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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We can only beat ebola if we defeat it in Africa

Many in the US are in a panic about ebola and in their panic they are suggesting that we cut off all flights from the ebola infested parts of Africa as our first line of defense. From a purely pragmatic point of view this is a strategy that simply won't work. Ebola is a disease that kills most humans it comes in contact with and as long as it is uncontrolled in any part of the human population we are all put at risk.

Because Africa is oceans away from America, stopping travellers from West Africa sounds like a feasible solution, and the subtext of this solution is that its spread within Africa is not such a big problem for us as long as we close our borders to it.

This is nothing but an illusion with fatal consequences for the whole of humanity. Africa may be a long way from the United States but it is very close to Europe, and Europe has already seen that it is incapable of stopping the flow of African immigrants to its shores. The European Union paid the Libyan dictator Mummar Qaddafi billions of Euro's to gain his assistance in stopping the flow of Africans through Libya and into Europe, and he used the most draconian methods without success. These were immigrants driven for the most part by fear of civil war and economic deprivation. Does anyone realistically think Africans fleeing ebola can be kept out of Europe? If ebola spreads to Europe, does the U.S. then also cancel at flights from Europe? Economic crisis would follow, making it even more difficult for the people of the world to combat this virus that is a menace to us all. What is true about Europe is no less true about African immigration to the Middle East and Asia. The first humans were Africans, and their migration by the most primitive means to farthest reaches of the planet eons ago is how our species came to dominate it. How can anyone, in this era of rapid transit, think that a deadly disease, spread by human contact, can be contained in West Africa?

It must be defeated there and it must be defeated now! The little island of Cuba has given an example to the world of how we should respond. While President Obama, as in the movie "Outbreak," has sent soldiers, Cuba has sent more than 160 doctors to fight ebola in Africa. The fact that CNN, Fox News & MSNBC don't talk about this shows how willing they still are to play politics with ebola because if every country were to follow Cuba's lead ebola would already be well on it's way to being defeated.

We learned long ago that just letting your neighbour's house burn would not protect yours. We have seen in our modern era that so many problems that face us all have to be tackled on a global level with all of humanity pulling together if we are to survive. This is true of climate change, the scourge of war, and poverty. This is no less true of the disease called ebola. We must have all hands on deck to defeat ebola now in West Africa. Nothing less can save us from a most terrible global catastrophe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Is Joe Biden Turkey "roast" is a feast for Assad?

Joe Biden did tell "an Inconvenient Truth" when he told a Harvard crowd, "Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria." That is what Foreign Policy called the Vice President's remarks at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum of Harvard University late last week. He directed his fire particularly at Turkey: 
"The Turks were great friends, and I've a great relationship with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, … the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do?" Biden asked, according to a recording of the speech posted on the White House's website. "They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."

"President Erdogan told me -- he is an old friend -- said, 'You were right; we let too many people through. Now we are trying to seal the border" with Syria, Biden said.
Calling these remarks "an inconvenient truth" has become something of a banality in the media when reporting on this speech. I've heard it called that on CNN and FoxNews, so Foreign Policy was hardly being creative with this tag line. They all mean to say that Biden's remarks about Turkey rang truth., but as regular readers of this blog already know, I often see things differently, and I think the "inconvenient truth" to be found in these remarks is what it reveals about the Obama Administration’s view of the Assad regime.

By making the Syrian government the victim in his analysis, Biden was saying that the regime of Bashar al Assad was not the biggest problem "we" - he was speaking as an executive representative of the United States - face, in Syria. That may well be the position of the Obama Administration, but it is certainly not the reality that millions of Syrians and all the countries bordering Syria have had to deal with as Assad's brutal crack down on pro-democracy protesters turned into a civil war in which that regime has used the most vicious tactics and committed war crime after war crime as it has attempted to crush any opposition to its forty plus years of dictatorship.

The "inconvenient truth" revealed in Biden's remarks is that such dictatorships and such tactics have never been a problem for the US government and they don't really oppose them now in Syria either.

Missing from Biden's remarks was any mention of Assad's three year air assault on Syrian civilians, his use of long range artillery to decimate Syrian cities and villages, his attacks on hospitals, schools and breadlines, even his use of chemical weapons. This civil war has resulted from Assad's desperate attempts to cling to power and it has killed as many as two hundred thousand Syrians, displaced about 9.5 million, and forced 3 million to flee to neighbouring countries to escape the carnage, sometimes with Assad's forces trying to shoot children in the back as they crossed the border. 1.6 million have become refugees in Turkey and that has placed a tremendous burden on Syria's northern neighbour. Joe Biden doesn't mind about that, and he doesn't mention it in his one-sided condemnation of Turkey. He doesn't care about Assad's slaughter or the people desperate to escape it. He demands that Turkey close its border.

Syrian refugees walk past tents at the Boynuyogun Turkish Red Crescent camp

The flow of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey began slowly at first. It got its first big push in June 2011 before the Syrian Army siege of Jisr al-Shughour. This town of 41,000 near the Turkish-Syrian border was nearly abandoned by its residents, with many seeking refuge across the border. As Assad's violence against his people increased, what began as a trickle became a torrent. While the Obama Administration may have liked to see that border closed, leaving those refugees to their fate, the Turkish people and the Turkish government took a more humanitarian approach. They welcomed the these refugees, and at great cost and "inconvenience" they did what they could to care for and protect them.

