Archive | July 13th, 2012

LIBYA AND SYRIA: WHEN ANTI-IMPERIALISM GOES WRONG

NOVANEWS

Pham Binh delivers a critique of Western anti-imperialists’ opposition to the Libyan and Syrian revolution.

Reflexive opposition to Uncle Sam’s machinations abroad is generally a good thing. It is a progressive instinct that progressively declined in the 1990s, as presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton deftly deployed the U.S. military to execute “humanitarian” missions in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans and progressively increased in the 2000s, as Bush Jr. lurched from quagmire to disaster in transparent empire-building exercises in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, what is generally good is not good in every case. The progressive instinct to oppose anything the U.S. government does abroad became anything but progressive once the Arab Spring sprang up in Libya and Syria, countries ruled by dictatorships on Uncle Sam’s hit list. When American imperialism’s hostility to the Arab Spring took a back seat to its hostility to the Ghadafi and Assad regimes (their collaboration with Bush Jr.’s international torture ring notwithstanding), the Western left’s support for the Arab Spring took a back seat to its hostility to American imperialism.

The moment the Syrian and Libyan revolutions demanded imperialist airstrikes and arms to neutralize the military advantage enjoyed by governments over revolutionary peoples, anti-interventionism became counter-revolutionary because it meant opposing aid to the revolution. Equivocal positions such as “revolution yes, intervention no” (the one I defended) were rendered utopian, abstract, and useless as a guide to action by this turn of events.

“Libyan Winter” Heats Up

To say that the Libyans were fortunate that anti-interventionists were too weak to block, disrupt, or affect NATO’s military campaign would be an understatement. Libya would look like Syria today if the anti-interventionists won at home in the West.

In both cases, the Western left mistakenly prioritized its anti-imperialist principles over its internationalist duty to aid these revolutions by any means necessary. By any means necessary presumably includes aid from imperialist powers or other reactionary forces. If this presumption is wrong, then we are not for the victory of the oppressed by any means necessary and should remove those words from our vocabulary in favor of by any means we in the West deem acceptable.

When the going got tough and the F-16s got going over Libya, the revolution’s fairweather friends in the West disowned it, claiming it had been hijacked by NATO. Instead of substantiating this claim with evidence that NATO successfully pushed the Libyans aside and seized control of their war against Ghadafi, the Western left instead 1) focused on the alleged misdeeds of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and 2) hid behind phrases such as“Libyan Winter” and “civil war,” implying that the Arab Spring in Libya froze the instant NATO jumped in and that neither the rebels nor Ghadafi deserved anyone’s support.

Both evasions of the central issue – that NATO’s air campaign had mass support among revolutionary Libyans which was faithfully reflected by the NTC’s stand against foreign invasion and for foreign airstrikes – were very serious methodological mistakes that only a handful of commentators managed to avoid, Clay Claiborne of Occupy LA being the most prominent. Far from freezing over, the struggle in Libya became a long hot summer of multifaceted conflict with international, conventional military, tribal, and underground dimensions that eventually culminated in Ghadafi’s grisly execution, raising and personalizing the stakes for Assad.

Anti-imperialists were so focused on the NTC’s cooperation with NATO, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and repressive Arab governments that they were as blindsided as Ghadafi was when forces independent of NTC control – Berber militias in Western Libya and underground networks in Tripoli – overthrew his regime in a surprise move on August 20. The NTC that the Western left portrayed as all-powerful due to its CIA and Arab state patronage was not able to move into Tripoli for weeks afterwards. To this day, the NTC has not disarmed rebel fighters, contrary to the confident predictions born of anti-imperial hubris by anti-interventionists who sought to convince us that the revolution was a mirage and that the West’s pawns chosen from above were firmly in control of post-Ghadafi Libya.

Broken Records Lead to Broken Crystal Balls

When NATO launched airstrikes in Libya, the anti-interventionists heard the same pretexts about human rights and freedom used to justify wars for empire and oil in Afghanistan and Iraq. This identical stimulus triggered an identical reaction – they used the contradictions and hypocritical flaws in the official rationales for intervention as the basis for opposing NATO’s action – just as Pavlov’s dogs reacted as if they were being fed when they heard a bell ring, regardless of whether any food was actually served.

