Adonis Diaries

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Articles of Leader Antoun Saadi. Part 15

On Jobran Khalil Jobran
مصطفى الأيوبيposted on Fb. 4 hrs

تحيا سورية،

[…] إمتاز جبران خليل جبران بكتاباته الروحية الرامية إلى عتق النفوس من عبودية التقاليد الإجتماعية – الدينية المتحجرة. وإتخذ نفس الفرد مدار إهتمامه فأنشأ قصصه القصيرة اللطيفة كخليل الكافر وغيرها. وأظهر في هذه القصص ظلم التقاليد وعماوتها وإنحطاط المؤسسات الدينية.

[…] كتب جبران خليل جبران قصصه بلغته القومية فوصلت كتاباته إلى قسم من الناشئة التي تلقتها بنفوس محتاجة إلى اليقظة فأيقظتها وأرتها الظلمة التي هي فيها وحببت إليها الخروج منها.

ومع أن جبران وقف عند هذا الحد فإن أهمية تعيين العتمة هي أهمية عظيمة الشأن. ومن هذه الناحية أمكن تعيين جبران خليل جبران كسبّاق أمام النهضة السورية القومية.


كان لجبران خليل جبران تأثير عظيم على قسم من شبان بلاده، سورية، فنبَّه الشعور الروحي فيهم وجعلهم يتوقون إلى عهد جديد. ولكنه أخيراً تخلى عن هذه الرسالة وطلب المجد الشخصي. فترك الكتابة بلغة السوريين وإنصرف إلى الكتابة بلغة الأميركان الذين هم أسرع من السوريين إلى التقدير وأقدر منهم على شراء الكتب.

فأظهر من هذه الناحية ضعفاً روحياً عظيماً وهو الرجل الروحي الذي أراد الإنتصار بأدبه على المادة. ومع كل الأعذار التي إجتهد مريدو أدبه في جمعها وتقديمها للسوريين لتبرير تخلي جبران عنهم فلا بد من الإعتراف بأن ترك جبران الكتابة باللغة العربية كانت نقيصة كبيرة لأديب عظيم مثله لا تعوض.


[…] قد يحتج بعض المتلبننين على نعتنا جبران خليل جبران بالسوري كالدكتور خليل سعاده، ذلك لأن سوريَّة جبران لم تكن واضحة كسوريَّة الدكتور سعاده. ولكن لا شك في سوريَّة جبران، كما أنه لا شك في سوريَّة الدكتور خليل سعاده، فمقالة جبران “لكم لبنانكم ولي لبناني” دليل قاطع على عدم رضاه عن لبنان السياسي.


وهناك دليل آخر صريح بخط جبران ننقله عن عدد أول مارس 1934 من مجلة “الهلال” وهو مما كتبه جبران إلى السيد إميل زيدان، مدير المجلة المذكورة وأحد أصحابها سنة 1919 و1922 وإليكه: “أنا من القائلين بوحدة سورية الجغرافية وبإستقلال البلاد تحت حكم نيابي وطني عندما يصبح السوريون أهلاً لذلك أي عندما تبلغ الناشئة الجديدة أشدّها وقد يتم الأمر بعد مرور خمس عشرة سنة […]”.
سعاده

“سورية الجديدة”

العدد 114 في 24 أيار 1941
“ذكرى سورييَّن عظيمين”

Articles of Leader Antoun Saadi. Part 13

Article in 1948. We are Not in the Nirvana: this is Not our culture.

تحيا سورية،

[…] في شرحي في الاجتماع الماضي للنفسية السورية (ص 77 أعلاه)، وفي تحليلي للنفسية السورية قلت إنّ السوريين ليسوا شرقيين. ليسوا شرقيين في نفسيتهم، في روحيتهم، في اتجاهاتهم النفسية الروحية. وبتعبير آخر قلت إننا لسنا “نرفانيين” أي لسنا من شعوب النفسية الشرقية.

