ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Syria

Over In Syria, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb.

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The situation in Syria is still very serious, yet in the West comparatively little is heard of Syrian’s dire circumstances or the true level of State organised murder.

In the Western media, the regime’s violent is under reported and not given the prominence that it should have.

This is another example of how the dictatorship in Syria treats people:

“BEIRUT — The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.

And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.

It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments. “

Why I Don’t Read The New Statesman.

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I have already admitted that the New Statesman disappoints me, but as it reflects much of the Metropolitan Elite I can’t say it surprises me.

Dave Rich at the CST takes the trouble to read it carefully, and he doesn’t like what he finds:

“Hasan clearly understands the pitfalls of writing on this subject, and he has genuinely tried to avoid producing an antisemitic article. The problem is that his article is basically just another conspiracy theory. It offers a simplistic argument that completely ignores the hopes, fears, needs and goals of Israelis and Palestinians themselves, or of any other actors in the region, and imagines that the whole problem could be solved by a wave of America’s magic wand (or a shake of its big stick).”

Whilst we are at it we shouldn’t forget this one from 2010, The New Statesman Praises Iran’s President For Not Denying the Holocaust.

Hassan Nasrallah Backs Murders in Syria.

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One time radical and firebrand, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone with the money.

He is backing the murderous President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not too surprising, because if he didn’t, he would lose the support of the Iranian regime and their money.

Since the uprising against the Syrian dictators some 1100 people have been killed by the regime and their thugs, according to Sawasiah, ABC News reports:

“Human rights activists in Syria say the two-month crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters has cost the lives of at least 1,100 people.

The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah says it has the names of 1,100 people reportedly killed during the unrest that broke out in mid-March.

Most were from southern areas in Hauran Plain – including the city of Deraa where the protests first began two months ago.

The human rights group says it in fact has heard reports of another 200 civilian deaths but has no names to base the figures on.

The death toll in Syria rose sharply after the protests spread from Deraa to other parts of the country.”

Yahoo News has more on Nasrallah’s speech:

” “We call on all Syrians to preserve their country as well as the ruling regime, a regime of resistance, and to give their leaders a chance to cooperate with all Syria’s communities in order to implement the necessary reforms,” he said in the speech broadcast by his party’s Al-Manar television.

The speech, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after a 22-year occupation, was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the village of Nabi Sheet, a Shiite stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

It was the first time the reclusive Hezbollah chief commented on the protests in Syria, which along with Iran is a major backer of his Shiite militant party.

“The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria… is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries,” said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.

Bin Laden, More, Odds And Sods.

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There is a good podcast from the New Yorker with Steve Coll, Dexter Filkins, and Ryan Lizza on Osama bin Laden and Pakistan as an MP3.

There were elections going on in Britain for some local councils, FT Westminster has a nice quick summary here. I suspect that the reason the Lib Dems lost was disenchantment from ex-Labour/floating voters. Years back, on paper, the Lib Dems looked more radical, more left than the Labour Party and so acquired those displeased with how right wing and distant the British Labour Party had become. The Tory vote held up because Tory voters have a more ingrained class consciousness than many would care to acknowledge. The Greens also benefited from ex-Lib Dem voters.

Labour’s mediocre performance seems in part due to the unappealing and decidedly uncharismatic Ed Miliband, who still hasn’t decided to throw the wreckage of new Labour overboard yet. He’s Labour’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith. If the Labour Party could renounce new Labour and its modern refried equivalent then they might have a chance of beating the Tories, the old-fashioned way, but as it is I can’t see the plethora of mediocrities in the shadow cabinet achieving much. They are useless and obviously so.

The Economist’s piece on robots and nuclear disasters makes a very salient point:

“Since March 11th when disaster struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, it has become clear that most of that effort has gone to waste. Japan’s much-vaunted robots may play violins and build cars, but the only ones now doing emergency work in its biggest-ever nuclear disaster are foreign, such as the PackBot, previously used in Afghanistan, which is made by Massachusetts-based iRobot.

