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Are there really “no good guys” in Syria?

A version of this article first appeared in The New Arab

Following the Syrian regime’s recent chemical attack on Douma, US, Britain and France took swift but symbolic action to destroy three chemical weapons facilities. The action was not universally lauded. For Syrians it was too little too late; for isolationists and “anti-imperialists”, the 15,201st US airstrike on Syria since September 2014 was a “dangerous escalation” in a war where there were “no good guys”.

“There are no good guys”—or “everyone is equally bad”—has become a trope used by many otherwise decent people to absolve themselves of moral guilt for being bystanders to injustice. (The indecent on the other hand pronounce Assad the “lesser evil”, if not outright supporting him). The trope relies on a disciplined will to ignorance, unreasonable doubt, and manufactured uncertainty. It has been aided by a post-truth paranoia where cynicism passes for scepticism and all inconvenient facts expire into a haze of competing claims. “We can’t really know”!

But are facts really that elusive? And is it really impossible to tell good from bad?

Syria in fact is the most closely observed conflict in history, every aspect of which has been investigated, researched, filmed, documented, and reported on. The picture that emerges is not equivocal. In the judgment of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the war in Syria the regime is responsible for “the crimes against humanity of extermination; murder; rape or other forms of sexual violence; torture; imprisonment; enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts”.

Let us now look at the balance of atrocities.

Continue reading “Are there really “no good guys” in Syria?”

Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Numerical Counter-Argument to the Genocide of the Palestinian People

For other articles in this series 123456789, 10, 11

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Typical meme making the numerical counter argument to the assertion that Israel is committing genocide against the indigenous Palestinian people.

From the moment I started addressing Israel in the context of the crime of genocide, I became acquainted with the numerical counter-argument. The argument usually goes something around the lines of “Israel really sucks at genocide, the Palestinian population has increased eight- fold.” As time went by, since 2014, we’ve seen the word ‘genocide’ more commonly applied to Israel’s practices against the indigenous Palestinian people, and the numerical counter-argument became more common as well, including numerous chart memes, illustrating the point, which are making the rounds on social media (left).

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Progressive Surge Propels Turning Point in US Policy on Yemen

This article appears in The Fight For Yemen, the Winter 2019 issue of Middle East Report, the magazine of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)

Protesters call for an end to US involvement in the war in Yemen, November 2018 in Chicago. The blue backpacks stand for the 40 children killed in an air strike on a school bus that used an American-made bomb. CHARLES EDWARD MILLER [CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE BY SA 2.0]

The US House of Representatives passed a potentially historic resolution on February 13, 2019, calling for an end to US military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen that began in 2015. Although the US government has never formally declared its involvement in the war, it assists the coalition with intelligence and munitions and supports the aerial campaign with refueling and targeting. The United States is therefore complicit in the myriad atrocities the coalition has committed against Yemeni civilians, which Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have characterized as war crimes. [1]

What is already historic about the resolution (introduced by Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin) and its Senate counterpart (introduced by Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Republican Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut) is their invocation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which restrains a president’s capacity to commit forces abroad. Aimed to prevent “future Vietnams,” the act gives Congress the authority to compel the removal of US military forces engaged in hostilities absent a formal declaration of war.

The House resolution was the first time Congress flexed its War Powers muscle in the 45 years since that resolution’s passage. The Senate passed a parallel resolution in December, but the measure died when the Republican leadership refused to bring it to a vote. These congressional moves not only register opposition to US involvement in this war but also strike a major blow against unlimited executive power when it comes to launching war. This long overdue Congressional action to constrain executive war-making, however, would not have been possible without a tremendous grassroots mobilization against US involvement in this disastrous war and the surging progressive tide that is raising deeper questions about US foreign policy.
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Are purveyors of fake news endangering the lives of real journalists?

By Mathew Foresta

Earlier this week Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and his crew were detained by Venezuelan authorities. According to Ramos this was a reaction to some uncomfortable questions he asked Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro during an interview. Ramos detailed his experience being detained and having his crew’s equipment and electronic devices seized in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.

It took little time for Maduro’s American supporters to initiate a smear campaign against the journalist.

At the vanguard of all this is Grayzone Project editor Max Blumenthal, a blogger with a history of ethically questionable behavior. The Daily Beast’s Charles Davis reported that Dania Valeska Aleman Sandoval was tortured for protesting the regime of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega. Blumenthal’s Grayzone Project used video of her torture extracted confession to criticize those opposing Ortega’s regime. Additionally, he tweeted a picture of himself with a bag over his head to mock a report that Syrian civilians were desperately trying to make homemade gas masks. Journalist Sulome Anderson recently announced she was suing Blumenthal and Norton “for libel and defamation.”

Blumenthal was amongst a group of reporters questioning Ramos after his return to Miami.

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter (the Macmillan Edition)

For other articles in this series 12345678, 9, 10

Last month I wrote a letter to several major dictionary publishers, outlining the dangerous implications of imprecise definitions of the term ‘genocide’ and the potential of prevention that a precise definition can contain. In my letter I appealed to the publishers to reconsider their existing definitions.

Within 24 hours, Cambridge Dictionary and Macmillan Dictionary confirmed that the letter has been forwarded to their editorial teams for consideration (UPDATE: On March 28 I received a reply from Merriam-Webster). Three days later, I received this reply from the Macmillan team:

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Samar Yazbek: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (2015)

Samar Yazbek was a well-known journalist, a presenter on Syrian television and a celebrated novelist when she fell foul of the Assad regime, leaving her no choice but to flee. She was forced to watch from afar as a peaceful uprising turned into violent conflict and her country burned. This is from 2015.