Archive | April 29th, 2013

Noam Chomsky: Obama’s Attack on Civil Liberties Has Gone Way Beyond Imagination

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Under Obama’s administration, if you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that’s material assistance to terrorism.

Mike Stivers: Anyone following issues of civil liberties under Obama knows that his administration’s policies have been disastrous. The signing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively legalizes indefinite detention of US citizens, the prosecution of more whistleblowers than any previous president, the refusal to close Guantanamo, and the adoption of ruthless positions in trials such as Hedges vs. Obama and Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project don’t even encapsulate the full extent of the flagrant violations of civil, political and constitutional rights. One basic question that a lot of people seem to be asking is, why? What’s the rationale?

Noam Chomsky: That’s a very interesting question. I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don’t seem easy to explain. In many ways the worst is what you mention,  Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. That’s an Obama initiative and it’s a very serious attack on civil liberties. He doesn’t gain anything from it – he doesn’t get any political mileage out of it. In fact, most people don’t even know about it, but what it does is extend the concept of “material assistance to terror” to speech.

The case in question was a law group that was giving legal advice to groups on the terrorist list, which in itself has no moral or legal justification; it’s an abomination. But if you look at the way it’s been used, it becomes even more abhorrent ( Nelson Mandela was on it until a couple of years ago.) And the wording of the colloquy is broad enough that it could very well mean that if, say, you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that’s material assistance to terrorism. I’ve met with people who are on the list and will continue to do so, and Obama wants to criminalize that, which is a plain attack on freedom of speech. I just don’t understand why he’s doing it.

The NDAA suit, of which I’m a plaintiff – it mostly codifies existing practice. While there has been some protest over the indefinite detention clause, there’s one aspect of it that I’m not entirely happy with. The only protest that’s being raised is in response to detention of American citizens, but I don’t see why we should have the right to detain anyone without trial. The provision of the NDAA that allows for this should not be tolerated. It was banned almost eight centuries ago in the Magna Carta.

It’s the same with the drone killings. There was some protest over the Anwar Al-Awlaki killing because he was an American citizen. But what about someone who isn’t an American citizen? Do we have a right to murder them if the president feels like it?

On Obama’s 2012 election campaign web site,  it clearly states that Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. Does he think he’s appealing to some constituency with that affirmation?

I don’t know what base he’s appealing to. If he thinks he’s appealing to the nationalist base, well, they’re not going to vote for him anyway. That’s why I don’t understand it. I don’t think he’s doing anything besides alienating his own natural base. So it’s something else.

What it is is the same kind of commitment to expanding executive power that Cheney and Rumsfeld had. He kind of puts it in mellifluous terms and there’s a little difference in his tone. It’s not as crude and brutal as they were, but it’s pretty hard to see much of a difference.

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Hezbollah condemns Syrian PM attempted assassination

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In this November 12, 2010 file photo, Hezbollah fighters hold their party flags, as they parade during the opening of new cemetery for colleagues who died in fighting against Israel, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
 

In this November 12, 2010 file photo, Hezbollah fighters hold their party flags, as they parade during the opening of new cemetery for colleagues who died in fighting against Israel, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

 

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour condemned Monday the attempted assassination on Syria’s prime minister, with the former describing it as a sign that the perpetrators were terrorists.

“Targeting the Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi and his companions, and before him the assassination of one of the most prominent symbols of forgiveness and Islamic principle, Sheikh Mohammad al-Bouti, is a clear indication of the fanatic nature of those who seek to destroy Syria and plunge it into chaos,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Halqi survived the assassination attempt earlier in the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh, according to State TV reports, which added that one person was killed in the explosion and several others wounded.

However, the British Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion killed five people, including two of Halqi’s bodyguards and one of the drivers in his convoy, the Associated Press reported.

“Hezbollah condemns this new terrorist crime and considers it a sign of political bankruptcy and a military failure by the terrorist armed groups that are managed by international and regional conspirators,” the resistance group, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said.