The reasons for this oddity help explain why the nuclear accident, though caused by a tsunami, has been exacerbated by a string of public-policy failures. Despite several low-level nuclear accidents, Japan’s power generators such as Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima plant, have sworn blind that their safety records are exemplary and there is no danger of any meltdowns. This safety mythology has been used by utilities to bypass domestic opposition to nuclear energy and was tacitly endorsed by the government, media, and public at large.

But it meant the government failed to ensure proper disaster preparedness. And the utilities failed to build up expertise in certain areas, such as robotics. So TEPCO was allowed to spurn the rescue robots built with public money. Commercial robot makers such as Tmsuk, based in south-western Japan, say they were shut out too. “

Hundreds of Western “anti-imperialists” must be breathing a sigh of relief, no longer will they have to defend the rantings of the Iranian President. He’s on his way out after a political clash with the Supreme Leader in Iran. We can only hope that Ahmadinejad’s replacement is not such a racist or a fan of neo-Nazis. Not that many in the West would probably notice either way.

Adam Holland on the shenanigans going on at the City University of New York and the proposed honorary degree for Tony Kushner:

“A member of CUNY’s board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, has blocked Tony Kushner from receiving that university’s honors. In what is usually a pro-forma vote, the rubber stamp was stolen by a trustee with an ideological agenda and an inflated sense of his own importance. That trustee clearly misunderstands both his own role and that of the university in such matters.

The trustee who blocked Kushner’s honorary degree did so because he disagrees with Kushner’s anti-Israel activism. While he may have an argument to make against Kushner’s views, that argument hardly negates Kushner’s considerable achievements. More importantly, as every other trustee in the history of CUNY has understood, this is not the appropriate forum to make such arguments. By making agreement about politics a litmus test for receiving the university’s honors, the trustee has created a terrible precedent for CUNY. If this is allowed to stand, the university’s trustees will not only be free to dictate that recipients of the university’s honors agree with each trustee’s political views, they can blackball any honoree who offends their sensibilities in any manner. ”

Completely agree, Kushner should be granted that degree.

According to the Beeb, documents covering Britain’s colonial past may be released.

Eamonn on Boron, Bin Laden and the Verkrappt Left.

HuffPost has a pertinent piece, What About The Syrians?

“Osama bin Laden’s death took center stage on global media and rightly so because it was an event of the decade. Five days have passed since that episode and it is about time to look at other, and more important issues. More than 600 people have been killed in just under five weeks in Syria and there has been little, if any, attention being paid to them. This has emboldened the repressive dictatorship in Syria to cement its oppressive hold. “No one is paying attention so why shouldn’t I use the most brutal force?” Bashar al-Assad thought before ordering a new wave of arrests and military crackdowns.

Assad is right in his thinking. American and European governments have paid lip service to the cause of Syrians. United States is even defending its policies regarding Syria, despite the growing concern over massive human rights violations. There have been a few lackluster sanctions from Europe but interestingly none of them has a mention of Bashar. Nothing can be more ridiculous than that. Here is a person who is supervising the massacre but is evading the mildest of censure by the international community.

Assad can’t be any happier. He also has full support of the Iranian regime. Iran’s foreign ministry, which was quick to support uprisings in other Arab states, also swiftly dismissed the Syrian struggle for democracy. “

And the Indy.

The Lobbies, Rounding Up Before The Weekend.

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I shall be away for a good few days and thought that rounding up news worthy bits and my random thoughts might be easier.

I admit I can’t stand the NewStatesman, but if you have to read it then Kevin Maguire’s column is good and sharp on domestic British politics.

