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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Remembering 50 years after US Holocaust in Vietnam

Although United States opposition to the Vietnamese struggle for independence goes back to its support of the French in the 1940's, as shown in the documentary film Vietnam: American Holocaust, it was only after the untimely death of President John F Kennedy that America's holocaust in Vietnam really began. The year was 1964. That year, with Lyndon Baines Johnson as the new Commander and Chief, General Westmoreland was made commander of the now rapidly growing US command in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin attack was faked by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as a false pretext to pass a war resolution against Vietnam, the action figure G.I. Joe was born, and the US began its massive bombing campaign against Vietnam, a campaign that would eventually drop more bombs on that small country than were dropped by all parties to WWII. Before 1964, relatively few Vietnamese or Americans had been killed in the military conflict between the two countries. In 1964 it began a sharp escalation that would eventual deliver some 58,000 Americans and more than 3,000,000 Vietnamese to their graves.

It is now 50 years since those events and 2014 will see many 50th anniversaries of things related to the Vietnam War. Those of us who fought for peace during that war hoped that its conclusion would lead to an America that had "learned its lesson" about the morality and even usefulness of aggressive military power, but we have seen that those lessons were never learned. They waited for a generation to pass and American's aversion to wars against little countries that the warmongers derisively called "the Vietnam Syndrome" to ease, and then it was off to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Drone Wars.

In a further effort to expand popular acceptance of their addiction to war, they already have a 13 year long plan in place that will cost tens of millions of dollars, The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. The bill creating it was signed by President Barack Obama. They plan to use the 50th anniversary of Vietnam War events to remake its image in the public mind as another one of America's "good wars."

We need to do everything we can to oppose this makeover and assure that the true picture of the Vietnam War, an inherently anti-war picture, is preserved and passed down to future generations. With that view in mind, I produced and directed Vietnam: American Holocaust in 2008, and I think it is now more important than ever. I offer it as a powerful tool to subvert this planned makeover. Therefore I am asking you to buy this DVD and show it around in the coming year. You should also consider giving a copy to a local library or school. That will help to assure that a true picture of the Vietnam War will be preserved.

Comments on Vietnam: American Holocaust
It was a holocaust. Every American should see this film!
- Ron Kovic,Vietnam veteran & author Born on the 4th of July

I do a lot of public speaking on the subject of Vietnam. As I was watching the documentary, I kept thinking, ‘Wow, I can't wait to get this into the high schools.’ Clay has done an excellent job of piecing together the historical record. He uses footage, some of which I've never seen before, and it is so good. In my talks, I will say Eisenhower said this or McNamara said that. This documentary shows them actually saying it.
-Scott Camil, 1st Marines (1965-1967), Winter Soldier (1971)

Good job with the film. Very powerful. I think [Clay] did a good job of connecting Vietnam and Iraq without beating it into the ground. White phosphorous moment is particularly strong.
-David Zeiger, Director Sir! No Sir!

I love it .It's the best thing I've seen. I've seen Winter Solider, Hearts & Minds, you name it, I've seen it. This is the best thing I've seen.
-David Slaky, Veterans for Peace, St. Louis

This is the best political video on Vietnam and its historic relevance to our times I have ever seen. You really got to it, from the Garvey connection in Harlem of Ho Chi Min to our support of the French and the British release of the Japanese in Vietnam. It cuts deep enough to enrage me.
-Stuart M. Chandler, Rotten Tomatoes

The best documentary ever made on the Vietnam War.
- Blase Bonpane, Director of the Office of the Americas

Thank you so very much. Thank you.
- Vy Xuan Hong, Member, NA, Vietnam
Buy the DVD from the Vietnam: American Holocaust website or Amazon.com

Also visit the Veterans for Peace Full Disclosure: Towards an Honest Commeration of the American War in Vietnam website and sign the Open letter to the American people.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Syrian American Council Revolution Anniversary in Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I apologize as Ukraine takes "Left" over the edge

first the Apology

The dominate trend in the US "Left" seems to see US manipulation behind every popular mass uprising that is directed against a government favored by Moscow. If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I have strongly criticized this "thief of agency" when it has been used to rob the Libyan and Syrian peoples of the primary role in making revolutionary "regime change" against their beloved dictators. Now, seeing so much of this "Left" coming to the same conclusions with regards to the popular revolution in Ukraine, I realize that I credited more of their attitude to white chauvinism than I should have. For this I apologize. I can see now that they are equal opportunity deniers when it comes to either the power or the concerns of the working class in these movements.

and now Ukraine

Russia bandits wearing masks
Everyone knows that the thousands of well armed and well supplied troops in the same Russian army uniforms minus insignia, but delivered by army trucks with Russian markings, are not some cobbled together Crimea self-defense force as Putin claims they are, but are, in fact, Russian troops. By posting them outside their bases without consultation, they are in violation of their basing agreement with Ukraine. By crossing the border into Crimea, setting up check points, barricading Ukrainian bases, violating Ukrainian air space, and firing "warning shots" on Ukrainian soil, Russia has already committed numerous acts of war against Ukraine.

Russia's stated reason for this invasion, to protect Russian bases and Russian nationals, is clearly bogus because neither have been harmed or threatened. These acts of war have taken place without even the threat of an attack by Ukraine on Russia and without even asking the UN for a mandate, so they are clearly illegal under international law.

Russian forces in Crimea have taken over all independent TV stations and other media in Crimea and replaced them with their own signals. They plan to annex this part of Ukraine via a hastily called and rigged referendum and they have made it clear that they reserve the right invade anywhere else in Ukraine if they hear the calling.

This Russian military invasion and annexation also violates the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and that could have very damaging and lasting effects on the prospects for world peace in the future. That is because the Budapest Memorandum is the agreement by the US, UK, France and Russia to guarantee Ukraine's territorial integrity in return for them giving up nuclear weapons. If this violation is allowed to stand, many more nations will see a need to keep or get their own nukes.

So, how does the non-interventionist "Left" respond to these gross violations of world peace?

