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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blonde on Blonde: Diane Sawyer's racism shows in Roma child abduction

The look on her face after being "saved"
The four-year-old little blonde-haired, blue-eyed gypsy girl living in a Roma camp near Larissa, Greece, that the world has come to know as Maria, was abducted from the only family she has ever known by Greek authorities on 16 October 2013.

In a era were a dozen children are murdered every day in Syria without notice, the plight of little Maria quickly became an international headline. This is the way Diane Sawyer introduced the story on ABC World News on Monday 21 October 2013:
Next tonight the mystery of a girl known as Maria, a little girl with blue eyes found inside a kind of camp in Greece. How did she get there with those people and who are her real parents?
As far as Diane Sawyer was concerned, this Roma couple couldn't possibly be the "real parents" of such a "little blonde girl."

There are some 10 million Roma people spread throughout Europe, mostly in gypsy enclaves. As the crisis of capitalism has dug its claws deeper into European society, the Roma people, who are generally darker than most white Europeans, have become a favorite whipping boy. Like the Latino immigrants in the United States, they have become the targets of increased harassment and deportations as the powers-that-be seek to deepen divisions among the exploited.

In a variant on the NYPD "Stop & Frisk" policy, the European authorities often carry out sweeps for guns and drugs in Roma camps. Like "Stop & Frisk" (for guns and drugs?), this justification for racist harassment is a double fix. It implies the criminality of the people being harassed and it says that harassment is being done for the protection of the white majority.

With her family in happier times for Maria
The police in Greece were involved in one such search for guns and drugs in a Roma camp when they happen instead on a child that they decided shouldn't be there. The reason they decided the girl they named little Maria, didn't belong there, was that unlike all the other dark haired children in the Roma camp, little Maria had blonde hair and blue-eyes. Diane Sawyer had Alex Perez covering the story in Greece:
It's her distinctive blonde hair and blue eyes that may have saved her, her young face being seen around the world.
There is no doubt that the conditions of little Maria's life were terrible, as they are for poor children all over the world, but the ABC News reports showed little concern for the conditions of Roma children in the camps generally, or improving those conditions. The whole point seemed to be that little Maria, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, didn't belong with "those people," that she should be "saved." Accordingly, they strove hard to portray Maria's life among the Romas negatively. When they showed a video of little Maria dancing with neighbours, it was "a haunting home video" and "she looks out of step in her own world." Alex Perez continued:
Police thought she looked nothing like the couple who claimed to be her parents. A DNA test proved she was not theirs. Today they charged this gypsy couple with abducting her, accusing them of falsifying the paperwork for several of their 14 children.

Authorities are also trying to figure out who their parents may be. The couple argue the child's mother gave the young girl to them and that they adopted her. As word spread, authorities here in Greece tonight say they were inundated with calls from around the world including the United States, many from desperate family members searching for their little children.
It should be noted in the margins somewhere that ABC News and Diane Sawyer are defining "real parents" as only those who provided DNA to the child. Adopted parents, no matter how legal the adoption, foster parents, no matter how real the love, and step-parents, never mind the trials, can never be considered "real parents" in the eyes of these representatives of the Disney Corporation. That is a very important subtext to Diane Sawyer's reporting on this story.

When DNA tests proved 39-year-old Christos Salis and 40-year-old Eleftheria Dimopoulou were not the biological parents of Maria, the couple that had raised her from infancy, and my neighbours accounts, given her good care, were arrested and charged with kidnapping and fraud. They have four children although it is said that they claimed fourteen with state agencies. They remain in jail still.

Little Maria was taken into the custody of state authorities and has not been publicly seen or heard from since. She was turned over to a Greek charity, Smile of the Child, and a worldwide search for her "real" family was launched. On Tuesday Diane Sawyer told us "Authorities have taken her DNA, and are investigating whether she is a victim of human trafficking." in a segment titled "Finding Out the Truth About the Little Girl Named Maria." We are told that even "The FBI is investigating" "the mystery surrounding the little blonde girl Maria discovered living with a family in Greece." Never mind that this "mystery" is based entirely on the authorities, and the medias, refusal to believe anyone who actually knows the child. Alex Perez continues his report:
Today, we took a trip to the Roma or gypsy neighborhood where Maria was living. As you arrive, the first thing you see, children. Many, dirty.

On the street where Maria lived emotions were running high. We came to the family members that are in the house. They're extremely upset, saying what's been said are nothing but lies. Authorities are investigating whether Maria was a victim of human trafficking.
The people who actual knew and care for little Maria are very concerned but they are of no account because they are Roma. On Diana Sawyer's show, the view is very upbeat:
The fact that Maria has been identified and rescued is a miracle in and of itself with statistics stating one to two percent ever get rescued. It's a miracle.
A little girl has been abducted from her family by state authorities for entirely racist reasons and ABC News calls it a miracle!

Maria's birth parents with sibling
When the birth parents did come forward, Sasha and Atanas Ruseva, they turned out to be another dark haired, dark skinned, Roma couple in Nikolaevo, Bulgaria. They confirmed the story that Maria's effective parents had told authorities already, which was that the birth mother, Sasha Ruseva, who was working as an olive picker in Greece and already had seven children when Maria was born, gave the infant to Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou because she did not feel that they could raise her themselves. The Ruseva's now have nine children, even without Maria. One of their biological children has blonde hair, like Maria and one has red hair.
"I gave my child away because we were hungry," Ruseva said.

