Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 15, 2018

Sarin gas realities

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 10:02 pm

Seymour Hersh: “It’s not hard to make sarin. You could mix it in the backyard. Two chemicals melded together.”


A photo of the sarin production facilities of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan that used it for a subway attack.

 

 

London Times articles about Assadist university professors

Filed under: Academia,Syria — louisproyect @ 1:42 pm

(Since these articles are behind a paywall, I am posting them in full here since they would be of interest to my readers.)

London Times, April 14, 2018
Professors ‘shut down debate’ over Assad’s chemical attacks
by Georgie Keate

When Idrees Ahmad read the letter of complaint against him, he was baffled to see it written on University of Sheffield headed paper.

The authors were members of a recently formed organisation called the Syria, Propaganda and Media (SPM) group, whose stated aim was to “facilitate research with respect to the 2011-present war in Syria”.

They objected to Dr Ahmad, a lecturer in digital journalism at Stirling University, criticising an article written by Tim Hayward, an Edinburgh professor of political theory and one of their key members. Professor Hayward had argued on his blog that “independent investigators” such as Vanessa Beeley, a pro-Assad journalist in Syria, should be given a “fair hearing”.

Among Ms Beeley’s beliefs are that the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group in Syria, are terrorists and that President Assad has not carried out chemical attacks.

Some members of SPM have regularly promoted such views, an investigation has found, including Professor Hayward, who has used hashtags such as #syriahoax on Twitter to disseminate claims that Assad had not carried out a chemical attack that the White Helmets had filmed.

After reading Professor Hayward’s article, Dr Ahmad used Twitter to call it “illiterate Islamaphobic drivel”, describing him as “an eccentric best known for his disgraceful conspiracy theories aimed at exonerating Syria’s murderous regime”.

His comments provoked Piers Robinson, another key SPM member and a professor of politics, society and political journalism at Sheffield, to write to Sterling accusing Dr Ahmad of bringing the university into disrepute. Other signatories include Paul McKeigue, professor of genetic epidemiology and statistics genetics at Edinburgh, and Professor Hayward.

Last night Professor Hayward strongly denied claims that he was seeking to shut down academic debate, saying: “The last thing I would ever attempt to do is shut down public debate. I have never intimidated anyone.” He said he agreed to the letter after Dr Ahmad “started intimidating a group which included some younger academics”. Regarding his use of the hashtag, he said: “I understood a hashtag to indicate a topic rather than a creed.” Dr Ahmad and other academics accuse SPM, a British-based group, of spreading online disinformation promoting views shared by Assad and Russia while failing to use verifiable evidence to back up their arguments.

Much of their concern is based on SPM’s apparent reliance on blogs and activists, such as Ms Beeley, who purport to report the truth from the ground in Syria.

Data analysis carried out on behalf of the White Helmets shows that Ms Beeley’s claims that chemical attacks in Syria were staged have been repeated and promoted by Russian networks to spread disinformation about the group. Indeed, her tweets on the White Helmets make her one of the most influential online figures circulating content about the group, according to two data analyst outfits, Graphika and Hoaxy.

Graphika found that Twitter bots linked to Russia had promoted anti-White Helmet tweets to as many as 56 million people worldwide. Members of SPM, which include ten British academics at universities such as Edinburgh, Sheffield, Bath and SOAS University of London, have retweeted such content numerous times.

Dr Ahmad accuses activists such as Ms Beeley of having used footage of the group to twist their actions. One example was when footage of the White Helmets taking part in the “mannequin challenge” – an online trend in which people filmed themselves frozen in action – was said to be evidence that they “staged” attacks.

Yesterday, Professor Hayward retweeted a post from Ms Beeley which claimed that the “White Helmets and terrorist factions staged false flag events and ‘kidnapped, drugged’ children to use as props in events”.

Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at Birmingham University who often opposes the views of SPM members online, said their contribution to Russian and pro-Assad propaganda was dangerous for debate. “Where this gets serious is that not only are this group pushing the [same line as the Russians] but they are also trying to intimidate academics,” he said.

“It’s fine to have your own opinion …

but evidence for their views is weakly sourced and often disinformation.” Professor Lucas said their approach was “so dangerous. If you devalue facts and the basics of an investigation, you create a morass of uncertainty. Clearly we can all disagree about the war in Syria, but to deny an event like a chemical attack even occurred, by claiming they were ‘staged’, is to fall into an Orwellian world.”

Dr Ahmad said the group was failing in its “intellectual and moral commitment” to stay well informed with credible material. “Their output does not include evidence that deals with material that has been processed legitimately, either from peer review or an article going through an editorial process.”

Professor Hayward, in response to criticisms that he was aiding a Russian campaign to put out propaganda, said: “I do not accept that I am spreading any ‘disinformation’. If you read my blogs you will see that they are largely about insisting on the importance of asking questions. However, if you do find anything at all I have written that you think is disinformation, please do alert me. I am always ready – and eager – to be corrected, if I ever misunderstand anything or make any mistake. The very last thing I would wish to do is spread disinformation so I really would be grateful if you could point to anything that appears to be doing so.”

Neither he nor Professor Robinson nor Professor McKeigue commented on the letter.