The United National Antiwar* Coalition (UNAC) says in a statement, 6 March 2014:
It is clear that Russia will not passively sit by while the Western-backed coup, led by violent fascist forces and local billionaires, overthrows a democratically elected government and installs a puppet regime on its border.
Strange words from a voice that use to oppose foreign military intervention. Not only does UNAC not demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, they try to justify the invasion by repeating Russian propaganda about what has been happening in Ukraine. This is a narrative that leaves the millions of Ukrainians, that took to the streets to demand change, out of it, or sees them as dupes of "Western-backed" "violent fascist forces and local billionaires." This narrative robs them of their proper role in making this history. This narrative robs them of their agency.

The recent revelations about Qaddafi's funding of Sarkozy's presidential campaign in France shows how widespread foreign attempts to affect various countries' internal politics are, but nobody claimed the French government was a Qaddafi puppet regime. There probably isn't a country on the globe that the US doesn't attempt to exercise it's influence on, but that doesn't put them in the driver's seat as these western chauvinists would have you believe.

Then they repeat Putin's justification for the invasion:
To protect its military base there and to protect the people in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country, where the coup is not supported, Russia has moved some troops to the Ukrainian border and into the Crimean peninsula.
Nevermind how easily these words could be adapted to justify the initially peaceful landing of US Marines in Vietnam to protect Da Nang Air Force Base, do they mean to imply that what they are calling a 'coup' 'led by violent fascist forces and local billionaires' was supported in the rest of the country? And BTW "into the Crimean peninsula" is already past "the Ukrainian border" unless you have already "gifted" Crimea to Russia.

You can describe a murder without ever calling it murder. You can describe a rape without ever naming it. This how a "peace" group describes the military invasion of a sovereign state without calling it an act of war. The only aggression they see is US aggression:
As long as the United States is committed to aggression, the whole world is endangered, just as Ukraine and Venezuela are. Libya fell, Syria is under attack, there is a "pivot to Asia", and Africom controls the military in almost every African nation.
Africom doesn't control the military in Libya, as UNAC predicted it would at the beginning of their revolution, which raises the question of exactly who Libya "fell" to. The answer is that it was lost by the Russian-backed Qaddafi dictatorship and it fell to the Libyan people, the people who made the revolution. It certainly didn't fall to the US; there can be no doubt about that after the Benghazi attack. Libya may be a mess now, but it is their mess. And who is Syria, by which UNAC means, the Assad regime, under attack by? It is being sustained big time by Russia and Iran, but those attacking it are overwhelmingly Syrian even if they are invisible to UNAC.

On Democracy Now*, Amy Goodman gives us Ray McGovern of Veterans for Peace, 3 March 2014, who sees a NATO plot against the Soviet Union that he thinks will fail:
The Soviet Union has all the cards. And so, somebody [inaudible] should say to the president, "Look, Mr. President, you know, however much we would like to have regime change according to our own wishes, there are strategic realities that we have to remind you of, Mr. President. And one of them is that Putin and no Soviet leader is going to abide NATO infringing on the Ukraine."
Clearly he is living in an alternate universe, one in which the USSR hasn't broken up yet, and he supports the Russian [in his universe, Soviet] invasion. He also denies any agency on the part of the Ukrainian masses:
If you look at Bahrain, you know, if you look at Syria—even Egypt, to an extent—these were initially popular uprisings. The question is: Who took them over? Who spurred them? Who provoked them even more for their own particular strategic interests? And it’s very clear what’s happened to the Ukraine. It used to be the CIA doing these things. I know that for a fact. OK, now it’s the National Endowment for Democracy, a hundred million bucks, 62 projects in the Ukraine
He thinks that is how millions were 'tricked' into protesting their corrupt government, and he replaces "America first" with "Russia first":
And people should realize that it is murky, but Russian interests are paramount here
On 7 March 2014, Amy gave us Jonathan Steele, formerly of the Guardian. I could call him a Putin apologist, instead I'll let his words speak for me:
I see no sense that this crisis has been created by Putin. He’s reacting to events, and one has to look at those events and not assume he’s on some forward march.
Bruce Gagnon, who I respect for his work with Space for Peace, also thinks:
The Russians are not going to idly sit by and watch US-NATO set up a right-wing fascist state right on their border.
He even goes so far as to repeat Russian chauvinist Pepe Escobar's racist attack on Crimea Tatars, in his piece on the San Diego Veterans for Peace website, 5 March 2014:
"[Russian intelligence] had already identified the wider mechanics of the CIA-style coup – including Turkish intelligence financing Tatars in Crimea… And what will the Tatars in Crimea do? Stage a jihad? Wait: the ‘West’ will surely try to FINANCE THIS JIHAD.”
The Crimea Tatars were once a majority on the peninsula. They were ethnically cleansed from their homeland in 1944 when Stalin killed a hundred thousand Tatars in their forced deportation to Siberia. Only since Ukraine became independent have they been free to return. They are understandably very concerned about Russia's annexation of Crimea and will not find jokes about jihad helpful.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation* also thinks what Putin is doing is right, 4 March 2014:
It is completely understandable that Russia would project a show of force in Crimea
And they want you to believe his lies:
Russia denies that the forces deployed in the Crimea are Russian special forces, suggesting that they are Russian-trained local defense forces.
The PSL also thinks the people in the streets have been duped by imperialist powers into carrying out their plan:
The U.S. government has engineered, financed and fully supported a classic coup d'état that overthrew a corrupt but democratically elected government in Ukraine. Joining in the destabilization of the Ukrainian government were Germany, France, Britain and other NATO powers.
Everybody, it would seem, but the Ukrainian people.

It just tickles me to hear so-called Marxists complain that it is wrong to overthrow "a corrupt but democratically elected government." This is exactly how the bourgeoisie thinks. They expect that all governments are corrupt and they expect that once they have talked, bribed or bullied their way into office through whatever passes for an "election" in their country, they are free to go back on all their promises, and do whatever they want, even establish a dictatorship, without the people "interfering" until and if there are new "elections." They call themselves "Marxists" but they show by talk like this that they don't really believe in revolution, which often necessitates the overthrowing of corrupt governments whether they have been "democratically elected" or not. Yes, he was democratically elected but he was sacked by popular demand.