The party added that these groups no longer want Syria to play an effective role in regional Arab and Muslim issues, including the Palestinian cause.

Meanwhile, Mansour said the “terrorist explosion” would obstruct national dialogue.

“[The explosion] represents a barrier to national dialogue which alone can lead to a political solution that would prevent havoc in Syria,” the caretaker minister said in a statement.

“Such a criminal act will not result in the security or the stability that Syria aspires toward,” he added.

www.dailystar.com.lb

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Americans troubled more by governmental abuse than terrorism

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RT

Police and private security personel monitor security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative on April 23, 2013 in New York City. (AFP Photo / John Moore)

Police and private security personel monitor security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative on April 23, 2013 in New York City. (AFP Photo / John Moore)

New polling numbers suggest that United States citizens are on average more afraid of their own government then the threat of another terrorist attack.

Even after a pair of bombings in Boston two weeks ago injured hundreds, more Americans say they are unwilling to sacrifice constitutional liberties for security than those who are.

A handful of polls conducted in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings show that US citizens are responding much differently than in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed roughly 3,000 people. Not only are Americans more opposed now to giving up personal freedoms for the sake of security than they were after 9/11, but other statistics show that distrust against the federal government continues to climb.

Just one day after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, pollsters with Fox News asked a sample of Americans, “Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?” Forty-three percent of the respondents said they would, while 45 percent said no. Comparatively, 71 percent of Americans asked a similar question in October 2001 said they’d be willing to give up personal freedoms, while only 20 percent opposed at the time.

In the dozen years since 9/11, frequent polling conducted by Fox has suggests that the majority of Americans have all the while said they’d give up their freedoms for the sake of security. Only with the latest inquiry though are those answers reversed: the last time a majority of Americans opposed giving up privacy for security was May 2001.

Whether or not the government overreacted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (and, given the information available at the time, reasonable people can disagree), Americans then broadly supported a vigorous domestic counterterrorism policy,” Alan Rozenshtein writes for Lawfare Blog. “This time around, a rights-restrictive approach might not garner the same public support — if indeed that’s the road the government intends to go down.”

Indeed, a number of cities across the country have already asked for more surveillance cameras and other tactics that could be used to allegedly prevent acts of terror in the wake of the Boston bombing, but lawmakers in Washington have yet to impose the sort of restrictions on constitutional liberties that came in the aftermath of 9/11 — named the PATROIT Act and the establishment of the US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration.

A separate poll conducted by the Washington Post just three days after the Boston Marathon bombing reveals that nearly half of those surveyed say that the government will go too far in trying to prevent future acts of terrorism. The Post asked a random national sample of 588 adults, “Which worries you more: that the government (will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights), or that it (will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism)?” Days after the Boston bombing, 41 percent of respondents said the government will not go far enough, compared to 48 percent saying they’ll go too far. When similar questions were asked in 2006 and 2010, 44 percent and 27 percent said the government will go too far, respectively, signaling that for the first time in years Americans are overly concerned about a misuse of power on the part of Washington.

That isn’t to say that the Boston attack is necessarily inspiring Americans to question authority, though. Two months before Tsarnaev brothers allegedly detonated a pair of explosives near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, 53 percent of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center said the federal government is threatening their personal rights and freedoms. In November 2011, that statistic was only 30 percent.

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Demonstrators in Egypt condemn Zionist Qatar interference

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Protesters step on the Qatari and Israeli flag in Cairo.

Protesters step on the Qatari and Zionist flag in Cairo.

Demonstrators in Egypt believe that Doha and Tel Aviv are meddling in their country’s domestic affairs after the 2011 revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Demonstrators in Egypt have burned Qatari and Zionist flags in protest against what they described as the Persian Gulf state’s interference in their country’s internal affairs.

Protesters gathered outside the Qatari Embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and chanted anti-Doha slogans.

Demonstrators believe that Doha and Tel Aviv are meddling in Egypt’s domestic affairs after the 2011 revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

On January 10, Doha said it had offered Egypt a lifeline of $.5-billion to help the North African country tackle its currency crisis.