This conditioned reaction to the broken record of justifications led anti-interventionists to conclude that NATO’s end of the Libyan war would resemble the Afghan and Iraq wars and so their case against intervention was built around the following predictions:

1) Mass civilian casualties due to Iraq or Viet Nam-style aerial bombardment;
2) Foreign invasion/occupation due to imperialist “mission creep”;
3) Future interventions would be easier and more likely elsewhere;
4) A neocolonial regime would be installed in Tripoli as the result of NATO-led “regime change,” the logical conclusion of the “revolution was hijacked” conspiracy theory.

NATO’s methods and the war’s outcome were totally at odds with what the anti-interventionists envisioned:

1) There was no massive NATO bombardment of civilian targets, there was no Libyan highway of deathno Black Hawk Down, no Wikileaks-style helicopter gunship atrocities. The absence of wanton slaughter of civilians by NATO compelled Ghadafi to fake collateral damage incidents and civilian funerals and arbitrarily exaggerate the number of civilians killed.
2) The anti-interventionists believed that NATO would be compelled to send ground troops by the logic of “regime change,” by the inability of forces loyal to the NTC to make significant headway against Ghadafi’s forces. They seized on the presence of small numbers of NATO military advisers and special forces in Libya as a vindication of their prediction and as proof that the West put “boots on the ground.” In reality, NATO boots played a secondary role; Libyans did the fighting and the dying, not Westerners. Out of 30,000 people who were killed in the Libyan civil war, how many were NATO personnel? Zero. That number would have been higher if NATO ground forces were in the thick of combat or invaded (much less occupied) the country.
3) Paradoxically, NATO’s successful campaign in Libya made a future U.S./NATO campaign in Syria less likely. Russia and China are now determined to block any attempt to apply the Libyan model to Syria at the United Nations Security Council and the Obama administration is not willing to defy either of them by taking Bush-style unilateral military action for the time being.
4) The proponents of the hijacking theory failed to address the most obvious and urgent question that flowed from their own analysis: what could the Libyans do to take their revolution back from NATO’s hijacking? A hijacking is a struggle for control between legitimate and illegitimate actors where the rogue elements get the upper hand. (Never forget 9/11.) Not one of the Libyan revolution’s progressive detractors outlined how NATO could be elbowed aside by Libyans to regain control of their struggle.

This was no accident or coincidence.

The hijacking narrative did not arise from a factual foundation but from a simplistic, reflexive ideology, albeit an anti-imperialist one. The anti-interventionists did their best to substitute weak suppositions, NATO’s bald hypocrisy, and guilt by association for the evidence they lacked to support their hijacking story. For them, the Libyan revolution’s constituent elements lost their political independence, initiative, and lifeblood the instant NATO fired its first cruise missile. Nothing else mattered except that NATO chose to act; what Libyans said, did,thought, and organized was simply not a factor for them.

These anti-imperialists airbrushed the Libyans out of their own revolution.

The driving force behind the military offensive by Berber militias in western Libya that was timed to coincide with the surprise uprising in Tripoli that ousted Ghadafi was not NATO. NATO did not organize the underground network of neighborhood cells in Tripoli that penetrated Ghadafi’s secret police. And NATO certainly did not pick August 20, the day Muhammad entered Mecca, as the day to launch a risky grassroots insurrection in Tripoli.

Hammered by NATO’s airpower from above, by the Berbers from without, and by revolutionaries from below, Ghadafi’s forces in Tripoli melted away. The “Libyan Winter” proved to be the hottest chapter of the Arab Spring thus far.

Post-War Libya

Events shortly after Ghadafi was toppled provide even more evidence that the revolution was not hijacked by NATO. When rebels stormed Ghadafi’s compound, they were quick to show Western reporters the dictator’sscrap book featuring himself arm-in-arm with Condoleeza Rice. A top rebel commander publicly accused the British government of handing him over to Ghadafi’s regime to be tortured right before he filed a lawsuit against Jack Straw, Britain’s former Foreign Minister for authorizing the rendition. The new Libyan government refused to hand over Ghadafi’s son Saif to the International Criminal Court (now it has even arrested their lawyers), the body responsible for dispensing NATO’s “justice” to Slobodan Milosevic. No U.S or NATO bases have been established in Libya unlike in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

In other words, Libyan sovereignty emerged from the revolution intact despite NATO’s involvement. This would not be the case if NATO was directly or indirectly in charge of Libya or set up some sort of neocolonial regime.

The bottom line is that the bulk of the Western left could not bring itself to wholeheartedly support a democratic revolution that co-opted foreign intervention for its own ends. The revolution landed safe and sound at a qualitatively more democratic destination precisely because control of the revolution never left Libyan hands.