A pessimistic Yaacov Lozowick says Peace Impossible; Progress Needed:

“Compared to long periods of Jewish history, deligitimization is a reasonable problem to have. For that matter, deligitimization compounded with a low level of violence isn’t an existential threat, either. Yet Jews haven’t become one of history’s oldest living nations by passively suffering circumstances. They have always tried to improve their lot, often with surprising success; Zionism is merely one of the more spectacular improvements. The Zionist tradition of activism requires we confront the present threat, rather than wait. The way forward is to disable the weapons of our enemies. Since the single most potent weapon in their arsenal is our occupation of the Palestinians, we must do as much as we reasonably can to end it.

Ending the occupation as a maneuver in an ongoing conflict is not the same as making peace. Making peace requires that all side to the conflict accept mutually agreed terms. There’s a reason this hasn’t yet happened, namely that the two sides cannot agree; even if they could, however, no Palestinian government could reconcile all Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to Jewish sovereignty, nor convince the western supporters of ongoing violence to desist from aiding and abetting it. The aim of ending the occupation is to severely weaken the enemies of Jewish sovereignty by reducing the wind which currently blows in their sails.”

I don’t agree with him on much but he too is worth a read.

Meanwhile in Bahrain:

“Bahraini opposition groups and rights organizations say hundreds of public employees were dismissed on the grounds that they took part in protests. Bahrain says it had taken steps only against those who committed crimes during the protests.”

The yearly Orwell Prize is upon us, and bloggers haven’t been forgotten. I do find the self-promotional nature of this event somewhat disappointing, you have to submit your own work, rather than someone proposing you. It seems that the Orwell Prize has become another major happening, where the middle classes slap each other on the back and say what jolly good chaps/chappettes they are. Is this what Eric Blair really wanted? The Metropolitan elites congratulating each other? Probably not.

Interested in the Middle East? Use Google’s Chrome and check out the BBC’s Arabic page, which Chrome will automatically translate into any appropriate language. It’s a good read and has a slightly different perspective than the English language one.

Donald Trump and the Birther idiocy has compelled President Obama to release his birth certificate, view as a PDF. Gary Younge was good on the issue about 2 years ago, not much has changed since then. This is the White House blog on it, and I didn’t know it existed!

Gulf leaders are worried about Egypt.

Searchlight on the BNP’s Young, angry and on the rise.

Howard Jacobson on Ofcom and The Promise, sharp as ever:

“In a morally intelligent world – that’s to say one in which, for starters, Jews are not judged more harshly than their fellows for having been despatched to concentration camps – The Promise would be seen for the ludicrous piece of brainwashed prejudice it is. Ofcom’s rejection of complaints about the drama’s partiality and inaccuracy was to be expected. You can’t expect a body as intellectually unsophisticated as Ofcom to adjudicate between claims of dramatic truth and truth of any other sort. And for that reason it should never have been appealed to. That said, its finding that The Promise was “serious television drama, not presented as a historical and faithful re-creation”, is a poor shot at making sense of anything. You can’t brush aside historical re-creation in a work of historical re-creation, nor can you assert a thing is “serious television” when its seriousness is what’s in question. A work isn’t serious by virtue of its thinking it is. Wherein lies the seriousness, one is entitled to ask, when the drama creaks with the bad faith of a made-up mind.

I’m an art man, myself. Aesthetics trump the lot. And “seriousness” is an aesthetic quality or it’s nothing. But you will usually find that bad intentions makes bad art, and bad art, while it might be solemn and self-righteous, forfeits the right to be called serious. From start to finish, The Promise was art with its trousers round its ankles. Yes, it looked expensive, took its time, was beautifully shot and well acted. But these are merely the superficies of art, and the more dangerously seductive for that. “Gosh, I never knew such and such had happened,” I heard people say after one or other simplifying episode, as though high production values guarantee veracity.”

The Obama administration and Syria, conflicting policies?

When people start shouting about Mosques, remember what company you’re in, BNP man arrested at mosque protest.

