Dear Salafist Wahhabist Apologists

A picture taken on February 9, 2016 shows, through a broken window, a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad hanging on a wall in a building next to the site of a suicide attack at a police officer's club in the Masaken Barzeh district of the capital Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 20 people had also been wounded, adding that policemen were among the dead and injured. / AFP / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

by Paul Larudee / April 22nd, 2018

Your head chopper heros are apparently not what Syrians have in mind when they think of democratic revolution.

Mehdi Hasan (MH) can hardly be blamed for the ignorance that he displays in his Intercept article, “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.” He has apparently never been to Syria, doesn’t often do research on Syria, and gets his information from proponents of a single point of view, representing a bunch of idealists that want to usher in their idea of a liberal democracy in Syria, without benefit of electoral niceties until their power is already ironclad. What’s wrong with this picture?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start by deconstructing the absurdities and the language in the MH article.

Thankfully, MH has spared us the need to deconstruct the absurd accusation that the Syrian armed forces have used chemical weapons. He apparently accepts that they don’t need to, that there is no benefit in using them, so why would they? OK, then who did? Cui bono? Easy answer. The motive of the promoters of destruction in Syria is to create a pretext for the US and its partners to bomb, invade and establish a no-fly zone; i.e., to directly take on the Syrian government and its allies. These war criminals include the neoconservative cabal in the US, the Zionist and Israeli proponents of using the US to fight Israel’s perceived enemies, and the Saudi and Qatari adventurists backing the Project for a New Salafist Paradise. These are the same players who brought us Iraq I and II, Libya, Afghanistan forever, Somalia and Yemen. What more could we wish for?

So let us move on to the MH complaint about barrel bombs. What is the complaint, exactly? Are they more horrible than other types of bombs? Is it OK to use bombs manufactured in western munitions factories for delivery by jet airplanes but not ones manufactured in Syria and delivered by helicopter? Never mind. It’s a great opportunity for MH to use the hyped term “BARREL BOMB” in order to enrage and terrify an undiscerning readership.

But what about all the civilian casualties, and isn’t the Syrian army to blame? Well, no, ISIS and the pseudonymous al-Qaeda affiliates are quite happy to post videos of their stonings, beheadings, crucifixions and immolations, so we know the army can’t be the only ones. In fact, given the summary executions of non-Muslims in territories “liberated” from the government, is there any reason to think that the forces fighting the Syrian government are responsible for fewer civilian deaths? I myself met refugees who had fled up to 70 km over the mountains in the dead of winter to Latakia in March, 2013 with no more than the clothes on their back. No one knows how many children and old people died.

Aircraft? The anti-government fighters don’t have them, do they? No, but they seem to be quite resourceful in eliminating innocent human lives nonetheless. An example is the at least 10,000 civilians that have lost their lives in Damascus due to mortars and “hell cannons” (which also use “barrel bombs”) since the start of the hostilities. Other examples include the withering four-year siege of the Shiite towns of Foua and Kafraya near Idlib and the unrelenting bombardment via “hell cannon” of the city of Aleppo from the enclave of East Aleppo until it was finally recovered by government forces in late 2016.

On the other hand, for those (unlike MH and the mainstream media), who consider evidence to be relevant, there is a plethora available to show that the Syrian army has been unusually respectful of civilian life. The claim is that Syria and its Russian allies have obliterated entire neighborhoods, raining bombs on the civilian population. The facts are somewhat at odds with this description.

First, there are the civilian casualties themselves. The UN stopped keeping casualty statistics in early 2016, but even the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concedes that less that 1/3 of all casualties are civilians. No other war on record has had such a low ratio. By comparison, 2/3 were civilian casualties in Vietnam, WWII and most other wars.