This is just a small sampling of the blatantly pro-Russian, pro-war trash that is coming out of certain sections of the US "Left" that use to identify itself as "anti-imperilialist" and "non-interventionist", but not any more, their misguided support for the former Soviet Union has taken them over the edge. As I said before, when it comes to their opposition to war, * Some Exceptions Apply.

This is the third part of a trilogy on Ukraine. The other parts are:
The truth about the leaked Maidan sniper story
What is Russian Crimea's stand on the Right of Return?

Also an example for "Leftists" like these: Meltdown at RT over Ukraine/Russia coverage?

UN: Assad sarin used in attacks | The Left's response?

Flying under the headlines this week, while all eyes are focused on the clouds gathering over Ukraine, the United Nations published the 7th report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. This report was published on 5 March 2014 although it is dated 12 February 2014. This report goes further than the UN has ever gone before in placing the blame for the use of poison gas in Syria squarely on the Assad Regime. Specifically, on page 19, it says:
128. In Al-Ghouta, significant quantities of sarin were used in a well-planned indiscriminate attack targeting civilian-inhabited areas, causing mass casualties. 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. Concerning the incident in Khan Al-Assal on 19 March, the chemical agents used in that attack bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in Al-Ghouta.
And while they do later add an obligatory "In no incident was the commission’s evidentiary threshold met with regard to the perpetrator," that shouldn't stop ordinary people from drawing logical conclusions from the evidence presented.

Its been the Assad Regime all along. It was the Assad Regime that has had Al-Ghouta under siege for well over a year now, and still they remain unconquered! It was the Assad Regime that bombed and shelled the people of Al-Ghouta for months before the chemical attack. It was the Assad Regime that started shelling again within hours of the chemical attack and continues even till today, it is the Assad Regime that is refusing to allow food into the besieged sections of Al-Ghouta in an attempt to starve the residents into submission, and there should be no doubt that it was the Assad Regime that killed over a thousand Syrians with sarin gas in Al-Ghouta on 21 August 2014.

Bashar al-Assad committed mass murder with banned chemical weapons that had not been used on such a massive scale in decades and he has essentially gotten away with it. By all laws of social justice, this man should be in prison or dead, and yet he is still negotiating for a future role in governing Syria and still killing big time. He is even stalling on his promise to give up chemical weapons. He keeps missing deadlines and has so far given up less than 10% of his chemical agents. Given that about a dozen sarin attacks of various sizes have been documented in Syria over a period of more than eight months, and the evidence in all of these cases points to the government as the perpetrator (in one case the sarin was dropped from a helicopter), there can be little doubt that Bashar al-Assad did not personally approve of its use. And there is something else that now must be taken on board in light of the recent Russian invasion on the Ukraine, It is very likely that Putin also knew of, and approved of, the use of sarin in Syria. If you want to know what Putin is capable of, just look at what Assad has done.

I find the response of the Left to Assad's use of sarin to be absolutely shameful. Consider that poison gas may be the perfect capitalist weapon because it kills people without destroying property. Consider that the people of the world had waged a largely successful struggle to see it banned after the first world war, and now it is reintroduced as a weapon of indiscriminate mass murder in the suppression of a popular rebellion against a brutal dictator, and the Left does nothing?

I have not heard of one action organize by the Left to protest the gassing of civilians in Syria, so I don't think there have been very many. What I have heard from the Left, when it was not silent on the sarin question, has been a fantastic defense of Assad in which they present one crack-pot theory after another about how the rebels gassed their own people, just as many of these same "leftists" are now asking us to believe it was snipers from the protest movement that were shooting protesters in Ukraine.

The evidence of the Assad Regime's culpability for the use of chemical weapons was overwhelming even before this most recent UN report. I've certainly written much on it:  

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What is Russian Crimea's stand on the Right of Return?

“Ukrainians are also vulnerable, but at least they have Ukraine to go to. Where will we go? Crimea is our only home.”
                    - Eskandar Baiibov, a deputy in the Crimean Tatar Mejlis
Since Putin has seized Crimea from Ukraine with naked military aggression, now plans to use the device of a referendum on self-determination to complete its annexation to Russia, and it appears nobody is going to stop him, it is fair to ask: What does all this mean for Crimean Tatars and how does this Russian "right of self-determination" square with their rights?

The Palestinians weren't the only people forced off of their land in the last century. Crimea was once very different, for hundred of years the majority of the population was Crimea Tatar, in fact the word "Crimea" is the Crimean Tatar name for the capital of the peninsular during the time of the Golden Horde [1240-1502].

When Crimea was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, Joseph Stalin accused all Crimea Tatars of collaborating with the Nazis and ordered them removed. 200,000 Tatars were given 30 minutes to collect their belongings before they were put in cattle cars for the long trip to Siberia. Half of them never got there; they died along the way. They were not free to return to Crimea until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

After this indigenous Muslim population was subjected to mass deportation, Russians from other parts of the USSR were brought to Crimea to be settled in the newly emptied Tatar homes. That's how Crimea got its clear Russian majority. Stalin's policy of moving the Tatars out and Russians into Crimea wasn't an invention of communism; it had been Russian policy ever since it conquered Crimea in 1783.

Before Gorbachev's "perestroika", Crimean Tatars were banned from even crossing the border into Crimea. As soon as they could, many Tatar started repatriating back to Crimea. The Ukraine census of 2001 had them at 12% of the population, now they are estimated to be about 14% of the population of Crimea and the trend of Crimea Tatars returning to the only homeland they have ever had is continuing.

Needless to say, there are those among the now dominate Russian population that are not entirely happy with these changing demographics, especially when they come with disputes over property rights. Now, taking advantage of the turmoil created by the Ukrainian revolution, Russia has sent in its army to the cheers of this Russian population. Like the bandits they are, they don't identify themselves, but they are carrying out an armed occupation of the peninsular. And under these conditions they propose to hold a vote as to whether Crimea will stay in the Ukraine or become part of Russia. Its interesting to note that a third choice, complete independence, isn't even on the ballot.

