from the city hall, and he is getting beaten up.

Bes: OK, got it

Alph: So none of our people can be seen there. Everything is "normalno" (OK)

Bes: Good
I can't tell you whether Russian or Ukrainian is being spoken in these recordings so I'm in no position to authenticate them or compare the voices between the 17 April recording and the 17 July recording, but I'm sure native speakers can. Paul Greogory gives us his opinion on the earlier recording:
I do not believe that an English translation and interpretation of intercepted phone calls among Russian operatives organizing the kidnapping, torture, murder, and body disposal of a pro-Ukrainian political activist in eastern Ukraine have been widely circulated. Western readers will react with disgust that such brutal crimes are taking place without consequences in a major European country.

I am convinced the calls are authentic, despite Russian denials. We know the parties to the conversation except for one unidentified operative (“Alph”). The conversations are carried out in the crude language of criminal and prison slang. The tape bleeps out an expression that contains the F-word.
Western readers should now certainly react with disgust when they realized that by turning a blind eye to such brutal crimes taking place in a major European country without consequences they have encouraged Putin's aggression to the point where it reached out and took these 298 souls, 80 of which belonged to children.

A few more points FYI:

1.) It's possible that the pro-Russian forces thought they were aiming at a Ukrainian IL-76 transport plane when they shot down the Boeing 777 Malaysia MH 17. Here are a few pictures for your consideration.
Air Malaysia 777

IK-76 Transport

2.) Recently the pro-Russian forces have really stepped up missile attacks on Ukrainian military aircraft. Since beginning of June, pro-Russian forces have shot down at least 10 Ukrainian aircraft including five Mi-24 Hinds, two Mi-8 helicopters, one An-2, one An-30, a Ukrainian transport plane and 2 Ukrainian Su-26 fighters. On 13 June pro-Russian fighters shot down a Ukrainian Air Force II-76 military transport killing 40 paratroopers and 9 crew members. In recent days they have stepped up surface-to-air missile attacks on Ukrainian military aircraft with a SN-26 and SU-25 jets shot down from Russian territory.

3.) Pro-Russian fighters have claimed they have nothing that could have downed a jet at 10km. but earlier reports say otherwise. They boasted of capturing Buk [SA-17] surface-to-air missiles from the Ukrainian military two weeks ago. Buk missile system is not a MANPADS. It can target aircraft at a range of 25 km and to an attitude of 15 km. An Associated Press journalist reported seeing a Buk type system in the separatist-held town of Snizhne.

Photo: RIA Novosti
Putin's thuggishness is visited upon the world. For those that have been paying close attention to events in Syria, and more recently Ukraine, the Russian Mafia methods of Putin have been obvious for some time. It was only a matter of time before they reached out and touched people of all nationalities. The responsibility for these 298 murders lies directly with Igor Bezler, who should be tried and jailed for these crimes, and through him, with Vladimir Putin, who should be treated like Al Capone.
People gather next to a sign for AIDS 2014 in Melbourne on July 18, 2014. Since more than a hundred AIDS researchers on their way to this  20th International AIDS Conference were killed aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, it is likely that this attack will cause many more deaths because of the contributions those scientists won't be making. AFP PHOTO

Heroes of New Russia: the Natioanl Militia Commander Igor Bezler | 26 May 2014

Apparently this Polit Russia site cranks out these flashy propaganda videos about individual commanders by the dozen. Can somebody please translate this? Its about the guy who's taken credit for shooting down MH 17.

"Provocation failed" and "Secret Boeing Crash: Versions & Guesswork" 
from PolitRussia.com, translation thanks to Ralph Apel

This is how Google translated this page of the site:
Kiev junta desperate tenacity with stamps of the resistance in the South-East outright lies and myths writes.

One of the most famous myths - about the commander self Gorlovka (DNI) Igor Bezler.

From the first days of confrontation in the Donbass Ukrainian media say about him except as a current lieutenant colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation with the callsign "Demon." However, the facts tell a much different story.

According to the available fragmentary information Igor Bezler served in airborne troops of the Soviet Army. Participated in the war in Afghanistan, was awarded the Order of the Red Star. A few years ago he retired and settled in Gorlovka Donetsk region. There he went into business, it is far from my previous occupation, namely the provision of funeral services. Parallel - helped by fellow former "winged infantry", leading the local organization of veteran paratroopers.