Professor Robinson said of Ms Beeley’s work: “She produces information that is worthy of consideration and certainly her work on the White Helmets, along with work produced by others, raises extremely important questions for academics to research, the public to know about, and is rightly worthy of consideration.” He said the charge of spreading misinformation was incorrect. “There is ample information in the public domain which does raise serious questions regarding the chemical weapons attacks in Syria and the White Helmets. This information is available and verifiable and provides reasonable grounds to raise such questions.” Additional reporting by Krystina Shveda and Sam Blanchard Leading article, page 25

Talking heads

Piers Robinson

Professor of politics, society and political journalism at Sheffield University. His biography states he “has been cited in publications such as The Responsibility to Protect, published by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS)”, and has lectured on the topic at the “Nato Defence College in Rome, at Oxford (UK senior military commanders) and by the Stop the War Coalition”. Research interests include focusing on “organised persuasive communication and contemporary propaganda”.

Tim Hayward

Professor of environmental political theory and director of the Just World Institute, a body set up to “foster interdisciplinary research into the global challenges facing the international order, with particular attention to issues of ethics and justice”. He has written four books on human rights, ecological values and political theory, published between 1995 and 2017.

Tara McCormack

Lecturer in international relations. She taught European and comparative politics and international relations at the universities of Westminster and Brunel before Leicester University. She has contributed to the BBC, LBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Spiked-online and others.

Adam Larson

According to a blog post, Mr Larson is an “independent investigator in Spokane, Washington”. “He studied history at Eastern Washington University,” the biography states. “He has since 2011, on a volunteer basis, studied events in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine following western-backed regime-change operations, often under the screen name Caustic Logic. Using open sources, with an emphasis on video analysis, Mr Larson and research associates have often deconstructed or disproved alleged ‘regime’ crimes from shooting protesters to sectarian massacres.”

Vanessa Beeley

The daughter of the British diplomat and historian Sir Harold Beeley is a self-styled “investigative journalist”. She described meeting Assad in October 2017 as part of a “US peace delegation” her “proudest moment”. Her Twitter page reads: “The pursuit of peace … can never be relaxed and never abandoned.”

Conspiracy theorists hold court on social media

Tweets posted by members of the Syria, Propaganda and Media group

Undermining the White Helmets

Tim Hayward: White Helmets’ mission: “To save one headscarf is to save all?” #SyriaHoax – April 11 2017

Tara McCormack:

It is also an established fact that a) the White Helmets are basically Al Q (they provide most of the reporting from Jihadi-held areas) and b) that hospitals are used as bases by these groups. – February 5 2018 Tara McCormack: Yep White Helmets, Free Syrian Police all paid for by US and UK (as BBC Panorama piece showed) and run by Jihadis. Good grief even the BBC is showing this.- December 20 2017

Sami Ramadani:

Like all imperialist wars on defiant nations, the war on #Syria has been based on lies and fabrications. The White Helmets are the soft face of genocidal terrorism. – January 7 2018 Louis Allday: After all the revelations, for Amnesty to still boost the White Helmets is obscene, if not a surprise. – October 6 2017 Assad is innocent Tim Hayward: All the talk of proof that Assad did it and none at all produced!

– June 30 2017 Piers Robinson: Deconstructing the war propaganda … Alleged Sarin Gas Attack by President Assad is Fake News.

– April 12 2017 Louis Allday: I believe Ghouta was a false-flag incident with planted sarin and gassed hostages. Saraqeb, same. Same sarin in KS and many other clues. – August 5 2017 The West is a lying aggressor Tim Hayward: Critical questions about CNN complicity in misleading “chemical weapons” reporting – from @VanessaBeeley on the ground with them in Ghouta.

– April 8 2018 Tim Hayward: #SyriaHoax is an episode in a long running strategy of serious bullshit. “Human Rights” groups promote unjust war. – April 7 2017 Adam Larson: #Douma alleged CW attack: Info and maybe the bodies, provided by an Islamist terrorist affiliate, proponent of holding and using “infidel” hostages. – April 13 2018 Adam Larson: The lack of subtlety in their staging reeks of desperation … And yet, who is it that’s desperate in the area these days? – April 8 2018 Sami Ramadani: One basic fact never gets reported by mainstream media on #Syria: The terrorist gangs are in possession of chlorine gas & other chemical weapons. They have threatened using them & posted films of using them on rabbits – April 9 2018 Sami Ramadani: Is the bloody conflict in #Syria civil-war among Syrians or is it a US-led proxy war to destroy Syria? – June 20 2016 Louis Allday: Amnesty have been openly war-mongering on Syria. – January 16 2018 Louis Allday: Disgusting, warmongering nonsense that perpetuates the myth of a virtuous and benevolent West. Typical Guardian. – April 10 2018 Vanessa Beeley has described her meeting with President Assad last October as her “proudest moment”


London Times, April 14, 2018
Apologists for Assad hold senior positions in British universities
by Georgie Keate ; Dominic Kennedy

Senior British academics are spreading pro-Assad disinformation and conspiracy theories promoted by Russia, The Times can reveal.

They are founders of a self-styled Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (SPM) and hold posts at universities including Edinburgh, Sheffield and Leicester.

Members of the group, which includes four professors, have been spreading the slur, repeated by the Russian ambassador to Britain yesterday, that the White Helmets civilian volunteer force has fabricated video evidence of attacks by President Assad, who is backed by the Kremlin.

SPM’s advisers include an American who has challenged the US version of 9/11 as a conspiracy theory and an Australian who suggested that the CIA was behind last weekend’s chemical attack in Syria.

