Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Critique of Proposed VFP Resolution 2015-3 Stop All Foreign Intervention In Syria

This resolution would be laughable if Veterans for Peace policy on Syria wasn't already so at odds with its goals of the organization and the requirements of the Syria people today. The fact is that both the tragedy of more than 200,000 slaughtered and nine million made homeless and rise of Islamic reaction in the form of ISIS are the direct results of the "anti-imperialist" policy advocated by VFP. Unlike in Libya, in Syria the "anti-imperialists" have gotten what they have been demanding, no direct military involvement from NATO and no no-fly zone. Assad has been free to barrel-bomb civilians at will and with the military support he has received from Russian and Iran, he has been able to bomb virtually everyday for years now.

More than 200,000 slaughtered and nine million made homeless and the rise of Islamic reaction in the form of ISIS are the direct results. Now this resolution proposes doubling down on the same failed policies and coming from the same deluded fantasies about the real situation. But then this resolution really isn't about Syria. With all they have gone through, it should be. It really should be. But its not. It lacks any real knowledge or concern about Syrians. It doesn't make a single proposal, like supporting the White Helmets or refugee efforts [MSF], that could make a difference in the terrible situation they find themselves in, but then this resolution really isn't about them, is it? Its about US!
Resolution 2015-3
Stop All Foreign Intervention In Syria
The title is a great one that I can get 100% behind. The fact is that without massive foreign intervention by Russia and Iran, Assad would have been overthrown by the popular uprising years ago. Hundreds of thousand would not be dead, millions would not be homeless and extremist groups like ISIS wouldn't have had a chance to grow in the gaping wound that has become Syria. Deflections weakened the Syrian regime long ago, since 2013 the "Syrian state" has been under Iranian control and run at every level by Iranian officials. It was the massive intervention of Hezbollah that salvaged Assad's military position when he was on the edge of defeat and since then it has been sectarian Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese militias that have kept him in power. Massive financing and weapons deliveries from Russia that has kept him going as well. Without that foreign intervention, the Assad regime would have been bankrupt years ago and the death toll a fraction of what it is today.

But this resolution doesn't oppose that foreign intervention, does it? It doesn't even get a mention.
Whereas, the U.S. has initiated several unnecessary wars resulting in the futile loss of lives and permanent injuries to innumerable American troops and their families, and
This has nothing to do with Syria. Yes, we know the US are imperialists but this has nothing to do with Syria.
Whereas, the crisis in Syria has entered its fifth year, causing the death and injury of possibly half a million Syrians, and

Whereas, the number of dislocated and refugee Syrians has reached close to a third of its population, and

Whereas, the U.S. and its allies are heavily and publicly involved in funding and supporting extremist and terrorist groups in Syria, and
The first two statements are true. The third simple isn't. The US has very publicly contributed several hundred million dollars in non-lethal aid to some moderate forces, and now has trained a "rebel" force of 60 to fight ISIS exclusively, not Assad. Assad and his supporters have said from the time they started shooting the first peaceful protesters that they have been fighting extremist and terrorist groups funded by the US and its allies. That's where this line comes from.
Whereas, the U.S. Administration’s declared policy of regime change in Syria (“Assad must go”) is in violation of international law and has been facing one failure after another, and
Yes, and the US Administration also has a declared policy of a Palestinian state and the self-determination of nations. Imperialist will generally say they are opposed to fascist dictators (“Assad must go”), even as they cultivate them. The question is: What has Obama's real policy towards Assad been? Hint: It hasn't been one of "regime change." Read Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad. These people opportunistically chose to believe Obama is telling the truth when he says "Assad must go" because it suits them. Since Obama's real play here is to deceived people into thinking he opposes Assad, all the while, working to keep him in power [Playing "Good Cop" to Putin's "Bad Cop"] , in passing this resolution, VFP will actually be giving "Left" cover to Obama's true position, which is to keep Assad in power no matter how many Syrian lives it costs.
Whereas, the active support of the United States and its allies for the armed opposition in Syria has resulted in increasing violence and bloodshed, and in strengthening the hands of extremists and terrorist groups, and
The US has enforced an arms embargo against Assad's opposition in Syria. They can't even buy MANPADS from Libya or China with their own money. That's why Assad can barrel-bomb unopposed. That has greatly increased the bloodshed. The pro-Assad fantasy that the US and it allies have been arming the opposition doesn't explain why they lack effective air defense weapons which could stop Assad from ravaging Syrian cities and bring "Death from Above" year after year.
Whereas, only the sovereign people of Syria have the right to decide on the nature of their government and their political system, free of all forms of foreign intervention.
However, we won't even mention, let alone oppose, the real foreign intervention that has been destroying the beautiful country of Syria for four years, we will only oppose the "US intervention" of our fantasies and act as if the US is responsible for this whole mess, not Assad, not Iran, not Russia, just US.
Therefore, we, Veterans For Peace, hereby resolve:

The U.S. must immediately abandon its policy of regime change in Syria;
Easily done! The US doesn't have a policy of regime change in Syria. Hasn't since Bush left office. Wake up!
The U.S. must immediately cease all its direct and indirect, overt and covert, support, arming, financing and enabling of all militants in Syria, and exert all types of pressure on its allies, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, to do the same;
The US and Israel don't provide support for any militants in Syria,let alone "all militants", Assad regime propaganda to the contrary. As far as VFP demanding that the US, the leading imperialist power, "exert all types of pressure" [does that include military pressure?] on some Arab countries not to support a liberation struggle in another part of the Arab nation? I hope there will be a lot of discussion before adopting such a chauvinist policy.
The U.S. must form a new alliance with countries and forces in the region that are real combatants against terrorism and violent extremism in the region;
I can't wait to hear who those countries are. But they aren't mentioned in the resolution so I guess I will have to wait.
The U.S. must positively press for dialogue and a peaceful solution for the Syrian crisis, a process that is directed and executed fully on the basis of the sovereign and free will of the Syrian people themselves.

Submitted by Faraz Azad
Chair, Iran Working Group
More empty words. The short story is that this resolution carries the same old discredited illusions about the Syrian Revolution against the Assad regime that the "Left" had trumpeted when the death toll was still less than a thousand. They haven't even deepened their analysis, 200.000 deaths later they are content to repeat it. They want to blame the US for everything and the naive reader could be forgiven for thinking the Syria mess has been mainly caused by the US.

This resolution calls for more of the same which means it calls for another 200,000 Syrian lives.

That it will be debated at all at the 2015 Veterans for Peace National Convention is at once a Comedy and a Tragedy.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

U.S. Shoots Down Idea of Syria Safe Zone

Republished from

By Josh Rogin
28 July 2015

Days after the U.S. and Turkey announced a breakthrough deal to fight together against the Islamic State, U.S. officials are insisting that -- contrary to reports -- there are definitely no U.S. plans for a "safe zone" inside Syria. In fact, there really is no "zone," and there is no plan to keep the area "safe."

This confusion is a microcosm of the disorganized U.S. approach to the Islamic State threat since last summer. Each incremental escalation into which the U.S. gets dragged in Syria seems poorly thought out and even more poorly explained. Until the Barack Obama administration can reconcile the different objectives among the members of its anti-Islamic-State coalition, the various partners will continue to work at cross-purposes. In this case, for the U.S., the Islamic State is the one and only priority; for Turkey, the imperative is protecting civilians from Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime and eventually forcing its exit.

For the last week, various U.S. and Turkish officials have been contradicting each other in public and private over whether or not the White House agreed to a safe zone inside Syria, something it has long resisted. Major U.S. newspapers even published makeshift maps showing what the anti-Islamic-State safe zone would cover. But in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, three senior administration officials made it clear that there are no U.S. plans for a safe zone, a no-fly zone, an air-exclusionary zone, a humanitarian buffer zone or any other protected zone of any kind.

