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Monday, August 31, 2015

Venice Beach hotel owner arrested for ordering racist murder of homeless man

Jascent Jamal Lee Warren, 26, a homeless activist known as “Shakespeare” to his friends, lay dead and another black man injured, after a security guard for a Venice Beach hotel acted on orders from the hotel owner to "Kill that nigger" and started firing at a group of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk early Sunday morning. While the man that did the shooting fled and is still at large, LAPD has announced that they have arrested another man associated with the murder, but have not said who he is. I have it on good information he it is Sris Sinnathamby, the owner of the Cadillac Hotel and the man witnesses say ordered this racist murder. The police are holding him on suspicion of murder for $1 million bond. That may sound like a lot but this man can easily afford it and the charge is murder.

Although the murder scene was crowned with satellite news trucks yesterday, the media has been very quiet on this story, mostly reporting it as a dispute among the homeless or another gang-related killing. Even where the real story has gotten out, they are trying to pull it back. For example, the CBS-LA News website originally ran the story with this headline:

Witnesses: Hotel Owner Ordered Gunman To Fatally Shoot Homeless People On Venice Beach

and then changed it to this:

Police Announce Arrest In Fatal Shooting Of Homeless Man Near Venice Beach

for the very same web link. They also changed the content somewhat adding "Authorities have not confirmed this witness report." of the racist order:
Reporting from the scene, CBS2’s Greg Mills said a witness told him the owner of the Cadillac Hotel was with the gunman before the shooting. The witness also said the hotel owner ordered the gunman to shoot the homeless people.

“He pulled out the gun and the guy that owns the Cadillac Hotel told him ‘Kill that n—-r’,” says Ras Whitelion.

Authorities have not confirmed this witness report.
But you can hear the witness for yourself @ 05:02 in the YouTube video below.

This is how this story happened for me. I had ended my shift as a Linux support engineer but was still at my work computer (in my Venice apartment) working on my long response to the Jacobin piece on Syria when I heard two volleys of shots ring out across the street. After the first volley of maybe 7 shots, I correctly made the assessment that what I was hearing actually was gunfire, but not close enough that I needed to take evasive action, and after the 2nd volley proved to be the last, I continued my writing and eventually went to bed. The story I pieced together after I got up later that morning is far more troubling than the media's first reports.

But before the story comes the context.

On background: Venice is undergoing a major crisis of gentrification, especially since Google moved across the other street from me and the area started calling itself "Silicon Beach." The only reason I remain one of the few housed black men in Venice is that I had the skills to join the "Silicon Beach" crowd.

Four news vans in front of Cadillac Hotel on Sunday
Needless to say, this gentrification has been accompanied by a vicious campaign to force the homeless out of Venice. One of the areas of the greatest controversy has been Dudley Ave between Speedway and the Boardwalk, where the shooting took place. This was the historic site of the Venice West Cafe, and in my time it had the Dudley 7 Cinema, were a rough cut of Vietnam: American Holocaust was first shown, Sponto Gallery which featured a lot of local artists and events and Henry's Market, the local store for residents and the homeless alike, and on the other side of Dudley was always the Cadillac Hotel. Now all those other places are gone, replaced by upscale restaurants, but a remodeled Cadillac Hotel remains. Word on the street is that the owner of the Cadillac has been hot to run the homeless away from his place, but because of a few court decisions, the homeless have the right to sleep on the sidewalk between 9pm - 6am. The owner has been unhappy with LAPDs performance in removing the homeless so he hired the services of some Venice gang members to do "security," and they haved used violence and intimidation to run the homeless away. Eventually a deal was worked out, the homeless would not try to sleep in front of the Cadillac and another protected location, and they would be left alone. [ If you know the movie Emperor of the North Pole, think Shack's train #19.] But apparently not everyone got the message and at least one homeless artist just decided he wasn't going to continue to stay away. In any case, Saturday night there were about a dozen homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Cadillac.

There also was a big party at the Cadillac Hotel Saturday night. It was the "Collage-O-Rama" Venice Art Show, with a lot of high brow West LA folks, as well as a number of local "haters,"  as some of us call them, with gang members doing security. Now, this is the story going around on the street, and there are suppose to be three witnesses to this. This was actually after the party. It was said that the owner, very high on cocaine and alcohol, and angry at the homeless sleeping on the sidewalk, told his bodyguard as they were standing together outside the hotel "Shoot that nigger" which the bodyguard proceeded to do, unloading his pistol at the sleeping homeless, reloading and firing again before fleeing in a black SUV with another man and two women. People were also saying that the police arrested the hotel owner but the media wouldn't report the arrest until much later and as this post is published, still haven't named the arrested murder suspect. Most local outlets are reporting the shooting as a dispute between homeless people. [One of which drove off in a black SUV???]

Yesterday I talked to the man that was shot and lived. He just got out of the hospital and is already back on the beach with nowhere to sleep. He was shot in the leg. He needs a wheel chair but all they gave him was a walker. He doesn't know anything about the owner's part in this. All he knows is that he was sleeping on the sidewalk about 2AM went he was awoken by a man waving a pistol and saying "You can't sleep here any more" and the next thing he knew, the man had open fired, reloaded and open fired again, spray bullets everywhere people were sleep. Sunday morning's toll of 1 dead and 1 injured was a lucky break. It could have easily been a mass shooting.

Venice Beach shooting leaves one man dead, another wounded RIP "Shakespeare"

Venice Beach style Memorial for Shakespeare | RIP 30 August 2015

Other reports on this breaking news:
[Los Angeles Times] [Raw News]

Monday, August 31st, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Cadillac Hotel owner arrested on suspicion of deadly Venice Beach shooting

UPDATE: "Police have not released a motive."
I've just watched the 5:00PM CBS local tv news and that's what they said. They did say that the police had arrested the hotel owner for murder but they said he was the shooter and didn't mention a second man!! One has to wonder what they mean by "Police have not released a motive." Since, on their website, they have already quoted a witness saying the owner told the shooter "Kill the nigger." Are they waiting for instructions from the LAPD on how to report the story?

The alleged killer and hotel owner, Sris Sinnathamby, is a big contributor to Los Angeles City politicians. It will be interesting to see how this case is handled in that light.