The White Helmets have attracted Russia’s ire for documenting the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April last year, which killed 83 people, a third of them children. Last September a UN unit found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian forces dropped a bomb dispersing sarin” on Khan Sheikhoun.

Yesterday an SPM member, Tim Hayward, professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh, retweeted a claim about an attack on eastern Ghouta that the “White Helmets and terrorist factions staged false flag events and ‘kidnapped, drugged’ children to use as props”. He added: “Witness statements from civilians and officials in Ghouta raise very disturbing questions.”

Professor Hayward has published a blog article by his colleague Paul McKeigue, a professor of genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics, which claimed that there was almost “zero likelihood” that Assad carried out chemical attacks. He used “probability calculus” to assess the evidence.

Professor Hayward has used the hashtag #Syriahoax when discussing chemical attacks in the country. The hashtag went viral after being used by alt-right figures in the US, including Mike Cernovich, a main proponent of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which alleged that Hillary Clinton supporters were involved with a child-abuse ring. The hashtag was said to have been promoted by a Russian cyberoperation. The professor also linked to a video that appeared to show chemical attack victims that, it was suggested, was staged. A rescuer removed a headscarf from an apparent victim. Professor Hayward wrote: “White Helmets’ mission: ‘To save one headscarf is to save all’ #SyriaHoax”. After being contacted by The Times, he deleted the tweet.

The American academic Mark Crispin Miller, who was said to have called the US government’s account of the 9/11 attacks a “conspiracy theory”, is on the SPM’s advisory board. Another board member is David Blackall, an Australian academic who tweeted “CIA stages gas attack pretext for Syria escalation” with a link to a blog article. Professor Hayward has written for the alternative news website 21st Century Wire, whose associate editor is Vanessa Beeley, daughter of the late British diplomat Sir Harold Beeley. She claims that the White Helmets are al-Qaeda-affiliated and, as “terrorists”, are a “legit target” for Assad’s forces.

Another member of the group, Piers Robinson, professor of politics, society and political journalism at the University of Sheffield, posted a clip in which Ms Beeley repeated the argument that the group should be a target with the note “interesting interview”.

Another SPM academic, Tara McCormack, a lecturer in international relations at Leicester University, has tweeted that it is “an established fact that a) the White Helmets are basically Al [Qaeda]”. Dr McCormack has also argued that the death of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic while being prosecuted for war crimes in the Hague “brought an end to the farce” of his trial.

The first briefing note published by SPM, titled “Doubts about ‘Novichoks’ “, questioned whether Russia’s secret nerve agent programme ever existed. Britain has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury last month.

Professor Robinson, a member of SPM, told The Times: “Everything I say and write I can defend as based on good faith research and due consideration of available evidence. Vanessa Beeley produces information that is worthy of consideration and certainly her work on the White Helmets, along with work produced by others, raises extremely important questions for academics to research [and] the public to know about.”

The University of Sheffield declined to comment, saying that it needed more time to consider the matters raised.

Professor Hayward said, regarding his use of #Syriahoax: “I understood a hashtag to indicate a topic rather than a creed. I do not accept that I am spreading any ‘disinformation’. ” The University of Edinburgh said: “We recognise and uphold the fundamental importance of freedom of expression, and seek to foster a culture that enables it to take place within a framework of mutual respect.”

Adam Larson, an independent researcher with SPM, last night denied that it would promote disinformation. Such content would be “strategically designed to mislead” and wrong, he said.

Leading article, page 25 Talking heads Piers Robinson Professor of politics, society and political journalism at Sheffield University. His biography states he “has been cited in publications such as The Responsibility to Protect, published by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS)”, and has lectured on the topic at the “Nato Defence College in Rome, at Oxford (UK senior military commanders) and by the Stop the War Coalition”. Research interests include focusing on “organised persuasive communication and contemporary propaganda”.

Tim Hayward Professor of environmental political theory and director of the Just World Institute, a body set up to “foster interdisciplinary research into the global challenges facing the international order, with particular attention to issues of ethics and justice”. He has written four books on human rights, ecological values and political theory, published between 1995 and 2017.

Tara McCormack Lecturer in international relations. She taught European and comparative politics and international relations at the universities of Westminster and Brunel before Leicester University. She has contributed to the BBC, LBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Spiked-online and others.

Adam Larson According to a blog post, Mr Larson is an “independent investigator in Spokane, Washington”. “He studied history at Eastern Washington University,” the biography states. “He has since 2011, on a volunteer basis, studied events in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine following western-backed regime-change operations, often under the screen name Caustic Logic. Using open sources, with an emphasis on video analysis, Mr Larson and research associates have often deconstructed or disproved alleged ‘regime’ crimes from shooting protesters to sectarian massacres.”

Vanessa Beeley The daughter of the British diplomat and historian Sir Harold Beeley is a self-styled “investigative journalist”. She described meeting Assad in October 2017 as part of a “US peace delegation” her “proudest moment”. Her Twitter page reads: “The pursuit of peace … can never be relaxed and never abandoned.”

Conspiracy theorists hold court on social media Tweets posted by members of the Syria, Propaganda and Media group Undermining the White Helmets Tim Hayward: White Helmets’ mission: “To save one headscarf is to save all?” #SyriaHoax – April 11 2017 Tara McCormack: It is also an established fact that a) the White Helmets are basically Al Q (they provide most of the reporting from Jihadi-held areas) and b) that hospitals are used as bases by these groups. – February 5 2018 Tara McCormack: Yep White Helmets, Free Syrian Police all paid for by US and UK (as BBC Panorama piece showed) and run by Jihadis. Good grief even the BBC is showing this.