Second, the Syrian army liberation of Homs, Aleppo and other areas has followed a typical progression that is quite the opposite of “just kill them all”. First, the army surrounds the area and lays siege. At this point, if the army wants to flatten the area and bring an end to the resistance there, it has the perfect means to do so. But it does not. Instead, it positions relief supplies at the perimeter and makes them available without prejudice to the inhabitants. It also offers sanctuary to all who wish to leave. Amazingly, this includes even the fighters. Syrian fighters willing to lay down their arms are offered amnesty. But many are not initially willing to accept amnesty, and many are not Syrian. To these, the government offers safe passage to other parts of Syria under opposition control, even permitting the fighters to keep their small arms.

If they refuse, the siege and the fighting continue, often for more than a year, and bombing is often a part of the campaign, especially toward the end, after multiple unilateral ceasefires from the government side, to try to conclude a peaceful end, as in Aleppo. The bombing is typically in the least inhabited areas, in order to remove cover for fighters, so that the army will incur fewer casualties when it goes in. The strategy doesn’t always work, but the low ratio of civilian casualties is a testimony to its relative success.

Why does the Syrian government do this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just level the entire area, civilians and all, and be rid of the fighters once and for all?

Not really. The government is aware that families are split, with some fighting on one side and some on another. One of the reasons so many Syrians remain loyal to the government is that it is seeking to protect all Syrians on all sides, with the intention of regaining their allegiance. The government also recognizes that many of the opposition fighters are, in effect, mercenaries, for whom fighting is a way to put food on the table when there are no other sources of income. Such fighters are not really enemies, just desperate people. Given an opportunity, they will easily return to the government side.

Then there are the hyped bombing casualty statistics. As I pointed out in 2015, even if we accept the statistics of the highly biased anti-government Human Rights Watch, the number of casualties per bomb is only two, including combatants. If we apply the ratio of civilian deaths, that is less than one civilian casualty per bomb, a clear indication that the Syrian air force is being far more respectful of civilians than the US was, for example, in its bombing of Raqqah, where twice as many civilians as fighters were killed.

But MH is slamming a position that nobody holds. The number of “leftists” that consider Bashar al-Assad a hero infinitesimal. There may be many Syrians who do, but that is not who MH is referring to. MH is misinterpreting the actions of some journalists (including “leftists”) to correct distortions and false information as defense of Assad. Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for him, but an aversion to disinformation and lynch mob mentality is not the same as being pro-Assad. It’s not very helpful to say, on the one hand, that you oppose intervention in Syria, and then take all your (false) information from pro-intervention sources. In that case the interventionists will applaud your non-intervention stance.

Those of us whom MH accuses of being pro-Assad are nothing of the sort. We believe that Syrian sovereignty and territory should be fully respected (as MH also claims to believe), but we think it is important to counter the fake news and propaganda that are being used to justify the invasion of Syria. MH is in love with fake news. He prefers not to mention the killing of police in the uprisings that he describes as “peaceful demonstrations”. He prefers to cherry-pick the opinions of Syrian refugees in Germany rather than the views of the vast majority of refugees (displaced persons) who evacuated to government areas without leaving Syria. He produces the Human Rights Watch report on 50,000 morgue photos but not the deconstruction by investigator Rick Sterling. And he repeats the al-Qaeda claim and false film footage that Madaya was starving and in need when it was, in fact, sitting on a mountain of aid supplies being denied by the fighters themselves to the population.

If MH can’t see the difference between being pro-Assad and not falling for interventionist propaganda, that’s his problem. What’s astonishing is the number of “leftists” that rail against interventionism but base their views on the drivel purveyed by the interventionists themselves in the mainstream media, and that originates from propaganda mills like the White Helmets, the Aleppo/Ghouta Media Center and other lavishly funded set designers for warmongers. If MH is not an interventionist, he’s nevertheless making their case for them.


Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement. 