Life retired lieutenant colonel changed the Nazi coup in Kiev. When after the Junta ultra rushed to rehabilitate Nazism and to prohibit Russian language Bezler joined protests in the Southeast. And when to subdue the rebellious region moved "National Guard", "Right sector" and bandits "Dnepr", "Donbass" and "Azov", a former military remembered the fact, to which he devoted most of his life. And headed Gorlovskaya self-defense.

Ukrainian authorities have been discouraged by how quickly lost Gorlovka, and to justify its unpopularity and incompetence - created the myth of Superman, nicknamed "Demon" - Lieutenant Colonel of the GRU, the Ukrainian government overthrows. In fact, it did the usual retiree with the support of local civilians and switched to his side police - was ashamed to admit.

But most of all Bezler popularity increased after he managed to grab a captive of three officers of the elite Special Forces of Ukraine "Alpha", abandoned in Gorlovka to capture the leader of self-defense and other local activists. It is on these commandos guide Donetsk People's Republic then exchanged been stolen and tortured in Kiev "people's governor" Donbass - Paul Gubaryov.

As after an operation conducted Bezler said activist Yevgeny Gorbik Samoobrony DNR:

"SBU Special group arrived to capture Bezler - man holding ATC Gorlovki. Bezler himself seized those who hunt for him, and brought them here, and so will be all."

Today in the Ukrainian press, referring to Western news sources spread information that is exactly Bezler Ukrainian infantry destroyed the outpost under Volnovaha. But the information appears at least doubtful, as it told the unknown man in camouflage and mask-balaclava, who introduced "Beso".

Himself a man of legend Igor Bezler to popularity is not seeking an interview does not, does not and blogs to post in power does not appoint himself.

It seems that is what he truly seeks - it is a peaceful and quiet life after fascism withdraws from land Novorossia.

Here are my other posts on MH 17:
US: recordings on pro-Russian downing of #MH17 are real
You listen & decide - Is this voice of man who shot down MH 17?
Russian lies on #MH17 are so easy to bust!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today's example of Assad's support for Islamic State

From the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights today we have this report 13 hours ago:
SOHR has been informed that Dawud Brigade swore allegiance to the İslamic State and conveied the fighters and ammunition from the town of Sarmin in the countryside of Idleb province to IS- held areas in the province of Al Raqqa, where a military convoy of more than 50 vehicles were seen carrying fighters from Dawud Brigade and passing near the city of Saraqeb. The convoy was going towards the provice of Al Raqqa through the road located between the two towns of Athrayya and Khanaser which is held by the regime foces which were able to target the convoy and prevent it to cross the area but they did not do so.

Reliabel sources assured to SOHR that the fighters of the Dawud Islamic Brigade will fight with the Islamic State against Al Nusra Front and the islamic battalions in Ekhtrin area and its villages. The same sources assured that some vehicles of Brigade have reached to the IS-held city of Al Bab in order to fight with IS against the rebel battalions and YPG fighters to take control over some Kurdish villages subsequently advance to the city of Ayn Al Arab in the northeast of the countryside of Aleppo.

This comes in conjunction with the arrival of military reinfocements from the rebel and Islamic battalions to the vicinity of the industrial city and the village of Al Sheik Najjar, while military reinforcements from the Special Forces of the Republican Guard and from Hezbollah fighters arrived to Aleppo, where the regime forces have tried to besiege the city and take control over Handarat camp in order to cut the supply lines from the rebel and islamic battalions in the northern and eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo.

İt is worthy mentioning that only IS is able to cut the regime’s supply lines, from the military airport of Al Nayrab to the industrial city and the northern- eastern entrance of Aleppo city because IS fighters are centering in the two villages of Shamer and Marran located on the northern- eastern entrance of Aleppo which lead to make the regime’s supply lines under IS crossfire.
I have added the bold to highlight the point I'm making with this story.

My other posts of Assad's collaboration with the Islamic extremists:
Bush, Barack & Bashar BFF to Islamic Extremists in Iraq & Syria
Assad's strategy & why exposing his crimes is so critical
MEMO | ISIS & the Assad Regime: From Marriage of Convenience to Partnership
Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad
How Assad runs terrorist on "both sides" in Syria
Bashar al-Jihad: How Assad finances terrorists with oil 
Bashar al-Jihad: Is ISIS a child of the regime?