Rim Gilfanov of Radio Free Europe's Tatar-Bashkir Service writes in Al Jazeera:
Moscow has long been working with local Russian organisations to ensure they remain pro-Moscow. It came as no big surprise that local authorities started to play the secession game immediately after the central government in Kiev was destabilised. There is a strong sense that the aspiration came from Moscow itself.
Needless to say, most Crimean Tatars are not happy with these recent developments. The head of the Ankara-based Crimean Turks Culture and Solidarity Association, Tuncer Kalkay told Today's Zaman, that annexation by Russia would be “the end of Crimean Tatars.” He continued:
“If the violence in Ukraine were to spread to Crimea, 300,000 Crimean Tatars would come face to face with approximately 2 million Russians living there. Soldiers in Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol are ready to invade Crimea. The parliament of the Autonomous Region of Crimea is under the control of Russia, is predominantly of Russian ethnicity and is against the Crimean Tatar National Assembly and Crimean Tatars,”
In May of 1944, when Joseph Stalin began his ethnic cleansing of the Crimea Tatars, he ordered the police to first tag each Tatar house with an "X", lately those marks have started showing up on Tatar houses in Crimea again.

There are many reasons why Russia's military occupation of Ukrainian territory is a violation of international law, and this planned referendum on the status of Crimea is both illegal and wrong.

Beyond that fact that even the reported choices are bogus. Katya Gorchinskaya, who has gotten a look at the ballots to be used in the Crimean referendum writes:
Voters in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea who vote in the March 16 referendum have two choices – join Russia immediately or declare independence and then join Russia.

So the choices are “yes, now” or “yes, later.”

Voting “no” is not an option.
It violates the Ukraine constitution to leave the rest of the nation out of the process. There is the fact that this "referendum" is to take place under conditions of military occupation. With Russia in control of all TV and media. With Ukrainian authorities and international observer denied entry.

Add this to all these other reasons: I believe all people who love justice must oppose this bogus referendum or any attempt by Russia to annex Crimea based on its current Russian majority because it will boost the interests of Russian chauvinism and harm those that have suffered far too long because of it.


This is also overlooked and very important:
The Russian occupation also violates the 1994 Budapest Memorandum agreement by US, UK, France & Russia to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for giving up the bomb. This may yet yield the darkest result of the world allowing Crimea to be taken from Ukraine by Russia without a fight. If all the countries of the world draw the appropriate conclusions about the value of international guarantees of territorial integrity, and decide, they too need a bomb to defend themselves, then there will be hell to pay for our tolerance now.

UPDATE 10 March 2014: a case in point -

UPDATE 11 March 2014: Reuters is reporting:
Russia 'will fix' Crimea referendum, says Tatar leader

10 Mar 2014
By Yvonne Bell
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) - The Crimean Tatar leader promoting a boycott of Sunday's referendum on transferring the Ukrainian region to Russian rule is sure the Kremlin will rig the vote and appealed to the outside world to protect his once persecuted community.

"The result has already been decided by Moscow," Refat Chubarov told Reuters in an interview on Monday in the Crimean capital Simferopol, where he heads the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, a Ukrainian public body that represents some 12 percent of the Black Sea peninsula's two million people.

"There are troops in the streets. There are 30,000 armed men, armored vehicles, planes landing with foreign troops, and the administrative buildings have all been seized," he said of last week's takeover of Crimea by Russian forces following the overthrow of the pro-Moscow Ukrainian president in Kiev.

"It's a fake referendum, an attempt to provide cover for this aggression," Chubarov said, arguing that voting would mean betraying a Ukrainian state whose interim government says local leaders had no right to call the referendum. "The whole of Crimea is being asked to become collective collaborators."

For more reading on the Crimea Tatars I recommend:
7 Mar 2014Crimea Tatars: 'Homeland' at stake   Rim Gilfanov
6 Mar 2014Who Will Protect the Crimean Tatars?   Natalia Antelava
7 Mar 2014Don’t let Russia abuse Crimean history  Victor Ostapchuk
23 Feb 2014 Crimean Tatars deeply concerned over developments in Ukraine  Sinem Cengiz
1 Mar 2014Who are the Crimean Tatars, and why are they important?  Oxana Shevel

Friday, March 7, 2014

The truth about the leaked Maidan sniper story #Ukraine

Dr. Olga Bogomolets,
source of sniper story
Here is the short story behind headlines like this one from RT:

Kiev snipers hired by Maidan leaders
- leaked EU's Ashton phone tape

They are based 100% on hearsay from the woman pictured on the left, Olga Bogomolets. What gets left out of most reports on this "sensational" story is that in the leaked conversation, Estonia Foreign Minister Urmas Paet is telling European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton what Olga Bogomolets told him. He is not telling Ashton what he knows to be fact; he is telling her a rumor he was told by an activist doctor who treated some of the sniper victims. (Paet: "There is this lady called Olga..." [2:27 on tape]) All those who take this story as truth are taking the word of this one woman and all those who peddle this story without making that clear are engaged in a Putin propaganda effort.

This story started with a tape of a leaked conversation posted to YouTube by Michael Bergman and Expertise Centre of The Russian Federation on 5 March 2014. The claim accompanying the video is:
Mr. Paet reveals astonishing information which confirms the rumours that the snipers were employed by the leaders of Maidan.
Wrong! Logic Fault!! You don't confirm a rumor by repeating it.

Within hours of being posted to YouTube, this story was picked up by RT, who has been heavily promoting it ever since, and from there it quickly moved out to all the usual "anti-imperialist" sources. I picked it up in my email over my morning coffee: Kiev Snipers Were Hired by US Supported Opposition Leaders said the pro-Russian Global Research. And the proof? "Leaked EU’s Ashton Phone Tape." Democracy Now carried the same story, Leaked EU Call: Opposition Behind Sniper Shootings in Kiev, Thursday morning. The biggest problem with this taped conversation is that it doesn't prove what these media outlets are saying it proves. The caller is describing rumors that are circulating, not established facts.