A petition has been started to shutdown the Cadillac Hotel

Pictures from the Memorial | 2 September 2015

Jacobin's "War on Syria"

I was reminded that their tag line "Reason in Revolt" has a "take leave of senses" double-meaning as I read Jacobin's latest piece on Syria, a conflict that more and more is taking center stage in world affairs in spite of having been generally ignored, "The War on Syria", published 27 August 2015 was written by Patrick Higgins, but I will treat it as representing the views of Jacobin on Syria, which it does.

The tag line of this article is "Foreign intervention has only worsened the situation in Syria," and as I said about the Veterans for Peace resolution title "Stop All Foreign Intervention In Syria," that's a position I can get 100% behind except, as with VFP, its definition of "foreign intervention" doesn't include the Russians or Iranians, Hezbollah from Lebanon, Iraqi militias or Afghans recruited to fight for the Assad regime with the promise of an Iranian visa and pay, and now new Russian bases in Syria. They don't consider any of that "foreign intervention" yet without all of that, Assad would have been toast long ago.

The piece begins with an obligatory description of the tragedy, "As the human toll of the Syrian catastrophe spirals ever higher." It is very careful, however, to avoid any specifics about this catastrophe. Barrel-bombs for example. Then it complains:
And the specter of humanitarian crisis has compelled every stripe of policymaker and pundit to call for some form of action — the need to do something.
Here it artfully dodges the demand of the Syrian people for a no-fly zone, and acts as if the #ClearTheSky campaign doesn't exist for a reason.

20 killed in Friday of "no-fly zone" protests across Syria | 28 Oct 2011

Followed by:
there is a foundational assumption that the ruin and bloodshed of this terrible war have been produced by inaction.
Personally, I do believe that if a no-fly zone had been imposed over Syria four years ago, as demanded by millions of Syrians, much of the ruin and bloodshed of this terrible war could have been avoided, but, hey, what do I know?

Ostensibly this piece is a polemic against "The Syrian Dilemma," a very important collection of essays edited by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, heads of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, but then it immediately enlarges the target to include "policy wonks" such as Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute and Robert Kaplan of Foreign Policy. Now it can tar everybody with the same brush. This is the same technique used by Jacobin, the Assad regime, and most of the "anti-imperialists" when they include ISIS in their version of "the rebels."

The purpose of the Jacobin piece is to oppose the growing support for military intervention in Syria, particularly the implementation of a no-fly zone or the creation of "safe zones" so that Syrians won't have to leave the country to be safe from Assad's bombardment. That is why they have to pretend the calls for military intervention are coming principally from "policy wonks" and not the people being bombed. They say:
Indeed, calls for increased intervention have a long history in Syria. These appeals in the US press have long been tied to calls made within the Syrian opposition. They began early, within the first year, and often rather vociferously.
I'll say, who can over look the hundreds-of-thousands (millions?) of Syrian's who protested on the "Friday of Immediate Military Intervention" on 16 March 2012, the day after the first anniversary of the revolution, that took place in Binnish, Idlib; al-Houle, Homs; al-Qusour, Homs; al-Sukkari, Aleppo; Amouda, al-Hasaka; Ma'arit Nu'man, Idlib; Jourat al-Shiyah, Homs; al-Ansara, Aleppo; al-Rastan, Homs and many other places in Syria?
But the signals regarding intervention from what was then the most influential exile opposition outfit, the Syrian National Council (SNC), were in the first year of the uprising muddy.
I guess they can.

Before it became too dangerous, the Syrian revolution was most characterized by massive Friday demonstrations in which the people said plainly what they want. "The people demand the fall of the regime" for example. But Jacobin never speaks of their demands, only their echoes among the elite, both in the West and among Syrian exiles. That makes them easier to deny.

The masses chanting "The people demand the fall of the regime" | Hama | 1 July 2011

Not only does Jacobin deny the mass character of the Syrian revolution, they also deny the relationship between the mass struggle and the armed struggle. They want to lend weight to Assad's claim that he's been fighting terrorist all along. Their claim is that it was a violent revolution from the beginning, To "prove" this, they use the technique of disputing general trends with contra antidotes, a common method on the "Left." Even then they have to rely on the regime's version of the "facts."
Another claim which reality complicates is the frequent one of how, when, and where the revolt turned to arms. The popular narrative in the United States, promoted by the US State Department, is one in which a people in the face of state repression turned to violence only when they had to. But that is not quite true. Violence and militarization from the opposition on the ground began quite early — during the first month of the uprising.
All those links are designed to give you the feeling that they are speaking with authority but look into them, and look into mine also, BTW. The first link leads to a state department document, but since the truth is that a largely non-violent movement turned to armed resistance only after it met with an extreme armed response from the Syria state, they could have linked to many Syrian documents that say it better. The others lead to stories that rely heavily on Syrian government sources, so rather than taking the time to pick each of them apart, I'll simply go to the horse's mouth on the question of who has been killing who in Syria. When Bashar al-Assad was interviewed on German TV, 7 May 2012, he flat out denied his government was killing protesters. He said most of the dead were government supporters, killed by terrorists:
Those victims, you are talking about, the majority of them, are government supporters. So, how can you be the criminal and the victim at the same time? The majority are people who support the government and large part of the others are innocent people who have been killed by different groups in Syria.
This tells you how much creditability should be given to Syrian government reports on the violence, but Jacobin believes them. So if the Assad regime and its foreign backers don't have the primary responsibility for the deaths of a quarter-million Syrians, who does? They have an answer for that too:
On June 12, the Washington Post published a story about “budget cuts” facing the CIA program for Syria. Shoehorned into the story was the disclosure that the initiative “has become one of the agency’s largest covert operations” to the tune of nearly $1 billion dollars a year, with “Syria-related operations [accounting] for about $1 for every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget” and the CIA having “trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.”

In other words, the United States launched a full-scale war against Syria, and few Americans actually noticed.
"In other words" the basis of their claim that "the United States launched a full-scale war against Syria" is that the CIA has “trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years." This claim appears to be based entirely on anonymous US intelligence officers.  Obviously Jacobin believes them. The question is: Should we? After all, such people have been known to lie, especially to tell people what they want them to believe and they want everyone to believe they are working real hard to help the people defeat Assad, remember that is their official line, so they have every reason to exaggerate what they have done.