"We're not out there staking out zones and doing some things that I know have been discussed in years past -- no-fly zones, safe zones. What we're trying to do is clear ISIL," a senior administration official said. "I think it's important not to confuse that with staking out these zones that you can identify with road signs and on big maps, and that's just not what's happening."

On Monday, a White House official told an audience in a closed-door meeting at the Middle East Institute in Washington the same thing about there being no safe zone inside Syria, according to two people who were inside the meeting. The Obama administration is sending a delegation back to Turkey next week to work on exactly what the new cooperation along the northern Syria border will look like, the official said.

The three senior administration officials talking to reporters Tuesday insisted that the operation will be limited to clearing Islamic State forces from a 68-mile stretch of the Turkey-Syria border. But there's no talk of protecting civilians, holding population areas, or making sure the area isn't attacked by Assad's air force, which continues to drop crude "barrel bombs" on civilian areas all over Northern Syria.

"What we're doing is we're going after ISIL wherever we find them up there in the north," one official said. “And now we have a kind of final stretch of border to work on that we're going to work cooperatively with the Turks on that. In terms of what exactly it looks like and how it will look and what the modalities are, that's what we have to work out with them.”

All this confusion started on July 23, when John Allen, the retired U.S. general in charge of the anti-jihadist effort, denied that an "air exclusion zone" inside Syria was even "part of the conversation" he conducted with the Turks that resulted in the new agreement, which will allow American planes to use Turkey's Incirlik Air Base to strike targets in Syria and Iraq. (Allen had been trying to negotiate a deal that would have included such a zone inside Syria since last year, but has repeatedly been stymied by the White House, which hates the idea.)

Yet two days later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this at a news conference: "When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the (ISIL) threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally. We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones."

In the days that followed, articles in the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere stated that the U.S. and Turkey had agreed to work on a safe zone inside Syria. Some reports included maps that showed the approximate reach of the area, where Syrian civilians would presumably be protected from Assad's forces. It took until Tuesday for the Obama administration to quash any notion to that effect.

The key difference between what the Obama administration is saying today versus the news reports earlier this week is not whether there is an area that the U.S. and Turkey will work to clear of Islamic State fighters. The dispute is whether that area will be "safe," especially from air attacks. The White House is wary of any plan that could put it in military conflict with the Assad regime, and has made no decision to protect opposition forces or civilians from its air assaults.

Former officials and Mideast experts noted this week that protecting the area from Assad's bombs was key to whether or not a safe zone would actually work. Frederic Hof, a former State Department Syria official, pointed out some of the holes in the still-murky U.S.-Turkey plan. "A marginal ground combat component is one problem faced by the coalition. Another is Assad regime aerial operations. They are major arrows in the quiver of ISIL," wrote Hof. "So although recent developments are positive, they can be potentially decisive only to the extent they transcend what's being reported: specifically in the category of protecting civilians."

In addition to tamping speculation about safe zones, the three senior administration officials said Tuesday that no U.S. or Turkish troops would be used to clear the border area of jihadists. "Moderate opposition forces" would do the job. They did not specify which opposition forces would be used, only that they would have to be agreed on by both Washington and Ankara.

That eliminates the possibility of using Kurdish forces, the most effective anti-Islamic-State troops in the region, because the Turks would veto the idea. For several days Turkey has been bombing forces of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which it considers a terrorist group. There were some allegations that it struck Syrian Kurdish forces as well. Administration officials defended the bombings on Tuesday, saying that the PKK started the latest round of violence.

As for the Free Syrian Army, the U.S. largely abandoned most of its brigades in northern Syria late last year, after they suffered heavy losses to other rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. The remaining forces are busy fighting for their lives in and around Aleppo. It's unlikely that they would be able to hold the Turkish border without a lot more assistance.

Another group that won't be able to fill is void are the recruits from the Pentagon's $500 million "train and equip" program. After huge delays caused by vetting problems and organizational incompetence, the program has produced only 60 trained fighters. They have been embedded with Free Syrian Army groups far from the Turkish border.

The U.S. and Turkey still haven't answered the key questions about their new anti-jihadist area, including how big it will be, who will man it, or what will happen if Assad's forces attack. Officials say the White House is trying to figure all of that now. If the past is any guide, the U.S. will likely continue its singular focus on defeating the Islamic State and decline to confront Assad or protect civilians. The Turks know that -- so, unfortunately, should those who have spent the last few days talking about "safe zones" inside Syria.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author on this story: Josh Rogin at

To contact the editor on this story: Tobin Harshaw at

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Response to Veterans for Peace on Syria