“النرفانا” هي لفظ هندي معناه التخلص من الحياة، التخلص من متاعب الحياة، التخلص من ألم الحياة، إلى الموت الهادىء الذي يعطي السلام. الركود والسلام الأخير، هو المطلب الأعلى “النرفاني” وهو الباعث على نظرة تشاؤومية جداً في الحياة، تطلب من الإنسان أن يشيح بوجهه عن الحياة ويتجه نحو الفناء.


من هذه الناحية، نحن لسنا شرقيين، لسنا نرفانيين. ولا نتجه في حياتنا نحو الفناء بل نتجه نحو البقاء.


نحن لا نقول إنّ الحياة كلها ألم وتعب، وإنّ الغاية العظمى هي التهرب من الحياة ومتاعبها ومصاعبها.
نحن نقول بأننا كُفءٌ، نقول بأننا أكفاء للاضطلاع بالحياة ومتاعبها، وإنّ لنا المقدرة على حمل أتعابها بسرور، عاملين بتقدم نحو الفلاح، نحو التغلب، نحو المقدرة، لا نحو الفناء ونحو الخضوع ونحو التلاشي. […]


سعاده

محاضرة الزعيم السابعة في الندوة الثقافية
الأحد في 7 مارس/ آذار 1948
المحاضرات العشر، دمشق، 1952، ص 98 ـ 114
#إضاءة_اليوم

Article in 1939: The transformation of our behavior is Not going to be easy in order to wield our self-determination

تحيا سورية،
إضاءة اليوم:

[…] كل النفوس كانت تائقة إلى حادث مرجو ينقذها من تخبّطها وضلالها ويشفيها من أمراضها الروحية والنفسية (العقلية). ولكن لما جاء هذا الحادث المرجو رأت فيه الأنفس الواهية الهالكة ما لا قوة على الأخذ به.

وهنالك نفوس أدمنت الأوهام إدمان الأفيون فهي تستمهل وتفضّل الهبوط في مهاوي الأوهام وتستصعب وتشجب الصعود في مراقي الحياة كشارب الأفيون الذي مهما يكن من أمر العلاج الشافي الذي تقدمه له فهو لا يريد من الأفيون بديلاً.

وكم هنالك من الناس الذين يرون الإنتقال إلى حالة جديدة أمراً هيناً، لأنهم يتوهمون الانتقال بروحياتهم السقيمة ونعراتهم الخفية وعنعناتهم المزمنة ونفسياتهم المقيّدة وأوهامهم المظلمة وجميع أمراضهم الروحية – العقلية، التي أصبحوا يجدون فيها لذة لا يتمكنون من تصوّر حياة بدونها.

إنّ جميع هؤلاء يشعرون بأن النهضة القومية قد خيّبت رجاءهم كما خيّب مجيء المسيح رجاء اليهود فإنّ اليهود كانوا يرجون الإنقاذ من حالتهم على يد مسيح يجيء لإرضاء خصوصياتهم ولكن الأرض السورية لم تكن صالحة للخصوصيات اليهودية المريضة فجاء المسيح لإنقاذ سورية والعالم من الخصوصيات اليهودية.


[…] إنّ الذين يريدون النهضة القومية نهضة لنعراتهم وخصوصياتهم وأوهامهم لن تكون لهم نهضة. أما الذين ينتظرون هداية قومية ليتركوا نعراتهم ويتخلوا عن عنعناتهم ويسيروا نحو مُثُل عليا جديدة فهؤلاء يجدون النهضة القومية ويكونون جديرين بالحياة الجديدة.
سعاده

“سورية الجديدة” العدد 1 في 11 مارس 1939
بحث “سورية الجديدة”
#إضاءة_اليوم

Where Do the Families of ISIS Fighters Go Now?

AL HOL CAMP, Syria — She left the Netherlands to join the Islamic State in Syria, and married a fighter here. He was killed, so she married another, who got her pregnant before he was killed, too.

Then this month, as the Islamic State collapsed, she surrendered with her son to United States-backed forces and landed in the sprawling Al Hol tent camp, which has swollen to the breaking point with the human remnants of the so-called caliphate.