In Bahrain Tweeters get a warning from the State:

““Think twice before posting, forwarding, or reTweeting messages. Are they mere propaganda or could they be libelous? Think Twice before posting, forwarding or reTweeting images. Are they appropriate in their content? Are they likely to cause offense? Could they cause harm?” “

British Foreign secretaries are normally not that naive, but William Hague seems to think Bashar al-Assad is a reformer, even after 400+ Syrians were killed by the state security apparatus, police and army. Chronically stupid doesn’t even sum up Hague in this matter.

Remember 9/11? Imagine that you were one of the first people on the scene, that you risked your life to help people. How would you be treated by Congress? Pretty damn poorly, Medialite has more:

“Jon Stewart tonight tackled the absurdity of a provision in the recently passed 9/11 first responders bill that requires any potential beneficiaries to first have their name run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list before they could collect any money. Some commentators described it as “adding insult to injury,” but Stewart more bluntly called it Congress’ “final kick to the nuts” of the first responders.

This issue is somewhat personal to Stewart given that many credited him with helping to get public support for the bill’s passage. Yet Stewart went to town, lampooning anyone who could possibly think a terrorist’s grand scheme after all of these years was to trick the U.S. government into handing over money to now pay for their cancer treatment.”

HRW seems to think that Hamas will investigate itself concerning the death of Adel Razeq. Great idea, but it ain’t going to happen:

“(Jerusalem) – Hamas authorities in Gaza should order a criminal investigation into the death of a man whose body was returned to his family five days after Hamas security officials arrested him, Human Rights Watch said today.

Relatives of ‘Adel Razeq, a 52-year-old father of nine, told Human Rights Watch that when security officials arrested him on April 14, 2011, they did not present a warrant and took him away under false pretenses. Security officials would not tell his family where he was being held. When his brother examined the body, it was badly bruised and appeared to have broken bones, he told Human Rights Watch. That, if true, would cast doubt on a Hamas Interior Ministry statement that Razeq died of an unspecified illness. “

Finally to a Lobby, but not one that you’d expect, the Syrian Lobby, extracted from the WSJ:

“How does a small, energy-poor and serially misbehaving Middle Eastern regime always seem to get a Beltway pass? Conspiracy nuts and other tenured faculty would have us believe that country is Israel, though the Jewish state shares America’s enemies and our democratic values. But the question really applies to Syria, where the Assad regime is now showing its true nature.

Washington’s Syria Lobby is a bipartisan mindset. “The road to Damascus is a road to peace,” said Nancy Pelosi on a 2007 visit to Syria as House Speaker. Former Secretary of State James Baker is a longtime advocate of engagement with the House of Assad. So is Republican Chuck Hagel, who in 2008 co-wrote an op-ed with fellow Senator John Kerry in these pages titled “It’s Time to Talk to Syria.” The Massachusetts Democrat has visited Damascus five times in the past two years alone.

The argument made by the Syria Lobby runs briefly as follows: The Assad family is occasionally ruthless, especially when its survival is at stake, but it’s also secular and pragmatic. Though the regime is Iran’s closest ally in the Middle East, hosts terrorists in Damascus, champions Hezbollah in Lebanon and has funneled al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq, it will forgo those connections for the right price. Above all, it yearns for better treatment from Washington and the return of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau held by Israel since 1967.

The Syria Lobby also claims that whoever succeeds Assad would probably be worse. The country is divided by sect and ethnicity, and the fall of the House of Assad could lead to bloodletting previously seen in Lebanon or Iraq. Some members of the Lobby go so far as to say that the regime remains broadly popular. “I think that President Assad is going to count on . . . majoritarian support within the country to support him in doing what he needs to do to restore order,” Flynt Leverett of the New America Foundation said recently on PBS’s NewsHour.

Now we are seeing what Mr. Leverett puts down merely to the business of “doing what he needs to do”: Video clips on YouTube of tanks rolling into Syrian cities and unarmed demonstrators being gunned down in the streets; reports of hundreds killed and widespread “disappearances.” Even the Obama Administration has belatedly criticized Assad, though so far President Obama has done no more than condemn his “outrageous human rights abuses.” ”

It is something to see, how tanks, snipers and the slaughter of civilians doesn’t to rile policy makers in DC, or political activists in Britain as witnessed by the non-existence demonstrations outside the Syrian embassy by the usual suspects! And that something that has struck me over the pass few weeks coverage of events in the Middle East, how little real indignation they invoked in the West.