ISIS Headquarters in Raqqa - Unbombed by Assad

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Why won't this story be covered like Israel's attacks on Gaza?

From the Daily Sabah this morning we have:

9 July 2014

another Homs mosque damaged earlier, destruction of Homs in background
HOMS – Fifteen people died as a result of an attack on a mosque late Tuesday in the town of Zafaran in Homs, in the western part of the country.

The Syrian army fired missiles at Omer Bin Abdulaziz Mosque in Zafaran, Homs, during Ramadan prayer time, according to a statement by the Syrian Revolution General Commission.

Fifteen people were killed and many were wounded some of whom are in critical condition, the commission said.
On average, 80 people a day are being killed by the Assad regime, day in, day out, but you'd never know it from the coverage in the mainstream and "left" media.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Juan Cole turns to the Dark Side

Juan Cole has come out with a new book The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East, 1 July 2014 , in which he tells the Arab masses that have been struggling for freedom since 2011 "Better luck next time." Here's a sample:
And two or three decades from now, the twentysomethings of Tahrir Square and the Casbah in Tunis and Martyrs' Square in Tripoli will, like the Havels of the Middle East, come to power as politicians.

We haven't heard the last of the Middle East's millennial generation.
The old state machinery was smashed in Tripoli, while it was left more or less intact in Tunis and Cairo, and the heroes of Martyrs' Square have yet to be decisively overthrown. They may still be a good ways from consolidating state power but nobody has any business throwing in the towel for them. They are still grappling with what state power should look like after 40 years of Qaddafi but it is far too early to lump them in with the others who never really brought down the old state machinery in the first place. But I suppose, acknowledging that the Libyan Revolution is still in play, would over-complicate the narrative that Juan Cole is selling on the Arab Spring, which appears to be "Nice try, better luck next time."

Better luck next time is a cheer entirely acceptable to the bosses. We'll win the next strike. You'll get your freedom next time. There'll be pie in the sky when you die., etc. Hope for the future is a narrative that is acceptable to the bourgeoisie, revolution now is not, and Juan Cole is out to sell books. Perhaps that also explains why he attempts to put a knife in the back of the Syrian people with his "Top 5 Reasons US Aid to “Moderate” Syrian Fighters is Quixotic," published on his blog, informed COMMENT, 28 June 2014, just days before his book was released.

I've learned a lot from Juan Cole over the years and I was a big fan of the principled stand he took in support of the Libyan people. His "Open Letter to the Left on Libya" and his "Top Ten Myths about the Libya War"  were outstanding examples of how bloggers on this battlefield support revolutions.

In the "US Aid ...is Quixotic" piece, Juan Cole takes a turn towards the dark side as he attempts to realign his views on the Syrian conflict with the growing western drumbeat for selling any support for a democratic Syria short in favor of continued Assad rule in the name of fighting terrorism. He also has a very  "America First" attitude when it comes to current dilemma of the people of Syria.

Given the well earned respect Juan Cole commands, I find it necessary to look at this piece in great detail, but before we do that perhaps it is best that we begin where he ends because one gets the feeling that everything else was shaped to support this predetermined conclusion:
I have concluded that the dangers of blowback from US intervention are so great and the danger of an ISIS victory in Syria so unacceptable that the US would be better off not intervening directly in this conflict.
The joke is "the danger of an ISIS victory in Syria" and Iraq, overblown as it is by Juan Cole, is already the result of three years of doing what he advocates, namely, the US "not intervening directly in this conflict," What do they call a policy that keeps doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome?

He is opposed to any US intervention on the side of Syria's democratic opposition because he wants to see the Assad regime prevail in this conflict. He calls this "a moral dilemma" because:
Allowing the regime to survive is extremely unpalatable because it is guilty of war crimes.
Juan Cole's choice of words signal his conclusion. "Unpalatable" means it leaves a bad taste in your mouth but you are willing to shallow it. "extremely unpalatable" means it leaves a really bad taste in your mouth but you shallow it anyway.

He has bought into Assad's argument that the nation will burn without him but he knows that no real political progress can be made in Syria while Assad is in power so the sop Juan Cole throws to the Syrian people is "Better luck next time":
I don’t believe that the Baathists can come back and remain a stable regime over the medium term given their extreme brutality in Homs and elsewhere.
But he doesn't seem to mind too much if they continues to rule and murder at will in this country of 22 million in the 'mean' time.
Since I think their legitimacy has been fatally weakened for the next generation of Syrians,...
Hello! Their legitimacy has already been fatally weakened for this generation of Syrians. That's what this is all about. They have been dying to overthrow what they consider an illegitimate regime. The question at hand is what the rest of us are going to do to help or hinder them? Which side of the barricades do we stand on? Juan Cole stands on Assad's side and that determines the arguments he uses.

