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Monday, August 24, 2015

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...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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