Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 30th, 2013

Syria Civil War: A long time colonial engineered catastrophe…

10 Do’s and Don’ts for “Progressive minded people” Discussing Syria

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week, which killed 600, and threats from the US to engage in military strikes, Kudami had the idea of listing  are few do’s and don’ts for progressive/radical anti-war organizations/activists in the US and to figure out a proper response in their discussions.

RAMAH KUDAIMI, a Syrian-American activist in DC, posted on Counter punch this August 28, 2013 (with slight editing, and my additional comments in parenthesis)

1. DON’T in any way say or imply both sides are wrong. Or to say “it’s not clear who we would be supporting if we get involved militarily….”

This is an insult to every Syrian who has and continues to go out in the streets and protest both the regime and those forces who are looking to use this time of war to assert their own power over others. (This was true in the first 7 months of the start of the upheaval in 2011, and lately in the Kurd dominated regions in the north east)

It is a shame how many progressive groups in the US just jump on the “both sides are bad” wagon so we shouldn’t get involved.

There are over one million children who are refugees and that is the fault of the regime. It is the regime who is bombing cities with jets; it is the regime that has ruled the country with brutal force for decades.

Any statement that doesn’t acknowledge this is again an insult to those who have sacrificed so much.

2. DON’T over conflate Iraq and Syria (meaning match the same tragedy?).  Just as ludicrous those who look to Kosovo as an example of unilateral US military intervention in order to support a strike in Syria.

It is quite pathetic when so many progressives and leftists are just obsessed with supposedly false chemical weapons claims. There are 100,000 Syrians dead, the majority killed by conventional weapons.

So there are a million and one excuses for the US to intervene and faking chemical weapons attacks is not needed. There is also no basis I believe in claiming al Qaeda has access and uses such weapons (Carla del Ponte of the UN beg to differ: The insurgents used sarin gas this April in the town of Khan al Assal near Aleppo)

Al Qaeda fought the US for a decade in Iraq and not once deployed such weapons (They didn’t possess them? Sort of getting their hands on deadly chemical agents in Syrian army depots and quickly applied them?)

But all of a sudden they’re using them in Syria? And if the rebels had these weapons, the regime would’ve fallen a long time ago (not that rational a conclusion, since Syrian regime is one of the top nations that hoards chemical weapons)

3. DON’T obsess over al-Qaeda, Islamist extremists, jihadists, etc. (Not living among you?)

Since 9/11, progressive minded people have rightly shunned the use of all these labels when it comes to the US War on Terror, yet we now use them freely when it comes to Syria (or anywhere in the Islamic world) and actually believe it.

The overwhelming majority of Syrians, both those who have taken arms and those who continue to resist through nonviolent means, have nothing to do with the extremist groups and are rising up against all forces who are destroying their country, whether they be regime or supposed “opposition” groups.

It is also important to understand that the Free Syria Army is not a central command army with orders given from the top. It is a loosely affiliated group of different battalions and anyone can claim to be part of it.

4. DO point out all the US failures toward Syria and how dropping bombs on the country is not what is needed.

I personally don’t believe that US is going to get militarily involved. They promised weapons to the rebels and have yet to deliver.

No way is the US getting in because as has been pointed out by Gen. Martin Dempsey and in a NYT opinion piece, “it is so much useful for US interests for Syrians to kill each other…” (It doesn’t follow that a restricted strike is not meant to enflame the region even further…)

I think taking a position of the US should not get involved through a military intervention is fine.

DON’T put it as “Hands off Syria” implying this is some kind of American conspiracy.

DON’T argue this is about US not having a right to taking sides in a civil war.

DON’T make it all about money for home since we do want more humanitarian aid.

DO frame it as what will help bring the suffering of Syrians to an end.

5. DO point out US hypocrisy as it judges Russia for sending weapons to the regime.

Just last week a story came out that the US is sending $640 million worth of cluster bombs to (this obscurantist) Saudi monarchy.

Weapons continue to flow to Egypt, Bahrain, and Israel despite massive human rights violations.

DO call for an end to all sales of weapons to all regimes in the region.

6. DON’T let genuine concerns with US imperialism, Israel, Saudi… make you look at pictures and videos of dead children and think conspiracy.