The sectarian straitjacket
To lead us to this conclusion Juan Cole uses a number of devices and the first is sectarianism. He sees it the way Assad sees it, as a purely sectarian struggle.  He ignores all the non-Sunni members of the opposition and speaks only of a "moderate" Sunni opposition. This is not surprising. Sectarianism has been one of the chief bulwarks of imperialism long before Sykes-Picot. The pattern of exacerbating Sunni-Shiite differences and ruling with an Alawite elite was a method that the Assads inherited from the French.

The wave of new Arab revolts that started in 2011 were also revolts against sectarianism. The protesters that came out in Tunis, Cairo, Alexander, Tripoli, Benghazi, Damascus and Homs, came from all sects, religions and tribes. They shared a single national aspiration for a more representative state.

This was no less true in Syria where Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Christian, Kurds, Turks and other Syrians came out onto the streets in their millions to demand the downfall of the regime. Even when the regime answered the people's demands with gunfire and they formed up for self-defense under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, it was formed as a national revolutionary army not a sectarian militia.

Just as the revolutionaries know that sectarian divisions deny them a progressive future, the regime knows that emphasizing and inflaming these divisions is the key to its victory. So at the same time that state TV was saying that the protests were organized by religious fundamentalists and foreign infiltrators, the regime was paying as much as $500 a month to those posting sectarian graffiti. “The Christians to Beirut, the Alawites to the grave” was one of the more common ones. As Assad was claiming his enemies were all terrorists, he was letting jihadists out of jail so they could form the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. He needs jihadists as his arch-enemies. In the beginning Syria had none, so the Assad regime helped to create them by giving amnesty to terrorists, supplying them, funding them, failing to attack them, and sending state security officers to lead them. You should be aware, if you aren't already, that Bashar al-Assad plays a mean underhanded game. Not everything that appears to be from the opposition is from the opposition.

As the body-count climbs and conflict drags on, the regime's attempts to inflame sectarian passions has met with some success and as a result the prospects and morale of the revolutionary forces have been greatly eroded. This does not mean the main struggle in now between Assad and ISIS because they are flip sides of the same coin, secular vs. fundamentalist fascist dictatorship. ISIS arose out of Assad regime and NATO-Russian-Iranian imperialist policies. Their whole existence and operations have been in support of the Assad regime. It is not surprising that Assad gave them safe-haven in Raqqa and refused to attack them for so long. Now Juan Cole has fallen so completely into Assad's trap that he would have us believe that the main thing is to not let ISIS win. Not so. ISIS can only make gains within the chaos of this war and with the connivance of the regime. The main task of the Syrian people remains the one they set for themselves in 2011, the downfall of the regime. The Assad regime must be swept away entirely before freedom and justice can reign in Syria.

Juan Cole doesn't say much about this struggle for freedom and justice. He prefers to frame the struggle in Assad-friendly sectarian terms. His piece is peppered with phrases like "moderate Sunni oppositionists", "Sunni Syrian fighters", and "Sunni opponents". He never speaks of a non-sectarian or non-Sunni opposition to Assad. He begins:
The Obama administration’s fruitless search for effective Sunni “moderate” fighters in Syria continues, with the announcement of a $500 million grant to them for training and weaponry.
This begs the question of whether they have really been looking for fighters to support and it also introduces another of Juan Cole's repetitive themes, namely that the current struggle for a democratic Syria is hopeless. He is a total defeatist with regards to a positive outcome for Syria in the near term. He is resigned to a Syria run by war criminals, either the jihadists or the fascists and in that case he favors Assad. He sees "no moderate Sunni oppositionists" and what he does see is "highly unlikely to defeat ISIS."

The opening sentence is followed by the obligatory finger pointing at Saudi Arabia and "liberal interventionists." "Saudi Arabia" is a favorite whipping boy of Assad, Iranians, Russians and in the West. What is never clear is whether what is being charged happened and if it did happen, was it the result of state policy or of Saudi nationals with money, because for these critics "Saudi Arabia" is a single evil entity.