Today, Libyans enjoy freedom of speech, freedom to protest and organize, and most importantly, freedom from fear of state repression. The Western left ought to join the revolutionary masses of the Arab and North African world in celebrating this historic victory, not isolate ourselves from them by mourning (or slandering) it.

Instead of trying to learn from their mistakes, the anti-interventionists simply moved on to Syria to make the same errors without a second thought about why the reality of post-intervention Libya looked nothing like their dire forecasts. This willful blindness makes them incapable of understanding why any Arab revolutionary in their right mind would look to Libya as a model, why Syrians would chant, “Bye, bye Ghadafi, Bashar your turn is coming!” while crowds in Tahrir Square chant, “If they want to be Syria, we’ll give them Libya” in response to the Egyptian military’s latest power grab.

The Main Enemy In Syria

The anti-interventionists are repeating their mistakes over the Libyan revolution blunder-for-blunder over the Syria revolution. In place of their attacks on the Libyan NTC, they denounce the Syrian Nation Council (SNC); they dwell on the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) U.S. backing, just as they painted Libya’s rebels as tools of the CIA; instead of “hands off Libya,” they put forward the slogan “hands off Syria,” as if Syria’s death squads were Uncle Sam’s handiwork and not Assad’s.

Hyperbolic condemnations of the FSA, SNC, or the coordinating committees do nothing for Syrians whose lives do not depend on the anti-imperialist credentials of these groups but on whatever assistance they can provide. Similarly, criticisms that the Syrian revolution should rely less on armed struggle and more on strikes by workers have a questionable relationship to reality at best. Since when has a strike ever stopped a death squad from breaking down a door and murdering a sleeping family or prevented a civilian neighborhood from being shelled by artillery? Does anyone seriously believe that the Syrian struggle is being led astray by trigger-happy gunmen (most of whom are working for Assad, not against him)?

Our first duty in the West is to do whatever we can to aid, abet, and provide material support for our Syrian brothers’ and sisters’ fight against the Assad regime. Our main enemy is at home in the West, but theirs is not. Washington, D.C. is not sending death squads door-to-door to execute women and children, the regime in Damascus is; the Pentagon is not shelling civilian targets and killing journalists in Homs, the regime in Damascus is. Their main enemy is at home, just as ours is.

This grim reality must be our starting point in any discussion about Syria, not a hypothetical U.S. military action down the road, the contours of which cannot be known in advance. We cannot have the same attitude towards U.S. airstrikes on Assad’s forces and a full-scale ground invasion of Syria because their impact on and implications for the revolution would be completely different. The contours of imperialist intervention must shape our attitude towards it. Sending the FSA small arms and anti-tank missiles or video cameras is not the same as sending American marines into the streets of Damascus, although they are all forms of U.S. intervention.

Syrian revolutionaries know damn well what atrocities Uncle Sam is capable of – Iraq is right next door – and the Arab world knows better than we in the West ever will what the colonial boot feels like. To lecture them of perils and pitfalls they know better than we do is to insult their intelligence. To pretend that we know the dangers of dealing with imperialist devils better than Third World revolutionaries do is a kind of white anti-imperialist’s burden, and its arrogant paternalism is just as misguided as its colonialist antipode.

We have no business criticizing the SNC, FSA, or the coordinating committees unless and until we have fulfilled our first duty by matching our words of solidarity with deeds and acts that can make a difference in the revolution’s outcome, however small they might seem.

Self-Determination and Intervention

The biggest obstacle to Syrian self-determination today is the Assad regime which increasingly rests on Russian bayonets drenched in Syrian blood. He is determined to stay in power by any means necessary and will not rest until their struggle for self-determination (which is what a democratic revolution is) is buried, in mass graves if need be. Respect for Syrian self-determination means respecting how Syrian revolutionaries organize their struggle and their choices even when they conflict with our own preferences and choices.

If Syrian revolutionaries ask for Western airstrikes because they lack an air force to counter the Assad regime militarily, who are we to oppose those airstrikes? Who are we to tell them that all-out defeat is better than the triumph of a revolution “tainted” by an unavoidable compromise with imperialists powers? Who are we to tell them they must face Russian helicopter gunships without imperialist aid because “the revolution will be won by Syrians themselves or it won’t be won at all”? Do we really want our Syrian brothers and sisters to confront tanks with rocks and slingshots as so many Palestinians have?