SOURCEhttps://dissidentvoice.org/2018/04/dear-salafist-wahhabist-apologists/

Mehdi Hasan, beautiful soul, and his diatribe against the consequential Left


April 21, 2018

By Stephen Gowans



If it wasn’t already clear, The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, wants us to know he’s a beautiful soul. In an April 19 diatribe against “Bashar al Assad apologists,” Hasan professes his distaste for war crimes, torture, and dictatorship, no matter the source, but devotes particular attention to the violence and restrictions on political and civil liberties attributable to the Syrian president. Assad, Hasan concludes, “is a war criminal even if he didn’t gas civilians,” and leftists should stop defending him. The journalist, who also works for the Qatari monarchy’s mouthpiece Al Jazeera, then proceeds to recite a litany of charges against Assad, some undeniable, some unproved or unprovable. One gets the impression that he’s peeved that the latest chemical weapons allegations against the Syrian government, ridiculously thin to begin with, and now largely demolished by Robert Fisk’s reporting, have failed to stick.

At one time, where one stood on the political spectrum depended on one’s position on the questions of political, social, and economic equality, on a national and international level. Leftists favored greater equality; conservatives liked the status quo; and reactionaries, including Qatari monarchs, agitated for a return to a world of ascriptive hierarchies based on class, gender and race. The methods political actors used to achieve their goals could be judged as acceptable or deplorable on moral or instrumental grounds, but it was understood that the methods used were not intrinsic to the goals sought.

It was also understood that the circumstances constrained the methods. The methods available to advance a struggle toward growing equality, for example, or in defense of it, differed depending on the strength of the opposition; the likelihood it would yield to violence versus moral suasion; the degree to which supporters could be galvanized to fight and their tolerance for sacrifice, and so on. One could find the methods disagreeable, but if so, there was an expectation that one would suggest realistic alternatives.

Hasan has turned the distinction between goals and methods on its head. In Hasan’s view, leftists are defined not by what they’re trying to achieve, but by the methods they use. Torture, dictatorship, abridgement of civil liberties, warfare that produces collateral civilian casualties—all these things, according to Hasan, are signs of a contra-left political orientation. Thus, he argues, with illogic, that “Bashar al-Assad is not an anti-imperialist of any kind, nor is he a secular bulwark against jihadism; he is a mass murderer, plain and simple.” The illogic is evident in the false dichotomy that lies at the center of his argument. Mass murderer (if indeed Assad can be so characterized) does not exclude anti-imperialist and secular bulwark against jihadism; but in Hasan’s world, mass murderer and secular anti-imperialist are mutually exclusive. They are so to Hasan, because he has transfigured Leftism into the concept of avoiding all choices that have potentially awful consequences.

The beautiful soul retreats from the political struggles of the real world into impotent moral posturing, where no choices are ever made, because the consequences of all choices are awful to one degree or another. Success, then, in any political struggle is transformed from acting on the world to change it into avoiding any step that might have terrible consequences—a recipe for impotence, paralysis and failure. To the beautiful soul, the only leftist political movement that is worthy of support is the one that fails, never the one that comes to power and implements its political program and fights to overcome opposition to it.

To Hasan, the Syrian State’s position on the political spectrum is unrelated to its goals: overcoming sectarian and other divisions in the Arab world, safeguarding Syria’s political independence, and achieving economic sovereignty. Nor does it matter that Damascus is engaged in a struggle against (to use Hasan’s own words) “rapacious U.S. foreign policy”, “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism”—in other words, the aggression of conservative and reactionary forces that are more powerful individually to say nothing of collectively than the Syrian State by many orders of magnitude. To the Mahatma, all of these considerations are irrelevant, and all that matters in the evaluation of Assad’s political orientation is whether the methods Damascus has used to defend the gains it has made in the direction of asserting its right to equality and sovereignty are methods that that are suitable to a State in periods of stability, normalcy and safety. It’s as if what Hasan deplores about a war cabinet, for example, is not the war that made the war cabinet necessary, but the very fact that a war cabinet was created in response to it, as if carrying on in the regular manner could somehow make the war go away.

