Ellie Goulding, I know you care

The wonderful Ellie Goulding sings a heartfelt song for Syrian children.

Donate to Save the Children’s Syria appeal now by downloading Ellie Goulding – I Know You Care #song4syria at http://bit.ly/1euLyJ3

The civil war in Syria is now in its third year. Nearly 7,000 children have died during the conflict, more than 2 million children within Syria have been forced to leave their homes and another million children have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatised, hungry, in urgent need of shelter and protection. Children are, once again, the innocent victims of war.

Save the Children is working inside Syria and neighbouring countries to ensure that Syria’s children get the food, medicines and protection they need. To donate to the Syria appeal and for more information please visithttp://www.savethechildren.org.uk/abo…

Continue reading “Ellie Goulding, I know you care”

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Godzilla in Damascus

gas1Godzilla in Mexico, by Roberto Bolano.

Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You’d just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn’t tell you we were on death’s program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn’t be afraid.
When it left, death didn’t even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We’re human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.

Actually Existing Intervention

Now that the glorious revolutionary alliance of the Stop the War Coalition, Sarah Palin’s Tea Party, UKIP, the BNP, Tory back-benchers and the (Iraq-invading) Labour Party has won its historical victory over the forces of imperialism, the western faux-left can go back to sleep while Bashaar al-Assad can continue and escalate his genocide of the Syrian people. Here’s a short film showing Iranian occupation forces in Syria. At one point one of them says, “There are no human beings here – only Arabs.”

Aziz’s Story

aziz cellThis was published at NOW

The Syrian city of Selemiyyeh lies to the east of Hama, where the fertile crescent becomes barren. The ruins of Shmemis castle, dating to the late Hellenistic period, cling to the cone of an extinct volcano nearby. The major historical site in the city itself is a shrine containing the tombs of Imam Taki Muhammed and Radi Abdallah. Some believe that Imam Ismail, the foundational figure of the Ismaili sect, is buried here too.

Although it’s an ancient city, with ancient links to the Ismaili faith, the ancestors of its present population were 19th and 20th Century migrants from Ismaili hill towns to the west, places such as Qadmous and Misyaf. The town, which also houses significant populations of Sunnis, Twelver Shia and Alawis, has long been a model of sectarian co-existence. Its secularism has been real – a genuine popular tolerance for difference, not the debased, propagandistic ‘secularism’ of the regime.

Along with Homs, Darayya, Dera‘a and Kafranbel (each one for different reasons), Selemiyyeh has become one of the capitals of the Syrian revolution. As a predominantly non-Sunni community which has since the start stood solidly for freedom and against the regime, its example proves both the mendacity of Assad’s sectarian narrative and the oversimplified western media discourse which portrays the fight as one between Sunni extremists and minority-secularists.

As part of its divide-and-rule strategy, the regime has spared Selemiyyeh the aerial bombardment and rocket attacks it has visited on majority-Sunni areas, but the city has suffered as much as anywhere from detentions and disappearances. Its revolutionaries, like all revolutionaries in regime-controlled areas, live underground.

Selemiyyeh has also bled (in January and February) from bomb attacks, probably organised by Jabhat an-Nusra, which targetted the regime’s shabeeha militia but also killed many innocent civilians. Despite such provocations, Selemiyyeh’s revolutionaries have cooperated with the Salafists of Ahrar ash-Sham, who have brought food aid to the city. And the community has done a great deal to house and feed its brothers and sisters of all sects fleeing violence in Homs and Hama. Pioneers of the early non-violent protests, many of Selemiyyeh’s residents are now engaged in the armed struggle.

When I met Aziz Asaad, an activist from Selemiyyeh, across the Turkish border in Antakya, I asked him why the community was so revolutionary, why it hadn’t been scared into fencesitting or even grudging support for Assad by the Islamist element of the opposition. His answer: “We read a lot. We’ve always read books.”

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How not to argue against war

children killed in ghouta
Two recent articles I’d like to bring to readers’ attention. The first is my debut article for Al Jazeera America in which I write about the misuse of the Iraq analogy:

Of the many lessons Iraq taught, only two are fundamental: one must not hype threats that don’t exist, and one must not introduce war where there is none. The former diminishes public trust; the latter creates human suffering it is supposed to prevent. Neither is applicable to Syria. The regime has shown both the capability and the willingness to deploy proscribed weapons, and Syria is already at war.

In yesterday’s frontpage article for The New Republic I write that in their justifiable concern over (the highly improbable) military intervention in Syria, some opponents of the policy (or Obama) have crossed the line into victim-blaming.

There are perfectly good arguments for opposing military intervention—and some have been made persuasively, on moral or national interest grounds. There are also good reasons to be skeptical of humanitarian conceits that might be used to justify intervention. But there is more than a fine line between skepticism and cynicism—and not even the otherwise noble concern with preventing war, or the less-noble determination to oppose a president regardless of policy, justifies excusing the Assad regime’s well-documented crimes. While war must always be an option of last resort, and it is right to be concerned about its unforeseen consequences (as long as one is mindful that inaction too has consequences), the national debate over whether to wage it in Syria is not helped by spreading ideologically driven lies.

My argument that the relevant analogy is not Iraq but Bosnia has also been echoed by Rory Stewart in what I consider the most sensible article written by a non-Syrian on the subject so far.

As regards the regime’s use of chemical weapons in last month’s massacre, those who think the jury’s still out might want to read Human Rights Watch’s detailed analysis of the regime’s culpability which was already well established by respected independent munitions experts like Eliot Higgins. As regards the regime’s motivations for using CW, check out Kim Sengupta’s stellar report on developments in Ghouta before and after the attack.

Top Five Worst Arguments Against US Airstrikes in Syria

By Malik Little

People like Robin Yassin-Kassab make good arguments against U.S. airstrikes on the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the problem is that hardly anyone else is making them. Instead, we usually hear some variation of the following five.

5. Hypocrisy.

The U.S. crossed President Obama’s “red line” in the 1980s by aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980s, first against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and then against Iraq’s restive Kurdish population. The U.S. crossed Obama’s “red line” again during its invasion and occupation of Iraq by using white phosphorus during an assault on rebel-held Fallujah. Before that, the U.S. used Agent Orange, napalm, and white phosphorus in Viet Nam. Based on this extremely brief history of U.S. chemical weapons usage, the U.S. is in no position morally to punish the Syrian regime for crossing a “red line” although it is in this position militarily.

Anti-interventionists who build their case on U.S. hypocrisy operate under the illusion that non-hypocritical military powers exist or that wars are exercises in morality. They don’t and they aren’t.

Waiting for a militarily powerful state founded and led by Santa Claus or a modern-day Gandhi to arise is not an acceptable course of action in the face of the clear and present danger of continued chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.

4. Non-violent alternatives, non-military options.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talked up sanctions, negotiations, arms embargos, war crimes tribunals, stepped up humanitarian aid to refugees, and all manner of embarrassingly ineffectual schemes given that the Syrian people exhausted non-military options over two years ago. For those that don’t know, their peaceful protests were met with gunfire, the torture and mutilation of children, rape on a mass scale, shelling, airstrikes, Scud missiles, and sarin gas attacks by the Assad regime that have killed over 100,000 people, forced two million to flee to neighboring countries, displaced five million internally, and led seven million to need humanitarian assistance – all in a country of a little more than 20 million.

There simply is no non-violent way to stop such a heinously violent regime.

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