On Democracy Now, Amy called the tape "intercepted conversations," a better name for this and the earlier Ukraine related Russian leaked conversation in which Nuland is heard to say "fuck the EU," would be selectively-leaked-conversations. Just like the NSA, the Russians have been busy recording everybody's business, and lately the Russians have been using the tactic of selectively "leaking" little morsels from its find that it thinks will benefit its propaganda efforts. They don't put out all the information they've captured, WikiLeaks style; they just promote little bits they can spin.

In this leaked conversation Estonia Foreign Minister Urmas Paet tells European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that a doctor name Olga Bogomolets says that:
"All the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers, from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides."

"So that—and then she also showed me some photos. She said that, as medical doctor, she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets. And it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened, so that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition."
Whatever you want to make of this conversation, it is important to remember that it rests entirely on the opinion of a doctor who treated people shot by snipers in Kiev. This is the same doctor, by the way, that treated Viktor Yushchenko for food poisoning in 2004.

Estonian diplomat Utmas Paet isn't telling Catherine Ashton that he knows this, he is telling her what he has been told by an activist doctor about rumors going around.This is hardly definitive proof justifying the RT or Democracy Now headlines. That's not how RT reported the story. They leave the doctor out of it and tell us:
"Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders."
This doctor claims to know that "they were the same snipers killing people from both sides" because they had "the same handwriting, the same type of bullets." I've known doctors who think they know everything, but I'm not sure this doctor can know that much just from treating the wounds. I am reminded of Carla Del Ponte's claim that it was the opposition that used sarin in Syria based on "the way the victims were treated" by doctors in Turkey.

Hours after RT first broke the story, they broke another one which seemed to back up the first story:

but he only confirmed that it was an accurate recording of their conversation, not that what was said reflected the facts.

Today CNN is reporting:
Paet's office released a statement Wednesday that confirmed the authenticity of the recording. It said the call took place on February 26.

"Foreign Minister Paet was giving an overview of what he had heard the previous day in Kiev and expressed concern over the situation on the ground. We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition's involvement in the violence," the statement read.

"It is extremely regrettable that phone calls are being intercepted," said Paet in the same statement. "The fact that this phone call has been leaked is not a coincidence."
So now we will await a retraction from Global Research and Amy. Would it be too much to ask that they join Liz Wahl and jump the Putin boat entirely?

UPDATED 8 Mar 2014: The Toronto Star reports that Olga Bogomolets says that the reported conversation with Urmas Paet never happened:
The Olga in question was identified by Russian media as Olga Bogomolets, a Ukrainian doctor who worked throughout the clashes to treat wounded.

Told of the tape, however, Bogomolets denied having any such conversation. She said she has no such evidence as she was never in a position to compare wounds.

“During the entire confrontation in Kyiv, I did not have access to law enforcement officers who died, and therefore I could not give any information on the nature of the injuries,” she told Ukrainska Pravda.

“I’m a doctor, not a forensic medical examiner to give this kind of assessment.”
Which sounds like she agrees with me that a doctor couldn't know that victims were shot by the same sniper just by examining the wounds. And actually, I was wondering if the cops and activists would have been treated by the same doctors. Now that question is answered.

So now the ball is in Paet's court. He now needs to say where the story came from. Ashton may be the headliner, but she was just the patsy, all she did was listen while Paet told the tale that made the tape that then got leaked.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meltdown at RT over Ukraine/Russia coverage?

There's something going on at the Kremlin financed network formerly known as Russia Today. Yesterday it was RT's Abby Martin who "broke the set" by breaking entirely from the pro-Russian propaganda being spread by RT on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Abbey Martin, who hosts the show "Breaking the Set" went entirely off script and spoke truth to power yesterday
"Just because I work here, for RT, does not mean that I don't have editorial independence," she began. "And I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation's affairs. What Russia did is wrong."
RT anchor Abby Martin speaks out against Russian invasion of Crimea | 4 March 2014

Today her colleague Liz Wahl went even further, resigning on the air this evening saying:
"Last night, RT made international headlines when one of our anchors went on the record and said Russian intervention in Crimea is wrong," Wahl said in reference to Abby Martin's attention-grabbing comments decrying Russia's recent actions in Ukraine. After describing the "many and ethical moral challengess" she said she faced as an anchor for the Kremlin-funded network, Wahl then got down to business: "That is why personally I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin," she said. “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning."
Liz Wahl Quits RT on air over coverage of Ukraine | 5 March 2014

As these two women have been speaking out against Russian imperialism, others in the American Left have been blindly supporting it, as exampled by Ray McGovern who even went so far as to confuse Russia with the old Soviet Union on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now on Monday:
"You know, it’s not so hazy. It’s a choice between the EC and Western Europe and the Western Ukraine and the Soviet Union. And in this case, the Soviet Union has all the cards. And so, somebody [inaudible] should say to the president, "Look, Mr. President, you know, however much we would like to have regime change according to our own wishes, there are strategic realities that we have to remind you of, Mr. President. And one of them is that Putin and no Soviet leader is going to abide NATO infringing on the Ukraine."
It is hoped that the courageous voice of these two women will cause other on the Left to rethink their support for Russian imperialism both in the Ukraine and in Syria. We must resist both NATO and Russian imperialism. We must resist imperialism no matter what its source.

Other recent blog posts;
Budapest Memorandum and CounterPunch corruption
Why I consider Libya a revolutionary success story
Bringing David Swanson's imagination back to reality

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Budapest Memorandum and CounterPunch corruption

I'm afraid my reply has gotten somewhat long winded and is destine to become a blog post, it started out as further explanation as to why I think Counterpunch is a crappy Marxist source, but it became something else as I wrote it.

I guess to me, the most important thing about Marxist is the method. It is the scientific method as it applies to human affairs.