Written by Andy Berman, 25 May 2015, republished with permission. Andy Berman is a member of VFP Chapter 27 in Minneapolis, MN and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria [CISPOS]. Earlier he was in the US Peace Corps [1967-69], the US Army [1971-73], a telecommunications engineer and Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories. He became a Vietnam war resister and has been a solidarity and peace activist since then. He blogs at A former VFP board member writes:
No doubt Assad is a scumbag and a murderer. But those against him (Al Nusra and ISIS) are too. So why do you keep harping on this? What is it you think VFP should do about this? In my view we need to get the US the hell out of there, since US bombing only fuels the fire. Every day you harp on this, and it gets tiresome. Peace,
Andy responds:
Thanks for your comments and questions. You posed them very civilly and I therefore should respond to you.  There have been more than a few extremely nasty insults directed my way in this vfp-all forum and in personal emails. Those I ignore (and I have the authors emails automatically sent to my spam folder).  But civil discourse is definitely worthwhile. I appreciate your effort.
So here’s my response or all your concerns. It’s a bit long, but the situation in Syria is complex. Please give this serious consideration.
  1. Thanks for saying that Assad is a “scumbag and murderer.”  Several who post on vfp-all are overt supporters of the fascist dictator. We see a lot of forwarded posts here from a group called the “Syria Solidarity Network”.  That group explicitly supports the scumbag-murderer.  You can see that easily at their website. At the recent UNAC conference, which our vice-president reported so positively on, there were several speakers from groups that openly support the scumbag-murderer, including the Syrian-American Forum, ANSWER, IAC, and others.  Some of these folks have travelled to Syria to endorse the fraudulent elections last year or otherwise try to legitimize Assad. You are right. Assad is a tyrannical bastard.  VFP should be clear about that.  Code Pink has denounced Assad’s war crimes. We should too. We do not have to choose between Assad and US Imperialism.
I am sorry to read that you find my posts about Syria “tiresome.”  They are intended to give fellow VFPers  reliable news reports and analysis that encourages them to rethink,  to speak out and to take action to help stop this horrible war. What I find truly tiresome in vfp-all are the repetitious rants and reposts from sensationalist and conspiracy websites. And tiresome too is the knowledge that every single day barrel bombs are being dropped in Syria while so many of my antiwar friends in the US remain silent.
I am glad that you recognize that Assad is a pig, but it is also clear that your understanding is not a universal sentiment in VFP, an organization I have been part of for many years.  Hence I feel the need to post material that is intended to inform my fellow VFP members that we should be very clear about Assad’s brutality.  While we reject US imperial ventures around the world, it is a serious error for peace activists to support in any way tyrants that find themselves in confrontation with the US:  be they Assad, Saddam, Pol Pot, Qaddafi, or anyone else. We can and should speak out against US imperialism and brutal dictators as well.
I am sure you are familiar with US Left history, and are probably aware that there were indeed US “antiwar” activists who, in the name of opposing US militarism, backed Pol Pot in Cambodia. There are other historical precedents, including those in the antiwar movement who claimed in the early 1930s that stories of Hitler’s roundup of communists and Jews was just an excuse by FDR to build up the US Navy.   
I know there are a great many decent and committed peace activists in VFP. I post politely without rancor so that they may see another side of the Syria story. The position that VFP now takes, seeing only US imperialism as the source of all conflict,  and concerned only with the US role, is very misguided. It does not help further the cause of peace. We should be wiser and stop seeing the world only through our “Americanist” eyes.
  1. You ask what should VFP do about Syria, the bloodiest war on the planet.  Here’s what I think we should be doing:  We often issue VFP Position Statements.  We should issue a position statement that includes the following:
  1. VFP urges the resumption of an international conference on Syria, including the parties to the conflict, Russia, Iran, and the US, and others, following the guidelines of the Geneva I protocol, which calls for a transitional government, a ceasefire, and a withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
  2. VFP urges the United Nations Security Council to put enforcement mechanisms in place to support the existing Security Council resolutions for full access by international aid agencies bringing food and medical aid to all parts of Syria and its resolution condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria including chlorine gas.
  3. VFP urges the US government to conduct serious bilateral discussions with Russia and Iran seeking to find a negotiated end to the war. We recognize that the US still has considerable bargaining power with Russia over issues of NATO expansion and economic re-integration, and considerable common interest in stopping the spread of fanatical ideologies. We recognize that the pending multiparty nuclear agreement with Iran could lead to normalization of US-Iran relations, including a settlement of the Syrian war.
In addition to our criticism of US drone strikes that often kill innocents, VFP should openly criticize the use of barrel bombs, a true weapon of terror, that is now used by the Syrian government on a daily basis, slaughtering far more innocents than US drones.
We should be listening to Syrian voices! There are Syrians and Syrian-Americans in many US cities. They have a variety of viewpoints. Most are desperate for peace, and understand that reconciliation is not possible with Assad in control.  The Syrian American Council is one place to hear and contact them. The Syrian American Medical Society is a great resource for information about the humanitarian crisis. And there are many internet sites, and facebook pages where different Syrian voices are heard.  I will put some links at the end of this message. If you look at them you may be surprised that Syrians in general are much better informed about the America than Americans are informed about Syria!
Syria is the deadliest war on the planet. Why are we not listening to Syrian voices?
We would not think about taking a position on African-American matters without the input of African-Americans.  Yet we basically take our Syria politics from American bloggers.
Another point that needs clarification is your understandable desire to get the “US the hell out of there because it only fuels the fire. “ I agree absolutely! The US track record of military intervention is not a good one. Indeed, the democratic, pluralistic part of the anti-Assad rebels has made it clear that the US bombing, supposedly aimed at ISIS, is in fact bolstering the Assad regime.  
Yes, the US should get out of Syria. But so should Russia and Iran, by far the major suppliers of the weapons of war to Syria. And so should Saudi and Qatar and Hezbollah get out of Syria.  VFP should not be shy about pointing the finger at all the war makers!  A US pullout is a good idea, but alone it stops not one barrel bomb. It stops not one starvation siege.
The war in Syria raged for 3 years without significant US military aid to any of the parties. It would surely continue without US involvement.  Far more than a “US pullout” is needed to stop this war. The war in Syria is now an international war. International action is required to end it. Our focus only on the US is lazy politics, and does not advance our sacred goal of ending war as an instrument of policy.
The world has changed a great deal since the Vietnam era when Dr. King courageously said that the US was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.  Today there are other big purveyors of violence. Globalization is the new world order. Russia is no longer a socialist country. It is a capitalist oligarchy with military intervention in Ukraine and a base in Syria. Iran has 10,000 military advisors in Syria and is directing a proxy war in Yemen. Saudi bombs Yemen and invades Bahrain.
While our emphasis as an American veterans organization should be on US military intervention, to ignore completely the military aggression of other nations is hypocritical. It betrays our commitment as international citizens. In Syria today, US military intervention is not the main cause of the massive slaughter there of the last four years or the last 50 years of brutal dictatorship. To say so is a fantasy. It is a lie.
One more point needs clarification: The nature of the anti-Assad rebels. The uprising against Assad that began in 2011 was based on massive, non-violent, secular demonstrations of young people throughout Syria. It followed directly anti-dictator uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Its demands were for an end to the 50 years brutal dictatorship of the Assad family and the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic regime.
Tragically, Assad responded with extreme violence and some demonstrators moved to armed resistance. Defectors from Assad’s army founded the Free Syrian Army. And most tragically, outside powers, namely Saudi, Qatar, Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and others have intervened massively with their own agendas, not the needs or desires of the Syrian people. A result has been the corruption of the uprising initial goals, and the rise of Islamic-based military groups in the anti-Assad forces, including Al-Nusra, the Islamic Front and several other groups, often not cooperating with each other.  The democratic, secular groups, centered in the Free Syrian Army, are now only a part of the opposition.   
In recent weeks, however, the anti-Assad groups have improved their military cooperation. Assad’s forces have been defeated in several key battles.  The situation is now fluid. The Assad regime is far less stable.  
Complicating all this is the rise of ISIS, coming into Syria from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s disbanded Iraqi army, fueled by historic Sunni/Shia conflicts and funded by religious fanatics in the region.  The conflict in Syria is now at least a three-way conflict, a bloody mess of historic proportions.  There is no easy solution in sight.  When the Assad regime does indeed fall, as it inevitably will, the aftermath is likely to be messy.
So what should we do? In VFP we should be watching this war closely, keeping ourselves informed and listening to all the parties to the conflict. We should stand by our basic principles, call for serious peace negotiations, condemn war crimes regardless of who commits them, and pressure our government to use diplomacy with Russia and Iran.  We should be involved in fundraising for humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrians inside and outside the country who are suffering so greatly from this conflict.
Thanks for listening.  Go in peace,
Andy Berman, US Army 1971-73, VFP Chapter 27
As promised are some links that can help folks get better informed about Syria:     excellent unbiased daily news from Syria          the non-violent civilian resistance                  UN reps of the political wing of the democratic resistance                     mouthpiece of the dictator    from a Syrian city under FSA control

VFP White Paper on Syria

Part I: Background

The war in Syria is currently the bloodiest war on Earth, having caused over 230,000 deaths since the latest uprising began in March 2011. Half the population of Syria has been displaced from their homes.

Four million Syrians are now refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other nations. The conditions of life in the refugee camps are at best difficult, with a sense of hopelessness for the future widespread among the refugees. There is often hostility from non-Syrians who see the refugees as rivals for jobs and services. The conditions of life for civilians who remain in Syria are often likewise dire, with major problems of access to food and decent shelter for much of the population. Gainful employment and access to education are likewise difficult, if not impossible for many. Syria, once known for its relatively educated population now suffers a major crisis in education.

The conflict in Syria is uniquely dangerous for all humanity because it is a multiparty conflict, involving both civil war in Syria and military intervention by numerous outside nations and entities. Weapons flow into the conflict from Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, the United States and other nations and entities. Large numbers of foreign fighters have joined the conflict from Iran, Lebanon (Hizbollah) and elsewhere. Alliances between different factions within the conflicting groups have shifted as the situations on the battlefields have changed.

Adding to the conflict has been the occupation of a significant part of Syrian territory by the fanatical “Islamic State”. The longstanding struggle of the Kurdish population in the middle east for autonomy has also added to the complexity of the struggle. This is truly a multiparty conflict in every sense of the word.

The Syrian war has involved the repeated use of outlawed chemical warfare and untargetable barrel bombs that claim the lives of far more civilians than combatants.

Indeed the civilian population of Syria is experiencing the worst effects of this war, including food shortages, limited or complete lack of access to medical care, the mass destruction of housing and basic infrastructure, and the breakdown of economic activity.