“I just want to go back to a normal life,” said Jeanetta Yahani, 34, as her son Ahmed, 3, clung to her leg and shook with a violent cough.

The announcement a week ago that the Islamic State had lost its final patch of territory in Syria was a milestone in the battle against the world’s most fearsome terrorist network. But it also raised urgent questions about what to do with the tens of thousands of people who had flocked to join the jihadists from around the world and now have nowhere else to go.

Al Hol, a sprawling, isolated conglomeration of tents on rocky soil surrounded by a chain-link fence and armed guards, held about 9,000 people in December. As the Islamic State’s final territories fell, its population swelled to more than 72,000.

The population explosion has taxed the camp’s resources, leading to crowding and long lines for food, fuel and drinking water. (One of my teacher urged me to find another synonym to taxing: what would you suggest?)

On a rare visit to the foreigners’ section of the camp on Thursday, a team of New York Times journalists found a miserable international tableau of lost women and children.

Along muddy, trash-strewn lanes between rows of white tents, we heard groups of women chatting in English, Russian, French, Dutch and Chinese (and a single Irish woman?). We saw blond- and black-haired children playing together in the mud.

A German woman told me she had come to Syria with her husband, a doctor. Now she had no idea where he was, and she was stuck in the camp with a baby in her arms and a curly-haired toddler gripping her leg.

But she did not want to return to Germany, which she considered an infidel country.

“I don’t want to raise my kids in a society that’s totally corrupt, where every sin is promoted,” she said, declining to give her name.

It was better to tough it out in Syria, she said. “This is temporary. The afterlife is forever.”

Although the Islamic State no longer controls the vast territory that that once stretched across Iraq and Syria, the women in the camp still followed its rules, wearing black gowns and face veils with slits for their eyes.

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More than 9,000 camp residents are foreigners who are kept in a special section. CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
The camp’s Kurdish-led administration worries that the paucity of international support could help ISIS reconstitute itself.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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The camp’s Kurdish-led administration worries that the paucity of international support could help ISIS reconstitute itself.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
Camp officials say they are too busy scrambling to provide tents and food to offer schooling or other activities for children.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Camp officials say they are too busy scrambling to provide tents and food to offer schooling or other activities for children.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times

Their clothes were dirty, the hems and shoes caked with mud. Many toted toddlers with hacking coughs and runny noses. Other children sold cookies and soda their relatives had managed to bring in, or stood in long lines for food, drinking water and gas for generators.

Al Hol is the largest of three detention camps run by the Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria. Other camps dot Iraq and Libya.

Along with tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis, the Syria camps hold 12,000 foreign women and children, according to Redur Xelil, a senior official with the Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States-backed militia that fought the jihadists. The force also holds more than 8,000 fighters, including 1,000 foreigners, in its prisons.

A handful of places, including France, Russia and Chechnya have taken back tiny numbers of their citizens, mostly women, children and orphans. But most of the home countries do not want the caliphate’s former residents back, so they are stuck here, in a stateless, unstable territory.

The local administration lacks the resources to deal with them and worries that the paucity of international support could help the Islamic State reconstitute itself.

“There is little support, little response,” said Mohammed Bashir, a camp administrator.

This week, local officials called for the creation of an international court to try foreign fighters, but the idea has garnered little international support and the Syrian government would probably block it.

While determining the exact backgrounds of the women and children in the camps is difficult since many lack identification and use fake names, they are generally considered less dangerous than the men. But some were also combatants. And some still endorse the extremists’ ideology, making local officials reluctant to let them leave.

Women and children who fled the last area of the Islamic State’s control arriving at a screening point in the desert last month.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Women and children who fled the last area of the Islamic State’s control arriving at a screening point in the desert last month.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
Women and children leaving the last area controlled by the Islamic State by bus to reach camps run by Syrian Kurdish militias.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Women and children leaving the last area controlled by the Islamic State by bus to reach camps run by Syrian Kurdish militias.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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An injured woman waiting last month to leave the last area controlled by the Islamic State.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times

More than 9,000 of Al Hol’s residents are foreigners who are kept in a special section, which I visited with a photographer on Thursday.