I became a scientist at an early age. My Dad built me a chemistry lab in the water heater closet. I got merit badges in electricity and herpetology. I gave up religion and God as a child.
When you believe in things that you don't understand. Then you suffer
The thing I like about electronics is that you can so easily and thoroughly test its description of the world. Take for example Ohm's Law: Current(A)= [Pressure(V)/Resistance(Ω). Everything in electronics depends on its absolute correctness, from the largest generator to the tiniest transistor. In point of fact, everything in the universe depends on it, and in turn, everything in the universe validates it. In designing an electronic circuit, you can depend on it absolutely and categorically. You give me any two out of the three and I can tell you the third with equal precision and without hesitation. That equation is working flawlessly a billion times on this very computer as I type this. That is the scientific proof that Ohm's Law accurately understands that small view of the cosmos that it addresses. In the world of electronics there are no competing theories on the relationship between A, V and Ω, no sectarian division with some backing a different formulation, or if there are, we don't hear from them because their computers don't work. :-) It is simply the scientific description of that relationship, which is to say it is the dialectical-materialist understanding of that relationship. It is a thoroughly grounded materialism that rejects all mysticism but understands contradiction, the unity of opposites, and the way matter and energy and inextricably tied together. Ohm's Law applies to matter (electrons) in motion.

I think it could even be said that science is a sub-branch of dialectical materialism. It is dialectical-materialism as applied to the natural world broken down into bite sized disciplines. And what science requires is an unflinching regard for the truth. Science can brook no prejudice, it requires that we see the world as it is and act on that knowledge alone. There will always be unsettled areas in science where our understanding is as yet not so complete as Ohm's Law, and this will naturally give rise to different descriptions of a phenomenon, and honest differences among scientists. This is at the heart of the method by which truth is arrived at, but all must be dedicated to tracking down that truth no matter where it leads. This is what science requires and what science requires, dialectical-materialism requires as well.

Marxism is dialectical-materialism

I regard Marxism as dialectical-materialism applied to the human social condition. Like all science ultimately must be, Marxism is an applied science because theory sans activism lacks substance. Its name honors the man who, in the 19th century, first rigorously applied science to the human social condition from a progressive activist perspective.

Of course, given all the complexities of humanity, it isn't as simple as modelling the flow of electrons through a conductor. Added to which, its theories ain't all that easy to test, which brings us to the significant of historical-materialism because we can test our understanding of how things worked in the past and gain some understand of the underlying principles that shape things. Still, it is limited because it is backward looking, whereas all our tasks are before us.

For this reason also, it is incumbent on us not only to assist, but to learn from every new mass revolutionary upsurge, and to do so without fear or favor, because they are reflections of this historical process going forward and they don't care about our theories. Our theories must conform to them and not the other way round. Also since failure means end times for humanity, again, Marxist is an applied science. We should not shrink from calling ourselves social engineers.

Still it absolutely requires the unflinching honesty, and the rejection of all prejudice and mysticism, required of all science. And it requires something else: It requires more than a love of science; It requires a love of humanity, because unlike most scientific specialities under capitalism, the risks are high and the pay is poor. But more than anything, I think it requires a longing for social justice and a gut feeling for right and wrong. You have got to know which side of the barricade to stand on.

With regards to the mass revolutionary upsurge that we loosely refer to as the Arab Spring, and most dramatically with regards to violent revolutions in Libya and Syria, it must be admitted that Marxists in the West, and Leftists generally, have fallen into two broad categories, those that don't know which side of the barricade to stand on and act as if it isn't happening, and those standing on the wrong side of the barricade, this is true. I'm grateful for you and Binh and Andrew, Cort, Brian and more than I can count, but not that many more, but we are a clear minority on the Left. This is a sorry state of affairs. Added to which, many of these people presume to judge the people actually making revolutions by how closely they follow their teachings.

The worst group are those that cloak themselves in Marxism and stand on the wrong side of the barricade. They are corrupt. They do double damage and I am becoming more and more convinced that they stand as a place holder that keeps a real mass-based revolutionary movement from developing. They certainly stand as a barrier to the masses in the US learning from the revolutionary experiences of the masses in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria and now Ukraine. When the folks from Kafranbel came to LA, I publicized it in the usual places but nobody came from the LA Left. Imagine a Left that itself would have taken this up and promoted this event widely.

Not only do all the Counterpunch articles on the revolutions in Libya, Syria and the Ukraine stand on the wrong side of the barricade, they do it with corruption. They say things they must know aren't true or they leave out important facts, they very selectively quote, sometimes mis-quote. They plagiarize. They lie. They aren't engaged in an honest quest for the truth. They don't argue like scientists, they debate like lawyers. Many of their ilk will use moderation of comments on their website to filter out opposing views. Counterpunch solves that problem by allowing no comments.

Since these of is fundamentally a corruption of method, there is no honest search for the truth here, I believe that controls everything at Counterpunch. If that where not the case, we would at least read a range of views on these revolutions, there would be the occasional article representing the revolutionary view on these struggles.

These revolutions-in-progress are not only the leading edge of human social development, they are the most important classroom for Marxism. Added to this, these revolutionary mass struggles badly need the clarity that Marxism can give them and we can begin to plumb the depths of the damage caused by allowing a corrupt organizations like Counterpunch to represent Marxism. 

Example of MSM Corruption on Ukraine

When I speak of corruption, I'm not talking about a few bad actors or actions in an otherwise sound core, I'm talking about a rottenness that goes down to the bone. I believe that this Sunday's round of TV news talk shows gave us another good example of it. Of course the Russian invasion of Ukraine got top bill everywhere, but I couldn't believe I watched George Stephanopoulos interviews John Kerry extensively about the US response to Russia army invading Ukraine and nobody even mentions the Budapest Memorandum.

This 1994 treaty, signed by Bill Clinton promises the Ukraine that the US has its back in case of foreign invasion. Russia and Britain are also parties to this treaty, and it got Ukraine to give up its nukes, which made the world a safer place for everybody. If we can convince Israel to give up her nukes based on US guarantees to defend her under very specific conditions, if the Chinese can get North Korea to give up her nukes in return for certain security guarantees, I say have at it. It will mean less nukes in less hands and we all can sleep better.