"[The Greek woman told me]: 'Give me this child, I will take care of it. You can come and take it back anytime you want'," Ruseva claimed.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids so I was not able to go back."
The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Hospital birth records show a baby girl was born to Mrs Ruseva on January 31, 2009 – the same date given as the birthday by the Roma couple who claimed the girl as their own.
Two of Maria's siblings by the Rusevas
Dark-haired parents can give birth to blonde and red headed children if both parents carry normally recessive genes of the other colors. This simple understanding of how genetics works, even for Roma people, has been lost of authorities bound to simplistic notions of race, not only in Greece but also in Ireland, where, amidst the hysteria generate by the "blue-eyed child abducted by Roma" headlines, another Roma couple had their blonde haired seven-year-old taken from them for three days. Even the birth certificate they produced was ignored until the DNA tests came back. In that case, the family was "devastated by the ordeal" and "her mother had not eaten for three days" according to the Daily Beast.

The Irish police must have gone on an anti-Roma rampage in the wake of the Greek story because they also took another blonde-haired Roma child, a little boy this time, from his parents until the DNA results proved he was theirs.  Like the Greek police, the Irish police had decided, on the basis of eye-color, hair-color, and skin-color that the child did not belong to that family. There is a bit of irony in this because the Irish have long been known as the niggers of Europe but it would seem that the Roma are the new niggers of Europe and the Irish are all too eager to join in the queue and pile on with the other whites, a trait they have also exhibited on this side of the Atlantic.

The way this story has been played up in the media has had the effect of promoting racist hysteria against Roma across Europe. There have also been reports of skin heads in Serbia attacking a Roma couple because their child had lighter skin than they had.

This was a new play on the white supremacist, King Kong theme, that the darker people covet and will steal the blonde-haired, blue-eye girls. That is the fear that Diane Sawyer was especially good at promoting. That is why they said that she had been "saved," why ABC News called it "a miracle" and "a global beacon of hope" for all the other lost little blonde girls the media has dwelt on over the years.

Without anything like a shred of evidence. they implied that Maria had been bought and would be sold, simply by dropping hints:
Authorities have taken her DNA, and are investigating whether she is a victim of human trafficking.
...
Authorities are investigating whether Maria was a victim of human trafficking. 30 million people worldwide are trafficked, 80 percent women and children.
...
We have the proper authorities investigating to identify trafficking rings.
That was three mentions, in just one segment! In case you didn't get the message that Diane Sawyer thinks that the Roma couple are kidnappers and little "blonde angel" a victim of human trafficking. Tuesday, 22 October, ABC News Good Morning America ran with the headline:
4 US Families Believe 'Gypsy Girl' Is Theirs

Families around the world hold out hope after a Greek couple was accused of kidnapping a young girl.
They even entertained the irrational suggestion that Maria could be the missing child of a desperate Kansas City couple, a child that would be only two-years-old now. Then they went on to report:
Now, the Roma couple appeared at the courthouse behind me. They are both headed to jail. While police continue hunting for Maria's real parents.
This trafficking charge is ridiculous on its face because poor Roma families don't exchange children for money among themselves and no one obtaining an infant for trafficking raises it for four years without selling it, but it remains the only fig-leaf protecting the authorities from the most acute embarrassment.

Even though the facts are as the Roma couple that raised Maria said they were all along and the birth parents have confirmed this, little Maria remains with the child charity that has been given custody of her while the adoptive parents remain in jail because they continue to suspect that Maria was exchanged for money. The birth parents have had their seven minor children taken away from them by authorities in Bulgaria.

The mythology is that the Roma take people's children but the reality is that there has been a long history of that state taking Roma children from their parents as is the case here. One example, between 1998-2002 502 Albanian Roma children went missing from a state run children's institution in Athens. The disappearance has never been adequately investigated but it has been suggested that they might have been given to human traffickers.

This little blonde Roma girl in Ireland was said to have been crying and "very upset" by her ordeal. It's hard to believe that it could be otherwise for a young child taken away from her family. That is why it is hard to believe the authorities reports about the current happiness of little Maria since she was taken from her family.

But for the authorities and the media, who both serve the same masters, this episode was not really about the welfare of little Maria or any child. It was about stoking the fires of racism among a people that are themselves being pressed hard by the capitalist crisis. What this episode shows is that while both the authorities and the media claim to be color blind, they are ready and willing to drop that façade in an instance when it suits them.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fault is with Capitalism, not the Companies it keeps!

One of the reasons you have not heard from me in a few days is that I have been dealing with a mild case of shingles. Fortunately, I got good care at the Venice Family Clinic [in Santa Monica], so it looks to be of very short duration.

VFC tells me that the so-called shingles vaccine, while a real money maker, isn't all that effective and probably not worth the cost, but quickly getting on an antiviral after an outbreak can make a big difference, including greatly shortening the course of the disease, and most importantly, mitigating the chances of long-term nerve damage.

They gave me an appointment the day after the rash broke out and immediately put me on antibiotics and antivirals. They had me come back the next day and confirmed shingles. That was 16 days ago, now its just about gone.

Funny thing I discovered about shingles. The 'baby-boomer' generation may be its last big hurrah, rid willing. Shingles, may also be called "chicken-pox's revenge" because it is caused by the same virus that gave you chicken pox as a child. To get shingles, you have to have had chickenpox. While, you may have thought you cleared your system of the chickenpox virus long ago, more than fifty years in my case, it has all the while been lurking in the roots of nerves, waiting for an opportunity.
"Moles bury very deep into the fabric of Western society and they are very dear to Moscow Center because it may be ten on even twenty years before they are use."
They don't know exactly what causes the virus to turn on again, although age obviously has something to do with it. Moscow Center has nothing to do with it. I just like John LeCarre. 

Shingles was less prevalent in the past because as children got chickenpox. Exposure to them acted as something of a booster shot to adults that had chickenpox before, making it less likely that they would suffer from shingles later on. Children who now receive the chickenpox vaccine, won't get chickenpox and can therefore never get shingles. I, and maybe you, on the other hand, are in the "got you" generation. Having had chickenpox as a child, I was shingles eligible, but since my children got the chickenpox vaccine, I never got my booster, making me a candidate for the new class of very expensive anti-virals.