While the Western left is raising a hue and cry over the minimal aid Syria’s rebels receive from the CIA and reactionary Gulf states, Russia is overtly ramping up its military aid to Assad. Whether we like it or not, the struggle between the Syrian revolution and Assad’s counter-revolution has been internationalized just as the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939 was. The Western left in those days demanded foreign intervention in the form of arms, military aid, and volunteers for the Spanish Republic. The anti-interventionists (mostly fascists or fascist sympathizers) were more than happy to see the Republic starved in the name of “non-intervention” while Hitler bombed Guernica and did everything possible to ensure Franco’s victory.

Those who oppose Western military action today against Assad in the context of a revolution that has developed into a full-blown civil war where segments of the revolution and the people are begging for foreign arms, aid, andairstrikes while the counter-revolution imports arms to slaughter them follow in the anti-interventionist footsteps of the Spanish Republic’s opponents whether they are aware of it or not.

“Hands off Syria” should be the slogan raised at demonstrations in front of Russian embassies and consulates around the world, not the one directed at foreign powers aiding the rebels lest we become little better than Assad’s unwitting executioners in the eyes of revolutionary Syrians. Instead of focusing our fire on the shortcomings of the SNC, FSA, and the coordinating committees, we should be organizing events and fund-raisers for humanitarian relief, fact-finding missions, and video and communications equipment with the aim of smuggling it into Syria. These activities are already taking place but not with the participation of the Western left since we are more worried about our precious anti-imperialist principles and hypothetical Libya-style airstrikes (as if the outcome there was a step backward and not a step forward) than tackling the ugly realities of the Syrian revolution whose straits become more desperate with each passing hour.

We fiddle furiously while Syria burns and Syrians bleed.

The most important thing for the Western left to do is to forge close and enduring relationships with revolutionary Syrians living abroad by demonstrating our unequivocal support for their revolution through deeds, through joint work with their communities. Only in that context and on that basis can criticisms we have about deals with U.S. imperialism or mistakes made by the SNC, FSA, and the coordinating committees gain a hearing among the people who count: revolutionary Syrians.

One way to begin building these relationships would be to organize forums and debates over the question of intervention with revolutionary Syrians of various shades of opinion. The single most embarrassing aspect of the Western left’s opposition to NATO’s Libya operation was the way revolutionary Libyans were barred from Libya forums organized by anti-interventionists.

This outrage was the absurd but logical outcome of the white anti-imperialist’s burden, a burden we must cast aside if we hope to act in concert with the Arab Spring.

Conclusion

The Western left should reject knee-jerk anti-imperialism because its unthinking, blind, reflexive, nature put us at odds with the interests and explicit demands of first the Libyan and now the Syrian revolutionary peoples and in line with the interests of their mortal enemies.

Knee-jerk anti-imperialism leads to our enemies doing our thinking for us: whatever Uncle Sam wants, we oppose; whatever Uncle Sam opposes, we want. This method plays right into U.S. imperialism’s hands because the last thing Uncle Sam wants is a thinking enemy.

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Anti-Semitic cartoon declared winner of Iranian festival

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ADL chief says cartoon showing haredim praying at ‘Wall Street’ Western Wall ‘perverts most sacred Jewish site into a shrine of greed’

Ynetnews

“Once again, Iran takes the prize for promoting anti-Semitism,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abraham H. Foxman said in response to the results of an Iranian cartoon contest, in which the winning entry depicts three religious Jews praying in front of a representation of the Western Wall in Jerusalem labeled “New York Wall Street.”

“The winning cartoon takes the most sacred site in Judaism and perverts it into a shrine of greed. It is offensive on so many levels,” he said.

The anti-Semitic cartoon was declared the winner of Iran’s first annual “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival,” co-sponsored by the Iranian media outlet Fars News. According to reports, the contest’s jury consisted of seven judges from Iran, Turkey, Poland and Romania who judged more than 1,600 cartoons. The winning artist, Mohammad Tabrizi, was awarded 5,000 euros for his image of Jews praying in front of “Wall Street.”

“Here is a trifecta of anti-Semitic notions – of Jews worshipping money, the canard that Jews ‘control’ Wall Street, and a cynical perversion of the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism,” Foxman added.

“This contest not only puts virulent anti-Semitism on a pedestal, but in posting the images online and involving judges from other countries, helps promote classical anti-Semitic notions before a global audience of potentially millions,” he argued.

In 2006, the Iranian government notoriously sponsored a Holocaust cartoon contest in which the winning entries derided Jews and mocked and belittled the death of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust.