The war in Syria has aggravated relations between the United States and Russia and aggravated US relations with Iran, while a peaceful just settlement in Syria would go far towards resolving these ominous tensions.

The Syrian people have made remarkable positive contributions to the progress of humanity since ancient times despite many eras of occupation and tyranny. In this time of great duress, they deserve the attention and heartfelt concern of all humankind.

Part 2: The US Peace Movement and the role of Veterans for Peace:

The war in Syria, despite the horrific violence and suffering it is causing, has proved difficult for the US Peace Movement to effectively analyze and react to. The high degree of complexity in the Syrian conflict generally has baffled us and led us to simplistic views.

Well-versed in seeing US Imperialism as a primal cause of war and conflict in the modern world, we have often responded with the implied claim that ending US involvement in the Syrian conflict is the solution or the road to a just solution. And, as a corollary, it is often stated or implied that our responsibility as US peace activists ends there. The resulting “action” taken by most of the US peace movement has often been merely raising the banners “US Out!” and “End the US War against Syria”.

As the war continues now in its fourth year, with no viable resolution in sight, it is clear that this analysis is highly inaccurate and our response to the war in Syria has been insufficient and out of alignment with our principles as peacemakers.

Veterans for Peace is a leading organization in the US Peace Movement. We are a recognized NGO of the United Nations. We are widely respected in the general US Peace Movement and by peace activists abroad. As men and women who have served in the armed forces, we rightfully claim a special legitimacy when we speak and work on issues of war and peace. In the US peace movement our influence is great, often greater than we think. We are looked to for leadership and we have an obligation to provide leadership.

Our Mission Statement in Veterans for Peace commits us to “an obligation to heal the wounds of wars…and most significantly [to] working to end all wars.” By any honest measure, with regard to Syria, we have so far failed in both respects. We have not participated in any significant way in supporting the heroic efforts of humanitarian organizations to provide relief or heal the wounds of the Syrian people. We have not spoken out with a plan, a program or a valid demand to end the war in Syria.

Part 3: Proposals for action:

Given the situation outlined above, VFP must move to take action and work for peace and justice in Syria. The following proposals are offered as a suggested beginning

1) Veterans for Peace shall call upon all its members to stay closely informed about developments in the complex Syrian conflict by seeking out news and analysis from a variety of sources with different points of view, including those of Syrians and Syrian-Americans and the reports of United Nations agencies that monitor the conflict.

2) We will seek out ways to use our status as a recognized NGO at the United Nations to pressure widely for a just resolution to the conflict. The myriad of ways that we have and can use this status are well-documented on our web site. We call upon VFP members and chapters to review and incorporate those ideas in their work.

3) Veterans for Peace shall publically denounces the war crimes, including torture and massacres of civilians and prisoners, that are committed in the Syrian conflict and well-documented by UN agencies and other non-partisan authorities. VFP denounces these crimes regardless of which party has committed them.

4) Veterans for Peace urges all chapters and members to initiate or get involved in existing projects that provide medical, food and other humanitarian relief to Syrians inside Syria as well as those in refugee camps. They might include the following organizations which have done effective, non-partisan work in this area: Doctors Without Borders, Syrian-American Medical Society, White Helmets, American Refugee Committee, and Oxfam.

5) Veterans for Peace calls upon the international community and the United Nations to press for a resumption of the stalled Geneva peace conference on Syria

6) Veterans for Peace urges its members and chapters to speak out for a just and peaceful settlement to the war in Syria in all appropriate venues. We shall avoid simplistic slogans and analyses that ignore the deep complexities of this conflict.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Proposed VFP Convention Resolution

Resolution on Syria - Draft 5 July 2015

Whereas Veterans for Peace has the explicit premier goal of abolishing war

Whereas the war in Syria is currently the bloodiest war on Earth, causing over 230,000 deaths since the latest uprising in March 2011

Whereas the conflict in Syria is uniquely dangerous for all humanity because it is a multiparty conflict, involving both civil war in Syria and military intervention by numerous outside nations and entities, and it has involved the repeated use of outlawed chemical weapons and untarget-able barrel bombs,

Whereas the war has created one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history, with 11 million Syrians, half the nation’s population, displaced from their homes. 4 million of them refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other nations

Whereas the civilian population of Syria is experiencing the worst effects of this war, including food shortages, limited or complete lack of access to medical care, the mass destruction of housing and basic infrastructure, and the breakdown of economic activity

Whereas the origins of the 2011 uprising in Syria were guided by principles of non-violent protest, and the spirit of non-violence remains alive in Syria civil society despite Syria’s descent into horrific armed conflict

Whereas the war in Syria has aggravated relations between the United States and Russia and aggravated US relations with Iran, while a peaceful just settlement in Syria would go far towards resolving these ominous tensions,

Whereas the Syrian people have made remarkable positive contributions to the progress of humanity since ancient history despite many eras of occupation and tyranny, and therefore deserve the attention and concern of all humankind,

Be it therefore resolved that:

1) Veterans for Peace calls upon all its members to stay closely informed about developments in the complex Syrian conflict by seeking out news and analysis from a variety of sources with different points of view, including those of Syrians and Syrian-Americans and the reports of United Nations agencies that monitor the conflict.

2) Veterans for Peace denounces the war crimes and systemic torture committed in the Syrian conflict as well-documented by UN agencies and other non-partisan authorities. VFP calls out these crimes regardless of which party has committed them.

3) Veterans for Peace urges all chapters and members to initiate or get involved in existing projects that provide medical, food and other humanitarian relief to Syrians inside Syria as well as those in refugee camps. These include the White Helmets, the Syrian American Medical Society, Doctors without Borders, and the American Refugee Committee.

4) Veterans for Peace calls upon the International Community and the United Nations to press for a resumption of the stalled Geneva peace conference on Syria

5) Veterans for Peace urges its members and chapters to speak out for a just and peaceful settlement to the war in Syria, avoiding simplistic slogans and analyses that ignore the deep complexities of this conflict.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Calling out Bashar's Buddies on the Left by name

