Last night I attended a panel discussion on the siege of East Aleppo that left me depressed and angry, especially as its participants spelled out the terrible beating that hospitals are taking. The event started with a video narrated by Dr. Hatem who is the Director of the Independent Doctor’s Association’s Children’s Hospital. It is not easy to look at the footage of wounded children whose only offense was being forced to live in a city that Assad deemed filled with terrorists. It gave me the same sinking feeling I used to get when I worked at the Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer hospital in the 1980s. When you see a 3-year old kid walking around with a medication bag attached to his or her arm, you wonder how anybody can believe in god. After watching this video about Russian and Baathist atrocities, you can easily end up believing in the existence of Satan.
Now living in the USA, Dr. Abdulaziz spoke about his experiences working as a pediatrician in East Aleppo where the day begins at 7am and ends at 9pm. Doctors not only have to cope with shortages of medication and supplies, they anxiously await the next Russian bunker-buster bomb that can penetrate into a building’s basement, where all medical facilities operate now.
This video conveys the kind of information that was provided by the speakers:
With all of this weighing heavily on my mind this morning, I probably should have not read Pepe Escobar’s article in today’s Counterpunch that argued about the need to throw caution to the wind in the siege of Aleppo since “no more than 30,000 or 40,000 out of an initial population of 300,000” are living there. And since all the rebels in East Aleppo are jihadists, Escobar urges that the final assault on East Aleppo become “hardcore” as if he is describing a Metallica concert rather than blowing up pediatric hospitals:
The SAA, once again, is tremendously overextended. Thus, the method to reconquer East Aleppo is indeed hardcore. There is a humanitarian crisis. There is collateral damage. And this is only the beginning. Because sooner or later the SAA, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, will have to reconquer East Aleppo with boots on the ground as well – supported by Russian fighter jets.
Would it matter to Escobar if there were 300,000 to 400,000 people living in East Aleppo rather than 1/10th that number? Probably not. This is a guy who would probably be okay with killing 3 to 4 million if it advanced the cause of the BRICS or whatever the fuck ideology this mutt believes in. It certainly isn’t socialism.
But how did that 30,000 to 40,000 number come up in the first place? Even Martin Chulov, who has written useful reports on Syria, accepted that number as a given in a Guardian article: “Those who remain in eastern Aleppo, roughly 40,000 from a prewar population estimated at about a million, have been without electricity or running water for more than a year.” I get how you can ascertain whether there is electricity or running water but was a census taker going door to door to collect such data?
Moon of Alabama, a website that has the same indifference to human suffering as Escobar, makes a point about population reduction as well:
In other siege areas where the rebels gave up to the Syrian government the numbers of people coming out of them were much smaller than the original inhabitants. The numbers were also smaller than all prior estimates. Daraya, near Damascus, originally had some 80,000 inhabitants. The numbers of besieged people in Daraya the UN had given were variously between several ten-thousands and down to 8,000. When the evacuation of Daraya started the Syrian army estimated that 800-1,200 fighters and 4,000 civilians would come out. In the end the numbers of leaving fighters was some 600-700 and less than 2,000 civilians turned up to leave. The area was searched and all had left.
Maybe the best thing would be to rely on the word of Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, who surely would agree with Escobar and MofA on the paltry numbers of people living in East Aleppo. As it happens, Churkin sees it differently. On the inimical RT.com, which surely is as reliable as Escobar and MofA, Churkin is quoted on the numbers game: “Over 200,000 residents of Aleppo are hostages of the Al-Nusra Front and groups allied with it.” Now if you can’t believe the Russian Ambassador to the UN, who can you believe?