“There was an initial package of $2.5 billion, of which $0.5 billion was a grant and two billion dollars a deposit,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said in reference to the financial aid Qatar has provided Egypt with since the revolution.

“We discussed transferring one of the deposits into an additional grant so that the grants became one billion dollars and the deposits doubled to around four billion dollars,” he added.

The Egyptians have also held several massive protests across the country since the revolution, calling on the government to sever all the existing ties with Israel.

In September 2011, Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, forcing its staff to evacuate the building.

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Kerry Forgot Rule Number One: Never Question the Sacred Israeli Narrative

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Turkey broke diplomatic relations with Israel following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident  in which nine peace activists, including one Turkish-American citizen, were killed when Israeli soldiers attacked the Turkish ship attempting to reach Gaza to protest Israel’s blockade.

 

by James M Wall

Kerry at Press Conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo: AP

If you believe the Israeli and US pro-Israel media, the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry (above) is “confused” in his new job.What led to the confusion? To those who embrace his negative media coverage, the Secretary forgot the rules.

He forgot what US Diplomats must never forget. What is that? To paraphrase a quote from the movie Fight Club:

The First Rule of US diplomacy: You do not question the Sacred Israeli Narrative.

The Second Rule of US diplomacy: You DO NOT question the Sacred Israeli narrative.

Kerry was attacked by defenders of these Rules when in a fit of compassion, he questioned one verse in one chapter from the Book of The Sacred Israeli Narrative. Annie Robbins explains:

Under the headline: Kerry likens Boston victims to ‘Mavi Marmara’ victims, Robbins reports:

At a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, US Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara in [May] 2010.

Kerry responded to a question from Bloomburg’s Nicole Gaouette, who asked him about “the importance of a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel”.

Behind the question are these facts:

Turkey broke diplomatic relations with Israel following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine passengers, including one Turkish-American citizen, were killed when Israeli soldiers attacked the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship carrying peaceful protesters attempting to reach Gaza to protest Israel’s blockade.

Turkey responded by breaking relations with Israel.

Kerry connected the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara with the dead and wounded in last week’s Boston Marathon explosions. Both experiences brought grief and anger to their respective nations.

Kerry’s response was personal, an expression of compassion from a Bostonian to the people of Turkey, linking the Mavi Marmara to the City of Boston. Here is his response which comes late in the press conference text, released by the US State Department:

I think Turkey is working in very good faith to get there [i.e., restoring broken relations between Turkey and Israel]. I know it’s an emotional issue with some people [i.e.,Turkey’s decision to break with Israel after the Mavi Marmara deaths]. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them.

And nobody – I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.

Those are the words of a compassionate man making a connection to others. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The literalist keepers of the Sacred Israeli Narrative knew what was wrong.

Annie Robbins writes:

The response from Israel was swift. Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon responded by implying the Turkish victims of the Israeli attack were terrorists and that Kerry was confused.

The Times of Israel led the attack on Kerry, continuing the “confusing” line:

It is never helpful when a moral equivalency is made confusing terrorists with their victims,” Danon told The Times of Israel. ”As our American friends were made all too aware once again last week, the only way to deal with the evils of terrorism is to wage an unrelenting war against its perpetrators wherever they may be,” he said.

Note the assumed sub-text of the Sacred Israeli Narrative in the Times story: Any protest, any opposition to the state of Israel, is, ipso facto, a “terrorist” action. And since Israel has infected the rest of the Western world with its ideology, the term “terrorist” is now automatically attached to any acts of violence against Israel’s Mother nation, the United States.

How bad is this infection in some corners of the US media? Fox News commentator Bob Beckel had this to say on Fox News Tuesday:

Fox News liberal Bob Beckel had some policy ideas about Muslims on Tuesday’s [April 23] edition of “The Five.”

Beckel and his co-hosts were talking about the Boston bombing suspects, who are Muslim. The general consensus seemed to be that, by probing into their lives and their possible motives for the attacks, members of the media were avoiding the main issue.