When Syrian dictator was being blamed for the sarin murders of over 1400 civilians in August 2013, these namespaces came to his defense. They had little to say about the carnage Assad was causing before the chemical massacre. As a group, they participated in the media blackout that has "covered" his many massacres in the two years before, and they have been silence about his barrel-bombing and killing in the year+ since. They only came out of the worm holes on Syria to "raise questions" about Assad's responsibility for the sarin murders, then they went back in. They have shown by their actions as well as inaction, that other than Bashar al-Assad, they could care less about the Syrian people. Here is my dishonor roll of shame. I call it Bashar's Buddylist:
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now; David Swanson, [Some] War is a Crime; Seymour Hersh, ex-journalist; Robert Fisk, ex-journalist; Phyllis Bennis, Tariq Ali, Medea Benjamin, Code Pink leader; Ray McGovern, Veterans for Peace, Ann Wright, VFP; Coleen Rowley, VFP; Larry Johnson, VFP; Philip Giraldi, VFP; Thomas Drake, VFP; Blase Bopane, Office of the Americas; United National Antiwar Coalition; Truthdig;; OpEdNews; InfoWars; Democratic Underground; Global Research; Counterpunch; Friends of Syria;; World Socialist Web Site; Democracy and Class Struggle; ANSWER Coalition; Party for Liberation and Socialism; Worker's World Party; International Action Center; Daily Kos and many more. Please use the comment section to recommend candidates for this list.
Where are these people now that the Assad Regime was forced to give up its sarin and has turned to committing chemical murders with chlorine?
Just Wednesday we have a new report of two chlorine filled barrel-bombs being dropped from helicopters  in the village of Sarmin in Idlib Province. Idlib city recently became the second provincial capital to slip from Assad's control. Reports say as many a 20 were killed in this attack. Human Rights Watch issued a report on use of chlorine gas bombs by the Syrian Government almost a year ago and the United Nations passed a resolution opposing there use on 16 March 2015. These mean nothing to Assad. So long as he is under Putin's protection, the UN is powerless even to fix blame let alone act to save lives.
Syrian Civil Defense Director: ‘We need a no-fly zone’ 30 April 2015 Bashar's Buddies oppose this too. They want Bashar to have complete freedom to bomb civilians.
Where are Bashar's Buddies when we need them? We need Bashar's Buddies to explain to us how he is not responsible for the chlorine gas attacks either. We need them to explain how the rebels got hold of the helicopters, because as far as anybody knows, they haven't got any. And then they need to explain how they managed to use them, since Bashar and Barack are now working together to insure they jointly have air-supremacy over Syria. If they can't explain how the Assad regime is also innocent of these chemical murders with chlorine, they need to explain why they rushed to the defense of a mass murderer only when the chemical was sarin. If they elect to go that route, I have a song for them, sung to the tune of "I shot the sheriff":
He used the chlorine But he did not cross the sarin line. He used the chlorine But he did not cross the sarin line. Yeah! Just because he used some green slime, They want to charge him with a war crime; They say they want to bring him in guilty For the killing of a community, For the life of a community. But we say: He used the chlorine But he did not cross the sarin fence. He used the chlorine But we swear it was in self-defence.
The talents of this team in defending authorities being accused of murder is now badly needed by the Baltimore Police because they are now trying to marshal evidence of how Freddie Gray killed himself inside the police van. [Was his motive to spark more anti-police protests?] This is the sort of thing that should be right up the alley of Bashar's Buddies. Will we now see a return to the use of chemical weapons against mass uprisings? After almost a hundred year ban, this re-introduction of the use of chemical weapons for the purpose of suppressing mass rebellion, while protecting property, is starting to show some legs, in spite of Assad being forced to given up his sarin. This will have tragic consequences for humanity going forward and history will long remember the silence of the "Left" upon its re-introduction.
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, April 27, 2015