Bashar Assad is an authoritarian dictator and his record of resistance is a bit sketchy. Just remember he collaborated with the US on things such as CIA renditions.

Just because the CIA is training a few fighters in Jordan or some anonymous rebel leader is quoted in some Israeli paper doesn’t mean this isn’t a legitimate Syrian uprising against a brutal regime.

7. DO highlight the continued bravery of the Syrian people who take to the streets and protest against the regime, extremists, and all others looking to destroy their struggle for freedom and dignity.

As in everywhere, coverage of violence trumps coverage of continued nonviolent resistance.

8. DO strongly urge people to donate for humanitarian aid. Between deaths, imprisonments, internal displacement, and refugees, I think 30-40% of the Syrian population is in one way or another uprooted.

9. I have no actual solutions to suggest on how to encourage people to support (a political transitional peace negotiation?)

Perhaps pushing for an actual ceasefire might be an option, which would require pressure on Russia to tell Bashar to back down (and the western nations to desist recovering a military balance on the field in Syria).

I know my not having answers about how to resolve anything is a shortcoming, but sometimes the best course of action is to just be in solidarity with folks in their struggle through simply recognizing it.

10. Syrians deserve the same respect for their struggle as all other struggles in the region: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and always Palestine.

Ramah Kudaimi can follow her on Twitter @ramahkudaimi.

Note1: It was inconceivable that any free thinking Syrian could support this enduring 40-year dictatorship and humiliations before 2012.  Around 2012, the popular tide has shifted, not in support of the dictatorial regime, but:

1.  Against the extreme religious alternative of the Nusra Front ideology.

2. The Syrian people want to survive and only the institutions of a government can supply the needed daily requirement for survival.

3. The Syrian people are convinced that any political resolution for a transitional government will clip the wings of this horrible dictatorship.

4. In the mean time, the minority religious sects have better side with the government or flee the country as the Nusra Front advances…

In any case, the current Syrian army is united and has acquired field engagement against the staunchest of well-trained resistance forces from dozen countries.

Note 2: The initial insurgents were not sectarians, until the regime on purpose liberated over one thousand leading extremist jihadists from prisons without any preconditions, in order for those radical Islamists to ignite this civil war with the flame of sectarian overtone…

Message amplification, Free Prize, Where do Purple Cows come from…?

“Where do Purple Cows come from?”

Bob at Arnold Architectural Strategies asked a question that was similar to many: What’s the free prize, why don’t you talk about it more and how do I use it?

Seth Godin posted on August 09, 2013

In Free Prize Inside, my sequel to Purple Cow, I point out:

As marketers, our instinct is to believe that we have to make a product or service that flies faster, jumps higher, costs less, works infinitely better and is generally off the charts at doing what the product is supposed to do.

We get our minds around one performance metric and decide that the one and only way we can be remarkable is to knock that metric out of the park.

So, hammers have to hammer harder, speakers have to speak louder and cars have to accelerate faster.


This is a distraction from the reality of how humanity chooses, when they have a choice.

We almost never buy the item we buy because it excels at a certain announced metric.

Almost no one drives the fastest car or chooses the most efficient credit card. No, we buy a story.

The story is what the product also does.

It’s the other reason we buy something, and usually, the real reason.

Simple example:

You have a 7-year old daughter. The last time she unexpectedly woke up after going to bed was three years ago. Of course, you’re going to hire a babysitter and not leave her alone, but really, what are you hiring when you hire a babysitter?

Is it her ability to do CPR, cook gourmet food or teach your little one French? Not if she shows up after the kid goes to bed.

No, you’re hiring peace of mind. You’re hiring the way it makes you feel to know that just in case, someone talented is standing by.

If her goal is to be a great babysitter, then, good performance doesn’t involve honing her CPR skills or standing at the door, listening to your daughter breathe.

Good performance for a babysitter is showing up a few minutes early, dressed appropriately, with an air of confidence.

Good performance is sending a text every 90 minutes, if requested, to the neurotic parents.

Good performance is leaving the kitchen cleaner than she found it.

It sounds obvious, but it’s rarely done.