– December 20 2017 Sami Ramadani: Like all imperialist wars on defiant nations, the war on #Syria has been based on lies and fabrications. The White Helmets are the soft face of genocidal terrorism. – January 7 2018 Louis Allday: After all the revelations, for Amnesty to still boost the White Helmets is obscene, if not a surprise. – October 6 2017 Assad is innocent Tim Hayward: All the talk of proof that Assad did it and none at all produced!

– June 30 2017 Piers Robinson: Deconstructing the war propaganda … Alleged Sarin Gas Attack by President Assad is Fake News.

– April 12 2017 Louis Allday: I believe Ghouta was a false-flag incident with planted sarin and gassed hostages. Saraqeb, same. Same sarin in KS and many other clues. – August 5 2017 The West is a lying aggressor Tim Hayward: Critical questions about CNN complicity in misleading “chemical weapons” reporting – from @VanessaBeeley on the ground with them in Ghouta.

– April 8 2018 Tim Hayward: #SyriaHoax is an episode in a long running strategy of serious bullshit. “Human Rights” groups promote unjust war. – April 7 2017 Adam Larson: #Douma alleged CW attack: Info and maybe the bodies, provided by an Islamist terrorist affiliate, proponent of holding and using “infidel” hostages. – April 13 2018 Adam Larson: The lack of subtlety in their staging reeks of desperation … And yet, who is it that’s desperate in the area these days? – April 8 2018 Sami Ramadani: One basic fact never gets reported by mainstream media on #Syria: The terrorist gangs are in possession of chlorine gas & other chemical weapons. They have threatened using them & posted films of using them on rabbits – April 9 2018 Sami Ramadani: Is the bloody conflict in #Syria civil-war among Syrians or is it a US-led proxy war to destroy Syria? – June 20 2016 Louis Allday: Amnesty have been openly war-mongering on Syria. – January 16 2018 Louis Allday: Disgusting, warmongering nonsense that perpetuates the myth of a virtuous and benevolent West. Typical Guardian. – April 10 2018

 

A Palestinian comments on Bashar al-Assad

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 12:52 pm

(From Mohammad Ali on Facebook)

Some people say: why would a Palestinian oppose Assad? Isn’t Assad’s regime in Syria part of the Axis of Resistance against Israel? Didn’t Palestinian liberation organizations have their bases in Damascus during their fight against Israel? If Assad is against Israel, and Israel is against Assad, then is it not possible these claims of crimes committed by Assad are propaganda by the West against him?

In a very simplistic reading of the world, these are valid questions. But the underlying assumption is wrong and has been wrong for years. Assad’s regime is not against Israel; Assad’s regime is only for its self-preservation.
For decades before the Syrian revolution started in 2011, Palestinian discourse regarding wider Arab support for its cause has always come to one conclusion: the Arab governments betray and sell out the Palestinians for their own narrow interests. While the Palestinian cause has been dear to Arab populations in general, Arab governments (nearly all authoritarian monarchies and dictatorships) have often paid lip service to the Palestinian cause to appease their masses, while in action have betrayed Palestine and Palestinians in the pursuit of better relations with Israel’s Western protectors and to preserve their regimes against their populations. Syria under the Assads is been no exception.

Countless times from my childhood have I sat with my relatives and elders during dinners and ‘azeemehs’, listening in on their political debates, commentaries and criticisms of the news of the day. I sat with men who were members of the PLO, leaders in their communities in the resistance against Israel, who were imprisoned or survived massacres or who fought in battle. While they always talked of the criminality of Israel in their fight against Palestine, they spoke of the betrayal of the Arab regimes that helped facilitate this. They spoke of Black September when Jordan’s king massacred Palestinians, accusing the PLO of working against the monarchy, and crushing Palestinian’s military strength in its borders. They spoke of the Lebanese civil war, where some Arab factions allied with Israel in fighting the Palestinian resistance movements. They spoke of the arrests, deportations, and sabotage by most Arab countries against Palestinian self-organization, especially in the Gulf. The bitterness they held for the Arab regimes was even stronger than that reserved for the Zionists, because the Arab regimes with one face used to declare their support for Palestine, while with the other used to act to make the Palestinian problem go away so they can resume business as usual with Israel and the West. The Arab regimes, in action, wanted Palestinians to accept their lot as refugees quietly, preferably not in their own borders.