Medicine is full of such contradictions. Another, much more serious one is how our very success in treating all kinds of aliments with antibiotics is coming round to haunt us.

Why Capitalism can't kill the Superbug

Frontline is running a story on PBS about the looming danger of gram-negative bacteria "Superbugs" that are proving to be immune to antibiotics and are starting to kill people all over the world at an accelerating rate.

This is a species level problem, and to the extent that other animals share in the benefits of our medical technology, a planet level problem.

There are many aspects to this problem which the show addressed. One struck me as driving home the fact that while many on the Left seem to target the large corporation as the root of the problem, this is not the case. The root of the problem is the system of capitalism.

This was a segment on Pfizer's attempt at a cure, which sounded formidable.

By the time humanity was presented with the challenge of the superbug, Pfizer was one of only three major drug companies still doing new research into antibiotics. Capitalist economics don't favor investment in new drugs designed to be used as little as possible as compare with drugs that will keep you alive as long as you use them.

Nevertheless, Pfizer, which calls itself "the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company" saw the growing need and felt a social obligation to see to it, according to company representatives interviewed by Frontline. This was, after all, the company that made its bones on penicillin and has always been a leader in antibiotic and anti-fungal medicine.

To make a long story, short, see Frontline for the details, the company spent hundreds of millions on it, built a fantasy new research center for it in Groton, CN, put top people on it for years but eventually they have had to face the fact that this superbug was also proving to be very resistant to private investment dollars being thrown at it. They closed the Groton research center and disassembled what many considered the finest anti-superbug pipline in the world.

To me, all the Pfizer people interviewed, from the corporate officers to the top scientist, sounded very sincere in their desire to beat this bug but in the end, Pfizer operates in a capitalist system where it is hard to justify investing more into an enterprise than is likely to be returned in profit. Hell, thanks to the Dodge brothers, shareholders can even sue you for doing that.

The moral of this story is that if the superbug takes us all down, it probably won't be because we don't possess the collective capabilities to defeat it but because the current organization of these capabilities [forces of production] won't allow us to defeat it.

But then, that's pretty much the way it is with every problem we face.

My next blog will be on Diane Sawyer's reporting on the Roma child case and what that tells us about racism at ABC News and beyond. I'm thinking about calling it "Blonde on Blonde."

Then, back to Syria, in Glendale,Ca I will report back on how the other half of the PSL/WWP split tried to keep revolutionary Syrian's out of their Syria forum.

More, later...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Every Friday: New Slogans of the People’s Revolution

Republished from Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style
18 October 2013

The democratic people’s revolution in Syria has accomplished something of world-historic importance: it has united both the imperialists and the anti-imperialists against it. Eastern imperialism led by Russia arms Bashar al-Assad to the teeth, Western imperialism led by the U.S. continues its heavy arms blockade on Assad’s opposition, and so-called anti-imperialists led by As’ad Abu Khalil, George Galloway, Rand Paul, Cynthia McKinney, Stop the War Coalition, and ANSWER Coalition relentlessly slander the uprising every step of the way in every conceivable way.

The near-total international isolation of the revolution — expressed by the fact that only Islamists have displayed any type of internationalism — is the inevitable result of imperialists and anti-imperialists the world over joining forces to ensure the revolution’s defeat, the former for reasons of state, the latter for reasons of ideology and pseudo-realpolitik. This imperialist-anti-imperialist alliance is why every major and minor channel, every corporate and anti-corporate newspaper, every large and small website, every worthy and worthless blogger, and every dominant and oppositional political force on the planet speaks with one voice, endlessly repeating a narrative on Syria that is so at odds with the truth: that extremists are the only/main actors in the Syrian opposition; that brutality, torture, sectarianism, and atrocities are the only/main activities of the opposition; that Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel are the only/main sponsors or beneficiaries of opposition activism; that U.S. president Barack Obama wants regime change in Damascus.
Despair

The imperialists and their anti-imperialists “opponents” agree on something fundamental: Syria is not a people’s revolution. It is not a popular uprising. It is not “the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny” (Trotsky).

But on this point, the facts are against the imperialists and the anti-imperialists, and overwhelmingly so.

“Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it’s against the oppressor. You don’t need anything else.” (حاجّ مالك الشباز; El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; Malcolm X).

One fact that exposes the falseness of the imperialist-anti-imperialist alliance narrative is how the revolution’s supporters choose the names of their weekly mass protests. These protests have taken place in cities and villages across Syria after Friday prayers on every Friday without exception since the revolution began on March 15, 2011; they are the pulse of the struggle, the voice of the formerly voiceless, a chronicle of each twist and turn their struggle for freedom has taken. According to Wael Tamimi, a Syrian journalist with the BBC’s Arabic Service:
“In the earlier days or month[s] of the uprising, the name was chosen by the admins of the Syrian Revolution page on Facebook, so the people did not used to vote on the name of the Friday. But actually, they complained to the admin. They told him, ‘We want a democratic Syria, so you have to give us a chance to vote for the name of the Friday.’ And actually, the admins of these pages responded positively.”
Anywhere between 14,000 and 30,000 people vote democratically for their preferred slogans. As Uri Friedman remarks, “What’s perhaps most amazing is that the winning Friday name really seems to wend its way from social media to the street.”