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Jewish Mafia Thoughts on Black People

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US fears Assad relocating chemical stockpiles

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DC reportedly concerned over Syria’s moving of chemical weapons arsenal. Experts divided over whether Assad means to use them or is trying to safeguard them

Yitzhak Benhorin, Reuters
The country’s undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent Syrian ‘chemical, biological’ weapons concern IsraelWASHINGTON – US officials said that chemical weapons arsenal out of storage facilities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Western nations have looked for signs amid the rebellion against President ethnic cleansing campaign. But other officials said Mr. Assad may be trying to safeguard the material from his opponents or to complicate Western powers’ efforts to track the weapons.

Whatever the motivation, the evidence that the chemical weapons are coming into play could escalate the conflict in Syria, the report said. “This could set the precedent of Israeland nearby

The Assad government has in the past denied having weapons of mass destruction.

 

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Is IsraHell the Winner of the Arab Spring?

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by Gabriel M. Scheinmann

Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs

Israelis understandably feel imperiled by the misnamed “Arab Spring.” Their country’s three-decade peace treaty with Egypt is under assault, its strategic alliance with Turkey has dissolved, and its closest regional ally, Jordan, is withering from domestic protests.

The breakdown in political authority has flooded Israel’s borders with a slew of dangerous weapons, from Libyan missiles in Gaza to Syrian Scuds in southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program progresses unabated. Individually, each of these developments is cause for great concern; taken together, Israelis see the walls closing in.

Although the initial flickers of liberalism have been subsumed by the Islamist bonfire, the so-called “Arab Spring” has, paradoxically, made Israel stronger as Israel’s enemies have turned on each other. While Arab capitals burn, Jerusalem has calmly and carefully steeled itself against the possible immediate deleterious effects, building fences along its Egyptian and Jordanian borders and accelerating the deployment of its Iron Dome anti-missile system. Whereas Arab states remain mired in internal political, economic, and military turmoil, Israel hums along, its economy intact – tourism is at an all-time high – its military untested, and its government united.

For three decades, Mubarak’s Egypt was the anchor of Israel’s regional security. Since his ouster, the lawless Sinai has been the source of rocket attacks, Egypt has canceled its gas contract with Israel, Israel’s Cairo embassy staff barely survived an attempted mob lynching and the Muslim Brotherhood has issued disquieting verbal volleys against the peace treaty.

As these troubling developments suggest, the capacity of the Egyptian state has also fundamentally declined. The Egyptian economy is in dire straits: foreign reserves have dropped 60 percent, foreign direct investment has fallen by 90 percent, and this year’s budget deficit is 10.4 percent of GDP – America’s is 7.6 percent – and trending upwards. Furthermore, Egypt’s military regime and the Muslim Brotherhood are focused inward on reestablishing order and consolidating political control. Any warlike move by an Islamist-led Egypt would trigger the elimination of the American military aid that currently funds nearly 40 percent of Egypt’s defense budget. The Egyptian body politic may indeed be more hostile to the Jewish State, but its capabilities for acting on that hostility have markedly declined.

Israel’s concerns about a volatile Syria also belie the advantages reaped by a damaged Syria. Concerned about the potential transfer of Syrian Scuds or chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Israel is apprehensive of both a last ditch attempt by Assad to embroil it in war or by the possible ascent of another Islamist regime.

However, irrespective of Assad’s ability to cling to power, post-uprising Syria will also be a shell of its former self. Like Egypt, its economy is in tatters, having been hit hard by Western sanctions on its oil industry, which accounts for 30 percent of its budget. Its’ army has suffered large defections and losses at the hands of the rebels and its’ patron, Iran, has invested massively in propping up its sole regional ally. Even Hezbollah, aware of its current tenuous position in the Lebanese powder keg, finds itself increasingly isolated, having sided with Assad. Israel’s northern border has never been quieter.

Even in Gaza, where Hamas is ensconced, Israel’s successful deployment of the game-changing Iron Dome missile defense system has revolutionized the security situation, resulting in no Israeli casualties due to rocket fire thus far this year. Hamas abandoned its cozy headquarters in Damascus, fearful of aligning itself with the heretical Alawite sect against its Sunni Muslim brothers, and continues the political tug-of-war with Fatah in the West Bank. Even beyond Israel’s immediate borders, the “Arab Spring” has uncorked ethno-religious conflicts. PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) attacks on Turkish military targets have spiked, fighting continues between Arab, African, and Berber tribesmen in Libya, and two new independent states have been declared, the Tuareg state of Azawad in northwestern Mali and South Sudan, marking the first loss of “Arab” sovereignty in 45 years.