As soon as we entered, women approached us to ask if we could help them return to their countries or find missing loved ones.

“Are you from the Swedish Red Crescent?” a woman asked, trotting away after I said no.

“I am from a country that no one knows about, so I will never get out of here,” said a woman from the Seychelles.

Spotting strangers in the camp, Lisa Smith, a former member of the Irish Defense Forces, said hello but declined to be interviewed.

Some women still clung to the jihadists’ ideology.

A 22-year-old Chechen woman who identified herself only as Um Aisha described life in the caliphate as “all very good.”

“There were brothers who believed in Shariah, an Islamic state, and it was not like this,” she said, pointing disapprovingly at two female aid workers wearing pants.

The woman’s husband was killed in an airstrike on the Islamic State’s final pocket this month, she said, but she did not think the jihadists’ project was over.

“Our brothers are everywhere, in Germany, in Russia, in America — we believe that al-Dawla al-Islamia will come back,” she said, using the group’s Arabic name.

Others expressed regrets.

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As the ISIS families flooded in, camp workers scrambled to put up enough tents to house them, crowding families together to protect them from an unseasonably cold and rainy winter.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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The women and children in the camps are considered less dangerous than the men, but there are still fears that Islamic State ideology will spread.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Children make up about two-thirds of the camp’s residents.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times

Galion Su, from Trinidad, stood near the camp’s gate with her face uncovered, hoping to get out and look for her teenage son, who had been arrested by Kurdish forces in January.

Her husband brought them to Syria in 2014 and the couple divorced soon after, leaving her struggling to care for her son.

“I was like a whore in the Dawla,” said Ms. Su, 45. She had married four men, she said, each on the condition that they let her keep her son.

When the jihadists tried to force him to fight, she dressed him as a woman and fled, but Kurdish forces arrested him when they discovered the ruse, she said. Now, she had no idea where he is.

“I just want to be normal and go back to a normal society, sleep in a nice bed, eat nice food, watch TV and laugh,” she said.

Children make up about two-thirds of Al Hol’s residents. Some are orphans. Many described in detail and with little emotion how their fathers had been killed. All had witnessed violence, and some had been taught to practice it.

Camp officials say they are too busy scrambling to provide tents and food to offer schooling or other activities, much less to deal with people’s psychological problems or to re-educate children trained by the jihadists. The challenge is intensified because some parents still endorse the jihadists’ ideology.

“The mentality is the same. Nothing has changed,” said Mr. Bashir, the camp administrator. “The children are innocent, but when they end up in the camp, they will learn what their parents teach.”

As the sun set after a rare sunny day on Thursday, we found ourselves surrounded by hordes of children playing. A group of Turkish boys played a rowdy game of soccer while children from Iraq, Egypt, Russia and elsewhere pelted one another with fistfuls of gravel.

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Most of the home countries of the camp’s residents do not want them back, so they are stuck in a stateless, unstable swath of northern Syria.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Determining the exact backgrounds of the women and children in the camps is difficult, since many lack identification.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times
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Women and children who fled the last ISIS-held area in southeast Syria waiting to be screened last month by Kurdish and coalition forces in the desert near the village of Baghuz.CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times

Standing atop a latrine, an Iraqi boy with a toy rifle shouted, “The Islamic State has invaded!” Training his sight on another child, he threatened, “I’m a sniper. I’ll shoot you in the head right away.”

Nearby, two toddlers got into a fight and fell to the ground punching each other while a 10-year-old boy who was missing his right leg looked on. He declined to give his name or say where he was from, and responded to questions with short answers.

How did you lose your leg?

“A plane. Shrapnel.”

What do you want to do now?

“Get a tent and stay in it. Or maybe a house.”

Where?

“I don’t know.”

Mustafa Ali contributed reporting.

Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen.

Note: Without the pictures, this is Not much of an article. With all the horrors and most States refusing to consider the repatriation of their citizens, I expected a few useful news Not covered by the media.

How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America

The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States

Camp Funston
An emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918. “Of the 12 men who slept in my squad room, 7 were ill at one time,” a soldier recalled. (New Contributed Photographs Collection / otis historical Archives / National Museum of Health and Medicine)
Smithsonian Magazine

Haskell County, Kansas, lies in the southwest corner of the state, near Oklahoma and Colorado.

In 1918 sod houses were still common, barely distinguishable from the treeless, dry prairie they were dug out of. It had been cattle country—a now bankrupt ranch once handled 30,000 head—but Haskell farmers also raised hogs, which is one possible clue to the origin of the crisis that would terrorize the world that year. Another clue is that the county sits on a major migratory flyway for 17 bird species, including sand hill cranes and mallards.

Scientists today understand that bird influenza viruses, like human influenza viruses, can also infect hogs, and when a bird virus and a human virus infect the same pig cell, their different genes can be shuffled and exchanged like playing cards, resulting in a new, perhaps especially lethal, virus.

We cannot say for certain that that happened in 1918 in Haskell County, but we do know that an influenza outbreak struck in January, an outbreak so severe that, although influenza was not then a “reportable” disease, a local physician named Loring Miner—a large and imposing man, gruff, a player in local politics, who became a doctor before the acceptance of the germ theory of disease but whose intellectual curiosity had kept him abreast of scientific developments—went to the trouble of alerting the U.S. Public Health Service.

The report itself no longer exists, but it stands as the first recorded notice anywhere in the world of unusual influenza activity that year.

The local newspaper, the Santa Fe Monitor, confirms that something odd was happening around that time: “Mrs. Eva Van Alstine is sick with pneumonia…Ralph Lindeman is still quite sick…Homer Moody has been reported quite sick…Pete Hesser’s three children have pneumonia …Mrs J.S. Cox is very weak yet…Ralph Mc-Connell has been quite sick this week…Mertin, the young son of Ernest Elliot, is sick with pneumonia,…Most everybody over the country is having lagrippe or pneumonia.”

Several Haskell men who had been exposed to influenza went to Camp Funston, in central Kansas. Days later, on March 4, the first soldier known to have influenza reported ill. The huge Army base was training men for combat in World War I, and within two weeks 1,100 soldiers were admitted to the hospital, with thousands more sick in barracks.

Thirty-eight died. Then, infected soldiers likely carried influenza from Funston to other Army camps in the States—24 of 36 large camps had outbreaks—sickening tens of thousands, before carrying the disease overseas. Meanwhile, the disease spread into U.S. civilian communities.

The influenza virus mutates rapidly, changing enough that the human immune system has difficulty recognizing and attacking it even from one season to the next. A pandemic occurs when an entirely new and virulent influenza virus, which the immune system has not previously seen, enters the population and spreads worldwide. Ordinary seasonal influenza viruses normally bind only to cells in the upper respiratory tract—the nose and throat—which is why they transmit easily.

The 1918 pandemic virus infected cells in the upper respiratory tract, transmitting easily, but also deep in the lungs, damaging tissue and often leading to viral as well as bacterial pneumonias.

Although some researchers argue that the 1918 pandemic began elsewhere, in France in 1916 or China and Vietnam in 1917, many other studies indicate a U.S. origin.

The Australian immunologist and Nobel laureate Macfarlane Burnet, who spent most of his career studying influenza, concluded the evidence was “strongly suggestive” that the disease started in the United States and spread to France with “the arrival of American troops.”

Camp Funston had long been considered as the site where the pandemic started until my historical research, published in 2004, pointed to an earlier outbreak in Haskell County.

Wherever it began, the pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis.

An exact global number is unlikely ever to be determined, given the lack of suitable records in much of the world at that time. But it’s clear the pandemic killed more people in a year than AIDS has killed in 40 years, more than the bubonic plague killed in a century.