Sept. 13, 2013: “Friday of the Murderer Is
Under the International Community’s Protection”
in Hama (above) and Aleppo (below)

Yes, democracy, self-rule, and self-organization by the rebellious masses is a most amazing thing. In fact, it is the decisive thing. Hate him or love him, V.I. Lenin was absolutely right about that:
“[P]articular attention should be paid to Marx’s extremely profound remark that the destruction of the bureaucratic-military state machine is ‘the precondition for every real people’s revolution’. This idea of a ‘people’s revolution’ seems strange coming from Marx, so that the Russian Plekhanovites and Mensheviks, those followers of Struve who wish to be regarded as Marxists, might possibly declare such an expression to be a ‘slip of the pen’ on Marx’s part. They have reduced Marxism to such a state of wretchedly liberal distortion that nothing exists for them beyond the antithesis between bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution, and even this antithesis they interpret in an utterly lifeless way.
“If we take the revolutions of the 20th century as examples we shall, of course, have to admit that the Portuguese and the Turkish revolutions are both bourgeois revolutions. Neither of them, however, is a ‘people’s’ revolution, since in neither does the mass of the people, their vast majority, come out actively, independently, with their own economic and political demands to any noticeable degree. By contrast, although the Russian bourgeois revolution of 1905-07 displayed no such ‘brilliant’ successes as at times fell to the Portuguese and Turkish revolutions, it was undoubtedly a ‘real people’s’ revolution, since the mass of the people, their majority, the very lowest social groups, crushed by oppression and exploitation, rose independently and stamped on the entire course of the revolution the imprint of their own demands, their attempt to build in their own way a new society in place of the old society that was being destroyed.”
In the spirit of this last sentence, out of respect for the over 100,000 who have paid the ultimate price for resisting Assad’s iron heel, here are the names of all the Friday protests in English. This list will be updated every 2-4 weeks until the sun rises over a free Syria, so bookmark, share, ‘like’, and Tweet it until that glorious day.

Protest No.

Slogan (“Friday of…”)

Date (d/m/yy)

135

Our Arms to the Front Lines, Not the Liberated Areas

11/10/13

134

Thank You Turkey

4/10/13

133

[referring to women held in regime prisons]

27/9/13

132

Only Syrians Will Free Syria

20/9/13

131

The Murderer Is Under the International Community’s Protection

13/9/13

130

Not Only with Chemical Weapons Does Assad Kill Our Children

6/9/13

129

Friday of Victory Is Only From Allah

30/8/13

128

The Terrorist Bashar Kills Civilians with Chemical Weapons While the World Watches

23/8/13

127

Supporting the Coast Rebels

16/8/13

126

The Champions of the Coast Are Coming

9/8/13

125

If Allah Gives You Victory Then No One Can Defeat You

2/8/13

124

The Sword of Allah

26/7/13

123

Ramadan: Month of Victory

19/7/13

122

Until We Change Ourselves

12/7/13

121

Be Aware and Wake Up, Oh Brigades

5/7/13

120

On Fire Revolution and Debilitating Opposition

28/6/13

119

Friday of Victory In Deeds, Not Words

21/6/13

118

Safavid [Persian] Project: a Threat to the Nation

14/6/13

117

Ghouta and Qusayr … A Will That Won’t Break

7/6/13

116

The Ideals of the Revolution Are Our Red Lines

31/5/13

115

Charlatan Resistance — Jerusalem Is Not in Homs
[a message directed at Hezbollah]

24/5/13

114


17/5/13

113

Banyas: Ethnic Cleansing and International Complicity

10/5/13

112

Syrians Are Being Killed with Your “Red Lines”

3/5/13

111

Protection of the Majority

26/4/13

110

Iran and Hezbollah, You Will be Defeated Along With Assad

19/4/13

109

Syria is Stronger Than Those Who Would Divide It

12/4/13

108

Refugees With Honor and Dignity

5/4/13

107

Giving Glad Tidings to Those Who are Patient

29/3/13

106

Your Chemical Weapons Will Not HaltOur Progress Towards Freedom

22/3/13

105

Two Years of Struggle and Our Revolution’s Victory is Near

15/3/13

104


8/3/13

103

One Nation. One Flag. One Fight.

22/2/13

102

Proud Al-Raqqa on the Road to Freedom

22/2/13

101

Allah is Sufficient as a Supporter

15/2/13

100

Remain United

8/2/13

99

The International Community Are Partners in the Massacre

1/2/13

98

Our Leader Forever Prophet Mohammad

25/1/13

97

Revolution Aleppo University: Engineering Martyrdom

18/1/13

96

Refugee Camps of Death

11/1/13

95

Homs Calls on the Free to Stop the Siege

4/1/13

94

Bread and Blood

28/12/12

93

Victory is Written on the Gates of Aleppo

21/12/12

92

There Is No Terrorism in Syria Except that of Assad

14/12/12

91

No to Peacekeeping Forces in Syria

7/12/12

90

Damascus’s Suburbs’ Victory Sign Shall Be Over the Presidential Palace

30/11/12

89

The Time of Victory is Near

23/11/12

88

In Support of the National Coalition

16/11/12

87

It’s Time to March to Damascus

9/11/12

86

Daraya Brothers in Grapes and Blood, Towards International Justice

2/11/12

85

Allah is Greater, Revolution Till Victory

26/10/12

84

America, Your Suspicious Silence is Killing Us

19/10/12

83

The Free Alawites Produce Victory

12/10/12

82

We Want Weapons, not Statements

5/10/12

81

Unifying the Free Syrian Army

28/9/12

80

Those Who the Prophet Loves Are Being Massacred in Syria

21/9/12

79

Idlib Bringing Down Planes and Symbolizing Victory

14/9/12

78

Homs Under Siege Is Calling You

7/9/12

77

Loyalty to Tripoli and the Free Lebanese

31/8/12

76

Daraa Don’t Be Sad, Allah Is with Us

24/8/12

75

Victory With United Free Army

17/8/12

74

Arm Us With Anti-Aircraft Weapons

10/8/12

73

Deir Ezzor Victory Coming from the East

3/8/12

72

Uprising of the Two Capitals

27/7/12

71

Ramadan Victory in Damascus

20/7/12

70

Step Down Annan, Servant of Assad and Iran

13/7/12

69

The Peoples’ Freedom War

6/7/12

68

We Are Sure Allah will Grant Us Victory

29/6/12

67

Governments Let Us Down, Where Are the People?