So we don't know anything about these 10,000 but we know quite a bit about the last 54. They were 90 in May when US defence secretary Aston Carter announced that they were being trained at "a secure location." The rebel group they were to join or become is known as Division 30. Its commander is Col. Nadim Hassan, and its press spokesman is Capt. Ammar al Wawi. According to McClatchy "al Nusra snatched many of the 54 graduates of the $500 million program on July 29," as they were first entering Syria to fight ISIS. They have been like the "F Troop" of the Syrian conflict. They had to pledge not to use their weapons or training to fight Assad before they could join the unit. This is the main reason recruitment went so poorly.

If Jacobin has any further information that would make their 10,000 more believable, like what units they are in or what name they are fighting under, what battles they made a difference in, how they are paid and supplied, how the US exercises command and control, etc. all the minutia of actually fighting a war, they aren't saying. But now we are in a position to do a little creative math of our own. If the US spent $500 million on 54 rebels or $9.26 million per soldier, the cost to "train and equip" Jacobin's imaginary "10,000 fighters" would be a whopping $92 billion not $1 billion as Jacobin claims. However did they hide that in the budget?

Now imagine for a minute that you are a student, and you are looking for a school, maybe a trade school, college, it doesn't matter. This man tells you that he has "over 10,000 successful graduates" but when you examine the public record, the only thing you find documented is a single class of 90 that produced 54 graduates and half of those failed their first real world test. Do you write him a check for tuition? If you do, I have a theme park in Anaheim I can get you a real bargain on and a "Left" publication you should write for.

It is simple opportunism that allows these "Leftists" to believe Obama's claim that he is for regime change and CIA claims that they have already dispatched 10,000 to do the job without demanding anything like a shred of evidence.

Mao's Kitchen

Jacobin thinks it wrong to focus on the plight of the Syrian people and they have a theory of revolutionary change that means they don't have to,
The abstract embrace of this people, in itself belying the concrete conditions of a four-year war, is connected to another leitmotif of Syria discussions: any refusal to replace analysis of the situation within the country and its relationship with broader international politics with a neat, generalized “will” of the people narrative is to deny Syrian “agency.”
Once Jacobin has done what they could to discredit what they call the "popular narrative of the People versus the Dictator," They are finally ready to tell us what they think is really important:
This narrative is, in other words, a cartoon. More than that, it is a cartoon that overshadows the central contradiction currently at play in the Syrian situation: one between imperialists and various resistance movements, as well as the states supporting them.
Obviously, I have been checking out their links as I read their piece and here I was pleased to find it led to Mao Tse-tung's On Contradiction, a piece which I cherish but haven't had occasion to look at in many years. It actually says nothing to back their assertion that  "the central contradiction currently at play in the Syrian situation" is "between imperialists and various resistance movements, as well as the states supporting them," which is a core "anti-imperialist" theme and the reasoning behind all their other conclusions, (more about that later). It does, however, speak volumes about their methodology from the point of view of Marxism.

I was most pleased to be reminded in the introduction that Mao wrote it in 1937 with the "object of overcoming the serious error of dogmatist thinking to be found in the Party at the time." Dogmatic thinking is the big problem of the "anti-imperialist" Left, they simply missed the changes, I guess. On Contradiction begins:
The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics. Lenin said, "Dialectics in the proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects." [1] Lenin often called this law the essence of dialectics; he also called it the kernel of dialectics. [2]
Can you see already where Jacobin's definition of the "central contradiction" isn't supported by the link they provide? They say the central contraction for Syria is all these external factors, whereas Mao always taught that what he called the primary contradiction was to be found "in the very essence of objects." While the relationship between imperialists, what they call "resistance movements" and "supporting states" are all important, Mao would tell them that they play no lead in the primary contradiction in Syria. That is to be found in the internal forces, inside of Syria. The struggle about Syria is first and foremost a struggle among Syrians. So to counter-paraphrase the famous slogan of the city that promises that what happens there won't be another Ashley Madison, what happens in Syria obviously does not stay in Syria, it does, however, start in Syria.

The theme of blaming "outside agitators" is as old as the class struggle. I doubt that there has ever been a rebellion that wasn't blamed on "outside agitators." There are those that blame NWO think tanks and $$ for Occupy Wall St. and Black Lives Matter the same way these "anti-imperialists" blame secret CIA programs and neo-liberal funding for revolutions against dictators they like. Mao in On Contradiction again:
They search in an over-simplified way outside a thing for the causes of its development, and they deny the theory of materialist dialectics which holds that development arises from the contradictions inside a thing.
Its not just the agency of the Syria people that they deny. They deny that it is internal Syrian factors that play the "central" role in the development of what they euphemistically call the "Syrian situation." They have every right to do so, of course, but they shouldn't call themselves Marxists or cite Mao's On Contradiction as supportive:
As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes. Thus materialist dialectics effectively combats the theory of external causes, or of an external motive force, advanced by metaphysical mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism.
Like our friends at Jacobin. Again Mao tries to hammer home his point, missed by our "anti-imperialists" that internal causes are primary (central) and external causes are secondary(peripheral). This holds true also for countries, even Libya and Syria.
Does materialist dialectics exclude external causes? Not at all. It holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken...
Maybe a dragon? Anyway, imperial machinations play a role in every revolutionary struggle, it could not be otherwise. As they are fond of saying when planning military strategy, "Remember, the enemy has a vote." But the imperialists don't cause mass uprisings or revolutions, even if they can always be spotted lurking around the peripheries.