In Juan Cole's view, Syrian's who have been demanding this kind of support and their stubborn ability to hang in there has nothing to do with driving the a policy shift in favor of military support for Assad's opposition, nor does the fact that they have been the main force fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria. It is being "driven by Saudi Arabia from abroad and by liberal interventionists." This, he says, isn't just bad policy. "It is very bad policy."

Shallow comparisons

He makes a very bad comparison between Syria today and "Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s" so that he can accuse the Obama administration of making "the worst mistakes of the Reagan administration." He is attempting to hang this on the shallow connection that both involve providing weapons to insurgents. That is also the basis of the next crack:
Anti-Communist crusading and liberal interventionist imperialism turn out to look an awfully lot alike on the ground.
Another way to say that might be: Gun running is gun running, no matter which side you run guns for. But in the fight for freedom and justice, side matters! The campaign for regime change in Syria flowed from the people of Syria. However other countries respond, whatever outside forces may do or not do, they have been the locomotive driving this thing forward.

Reagan gave the mujahideen MANPADS because US imperialism was waging a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, whereas Obama is being asked to support a genuine democratic revolution against the kind of guy they have always liked to see running countries like Syria. So no matter about the lives it could have saved, even after three years Obama's policy remains "No MANPADS for You!"

Juan Cole needn't worry himself that Obama will change course and really intervene in Syria, the defeatism he projects in this piece parrots Obama's:

when you get farmers, dentists and folks who have never fought before going up against a ruthless opposition in Assad, the notion that they were in a position to suddenly overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy.

The $500 million that Obama is proposing and Juan Cole is opposing isn't even appropriated yet and is not likely to be before the fall, and then of course it has to be distributed and put to use. It is at least a year away from producing any trained fighters, and as Juan Cole himself says "$500 million, is simply not enough," so its really a continuation of the same old "too little, too late" support policy and not a shift in policy at all.

Still Juan Cole is opposed to even this for fear that things could spiral out of control and Assad's hold on power be put in jeopardy, so to argue against any military support for the Syrian revolutionaries he adds to his claims that there are is no moderate opposition and they can't win anyway, the very frightening claim that any military help given to them will be used by terrorists against Americans.

He says that while there are plenty of "decent people standing up to a regime guilty of crimes against humanity":
The problem is that they are highly unlikely to defeat ISIS or similar groups on the ground, and that any arms and training given them will also go to ISIS for ultimate use against the United States.
It is not clear why he is so convinced the bad guys will win. In any case, we will address that in a moment. First I want to address the two points that are at the heart of the emotional argument he is making against supporting Assad's democratic opposition:

1) Any arms and training given to them will also go to the jihadists.
2) The jihadists will used them against the United States.

This is a central theme of this essay, repeated over and over again..."Weapons given by the US to ‘moderate’ Sunnis will make their way to the radicals"..."US weapons and ammunition traveled from Shiite Iraqi troops to Sunni extremists in Iraq"..."Training given by the US to “moderates” will be shared with ISIS and other radicals"..."US training helped to produce al-Qaeda"..."special training given Syrian Sunnis by the US will be acquired by members of al-Qaeda affiliates"... and so on.

What worries Juan Cole so much, and has him opposed to providing weapons to people who could save lives with them, is really nothing more than a special case of the more general law of unintended consequences, to wit: Whenever arms are distributed, there is a danger of diversion and whenever large quantities of weapons are supplied to a force there will be leakage. During the Vietnam War, both M-16's and AK-47's could easily be purchased on the black market, heavier weapons also.

Training also gets "diverted. " US training helped to product the Viet Minh. That's the thing about training that any country, company or institution that has invested in training knows, training is portable. It goes with the person trained therefore it can always be alienated to a competitor in the case of business or even an enemy in the case of war.

The main supply of weapons for the FSA and all the opposition fighters have been those "diverted" from Syrian Army stores and plenty of Iranian and Russian trained soldiers have defected to the revolution, so why don't we see Russia and Iran following Juan Cole logic and refusing arms to Assad for fear that any arms and training given to him will also go to the enemy. Since when has that ever been a reason for throwing in the towel in a conflict?

Is Juan Cole also against more weapons for the Iraqi army because their US supplied weapons have already fallen into ISIS hands? There has probably never been a war of any length in which weapons didn't get diverted to the other side but that generally isn't seen as a reason for refusing to supply the side you want to see win.