Of course, the US ability to negotiate such deals in the future will depend heavily on what they do when that marker is called in and Ukraine is calling in its now. And nobody is talking about the Budapest Memorandum? Ok, I can't say nobody on the Sunday morning TV talks shows mentioned it. I saw the extensive interview with Kerry and the ABCNews This Week discussion, and nobody mentioned it. Then I switched in time to catch the CBS Face the Nation round table discussion and nobody mentioned it there either! But how can that be? It is a very big deal even if it is an embarrassment to a US imperialism that clearly has no interest in a military confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine.

I can't believe they don't know about it, backed as they are by teams of researchers. I think they all know about it and they all have conspired to talk as if it didn't exist. This implies a corruption that is thoroughgoing and indicts the SecState and everybody sitting in on those round-tables.

The Budapest Memorandum

The Budapest Memorandum is most certainly this Sunday's Elephant-in-the-Room and even in the MSM, when it is discussed, we are subjected to such weasel words as:
There will surely be much debate over whether the Budapest Memorandum is a legally binding agreement requiring action.
As if the Ukrainians thought they were signing up for a "We wish you well" when they gave up their nukes!

This "ignore the memo" strategy is not going to work, BTW, because Russia has its own "Save Ukraine" memorandum giving it a duty to save Ukraine from a “fascist and Nazi creeping coup” that goes back as far as Feb 12th and it has been calling for three party talks under the Budapest Memorandum for two weeks now, talks which will presumably now be about Russian troops invading Ukraine.

I see the same sort of corruption on the Left and in Counterpunch generally and it has come out most clearly in the debates around Libya and Syria. Do you notice how often we completely devastate a "fact" or "story" only to see it continue to be repeated on infinitum by this opportunist Left. Mint Press, Carla Del Ponte, phony massacres, etc., it doesn't matter how completely we debunk them, they revive them as soon as there is a fresh audience. And they generally don't answer our critiques in the first place, except with insults and diversions like "Oh Yeah, what about Bahrain?" They have no integrity. Counterpunch does this too. There is no use arguing with people like that except to expose them.

It just seems to me that on the really critical stuff they are 100% bad and even if you write good stuff for them in other areas it doesn’t matter because they will always be 100% bad on the critical stuff, That's the way opportunism works. Unfortunately, looking at it that way, you will quickly draw the conclusion that opportunism is the dominate trend on the Left, but if that is where a clear headed examination of the problem leads you, as a scientist, you must seriously consider it. But then, speaking from the heart, what other conclusion can be drawn when you have seen the pictures of dead children, destroyed cities and refugee families and still hear these so-called Leftist mouthing words about CIA schemes, Islamic terrorists and proxy wars?

My friends on SAC try on convince me not to waste my time trying to win people from the Left to their cause. They have had much greater success among just about every other segment of the US population. I understand why they feel this way. This is real. They have to be pragmatic and the Left is just about the only segment of the US population that sides with Assad and actively campaigns against the revolution. This, in turn is getting me to think that what is really going to have to happen is that another New Left is going to have to be built from people that aren't tied to this opportunism and at least know which side of the barricade to stand on even it they don't know the first thing about Marx or socialism. All that can be learned; I'm don't think what should be in the heart can.    

Why I consider Libya a revolutionary success story

Nader Hashemi, commenting on my response to Swanson, "who like many on the Left are living in a parallel universe" said: 
There is much more to say on the topic of Libya. The current chaos in that country is now a frequent talking point invoked by those who want to abandon the Syrian people.
As Nader is right, I think it worth repeating in my blog, what I replied to him as to why my view on Libya is "so far, so good" and that in spite of the chaos I consider it to be a big success story:

Consider that the revolutionaries were able to unite the country and form mostly grass roots self-defense forces into something like a people's army and defeat, on the battlefield, without the support of foreign troops, a well armed regime that had 40 years of uninterrupted dictatorship to entrench its rule and financial and military support from Russia and China.

They were able to enlist the air support of the main imperialist coalition, and yet largely remain in control of that relationship. They managed to use NATO in such a way as to avoid both NATO boots on the ground and massive lost of life and damage to infrastructure from NATO bombs, a remarkable feat that should be careful studied rather than derided.

They managed to restore oil production to 80% within 4 months after the fall of the regime and hold elections within 9 months. While there has been violence, overall the murder rate has been about half what it is in Chicago, there is no serious threat that Libya will be torn apart by sectarian violence or that the old regime will be restore.

With regards to our "friends" on the non-interventionist Left, those that have already abandoned the Syria people, we first must remember what they predicted about Libya in the beginning.
  • Massive loss of life from NATO "carpet bombing"  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • Huge bomb damage from NATO "carpet bombing"  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • A very long conflict <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • A long guerilla war by Qaddafi supporters.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • NATO boots on the ground.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • AFRICOM HQ in Libya.   <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • Take over of all the oil by US companies.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • US puppet government, stacked with pro-western players.   <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!    
And so on. But do they examine the real outcome against their predictions and try to learn something? Of course not. They go off and trash the revolution anyway, but on a completely new basis. They know they opposed this revolution [What revolution they cry even now!] from the beginning so they know they oppose the outcome and especially the results of NATO military intervention. They don't have US boots on the ground or a puppet government to kick around so they claim there is no government and complain about all the violence and chaos, although you will never hear them make similar complaints about Venezuela, where the murder rate is ten times what it is in Libya.

But what they show to me, with all their carping about Libya today, is that at heart they are just liberals and oppose revolutions in the real world, because almost all their complaints about the Libyan revolution are really complaints about the revolutionary process in general. Take for example:

1) Libya is a failed state.
No, Libya is a country between states. This is what every successful revolution, without exception, must do. It must "smash the existing state machinery" and they must rebuild it. Usually rebuilding it from scratch is better, in the case of Libya, it is a necessity. This implies that where will be a period of no state followed by a weak state in every revolution. A period in which the old state no longer has a "monopoly of violence" and the new state has yet to obtain it.