It’s frightening to build and stand for ‘other’ when everyone else is making slightly-above-average.

The free prize is the other metric, the thing we want to talk about, the job we hire your product to do when we hire a product like yours. T

hat’s what we tell a story about.


Choosing to be formidable

Seth Godin posted on August 12, 2013

You’ve met people who are an accident just waiting to happen. What’s the opposite of that?

What we’re looking for in a boss, in a CEO to invest in, in a business partner, in a candidate, is to be formidable. Someone to be reckoned with.

Not someone with all the answers, because no one has all the answers.

No, we want someone who is magic about to happen.

This is the electricity that follows the star quarterback around. We aren’t attracted to him because he’s a stolid, reliable, by-the-book play maker.

No, it’s the sense that he has sufficient domain knowledge combined with the vision and the passion to create lightning at will. Sarah Caldwell was the same way, bringing a sense of imminent possibility to the work she gave us.

They don’t teach formidable in school. They teach compliance and rote and perhaps spin.

They teach us to be on the alert for shortcuts and for ways to get away with less.

Not surprisingly, the formidable leader takes the opposite tack in every respect. She’s willing and eager to take the long way if it gets to the elusive destination.

She doesn’t need to spin because the truth as she knows it is sufficient.

There might only be two critical elements in the choice to be formidable:

1. Skill. The skill to understand the domain, to do the work, to communicate, to lead, to master all of the details necessary to make your promise come true. All of which is difficult, but insufficient, because none of it matters if you don’t have…

2. Care. The passion to see it through. The willingness to find a different route when the first one doesn’t work. The certainty that in fact, there is a way, and you care enough to find it. Amazingly, this is a choice, not something you need to get certified in.

Formidable leaders find the tough questions, and instead of being afraid to ask them, eagerly decide to seek out the answers.

They dig in deep to the details that matter and ignore the ones that merely distract.

They bite off more than others can chew but consistently avoid biting off more than they can (because they care so much, it hurts to admit that you’ve reached the end).

It’s not a dream if you can do it.

Paul Graham gets full credit for coining the term. “A formidable person is one who seems like they’ll get what they want, regardless of whatever obstacles are in the way.”

Message amplification isn’t linear

Seth Godin posted on August 14, 2013

Put two loudspeakers next to each other, and the perceived sound isn’t twice as loud--and ten times as many speakers certainly doesn’t seem ten times as loud.

But when you hear an idea from two people, it counts for twice as much as if you randomly hear it once.

And if you hear an idea from ten people, the impact is completely off the charts compared to just one person whispering in your ear.

Coordinating and amplifying the evangelists of your idea is a big part of the secret of marketing with impact.

Two Minds on Syria

So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.

Are you telling me that our US government is about to bomb Syrians because Syrians are bombing one another away? Occasionally with chemical gas?

And how US military strike is categorized as a “humanitarian option” for the dying Syrians?

Is Bombing for peace like fucking for virginity?


 published in the New Yorker

Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.

Candidate Obama was correct. We will break down the law behind this tomorrow on

And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.

But you think we shouldn’t do anything.

I didn’t say that. But I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.

We’re going to let Assad know that chemical weapons are over the line. There’s a reason they’ve been illegal since Verdun or whenever.

Except when Saddam used them against the Kurds—we knew, and we didn’t say a word.

Is that a reason to let Assad use them against his people?

At this point, I don’t think Assad is too worried about the Geneva Conventions.

He should have to think hard before using them again.

He’s a bloody dictator fighting for survival. He’s going to do whatever he has to do.

Not if we really hurt him. Not if we pound his communications centers, his air-force bases, key government installations. He’ll be more likely to survive if he doesn’t use chemical weapons.

Killing civilians while we’re at it.

These would be very specific targets.

The wrong people always get killed.

Maybe. Probably. But if you were a Syrian being bombed by Assad every day, trying to keep your head down and your family alive, wouldn’t you want the world to respond, even if a few more people die? I think so.

Easy for you to say.

Hey, can we not personalize this?

Weren’t you just saying that I don’t care about dying children? (Pause.) So you want us to get involved in their civil war.

I’m not saying that.

But that’s what we’ll be doing. Intervening on the rebel side, tipping the balance in their favor.