Even as it rightly plans for the changes wrought by the “Arab Spring,” Israel should also recognize that as the Middle East convulses, it is more likely to be left alone. As Alawites battle Arab Sunnis and Kurds in Syria, as Kurds target Turks in Turkey, as the Imazighen fight Arabs in Libya, as the Army contends with Islamists in Egypt, and as Sunnis and Christians confront Shiites in Lebanon, people don’t have the time, energy, or resources to fight the Jews in Israel. The more the region tears itself apart, the more Israel floats to the top, unscathed economically, militarily, or diplomatically. While an Islamist ascent is undesirable, the intervening disorder only makes Israel stronger.

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Syria: NATO Terrorists Commit Al-Treimsa Massacre

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Dozens of civilians were killed and wounded when terrorists overran the village of al-Treimsa in Hama Countryside yesterday, SANA news agency reported.

 

Syria army tanks

“The terrorists, according to eye witnesses who appeared on Syrian TV to narrate the reality of events on the ground, ransacked, destroyed and burned scores of the village houses before the competent authorities arrive to the village,” SANA said.

Abo Arif al-Khalid, an eye witness from the targeted village, stated in a phone call to Syrian TV, that the village of al-Treimsa lived a nightmare when armed terrorist groups attacked it and opened random fire on its inhabitants and houses, killing more than 50 persons, and exploding houses, among which the house of his cousin, it added.

A woman and her child were killed by the terrorists before the eyes of all the people there, added Abo Arif al-Khalid, regretting the absence of the Syrian Army or security personnel from the village.

”Had the Army or security personnel existed in the village, the terrorists wouldn’t have been able to overrun the village and perpetrate their massacres,” cried al-Khalid.

The competent security units, in response to al-Treimsa inhabitants’ pleads, clashed with the terrorists, inflicting huge losses upon them, capturing scores of them, confiscating their weapons, among which Israeli-made machineguns, SANA revealed.

3 security personnel were martyred during the clashes, according to SANA reporter in Hama.

Meantime, an information source cited by SANA blasted the news circulated by some bloody media outlets, like al-Jazeera and al-Arabyia, as a bid to manipulate public opinion against Syria and its people and as to bring foreign intervention in Syria on the eve of a UN Security Council session.

The source underscored that the phobia from the foiling of the conspiracy against Syria by some Zionist media channels, which are partners in the aggression against the Syrian People, led these media outlets into a hysterical situation, so that they disseminated lies and fabrications not to mention their old and out of place and Syrian geography scenes of events and demonstrations.

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THE UGLY TRUTH Broadcast with Palestinian Journalist Sammi Ibrahem: Western-Imposed Sanctions are having on his Country Iran

TUT Broadcast with Palestinian Journalist Sammi Ibrahem

July 13, 2012Quantcast

Sammi interviews Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari, discussing what effect the western-imposed sanctions are having on his country.

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THANK YOU FOR ASSISTING WITH THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH PRODUCING THIS PROGRAM

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Drones Overseas Lead to Drones at Home

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by Philip Giraldi

The principal function of government since 9/11, even if unintentional, has been to develop strategies to reduce individual liberties and transfer power to the government while not appearing to do so. Of course, neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama actually explains it in those terms. They say instead that they are making Americans safer, but their actions belie their words, as today’s United States is if anything less safe, more authoritarian, and far poorer. Every expansion of the imperial mission overseas, which of course is being sold as a war against terrorists, has been accompanied by new legislation in the United States that has made all Americans less free. The most recent anti-terror legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act, enables the government to detain indefinitely any American citizen suspected of involvement in terrorism, without any due process and without any right to trial.

Drones are the new tool of American hegemony. They are described by administration spokesmen, when they are mentioned at all, as having a constabulary function. That means that the American lawman in the form of a mechanical drone is delivering justice in a part of the world where the local government is either too weak or unwilling to do its own policing. It is easy to see the flaw in the argument. Sending a U.S. marshal to arrest someone after due process has been observed and a warrant has been issued is quite different from sending a machine into some other nation’s airspace and killing from several thousand feet up a suspect who might well be an American citizen traveling with family members (who will also die). So drone policing is essentially both immoral and illegal, a conclusion that has finally been reached by the United Nations, among others.