2) The country is being torn apart by chaos and violence.
Part of what happens in periods like this is that while elements of the defeated state have been beaten, they are still around to make counter-revolutionary mischief. They did have a popular base, no matter how tiny, and they still have resources, so they can be expect to cause trouble for some time. There are other elements, like the jihadists who are now free to come out of the woodwork. Also criminals can be guaranteed to take advantage of any revolution to do their thing.

3) The country is awash with weapons and that has created regional instability.
Well, yes, the Tuareg fought for Qaddafi and he armed them well, after he was defeated, they broke into his arsenals, took even more weapons and took them all back home to Mali. One would hope this Left crowd would look at those developments and have the grace to admit that Qaddafi had African mercenaries fighting for him after all. One might blame Qaddafi or the international arms merchants that supplied him but no, this crowd blames the revolution for setting them loose. One might as well blame the needle for the puss oozing from the bole.

4) There are all of these armed militia that nobody controls.
While are are some criminal gangs and jihadists, most are revolutionary brigades that have a strong working class composition and developed in the revolutionary process. They have played a bigger role in keeping the peace than they have in creating the chaos. They see themselves as guarantors that the revolution will not be stolen and I think they are right. They are a true people's army and they control themselves.  As they see the type of state they were fighting for being constructed, they are dissolving into it. They are feared by those that fear an armed working class.

These are problems that will be faced by all revolutions. No doubt the Libyans could have handled things better, but you always have to move forward with what you have on hand. In any case, the co-called Left should be hanging its head in shame rather than complaining about the lack of socialist organization or "Marxist" clarity leading any of these struggle given how that Left has presented itself in recent decades and particular after it has so heartlessly turned its back on the revolutions in Libya and Syria.

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

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bringing David Swanson's imagination back to reality

This is the reply I will post to David Swanson's Oppose Force to Save Starving Syrians assuming my account, which "is currently pending approval by the site administrator" is accepted and I am allowed the privilege of commenting. But since I have already researched the matter before I discovered the review requirements, I will post to my blog in any case. David Swanson says in this piece:
I find it hard to imagine people on the ground while NATO dropped thousands of bombs on Libya pointing to the sky and remarking "Check out the air cover!"
David, you don't have to imagine it, you can hear it here clearly:


This video was posted by the Free Generation Movement, a civilian activist group that operated in Tripoli throughout the revolution. You can read about the kind of thing they did during the revolution in my blog post dated 29 June 2011, titled Tripoli Burn Notice, which describes a campaign in which these courageous youth waged a non-violent struggle that put them in mortal danger, burning or defacing the massive billboards and signs of self-glorification that Mummar Qaddafi had placed all over Tripoli. In that blog, you will also find a video that shows the Tripoli morning traffic blaring their horns of support as FGM burned a huge Qaddiffi portrait by the highway.

The description accompanying the video of people cheering from the roof tops as they watched NATO planes coming in to bomb Tripoli, reads as follows:
Uploaded on May 23, 2011



Libya 17th February reported the same thing, another Tripoli resident said "When NATO bombs at night, I hear my neighbors clap and cheer 'bravo,'" 

A.H. alqaidi said, 16 July 2011:
When NATO Bombards Tripoli, the people there cheer, because they have become certain that the bombs are not meant for them, but for the dictator's power centres. 
I know that sounds ridiculous to you because you think Tripoli was bombed like Vietnam or Iraq, but the people of Tripoli knew that they weren't being bombed, just Qaddafi's forces, and they hated Qaddafi. The fact is that in the whole NATO campaign, less than a hundred non-combatant civilians were killed. As I reported on 5 March 2012, a comprehensive study by the United Nations found that NATO killed just 60 civilians in its campaign over Libya. A Human Rights Watch investigation of civilian deaths in Libya dated 14 May 2012 could document only 72 unintended civilian deaths caused by NATO. A New York Times report that pre-dates either of those, written by C. J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt and dated 17 Dec 2011 put the number of unintended civilian casualties resulting from NATO's seven month air campaign at between 40 and 70. Added to that, care was taken so that infrastructure wasn't harmed, like taking out tanks hidden under a bridge without taking out the bridge, so that Libya suffered no electrical or utility outages as a result of NATO bombing and housing, manufacturing, and oil production weren't impacted by bomb destruction after the war.

So yes, the people of Libya demanded international protection from Qaddafi's slaughter, just as people in Syrian are demanding now. In the case of Libya, it saved them from the sort of carnage that continues to take its toll on Syrian civilians that have lived and died under three years of Assad's aerial assaults.

David Swanson, you had a preconceived idea about what was going on in Libya, based on your lack of knowledge of real events, your imagined "socialist" Mummar Qaddafi, and in your fantasy that all of this was part of some grand conspiracy; a 5-year plan first revealed to Wesley Clark in 2001. You predicted the civil war would last 20 years, it was over in less than a year. You claimed NATO used depleted uranium but none was ever found. You said "that Gaddafi has a great deal of support," but few Libyans mourned his passing. You said the CIA had sent Khalifa Hifter to Libya from Virginia to run the rebels but he never got higher than third in command and is retired now. You opposed "the West’s efforts to impose a puppet government on Libya by force," which is to say, you opposed the popular democratic revolution which is currently rebuilding the state institutions from scratch, and you just knew that any NATO air campaign could only lead to massive death and destruction for civilian.

All of this was wrong, but by far the biggest mistake to date, was that after the success of the revolution and the people had their first national vote and elected a government, after NATO flew home without ever having set a boot on the ground, after anyone could tour the country and look for bomb damage and the dead that went with them, and even when Qaddafi's mass graves were being discovered, you stuck to what you imagined things would be like in Libya and you looked for brand new reasons to trash the revolution like claiming that violence is off the scope even through the murder rate is 10% what it is in Venezuela.

In the case of Libya you predicted "The result of NATO joining the war was probably more killing, not less." An examination of the truth about what did happen and an comparison to what is happening in Syria, where the death toll is 140 thousand and counting since both revolutions started three years ago, shows that almost certainly is not the case. But now you oppose any foreign intervention in the Syria civil war, so you can't possibly own to an honest evaluation of recent Libyan history, instead you imagine things are just the way you have always imagined them.

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