Law of unintended consequences invoked

This is nothing but the law of unintended consequences being invoked to justify doing nothing. He gives us no good reasons for supplying weapons, like the lives of the children that could be saved if Assad's barrel bombing helicopters could be shot down, and on the other side, he lists every reason against he can think of.  You'd never take a medicine if you only considered the side-effects.

His focus on possible future danger to US people is scaremongering and his failure to mention current benefits to Syrians being bombed now, tell us volumes about his concerns. Fortunately we have a real world test of likelihood that weapons given to insurgents will in turn be used against the US.

MANPADS are the heavy weapon most in demand by the opposition and paradoxically it is the one most feared will be used against the US, to shoot down airliners. But in the 1980s the US did give thousands of MANPADS to jihadists in Afghanistan and as a result of this, in the past 30 years zero US airliners have been shot down with these MANPADS. While the State Department did issue a list of 40 civilian aircraft that had been hit by MANPADS leading to 28 crashes since 1975, most have been in warlike conditions in Asia and Africa involving planes of questionable civilian linage, like the two DC-7s chartered by USAID to spray for locusts over Morocco that were fired upon by Polisario Front fighters in 1988. None have been the much feared attack on innocent US passenger planes.

Juan Cole goes on about the diversion of training:
There is little doubt that any special training given Syrian Sunnis by the US will be acquired by members of al-Qaeda affiliates for use against the US.
Possibly, eventually, but since ISIS seems to fight the FSA more than anyone else, they and the other "Syrian moderates", removing the sectarian blinders from Juan Cole's happy phrase, are the first to suffer blowback from the diversion of US weapons, as has already happened, and would be the first to suffer from any diversion of training. The Assad regime might suffer if things should heat up between him and the ISIS. The Iraqi government is already suffering from a diversion of US arms and training. Next, all the countries and peoples of the region would suffer, and yes, somewhere down the line, the US might suffer.

Juan Cole also uses this discussion to promote the myth that ISIS really is an anti-Assad force and part of his oppostion with claims like:
US-trained moderates will be de facto allies of ISIS, and so will need the latter and will fight alongside them, sharing techniques.
This is out of touch with reality. As these word were being published, the ISIS was fighting the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic State on a number of fronts in Syria. ISIS has a long history of attacking FSA positions, assassinating FSA commanders and murdering or imprisoning FSA soldiers and non-violent revolutionaries alike and Juan Cole calls them "allies."

He seems to be complete unaware of all the information that has come to light that show how the Assad regime has been intimately involved in the creation, funding, commanding and manning of the jihadist opposition. The narrative that Juan Cole is still peddling - that ISIS is the enemy of Assad and part of the rebel alliance - was completely discredited long ago.

There is another word trick Juan Cole uses and its worth mentioning as its a common one. He begins with black and white categories and them invokes shades-of-gray to make whatever point suites him. For example:
1. The Sunni Syrian fighters are not all that wedded to a particular ideology. Several important groups originally operating as part of the pro-Western Free Syrian Army defected to the al-Qaeda affiliates last September, apparently mainly because the latter pay better.
The logic trick of these lines is to take a defining metaphor, because you are either "wedded" or not, and then proving the "not" applies to "Sunni Syrian fighters" because he can point to "several" exceptions.

He says that these groups joined the jihadists because they pay better. That doesn't necessary show a lack of commitment to democracy so much as it may show a commitment to being able to feed one's family and have a decent supply of bullets to shoot while carrying out this essential first step to building a new Syria, defeating the Assad regime on the battlefield. Some who joined ISIS left when they found out that wasn't ISIS's mission.

Now we get to why Juan Cole believes good guys finish last:
Guerrillas need resources and admire winners, so groups with more resources that have more victories will pick up allies over time even if they are horrible groups.
If this is true I don't understand how the Vietnamese won against such a well-funded opposition or is it that Juan Cole thinks Arabs will only fight for resources and victories and not for revolutionary causes? That isn't what the history of this conflict tells us.