22/6/12

66

Total Readiness for Full Revolution

15/6/12

65

Rebels and Merchants Hand in Hand Until Victory

8/6/12

64

Houla Children … Victory Flares

1/6/12

63

Damascus, Our Date is Near

25/5/12

62

The Heroes of Aleppo University

18/5/12

61

Victory from Allah and Near Breakthrough

11/5/12

60

Our Salvation Is in Our Sincerity

4/5/12

59

God’s Order Has Come, So Don’t Hurry It

27/4/12

58

We Will Be Victorious and Al-Assad Will Be Defeated

20/4/12

57

Revolution for All Syrians

13/4/12

56

Who Has Prepared a Soldier has fought

6/4/12

55

The Arabs and Muslims have Let Us Down

30/3/12

54

Coming to Damascus

23/3/12

53

Immediate Military Intervention

16/3/12

52

Loyalty to the Kurdish Revolution

9/3/12

51

Providing Weapons for the Free Army

2/3/12

50

We Will Revolt for You Baba Amr

24/2/12

49

The People’s Resistance

17/2/12

48

Russia is Killing Our Children

10/2/12

47

Sorry Hama, Forgive Us

3/2/12

46

The Right of Self-Defense

27/1/12

45

Detainees of the Revolution

20/1/12

44

Support of the Free Syrian Army

13/1/12

43

If You Are with God, He Will Grant You Victory

6/1/12

42

Marching Towards Freedom Squares

30/12/11

41

the Protocol of Death

23/12/11

40

the Arab League is Killing Us

16/12/11

39

the Strike of Dignity

9/12/11

38

the Buffer Zone is Our Demand

2/12/11

37

the Free Army Protects Me

25/11/11

36

Expulsion of Ambassadors

18/11/11

35

Freezing Syrian Regime’s Membership [in the Arab League]

11/11/11

34

God is Greater than All Tyrants

4/11/11

33

The No-Fly Zone

28/10/11

32

The Martyr of Arab Grace Period

21/10/11

31

The Free Army

14/10/11

30

The National Council Represents Me

7/10/11

29

Victory to Syria and Yemen

30/9/11

28

The Unity of the Opposition

23/9/11

27

Continuing Until Victory

16/9/11

26

International Protection

9/9/11

25

Death Rather than Humiliation

2/9/11

24

Patience and Persistence

26/8/11

23

Signs of Victory

19/8/11

22

We Will Not Kneel Except to Allah

12/8/11

21

God Is with Us

5/8/11

20

Your Silence Is Killing Us

29/7/11

19

the Descendants of Khalid (ibn Alwalid)

22/7/11

18

Prisoners of Freedom

15/7/11

17

No to Dialogue

8/7/11

16

Leave [Bashar]

1/7/11

15

The Fall of Legitimacy

24/6/11

14

The Honorable

17/6/11

13

The Tribes

10/6/11

12

The Children of Freedom

3/6/11

11

Homeland Protectors [meaning Assad’s army]

27/5/11

10

Azadi [Freedom]

20/5/11

9

Friday for Women

13/5/11

8

Challenge

6/5/11

7

Rage

29/4/11

6

Greatness

22/4/11

5

Insistence

15/4/11

4

Withstand

8/4/11

3

Martyrs

1/4/11

2

Glory

25/3/11

1

Dignity

18/3/11
Sources:Have Islamists Hijacked Syria’s Democratic Revolution?“, Syrian Revolution Martyr Database, Yalla Souriya.
To see video footage of each Friday protest compiled from sources throughout Syria, click here.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Disillusion in Syria’s Armed Opposition


America’s Arms-Length Approach to Syria is Backfiring. Nominally Western-supported opposition groups are rapidly losing members and losing ground, due in large part to ambivalent American policy.

By Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, Syrian American Council
October 2013

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS


As top politicians representing the Syrian opposition pushed their case with world leaders on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, a dozen rebel brigades inside Syria, fed up with waiting for elusive Western support, issued a joint statement rejecting their political leaders and called on both military and civilian groups in Syria to “consolidate under an Islamic framework ... with Sharia as the main source of legislation.” To many armchair observers, Communiqué No. 1, as the statement is called, appears to shatter the myth of moderates in Syria and exposes opponents of the Assad regime as radical jihadists bent on establishing a repressive Islamic state. The inclusion of Jabhat al-Nusra, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, as a signatory in the communiqué is touted as proof of rebels throwing in their lot with the extremists.

Syria is increasingly divided in three, as moderate opposition fighters are attacked by  extremists and pro-regime forces, while the Kurdish PYD seeks a semi-autonomous region. Map credit: BBC
But a closer examination reveals that the issue is much more complex and multifaceted than a demand for sharia law. Instead, the communiqué is a manifestation of the realities in Syria, and a direct result of the international community’s refusal to adequately address the needs of the armed opposition, and the millions of civilians they are trying to protect against a government that used weapons of mass destruction to exterminate its opponents.

The communiqué is significant, but it’s not earth-shattering or immutable. Some of the signatories have taken to social media to explain that the communiqué is a position statement that does not announce a new formation or structured “alliance” as was claimed by some Western pundits. While it includes some powerful groups, many others were not included. And with the exception of a few, most of the signatories are based in Aleppo and Idlib in northern Syria.

SIX CRITICAL DYNAMICS

Six major points can help clarify the dynamics which led to the issuance of Communiqué No. 1, as well as the recent consolidation of brigades and battalions in southern and eastern Syria.

First, the chemical weapons debate in the West following the regime’s August 21 attack against the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta made it clear to Syrians that the international community wasn’t concerned with how many people were killed in Syria, but only in what way people were being killed. They heard President Obama describe the Syrian crisis as a “civil war we should not get involved in,” and were disillusioned with the president’s bungled response, adding to the sense that the West’s policy of seduction and abandonment left little hope for Western support to end the war.