There are considerable advantages to the use of drones from the government’s perspective. It has often been claimed that the Vietnam War finally ended when the reaction to the sight of thousands of coffins containing dead American soldiers reached a politically unsustainable level. The Pentagon learned a lesson and subsequently used massive firepower and high-tech weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce the number of U.S. dead even if it meant significantly increasing the collateral damage inflicted on civilians. Pursuing that logic led to the drone. The drone was originally intended to provide surveillance capability, but in its Predator version armed with Hellfire missiles, it can both surveil and kill. Advanced versions now being developed can observe, decide whether a target is viable, and execute those on the ground, all without any human intervention. Best of all, the drone kills people without any danger to American soldiers or bureaucrats, the ultimate video game adapted for real life. The ability to reduce U.S. casualties to zero makes the drone the perfect weapon, and it virtually guarantees that never-ending low-intensity warfare will become the new normal. And to those who object that assassinating by drone is engaging in warfare without any declaration of war or evidence that the targets are actually terrorists, the government will undoubtedly fall back on the constabulary argument: it is police action, not armed conflict. Failing that, the White House can hand over the operation to the CIA, which can carry out the missions based on a presidential finding, avoiding the rules of engagement and congressional oversight that might hamper the Pentagon. This is why the CIA is taking the lead in places such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

If there is one universal truth, it is that once a new technology is developed, it will be used and a legal framework will quickly be devised to enable that to happen. Drones even have a trade association and lobby, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, or AUVSI. And what goes around overseas in a “war zone” comes around to the United States, perhaps a tribute to a global economy and marketing efforts but more likely because all governments like to have toys available to keep the people in line. Unarmed surveillance drones are now used extensively along the Mexican and Canadian borders. Many in Congress would like to see them used more by police forces and the federal security agencies all over the country, as reflected in a bill that passed in February authorizing their deployment nationwide.

The argument being made by the authorities is the old saw that the police need more resources to protect the law-abiding public from criminals and terrorists. Technology, including drones, is admittedly a force multiplier in that it enables a policeman to sit at his desk in headquarters and watch what you are doing in your backyard. Multiply that times 10 and the same cop can observe a whole bunch of people simultaneously. Couple that with the increased use of GPS transmitters that can be attached to vehicles, which are being widely used, and the police can keep tabs on you while you are at home and also know when and where you have been in your car 24/7. And, of course, they can monitor your phone and record what you are viewing and writing on the Internet.

Twenty states already have 64 functioning drone sites for police use, and more than 300 law enforcement agencies are now licensed to operate the vehicles. Many in Congress want to see the police have maximum latitude to operate freely. And it is only a matter of time before the domestic drones will be armed because the same law-and-order argument applies: that drones that can take effective action against criminals enable the police to do their job better. One county in Texas that is using drones is already discussing arming them with tasers, tear gas, and rubber bullets, arguing “those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out, and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system.”

There has admittedly been some pushback in Congress, from the public, and in the media against a free-fire zone for drones that would extend all over the United States. The Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches or searches without a warrant based on probable cause, would appear to restrict the government’s right to surveil a citizen. Sen. Rand Paul has introduced legislation that would make such surveillance illegal without a warrant. Unfortunately, the legislation, which has still not been approved, accepts the principle that drones should be legal but regulated. And it has some major loopholes that can be exploited by the government. Per the bill, drones can be used to surveil borders, can be used to prevent “imminent danger to life,” and can be deployed if there is a high risk of a terrorist attack. This formulation unfortunately authorizes de facto the use of lethal force by drones while permitting police officers to interpret and improvise on the rules. How far a border extends is, of course, a judgment call, and the use of drones in “imminent danger” or terrorist situations allows the authorities to err on the side of caution, deploying drones in many unrelated situations with little regard for limitations imposed by a faraway and largely uninterested Congress.

If drones are essential for keeping the nation’s borders secure, most Americans will be supportive of their deployment. But there should be specific legislation authorizing that use with a careful definition of a border together with strict caveats on any other applications. Drones should not be employed as a law enforcement tool inside the United States because the potential for abuse is so high. If they are used and become accepted as a component of standard police procedure, it is a measure of what kind of nation we have become in the past 11 years. The use of military technologies to enable constant surveillance of the American people to protect them from themselves should be rejected by one and all, Democrat and Republican alike.