Yet what alternatives might the Syrian government have adopted to face the crisis and emergency that rapacious US foreign policy, Saudi-inspired extremism, and Israeli opportunism inflicted upon it? Even the US constitution makes provision for concentration of authority in the executive branch and abridgement of political and civil liberties under conditions of internal rebellion and threatened invasion. From the mid-1960s forward, if not earlier, Syria has faced permanent crisis and emergency, including an ongoing official state of war with Israel, foreign occupation of its territory (now by the United States and Turkey in addition to Israel), and the fostering of internal rebellion by Western states with imperial ambitions—comparable conditions to those which the architects of the US constitution envisaged would require extraordinary powers for US presidents. Are not comparable powers required for a Syrian president? Any realistic assessment of the challenges Syria faces leads inevitably to the conclusion that harsh and quite disagreeable measures are called for if the Leftist project of defending the equality and sovereignty of Syria within the international network of States is to be achieved against the determined opposition of “rapacious U.S. foreign policy,” “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism.”

So, faced with these enormous challenges, what should Assad do? Whatever it is, Hasan can’t say. The best The Intercept writer can do is demand: “Is it the only way you know how to oppose” US, Saudi and Israeli aggression? Well, it does, indeed, appear to be the only way the Syrian government knows how to resist forces many times stronger than itself. But if not this way, then what way? “Should we shoot balloons at the opposition?” Assad once asked another beautiful soul.

In the war against the Axis states, the Allies used torture, summary executions, indiscriminate bombing, confinement of civilians to concentration camps, encroachments on civil liberties, concentration of power in the executive branch, and worse. These methods were clearly disagreeable. And yet, they were the methods chosen to overcome fascism.

It would be wrong to denounce the anti-fascist war as deplorable because some, or indeed many, of its methods, were distasteful–from the virtual dictatorships exercised in Britain and the United States, to the abuse, torture and summary executions of Axis prisoners of war, to sieges and the starving of civilians. And was the Allied countries’ refusal to guarantee the rights of assembly and free expression of Nazi and fascist supporters to be condemned as a human rights violation? Every accusation Hasan makes against Assad he can equally make against Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s conduct in WWII. Curiously (or predictably) he doesn’t, choosing instead to direct his venom at the duo’s ally, Stalin, the only one of the three whose goals were authentically leftist.

The beautiful soul is not of this world. The options available to people who achieve real gains in real world political struggles are rarely simple, and are often ugly and disagreeable to one degree or another. The beautiful soul removes himself from the real world of politics, like the monk retreating from the world into his cell, and thereby avoids having to make choices whose consequences may be regrettable. His politics revolve around denunciations of the choices made by people who act on the world to change it. Few would contest that Hitler’s Nazism, Mussolini’s fascism, and Tojo’s militarism, could have been overcome except by recourse to violence, with all its ugly outcomes, though we can imagine Hasan, the Mahatma, demanding of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin: “Is war the only way you know how to oppose rapacious Nazism, or Japanese imperialism of Mussolini’s opportunism?” We can also imagine him thundering that “Roosevelt is not an anti-fascist of any kind; he is a mass murderer, plain and simple.”

Leftism is not turning the other cheek, an unqualified commitment to rights of free expression and assembly, or scrupulously observing the rules of war, anymore than it’s the opposite of these things. However much Hasan would have us believe that Assad’s shooting balloons at the opposition would make him an authentic anti-imperialist and genuine secular bulwark against jihadism, the truth of the matter is that that shooting balloons would only make Assad a spectacularly unsuccessful anti-imperialist and a secular sieve rather than secular bulwark against jihadist extremism. The Syrian president is unquestionably an anti-imperialist, a point Hasan, himself, concedes (though he doesn’t seem to know it) when he asks is there no other way to oppose US imperialism? What is an anti-imperialist but one who opposes imperialism? The Syrian president, then, in Hasan’s view is engaged in anti-imperialist opposition—he just doesn’t like Assad’s methods. He can’t, however, suggest any realistic alternatives.