Hafez al Assad was a key focus for contempt. The young forget, but the elders who survived Black September don’t. While Jordan was fighting the Palestinians in September 1970, Syria sent ground forces to aid the Palestinians against the Jordanian military’s massacre. Hafez al Assad was the head of Syria’s Air Force then, and he went against the orders of his superiors and held the air force back from supporting the ground forces, leaving them open to strikes from the skies and defeat. Within weeks Hafez al Assad became the dictator of Syria in a military coup. The elders in those dinners all used to say that Hafez al Assad was rewarded by the West and supported in his coup as the payment for his betrayal of the Palestinians and his fellow Syrians who came to their aid. Ever since Hafez took power Syrian forces have never been mobilized to aid Palestinians, but they’ve been mobilized several times against them. I also sat with elders who fought for Fatah in the Lebanese civil war, who talked bitterly of Syrian betrayals and massacres of Palestinian refugees. Palestinians had resistance movements in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and these had to be crushed by their own regimes to avoid Israel doing it for them. Jordan obliged culminating with Black September. Syria under Assad, while keeping offices open and allowing Palestinians to organize as long as they don’t oppose his regime, performed a campaign of incarcerations, expulsions, and assassinations to neuter any military capability of the Palestinians within his borders. He was happy to tolerate the visage of Palestinian resistance, but did not tolerate the Palestinians having any military capability which would ever threaten him, or threaten Israel getting involved with Syria. Lebanon’s factions that allied with Israel, weak with civil war, were not able to eliminate the Palestinian resistance there (where the fighters and leaders fled from Jordan and Syria), and eventually the Zionist state invaded Lebanon primarily to defeat the Palestinian resistance. Remember Syrian forces, who previously fought in support of Palestine before Hafez al Assad took power, were involved for years in Lebanon’s civil war fighting against Palestinian resistance forces and massacring refugees.

These were not forgotten by the elders who lived through them. Yes, you’ll find some Palestinians who support Assad because he allowed some leftist groups to operate in Syria, such as the PLFP, but he only let them operate as long as they don’t do any action to threaten his regime, including any action against Israel that would make the regime a target. But for the Palestinians who lived through the battles, the massacres, the betrayals, Assad’s regime has always been an enemy of Palestine when it suits him, despite his lip service to the Palestinian cause when that suits him.

With the Palestinian military resistance crushed and the fall of the Soviet Union, Hafez al Assad went full on in his attempts to be accepted and supported by the West, despite his supporters today saying he was ‘anti-Imperialist’. Hafez al Assad’s Syria was one of the few to send Arab troops on the side of the Americans against Iraq in the first Gulf War. Hafez al Assad’s intelligence Mukhabarat betrayed Ocalan and gave him to the Turks. Hafez al Assad spent the 90s kissing America and Israel’s feet for the opportunity to open his country for business, enriching his family and kleptocracy while his people became poorer. His son Bashar, whose supporters imagine is a ‘sovereign’ popular ruler even though he inherited the dictatorship, continued this collaboration with the West in the 2000s in exchange for better relations. He was a partner in the War on Terror, torturing suspects on America’s behalf as part of the rendition programme. He continued the lip service to Palestine while not allowing any dissent within his borders, whether from his own population or from Palestinians. And let’s not forget that during the revolution, when many Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp joined their Syrian brothers in asking for freedom, Assad’s regime besieged the camp, bombed it from the air, and gave ISIS safe corridors to join in the besiegement and assault on Yarmouk.

So again… I say all this as a Palestinian who wants liberation for all oppressed people, whether in Palestine or fellow Arab countries or elsewhere in the world. I say this as an anti-war activist who opposed the Iraq war. But I cannot live with myself if I’m not consistent with my principles and don’t wish for my brother what I want for myself. I will not, and never will support, Assad’s regime as it massacres Syrian civilians because Assad apparently ‘supports’ Palestine. I could not even if the support for Palestine is genuine, which it is not!

As for my fellow Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists: don’t fall for Assad’s propaganda, it’s the same that Israel uses against you. When Israeli supporters claim that videos of Palestinians suffering are faked, or justify bombing residential buildings because ‘terrorists’ are hiding there, why is it easy for you to see through that, but not when Assad says the same of his victims? If Assad, RT, PressTV, and their propagandists start putting out the same stories with the same sources claiming that Hamas is western backed, and that the Gazan civilian rescue and medical workers are ‘linked’ to ‘Western’ backed Hamas, honestly would you scrutinize those sources more and see through it??? Or would you then stay quiet as Israel bombs and murders thousands in Gaza, trusting your ‘anti-Imperialist’ news sources and saying that Israel is bad but Hamas is worse and there’s no good alternatives?

Could it be because so many Westerners have gone to Palestine, lived under occupation with Palestinians, spoke to Palestinians, engaged with Palestinian civil society, and participated with Palestinian non-violent resistance and demonstrations, that so many Westerners have become immune to the Zionist propaganda against Palestinians? Guess what, Syrians also have voices, they have also organized civil society, also have non-violent resistance movements and demonstrations and organizing, also have their equivalent spectrum in political approaches, ideas, activism and liberation. They have their peaceful approaches. They have their humanitarian workers. They have their militants, just like Palestine. What they don’t have are the witnesses it seems.

Assad has poisoned the situation by propagating the idea that there’s only two sides: Assad or terrorism. He’s murdered journalists and besieged areas and ISIS has murdered western aid workers. The last thing he wants is for witnesses to come from outside and spread the word of the resistance against him. The last thing Assad wants is a Rachel Corrie of Syria.

But even if you can’t go in, you can speak to the millions of Syrians outside of Syria who are opposed to Assad. Then ask yourself this: shall you ignore the millions of lived experiences of Syrians because their experience goes against the paradigm of the world you built as an ‘anti-Imperialist’? In other words, do you choose to live in the real world or the world of grand narrative debates?

April 14, 2018

The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:35 pm

via The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots

April 13, 2018

The Judge

Filed under: Film,Palestine — louisproyect @ 10:17 pm

Like Pavlov’s dogs going into a salivating frenzy at the sound of a bell, nothing has the same effect on Islamophobes, including the Assadist left, except the word sharia. For them, this means ISIS trying people for smoking and then handing out a death sentence.