The "Left's" Crime Against Humanity

Another Left is Possible... Sunday, 19 April 2015, CBS News' 60 Minutes did its first segment about the sarin attack that killed more than 1400 people in the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta and Moadarniyah on the morning of 21 August 2013. It failed to mention the strongest evidence of responsibility for this crime, that the sarin used came from the military stockpiles of Bashar al-Assad, according to the UN. It did report that the rockets were of a type used only by the Assad regime and that they came from an area controlled by the Assad regime, as had many conventional rockets aimed at the same targets, and it squarely fixed the blame for these criminal murders with the Assad regime, mass murders which it called "A Crime Against Humanity." In an interview done before the broadcast, Scott Pelley explained why he thought it so important to present the images of this horror:
"If you don't see it, I don't believe the impact truly hits you. Even though people will be disturbed by what they see, it has to be seen." Eyewitness cellphone videos, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, show the aftermath of the 2013 sarin gas attack and the horror that victims of all ages suffered -- including seizures, vomiting, and respiratory failure. ... Pelley first reported on the attack for the CBS Evening News in 2013. As images of the attack were arriving in the newsroom, he decided then to embark on a more detailed investigation of what happened for 60 Minutes. "That's not the kind of thing you want to report on for a couple of days and then walk away and never remember again."
But that pretty much describes how the "Left" handled it. While most did nothing about the chemical murders, what the "Left" did was worst than nothing, it rushed to the defense of the killers. First Responders... The first response of the Assad regime and its Russian backers to the reports of the nerve agent attack in East Ghouta was a flat denial that the attack had even taken place. For three days while the regime refused the UN inspectors access to East Ghouta, Syrian State TV claimed there was "no truth whatsoever" to the reports of a chemical attack. Democracy Now has long been a leading force on the "Left" and the way it handled this crime against humanity was typical of the way the mainstream "Left" handled it, occasional voices of dissent, like mine, excepted. Democracy Now's first reports on the "unverified Syria chemical attack," was its first report on the bombardment of Ghouta ever, even though the Assad regime had been murdering civilians there with conventional rockets for close to a year. Host and producer Amy Goodman allowed that the attack, "if confirmed," would "be the most violent incident...," noted the Syrian government denial of "the reported chemical weapons attack" and pointed out that while video of hundreds of dead and dying children had already been uploaded to YouTube, that there "has been no independent verification so far," thereby reaping propaganda value from the Assad regime's first refusal to allow independent UN access to the sites, even as it ended this brief second report by saying "The Syrian regime is reportedly continuing its bombing of Ghouta today, making any immediate visit by U.N. inspectors highly unlikely." The Democracy Now show format is headline news followed by two or three main show segments. Two weeks would past before it dedicated one of these segments to this massive sarin attack. Two days after the attack, Democracy Now started its Syria paragraph with "The Syrian government is facing growing pressure to allow an international probe of an alleged chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus." Belittling the eye-witness testimony and video evidence that was starting to pile up, it was still the "alleged attack" and "if confirmed." She ended this doubtful Syrian paragraph two days after the chemical murder of over 1400 civilians by quoting Patrick Cockburn of The Independent, "The evidence of chemical attack seems compelling — but remember — there’s a propaganda war on." And indeed there was. Sadly, Democracy Now and most of the "Left" played the despicable role of supporting and promoting the propaganda of a fascist dictatorship and a criminal regime. That was the "Left's" crime against Humanity. Monday, August 26 Democracy Now reported "Syria has agreed to allow a U.N. inspection of the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people near Damascus last week," and used a Doctors Without Borders report to falsely make it sound like they were saying only 355 people had died. The next day Democracy Now did three headlines on Syria, leading with "The Obama administration is reportedly weighing a military attack on Syria following last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus." Wednesday, Democracy Now reported that the UK was proposing a UN resolution to condemn "the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons in Ghouta last week." It goes on to state that "Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem categorically denied the regime used chemical weapons." We know this must be true because Moualem also said "there is no country in the world that will use weapons of mass destruction against its people." This speaks volumes about his knowledge of history. Democracy Now also brought on "Left" commentator Phyllis Bennis, who told us "So far, no evidence has been presented as to who carried out this attack." Phyllis Bennis elaborated:
Anything is possible. It’s certainly possible the regime used these weapons. It’s also possible that part of the rebels did. We know that some of the rebel armed forces came from defectors. We have no idea whether those defectors included some defectors that might have been involved in Syria’s long-standing chemical weapons program. We also know that some of the rebels are close to al-Qaeda organizations. The Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Nusra Front, has claimed its alliance with al-Qaeda. And the idea that al-Qaeda forces may have access to these weapons is certainly a frightening but very realistic possibility. The problem is, we don’t know.
If it hadn't been born already, a whole new cottage industry in conspiracy theoryland was born with her words, and soon Democracy Now would be playing host to a great variety of theories, all designed to prove anybody but Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks against the people he had been bombing for months. Amy Goodman never fell for the 9/11 conspiracy theories but she would grow to like anything, no matter how bizarre, that let Bashar off the hook. Thursday, 29 August Democracy Now ran three headlines related to "last week’s alleged chemical attack in Ghouta," one saying "U.S. Faces New Hurdles to Military Intervention in Syria." The main topic of the show that day was the rhetorical question "Does U.S. Have the Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad for Alleged Chemical Attack?" In this segment it had Tariq Ali on and he made the claim that Obama's evidence for the chemical attack had come from Israel. Ignoring all the Syrian voices saying otherwise, Ali goes on to tell the Democracy Now audience "virtually no one who knows the region believes that these attacks were carried out by the Syrian government." He compared it to how we "were lied to in the run-up to the Iraq War." Just ignore the dead children.
That same day Mint Press publish one of the most outlandish claims of the now budding anybody-but-Assad industry in the form of an article titled Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack by Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh. They claim to have interviewed some rebel fighters who said they caused the sarin deaths [in 8 locations??] when they had an accident in a tunnel with a tank of sarin given to them by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. As ridiculous as it sounds, its amazing how much traction this story had on the "Left.", FAIR, Global Research, Counterpunch, World Socialist Web Site, and many more gave it play, but as soon as the critics got hold of it, it began to unravel. I took it apart in my blog, a few others did the same. Soon the AP reporter on the story, Dale Gavlak, was claiming she had nothing to do with it. Retractions started rolling in, starting with and FAIR. Mint Press turned out to have some very mysterious financing and family ties to Iran, and practiced what PJ Tatler called Shia 'advocacy journalism,' Upon further investigation, it appeared that this story originated from a Russian. Friday, 30 August 2013, Democracy Now brought reports of anti-war rallies against proposed US military action in Syria. In many of these actions, important "Left" organizations like Veterans for Peace and Code Pink made common cause with Assad Regime supporters and marched with the flag of the fascist regime flying over their heads. In the main discussion on Democracy Now that day, the argument was advanced that "the United States is not qualified to do what it claims it wants to do, as a result of its own record in violating international law for a very long time and supporting dictators and rogue regimes and the apartheid state of Israel in opposition to all manners of international law." It would seem that any reason to not attack Assad was good enough for Democracy Now. The further argument was made that if there was an airstrike, "the situation can spin out of control in a very, very quick manner," as opposed to what has happened since there was no airstrike then.
The "Left" responds to the chemical murders in Damascus | 31 August 2013
Continuing with Democracy Now as our example, it wouldn't be until 3 September 2013 that they would refer to the sarin attack without questioning if it had even happened, as it finally the dropped the "alleged" and simply and accurately stated "A report presented to the French Parliament Monday concluded the chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government." That day Democracy Now ran its first segment related to the chemical attack. It was not a report on the attack itself. Democracy Now never paid much attention to that, never ran the YouTube images like 60 Minutes. It was the first of many segments dedicated to opposing US military action against the Assad regime or attempting to exonerate Assad of responsibility. More Smoke & Mirrors... Whereas previous to this Amy Goodman's Syria coverage had been sparse, now it was coming non-stop and most of it was designed to cast doubt on Assad's responsibility for the attacks. 4 September 2013 saw three headlines related to the Syria chemical attack, including an interview with McClatch journalist Mark Seibel who had just penned "To Some, U.S. Case for Syrian Gas Attack, Strike Has Too Many Holes." The rest of the show was two segments, "As U.S. Pushes For Syria Strike, Questions Loom over Obama Claims in Chemical Attack," in which they interviewed Mark Seibel who questioned the figure of 1,429 people killed in what no one would dare continue to refer to as an "alleged attack," although he thought it "quite likely that there were more than 281 people killed" and "With Focus on U.S.