Leading “Anti-Imperialist” Hugo Chavez And The Syrian Murderer.

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You can always trust on the inflated ego of dictators to get the better of them. In this case, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez expresses his support for the Syrian dictatorship, AFP reports:

“”From here we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez said, after witnesses reported that Syrian troops backed by tanks had rolled into the town of Daraa, the epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people.

“Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the (Syrian) president, without anyone investigating anything,” said Chavez.

He gave no further details to support his claims.

Chavez, a close Assad ally in Latin America, criticized the “imperial madness” of the international community which, according to him, seeks to attack Syria under the pretext of defending its people.

“They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’

“Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the empire, it’s imperial madness,” he said.

When Chavez talks about “the empire,” he is usually referring to the United States.

While critics say Damascus is using its troops to crush dissent, the Syrian army said that citizens invited the soldiers into Daraa to hunt “extremist terrorist groups.”

Some 390 people have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria, rights activists and witnesses say. “

This is despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has killed about 400 civilians since the start of the revolts in Syria, according to Reuters:

“Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.”

This is Amnesty International’s page on Syria:

“In 2008, Syria ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights. However, laws continue to restrict freedom of expression and give the police powers to arrest and detain without trial due to an official state of emergency that was introduced in 1963 after the Ba’th party took power. In 2005, permission was given for the formation of new political parties, but human rights defenders, women and ethnic Kurds face discrimination in law and daily life.

The country retains the death penalty, torture is carried out with impunity and 17,000 disappeared people are unaccounted for. Syria currently hosts around 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and has a 500,000-strong longstanding Palestinian refugee population. “

Middle East Roll Up.

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There’s a lot of things going on, and normally I would like to do separate posts, but following Bob’s shining example, here is a slew of Middle East and related issues:

The Syrian President (and presumably many of his entourage) might end up at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, according to the Torygraph, for their murderous behaviour. Chance would be a fine thing. At latest count 350+ killed by the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Daily News relates that in Saudi Arabia preparations are underway for a Royal visit to Bahrain and then presumably on to the Royal wedding in London, with blood still dripping from their fingers.

In Royal matters, numerous bloodsoaked dictators are coming over to meet the newly weds, share canopies and chat about how best to shoot the plebs, or whatever counts for small talk in royal circles nowadays. The Bahraini Crown Prince said, regrettably he couldn’t come as killing protesters was a more pressing matter at the moment, or something like that.

We shouldn’t forget that the Bahraini rulers are very close to the Royal family, particularly Charles.

They are very chummy with David Cameron too.

Elsewhere, forget Gaddafi’s “ceasefire” his forces are lobbing rockets into Misratah, killing civilians all over the place.

As Syrian Army tanks move in to slaughter the people of Daraa youths show their contempt by throwing rocks at the tanks.

Modern slavery exists, as Burmese workers are enslaved in the Thai fishing fleet.

Fawaz Turki on the intolerant streak continues to afflict Palestinian society.

We should not forget the revolts have spread from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran and to Mauritania.

Reuters has more on events in Nouakchott:

“NOUAKCHOTT, April 25 (Reuters) – Security forces using teargas and batons dispersed several hundred anti-government protesters in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Monday, the most serious clash in the West African state for nearly two months.

Inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, critics of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz began street protests in late February in the poverty-stricken desert country, although their number has rarely risen above one thousand.

“Mauritanians are fed up with this regime, and it is time that we said it loud and clear,” Cheikh Ould Jiddou, a leader of the protest, told Reuters.”

Jeff Goldberg is good on the Mysteries of Richard Goldstone.

Oh, just in case anyone asked, the US already has sanctions on Syria,