What distinguishes Assad from leaders Hasan doesn’t demonize as mass murderers is that Assad has been forced by an internal rebellion and invasion to invoke police state powers and deploy force to meet the crisis and that other leaders, enjoying conditions of stability and normalcy, have not. Would any leader under comparable circumstances have acted differently? Hasan’s facile analysis inevitably condemns all leaders of any State or movement that has deployed force and killed, as mass murderers, unless they have met two sets of impossible standards: (1) they’ve guaranteed a politically open society in which the rights of free expression and assembly are guaranteed to all, including the opposition, which is thereby allowed to freely organize the government’s demise, and (2) they carry out all armed operations strictly in accordance with the rules of war.

The New York Times once observed that the US military adheres to all laws of war when it can but violates them under circumstances of military necessity, as, for example, in the capture of cities from insurgents who use the civilian population as shields. Hasan condemns the Syrian Arab Army (or rather Assad specifically) for siege and indiscriminate bombing, presumably in connection with the liberation of Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, measures also employed by US forces in the capture of Raqqa and Mosul. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended the US violations on the grounds that “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.” (Hasan, predictably, didn’t include Mattis in his demonology; the beautiful soul reserves his most impassioned tirades for figures of the Left.) The only alternative to siege and bombing was to accept the capture of these cities by Islamist insurgents as a fait accompli–hence, to surrender to Saudi-inspired extremism and accept the disintegration of the secular Arab nationalist state and the leftist (i.e., anti-imperialist) values embedded in it.

The argument I’m making here is not one of “whataboutism”, but that the only realistic choices available to a military confronting insurgent forces which capture territory and refuse to allow the civilian population to flee are either (1) siege and bombing, with inevitable civilian casualties, or (2) capitulation. Hasan’s diatribe against Assad is in effect a plea for Syrian surrender, for there is no realistic way the Syrian government can meet the crisis and emergency produced by “rapacious U.S. foreign policy”, “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism” but to take measures Hasan and other beautiful souls will shudder at and condemn. Implicit in Hasan’s analysis is the view that the only real world struggles against inequality worthy of support are those that use quixotic methods that guarantee their failure, and hence, facilitate the triumph of movements of exclusion, inequality, oppression and exploitation.

Addendum

Hasan and his coreligionist Eric Draitser, profess not to take sides. Instead, they claim to hover neutrally above the field of battle, siding only with such abstractions as “humanity,” as if humanity does not include contending forces, or, in Draitser’s case, with “the Syrian people”, as if the Syrian people does not include government forces, Islamist insurgents, and Kurdish fighters. Through a verbal sleight of hand they hope to conjure an artificial construct free from competing forces to which they can claim fealty and thereby avoid taking a side. This is a deception, and the position of cowards.

The intellectual predecessors of Hasan, Draitser, and their ilk likewise adopted a position of neutrality in the struggle between slave owners and the slave rebellion, deploring the methods of struggle chosen by both sides, but particularly the violence of the slave rebellion, the necessary condition of the slaves’ emancipation. “If only they could work out their disagreements amicably,” they sighed.

In the 1930s, the neutralists, seeking to hover God-like above the fray, refused to side with either the Communists or Nazis, abhorring the deployment of defensive violence by Communists and Jews against the Nazis who would destroy them.

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Fact-Checking the French: Are Russia's Douma Attack Statements 'Contradictory'?


Fact-Checking the French: Are Russia's Douma Attack Statements 'Contradictory'?