Second, the communiqué reflects a split between Islamists and extremists on the ground. Although it explicitly denounces the Syrian National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces – or Etilaf as the opposition umbrella group is known – the communiqué sends an indirect message to al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) – the worst of the extremist groups – that ISIS will be isolated. Instead of fighting Assad, ISIS recently declared war on the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The signatories of the communiqué further clarified its purpose to this end in a joint statement on October 2. In this statement, they called on ISIS to “withdraw its troops and material” from its battle with FSA affiliates immediately”, and demanded that ISIS “not engage in bloodletting” against opposition brigades or “brand them as infidels and apostates.” The clarifying statement demonstrates that the communiqué was partially intended to show ISIS that these brigades are not alone and will not be easily bullied by ISIS.
“Although it explicitly denounces the Syrian National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, the communiqué sends an indirect message to al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Sham that it will be isolated.”
Most analysts ignore the co-dependency between the Assad regime and ISIS, highlighted by the fact that few ISIS positions have come under aerial bombardment by the regime, which has aimed its bombs on FSA positions and civilians instead. On September 29, Human Rights Watch documented how regime jets dropped fuel-air explosive bombs on students attending their first day of class in Raqqa, a city where ISIS has a large presence. The airstrike that left 12 students dead and 25 seriously wounded ignored all the assets and personnel ISIS has in Raqqa choosing to target innocent civilians instead (Human Rights Watch, “Syria: Fuel-Air Bombs Strike School, September 2013).

Third, the communiqué shows the three-front pressure that the entire armed opposition is feeling. In addition to pressure from extremists, there is the Iranian-Hezbollah invasion of Syria that has intensified throughout the year and tipped the strategic balance in Assad’s favor. Violence also intermittently flares up with the Kurdish PYD, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. The PYD is the most powerful of numerous Syrian Kurdish factions, commanding a substantial militia. The Syrian PYD is at odds with other Syrian Kurdish groups—most notably the Kurdish National Council, which recently
joined the Etilaf. In mid-July, the PYD floated plans to create a semi-autonomous region, with a parliament and a constitution. These three factors are forcing the rebels to seek coalitions as a counterweight.
The entire armed opposition faces pressure from three fronts: extremists, Hezbollah and Iran, and the PYD faction of Syria’s Kurds. These groups threaten the armed opposition militarily, but also threaten the moderate’s vision of a future Syrian state.
It is critically important to understand that the FSA and the Islamist groups who issued the communique have differing views of a future Syria, but both views include a unified state, and both seek to avoid a de facto Iranian-sponsored partition — unlike ISIS or the Assad regime. Before the use of chemical weapons, the top concern for the mainstream armed opposition was that Homs province would fall to Hezbollah and pro-Assad forces, precipitating a breakup of the country. Were this scenario to unfold, it would drive a wedge between opposition-held areas, and consolidate Assad’s link between Damascus and his costal strongholds. The Assad-Iran-Hezbollah alliance would then control a belt of territory running from Lebanon’s Bekaa, through Homs and Damascus in Syria and Baghdad in Iraq, all the way to Tehran. It would bring Iran closer to creating a sectarian zone of influence comprising the main Syrian ports, Hezbollah supply routes, and the borders with Lebanon and Israel.

Fourth, the communiqué is a symptom of the limited international support for Gen. Salim Idris, who leads the ostensibly Western-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC). The brigades who issued the communiqué have not thus far explicitly rejected the leadership of Idris and the SMC; in fact, some of the leaders of the same Islamist brigades had participated in Idris’ election, voluntarily joining the SMC in December 2012.

But the goal of professionalizing and aggregating the armed opposition to topple the regime hasn’t been achieved, and many constituent groups appear deeply frustrated that they received little support. The U.S. policy of accommodating Russia and seeking negotiations – not victory – has delayed this assistance, and the practice of empowering the armed opposition just enough to pose a threat to the Assad regime has limited the SMC’s ability to build legitimacy throughout the country, and rebel groups started to look at other options to unify their command and win the war.

Fifth, the communiqué is also a symptom of supply lines that have circumvented the SMC. As the U.S. outsourced the provision of supplies to the armed opposition to its regional allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia, multiple channels came into existence that created and exacerbated divisions on the ground. Funneling weapons and money through the SMC was designed to end the fracturing of the opposition, but donors still earmarked supplies for particular brigades, undermining the SMC’s legitimacy and effectiveness. The SMC couldn’t assign supplies based on tactical or strategic need, rendering it more of an interlocutor than a command structure.

Sixth, the communiqué is indicative of a trust deficit between the armed and political wings of the opposition. Although the new Etilaf leadership has improved the relationship between the two, and the most recent round of Etilaf expansion included 15 representatives of the SMC, the exiled opposition isn’t fully trusted due to insufficient transparency, significant international influence, and an unenviable record of being unable to get international support.
Six Dynamics which Led to Communique No. 1:
  • Myopic international focus on chemical weapons
  • Split between Islamists and Extremists
  • Three-front pressure on the opposition from Iran/Hezbollah, extremists, and the Kurdish PYD
  • Meager international support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) command, the Supreme Military Council (SMC)
  • Outside supply lines which circumvent the SMC
  • Trust deficit between armed and political wings of the opposition
Syrians can see that the Etilaf is under heavy pressure from the U.S., that the U.S. has been bested by Russia in its Syria policy, and that Washington is working towards rapprochement with Iran. These factors lead Syrians to believe that the U.S. will not help the Eitlaf get a good deal out of an eventual peace negotiation because the U.S. is more concerned about Russia and Iran.