-Led Strikes, Global Failure to Meet Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis Goes Unnoticed" which is an ironic title given how little attention Democracy Now paid to Syria's humanitarian crisis before the need to go to bat for Bashar arose. This show also highlighted Code Pink's opposition to any military response to the chemical massacres. "We don’t want another war!" I'm sure the residents of East Ghouta would agree. Unfortunately, they weren't granted the option, and while they were pleading with Obama not to renege on his promise, Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin sought to silent their voices, telling the world "Nobody wants this war!" Then they brought up Colin Powell and the false charges that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons, as if by inference, this cast suspicious on anybody who said Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, and ignoring the 1400+ dead people that marked the distance between weapons possession and weapons use, they demanded the same high standards and time consuming scrutiny be used in this case too and argued that nothing should be done to stop or punish these murders because how could we ever be 100% sure of anything? The next day's Democracy Now headlines included four about Syria, including one that put the number at "502 Killed in Ghouta Chemical Attack." While the attack was no longer "alleged", the counting of the dead was being hotly disputed by Democracy Now, as was the responsibility for the crime. The bulk of the show was two segments about Syria, both of which argued against any military response to the chemical attacks. First, Democracy Now revealed it true internationalist spirit by embracing Rep. Alan Grayson's [I'm not my brother's keeper] opposition to any response to the chemical attacks because we can't take action "every time we see something bad in the world," never mind the promise the president made in our name. [To those who say he should have never made that promise, I say the time to have objected strongly was when he made it {I did}, not when it was time to pay up.] Grayson was on Democracy Now to promote the website he had just set up, Now that Obama is attacking Assad's opposition in Syria, that site has gone dead. The second segment was an interview with Rim Turkmani, a well known regime apologist that had earlier co-chaired the "British Syrian Society" with Bashar al-Assad's father-in-law, Dr Fawaz Akhras, but for the purposes of this Democracy Now interview she was introduced as a "member of the Syrian political opposition group Building the Syrian State Current." Friday, 6 September 2013 saw three Democracy Now headlines in opposition to Obama's "plan to strike Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack last month in Ghouta during which the administration claims the Syrian government killed more than 1,400 people." That bodycount came from the Free Syrian Army in Ghouta before it was validated by the White House, but Amy knows that "administration claims" are easier to deny than those of the people Assad has been slaughtering. The Syria segment of the show was "about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels." To hear Adam Entous of the Wall St. Journal tell it on Democracy Now, the Syrian fighters are dupes of others:
The Saudis and the Jordanians draw on defectors, largely, from the Syrian military, which already have a good degree of military training. And they’re brought to this base, where different intel agencies train them. And the Americans are there. The Brits are there. The French are there. The Saudis, UAE is there. And they train them, and then they send them into the fight.
It is also in this segment that the role of Prince Bandar in gathering evidence of earlier Assad uses of sarin in Syria is first discussed in a sinister light. After Mint Press made Saudi Prince Bandar the man responsible for the chemical deaths in Ghouta, there was a lot of elaboration. With a Congressional vote on striking Assad just days away, the following Monday saw six Democracy Now headlines about the Syria situation including "Report: Assad May Not Have Authorized Ghouta Attack." Truly acting like the devil's advocate, it advanced this latest defense: Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this "alleged" attack took place, and say, it can be proven that the Syrian military carried out this attack; How are you going to prove my client, the Syrian Commander and Chief, actually personally ordered the attack? The next day a group with close ties to Veterans for Peace, Ray McGovern and his Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) presented their theory that blamed this chemical attack on "senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials." They claimed to have gotten this intel from old buddies still in The Company. Later, it was proven that much of the VIPS material came verbatim from Yossef Bodansky, an ally of Bashar's uncle, Rifaat al-Assad. Robert Fisk, writing from Damascus with a press pass from Assad, publish his own version of Assad-didn't-do-it with "Gas missiles 'were not sold to Syria'" on 22 September. Fisk tells us that according to his Russian sources, they have identified the sarin rockets as ones they sold to Qaddafi, leading to the conclusion that the dirty deed was done by rebels who must have brought them in from Libya. Too bad his Russian sources didn't tell him sarin is not a gas and saved him that embarrassment. Co-incidentally, this new theory came just days after the UN issued a report in which they identified the rockets used in the attack as Russian. I critiqued the Fisk piece in detail here. Los Angeles "Left" icon Blase Bopane even had Assad's nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam, on his Sunday morning  KPFK Pacificia Radio show, 10 Nov 2013. Her theory was that the kids in the photos weren't from Ghouta, they had been kidnapped by jihadists and smuggled 300 miles to the chemical site. Furthermore they weren't even dead. They were faking, pretending to sleep. She said:
I am not saying that no chemical agent was used in the area – it certainly was. But I insist that the footage that is now being peddled as evidence had been fabricated in advance. I have studied it meticulously, and I will submit my report to the UN Human Rights Commission based in Geneva.
Theories about how someone other than Assad did it were popping up on the "Left" like mushrooms after a Spring rain, few even shared common culprits, none have proved their case or stood the test of time, but then they didn't have to. With the mission of defending Assad in mind, it was only necessary to create "reasonable doubt" among people who didn't want to face the truth anyway. The goal was merely to create smoke and confusion during this critical period when it looked like serious action might be taken against Assad. That was the one thing that did what the deaths of two hundred thousand ordinary Syrians couldn't do. It forced the "Left" off the fence and into the fight.
But irregardless of who the "Left" may think have done it, where is the sympathy for the people? Where are the protests against the inhumanity? Where are the relief campaigns for the refugee? Sadly, they are not to be found on the "Left" where the main task emerging from the August chemical murders was a rush to the defense of those almost certainly responsible for this horror. Deal of the Century... Tuesday, 10 September 2013, the first Democracy Now headline was "Syria Accepts Russian Proposal to Surrender Chemical Weapons," and with that even the pretense that Obama might strike Assad could be dropped. The Syrian National Coalition charged that this accommodation would only "allow the regime to cause more death and destruction in Syria."  Looking at all that Assad has done with the likes of barrel-bombs and chlorine gas since he gave up his stockpiles of sarin, that prediction has been proven sadly prophetic. With the "Axis of Resistance" Regime safe, Democracy Now could again throttle back its attention to Syria. But the campaign to muddy the waters over who was responsible for these chemical attacks would continue on Democracy Now and on the "Left" for many months to come. After President Obama threw his promise to the Syria people under the Congressional bus and it was clear that Assad would not face US air strikes for what he did, the mood turned celebratory on the "Left" as everybody had a party and congratulated each other over having stopped a war. The Syrians didn't attend. They were still too busy being bombed when Katrina Vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, went on Amy's show and mused "It’s very good to see the drumbeat of diplomacy and not the drumbeat of war." 16 September 2013. The Violation Documentation Project reported 95 Syrian's killed that day. Norm Chomsky was on Democracy Now for 9/11 and he had his own way of obfuscating the very big gap between weapons use and weapons possession. He argued that if Syria was agreeing to give up its chemical weapons in the wake of 1400+ chemical deaths, then Israel should be made to give up its stockpiles of chemical weapons too, because they are in the same region, adding "Of course, chemical weapons should be eliminated everywhere, but certainly in that region." He talked a lot about how the "United States is a rogue state" that "doesn’t pay any attention to international law," but he leveled no such charges against the Syrian government or its Russian backers. The carnage caused by Assad, both with and without chemical weapons didn't get discussed. The main point of this Syria segment was that Norm Chomsky thought that instead of making threats against Syria in response to the chemical murders, Obama should go after Israel's chemical weapons. A month later, Amy was still beating the "make Israel disarm too" drum when she had Stephen Zunes on to tell us "the United States blocked an effort by Syria to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone throughout the region" while he spoke of "the recent tragedy that took place in Syria." as if no crime had been committed. More Smoke & Mirrors, all designed so we don't see that a Crime Against Humanity had been committed and act accordingly. Democracy Now would not visit Syria again in one of its segments until December, and again it was for the purpose of raising questions about who was really behind the 21 August sarin attack. In all this time, just as before the attack, Democracy Now never did a segment on the daily horror of regime barrel-bomb and artillery attacks that so many Syrians live under, or the squalid refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan that they have been forced into in their millions just to escape this "Death from Above." This has never been worth a segment on Democracy Now just as it has never been worth a protest to the US "Left." Seymour Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize for publicizing the Pentagon press release on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, appeared on Amy's show twice to defend Assad. Sy Hersh first appeared on Democracy Now, 9 December 2013 after a hit piece he'd written finally found a home in the London Review of Books. It was titled "Whose Sarin?" and said Obama "cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad." As scandalized as that sounds, it is undoubtedly true; if you allow that "cherry-picked" is just a colorful synonym for "selected," then that's what you do, you select evidence to make a case. But the heart of Hersh's story was that the Obama administration had secret evidence that showed the rebels may have used chemical weapons against their own people. In the article and on Amy's show, Sy Hersh made the dramatic claim that the jihadist group al Nusra "had not only the capacity and potential and the know-how, how to produce sarin, but also had done some production of sarin." His most important claim was that the Obama administration knew about this and all this intelligence meant we really couldn't know who used sarin in Ghouta. Maybe al Nusra, a rebel group, did it to other opposition Syrians? I picked it apart then, but now a time has passed since Sy Hersh has made his claims, 17 months ago, and al Nusra has been in some pitch battles all over Syria, against the Assad regime, against the Islamic State, and against other rebel groups. If they had mastered the production and use of this terrible weapon, why would they have refrained from using it in any of these subsequent battles? Why use it just once in a failed attempt to frame Assad, as many on the "Left" then claimed, and then put it back on the shelf even as they lose territory to rivals? 18 December 2013 it was Patrick Cockburn's turn to come on Democracy Now and tell the people "It is clearly a proxy war. This might have started off as a popular uprising in Syria, but by now [you have] an opposition that is fragmented and really proxies for foreign powers, notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey." The Assad regime is barrel-bombing schools, dropping sarin on neighborhoods, disappearing thousands into a horrendous gulag and Patrick Cockburn is here to talk about "the criminalization of the military forces of the Syrian opposition." It's not that there's not some truth to what he is saying, its that there is a whole 'nother side to what he is saying. He also told us the Free Syrian Army "never really controlled much on the ground." There is no truth in that, in fact they were part of the opposition coalition that just freed Idlib from regime control. The problem with Patrick Cockburn's near-Left coverage of the Syrian conflict is that it is one-sided, Assad's side. In spite of an on-going murder rate that at times was reaching 5000/month, Democracy Now wouldn't revisit Syria again until 17 March 2014. Again it was with Patrick Cockburn, but before he is introduced, Amy quickly summarizes all the news they didn't think worth covering earlier in greater detail:
More than 146,000 people have been killed since the conflict began March 15, 2011, roughly half of them civilians. The conflict has displaced more than nine million people, with two-and-a-half million refugees living outside Syria and six-and-a-half million displaced within the country. Last week, Save the Children reported several thousand Syrian kids have died because of a drastic reduction in access to health services, losing their lives to diseases and conditions including cancer, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure. Overall, at least 10,000 children have died in violence.
Cockburn's message was a defeatist one for anyone wishing to see the end of the regime that had caused all this misery, "Well, it’s very bad for Syria and very bad for Syrians, as you’ve just been describing. There’s a stalemate on the ground, but it’s a stalemate somewhat in favor of the government." Sy Hersh came back on Amy's show 7 April 2014 with a new theory: Turkey was behind the chemical strikes in Syria. Whereas before he said the Syrian rebels were quite capable of making their own sarin, when his claims of "kitchen sarin" were shown to be ridiculous, he now claimed Turkey gave it to them. He flat out contradicted the UN report by saying "the sarin that was recovered wasn’t the kind of sarin that exists in the Syrian arsenal," without giving the scientific basis for his claim. Sy Hersh then when on to lie about the known facts, saying sarin was easy to produce and the rockets were homemade, when sarin can not be produced outside of a major facility and the rockets were a known element of the Syrian military that had already been used many times loaded with conventional explosives. Which brings us to another important point. The murderous brutality the Assad regime has shown with conventional bombs and artillery never got discussed. This was all about defending Assad from charges that he killed with chemicals and it was clear that Sy Hersh was rooting for him. In fact Sy Hersh told us, with his great knowledge of the region, that Assad was winning and "the war is essentially over." That was over a year ago, but the fat lady hasn't sung yet. The Assad regime just lost a second provincial capital last month! Syria in the news again... This year Syria is making headlines again but not because of the on-going carnage caused by Assad. That would be yesterday's news if it ever was news. Syria is making headlines this year because of the role it has played and continues to play in the rise of the Islamic State or Da'ish. That's what concerns the West. It even has some now arguing for Assad as the lesser of two evils. This year Obama had no problem bombing Syria without congressional approval, and with little in the way of protest from the "Left," but the target has not been bases from which barrel-bomb attacks are launched or any part of the Assad regime, it has been primarily the IS. It has also been against some forces fighting the Assad regime. The irony of this situation is that Obama's failure to bomb Syria in the Fall of 2013 is one of the reasons why he felt forced to bomb Syria in the Fall of 2014 and the decision that the "Left" campaigned so hard for, not to respond as promised to the chemical attack, was one of the important factors feeding the dramatic rise of Da'ish in the year after the chemical attack. Obama's decision not to act after his "red-line" had been crossed more than 1400 times may have brought relief and celebration on the "Left," but it brought outrage and disillusionment to Syrians. Many felt neglected by the world; now they felt betrayed by the United States. The Free Syrian Army lost creditability, as did all west-leaning rebel groups. The jihadist groups that had always preached distrust of the West gained influence and membership. My friends in the Syrian American Council told me that it is hard to over-estimate the negative effect on the morale of the opposition of Obama's failure to take military action. Jamie Dettmer, of the Daily Beast, wrote about how the "already high skepticism over American policy toward the war in Syria" among rebel groups "skyrocketed when the Obama administration failed to enforce in 2013 its “red line” against Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons." It was not a complete coincidence that Raqqa, the first provincial capital to be liberated from regime control, it was freed by a coalition of rebel groups headed by the FSA in March 2013, fell to ISIS in mid-October after Obama reneged on his promise in September, or that 14 chiefs of the largest clans gave an oath of allegiance to ISIS Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a short time later. 5 October 2013 Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi writes of "the recent ascendancy in the Syrian jihad of ISIS and its much-vaunted emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi." 21 November 2013 EAWorldView reported "many Jabhat al-Nusra fighters left to join ISIS." Along with Bashar al-Assad, Baghdadi and Da'ish gained greatly from Obama's decision not to bomb. Actually, a good argument could be made that it was the combination of the political shift among opposition forces caused by Obama's betrayal, together with the safe haven in Raqqa provided by Assad, that allowed Da'ish to grow into the monster it has become. Now it has so threatened to gain ground in Iraq and Syria that Obama has felt forced to carry out air strikes in both those countries of the better part of a year now. Both the Assad Regime and the Islamic State have benefited from the "me?-no?-never-mind?" attitude of the "Left" to the struggle of the Syrian people. This "Syrian Lives Don't Matter" attitude has almost certainly repelled any young person with humanitarian concerns and that has been a boon to the Right, especially to Islamic-fascists like Da'ish and al Qaeda among Muslim youth. This "Left" of my generation has no appeal for them. It has grown fat and senile, resting on its laurels. It longs for the simplicity of the Vietnam War when the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. That wasn't the case in 2014, but they missed the changes and they just don't know how to act when an enemy of the people pretends to be an enemy of western imperialism.   Its not that everyone on the Left supports Assad, far from it, but there is so little opposition from those that don't, that the the casual observer should be forgiven for thinking the mainstream "Left" is in Assad's corner. Perhaps the "Left's" greatest crime against humanity has been how it has shared in the media coverup, failed even to publicize the daily horror a people are being subjected to by its government because that government claims opposition to Israel. The Left is suppose to be the champions of the people internationally, and instead it denied the people's struggle,  participated in the cover up, and gave comfort to the oppressor. Not only is another Left possible, another Left is necessary! A huge humanitarian crisis... A huge humanitarian crisis that has made news recently, because it affects Europe, has been the drowning disasters that have taken the lives of hundreds of refugees fleeing war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East in rickety, over-crowded boats that capsize in the Mediterranean Sea. The EU use to pay Libyan dictator Mummar Qaddafi billions to keep the African migrants at bay. He used the most brutal methods to do so, as documented in this 92-page HRW report, keeping them in detention camps or dumping them in the desert. Now that arrangement is gone and the biggest headlines of the recent crisis have been made by the big boats filled with Africans like the 900 migrants that died off the Libyan coast a week ago, but the largest group risking this "trip of death" are Syrians attempting to cross the Aegean in smaller boats like the 100 Syrian refugees rescued off the coast of Sicily on 20 April 2015, or the three Syrians killed the next day when their boat ran aground on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes. On 21 April Turkey's coastguard rescued 30 Syrians after their boat began taking on water in the Aegean Sea. On 17 April 414 migrants landed on Greece's Aegean shores. That same day, a vessel carrying four women, a man, and newborn twins. These are people fleeing Assad's bombs and blockades. Will the world response be to help him enforce this blockade? For despicable "Left" groups like the UK-based Stop the War Coalition, the apparent answer is "Yes."  They refused to let the Syrian Solidarity Movement speak about Syria refugees at the Migrant Lives Matter protest last Saturday in London. In other news on Saturday, Angelina Jolie was joined by her brother and son Maddox as she arrived at LAX after urging world powers to aid Syrian refugees. During her powerful United Nations speech on Friday, she told them "We cannot look at Syria, and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision, and think this is not the lowest point in the world's inability to protect and defend the innocent."
Two Syrian babies are carried to safety after being rescued from a boat on the coast of Italy. All 100 of the people on board survived
A big part of this humanitarian crisis has its roots in the world's willingness to look the other way while a fascist dictator and his allies bring death and destruction to the people under them. We often discuss these things in Geo-political terms but it is humans who are affected. This poem has been shared widely in Arabic in recent days and now it has been translated into English. No one knows its true source or author. Some are saying it was written by a Syrian refugee before he drowned, but nobody knows for sure. This is brought to us by The Syria Campaign, which you should support:
I am sorry mother that the ship sunk and that I couldn’t get there and pay off the debts from the journey, Don’t be sad mother that they didn’t find my body, for what use could it be to you now, except for the cost of transport, the funeral and burial, I’m sorry mother that war came to us and I had to leave like the others, although my dreams were not big like theirs, As you know, all my dreams were the size of a box of medicine for your colon, and the cost of fixing your teeth. On that note, my teeth are now green from the colour of the moss clinging to them, Despite that, they are still more beautiful than the dictator’s teeth, I am sorry my dear for building you a house of illusions. A wooden cottage like the ones we saw in movies. A humble cottage far away from the barrel bombs, far away from sectarianism, ethnic loyalties and the rumours of our neighbours, I am sorry brother that I couldn’t send you the fifty Euros that I promised you at the beginning of every month so you could have a good time ahead of your graduation, I am sorry sister that I didn’t send you the new mobile phone that has wi-fi like the one your better-off friend has, I am sorry my beautiful home that I will never hang my coat behind your door, I am sorry dear divers and search and rescue workers, for I don’t know the name of the sea I drowned in, Rest easy immigration department, for I won’t be a heavy burden on you, Thank you dear sea for welcoming us without a visa or a passport. Thank you to the fish who will share me without asking about my religion or political beliefs, Thank you to the news channels who will report the news of our deaths for five minutes every hour for two days, And thank you for grieving us when you hear the news… I’m sorry I drowned.

My blogs on Assad's use of CW in Syria:
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