Donald Trump’s Militarism in 400 Words

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President-elect Donald J. Trump was often vague on the campaign trail, but he was clear about this: as commander-in-chief he would get back to the basics of the War on Terror, foregoing liberal projects like “nation-building” in favor of just “bombing the hell out of” the Islamic State in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. And he suggested he would do this with the help of Vladimir Putin, a man some in his own party consider a threat. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia,” Trump said over the summer, “and knocked the hell out of ISIS?“

His supporters cheered while pundits scoffed at this budding friendship between right-wing nationalists. But despite the unusually public nature of the affair, the groundwork for such a US-Russia alliance against ISIS was already being laid by President Barack Obama. While Trump was campaigning, U.S. diplomats were meeting with their Russian counterparts to hammer out a deal to share intelligence and jointly conduct bombing raids against ISIS and other extremists in Syria. That deal was strongly by leading Republicans like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, falling apart not because of their opposition, though, but because Russian forces reportedly bombed an aid convoy on its way to Aleppo, making a partnership unseemly.

Trump is more likely to overlook humanitarian concerns, but he’ll face the same opposition Obama did if he tries to link up with Putin. General Michael Flynn, his top national security advisor, shares his outlook on Russia and terrorism, even being paid to speak at a party in Moscow hosted by RT, the Russian government’s propaganda arm. But Trump’s administration also includes the likes of Congressman Mike Pompeo, a hard-liner on Russia who will be leading the Central Intelligence Agency. There are no doves in his cabinet, but there will be disagreements on how far to take any alignment with Moscow, which will amplified by a Congress that can still play politics with the money Trump will need for any airstrikes.

Trump, however, inherits not just a proposed alliance with Russia, but the unilateral ability to deploy U.S. military power wherever he chooses. The upside is there’s no ambiguity: few expect him to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. And that’s an advantage for those who don’t think a war on terror can be won with more of the extreme violence that breeds terrorism: they can start organizing now against what they know is coming.

Charles Davis is a journalist in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @charlierarchy

Syria and The Intercept: The Case for Editorial Intervention

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The online publication launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar recently published what it billed as a major scoop: “Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.” These sanctions were likened by author Rania Khalek to the siege the U.S. imposed on Iraq, which a U.N. report in 1999 said had doubled child mortality in the country, leading to “the death of 500,000 children.”

Khalek’s piece was well received by others who prefer to omit the words “barrel bombs,” “cruise missiles” and “starvation sieges” from their coverage of Syria’s humanitarian crisis, which has seen roughly 500,000 people killed since 2011, the majority, according to the U.N., killed at the hands of the Syrian regime and its allies. Russia’s RT and the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency both amplified the story’s conflation of targeted sanctions against Bashar al-Assad and his top officials with an all-encompassing economic embargo. “US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report,” wrote The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn.

The problem for The Intercept and those who reported on its claim is the oft-unwelcome truth among those committed to blaming someone other than Bashar al-Assad for the bulk of the suffering in Syria: The only hint of truth in Khalek’s lede is that Syrians are suffering through the worst war the world has seen since Adolf Hitler’s self-inflicted demise in a bunker underneath Berlin.

To start: What is billed as “Internal United Nations assessments” is but one report that wasn’t internal and, explicitly, does not reflect the view of the United Nations. The Intercept has since acknowledged this in one of the corrections issued at the end of Khalek’s piece: “The report referenced was prepared for the U.N. and does not reflect the U.N.’s official position.”

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The latter clause is perhaps intentionally suggestive: “official,” if you know what I mean. What is not explicitly stated is that the report that was “obtained” was a report available freely online at least four months earlier, authored not by a U.N. official or agency but by an official, Justine Walker, at the British Bankers’ Association, an organization institutionally inclined to favor Western trade with literally whomever, capital and those who possess it not troubled by grave violations of human rights.

Capture4.PNGThat this is not a “U.N. report,” as The Intercept states in its headline, or a “United Nations” assessment, as Khalek states in her lede, is buried all the way back on page three of this banker’s assessment: “The views expressed are entirely those of the author and should not be considered to constitute any official statement.”

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Attributing one view solicited by an organization to the organization as a whole is like suggesting an OpEd from the foreign minister of Iran reflects the institutional take of The New York Times, which after all commissioned it. And yet: The headline, and the lede, persist, admitting a fatal mistake as hard for some as admitting who is chiefly to blame for punishing ordinary Syrians.

Where are the Syrians in Max Blumenthal’s Article? An Open Letter from Syrian Activist Marcell Shehwaro

Marcel Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan.
Marcel Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan.

By Marcell Shehwaro

I read Max Blumenthal’s article, which aims to open our eyes to the dangerous hidden reality behind The Syria Campaign. I read it over and over and all I felt was a combination of patronisation and humiliation in detail after detail… Beginning with the focus on who took the photo of Omran and who published it and neglecting the fact that what happened to Omran did actually happen and the boy really was bombed. But of course this detail is marginal… just as marginal as all other Syrian men and women in that piece of writing. All of us are marginal details.

More important now is how to help the killer escape by spreading doubts around all the human rights violations they committed.

My organization is one of the 73 organizations that signed on to suspending cooperation with the UN. The decision was taken and planned as per the following steps. Months and days of dysfunctional coordination with the UN as a result of the political ties of the UN’s offices in Damascus. Let alone the grave failure, that the UN admits to, of dealing with the sieges. The Syrian anger towards this topic was portrayed through many responses, actions, banners and campaigns such as United Nothing. All those are purely Syrians but it seems not important enough for Mr. Blumenthal to mention. Continue reading “Where are the Syrians in Max Blumenthal’s Article? An Open Letter from Syrian Activist Marcell Shehwaro”

A Call to Stop the Bombing of Aleppo

A Statement from Friends for a NonViolent World (FNVW)

FNVW Calls for Stopping the Bombing of Aleppo

It is time for all peace organizations to speak out clearly.  We at FNVW since 2011 have supported both the Syrian nonviolent movement and nonviolent activists in their struggle for human rights and a democratic Syria for all Syrians without any group monopolizing power to impose its own agenda.