The documentary “The Judge” that opens today at Cinema Village in NYC will not only provide a different perspective on sharia law but on the social dynamics of Palestinians living in the West Bank. The judge referred to in the title is Kholoud al-Faqih, the first woman to serve on a sharia court in the Middle East. In the West Bank, there are two types of courts. One is a civil court that tries criminal cases such as theft, assaults, etc. The sharia court functions in the same way that family court functions in the USA and other secular societies. We see Khouloud weighing in on divorces, child custody, alimony payments, etc., all within the framework of Quranic scriptures. In a way, it reminds me of how Hasidic courts settle such matters in Brooklyn except that Hasidic society is far more patriarchal than the West Bank Islamic world. Indeed, a woman would never been selected to serve on a Hasidic court.

It was not that easy in the West Bank either. In 2009, Kholoud al-Faqih and another woman trained as a lawyer were appointed to serve by Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi after she pressured him to see beyond centuries old prejudices that had nothing to do with Islam. Al-Tamimi is interviewed throughout the film and comes across as an enlightened soul. Although the film gives no background on him, it is worth mentioning that he was a reformer across the board. He was drawn into a conflict with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for changing the sharia codes that allowed a woman to be married once she reached puberty. He thought that 18 should be the legal age. In keeping with the new directions represented by al-Tamini, al-Faqih’s judgements are completely opposed to what you’d expect from Islamic courts. In her own faith-based manner, al-Faqih is a strong feminist who will not allow patriarchal attitudes seep into her hearings.

Al-Tamimi was a hardline nationalist appointed by Arafat in 1994. It is not surprising that after he was replaced by a man selected by Mahmoud Abbas who ruled that women would no longer sit in judgement in sharia courts but only handle peripheral administrative tasks.

“The Judge” is very minimal in cinematic terms and mostly depicts Kholoud Al-Faqih at work and at home making dinner for her family as director Erika Cohn follows her about with a hand-held camera. Cohn met Kholoud Al-Faqih when the director was studying Islamic feminism and teaching film in Israel and Palestine. Her work is very important for  understanding Palestinian society today and where the progressive strands of renewal might be gestating.

Chemical Attacks, False Flags and the Fate of Syria

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 11:48 am

COUNTERPUNCH, April 13, 2018

Once again Eastern Ghouta is the epicenter of a confrontation between the White House and Bashar al-Assad. On April 7th, medics in Douma, the largest city in the agricultural belt surrounding Damascus, blamed him for authorizing the aerial bombardment of chlorine gas that cost the lives of at least 40 people and injuries to hundreds of others. While chlorine gas has been used in the past by Assad’s air force, it has not had the devastating impact it had this time.

Syria, Russia and Iran dismissed such reports as a “false flag” in which jihadists used fraudulent photos and videos to pressure American imperialism into taking their side in an all-out attack such as the one that took place against Iraq in 2003. For those of a conspiracist bent, this was a con job just like the Apollo Moon landing hoax when film simulations supposedly substituted for the real thing.

Continue reading

Max Blumenthal’s double standards

Filed under: journalism,Red-Brown alliance,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:20 am

Placards from a protest in Istanbul against the killing of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja.

Days after Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian photojournalist covering protests on the Gaza border, Israel’s defense minister alleged the photographer had served as a high-ranking member of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas since 2011.

But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the photojournalist had passed a U.S. government vetting process for his media company to receive a U.S. aid agency grant. The U.S. does vetting to ensure grant recipients have no ties to militant organizations or activities.

The seemingly conflicting claims by Israeli and U.S. officials about the photographer’s identity are raising new questions over a killing that drew international media coverage and calls for an investigation.

On April 6, photojournalist Yaser Murtaja, 30, was shot by Israeli forces while reporting on Palestinian protests at the Gaza-Israel border, Palestinian officials and witnesses said. Images from the scene show Murtaja wearing a protective vest clearly marked “PRESS.”

U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said government vetting of Murtaja began in late 2017. The officials said that last month Murtaja’s Gaza media production company, Ain Media, became a beneficiary of a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told NPR the United States relies on Israeli intelligence to vet Palestinian organizations and individuals for links to militant groups before awarding them USAID grants. Nauert said the U.S. was looking into questions about Murtaja’s alleged Hamas affiliation.



SAMS is not merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war torn areas, nor can it be considered a objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organization is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

April 12, 2018

The two degrees of separation between Robert Mercer and Chinese Communism

Filed under: Africa,China,Trump — louisproyect @ 8:58 pm

For more information on the graphic above, go to https://steemit.com/news/@cryptospreads/let-me-introduce-you-to-emerdata-ltd-a-data-processing-company-directed-by-alexander-nix-and-rebekah-mercer-among-other-shady

In yesterday’s NY Times, buried within an article on the problems Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah were having over the Cambridge Analytica fallout, there was startling revelation:

The Facebook scandal has hit just as the Mercers appear to be expanding their business in the world of big data. Public records show that Ms. Mercer, her sister Jennifer and Mr. Nix serve as directors of Emerdata, a British data company formed in August by top executives at Cambridge Analytica and its affiliate, SCL Group, according to British corporate records.

Incorporation documents state that Emerdata specializes in “data processing, hosting and related activities.” An SCL official told Channel 4, a British television station, that Emerdata was established last year to combine SCL and Cambridge under one corporate entity.