Our "anti-imperialists" see a static world, neatly divided between imperialist and anti-imperialists camps and think it our job to support one and oppose the other. Specifically, they think its our job to oppose anything NATO, meaning US imperialism, supports. The beauty of this method is since that logic worked for Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't have to know much about the internal struggles in say, Libya or Syria, they just have to know which side the US government claims to support. Mao warns against this cookie cutter approach:
The principle of using different methods to resolve different contradictions is one which Marxist-Leninists must strictly observe. The dogmatists do not observe this principle; they do not understand that conditions differ in different kinds of revolution and so do not understand that different methods should be used to resolve different contradictions; on the contrary, they invariably adopt what they imagine to be an unalterable formula and arbitrarily apply it everywhere, which only causes setbacks to the revolution or makes a sorry mess of what was originally well done.
Mao then castigates those who think they can analyse things by appealing to general principles and foregoing the need to study the particulars of the question at hand. I particularly find this true about the "anti-imperialists." Leftists I know don't spend 10 minutes a day studying the situation in Syria think their opinion is every bit as valid as that of anybody on the critical-syria list, including Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel.
It is of great importance to study these problems. Lenin meant just this when he said that the most essential thing in Marxism, the living soul of Marxism, is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. [10] Our dogmatists have violated Lenin's teachings; they never use their brains to analyse anything concretely, and in their writings and speeches they always use stereotypes devoid of content,..
I'm not necessarily saying that our "anti-imperialists" look at Syria superficially, but if the shoe fits...
To be superficial means to consider neither the characteristics of a contradiction in its totality nor the characteristics of each of its aspects; it means to deny the necessity for probing deeply into a thing and minutely studying the characteristics of its contradiction, but instead merely to look from afar and, after glimpsing the rough outline, immediately to try to resolve the contradiction (to answer a question, settle a dispute, handle work, or direct a military operation). This way of doing things is bound to lead to trouble.
Mao then gives us a concrete example from the Chinese revolution of just how complicated things can get in the real world and the need to analyse each case based on its reality, not some prejudicial dogma:
For instance, consider the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. Take one aspect, the Kuomintang. In the period of the first united front, the Kuomintang carried out Sun Yat-sen's Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party, and assistance to the peasants and workers; hence it was revolutionary and vigorous, it was an alliance of various classes for the democratic revolution. After 1927, however, the Kuomintang changed into its opposite and became a reactionary bloc of the landlords and big bourgeoisie. After the Sian Incident in December 1936, it began another change in the direction of ending the civil war and co-operating with the Communist Party for joint opposition to Japanese imperialism. Such have been the particular features of the Kuomintang in the three stages.
Imagine that! There were times and circumstances when Mao considered the Kuomintang a part of the revolutionary forces! That fascist group, after the Shanghai massacre of 1927 and everything else they were guilty of. That's like counting al Nusra among the revolutionary forces in Syria just because they happen to be mainly Syrian and opposing Assad at the time! Oh how our "anti-imperialists" would condemn Mao if they would only bother to read what they are citing. If they did, they would see this summation of the Marxist work they linked to:
Without concrete analysis there can be no knowledge of the particularity of any contradiction. We must always remember Lenin's words, the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.
Because they fail to make a concrete analysis of difference roles played by ISIS and al Nusra in relationship to the struggle against the Assad regime and see only a common jihadist ideology they can tally a long list of abuses they claim were carried out by Islamists that have associated themselves with the revolution, along with Islamists Jacobin associates with the revolution, namely the Islamic State, which isn't seen as part of the revolution either by the revolutionaries or IS, but fail to mention the "Stop the Killing" movement, the "Friday of" protests, the LCCs, and much more, Jacabin says:
These dynamics present only one of the major challenges to anyone making claims of a Syrian revolution....If the armed revolt in Syria is part of a revolutionary movement, why are the most powerful and influential actors among the armed forces bigoted?
Apparently these "Marxists" understand little about revolution. They expect a revolution to be untainted by abuses and crimes from the revolutionary side when speaking generally, there is simply no way that can be the case. This is because a revolution, particularly as it nears victory, is likely to win even some of the shakier elements in the society to its ranks.

Once they've used their understanding of the world outside of Syria to determine which side to stand with in the "Syrian situation," it seems integrity goes out the window. Jacobin even resorts to revisionist history to make its case that external foreign actors were behind the uprising.
The 2011 revolt was launched in three major layers: the protests in towns like Dara’a, Idlib, Homs, and Hama; the exile organizations in dialogue with the United States, namely the Syrian National Council (and now the National Syrian Coalition); and the violent agitations against the Syrian state, which eventually evolved into a total insurrection.
Jacobin doesn't explain how the "Syrian National Council (SNC), which was set up six seven months after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March of 2011," according to the Carnegie Endowment, was able launch a revolution before it existed. Fortunately for us, Wikipedia  gives us a less fantastic cause and effect relationship:
The Syrian National Council (Arabic: المجلس الوطني السوري‎, al-Majlis al-Waṭanī as-Sūri, French: Conseil national syrien) sometimes known as SNC,[2][3] the Syrian National Transitional Council[4] or the National Council of Syria, is a Syrian opposition coalition, based in Istanbul (Turkey), formed in August 2011 during the Syrian civil uprising (escalating into civil war) against the government of Bashar al-Assad.[5][6]

I'm afraid I must leave this blog post before completing it, although it is quite long already, and save my summation for another time. Shots rang out across the street while I was writing this post yesterday. For a few minutes it sounded like the war has come home [ and I'm very afraid a new gang one may start today.]  For the moment my attentions are drawn back to the neighborhood where I live. Look for an important new post here latter today titled:

For further excellent criticism of Jacobin's "The War on Syria" see also:
Patrick Higgins’s war on the truth by Louis Proyect
Syria’s rebels are empire’s pawns (except America’s favorite proxy) by Charles Davis
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, August 28, 2015

Are 71 Syrian refugees found dead in Austria part of Assad's holocaust?

Truck abandoned by side of road contained 71 corpses 27/08/15
We now know that the 71 dead bodies found in the back of a truck on a road in Austria were refugees from Syria. They left Syria, not for economic reasons, as with so many migrants from Africa and the Middle East; they fled Syria as refugees because for four years now Syrian President Bashat al-Assad has responded to the popular demand that he step down my making war on civilians. I think these deaths, like a growing number, are the result of what I am beginning to call Assad's holocaust. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon must be feeling the much same. He said the Syrian war had “just been manifested on a roadside in the heart of Europe.”  AFP is reporting:
Four held over Austria truck tragedy as migrant deaths mount

Simon Sturdee with Mohamad Ali Harissi
29 August 2015

Vienna (AFP) - Hungary said Friday it had arrested four people over the discovery of the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants, believed to be Syrian, in an abandoned truck in Austria.
Austrian police said the truck victims were likely fleeing the war in Syria and included a toddler and three young boys.