Throughout this struggle FNVW has opposed the United States as well as any other country or organization sending weapons and/or troops to any of the parties in the conflict. Friends for a NonViolent World affirmed that the United States must remain solely committed to diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to resolve this crisis.  And we have been outspoken in our opposition to the extreme Salafist groups in the armed opposition and any party in the conflict who have committed crimes against humanity. Continue reading “A Call to Stop the Bombing of Aleppo”

Theaters of Coercion: Iran at Home and Abroad

children-of-paradise-coverI have an essay in the new issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas in which I review Laura Secor’s excellent new book Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran and also examine Tehran’s role in the changing political landscape of the Middle East—especially in the Syrian catastrophe. You can read the essay here.

Syria’s Medical and Humanitarian Nightmare: Interview with Dr. Zaher Sahloul

Since their days as medical school classmates, Bashar al-Assad and Zaher Sahloul have followed rather different paths: one became a war criminal; the other, a humanitarian advocate.

Dr. Sahloul is the immediate past president of and a senior advisor to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a humanitarian and advocacy organization that provides medical relief to Syrians and Syrian refugees. Last year, SAMS served 2.5 million patients in five different countries. (The organization’s vital work is featured in the recent documentary film 50 Feet from Syriawhich is available on Netflix.)

Dr. Sahloul is also the founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria, a coalition of 14 US-based humanitarian organizations working in Syria. He is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a practicing physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has written about the medical and humanitarian crisis in Syria for Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post, among other outlets.

I conducted this interview with Dr. Sahloul for the Middle East Dialogues series produced by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies on April 26 — less than 48 hours before the Assad regime’s airstrike on the MSF-supported pediatric hospital in Aleppo that killed dozens of patients and doctors, including one of the city’s last remaining pediatricians.

Go here to volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society (you do not need to be a doctor or medical professional) and here to donate to the organization.

In Syria, Rebuilding Bombed Hospitals Is an Act of Resistance

Re-posted from Truthout

Saturday, 14 May 2016

By Charles Davis, Truthout | Report

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Buildings destroyed by fire in Damascus, Syria, April 24, 2016. Five years after the conflict began, Syrians are crowdsourcing money online to rebuild and fortify bombed hospitals. (Photo: Declan Walsh / The New York Times)

The horror of the conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, can be measured with statistics: over 400,000 people dead; half the population displaced; the life expectancy of a newborn child dropping from 76 years in 2011 to under 56 years in 2016. But the grotesque absurdity of this revolution turned civil war is perhaps best captured by the fact that today Syrians are forced to crowdsource money online to rebuild and fortify bombed hospitals.

“In our worst dreams — in our worst nightmares — we never thought we would have to fortify hospitals.”

Continue reading “In Syria, Rebuilding Bombed Hospitals Is an Act of Resistance”

A Farewell to Veterans for Peace

Re-posted from Andy Berman: Threads of My Time, the blog of longtime antiwar activist and Veterans for Peace member Andy Berman

A Farewell to Arms: Till We Meet Again

By Andy Berman

May 11, 2016

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Preface:

As a longstanding member of Veterans for Peace, I often contributed to internal online VFP discussion groups over the last few years.  With Syria the bloodiest war on the planet, and thus a topic that nominally should be high on VFP’s agenda, I often wrote about developments in Syria.

My contributions frequently clashed with the self-identified “anti-imperialists” in VFP who blame the Syria conflict entirely on the United States and either defend or ignore the criminal role of Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

While my prose was always exceedingly civil, I was relentlessly attacked by a handful of angry and disturbed VFP members using extremely vile personal diatribe against me. Continue reading “A Farewell to Veterans for Peace”

Break the Sieges

“We are too weak to walk or to cover the story. I was at the makeshift hospital and there were 200 who fainted today. Yesterday alone seven people were poisoned from eating raw cat meat that wasn’t cooked properly. The situation is really bad. We have infants who died because they didn’t have any milk. Today a family ate thorns.” — a media activist in Madaya.

Continue reading “Break the Sieges”

The Syrian Revolution and the Project of Autonomy

What follows is a series of variations on Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s observation that “Syria is a metaphor for a global crisis of representation.” It describes aspects of the present situation of the Syrian revolution, a process of tremendous strength and courage that has been rendered almost illegible in the West. It also looks from the present to possible futures, which are necessarily speculative, in order to pose three questions for discussion.

By Stephen Hastings-King

Note: This is a revised version of a presentation I made at Hamisch, the Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul, on October 16, 2015. I would like to thank the comrades of Hamisch for their hospitality and for the chance to make something new. Then as now, my hope is to contribute to a widening of conversations about the Syrian revolution and the ways in which the struggles of the Syrian people are interconnected with global struggles for basic human dignity.

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Where I am from there is no political future. There is only repetition of the same. The present is a ubiquitous horizon. Only the details will vary.

Where I am from the future has been privatized. People worry about their children.

We need to make new significations, ways of thinking beyond the horizon of the present.

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What follows is a series of variations on Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s observation that “Syria is a metaphor for a global crisis of representation.” It describes aspects of the present situation of the Syrian revolution, a process of tremendous strength and courage that has been rendered almost illegible in the West. It also looks from the present to possible futures, which are necessarily speculative, in order to pose three questions for discussion. Continue reading “The Syrian Revolution and the Project of Autonomy”