© AFP 2018 / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN
OPINION
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Russia of "issuing contradictory official statements on the chemical attack in Douma." But is this really the case? Sputnik takes a look at the facts.
In an official statement published on Friday, Le Drian charged Moscow with vacillating in its official account of the alleged Douma chemical attack. "One day, it didn't take place; the next day, it was carried out by armed groups; the day after that, it was Western manipulation. There's no concern for consistency or truth, because it's all about sowing doubt and confusion," the minister said.
Le Drian went on to accuse Russia of "spreading videos featuring children, while the [April 7] attacks took the lives of more than 45 people and left a large number of others injured."
France, he said, has "numerous authenticated witness accounts," evidence from "medical NGOs," as well as "photos and videos" authenticated by French experts. Furthermore, he added, French labs have "confirmed" that a chemical attack took place.
#1: "Videos Featuring Children"
The children mentioned by Le Drian include 11-year-old Hassan Diab, whose explosive testimony earlier this week revealed that the viral video spread by the White Helmets as 'evidence' of a chemical attack was bogus. The boy, who appears in the White Helmets' video, told the Rossiya 24 TV channel that he and his mother were urged to go to the hospital, where he was grabbed and had water poured on him while being filmed. His father added that there were no signs of chemical weapons use outside in the street and that the filmmakers gave the participants food after the shoot was wrapped up.
Another Douma boy, 10-year-old Mustafa, has since corroborated Hassan's story, telling Sputnik that kids near the hospital were promised cookies and bags of potatoes "if we did everything right" in filming the video.
The boys' testimony follows that of other eyewitnesses, including an ambulance driver at Douma Central Hospital, who has said that some of the people at the hospital were suffering from smoke inhalation followinga bomb explosion at a local residential building, and that unknown provocateurs had entered the hospital and started screaming about a chemical attack.
How Russia's collection and dissemination of witness testimonies, which contradicts claims made by militants, can amount to anything sinister is something only Monsieur Le Drian can explain.
#2: "Carried Out by Armed Groups"
The French foreign minister's claim that Russia has changed its story from saying that a chemical attack never took place in Douma to saying that one did, but that it was done by the militants, just isn't true.
What Russia did say was that Russian military police deployed to Douma last week have found a warehouse used by the jihadists containing precursors for chemical weapons including mustard gas and chlorine. The Syrian and Russian militaries have since published extensive photographic and video evidence from the lab. 
It's also worth mentioning that unlike Le Drian's 'expert-authenticated' photographs and videos, including the widely spread White Helmet clip discredited above, the Russian and Syrian accounts are coming from on the ground in the city of Douma today.
#3 "Western Manipulation"
Monsieur Le Drian's claim that Russia was trying to chalk down the Douma attack to "Western manipulation" is  probably based on recent evidence mentioned by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova that the equipment found at the Douma chemical lab includes German-made chlorine and smoke grenades produced in the UK. It's hard to guess which part of Zakharova's statement amounts to claims of "Western manipulation," when all the spokeswoman has done is to relay the facts from the evidence found at the makeshift lab.
Speaking to Sputnik this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed almost to preempt his French counterpart's claims regarding Douma, and the disparity in the kinds of evidence presented. "I hope that all reasonable people see the difference in the arguments, and the difference in what facts are laid out on the table, and what facts are not presented at all," he said.
A Little Hindsight Goes a Long Way
Russia's consistency regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons as a pretext for the Western missile strike against Syria is not surprising. As Sputnik contributor John Wight wrote just days after the alleged April 7 chemical attack, Syrian President Bashar Assad would have to be "the stupidest man on the planet" to squander the Syrian military's victories against the jihadists by doing the one thing that could prompt a Western intervention: using chemical weapons.
And Russian concerns aren't just limited to logic-based after-the-fact op-eds. On March 13, nearly a full month before Douma, Russian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov reported that the Ministry of Defense had obtained reliable intelligence about plans by the militants in Eastern Ghouta to launch a false flag chemical attack and blame it on the government. Chillingly, he even predicted the details, including the White Helmets' plans for spreading the news of the 'attack' to Western media. This 'evidence', he said, would then be used by the US to justify missile strikes.
In other words, the Russian message on Douma has been the same not just after the alleged chemical attack; the threat of the West using a false flag attack as a pretext to launch airstrikes was pointed out by Russian officials weeks ahead of time.
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SOURCE: https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201804211063782181-le-drian-russian-flip-flopping-claims/