They realized that they may have to make space for millions of uprooted neighbours as the wounds of war were allowed to fester by its NATO allies while Assad was provided almost unlimited military support, and "boots on the ground," from his allies, Russian and Iran, two other forces that were conspicuously absent from Biden's list of countries causing problems in Syria. The Turks also realized that these people could never go home as long as Assad was in power. So they did help to arm and protect the Free Syrian Army and other democratic forces fighting his regime. However they never supported ISIS and other jihadists as Joe Biden and Bashar al-Assad have claimed. Hence Biden's apology.

For all its rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama Administration has never viewed the Assad regime as the problem. It used his torture chambers as he partnered with the CIA in the "War on Terror," he allowed Israel to keep Golan without too much fuss, his brutal methods were credited with creating "stability" in the region, and Obama thought he was on the verge of forging a new "peace deal" with Assad when protests against his rule broke out. From the US government perspective, Assad has not been the problem, those who would overthrow him are. This is the "inconvenient truth" hidden in Joe Biden's Harvard comments.

2013 saw more than a million Syrians flee Assad's killing spree to Turkey. Hundreds of thousands more fled to Syrian neigbors Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, tens of thousand to other Arab countries. Bulgaria accepted about ten thousand, while more than a thousand each were taken in by countries as far away as Sweden, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil. Joe Biden wants borders closed to Syrian refugees and in this case, the Obama Administration practises what it preaches, in 2013 only 36 Syrian refugees were accepted by the United States.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why did Glenn Greenwald moderated this comment off The Intercept?

After I read The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria. by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain in The Intercept Sunday, I tried to post this comment:
It seems to me that Greenwald and Co. are still to a large extent participating in the cover up. While this article makes for a fine catalog of all the statements made by gov’t and media about Khorasan, Greenwald never says who was being bombed it their name. It is al Nusra that the US is calling Khorasan and al Nusra has been in alliance with the FSA and IF and fighting both Assad and ISIS. I don’t think this oversight accidental because if Greenwald is forced to admit that the US has entered the Syrian civil war on the side of Assad he will have to admit that he has been wrong about Syria all along. Khorasan was a fiction created to cover up the real target of US air strikes and Greenwald & Co. continues this cover-up.
They moderate comments at The Intercept and this one was never published.

The Intercept article said:
What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing yet another predominantly Muslim country. While emotions over the ISIS beheading videos were high, they were not enough to sustain a lengthy new war.

So after spending weeks promoting ISIS as Worse Than Al Qaeda™, they unveiled a new, never-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syria fell, the endlessly helpful U.S. media mindlessly circulated the script they were given: this new group was composed of “hardened terrorists,” posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. homeland, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civilian aircraft, and could “launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.””
Paul Woodward wrote a good critique of the Intercept piece on War in Context, 29 September 2014, Glenn Greenwald’s Khorasan conspiracy theory misses the point. In it he said:
The invention of the Khorasan Group — which is to say, the creation of the name — seems to have been necessitated not by the desire to find a pretext for bombing another Muslim country, but instead the desire to avoid headlines which would identify the target of a cluster of airstrikes by its real name: Jabhat al-Nusra (JN).
The closest The Intercept article came to acknowledging that "Korasan Group" was a US created alias for Jabhat al Nusra came in a quote it used from a September 13 article by the Associated Press:
At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.
Glenn Greenwald has had very little to say about the conflict in Syria before now and what he has said veers toward conspiracy theory or parrots the popular left view that because Obama has asked Assad to step down and many people have repeated the misleading claim that the US has provided significant material aid to Assad's opposition, that the Syrian revolution is nothing more than a western plot against his rule. For example he has supported Wesley Clark's view that the attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria, which began in 2011 is part of a neo-con five year plan which started in 2001  for "regime change" in seven Middle East and African countries, and he has repeated discredited claims that it was rebels rather than Assad who used sarin against rebel held areas near Damascus. So he might not like it being pointed out that Obama's military intervention, now that it has come, is opposed by the rebels and supported by the regime.

I thought I'd try to post my comment to The Intercept a second time before I published this piece so as to guard against the possibility that a technical glitch was responsible for its failure to be accepted the first time and this is the feedback I received:

I double-checked that all fields were filled in properly and tried again but got back the same error message until I changed both the name and the email address. Only then was it accept for moderation. However I won't hold my breath waiting to see it on their website. [Note on screenshot below: Once the comment is sent to moderation the comment field is cleared.]

Apparently the problem with the comment the second time was the person posting it. Am I now banned from posting to The Intercept?

Glenn Greenwald is a constitutional lawyer by trade and has built himself quite a reputation as an advocate of free speech, openness and transparency. If this experience is any indication of how he practises what he preaches with regards to criticism of his views and an example of the way he is willing to censor those criticisms where he is able, I can only hope that he is never in a position to shut down reasoned discussion in larger forums. 

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria