Jesse Freeston reports from Honduras’ Aguan Valley for The Real News Network:
From the Local Coordination Committees
The killing machine of the Syrian regime has started another military campaign against our beloved cities and towns, in Hama, Deir Ezzor, Bokamal, Moadhamieh, Hirak and others. More than 100 people have been killed today. This confirms the criminal murderous nature of the regime to those who are still unsure about it, and makes it paramount to all Syrians to get rid of it, sooner rather than later.
To the squares of freedom, O Syrians. The price of changing the regime is lower than that of leaving it. If this regime manages to regain control, much more of your blood would be shed, and much more of your dignity would be lost, and you will be ruled by a gang of Shabeeha, murderers and thieves. You will face black days for many coming years if the current regime maintains the upper hand in this great national confrontation. The blood of your brothers and sisters in Hama, Homs, Daraa, Idlib, Damascus and Deir Ezzor is crying out for you to rise up and save your homeland from the rule of criminals.
Ramadan begins tomorrow. Every night throughout the month Muslims will congregate for taraweeh prayers; in Syria, each night’s taraweeh will turn into anti-regime protests. During Ramadan people work less and therefore have more time for meditation – and for protesting. The security forces repressing these protests will be tired and snappy. The protestors will be quick-tempered from thirst and hunger, and also in many cases less frightened of death. For a pious Muslim, to die in Ramadan while standing up for justice is a very good death. At the same time, fighting in Ramadan is frowned upon. Regime violence during the holy month will outrage people even more than usual.
The regime would like to frighten everybody into their homes before the fasting starts. Hence the escalation today. The city of Hama, where between 10 and 20,000 people were massacred by the regime in 1982, was invaded by traitors before dawn. Up to 45 have been killed so far, and numbers are rising quickly. In the east, Deir-ez-Zor is also under tank attack. Several have been killed. A child has been murdered in Albu Kamal, right on the Iraqi border. Moadamiya and other suburbs of Damascus are being attacked. Hundreds have been taken away and many injured. Reports are coming in of heavy gunfire in Homs. (Updated figures at lunchtime claim 121 have been murdered so far today throughout the country).
Does the regime want to provoke an armed response? (In the tribal areas near the Iraqi border, it probably will). Or does it really think that after months of massacres Syrians will be intimidated by a larger slaughter? The barbarity, idiocy and treason of this regime are beyond doubt. As uniformed Syrians murder civilian Syrians, the Golan remains under Zionist occupation – as it has been since Hafez al-Asad lost it in 1967 – and the many Israeli violations of Syrian sovereignty, which the state assured us would be avenged ‘at a time and place of Syria’s choosing’, have not been avenged. The brave security forces of the Asad thugs – great at invading Syrian cities, shooting women dead, mutilating little boys. Absolutely shit at defending Syrian people, dignity and territory. I do hope the Free Syrian Army is real. (Joshua Landis thinks it isn’t; but then, Joshua Landis has, repulsively, started to refer to pro-regime Syrians as ‘pro-stability.’)
Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines on the US role in the Gulf, particularly its deliberate support for the repressive Bahraini monarchy.
Fault Lines’ Seb Walker travels to the Gulf to look at US policy in the region, and to explore why the United States has taken an interventionist policy in Libya, but not in Bahrain, where there has been a brutal crackdown on protesters. Why does the White House strongly back democracy in one Arab country, but not another?
In a series of articles for Al Jazeera I had questioned the improbably low casualty figures being cited by the US and Pakistani authorities and endorsed in the bogus statistics produced by the New America Foundation. Gen. Petraeus’s former counterinsurgency advisors David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum had already suggested that up to 98 percent of those killed in the drone strikes may be civilians. Recently, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had conclusively debunked the CIA’s claims about success of its policy. Today none other than the former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair has called for an end to the drone strikes because he believes the tactic is dangerous and a complete failure which only kills some mid-level militants [in other words it kills a whole lot of civilians since over 2,500 Pakistanis have been killed so far].
Naseema Noor of IPS reports on the recent Bureau of Investigative Journalism study:
Led by British investigative journalist Chris Woods and Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, the study found that at least 45 civilians, including six children, have been killed in 10 drone strikes since August 2010 alone, while another 15 attacks between then and June 2011 likely killed many more.
According to the study, civilians die in one out of every five Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-operated drone attacks in the tribal region, located on the border with Afghanistan, a statistic that the Bureau says can no longer be denied by the U.S. government.
Jadaliyya has translated an interview with prominent Syrian oppositionist Burhan Ghalyoun – well worth reading. He addresses those Syrian intellectuals still “poisoned by the idea that the regime is the foundation for an opposition and resistance to Israel, even though Rami Makhlouf, one of the regime’s pillars, stated that the security and stability of Israel is tied to the stability of Syria’s current regime,” and continues: “There is no danger for the Palestinian cause in the shadow of a democratic Syrian system. The Syrian people are closest to the Palestinian people, and they are more protective of the Palestinian cause, the Golan Heights, and Arab solidarity than the current regime whose leaders have made the country feudal and do not care for anything except for protecting their own interests and existence.”
Read the interview in full after the break.
I’ve been keeping quiet about Syria recently. I’ve been working on other projects. The main reason for this is that I have nothing new to say. The regime continues to spew meaningless words concerning ‘reform’ and ‘dialogue’ even as it escalates its assaults on urban areas and its campaigns of arrest and torture. The rate at which the regime murders the innocent is still shocking, but is substantially less than in earlier months. There is evidence that the killings are now more targetted against protest leaders and organisers – in other words against the intelligent leadership of the next generation. Pro-regime propagandists continue to speak about the Syrian people (their own people) the way Zionists speak about the Palestinian people. Anti-regime violence, understandably, seems to be rising. Very worryingly, there appear to have been sectarian clashes between Alawis and Sunnis in Homs. The regime, with its appalling instrumentalisation of sectarianism since the intifada began, its use of irregular Alawi-majority militias (as the Americans used Shia and Kurdish militias to terrorise restive Sunni areas in Iraq), and through its black operations, bears full responsibility for this. It is to the credit of Syrians that almost universal revulsion met news of the sectarian fighting. Most protestors reaffirmed their commitment to national unity. The protests, meanwhile, have grown to enormous proportions. The governorates of Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Idlib and Homs appear to be lost to the regime. Damascus and Aleppo are now definitely involved. Ramadan will bring a further intensification.
When I get to it, I will write more fully about Hizbullah’s blunder in supporting the regime. Hizbullah used to be wildly popular in Syria because it was perceived as an organisation dedicated to fighting for the oppressed. Now that it’s taken to supporting the Syrian oppressors against the Syrian oppressed, Hizbullah is widely despised in Syria. Its own stupidity achieved what decades of Wahhabi-Saudi, Zionist and Western propaganda could not. Here’s an article by Hamid Dabashi on that.
And here’s a fair documentary from the BBC on the situation in Syria, featuring the brave and long-suffering Riyadh as-Saif.