While many fighter have defected from Assad's side, in spite of an earlier propaganda campaign claiming otherwise, few if any anti-Assad fighters have switched sides to fight for Assad. By and large the guerrillas of which Juan Cole speaks remain anti-Assad fighters, and while some are willing to join Jabhat al-Nusra [JAN] or ISIS because that group has more resources and victories, they remain dedicated to the cause of removing Assad and will join those groups only if those victories are against Assad. In Syria, JAN has had success in recruiting Syrian's as compared to ISIS with relies mainly on foreign fighters, because JAN fights Assad while ISIS collaborates with him. ISIS has had better success recruiting in Iraq because that conflict has a more sectarian origin and they have been able to ride a wave of Sunni resentment against a sectarian Shiite state.
2. The kind of money the US is offering, $500 million, is simply not enough to allow it to compete with the funders of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. ISIS captured that much just from Mosul banks alone last week. Plus it has Syrian oil fields and enormous influxes of capital from the private business billionaires of the Gulf,
Note the word acrobatics Juan Cole does here to protect Assad. While he goes long about ISIS's "enormous influxes of capital from the private business billionaires of the Gulf" even though other reports say all foreign contributions are less than 5% of ISIS's income, but when it comes the the millions Assad is paying ISIS for oil, we are served up "plus it has Syrian oil fields." Hello! Oil requires a buyer before it can contribute to capital and since the subject is sources of capital to ISIS, wouldn't it be clearer and more accurate and honest to say in addition to the money ISIS steals and extorts, it receives millions from private Arab sources and millions from the Syrian state? That is the truth of what Juan Cole has so artfully hidden above. He continues:
The US will be outspent, and so will fail to keep the loyalty of the moderates it trains,
What an ultra-American view we have. Maybe it is us that should be loyalty to them for a change. Maybe we should be calling for honest and selfless support for this democratic struggle not for Syrian fighters we give some lessons to become loyal to US imperialism.

With his third point we get to why he is so sure the bad guys will win:
3. Civil wars are polarizing. Quite apart from money and resources, it is extremely difficult for a moderate third force to remain moderate.
This reveals how Juan Cole sees the array of forces in Syria. The two main forces are the Assad regime and the jhadists. The democratic (he calls them "moderate") forces that have driven this struggle since it began are now discounted as a "third force." Then he speaks to us of logic.
The Syrian regime has deployed Alawite thuggish gangs of ‘ghosts’ or shabiha against civilian populations, sometimes committing massacres. Alawite Air Force pilots routinely drop petroleum barrel bombs, which are indiscriminate in their impact, on civilian neighborhoods. This logic forces Sunni opponents to match the shabiha for brutality and identity politics.
"This logic?!!!" What logic? I don't see any logic at all. Yes the regime Juan Cole proposes to leave in power in Damascus is a mass murderer who has long used sectarian differences to stay in power. Not limiting ourselves to his "Sunni opponents" why does he think "logic forces" any opposition to be as brutal and sectarian? Does he really think they could even win that way? Does he think, by this "logic" that any struggle for liberation will only end by duplicating the enslavement?
Hence, the most motivated fighters over time have been radical fundamentalists, not open-minded moderates.
Why does he smuggle "open-minded" into it? Because it gives a grain of truth that helps sell the whole statement, "over time" people do tend to be less "open-minded" because with time we all think that we have learned some truths we no longer question, but that does nothing to prove ISIS will gain fighters from the FSA over time.

What does he base this on? Where's the proof? There are FSA fighters today that started out as farmers and dentists four years ago. Doesn't he even listen to his President? By what "logic" has he determined that "radical fundamentalists" are more "motivated" than them?
Many groups once just adherents of political Islam have over time been pushed into the arms of the al-Qaeda affiliates in northern Syria by the dynamics of the battlefield.
Yes, war makes people mean and it brings out the worst, and yet a very bloody 30 year liberation struggle in Vietnam has given birth to one of the most peaceful societies around.
4. Weapons given by the US to ‘moderate’ Sunnis will make their way to the radicals, in part because of corruption. Indeed, US weapons and ammunition traveled from Shiite Iraqi troops to Sunni extremists in Iraq.
And it bears repeating that there is a danger of diversion associated with any weapons distribution. To give a "western" example, I would suppose ones answer to question of whether you should attempt to resupply the fort under attack even at the risk those supplies will fall to the enemy may depend on whether you are in that fort or not.

Juan Cole has a 5th Reason but it really doesn't say anything new, just goes on some more about the danger of training being shared, and this critique has already gone on far too long so I will end it here with this:

Juan Cole has done some brilliant work in the past so it would good of him to heed Yoda's warning "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny."

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