Greater Middle East

Assad's useful idiots protect chem attack base

They've really outdone themselves this time. The last time we checked in on Cynthia McKinney, she was floating outlandish conspiracy theories about the Boston bombings. Now, Redress Information & Analysis is among the websites to take note of what she just posted to her Facebook page—that she is in Syria to sing the praises of the Assad regime and cheer on those serving as human shields. That is merely predictable. But a close reading reveals a truly special degree of either cynicism or dupery (we actually aren't sure which):

Assad to The Hague? Don't bet on it...

We've pointed out that some "anti-war" commentators are glibly calling for an International Criminal Court case as a "solution" for Syria—despite the fact that six years after the ICC issued a warrant for Sudan's Omar Bashir, he remains in power and carrying out mass murder (most recently against the Nuba people of South Kordofan, although the Darfur conflict continues even now). So while there may be much to recommend an ICC warrant for Syria's Bashar Assad, there is no reason to believe it will save a single Syrian life. And now  on Slate's The World blog succinctly explains why this pseudo-solution, in fact, isn't even possible...

Did climate change spark Syria crisis?

We've noted before that numerous experts have linked the Darfur conflict to climate change, but now a less obvious climate connection to the Syria crisis is persuasively argued by Peter Sinclair of the blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week. As the name suggests, it is generally dedicated to shooting down climate change denialism, but in this Sept. 5 entry he attempts to trace the Syrian explosion—indeed, the entire Arab Revolution—to an atmospheric phenomenon. Sinclair reminds us that in the summer before the wave of revolution swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and beyond, Russia experienced a "1,000-year heat wave" (Bloomberg, Aug. 9, 2010) that shrivelled its crops and prompted Moscow to halt wheat exports (Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2010).

Towards a progressive position on Syria

On Facebook in recent days, I have been having a spirited exchange regarding Syria with Kevin Zeese of the website Popular Resistance, which we recently had to call out for running de facto Assad regime propaganda, filled with blatantly distorted claims. Zeese is the "Attorney General" in the Green Shadow Cabinet, an entity we called out here and here for similarly serving as a stateside amplifier for regime propaganda. Much of this is recycling media accounts that attempt to excuplate the regime in the Ghouta attack. For instance, Popular Resistance reprints a Guardian story, based on conveniently anonymous sources, "German Intelligence: Assad Did Not Order Chemical Weapons Attack." If you actually read past the headline, the unsourced claim is only that Assad didn't personally order the attack. Another Guardian piece picked up by Popular Resistance speculates that the US finding that Assad was behind the attack may be tainted by Israeli intelligence.

Syria chemical attack: rush to denialism continues

Human Rights Watch on Sept. 10 released a report, "Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria," examining what are said to actually be two suspected chemical attacks on the "opposition-controlled suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta, located 16 kilometers apart, in the early hours of August 21." The report relies on witness accounts of the rocket attacks, physical remnants of the rockets, and symptoms exhibited by the victims as documented by medical staff. "Rocket debris and symptoms of the victims from the August 21 attacks on Ghouta provide telltale evidence about the weapon systems used," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW and author of the report. "This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning."

Syria's Christians become propaganda pawns

The ancient Syrian Christian village of Maaloula has changed hands at least three times in the past week of fighting between government forces and al-Qaeda franchise Nusra Front—and Syria's Christians are becoming propaganda fodder in an international war of perceptions. Nusra Front issued a video clip showing a commander urging his men not to harm Maaloula's historic churches and monasteries. The Assad regime countered with images of the rebels shooting in the air and at buildings in in the village, and of a church damaged by mortar fire, Haaretz reports. The village has already suffered civilian casualties from the fighting, and local youth have organized a self-defense militia. AFP, citing local residents, reports that rebels forced at least one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another when they held the village Sept. 10. "They arrived in our town at dawn...and shouted 'We are from the al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders," AFP quoted a resident who identified herself only as Marie.

9-11 and Syria: a propaganda field day

By now we've all seen the ugly meme, at least if you've got a Facebook account. A uniformed serviceman holds a hand-written sign over his face reading "I didn't join the army to fight for al-Qaeda in Syria."  (In case you've missed it, it is of course flaunted by the right-wing xenophobes at InfoWars.) Hopefully, we don't have to explain how this is a shameful betrayal of the secular civil resistance in Syria—it simply denies their existence, painting the entire opposition as al-Qaeda. And you certainly don't have to be pro-intervention to recognize this. A related ugly meme shows a face-palming Obama with the caption: "That awkward moment when you realize the only allies the US can muster for a Syria attack... are the terrorists who flew planes into your buildings twelve years ago."

Turkey: protest movement gets another martyr

Ahmet Ataka, a 22-year-old protester, died Sept. 10 two days after being wounded in a clash with police in Antakya (Antioch), provincial capital of Turkey's Hatay province. The march was called to show solidarity with students and local residents in Ankara protesting the construction of a road through the Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) campus, which would destroy a green area—a reprise to June's massive protests sparked by plans to bulldoze Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square. Authorities are maintianing that Ataka suffered a head injury when he fell from a building, and that police were not involved. Protesters contest this, and say he was hit in the head with a tear-gas cannister. (BIANet, Setp. 10: Doğan News Agency, Sept. 8)

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