"Among these 71 people, there were 59 men, eight women and four children including a young girl one or two years old and three boys aged eight, nine or 10," police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil told a news conference.

He said the time and cause of death still had to be determined but there was a "certain probability" they had suffocated.

Doskozil said those arrested included the owner of the vehicle and two drivers, and were likely "low-ranking members... of a Bulgarian-Hungarian human-trafficking gang".
On Friday evening, Hungarians held a vigil for the victims outside Budapest's main train station, where thousands of migrants have been sheltering for weeks.

Austrian motorway maintenance workers alerted police after noticing "decomposing body fluids" dripping from the truck, Doskozil said.

The police were confronted by an overpowering stench and a mass of tangled limbs and forensics experts worked all night to clear out the vehicle.

Television images showed flies buzzing around the back of the vehicle in the baking sun.

- 'Who will stop this madness?' -

Austrian newspaper Kurier carried a black front page with the headline: "Who will stop this madness?" More...
Almost certainly, those responsible for their transport are guilty of murder, but so too are those who forced them to flee their homes in the first place. When the Assad regime decided to make war on civilians and made barrel-bombs its weapon of choice, it gave thousands of Syrian families the grim choice of fleeing their homes for parts unknown or waiting to be murdered in their beds. There will always be those, like these traffickers, looking to profit from such misery, but those that die like this are as much victims of the barrel-bomber as those burnt alive in their beds.

A group of migrant women and children escorted by police wait at a collector point near Roszke village at the Hungarian-Serbian border on August 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Attila Kisbenedek)
When we hear about what is euphemistically being called the "migrant" crisis, we hear that the migrants are coming from a great many countries. For example, Macedonia has registered migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Bangladesh, DR of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ertirea, Ethiopia and more. But such a long list of countries helps to hide the fact that this co-called "migrant crisis" is largely a refugee crisis caused by Bashar al-Assad. Of the total of 47,994 migrants registered from 19 June to 27 August in Macedonia, 39,164 or 81% were not "migrants" at all, they were refugees from Syria according to International Organization on Migration.

More migrants are coming from Syria than any other country. "The largest migrant group by nationality in 2015 is Syrians, as people flee the country's brutal civil war." reports the BBC today. Even from North Africa, 78,190 Syrians attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing this year. The second largest group taking that route are from Afghanistan, where they also face war. Their number was 32,581.

The movement of Africans towards Europe is a long standing fact. When Qaffadi ran Libya, the EU paid him billions of euros to keep those Africans from their shores. He kept them locked up in inhumane detection facilities or dumped them out in the desert to die with no media attention. The current "migrant" crisis is being taken to new levels because of the Syrians fleeing Assad's war against civilians. This is especially true in the past few months because as Assad has been continually losing ground, he has dramatically stepped up his campaign of "Death from Above." According to Wikipedia:
On July 9, 2015, the UNHCR reported that the number of Syrian refugees has surged to over 4,000,000 people, mostly residing in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan.

During the first half of 2015, large numbers of Syrian refugees crossed into Europe, reaching 313 thousands UNHCP applications across Europe by early August 2015.[115] The largest numbers were recorded in Germany with over 89 thousand and Sweden with over 62 thousands in early August.
The UN Information Service held a press briefing today:
Responding to a question about the root causes for the increase in refugees coming to Europe, Ms. Fleming said there were two new trends stemming from the Syria conflict. The first trend was that of worsening conditions for refugees in the neighbouring countries.
The second trend was that people continued to flee Syria to save their lives.
The European "migrant" crisis can't be solved without a no-fly zone over Syria

Syrian refugees wait to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia, in the border town of Idomeni , northern Greece, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Greece has been overwhelmed by more than 160,000 refugees and migrants so far this year. The vast majority arrive in Lesbos. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bashar al-Assad threatened Syrian holocaust three years ago

On Wednesday DesertFire responded to the question I raised in Monday's post, Is Assad creating the first holocaust of the 21st century? in a tweet:
The English section of the tweet reads:
May 7, 2012
(05/06/2012) Only hours ago a serious meeting ended in the Republican Palace.

Present at the meeting were Bashar al-Assad, Asef Shawkat, Ali Mamlouk and Buthaina Shaaban on the one hand, and on the other, seven city fathers of Damascus including Ghassan Qal'aat (Surname correct?) of the Douma Chamber of Commerce including Adnan [middle name?] Alnn of the Damascus Chamber of Commerce.

At the meeting, Assad and Asef Shawkat threatened that if the capital becomes surrounded by the rebel army, and the dealers and the people of Damascus line up with the rebels, they will, without further notice, burn and reduce Damascus to ruins as though it were in prehistoric times, and added that they had also heard Adnan Alnn's impudent words that he lacked control over the dealers of Damascus and gave Ghassan Qal'aat message to Hamidiya market traders that they must stop supporting the rebels or this market will be reduced to an archaeological site. At the end of the meeting Ali Mamlouk said they would burn Damascus and sit up in the palace and enjoy the fire.

According to the news, the city fathers of Damascus came out of the meeting stressed.
I'll bet they were stressed.

Assad called this meeting of city leaders as the "Stop the Killing" non-violent protest movement against the government shooting of pro-democracy demonstrators had emerged in the capital, Damascus. According the New York Times "Many of its organizers have been arrested." See, for example GlobalVoices: Activist Rima Dali Arrested in Damascus for Calling for End to Killing, 9 April 2012.

Banner Rima Dali held in front of Syrian Parliament before she was arrested, read
“Stop the killing. We want to build a country for all Syrians.” | 8 Apr 2012

"Stop the Killing" protest near engineering faculty | Damascus-al-Baramkah | 22 Apr 2012

A representative of the Douma Chamber of Commerce was at this meeting and in the past few weeks Assad has subjected Douma to almost continuous shelling and bombing. He is now making good on the threats he made three years ago.

The day after Assad made his apocalyptic promises, he gave an English language interview with Dr. Juergen Todenhoefer on German TV [video][transcript], 7 May 2012. Assad denied his government was killing protesters. He told Todenhoefer that most of the dead were government supporters, killed by terrorists:
Those victims, you are talking about, the majority of them, are government supporters. So, how can you be the criminal and the victim at the same time? The majority are people who support the government and large part of the others are innocent people who have been killed by different groups in Syria.
Then he told Todenhoefer who this opposition is:
They are a mixture, an amalgam of Al Kaida. Other extremists, not necessarily Al Kaida and outlaws who escaped the police for years, mainly smuggling drugs from Europe to the Gulf area and others who were sentenced in different sentences. So it’s a mixture of different things.
ISIS Headquarters in Raqqa wasn't bombed by Assad

No doubt, he was thinking of the jihadists and criminals he had let out of prison after the protests started. Some of the terrorists he freed then would go on to form the Islamic State. Some ISIS "emirs" have been identified as Syrian security officers. He then went on to say that the Houla massacre, and the other crimes his army has been accused of, have been "false flag" operations:

They committed a crime, they published videos, faked videos and they wear solder uniforms, our army uniforms in order to say “that was the army”.
According to Assad this was the strategy of the rebels "[f]rom the very beginning". Assad knows all about "false flag" operations. Witnesses have come forward to testify that most, if not all, of the "terrorist" attacks that took place in this period in Damascus were staged by the security forces and ex-state news people have told how they would receive advanced notice so that they could be well positioned to cover the attacks.

Assad ended this interview by promising reforms, but then said:
Stand with "Stop the Killing"
[Y]ou have to fight terrorism. There is no question about fighting terrorists. Nowhere in the world. But what you do is somebody kills civilians, kills innocent people, kills children and kills your soldiers and the police and anyone. You have to fight with him if he is not ready for a dialogue. And that’s what we’ve been seeing so far.
He was saying this years before terrorism was a real problem in Syria, but he needed terrorists to justify his war against civilians so now terrorism in Syria is the reality he consciously helped it become.

Three years ago, when Assad threatened this Apocalypse, ten thousand civilians had been killed since he started shooting protesters 14 months before that. Now a quarter-million Syrians are dead and 9 million are homeless.

The motto of the Assad Regime in this fight has always been "Assad or we burn the country."

The city Assad threatened with destruction is one of the oldest inhabited cities on Earth. Assad is already using poison gas, torturing children in front of their parents and burning people alive.

In this meeting more than three years ago, Bashar al-Assad said what his end game would be if he faced defeat and recently he has been losing badly. According to IHS Jane, Assad has lost control of 83% of Syria.

But he can still bomb 100% of it because no one challenges his air supremacy, certainly not US war planes that have joined him in killing civilians and bombing his enemies.

We know his intention. The question this poses for the rest of of is:

Will we once again stand idly by while Assad creates the first holocaust of the 21th Century?

SAA burning citizen's house, saying 'Assad or we will burn the country | 1 Sept 2012

This short two minute video speaks more eloquently than a thousand UN reports about what is happening in Syria. Here we see Assad's Syrian Arab Army burning a family out of their home because they refuse to support his fascist regime. This family is not collateral damage in anybody's war. This family is the target of an attack by the Assad regime. If they fight back, we can call it a war, but from the beginning, the Assad regime has been making war against civilians. They are the targets of Assad's attacks. The Free Syrian Army was formed from SAA soldiers sent to shoot protesters that instead defected and became their protectors. The Islamic State was formed from the jihadists and criminals Assad let out of prison when the revolution started. The thousands of Syria refugees drowning in the Med or suffocating in the back of truck in Austria are victims of this war on civilians. The media calls them all migrants but if they come from Syria, they are refugees not migrants, and that's where the largest number are coming from. A quarter million dead are already victims of Assad's war on civilians.

For four years now, the world has stood by and allowed Assad to carry out his war on civilians. Now, as the curtain is falling upon his hour on the stage, the question remains:

Will the world standby and allow him to apply his final solution?

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Is Assad creating the first holocaust of the 21st century?

Perhaps you have already noticed that the Assad regime has suffered serious set backs on the ground recently and has become more desperate in its fight to save itself. There can be no doubt at it has seen a serious reversal of fortunes since the heady days of Hezbollah's conquest of Qusayr and the "On to Aleppo" campaign. Even with all the international help he is receiving, it is becoming increasingly clear that Bashar al-Assad is going down.

However, he still has one thing going for him. He still has air supremacy, now with US connivance. With his air force he is still free to bomb any area of Syria he wants to and it has become clear that he targets civilians and especially children. Now, as the regime starts to question its own survival and become more desperate, that unopposed campaign of "Death from Above" is being greatly intensified.

Remember that the regime slogan throughout this struggle has always been:

Bashar al-Assad or we burn the country

ASSAD or we burn the country , and they are doing

It is this policy that has already caused a quarter-million Syrian deaths while reducing the population of Syria by 5 million. Now he is engaged in an all out campaign of slaughter. He knows he has nothing to lose. He has already killed so many. If he is allowed to continue, we could all be witnessing the first holocaust of the 21th century. The question this poses for the world as a whole, and each of us as individuals is:

What are we going to do about it? Stand by and let it happen or stop it? 

This is a survey of today's bomb damage, and we'll start with yesterday's new attack on Douma:
Syrians opposition says 34 killed by regime rockets, shelling in Douma

24 Aug 2015
A Syrian opposition activist group said at least 34 people were killed Sunday as a new wave of Assad regime attacks on the western city of Douma killed at least 34 people, CNN reported on August 23rd.

Government forces shelled and launched rockets on the city in the countryside outside Damascus, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The group said the death toll is expected to rise, as many of those injured are in critical condition and there are people missing -- possibly buried under rubble.

Sunday’s violence marks another bloody day in Syria’s 4-year-old civil war. More...

The Syrian regime says, 'Al Assad or we'll burn the country down'

UPDATE: According to this new IHS Jane's report, the Assad regime no longer controls 83% of the country.

However, he can still bomb 100% of it. When will this end?