“You find the big argument, which is Muslim supremacy, isn’t that all you need?” Greg Gutfeld asked. “Why do you have to delve into their psychosis?”

“We know that In the Muslim communities around the world, they do not like us,” Beckel replied. “They recruit people from poor areas and turn them into terrorists.” He didn’t say how this thesis was connected to the Tsarnaev brothers, who came legally with their family when they were 9 and 16.

“I think we really have to consider…that we’re going to have to cut off Muslim students from coming to this country for some period of time so that we can at least absorb what we’ve got, look at what we’ve got and decide whether some of the people here should be sent back home or sent to prison,” he continued.

Fox News refers to Beckel as a “liberal”. He used to be. He was national campaign manager for 1984 Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale.

Meanwhile, outside the bubble of the Sacred Narrative, it is important to keep in mind that in 2010, the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, was on a peaceful protest journey.  Not so, of course, from the perspective of the Sacred Israeli Narrative, as the following attacks on Kerry emphasize.

The Blazean Israeli sitedescribes the attacks on Kerry under this headline:

Confusing Terrorists with Their Victims’: Kerry Slammed for Comparing Families of Gaza Flotilla Incident with Boston Bombing Families

In defense of the Mavi Marmara, Annie Robbins looks back on Israel’s military attack on Turkish citizens, aboard the Mavi Marmara:

“One of those Turkish citizens was also an American, young Furkan Dogan (left). Perhaps John Kerry read the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) report describing his killing as a “summary execution”.

Meanwhile the attacks on Kerry from the Sacred Narrative camp, were continued by Barry Rubin, Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.

He tells The Blaze,

To call Kerry’s statement incredibly ignorant, insulting to Israel, and counterproductive is an understatement. Those killed on the Mavi Marmara were terrorists, aiding a group (Hamas) like those who committed the Boston atrocity.

Now he labels Israel as terrorist for defending itself from terrorists. Kerry’s statement gave the Turks justification for not conciliating. Would Americans accept an apology from those who staged the Boston attack? Of course not.”

US media outlets, spurred on by political conservatives, continue to search for “terror” motivations in the Boston attacks.

They need look no further than Israeli reactions to the Boston attacks:

Ali Abunimah wrote on his Electronic Intifada blog:

In comments reminiscent of Benjamin Netanyahu’s own on 11 September 2001, a senior advisor of the Israeli prime minister has expressed confidence that Israel will benefit from the 15 April Boston Marathon bombing.

Speaking to US Jewish leaders, the advisor, Ron Dermer, praised Netanyahu’s leadership before stating:

“I’m pretty bullish about the prospects for strengthening cooperation with the United States. Support for Israel – you all can tell me yourselves – I see polls that show that its almost at record highs… The American people stand firmly with Israel. I think they identify with Israel.

I think if you look historically, there’s a big change after 9/11. I’m sure that after the bombing, the tragic bombing in Boston, I believe that people will identify more with Israel’s struggle against terror and I think we can maintain that support.”

Dermer can be heard making the comments in a two and a half-minute video tweeted by Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid.

Dermer’s comments are remarkably similar to ones his boss, then Israeli opposition leader, made on 11 September 2001 as the world watched in horror as the Twin Towers came down in New York.

The New York Times reported in 2001:

Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, “It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.”

He predicted that the attack would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”

Abunimah writes further that it is unclear if “Dermer’s comments were intended for public consumption, given that they reveal a fairly cynical and calculated Israeli government assessment of how to exploit an American tragedy for nakedly political purposes.”

Cynical and calculated or not, there is no doubt that purveyors of the Sacred Israeli Narrative are quite effective in finding ways to evangelize their political goals.

The picture of Secretary of State John Kerry, above, is an Associated Press photo, taken during his recent press conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

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SEAL Team 4 Commanding Officer Best Known For Finding & Then Killing Osama Bin Laden Commits Suicide

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 25 members of the team who allegedly killed Bin Laden are dead. No conspiracy theory there. Just the facts. You decide.

Authorities say one of two Navy SEALs injured during parachute training in southern Arizona has diedwhile the other man remains hospitalized.
A U.S. Special Operations Command official said Friday that the SEAL died in a Tucson hospital Thursday but didn’t have a condition update on the other man.

 SEAL Team 4 Commanding Officer Job W. Price commit suicide. He was best known for finding and then killing Osama bin Laden.

Cmdr. Job W. Price, 42, died Saturday, Dec. 22, of a non-combat-related injury while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

Suicide of the Officer of this grade raises many questions among the media, as the team was best known for killing Osama Bin Laden that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011.

Read More Here

…and here

Over 20 navy seals are now dead who killed bin laden, coincedence?  Yeah..  right.  There STILL isnt any evidence at all that we even killed him.  My guess is that he was already dead and has been dead for years.  The Osama Bin Lden shown in the videos at the abbotabad compound is a double.  A fake used by whomever for propaganda purposes.  It’s a omplete lie and shame like 9-11 or the jfk assassination investigation.  sad….   -Mort

Read the article here at Before Its News:

 

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Hundreds of anti-drone protesters march against UK flight-control centre

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Marchers protest the navigation from RAF Waddington of unmanned Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan guardian.co.uk

Protesters march to the perimeter fence of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Protesters march to the perimeter fence of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire to protest its use as a centre for drone piloting in Afghanistan. Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA

Hundreds of peace campaigners gathered outside an RAF base today to protest against armed drones being operated from Britain to conduct missions in Afghanistan.

Around 400 demonstrators took part in a march from Lincoln to a rally at nearby RAF Waddington, which assumed control of British drone missions in Afghanistan earlier this week.

The Guardian revealed on Thursday that the RAF had begun remotely operating its Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles from the Lincolnshire airbase.

The drones were previously operated from a United States Air Force base in Nevada.

Chris Cole, a coordinator of the Drone Campaign Network, said the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to wage war raised numerous legal, ethical and moral issues. Speaking near RAF Waddington’s perimeter fence, Mr Cole said: “This is the new home of drone warfare in the UK and there are questions about the growing use of these armed, unmanned systems.

“Because of their remote nature, there is no risk to any of our forces and that makes it easier to launch weapons and makes it much easier for politicians to get involved in warfare.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, the RAF said it had commenced supporting the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan ground troops with “armed intelligence and surveillance missions” piloted remotely from RAF Waddington.

The organisers of the protest march and rally are calling on the government to abandon the use of drones, claiming they make it easier for politicians to launch military interventions, which result in greater civilian casualties.

Commenting ahead of the protest, War on Want senior campaigns officer for militarism and security, Rafeef Ziadah said: “Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public. Now is the time to ban killer drones – before it is too late.”

Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed drones were being used to continue the “deeply unpopular ‘war on terror'” with no public scrutiny.

Calling for armed drones to be banned, Mr Nineham said: “They’re using them to fight wars behind our backs.”

The Ministry of Defence has defended its use of drones in Afghanistan, stating that they have saved the lives of countless military personnel and civilians.

An MoD spokesman said: “UK Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft.”

Lincolnshire Police have held talks with the organisers of the protest to minimise disruption to the local community.

The route of the march from South Common along the A15 to the peace campsite opposite RAF Waddington will see the road closed in three phases to limit inconvenience to motorists.

Community policing inspector for Lincoln, Mark Garthwaite, said: “Our aim is to ensure that visitors to the area can participate in peaceful protest but that disruption to motorists and local residents is kept to a minimum.

“Different sections of the road will be closed at varying times as the marchers move along the route.”

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WHERE IS THE SHAMELESS ARAB LEADERS?

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Arab News

New numerology of hate grows in Myanmar

Wrapped in a saffron robe, Buddhist monk Wirathu insists he is a man of peace. Never mind his nine years in prison for inciting deadly violence against Muslims. Never mind the gruesome photos outside his office of Buddhists allegedly massacred by Muslims. Never mind that in the new Myanmar, the man dubbed the “Burmese bin Laden”has emerged as the spiritual leader of a pro-Buddhist fringe movement accused of fueling a bloody campaign of sectarian violence. Wirathu insists the world has misunderstood him.

Wirathu has become the figurehead of a virulent strain of religious nationalism being spread by some of the most venerated members of Burmese society: Buddhist monks. Their core message is that Buddhists must unite against a growing Muslim threat. While these monks are a minority, some argue they provide an ideological justification for the religious violence that has ripped through Myanmar over the last year, threatening to destabilize the country’s still-fragile democracy and raising the specter of a return to military rule.

Their rhetoric also reinforces a vision of a divided society as Myanmar tries to integrate its many ethnic and religious minorities after decades of internal conflict.
The spread of this new radicalism has been helped by the very reforms it threatens to derail. A quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011 after five decades of brutal military rule. New freedoms of speech and assembly soon followed, which have made it easier to disseminate radical views. Wirathu himself was unleashed in early 2012 as part of a widely-praised amnesty for political and other prisoners. A short man, with a quick smile and evident charisma, Wirathu is the public face of a fast-spreading but still small campaign called “969”that urges Buddhists to shop only at Buddhist stores and avoid marrying, hiring or selling their homes or land to Muslims.
To suggest that Wirathu is the main force behind anti-Muslim propaganda is to overstate his influence and underestimate how dispersed the ideas he espouses are. Countless grassroots movements, some branded as 969 and others not, propagate the ideas of Buddhist supremacy through sloppily photocopied handbills, unmarked bootleg DVDs, videos that have gone viral on mobile phones, and for the few with Internet access, social networking sites like Facebook.

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Chemical Weapons Charade in Syria

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Sharmine Narwani (AA),- Let us be clear. The United States can verify absolutely nothing about the use of chemical weapons (CWs) in Syria. Any suggestion to the contrary is entirely false. Don’t take it from me – here is what US officials have to say about the subject:

US Secretary of Defense, US has "evidence" that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

US Secretary of Defense, US has “evidence” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

A mere 24 hours after Washington heavyweights from the White House, Pentagon, and State Department brushed aside Israeli allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the White House changed their minds. They now believe “with varying degrees of confidence” that CWs have been used “on a small scale” inside Syria.

For the uninitiated, “varying degrees of confidence” can mean anything from “no confidence whatsoever” to “the Israelis told us” – which, translated, also means “no confidence whatsoever.”

Too cavalier? I don’t think so. The White House introduced another important caveat in its detailed briefing on Thursday:

“This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example the chain of custody is not clear so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.”

“The chain of custody is not clear.” That is the single most important phrase in this whole exercise. It is the only phrase that journalists need consider – everything else is conjecture of WMDs-in-Iraq proportions.

I asked a State Department spokesperson the following: “Does it mean you don’t know who has had access to the sample before it reached you? Or that the sample has not been contaminated along the way?”

He responded: “It could mean both.”

Chuck Hagel expands on that jaw-dropping admission: “We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons.” Although he goes on to conclude anyway: “but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.”

Four-year-olds shouldn’t have confidence in the US intelligence community at this point. Yet we are supposed to believe that the Syrian government must be behind a chemical weapons attack because Hagel says so.

Let’s consider the facts. The Syrian government has clearly stated it would not use chemical weapons during the crisis “regardless of the developments” unless “Syria faces external aggression.”

The US and other western states have warned for more than a year now that as the government of Bashar al-Assad begins to “topple,” the likelihood of using CWs as a desperate last measure will increase.

The White House reiterated this point yesterday: “Given our concern that as the situation deteriorated and the regime became more desperate, they may use some of their significant stockpiles of chemical weapons.”

Assad’s government is clearly not on its last leg. If anything, the Syrian army has made tremendous gains in the past few weeks by thwarting rebel plans to storm Damascus, pushing them out of key surrounding suburbs, and cutting off their supply lines in different parts of the country.