Exactly what ambitions the Mercers, who joined the Emerdata board last month, have for the company is unclear. Another Emerdata director, Johnson Ko Chun Shun, is a Hong Kong financier and business partner of Erik Prince — the brother of the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater. Mr. Ko, who declined to comment, is a substantial shareholder and deputy chairman in Mr. Prince’s Africa-focused logistics company, Frontier Services Group.

Mr. Ko and Mr. Prince have links to the Chinese government: Another major Frontier investor is Citic, a state-owned Chinese financial conglomerate that for decades has employed the sons and daughters of the Communist Party’s elite families.

So, we can assume that this new company Emerdata is just a new name for the SCL Group, a British corporation that was the mothership for its American offshoot Cambridge Analytica. The NY Times states that Emerdata’s ambitions are unclear but you have to assume that it will have the same nefarious aims as the corporations under the big umbrella it provides, namely to use powerful computer systems to analyze both public and private data in order to promote crooked reactionaries like Donald Trump. While some leftists scoff at the idea that Cambridge Analytica was anything but smoke and mirrors, the idea that this kind of operation is going on in the USA or anywhere else is a threat to democracy just as much as the ability of the Mercers, the Koch brothers and any other plutocrat to pour millions into election campaigns in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United.

If you need any other proof of Emerdata’s criminal tendencies, just consider the connections to Erik Prince. Prince’s Blackwater was a private security firm that was involved with the murder of 15 Iraqi civilians in 2007. He is also under investigation for serving as Trump’s envoy in a meeting with Putin’s representative on Seychelles island in January 2017. The Intercept reported:

The identity of the Russian individual was not disclosed, but on January 11, a Turkish-owned Bombardier Global 5000 charter plane flew Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to the Seychelles, flight records obtained by The Intercept show. Dmitriev’s plane was an unscheduled charter flight and flew to the island with two other Russian individuals, both women. The RDIF is a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian government in 2011.

Prince is not on the Emerdata’s board but his associate Johnson Ko Chun Shun is. Ko and Prince are the prime movers in Frontier Services Group (FSG), an innocent-sounding name for a company that functions as China’s Blackwater in Africa. To keep the restless natives at bay, Prince and Ko’s firm will serve as a subcontractor lining up goons to keep Chinese mines, oil drilling, plantations, etc. safe.

The biggest Frontier Services Group shareholder is the Citic Group, an investment fund owned and controlled by the People’s Republic of China. In addition to its Africa operations, FSG has signed contracts to support China’s One Belt, One Road initiative including building a series of bases in China’s Xinjiang Province, where the restless Uighur natives have to be kept in line as Communist “development” goes full steam ahead. I guess you all know what the One Belt, One Road initiative is all about. That’s China’s bid to defeat the cruel, imperialist West. And who better to smooth the path in front of the initiative is Erik Prince who is a past master of killing restless natives.

Most of FSG’s business is in South Sudan, however. That’s where China’s new colonial aspirations reach highest. In order to protect its oil drilling sites from attacks by militias representing tribes hostile to the state’s partnership with China, the FSG can be a life-saver for superprofits.

For a comprehensive report on FSG, I recommend the 10 page report from the Oakland Institute. It states:

Prince has spent most of his post-Blackwater years building rapidly deployable logistics, intelligence, and security capacity. His new logistics company, Frontier Services Group (FSG), has outposts in Africa, the Mediterranean region, and will soon be present in Central Asia.

Before launching FSG, Prince began assembling logistics assets in Africa to back his financial investments within his equity fund FRG. The fund advertised to external investors its ability to “leverage unique relationships and experienced management, as well as existing security and logistics capabilities,”78 allegedly a competitive advantage to access untapped subsoil resources in risky and infrastructure-lacking areas of Africa.

With FRG’s first venture, Prince secured an agreement to build an oil refinery in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, in the locality of Thiangrial. This was a project with heavy logistics and security needs, for which Prince tapped his network of private security connections. A long time colleague, John “JP” Palen, was asked to help coordinate plane transportation for surveys and oil sampling at the site. Palen, a former US Air Force pilot, worked at Prince’s Presidential Airways from 2006 to 201081 before being employed at Transerv, an aircraft company linked to Prince’s R2 and PMPF projects.

Okay, so what’s going on here?

The most reactionary elements in American politics—the Mercers and Erik Prince—are in a alliance with the Chinese Communist Party to protect its assets in Africa and anything that stands in the way of its One Belt, One Road initiative that unfortunately some have mistakenly viewed as a big step forward toward a multipolar world. Perhaps it was easier to sustain illusions in BRICS, the One Belt, One Road initiative, and Chinese “communism” at a time before China became much more of an obvious colonizing presence in Africa. And for those sitting on the fence, these ties to Robert Mercer and Erik Prince should dispel all illusions.

The Atlantic Overturning Current Is Slowing

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 11:58 am

via The Atlantic Overturning Current Is Slowing

April 11, 2018

My Dear Americans – The British Sceptre Passes to the US

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,Great Britain,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:02 pm

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)


The British Government, having lost their gamble with the Nazis in the pre-war Munich deals with the Nazis, then having had to run begging to the US for economic and military aid in the war and afterwards, had to cede Britain’s colonies, overseas assets, markets and foreign military bases to the US and submit to US demands for bases in Britain in order to bring our wartime allies, the Soviet Union, within range of US nuclear bombers in the US led Cold War and without any British control. In other words the British Sceptre passes to the US.