It is difficult for people on the ground to wholeheartedly support the Etilaf as their negotiators because they know the opposition has little influence on the international powers bringing them to the negotiating table. Syrians are afraid Etilaf may be forced to accept a bad deal. The fact that the UNSC resolution that codified the U.S.-Russian agreement to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons arsenal failed to ascribe blame for the CW attacks, include a trigger under Chapter VII, or even threaten sanctions in case Assad is found in non-compliance only affirms the validity of Syrians’ concerns. The administration might be touting the UNSC resolution as a “breakthrough,” but Syrians are under no illusion: it was a victory for Russia and Mr. Putin, and a boon for Assad.

CONCLUSIONS

Communiqué No. 1 arose due to a variety of factors on the ground, and a confused U.S. policy towards Syria has made clear that the West has no intention of helping Syrians end their struggle against more than four decades of one family’s rule. Without addressing their underlying grievances, Washington risks further alienating rebel forces in Syria, thereby hurting its long term interests in the country and the wider region.

While it did not announce an alliance, the communique set off a chain reaction among other groups that were similarly dissatisfied with inadequate Western support for the SMC, and equally worried about extremists. Shortly after the release of Communiqué No. 1, fifty brigades and battalions in southern Syria joined to form Jaysh al-Islam, rejecting the Etilaf and slamming as “unsubstantiated claims” conjecture by pundits that Saudi Arabia was behind its formation. On October 2, four brigades in eastern Syria followed suit, citing the same fears of foreign militias and disillusion with the FSA. On October 3, more brigades in the South consolidated into the Amjad al-Islam Coalition and will likely join forces with Jaish al-Islam, and on October 5, factions in Tal Abyad in Raqqa province consolidated into al-Hamza Brigade. Some of these new coalitions, and others in Hama and elsewhere, have issued statements rejecting the Geneva negotiations.

This trend is likely to intensify amid the Obama administration’s hesitancy to increase support. In fact, the author is already aware of plans for further significant consolidation outside the structure of the SMC. These events should be a wake-up call to American policymakers of the dangers of allowing U.S. foreign policy to meander aimlessly into the future or be eternally married to accommodating Russia in Syria. They should not be used as an excuse of further inaction that is leading to the disintegration of Syria, frustration of allies, emboldening of enemies, and spreading instability in the region. An arms-length approach to state disintegration in the heart of a volatile region can only end in tragedy.
Realignment of groups within the armed opposition is a consequence of failed American policy and should not be an excuse for more weak policy.
SYRIAN CRISIS IN NUMBERS

Refugees, IDPs, and those in need of Humanitarian Assistance
  • Over 6.8 million people in need of Humanitarian assistance (UN, April 2013)
  • 5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria (UN, September 2013)
  • 2.1 million refugees in neighboring countries. (UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, October 2013) Please See additional details on the refugee crisis on the next page.
Children
  • More than 1 million child refugees (UN, September 2013)
  • 3,000 schools damaged or destroyed, 1,000 others used to house displaced persons (UNICEF, September 2013)
  • 2 million children have dropped out of school (UNICEF, September 2013)
  • 3.1 million children living in dire situations inside Syria (UNICEF, October 2013) Casualties and Detainees
  • 115,000 people have been killed (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, SOHR, October 2013)
  • 6,561 Children Killed (UN, June 2013)
  • Tens of Thousands of political detainees imprisoned solely on the basis of their peaceful activity. Many have been held for long periods and tortured (Human Rights Watch, October 2013)
Medical and Other Infrastructure Destroyed
  • 57% of Hospitals Damaged (Syrian American Medical Society, SAMS, October 2013)
  • 36% of Hospitals Destroyed (SAMS, October 2013)
  • 78% of Ambulances Damaged (SAMS, October 2013)
  • 50% of Physicians Fled, 70% of Other Medical Staff Fled (SAMS, October 2013)
  • 90% Loss of Medication Manufacturing (SAMS, October 2013)
  • Over 1.2 Million Homes Destroyed (UN, September 2013)
  • 75% of factories are no longer operating (Der Spiegel, August 2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mohammed Alaa Ghanem is the Senior Political Adviser, Government Relations Director, and Strategist for the Syrian American Council in Washington D.C. He holds a master’s degree in Peacebuilding and conflict transformation. He was a professor at the University of Damascus, and has been involved in the Syrian revolution since its early days as a peaceful protest
movement.

Ghanem has briefed U.S. government officials and policy makers in the executive branch and in Congress. His work and scholarship connect U.S. policy-makers and the Syrian American community with the revolution inside Syria. This connection is made possible by his extensive network of contacts at all levels of the Syrian opposition, his frequent trips to Syria, and his routine participation in international political and academic conferences on Syria.

Applying his knowledge of American politics and international relations, he advises the local administrative councils emerging in liberated areas across Syria on international relations. In early 2013, he participated in monitoring the elections of the first democratically elected government in Aleppo.

Ghanem is also a non-resident research fellow at the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies. At SCPSS, he has been in involved in SCPSS’ Syria Transition Roadmap, an ambitious post-Assad transition project. Ghanem is frequently quoted in the media, and his writings include an op-ed in the Washington Post, as well as two previous policy papers; “Syria: a Clear Path, a Comprehensive Strategy for the Obama Administration,” and “The Syrian Crisis: A Plan of Action.” He has appeared on CNN, AlJazeera, MSNBC, and RT.

“Disillusion in Syria’s Armed Opposition” is a publication of the Syrian American Council.
Editing, revision, and compilation of this version by Jason Hunt.

Inquiries may be directed to:

Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, Director of Government Relations
20 F Street NW, Suite 700
Washington DC, 20001
202-507-6318

Substantial portions of “Disillusion in Syria’s Armed Opposition” was originally published
on the news website Syria Deeply as “The U.S.’s Arm’s Length Approach to Syria is Backfiring” on October 7, 2013.
About the Syrian American Council:

Founded in 2005 in Burr Ridge Illinois, the Syrian American Council is the largest Syrian-American community organization in the United States. It serves to amplify the voice of the Syrian-American Community. SAC includes members from all segments of Syrian society, and has over 20 chapters nationwide with thousands of supporters. It is an organization devoted to community organizing, awareness-raising, youth empowerment, media outreach, advocacy, and support for Syrians seeking to build a free and democratic Syria.