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updated: counterpunch delivers another low blow to the Syrian people

Given the great amount of death and destruction that has taken place in Syria since pro-democracy protesters first took to the streets in their millions in March 2011, more than a quarter million killed, perhaps a million injured, and the major cities so destroyed by artillery and aerial bombardment that half the population is homeless and millions have fled the country, the major media has done a very good job of hiding the carnage from us. Everyday, sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds, are killed across Syria from barrel-bombs, rockets, artillery, tank fire and snipers, but rarely does it even make the back pages, let alone the headlines. This is the Internet age. The age of instant communications and cameras everywhere, and what could arguably be called the first holocaust of the 21th century is going on and the deaths aren't reported, even while regularly the totals are jumped by another ten thousand. Even Amy Goodman's "War and Peace Report" spent less than 90 seconds reporting on this massacre, spread between two shows.

Every once in a while, however, a massacre happens that is so horrific that it breaks into the news cycle and ordinary people are again reminded of what is daily going on in Syria. When that happens, the Assad Defenders of the "Left" jump into action. That happened 2 years ago after Assad attacked this same Damascus suburb with sarin and killed over 1400. Then the Assad Defenders came forward in droves to cast the blame anywhere but where it belongs, at Assad's feet. They all told their various tales of how Assad didn't do it, and made a good run of it.

That was before Assad was forced to admit that he actually had sarin and gave some of it up. The UN resolution authorizing the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the sarin attacks in Syria, had an unusual feature for any criminal investigation, owing to the Russian veto, it was not allowed to name the culprit. However, once they had samples of the sarin Assad had turned over to them to compare with the samples they took in Douma and East Ghouta, they were able to make this telling statement:
The evidence available concerning the nature, quality and quantity of the agents used on 21 August indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents.
I have not seen any of the purveyors of the various "Assad didn't do it" theories address themselves to this statement from the United Nations. This counterpunch article rehashed all those conspiracy theories, concluding:
One should of course recall the laughable, and now completely debunked, 2013 report from HRW entitled Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria, which falsely claimed that the Syrian government carried out the infamous chemical weapons attack of August 21, 2013.
But he doesn't address this UN report. I had the UN quote on an 8ft. x 6ft. banner at the recent Veterans for Peace National Convention in San Diego, CA. Three of the leading "Assad didn't do it" apologists were there, Phyllis Bennis, Ray McGovern and Sy Hersh. I saw two of them in the room where I had the banner. None have addressed themselves to these UN findings. However, an unusual thing happened while I was at the convention on Friday, but not at the convention. At the UN they passed a resolution that authorized an investigation of the chemical murders in Syria that would name names this time. They could do this because, for once, Russia didn't veto! Soon we may have an official UN report that says who has been using chemical weapons in Syria and Assad's apologists will have to revise their stories.

But back to the more recent attacks in Douma.

Where these fascists can control the message completely, they do, as with this Syrian government news agency report:

SANA edits out UN chief's comments about Douma massacre | 17 Aug 2015

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, removed comments from the UN’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs criticizing government airstrikes on a Douma marketplace on Sunday that left dozens dead. Stephen O’Brien condemned the airstrikes as well as rebel attacks on Damascus last week during a press conference on Monday, August 17. O’Brien arrived in Syria on Saturday. Credit: YouTube/SANA
Where they can no longer edit out the story, they resort to misdirection, innuendo, incomplete information and out right lies to defend the Assad regime. This brings us to the latest trash along those lines from Eric Draitser at counterpunch, 21 August 2015:

The Douma Market Attack: a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention?

As if a quarter million dead and thousands of Syrians drowning in the Med trying to get to Europe after 4 years of war openly supported by Iran and Russia wasn't enough "pretext for intervention" if anybody cared to intervene. And as if Obama's air force hasn't already intervened by attacking ISIS, and al Nusra, and now even the Free Syria Army, "intervened" by atatcking only Assad's enemies while not interfering with Assad's barrel-bombing air operations.

After saying the attack has caused international outrage, Eric Draitser continues:
Condemnations of the Syrian government have poured in from seemingly all corners of the globe as President Assad and the Syrian military have been declared responsible for the attack, convicted in the court of media opinion. Interestingly, such declarations have come well before any investigation has been conducted, and without any tangible evidence other than the assertions of the rebel spokespersons and anti-government sources.
counterpunch finds it convenient to overlook the fact, verified by a great many witnesses, that this was an air strike that could have only been carried out by Assad's air force, and ignores the many videos posted on-line right after this attack, when it asserts that their isn't "any tangible evidence." Below are few:

Airstrikes from Assad hit town of Douma killing as many as 82 people

Then it takes advantage of the fact that most media outlets are qualmish about showing dead and dismembered bodies, to claim that there were none and that proves these videos aren't "tangible evidence," not only, presumably, of who was responsible for the attack, but that there was even ever a real attack and not something, presumably, cooked up in secret by a studio on a set with a lot of extras and good FX:
First, there is the allegation that more than 100 civilians were killed in an airstrike carried out by the Syrian military. There are certainly plenty of pictures that seem to bolster that claim, with debris scattered everywhere, aid workers carrying victims, and frightened civilians rushing around the destroyed marketplace. However, when one looks at the videos, even those provided by outlets such as The Guardian in the above linked article, one curious thing seems to be missing: bodies.

Indeed, it does seem odd that an airstrike could obliterate a crowded market on a Sunday, killing over a hundred people, and no videos or images would show bodies torn apart by the blast? One would expect to see mangled corpses, limbs scattered on the ground, pools of blood, etc. None of that seems visible.
Unfortunately, this depraved line of argument forces me to show you the very disturbing and graphic images it is claiming don't exist:

The massacre of Douma, Aug 16, 2015

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are a few "words" for those that tell lies like:
no videos or images would show bodies torn apart by the blast? One would expect to see mangled corpses, limbs scattered on the ground, pools of blood, etc. None of that seems visible
These pictures are from the Daily Mail:
The group said regime warplanes struck the market (pictured after the attack) with one or two bombs, then swooped back to attack again as people desperately tried to treat the wounded
An injured Syrian, covered in blood, lies on a hospital bed as he waits to to receive treatment after the attack
Horrific: Dead bodies are lined up in a clinic near the market after the deadly attack on the Damascus suburb
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - a British-based monitoring group - said most of the dead were civilians
If you need more, believe me, there is a lot more where these came from.

counterpunch then tries to "bolsters the claims by Syrian military spokespeople that the military targeted terrorist elements inside the city," presumably in an attempt to justify these mass murders:
Moreover, it is no secret exactly who has been operating in Douma and why they would be targeted.
It then goes on to list "armed factions" that the Carnegie Endowment says are operating in Douma. Naturally, they all have Arabic names, "many of them with an Islamist bent," so it is easy to brand them all "terrorist elements" worthy of extermination. This video will show you who Assad is really trying to conquer in Douma, it is the masses of Douma that have successfully resisted the regime for more than four years. Because Douma was close to Damascus, protest weren't as large as in some other areas. That doesn't mean they didn't happen. Four years ago:

Large anti-Assad protests near AlKabeer mosque in Douma - Free Syria | 09 Aug 2011

A year later...