“…to set forth the political, military, territorial and economic requirements of the United States in its potential leadership… including the United Kingdom itself as well as the Western hemisphere and the Far East. The first and foremost requirement of the United States in a world in which it proposes to hold unquestionable power in the rapid fulfilment of a programme of complete re-armament… to secure the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by foreign nations that constitutes a threat to the minimum world area essential for the security and economic prosperity of the United States.”

(Economic and Financial Group of the US Council of Foreign Relations, 1940.)


“The question of leadership need hardly arise. If any permanently closer association of the two nations is achieved, an island people of fifty millions cannot expect to be the senior partner. The centre of gravity and the ultimate decision must increasingly lie with America. We cannot resent this historical development.”

(The Economist Oct 19 1940.)


“Well, Boys, Britain’s broke. It’s your money we want.”

(British ambassador to Washington, Lord Lothian, November 23 1940.)


“Whatever the outcome of the war, America has embarked on a career of imperialism in world affairs and in every other aspect of her life… Even though by our aid England should emerge from this struggle without defeat, she will be so impoverished economically and crippled in prestige that it is improbable that she will be able to resume or maintain the dominant position in world affairs that she has occupied for so long. At best, England will become a junior partner in a new Anglo-Saxon imperialism in which the economic resources and the military and naval strength of the United States will be the centre of gravity… The sceptre passes to the United States.”

(President of the US National Industrial Conference Board Virgil Jordan, to the Annual Convention of the Investment Bankers’ Association of America, Hollywood, Dec 10 1940.)


“Gradually, very gradually, and very quietly, the mantle of leadership was slipping from British shoulders to American.”

(Elliott Roosevelt, on the Atlantic Charter conference with his father US President Franklin Roosevelt and British PM Churchill in August 1941.)


“My dear Americans, we may be short of dollars, but we are not short of will… We won’t let you down. Standards of life may go back. We may have to say to our miners and to our steel workers: “We can’t give you all we hoped for. We can’t give you the houses we want you to live in. We can’t give you the amenities we desire to give you.” But we won’t fail.”

(British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin to the American Legion, London, Sept 10 1947.)


“Today Americans know that they are the dominant power in the world… and they expect the rest of us to respect their leadership.”

(Tory Lord Woolton, Sunday Times, July 16 1950.)


“Mr. Bevin went to New York, determined to prevent the precipitate rearmament of Germany… He failed… Faced with an American ultimatum… he toed the line.”

(New Statesman and Nation, Dec 2 1950.)


“We British must recognise that American policy must prevail, if there is an honest difference of opinion between us as to what to do next in the world struggle. He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

(Labour MP Commander King-Hall, National Newsletter, June 28 1951.)


“Do we need Britain? The British Empire, for all its reduced power, has a valuable string of naval bases around the world – Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Suez, Aden, Singapore, to mention the most important… The colonies take one into the economic sphere – tin, rubber, uranium and other raw materials… We need Britain.”

(New York Times, Jan 9 1952.)


“You may be sure that we shall stand by you on fundamentals.”

(British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in letter to US President Eisenhower, 1953.)


“…this Marshall Plan is going to be the biggest damned interference in international affairs that there has ever been in history. It doesn’t do any good to say we are not going to interfere. … I don’t think we need to be so sensitive about interfering in the international affairs of these countries.”

(US Senator Cabot Lodge to the US Foreign Relations Committee regarding post war Marshall aid to Britain and Western Europe.)


“Whether we like it or not, we must all recognise that the victory which we have won has placed upon the American people the continuing burden of responsibility for world leadership. The future peace of the world will depend in large part upon whether or not the United States shows that it is really determined to continue its role as a leader among nations.”

(US President Truman’s message to Congress, Dec 19 1945.)


“Am I wrong in saying all British governments since 1945 have done what the Americans have wanted?”

(British MP Tony Benn.)


“…the United Kingdom is already dependent on United States support.”

(British Foreign Office, 1958.)


“It is cheaper to fight with soldiers of other nations even if we have to equip them with American arms, and there is much less loss of American life.”

(US Senator Taft, Washington, May 19 1951.)


“It takes a man and a gun to fight. The United States is providing the gun, Europe the man.”

(US General Eisenhower, Paris, August 1951.)


“We fought World War I in Europe, we fought World War II in Europe, and if you dummies will let us we will fight World War III in Europe.”

(US Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque.)


“…what has been our one and only basic policy in the last thirty years. This is that we prefer to fight our wars, if they be necessary, in someone else’s territory.”

(US JCS document, 1946.)


“We are proposing dollars to arm men other than our own men. We are contributing dollars rather than men.”

(US General Marshall, August 1 1951.)


“Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient… I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world… has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.”

(US President Carter, on British PM Tony Blair’s subservience to the US, on BBC Radio.)


“The UK will… take on at times the role of a Trojan Horse … but its effectiveness in this role will depend on… not appearing to act as a US stooge.”

(British Foreign Office, 1972.)


“We’ve got to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.”

(Observer editor Roger Alton to his journalists, January 2003.)


“…the US did not want to be the only country ready to intervene in any trouble spot in the world. We hoped the British would continue to uphold their world-wide responsibilities.”

(US Secretary of State Dean Rusk to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.