Not necessarily. We’ll be drawing a line that says dictators don’t get to use W.M.D.s without consequences.

You can’t bomb targets on one side of a civil war without helping the other side.

It would be very temporary. We’d send Assad a clear message, and then we’d step back and let them go on fighting. We’re not getting involved any deeper than that, because I know what you’re going to say—

The rebels are a bunch of infighting, disorganized, jihadist thugs, and we can’t trust any of them.

I’m not saying we should.

And what do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?

We hit him again.

And it escalates.

Not if we restrict it to cruise missiles and air strikes.

Now you’re scaring me. Have you forgotten Iraq?

Not for a single minute.

My point is that you can’t restrict it. You can’t use force for limited goals. You need to know what you’ll do after his next move, and the move after that.

It only escalates if we allow ourselves to get dragged in deeper. Kosovo didn’t escalate.

This isn’t Kosovo. The Syrian rebels aren’t the K.L.A. Assad isn’t Milosevic. Putin isn’t Yeltsin. This is far worse. Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate. That’s not going to happen in Syria.

You think Putin is going to risk a military confrontation with the U.S. and Europe?

I think Russia isn’t going to let Assad go down. Neither is Iran or Hezbollah. So they’ll escalate. This could be the thing that triggers an Israel-Iran war, and how do we stay out of that? My God, it feels like August, 1914.

That was a hundred years ago. Stop with the historical analogies.

You’re the one who brought up Verdun. And Kosovo.

I brought up Kosovo because you brought up Iraq. That’s the problem with these arguments. Iraq! Vietnam! Valley Forge! Agincourt! People resort to analogies so they don’t have to think about the matter at hand.

And because they don’t know anything about the matter at hand.

I know what I saw in those videos.

Thank God Obama doesn’t make foreign policy that way. He knows what he doesn’t know about Syria. He’s always thinking a few steps ahead. He’s not going to get steamrolled by John McCain and Anderson Cooper.

At a certain point, caution is another word for indecisiveness. Obama looks weak! Or worse—indifferent. Anyway, he should have thought ahead when he called chemical weapons a “red line.” He set that trap a year ago, and now we’re in it.

Why does it have to be a trap?

Because our credibility is on the line.

Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.

See, that’s another thing people do in these arguments.


“You sound like so-and-so.” It shouldn’t matter who else is on your side. I mean, you’re in bed with Rand Paul. Anyway, credibility matters even if Kissinger said so. You have to do what you say you’re going to do, especially with bullies.

I don’t think Obama committed himself to any one course of action. But if he does bomb them, we’re involved in that war, and I sure hope his advisers have thought through all the potential consequences better than you have.

Inaction has consequences, too. Assad gases more people, the death toll hits two hundred thousand, the weapons get into Hezbollah’s hands, Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program, the Syrian rebels disintegrate and turn to international terrorism, the whole region goes up in sectarian flames.

And how does firing cruise missiles at Damascus prevent any of this?

It doesn’t. But, look, all of this is already happening with us sitting it out. If we put a gun to Assad’s head, we might be able to have more influence over the outcome. At least we can prevent him from winning.

A violent stalemate. How wonderful for the Syrians. Some people think that’s the best solution for us.

I’m not saying that.

What are you saying?

I don’t know. I had it worked out in my head until we started talking. (Pause.) But we need to do something this time.

Not just to do something.

All right. Not just to do something. But could you do me a favor?

What’s that?

While you’re doing nothing, could you please be unhappy about it?

I am


1. Will the US admit the UN inspection team to check on the kinds of chemicals the missiles are loaded with? Particularly chemical charges that are prohibited by the international conventions such as 40% depleted uranium, phosphorous gas, cluster bombs, and why not containing sarin too?

2. Will generations of Syrians be afflicted with cancerous birth defects as witnessed in Iraq after the air strikes?

3. Will the Syrian forests be defoliated by Orange agents?

4. How England dare to participate in this “humanitarian strike” after it dispatched 4 million cluster bombs to Israel in the last day of the war against Lebanon in 2006? And Lebanese kids living in south Lebanon still succumbing to these tiny bombs after so many years?





August 2013

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