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How CounterPunch makes Syrians invisible, Again!

Re: Israeli Factor in Syrian Conflict, by Nicola Nasser published October 15, 2013 on CounterPunch

This is CounterPunch's latest attack on the Syrian Revolution. Unsurprisingly, it sees Israel and the United States as the main forces behind the conflict in Syria. The Syrian government and people are a victim of this sinister plot. As usual, the Syrian people are given no agency. There is no revolutionary movement, no Syrian movement against dictatorship and for democracy that should be recognized in its own right.

Because it is news to Nasser,
that the Israeli factor has been all throughout the conflict the main concern of both countries.[Israel and the US]
He thinks their "main concern" is the cause of the whole conflict. He sees them as the main force behind the conflict. To make his point he has to ignore the Syrian opposition or turn them into mere puppets of these powers.

To make their case, articles like this typically ignore the tens of thousand of Syrian army soldiers that have come over to the Free Syrian Army and also ignore Assad's wanton assault on civilian areas that has lead to massacre after massacre, much of it done from the air.
While the reality is that at the core of the Syrian conflict is a struggle between a mass popular uprising and a dictatorship, with many other forces opportunistically attaching themselves to one side or the other. This group, who are on the whole pro-Assad, like Assad, deny the existence of this mass popular uprising and see only the opportunists playing one side, Israel and the US, and they declare a proxy war as if the Syrians who are fighting the regime have no agency of their own and are only tools of another.

Of course he never gives us anything like a shred of evidence that the popular uprising that started the conflict was really a smoke-screen orchestrated by the US and Israel. The whole point of articles like this is to repeat the same themes over and over in the hopes they will be accepted as proof through repetition. For example, while I have always argued that "regime change" was never the goal of Obama in Syria, and offered a large amount of proof to that effect [see list at bottom], they have depended on repetition to make the point that the Syrian conflict has not been about the desire of a large number of Syrian's for regime change but a conspiracy by the US and Israel with the goal of "regime change." The Syrian people have no agency:
Their [US & Israel] “Plan A” was to enforce a change in the Syrian regime
Notice the "was?" Now that it is becoming obvious to one and all that Obama is not interested in ditching Assad, they are forced to claim that he was for regime change but now has made a "U-turn." According to Nasser, he has made this U-turn because Assad isn't going anywhere, but were is the proof that Obama ever did more than talk about regime change in Syria? He hasn't dropped one bomb or fired one bullet in Syria in more than 2 years of conflict although he has not been shy about using his drones and special forces teams many other places on the globe. He has never given Assad's opposition any heavy weapons, in fact, until very recently, he has never given them any weapons at all and that's not how you treat a "proxy."

CounterPunch then does on to complain about:
its purported inability to unite even the “opposition” that was created and sponsored by the U.S. itself and the “friends of Syria” it leads
The reason the opposition is not united is that it came up in the localities as a true grass roots movement with the various Local Coordinating Committees and brigades developing according to the local situation. Unity is something that has to be built over time. The opposition was created by many Syrians who organized themselves into local groups, it was not created by the United States.

CounterPunch denies this. The "opposition" was created by the US they insist. Just how they got millions to demand regime change after Friday prays starting in February 2011 or how they got so many SAA soldiers to defect and join the FSA is never explained. CounterPunch denies the agency of the Syrian people and with that it denies their revolution. Then it demands that the US put a stop to any Arab or Muslim countries that support the Syrian people's struggle to change the 40 year old Assad regime:
and to rein in the continued fueling of the armed conflict with arms, money and logistics by its regional Turkish and Gulf Arabs allies,
CounterPunch is calling for an the imperialist superpower to exercise greater control over certain Arab and Muslim countries. They should have no agency either.  As far as CounterPunch is concerned, all that we have in Syria is an attempt to overthrow a popular and legitimate government by Israel and the US:
The goal of this strategy has been all throughout the conflict to change the [Syrian] regime...

This strategic goal was smoke-screened by portraying the conflict first as one of a popular uprising turned into an armed rebellion against a dictatorship, then as a sectarian “civil war,” third as a proxy war in an Arab-Iranian and a Sunni-Shiite historical divide, fourth as a battle ground of conflicting regional and international geopolitics, but the Israeli factor has been all throughout the core of the conflict.
That is long hand for saying these things didn't happen, there is not a Syrian Revolution and it is all a Zionist plot.

No proof is offered because presumably none is needed. All that is really needed to to repeat this same old garbage for the hundredth and thousandth time, in the hopes that all will accept their assertions as facts.

That is the mission of this and most articles in CounterPunch on Syria.

Like I've been saying:
Obama's Real Syria Policy: Endless War
The Courtship Continues: Obama stopped French strike on Assad
The Courtship Continues: Obama's New Gift to Assad
How Obama Helped Assad Kill with Poison Gas in Syria
Win-Win for Assad as Obama Response to CW Mass Murder Put on Hold
Obama Denied Gas Masks to Assad's Victims
Obama's Dilemma and Assad's Opportunity
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad Exposed!
Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
Chemical weapons use in Syria, Has Obama's red-line has been crossed?
AP weighs in on Obama's Green Light for Assad's slaughter in Syria
Syria: Obama's moves Assad's "red line" back as SOHR reports 42,000 dead!
SecState John Kerry and his "dear friend" Bashar al-Assad
How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring
More thoughts on Obama's 'No MANPADS for you!' policy
Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad's opposition in Syria?

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria