Archive | May 5th, 2014

Comrade GeorGe BeNNett, 1923-2014


Comrade GeorGe BeNNett

It is with heavy hearts that the committee learned of the death of Comrade George Bennett on 26

April, following a stroke. George was born on 8 September 1923 and came to Britain from Kingston, Jamaica as a young man. He was no ‘pushover’ for anyone and always supported his trade union and fellow workers within his workplace (mostly the Post Office). Equally, he would stand up to racism or any form of bullying, no matter where it came from or the odds against him. From early on, Comrade George sought answers to the questions of the day and found them in Marxism Leninism. In 1991, when the Stalin Society was formed in Britain, George was there supporting it from the start. In later life, George found himself in the CPB, but he was not happy with the line taken by the leaders of that party on support for the Labour party, the belittling of the Soviet Union and the role of comrade JV Stalin within it.

A good friend introduced him to the CPGB-ML and George joined after a short period of studying the party. George described the feeling he had when joining as “like coming home!” Ever the optimist, he stood firm whatever the difficulties and never wavered for a second in his political beliefs or his commitment to the Although he suffered with respiritory problems during his last years, George remained his cheerful self and would always do whatever he could for the party and the Stalin Society when his health permitted it, despite being now in his 80s.

It was a pleasure to know Comrade George and we are richer for the experience. He was a man who really disliked any ‘fuss’ regarding himself or the work that he had done for the cause – a truly modest man who just got on with things. We pay him the highest accolade we can think of – that he was a communist and that we were proud to call him Comrade.

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Comrade IrIs Cremer, 1943-2014


Comrade IrIs Cremer

With great sadness, the committee has to announce that, just two months after her diagnosis, our dear comrade Iris breathed her last breath on 2 April. She was a fighter to the end, and in the last days and weeks of her life she was still making sure that Proletarian could be produced and that Stalin Society meetings were. Her funeral on 17 April packed out the crematorium and gallery, and was followed by a wake at which family, friends and comrades celebrated her life even as they mourned her death. Iris’s contribution to the movement was tireless and her example will live on in the work we do in building the party. Her obituary can be read online at

Some of the eulogies from the funeral have been printed in the latest issue of Lalkar, and the most recent Stalin Society meeting was dedicate to honouring Iris’s life and work. The meeting gave an insight into how the work that she and other leading comrades did over the last 45 years laid the foundations for the work of our party today. Video from the meeting will be on Proletarian TV soon.

Cormade Iris was responsible for many important organisational tasks, which we are now in the process of reassigning. Enclosed with this bulletin is a list of some of those jobs. Please have a look through these and consider whether there are any that you could take over, either wholly or partly – no contribution is too small to make a difference if we all work together to keep the party functioning and growing. (Contact Katt to offer your help: / 07825 815 038.)

As our party has grown, the practicality of leaving so many critical tasks to one or two people has become steadily less viable. We were already talking about the need to change how we operate in the light of this new reality, but Iris’s death means we must move from talking about change to implementing it. Iris’s contribution was tireless, but in her place we now need to train up a whole new generation of organisers, each doing their small part, rather than looking to find a single individual to fill her shoes.

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14 Kachin refugees arrested by Burmese Army

In this file photo, a Kachin woman applies traditional treatment to reduce her son's temperature at a refugee camp in Mansi Township, Kachin State, January 2013. (PHOTO: Reuters)
In this file photo, a Kachin woman applies traditional treatment to reduce her son’s temperature at a refugee camp in Mansi Township, Kachin State, January 2013. (PHOTO: Reuters)

Fourteen villagers seeking shelter in Lagat Yang displacement camp in Mansi, Kachin State, were arrested by Burmese soldiers on Saturday.

The Burmese Army’s 88th Infantry Division went to Lagat Yang on 24 and 25 April to compile a comprehensive list of current residents. The camp’s coordinator, La Sang, said the troops came back on Saturday, 3 May, and arrested 14 new arrivals on the pretext that they were not on the list.

La Sang told DVB that 13 of the detainees were released on Sunday, but that the Burmese Army retained one person in custody for additional “questioning”.

According to La Sang, the incident has caused severe anxiety among the camp’s other residents, who arrived there after fleeing civil conflict in several parts of Kachin State.

“It makes everyone feel like there is no safety in the camp, with armed troops coming in and detaining people – this is demoralising for the camp’s residents,” he said. 

DVB has received several reports over the past two weeks that Burmese soldiers routinely enter the camp at night and interrogate IDPs, soliciting them to register.

Approximately 227 families — about 800 people — had been living in the Lagat Yang IDP camp since fighting broke out between Burmese armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army in Mansi Township in November 2013.

Last year’s conflict caused thousands to flee the Nam Lin Pa IDP camp and nearby villages, hundreds settling at Lagat Yang.

In early April of this year, additional installment of Burmese troops in the area — assigned to accompany census enumerators — eventually led to territorial conflicts. Several sources have reported that frontline shellfire landed within the camp’s boundaries, causing many of the refugees to flee again.

Some fled to nearby Man Win Gyi, while many made a run for the Chinese border. Of those, many have since returned to the Lagat Yang camp. Several hundred IDPs remain in Lagat Yang, originating from various villages and other refugee camps in Bhamo District.

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Corporate-state corruption in India

Truth about India corruption

By Graham Peebles

Since Independence in 1947 endemic corruption has been part and parcel of daily life in India.

The scale of corruption is immense and the cost to the country staggering. According to Global Financial Integrity, illicit financial flows since 2007 have averaged USD 52 million. A staggering “USD 123 billion was lost in the last decade,” which is “30 times the amount New Delhi spent on social services like health care and education last year”.

Corruption divides broadly into two distinct areas: political and corporate scams involving government ministers, members of parliament and their business buddies; and what we might call “domestic bribery”. Forced into criminality by a system of governance built on dishonesty, exploitation and greed, citizens throughout the country – rich and poor – bribe officials to avoid problems with state authorities, speed up applications for permits, licenses and utilities, and secure entitled services. For example, over 75 per cent of slum dwellers report “having paid a bribe to secure basic necessities such as kerosene or medical care.”

Nobody in the country trusts politicians, and figures gathered by Transparency International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that tracks corruption, places the police and the judiciary second and third as the most corrupt bodies in the country. In fact there are no institutions, including health, education and domestic NGOs (often little more than a front for criminality and exploitation) that are perceived to be corruption free and, according to 92 per cent of Indians, it’s getting worse.

Major fraud or petty backhanders, the process of corruption is essentially the same, albeit more or less intricate: need a driving licence, or land to build on; looking to mine coal, start a small business, sell some helicopters, light up your home or have sanitation plumbed in for your family: an envelope stuffed with rupees or shares in the business is the most persuasive language of facilitation, swiftly cutting through reams of bureaucratic red tape. Transparency International records that “54 per cent of Indians say they paid a bribe last year” (the worldwide average is 39 per cent). Two-thirds of people polled admit bribing police, 63 per cent paid bribes for Land services (buying, selling, renting and inheriting property), over half confessed to bribing tax officials, 45 per cent to the judiciary. And a quarter paid bribes to secure medical treatment and education for their children.

Neo-liberalism, growth and corruption

Despite recording economic growth averaging 9 per cent for the last two decades, India stands 136th (of 186) in the United Nations (inequality adjusted) Human Development Index (UNHDI), below Iraq and Syria. With growth currently at 6 per cent, the economic miracle is showing signs of petering out. Not that GDP figures make any difference to the 800-million-plus miraculously living on less than USD 2 a day – these marginalized masses are paid a pittance, denied sanitation and health care, and forced to live impoverished, degrading lives.

The growth “slow-down” is thought by many analysts to be partially caused by corruption. Not the petty daily bribes paid by the poor for electricity, but the multimillion dollar scams that have poisoned Indian politics and created an atmosphere of distrust and cynicism around politicians and officials.

In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which “ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be”, India finds itself slumbering 94th (of 177), below Djibouti (regarded by many as a failed state) and Columbia. In the World Bank’s 2014 “Doing Business” report, it comes in 134th (of 189), placing it firmly behind the likes of Yemen, Ethiopia and Uganda as a country to set up, run and do business in.

Traditionally endemic, but small in scale, levels of state corruption have recently soared to stellar heights with a catalogue of major corruption cases floating to the putrid surface of political life. A comprehensive study by the global consultancy firm KPMG found that corruption today “is not about petty bribes anymore but scams to the tune of thousands of rupee crores” (ten million rupees, equivalent to  USD 167,000). These large scams can be “attributed to the willingness of the private sector to pay senior public officials to get their work done”.

Since market liberalization in the early 1990s large scams involving government officials and billions of dollars have become almost as common as low-level graft. As the economy was opened up and America and neo-liberalism became India’s natural allies, undreamt of criminal riches and veins of dishonesty were discovered. The economic model, which sees everything and everybody as a commodity to be profited from, fitted snuggly into the already corrupt gloves of Indian political corporate affairs.

Property, mining licences and the commercialization of the countryside, involving a plethora of privatizations, together with public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects, were gifts from the gods for the devoutly devious, presenting opportunities for grand scale manipulation. It’s even suggested by some in the know that “the rupee, one of the world’s most actively traded currencies, is manipulated by politicians for personal gain”.

High profile corruption cases

These high profile cases indicate the range of corruption:

In 2010 the Commonwealth Games, which cost almost 18 times their budget estimate, were marred by gross misallocation of funds and financial irregularities. Suresh Kalmadi, who was in charge of the Games, stands accused of corruption, cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy along with nine othersCronyism saturates sport: in 2012 the International Olympic Committee suspended the Indian Olympic Committee over its electoral process; the richest cricket tournament in the world, the Indian Premier League has been riddled with allegations of corruption and fraud since its creation in 2008.

There was the 2G telecommunications scam in 2010, in which government officials sold hundreds of licences to favoured telecom companies at basement prices. The loss to the treasury is thought to be GBP 37 billion.

The mining sector is rife with corruption, Human Rights Watch states. “India’s mining industry is poorly regulated and the government is indifferent to endemic lawlessness within the sector.” In 2010, there “were more than 82,000 instances of illegal mining operations”. What little regulation there is, is “self-regulation”. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports are “commissioned and paid for by the very companies seeking permission to mine” and pay little if any attention to human rights and community concerns.

Whether it’s violating the land for bauxite in Orissa by the Vedanta Group (which has caused the violent displacement of Adivasi people in the area), illegal mining in Goa or Hardwar or the Aravali Range in Rajasthan, bribery and corruption is involved from top to tail, beginning to end.

In 2010, a political scandal nicknamed “Coalgate” surfaced. Mines were sold off cheaply to public sector entities and private companies and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was implicated. The comptroller and auditor-general accused the government of allocating coal rich mines in an underhand manner from five years up to 2009. It is estimated USD 34 billion was lost to the government. The same year saw the Iron-Ore graft in the State of Karnataka, in which an “illegal mining mafia… made profits of USD 2 billion or more shipping illegal iron ore to China”. Hundreds of local officials and politicians were involved, including G. Karunakara Reddy and G. Janardhana Reddy (owners of one of the key conspirators, the Obulapuram Mining Company) who were ministers in the state government at the time and seemed to “rule the roost”.

And last year a series of million dollar scams hit the headlines, among them a railway promotion scam – predictably named “Railgate”. Bribes valued at USD 150,000 were allegedly paid to Pawan Kumar Bansal, the railway minister at the time. The Augusta Westland Helicopter scam was another. Senior politicians and military men have been accused of taking bribes amounting to USD 15,943,000 from Finmeccanica, the parent company of Westland, to secure an order for the supply of 12 helicopters (worth USD 600 million) from the British-based aircraft manufacturer. And let’s not forget Vodafone, which was in cahoots with the union minister, Kapil Sibal, and the law minister, in a USD 2,530,000 tax dodge.

Growth for whom?

While 20 years of growth may have spawned a new middle class (approximately 50 million, or 5 per cent of the population), it is the elite that has benefited from deregulation. The number of billionaires has increased from six to 61 in the last decade, concentrating “USD 250 billion among a few dozen people in a country of 1.2 billion”, according to Oxfam. The elite increased their hold on the country’s wealth “from 1.8 per cent in 2003 to 26 per cent in 2008”, much of which is hidden overseas in “shell companies”, avoiding tax. The very rich “have started buying politics, and the great churning in India you see against corruption is essentially about the purchase of politics by the wealthy,” says the Financial Times.

While India’s billionaires wallow in complacent luxury, two-thirds of the population live in dire poverty, almost half the nation’s children suffer from malnutrition and tens of millions, mainly Adivasi (indigenous) and Dalit people, have been displaced by mining and infrastructure projects. Government spending on the poorest and most vulnerable in society is among the lowest of any “middle income country”. According to the Asian Development Bank,  expenditure on health care is a mere 1 per cent of GDP, meaning in rural areas where 80 per cent of the population lives, there is practically no access to medical services.

In addition to withdrawing support from the poor and subsidizing the elite, economic development has also “expanded the possibilities for rent-seeking.” Rent-seeking theEconomist explains, is “the use of wealth to distort the allocation of resources from which more wealth could be produced”.

The last 10 years have seen a destructive union between wealth creation and corruption firmly established. During this time “almost all of the billionaires created in India have been created because of the proximity to politics”, according to theFinancial Times. Research by Michael Walton of Harvard University and Aditi Gandhi of Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research found that of India’s 66 billionaires, around half made their money in “rent-thick” sectors – “i.e. where profit is dependent on ‘economic rents’ for access to scarce resources, such as land or the telecoms spectrum, which are typically only available via government permissions”.  “Permissions” that are bought. Bribes are paid in cash, gold or through a stake in the business. Bribes are also paid into offshore accounts held in Switzerland and other such tax havens.

Not only are the politicians corrupt, but the political system itself is fuelled by bribes. Illegal party funding, the Economist found “is at the heart of corruption”.

At the end of 2013 India’s parliament appointed an anti-graft ombudsman bill. The ombudsman “will be appointed by an independent committee comprising the prime minister, the head of the Supreme Court, the leader of the opposition and an eminent jurist”, Reuters reports. The Supreme Court is regarded as one of the few clean institutions in the country, but it’s hard to see how a committee with the prime minister on it can be truly independent, or that more laws are needed. India does not lack laws: whether it’s legislation governing environmental issues, women’s rights or corruption, there are laws aplenty. What is lacking is the will to implement existing regulations. On the rare occasion when someone is charged with corruption, prosecutions can take up to ten years; as a result nobody bothers to makes complaints. “In the past three years only 25 top civil servants have been investigated and none has lost his job,” theEconomist says.

India prizes itself on being the world’s largest democracy, meaning it has the biggest population of any country in which citizens get to vote. Self-interest and corruption have no place in a functioning democracy and must be purged from political life and civil society. Democracy is not only the right to vote: participation, social justice and equality are fundamental to the democratic ideal, and are widely absent throughout India.

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US shameful oversight of I$raHell-Palestinian talks

US flag upside down overlaid with word "shame"

By Uri Avnery

How would the US react to a declaration that the Palestinians would not conduct negotiations with an Israeli government that includes semi-fascist parties?

With outrage, of course.

How does the US react to an Israeli statement that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas?

With full approval, of course.

For anyone interested in Israeli-Palestinian peace, the prospect of domestic Palestinian reconciliation is good news.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

For years now we have heard Israeli spokespersons announcing that it’s no use making peace with half the Palestinian people and continuing the war with the other half. Mahmoud Abbas is a plucked chicken, as Ariel Sharon tactfully put it. It’s Hamas which counts. And Hamas is planning a “second holocaust”.

Under the recent Palestinian reconciliation agreement, Hamas is now committed to supporting an all-Palestinian government of experts agreed on by both parties. The Israeli extreme right-wing government is burning with rage. It will never, never, never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is supported by Hamas.

Before dealing with the Netanyahu government, he [Mahmoud Abbas] could say, all factions in the Israeli government must declare their support for the two-state solution…

Hamas must first recognize Israel, stop all terrorist activities and undertake to respect all previous agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

That’s OK, Abbas declares. The next government will be appointed by me, and it will fulfil all three conditions.

That’s not enough, Netanyahu’s spokespersons declare. Hamas itself must accept the three conditions, before we deal with a government supported by Hamas.

Abbas could respond in kind. Before dealing with the Netanyahu government, he could say, all factions in the Israeli government must declare their support for the two-state solution, as Netanyahu has done (once, in his so-called Bar-Ilan speech.) At least two parties, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Our Home, as well as a great part of the Likud, would refuse to do so.

One can envision a ceremony in the Knesset in which every cabinet minister would stand up and declare: “I hereby solemnly swear that I fully and sincerely support the creation of the state of Palestine next to the state of Israel!” The Messiah will arrive first.

Of course, that is immaterial. The stand of individual parties or ministers is unimportant. It is the policy of the government which counts. If the next Palestinian government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and respects all previous agreements that should be enough.

Palestinian reconciliation and peace

Why is the Palestinian reconciliation agreement good news for peace?

First of all, because one makes peace with a whole nation, not with half of it. A peace with the PLO, without Hamas, would be ineffective

from the beginning. Hamas could sabotage it at any moment by acts of violence (a.k.a. terrorism).

Second, because by joining the PLO and eventually the Palestinian government, Hamas accepts in practice the policy of the PLO, which has long ago recognized the state of Israel and the partition of historic Palestine.

One should remember that prior to the Oslo agreement the PLO itself was officially described by Israel (and the USA) as a terrorist organization. At the time of the signing on the White House lawn, the PLO charter was still in force. It called for the destruction of the illegal state of Israel and the return of practically all its citizens to their counties of origin.

For many years, this charter was denounced by Israeli politicians and academics as an insurmountable obstacle to peace.

It is one of the ironies of history that in the past Israel covertly supported Hamas against the PLO…

Only after the Oslo agreement came into force, did the PLO National Council abolish these clauses of their charter in a festive ceremony, attended by President Bill Clinton.

Hamas has a similar charter. It, too, will be modified once Hamas joins the government.

It is one of the ironies of history that in the past Israel covertly supported Hamas against the PLO. While all Palestinian political activity in the occupied territories was suppressed, Hamas activities in the mosques were allowed.

I once asked a former Shin Bet chief if he had created Hamas. His answer was: “We did not create them, we tolerated them.”

The reason was that at the time Arafat’s PLO was considered the enemy. Arafat himself was relentlessly demonized as the “Second Hitler”. Everybody fighting against Arafat was considered an ally. This attitude continued to prevail for a year after the outbreak of the first Intifada, when the Shin Bet realized that Hamas was much more dangerous than the PLO, and started imprisoning (and later assassinating) its leaders.

At present, an undeclared state of ceasefire (tahdi’ah or “stillness”) prevails between Israel and Hamas. Clearly, Hamas has decided that its ambitions as one of the two major Palestinian political parties are more important than the “violent struggle” against Israel. Its main aim is to attain power in the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Like so many former liberation organizations around the world, including Begin’s Likud, it is transforming itself from a terrorist organization into a political party.

The Zionist tail wagging the American dog

As could have been foreseen, the US has followed suit and fully accepted the Israeli line. It has threatened the Palestinian Authority with what amounts to a declaration of war if the reconciliation agreement is carried out.

The American peace initiative has ground to a halt. The full truth about it can and must now be told.

It was doomed to failure before it even started. There was not the slightest chance of its bearing fruit.

Before the facts become buried under an avalanche of propaganda, let’s state clearly how it ended: not by Abbas joining international bodies, not by Palestinian reconciliation, but by the refusal of Netanyahu to fulfil a solemn and unequivocal undertaking to release certain Palestinian prisoners on a certain date.

The release of prisoners is an extremely sensitive point for the Palestinians. It concerns human beings and their families. These particular prisoners, some of whom are Israeli citizens, have been in prison for at least 21 years. Netanyahu just did not have the strength of character to fulfil his promise and confront a wild campaign of incitement unleashed by the extreme right.

He preferred to end the “negotiations”.

John Kerry, the pitiful mediator

The performance of John Kerry can only be described as pitiful.

It started with the appointment of Martin Indyk as the manager of the negotiations. Indyk had worked as an employee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main lobby of the Israeli right. AIPAC’S main task is to terrorize the American Congress, whose members – senators and representatives – quake at the very sight of its agents.

To install such a person as an impartial mediator between Israel and the Palestinians was just plain chutzpah. It told the Palestinians right from the beginning what was in store.

Apart from Netanyahu’s ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”, there was nothing on the table.

The second act of chutzpah was to start the talks without first obtaining from Netanyahu a list of the concessions he was ready to make. Throughout, the Israeli side refused to present a map of its proposed borders, even after the Palestinian side produced their own map.

This charade went on for nine months, in which not an inch of progress was made. The parties met and talked, talked and met. Apart from Netanyahu’s ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”, there was nothing on the table.

Tzipi Livni, a very minor politician, basked in the limelight on the glamorous international stage, and would have loved to go on forever without achieving anything at all.

The Palestinian representatives were also interested in continuing, even without purpose, in order to pass the time without an internal explosion.

The whole exercise revolved around one simple question: was President Obama ready to confront the onslaught of the united forces of AIPAC, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Republicans, the Evangelicals, the right-wing Jewish establishment and the Israeli propaganda machine?

If not, Kerry should not have even started.

This week, in a private meeting, Kerry stated the obvious: that if Israel continues with its present policy, it will become an apartheid state.

There is nothing revolutionary in this. Former President Jimmy Carter used the term in the title of his book. In Israel, independent and left-wing commentators do so every day. But in Washington DC all hell broke loose.

The hapless Kerry rushed to apologize. He did not mean it, God forbid! The secretary of state of the mighty USA asked for little Israel’s forgiveness.

And so the piece reached its shameful finale on a dismal fading chord.

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Al-Qaeda Infighting in East Syria Kills 62


60,000 Civilians Flee as ‘War Within a War’ Comes to Town

The ongoing “war within a war” between different Syrian rebel factions has picked up steam this weekend in Deir Ezzor Province, along Syria’s eastern border with Iraq.

The fighting is between al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra has the approval of the parent al-Qaeda organization, but AQI has been disavowed as “too brutal.”

Fighting gripped several cities across the province, with at least 62 fighters killed and a large number wounded. The two sides had recently fought over the city of al-Bukamal, which AQI eventually took, and gives the faction an effectively contiguous corridor from Aleppo to the outskirts of Baghdad.

The fighting this time around was in the towns of Busayra, Abhra, and al-Zir, and between the three locations, some 60,000 civilians have reportedly had to flee, adding to an enormous refugee crisis.

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Foreign jihadis in Syria pledge their own 9/11

Burn notice: Jihadis destroy their passports in a video made by Isis, formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq

the Independent

It is only a matter of time before jihadis in al-Qa’ida-type groups that have taken over much of eastern Syria and western Iraq have a violent impact on the world outside these two countries. The road is open wide to new attacks along the lines of 9/11 and 7/7, and it may be too late to close it.

Those who doubt that these are the jihadis’ long-term intentions should have a look at a chilling but fascinating video posted recently by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq. It shows a group of foreign fighters burning their passports to emphasise their permanent commitment to jihad. Many of the passports thrown into the flames have grass-green covers and are Saudi; others are dark blue and must be Jordanian. Some of the fighters show their faces while others are masked. As each one destroys his passport, sometimes tearing it in half before throwing it into the fire, he makes a declaration of faith and a promise to fight against the ruler of the country from which he comes.

A Canadian makes a short speech in English before switching to Arabic, saying: “It is a message to Canada, to all American powers. We are coming and we will destroy you.” A Jordanian says: “I say to the tyrant of Jordan: we are the descendants of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the Jordanian founder of al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed by US aircraft in 2006] and we are coming to kill you.” A Saudi, an Egyptian and a Chechen make similar threats.

The film is professionally made, and was probably shot somewhere in northern or eastern Syria. It is worth looking at carefully, and keeping in mind that these are not an isolated band hiding in desert wastes or mountain caves. Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official affiliate of al-Qa’ida, now control, or can easily operate in, a great swathe of territory from the Tigris to the Mediterranean, and from the Jordanian border to southern Turkey.

Threats, such as those made by the group burning their passports, are creating something near panic among Iraq’s neighbours, who were slow to take on board last year that Syrian armed opposition had come to be dominated by al-Qa’ida or its clones. A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), “The Rising Cost of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire”, published last week, cites a Turkish official saying: “The armed al-Qa’ida element will be a problem for the Turks. As a secular country, we do not fit with their ideology. What happens if they can’t get what they want in Syria? They will blame Turkey and attack it.” Bear in mind that the thousands of foreign jihadis who have poured into Syria and Iraq mostly got there by crossing the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border. The head of an influential Turkish think tank is quoted by ICG as saying that “When Turkey starts arresting them [jihadis], which it will do, we know what will happen. There will be bombs all over Turkey.”

Jordan is also showing signs of extreme nervousness over support being given to the Syrian armed opposition, just across its border in southern Syria. American, Saudi and Jordanian intelligence have been working on creating a “southern front” around Daraa, the southern city where the Syrian revolt began, a front supposedly made up of moderate, secular fighters, who are both anti-Assad and anti-jihadi. This is deceptive, since an important force in such operations would be Jabhat al-Nusra which, on this front, is reportedly acting in coordination with a Jordanian, Saudi and US intelligence joint operations room in Amman.

But the Jordanians have got cold feet over the idea of a southern offensive launched from their territory. They are no longer as confident as they were in 2011 and 2012 that President Assad is bound to lose. They worry about an estimated 2,000 Jordanian jihadis in Syria, and what happens when they return to Jordan. There was a mysterious Jordanian airforce attack destroying vehicles entering Jordan from Syria on 16 April in which the Syrian government denied any involvement. The Jordanians also forbade an opposition offensive at Daraa timed to coincide with a rebel assault in Aleppo.

Even the US State Department’s annual report on terrorism, issued last week, has noted that al-Qa’ida-type groups are getting stronger. Its image of al-Qa’ida in the past has been along the lines of a bureaucratic entity somewhat similar to the State Department itself. It therefore takes heart from the belief that because of organisational and leadership losses “AQ’s core leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks.” The word “core” is useful here since it can mean either “a central command” or simply “at the centre of”. In practice, al-Qa’ida since 2001 has primarily been an ideology and a method of operating, not a cohesive organisation. The State Department has finally noted this, speaking of “the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups”.

In reality, the situation is worse than the State Department admits, since over the last year Isis has taken over much of Sunni Iraq. It levies taxes in cities such as Mosul and Tikrit and has substantial control in Fallujah and along the Euphrates valley, through western Iraq and eastern Syria up to the Turkish border. It has captured the Fallujah dam on the Euphrates, and can flood or deny water to areas further south; at Baiji on the Tigris, north of Baghdad, it has blown up an oil pipeline, polluting the river which had been used, after treatment, to supply drinking water to Baghdad. On the western outskirts of Baghdad at Abu Ghraib, Isis has held a military parade and the famous prison was hastily evacuated. A comforting theory explaining the surge in Isis’s strength in Iraq is that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki exaggerated its power to frighten Shia voters before last Wednesday’s parliamentary election. He thereby diverted attention from his administration’s appalling record of corruption and incompetence by focusing on the danger of a Sunni counter-revolution. The outcome of the election will show if this strategy had worked.

Unfortunately, all the signs are that the political and military incapacity of the Iraqi government is all too real. Its armed forces are said in Baghdad to have suffered 5,000 casualties including 1,000 dead in fighting in Anbar province in the last four months. Whole battalions are reported to have melted away because the men were not being paid, or they have not received supplies of food and ammunition. According to one report, even the job of army divisional commander can be bought for $1m with the assumption that whoever takes the job can show a profit by making $50,000 a month through protection money and levies on vehicles passing checkpoints.

After the election the government may try to repeat the US strategy of successfully using the Sunni tribes against al-Qa’ida groups such as Isis. The difficulty is that for the moment Sunni communities hate the Iraqi army and security forces more than they do al-Qa’ida.

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The Evolution of the War in Syria




Eric Draitser of provides his analysis of the latest developments in Syria.  Specifically, Draitser examines the recent statements by FBI Director Comey regarding jihadists from the US and other Western countries going to fight in Syria.  Draitser explains that the changing nature of the jihadi recruits indicates the fizzling out of the terrorist war on Syria as the stream of fighters from Muslim countries has slowed to a trickle. He also discusses the larger geopolitical issues at play, noting that Syria, like Ukraine, is a point at which the Western imperial system and its opponents come into conflict.  This and much more…


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Syrian update prior to Presidential election


Lilly Martin, OpEd News

Syria began a spiral of violence in March 2011. The leaders of the uprising in Deraa have long gone; some are found now living in Benghazi, Libya. The followers of the Syrian revolution have long since realized the freedom and democracy they thought they were fighting for, was never on the table for offer. The foreign countries and their Arab allies who funded and designed the revolution had never intended they realize any freedoms or democratic reforms. It was all about regime change, even from the very first day.

Now we fast-forward 3 years, and the violence continues with more than 150,000 people having been killed; more than 10 million internally displaced, with over 2 million having fled. Some media centers far removed from the Syrian battle-grounds have labeled the crisis a ‘civil war’. According to the Oxford English dictionary, this label is erroneous. When does a label pasted on in error become political propaganda? We certainly cannot explain the error of BBC and CNN on poor English skills.

The dictionary definition of the term ‘civil war’ states: a war between citizens of the same country. According to BBC, CNN, and others of the western media, we should be able to find Syrian citizens who are fighting other Syrian citizens. But, instead we find Syrian citizens fighting citizens from: UK, USA, Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Turkey. Some of these fighters are Arabs, and some cannot speak even one word of Arabic. Some are fighting to rid Syria of all heathens, according to their definition of heathens, which includes all Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are not following their new brand of Islam, which was invented by Salafi, Wahabi, and Muslim Brotherhood followers. Some of the men are simply fighting for the $1,000.00 per month cash paid to them by Saudi Arabia. To those fighters, it is just a job. These fighters are armed terrorists, but the media calls them ‘rebels’. The word rebel, in the connotation of a war of rebellion, means someone who is rebelling against a government. Why would a man from Chechnya or Belgium think he has any right to rebel against the Syrian government, when the Syrian government has no effect on his life or rights? Has the Syrian government oppressed or harmed any American or British person?

The Free Syrian Army began as a group of local Syrian men organized and fighting the Syrian Arab Army, which is the national army of Syria. However, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is the armed wing of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) located in Istanbul, Turkey, made strategic alliances and pledges to Al Qaeda (AQ), the radical Islamic terrorist group of global fame. The FSA felt they would benefit by the numbers, weapons, and training of the AQ fighters. It was a win-win deal, until AQ and their allies of Jibhat Al Nusra (JAN) and Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) began slaughtering the FSA. The decision to eliminate the FSA emanated from the fact that the FSA just wanted regime change, and ultimately greater freedom and democracy, but AQ, J AN, and ISIS didn’t have any goal in Syria short of establishing a caliphate, meaning to transform Syria into a Sunni Muslim state, without freedom and definitely without democracy, as those two concepts are in direct conflict with their ideology.

The two sides on the battle grounds in Syria today are foreign funded and supported non-Syrian terrorists, fighting against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) which is composed of Syrian males, over the age of 18 years, in good health, and not enrolled in a university in Syria or abroad. The SAA is totally Syrian and is secular. There are 18 sects in Syria and all are drafted; there are no religious quotas in the national conscription. When you read in western media that the SAA are “forces loyal to the Alowi government” this is pure rubbish, and more propaganda. Are the men and women in the armed forces of USA loyal to Obama’s regime? A member of any military of any country is loyal to that nation, which means all the citizens. A soldier is not in a political policy-making position. He is drafted, or enlists, and he serves to defend his county from domestic or foreign attack.

Some media have dropped the term civil war, and instead use the term ‘sectarian war’. They try to incorrectly compare the Sunni-Shia divisions we have seen in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq to Syria. Syria is not a Sunni-Shia clash. Syria is 18 different sects. The terrorists in Syria have burnt as many Sunni mosques as churches. The terrorists in Syria have burnt as many Korans as Bibles. It is true that the only sect that had a militia was the Sunni sect, that of the Free Syrian Army, but the men fighting the FSA daily were not exclusively Shites, and were not in a militia; they were Sunni members of the Syrian Arab Army, as well as their fellow soldiers from all 18 sects. The Syrian Arab Army has never been an Alowi army, and has never represented one of the 18 sects exclusively.

The role of satellite TV channels is immense. People everywhere are watching CNN and BBC and many others, and have come to trust their news coverage of events happening around the world. They have come to rely on the mainstream media to kept them informed on events in far-flung places they will never in their lifetimes visit. They will listen to the news, watch the accompanying videos, and form opinions based on the information presented. If the information is biased or downright lies, then we have entered the realm of propaganda. There are many satellite TV channels that are located in the Arab world, and broadcast in Arabic. Channels such as Wessal, Safa, and others. These are channels that feature an Islamic cleric who gives fiery lectures on the importance of killing certain sects in Syria, the importance of raping little girls in Syria, urges Muslim females to give their bodies freely in sex-jihad in Syria, and who gives the Islamic ideology to back up his urging of the wholesale killing of 20% of the civilian population of Syria, as long as it achieves the goal of regime change.

Furthermore, we must examine the role of internet social media. Facebook is full of pages and groups promoting the killing, rape and mutilation of unarmed Syrian civilians. YouTube is loaded with thousands of videos taken and uploaded by the terrorists themselves. They have hundreds of beheadings, live on camera, and in color. They have several videos of them barbecuing Syrians on grills. One of the most famous videos was of a Free Syrian Army soldier cutting open the dead body of a Syrian and eating his liver. That was so popular on YouTube that a British journalist was sent to Syria to personally interview the cannibal.

The airports, ports, and roads of Turkey are full of terrorists coming in from places around the globe. They are seen at the airport in Istanbul. They are seen at the airport in Adana. They are all over the port at Iskanderun, and they are sleeping, eating, and driving all over the Southern border of Turkey as it approaches Syria. They are found from Yalada to Reyhanli, and everywhere in between. I can’t imagine what fear is in the hearts and minds of decent Turkish citizens who are forced to accept these bloodthirsty foreign terrorists in their midst. One such innocent Turkish woman was attacked and abused by terrorists on a domestic Turkish Air flight from Istanbul to Adana. After reporting her abuse to airline authorities they apologized but said there was nothing they could do about the matter, as the policy of transporting terrorists in Turkey for the purpose of fighting in Syria was a national policy, and not private.

Syria has 23 million people and they are from 18 religious sects. The Sunni Muslim sect is the largest at about 60%. Most of the current Presidential cabinet of ministers is from the Sunni sect. The current Parliament, which was voted on by general election during this crisis, is a very mixed group, with the Sunni sect well represented. Syria is a secular government, and the only secular government in the Middle East. After 40 years of socialist and secular type of government, the topic and labels of sects is disgusting to most Syrians. To the broad and educated mind, those are trivial matters that are only focused on by foreign governments, who are secular as well, or monarchies. I can’t imagine the American public accepting the discussion of religious labels on each elected and appointed official in USA as of vital importance.

The Syrian opposition, SNC, located in Istanbul, Turkey, was founded by Muslim Brotherhood leaders for the purpose of regime change in Syria. The members are mainly followers of radical Islam, which is not a sect but is a political ideology, in direct opposition to both secular ideology and democratic ideology. To cover their true identity, the MB leadership of SNC threw in a handful of Communists, like George Sabra. Communism and radical Islam: the future of Syria? The Syrian citizens, who have not been living in Paris, Riyadh, and London for the last 30 years, find the SNC repugnant and out of touch with Syrian society or political views. This is why most of the Syrian public has never followed or supported the SNC. The SNC is supported and followed by western governments and their Arab allies who don’t care what the Syrian public wants. This is what has made the SNC divided and totally ineffective. The SNC are speaking to, and working for, foreign governments and their Arab allies. For most of the members of SNC it is all about their own paycheck. This is their chance to rake in a large monthly salary, travel expenses, and lavish 5-star hotel living. This is their chance to destroy Syria, which was the land of their birth decades ago, but a home they forgot and distanced themselves from, both physically and emotionally. They have not seen Syria in years; they have no ties there other than some shared dna, which they acquired without their own choice in the matter.

I am an American citizen, living permanently in Syria.

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Engineering Chaos: Mother Agnes-Miriam lectures neo-cons on their bad behavior


By Jane Stillwater

[The Syria Solidarity Movement offers this excellent report by one of our favorite bloggers on a recent talk by Mother Agnes-Mariam under the sponsorship of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.  Mother Agnes is also available to speak at your community in North America during May 9-13.  For further information please respond by email.]

I just went to hear Mother Agnes-Miriam, a Syrian nun dressed in a serious nun outfit, give a talk on the horrible situation that her country finds itself in today — and I ended up with ten pages of notes on the shocking details of what she said.  However, the main gist of her talk can be summed up in just a few words.  “[Western neo-colonial] powers have been engineering chaos in Syria — and they need to stop this disruptive behavior right now so that peace and reconciliation can safely proceed.”
According to Mother Agnes-Miriam, these Western powers-that-be have been “engineering chaos” in Syria quite successfully over the last three years.   But I would also like to add that Western neo-cons haven’t just been engineering chaos in Syria — oh no.  They’ve also been doing it everywhere that they can, all across the Middle East.  And then it also suddenly dawned on me that said neo-cons have been following a similar step-by-step pattern all over the world, not just in the Middle East:
Step 1:  Find yourself a resource-rich country where a percentage of the population is unhappy — for whatever reason (and if you can’t find any unhappy people there, then just make some up).
Step 2:  Begin to foment revolution in the name of “Freedom and Democracy”.  Make F&D sound really really good!
Step 3:  Start the killing — or “Shock and Awe” or whatever you want to call it.  Use terms like “freedom fighters” and “rebels” and “no-fly zones” and “humanitarian relief”.  And also be sure to throw in scare-words like “WMDs” and “Chemical Weapons” and “Nuclear Proliferation” whenever humanly possible.  But it doesn’t really matter what you call anything as long as chaos results.  Or another Benghazi.  Or another Maiden Square.
Step 4:  The most imperative goal in Step 4 is to make sure that an impressive number of civilians are killed (See Step 3)
Step 5:  Disassemble the mechanisms of state.  Bomb the hospitals.  Bump off the water supply.  Destroy the infrastructure.  Blow up city hall.  Replace the strong-arm guy who is holding the country together with a thousand factional groups who all hate each other and everyone else — and are willing to kill to prove it too.  Think Iraq.  Think Libya.  Think Yugoslavia.
Step 6:  Move into the void that’s created and steal land and resources to your heart’s content.  “Good job, Brownie!”
But enough of this.  Let’s get back to Mother Agnes-Miriam’s talk.  She spoke for over an hour on peace and reconciliation in Syria — by and for Syrians.  It was a hopeful speech; sadly informative but also rational and inspiring.
And then suddenly five or six people popped up from the audience as if on cue and started shouting at Mother Agnes.  “What about the use of chemical weapons!  What about that dictator Assad!”
I at first thought that the ushers at the venue had over-reacted a bit by telling those guys to either be quiet or leave.  But later I learned that these same guys have been following Mother Agnes-Miriam all around America and trying to disrupt all of her talks.
And at another one of her talks, I later found out, Mother Agnes had welcomed their participation and attempted to answer their questions — only to discover that they had no valid evidence, no real POV and nothing really to say.
These guys were simply trying to “engineer chaos” too!
And afterwards, outside on the front steps, one of these guys (wearing a really expensive-looking suit) handed me his card.  He was from Washington DC, of course.  That figures.
PS:  And who else can you think of who’s now happily busy trying to “engineer chaos” right here in our very own United States?  Rush Limbaugh come to mind immediately.  And Cliven Bundy and Karl Rove and the Koch brothers.  And of course Fox News.
PPS:  For those of you who still want to soldier on and read more about what Mother Agnes-Miriam had to say, here are some of the quotes that I wrote down.  I think I copied most of them correctly, but I was writing pretty fast:
“In Syria today, the horrendous reality is of thousands and thousands of mercenaries who enter historic city complexes to turn them into battlefields.  They are terrorists and bandits who spread agony among the residents.
“Sponsored by foreign powers, these ‘Tafiri’ [self-appointed inquisitionists] ‘liberate’ towns by forcing the residents out of them.  The majority of Islamic clerics throughout the world denounce the Tafiri, however.
“Syria is a cauldron of chaos — designed to dismantle a country.  It is engineered by neo-colonials to divide and reign — and to dismantle and gain.
“All of Syria used to be middle-class.  No homeless people in Syria.  And now they are obliged to beg; living in slums where the violence has followed them.  Mosques, churches and synagogues are also being systematically destroyed.  Factories, hospitals, residences.  Homs now looks like Stalingrad.  Apocalyptic.  The economic and production heart of Syria has also been destroyed.  The engineers of chaos destroyed it.
“A young woman wakes up with no legs.  And her friend is now blind.  In some places, only 3% of the population remain — and the Takfiri ‘rebels’ still shell them.  We are living among vampires — where beheading is getting very normal.  We are seeing heads everywhere.  They play football with them.  One Takfiri leader is said to have beheaded 350 people.
“What happened to the Arab Spring?  That striving for freedom and democracy has been highjacked by the engineers of chaos.  The Free Syrian Army lacks money, its members are starving.  But the Takfiri faction is receiving all kinds of money and weapons.  The Takfiri are in direct opposition to reconciliation.  They come from 80 countries — and Syrians are their victims.
“There are seven million refugees inside of Syria and two more million outside of the country.  They are starving.  Out of a population of just 22 million, each day 9,500 more civilians are forced to leave their homes.  Soon all 22 million will be displaced.  We are back to the barbarian era.
“When you see something like this in your city — thousands beheaded, children pushed off roofs, people roasted in ovens — there will be more and more violence.  But there is a third way.  We have to build bridges.  That is the challenge of reconciliation among Syrians.  We have to develop trust.  We have a lot of martyrs [to the non-violent cause], but we will not stop because the bloodshed must stop!
“Saddam was killed.  Gaddafi was killed.  Has it gotten any better?  If Assad is gone, who will take his place?  The 2000 factions?  No.  How can I reconcile with a group who wants to behead me?  We are now talking to former [FSA] fighters who go back to protect their neighborhoods from the Takfiris.  The FSA is willing to talk.  Even Syria’s Al Qaeda is upset that ISIS Takfiri are killing everyone and burning factories.
“We are accused continuously, especially by people in the US, of being political.  This is preposterous.  We are talking only out of a position to stop the bloodshed.  Alternative media can now go deeper and not just repeat mainstream media [brainwashing] ad nauseam.  Go and hear everyone.  I am not an oracle — but do not put me to death if I disagree.  This is not the way to truth.

“If a solution to Syria’s problems is imposed from outside, we will be worse off than before.  We must be free from foreign intervention.  Change will not come from violence.  Violence has just strengthened [Assad’s] regime.  All the Takfiris have done is to get rid of the infrastructure of the state instead.  The state itself is the sole hope for Syria.  That, and a dialogue of symbiosis and reconciliation among Syrians themselves.”

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