Posted in USAComments Off on Drones Overseas Lead to Drones at Home

Russian Navy Ready to Break Syria Blockade Says Arms Agency

NOVANEWS
The Russian cargo ship Alaed

The Russian cargo ship Alaed

© RIA Novosti. Sergey Eshenko

Russian Navy warships will be sent to defend Russian merchant shipping in the event of a blockade due to the situation in Syria, the deputy head of Russia’s military technical cooperation agency said at the Farnborough air show in Britain on Wednesday.

“The fleet will be sent on task to guarantee the safety of our ships, to prevent anyone interfering with them in the event of a blockade. I remind you, there are no limits,” Vyacheslav Dzirkaln said, when asked about the navy’s actions in the event of a blockade.

The Defense Ministry said on Tuesday a Russian naval task force was on its way to carry out naval exercises in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas.

The task force comprises warships from Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets, a ministry official told RIA Novosti.

The Russian cargo ship Alaed, which was carrying a cargo of renovated Mil Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Syria, was forced to stop on June 18 and return to Russia after its insurance cover was withdrawn by a British insurer.

Dzirkaln said Russia has not embargoed its existing arms contracts with Syria and will fulfill existing contracts for air defense systems and helicopters, in clarification of a statement made on Monday which indicated no new arms deliveries would be made by Moscow to Damascus.

Syrian opposition expressed concern on Wednesday over the departure of Russian warships to the Mediterranean as the presence of the Russian Navy near the Syrian coast could encourage the Assad regime to use even more violence against protesters.

“We have discussed this problem with Russia,” senior member of Istanbul-based opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Burham Ghalioun told a news conference at RIA Novosti. “We are concerned with the fact that these maneuvers coincide with the escalation of the situation [in Syria].”

 

Posted in Russia1 Comment

Putin sends warships to boost Syria

NOVANEWS
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during a United Russia party congress in Moscow May 26, 2012.   REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (RUSSIA  - Tags: POLITICS)Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Reuters

RUSSIA has sent a flotilla of warships to its naval base in a key Syrian port in an apparent show of support for President Bashar al-Assad in what would be the largest display of Russian military power in the region since the Syrian conflict began almost 17 months ago.

Two destroyers and three amphibious landing vessels carrying marines set sail from Russian bases in the Arctic and the Black Sea, according to Russian military sources.

The development appeared intended to underline Russia’s effort to position itself as an increasingly decisive broker in resolving the anti-government uprising in Syria, Russia’s last ally in the Middle East and where Russia has its only foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union.

The move follows Russia’s announcement earlier this week that it was halting new shipments of weapons to the Syrian military until the conflict settled down.

Russia’s defence ministry insisted the mission was part of a previously scheduled exercise in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea and at least one of the vessels has patrolled waters off Syria this year. Western diplomats say the purpose of the mission is to show support for Dr Assad, to warn the West against military intervention in Syria and to prepare for the possible evacuation of Russian nationals from the country.

Russia has occasionally sent naval vessels on manoeuvres in the eastern Mediterranean, and it dispatched an aircraft-carrying battleship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, there for manoeuvres with other vessels from December 2011 to February 2012. There were rumours in recent weeks that the Russians planned to deploy another naval force near Syria. But the unusually large size of the force announced on Tuesday was considered a message, not just to the region but also to the US and other nations supporting the rebels now trying to depose Dr Assad.

Russia’s base at Tartus consists of little more than a floating refuelling station and some small barracks. But any strengthened Russian presence there could forestall Western military intervention in Syria.

Russia renewed naval patrols in the Mediterranean in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus with a wider aim of expressing the country’s military resurgence. It was unclear whether the ships heading for Syria were carrying weapons supplies or large numbers of marines.

The Russian announcement got a muted response in Washington. ”Russia maintains a naval supply and maintenance base in the Syrian port of Tartus,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council. ”We have no reason to believe this move is anything out of the ordinary, but we refer you to the Russian government for more details.”

The announcement came as a delegation of Syrian opposition figures was visiting Russia to gauge if that country would accept a political transition in Syria that excludes Dr Assad. It also coincided with a flurry of diplomacy by Kofi Annan, the special Syria envoy from the United Nations and Arab League, who said Dr Assad had suggested a new approach for salvaging Mr Annan’s sidelined peace plan during their meeting on Monday in Damascus.

The Kremlin has opposed foreign military intervention in Syria, and the ships have been presented as a means to evacuate Russian citizens or to secure the fuelling station at Tartus.

 

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Putin sends warships to boost Syria

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