Douma's Activists Resume Protests | 20 July 2012

On the first day of Ramadan, small protests merged in one big
demonstration in the Big Mosque Square in Douma on July 20, 2012.

And the people supported the armed struggle against the regime:

Douma | Damascus | Night protests demand the arming of Free Syria Army | 04 Mar 2012

This attack was just one in a series

Also, since most recent attacks against Douma haven't been in the news, and because counterpunch didn't have to address them, they never mention that this attack was just another in a series of attacks on Douma that was entering its second week. That's another reason people could "jump to the conclusion" that the 16 August attack came from the Assad regime.

Assad has been attacking Douma ever since protests broke out in April 2011. This latest series started with Syrian government air strikes on 12 August 2015. Twenty-seven were killed that day. This counterpunch article doesn't mention that attack.

Syrian army stage air strike over civilians in Douma | 12 Aug 2015

The attack that caused all the uproar on 16 August killed more than the others but it was only one in a series. 19 August was the sixth consecutive day of bombing. This counterpunch article doesn't mention that attack.
Assad military aviation bombards Douma | 19 Aug 2015

This counterpunch article doesn't mention this attack either:

Assad is still exterminating the wounded Douma | 20 Aug 2015

And Saturday, another 50 Syrians were killed by government attacks,

Shell falls very close to a man while filming in Douma | 22 Aug 2015

People are dying in Syria in very large numbers. This is not a game where western "Leftist" ideologues get to twist the facts to win debates and hurray for our side. Those, like counterpunch, who misrepresent the facts to defend Assad, no matter the motive, have a lot of blood on their hands.

UPDATES: More thoughts on the "anti-imperialist" claim that the Douma attack was "a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention."

I've just finish watching the CBS Evening News and there was no mention of Douma. Why not? I've heard nothing about Douma for days from the corporate media. The Assad regime made another attack on Douma on Sunday, killing 35. It doesn't really matter if it was real or fabricated. If they were looking for a "Pretext for Intervention," I would expect them to jump all over it. On the other hand, its hard to imagine they would go to all the trouble of fabricating an attack, creating videos for YouTube and all, however they would do that, and then not use it as a casus belli. In fact, there have been attacks on Douma almost every day since the one that created all the fuss on 16 August and there has been almost no news about any of them.

Now, why is that?

In point of fact. There have been many, many good reasons for intervention, not just the 21 August 2013 sarin attack or this recent 16 August Douma air strike. There have been daily outrages from the Assad regime, generally with supporting video and there have also been mass demonstrations all over Syria demanding military intervention, again with supporting video. If the US imperialists have been looking for a "pretext for intervention," if they want to build support for a war in Syria, why is all this video so unfamiliar to the American public?

Now, finally, we are able to turn the counterpunch logic on its head and see that the reason the very real war crimes of the Assad regime receive such little publicity in the United States is that the bourgeoisie does not want to intervene in Syria, nor are they willing to so tarnish Bashar al-Assad's image that the people will find him unacceptable in a deal later on. One need only compare this to the media campaign used to justify military operations against ISIS and know that Assad still kills far more people than ISIS, that Assad was using rape as a weapon and burning people alive long before ISIS, etcetera, to see that "a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention." is an "anti-imperialist" and pro-Assad fantasy.

We can also see how counterpunch and others on the "Left" have played a supporting role to the bourgeoisie by helping to suppress any consciousness of what is happening in Syria, notice the cooperation of Democracy Now and other "Left" news outlets in keeping the Syria story quiet or focused on ISIS, and by accusing the US imperialists of supporting the struggle to overthrow Assad, which is the fabrication they want people to believe.

In this very important piece from Politico Magazine, Lina Sergie Attar gives us a very human view of this catastrophe:
Syria, Etc.
When America—and the world—have abandoned the country,
what more can we do now but catalogue our losses?

12 August 2015
One cold day in March, a history teacher stood in front of his young schoolboys in a classroom in Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, holding a camera in his hands. It was a typically drab room with gray walls, just like the ones in Aleppo where I spent my adolescence, only this classroom was much less crowded than mine ever were. These children were the lucky ones—still able to attend school in the midst of a violent war. A world away, at my home in a quiet suburb north of Chicago, I watched on YouTube what the teacher had recorded, the same way we Syrians have watched our country unravel for more than four years now—on screens.

The teacher tells the students, “What is happening to us right now is history, a history that will be recorded. History is being documented by video cameras. History used to be written on paper. Right? Let us document our history right now. In the future, if God grants us the destiny to live, you will grow up and tell your children’s children: This used to happen to us, we used to be in school, etcetera.”

A child wearing earmuffs in the front row raises his hands to his head. He stands up before we hear what he hears—a piercing sound that ends with a boom. The other boys fall to the ground and hide under their desks. All but one of them. I wonder about him. Has he lost his hearing during the war? Or simply his fear of death? The teacher runs to the courtyard. The frame jerks around with every panicked stride. The history lesson he had been taping is forgotten among the shouts and confusion. Beyond the school walls, a massive cloud of dust rises into a clear blue sky.

A different, unintended history lesson was recorded in that YouTube video, joining the thousands of others that continually document a country being ripped apart. This is everyday life in Syria. This is the very kind of harrowing experience the teacher wants his students to record and pass on to future generations—so that they never forget. More...

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