This recent reversal of fortunes tends to validate the observations of those who have met with Assad and say the president remains confident that he can repel rebel forces whenever and wherever he chooses to do so.

Which frankly removes a major “motive” from any calculation by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against civilians.

The constant reference to CWs in this conflict is suspect – there is no conceivable military advantage to be gained from the use of these munitions. Writing for Foreign Policy in December, Charles Blair says using CWs against rebels makes no tactical or strategic sense:

“The regime would risk losing Russian and Chinese support, legitimizing foreign military intervention, and, ultimately, hastening its own end. As one Syrian official said, ‘We would not commit suicide.’”

In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the government has calibrated its military responses throughout this conflict to avoid scenarios that would create a pretext for foreign military intervention on“humanitarian grounds.”

Just as there is evidence aplenty that rebel forces wills go to great length to create a pretext for foreign intervention that would help them oust Assad.

On March 19, a suspected chemical weapons attack near Aleppo prompted the Syrian government to ask the United Nations to launch an investigation. Witnesses reported the “smell of chlorine in the air,” which led to speculation that this could have been a rebel-led attack given that opposition militias had seized Syria’s only chlorine gas bottling plant, east of Aleppo, that August.

The use of chlorine gas-based explosives by insurgents was seen not so long ago in Iraq, where attacks against both authorities and civilians are traceable to 2006. US military spokespeople, at the time, claimed that insurgent tactics had become deadlier, seeking to draw maximum attention and impose widespread suffering.

The Iraq connection and insurgent tactics there are important to the Syrian conflict because of the influx of jihadist rebels flooding over the Iraqi border, bringing with them experience and know-how from fighting the US occupation. That border also allegedly hosts training camps for groups in both countries allied with al-Qaeda – a development that has come to light since a recent announcement linking al-Nusra Front to al-Qaeda’s central group.

The White House’s allegations on Thursday specified a sarin gas connection to at least one other suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. Even if this were true, a clear-cut connection linking the use of a CW explosive to the Syrian government is not at all inevitable. In 2004, an IED roadside bomb – a common insurgent tactic – containing the nerve agent was detonated in Iraq. There are no guarantees whatsoever that chemical munitions have not found their way into the hands of rogue elements – or in fact that they are not producing them in small quantities themselves.

At this point, almost everything being discussed in relation to chemical weapons inside Syria is conjecture – and to be honest – highly suspect.

The Times of London (which is behind a paywall so I cannot link to it) just published a detailed and timely “investigation” of an alleged CW attack in Aleppo, claiming: “the Syrian regime prefers to gas its opponents in this small-scale way, testing the elasticity of President Obama’s ‘red line.’”

The article then goes on to describe the harrowing account of what appears to be a sarin gas attack from a victim, witnesses, and medical staff. But experts are now questioning these accounts, saying that the evidence is “far from conclusive.”

In reference to the video of the alleged CW attack referenced by The Times, Jean Pascal Zanders, a senior researcher at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, tells McClatchy News that there are red flags in the footage.

“Why only one person?” he said, referring to the video showing one patient it said was a victim.“Why do I find the hospital setting, again, unlike what I would expect in a case of chemical exposure? Why is the guy ‘foaming’ in the hospital, considering the rapid action of sarin.”Zanders explained that without an antidote, death is possible within one minute after exposure to sarin.”

The Times article then gets even stranger. To quote:

“In the chaos of Syria’s civil war, no hospital in the rebel-held areas has the facilities to test which gas was used. Yet medical sources in northern Syria have told The Times that in the immediate aftermath of the attack a team from“an American medical agency” arrived at the hospital in Afrin. They took hair samples from the casualties for testing at ‘an American laboratory.’

It is likely that these samples formed part of the evidence cited by the US Defence Secretary yesterday.”

Really? A CW attack takes place in the middle of the night in Aleppo, and in its “immediate aftermath” an “American medical agency” arrives to collect samples for testing?

There’s more…

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss says that Israel is knowledgeable about the Syrian government’s use of CWs, because the Mossad has agents in the country: “Israel has this information because there are many, many members of security services who are now very active in Syria.”

Idriss is, of course, referencing the statements by Israel this week that kicked off all the recent speculation on Syrian CWs:

Israeli army intelligence analyst Brig. Gen. Itai Brun has been quoted far and wide on this issue, mainly referencing the April Aleppo incident highlighted by The Times and debunked by experts.

It is likely that all the speculation in the past few days revolves around an incident that is looking more and more like the “false flag” operations anti-rebel Syrians have been warning about this past year. Given where the “evidence” is coming from, and the alleged presence of a western of American “medical agency” present on the ground, it is quite remarkable that Washington went full-press on this.

It is almost as bad as the account in 2011 of a middle-aged, Iranian-American, ex-car dealer who, by virtue of some familial relationship with a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, decided to collude with a Mexican drug cartel to plot the assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington at a popular DC eatery.

Having just passed the ten year anniversary of an Iraqi invasion and occupation based entirely on false and falsified data on Weapons of Mass Destruction, western media needs not to be asking about “red lines” as much as for iron-clad evidence.

Sharmine Narwani via Al-Akhbar English.

Sharmine Narwani is a writer and political analyst covering the Middle East and other issues. Sharmine Narwani is a frequent contributor to print and online media and one of the regular contributors to nsnbc international. You can follow Sharmine Narwani on Twitter at twitter@snarwani.

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Building a Pretext for an All Out War in Syria? Allegations of Chemical Weapons

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Naziyahu orders ministers to keep mum on Syria

NOVANEWS

Zio-Nazi Prime Minister’s  instructions  follow Nazi Ze’ev Elkin’s Friday remarks suggesting military option against Assad

Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday instructed his ministers to stop giving interviews on the situation in Syria, and specifically on the Assad regime’s reported use of chemical weapons.

Netanyahu’s strict orders came in response to deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin‘s remarks on Army Radio Friday, in which he was seen to be calling on the international community to take control of and eliminate Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.

“There is a question here of when you set a red line, do you stand behind it?” Elkin said, referencing US President Barack Obama’s earlier statement saying use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would cross a line and lead to a shift in US policy.

“If the Iranians will see that the red lines laid by the international community are flexible, then will they continue to progress?” Elkin questioned rhetorically.

Elkin went on to explain that an international military option is possible, but suggested that the US was not prepared to take measures in order to contain the situation in the war-torn country.

“It is clear that if the United States wants to and the international community wants to, they could act militarily, among other things, to take control of the chemical weapons, and then all the fears … will not be relevant,” he concluded.

Elkin’s statements were widely quoted by international media outlets and presented as if Israel was pressuring Washington to use military force against Assad.

Earlier Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that reports of chemical weapons use by the Syrian army do not constitute sufficient grounds for military intervention.

“We must check the information immediately and in conformity with international criteria, and not use it to achieve other objectives. It must not be a pretext for an intervention in Syria,” Bogdanov said during a visit to Beirut.

On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the US intelligence community now believes Syria has likely used chemical weapons on a “small scale” against its civilians.

Hagel added that the use of chemical weapons “violates every convention of warfare.”

The statement came on the heels of a public declaration Tuesday by the Israeli army’s top intelligence analyst that forces loyal to Assad had used sarin gas against rebel forces and civilians, information which may push the US closer to intervening in the two-year-old conflict.

The White House, however, said the news would not necessarily trigger a response.

On Friday, Obama insisted that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would lead to a change in his policy towards US military involvement in the two-year civil war — but said too little was known so far to order aggressive action now.

“For the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues,” the president said.

Thus far, the Obama administration has limited its assistance to the Syrian rebels to nonlethal aid, including military-style equipment such as body armor and night vision goggles. The US has also deployed about 200 troops to Jordan to assist that country’s military, and has participated in NATO’s placement of Patriot missile batteries in Turkey near the border to protect against an attack from Syria.

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