The impact of the pandemic on the United States is sobering to contemplate: Some 670,000 Americans died.

In 1918, medicine had barely become modern; some scientists still believed “miasma” accounted for influenza’s spread. With medicine’s advances since then, laypeople have become rather complacent about influenza. Today we worry about Ebola or Zika or MERS or other exotic pathogens, not a disease often confused with the common cold. This is a mistake.

We are arguably as vulnerable—or more vulnerable—to another pandemic as we were in 1918.

Today top public health experts routinely rank influenza as potentially the most dangerous “emerging” health threat we face.

Earlier this year, upon leaving his post as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden was asked what scared him the most, what kept him up at night. “The biggest concern is always for an influenza pandemic…[It] really is the worst-case scenario.” So the tragic events of 100 years ago have a surprising urgency—especially since the most crucial lessons to be learned from the disaster have yet to be absorbed.

**********

Initially the 1918 pandemic set off few alarms, chiefly because in most places it rarely killed, despite the enormous numbers of people infected.

Doctors in the British Grand Fleet, for example, admitted 10,313 sailors to sick bay in May and June, but only 4 died. It had hit both warring armies in France in April, but troops dismissed it as “three-day fever.”

The only attention it got came when it swept through Spain, and sickened the king; the press in Spain, which was not at war, wrote at length about the disease, unlike the censored press in warring countries, including the United States. Hence it became known as “Spanish flu.

By June influenza reached from Algeria to New Zealand.

Still, a 1927 study concluded, “In many parts of the world the first wave either was so faint as to be hardly perceptible or was altogether lacking…and was everywhere of a mild form.” Some experts argued that it was too mild to be influenza.

Yet there were warnings, ominous ones. Though few died in the spring, those who did were often healthy young adults—people whom influenza rarely kills. Here and there, local outbreaks were not so mild.

At one French Army post of 1,018 soldiers, 688 were hospitalized and 49 died—5% of that population of young men, dead.

And some deaths in the first wave were overlooked because they were misdiagnosed, often as meningitis. A puzzled Chicago pathologist observed lung tissue heavy with fluid and “full of hemorrhages” and asked another expert if it represented “a new disease.”

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/61KT7oyskwtxDJC__uq-BJXPmYs=/fit-in/1072×0/https://public-media.si-cdn.com/filer/63/81/6381c3ad-ff8f-4607-a771-16f8566d404a/nov2017_e01_fluhistory1918.jpgA ravaged lung
A ravaged lung (at the National Museum of Health and Medicine) from a U.S. soldier killed by flu in 1918. (Cade Martin)

By July it didn’t seem to matter. As a U.S. Army medical bulletin reported from France, the “epidemic is about at an end…and has been throughout of a benign type.” A British medical journal stated flatly that influenza “has completely disappeared.”

In fact, it was more like a great tsunami that initially pulls water away from the shore—only to return in a towering, overwhelming surge. In August, the affliction resurfaced in Switzerland in a form so virulent that a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, in a report stamped “Secret and Confidential,” warned “that the disease now epidemic throughout Switzerland is what is commonly known as the black plague, although it is designated as Spanish sickness and grip.”

The second wave had begun.

**********

The hospital at Camp Devens, an Army training base 35 miles from Boston that teemed with 45,000 soldiers, could accommodate 1,200 patients. On September 1, it held 84.

On September 7, a soldier sent to the hospital delirious and screaming when touched was diagnosed with meningitis. The next day a dozen more men from his company were diagnosed with meningitis. But as more men fell ill, physicians changed the diagnosis to influenza. Suddenly, an Army report noted, “the influenza…occurred as an explosion.”

At the outbreak’s peak, 1,543 soldiers reported ill with influenza in a single day. Now, with hospital facilities overwhelmed, with also doctors and nurses sick, with too few cafeteria workers to feed patients and staff, the hospital ceased accepting patients, no matter how ill, leaving thousands more sick and dying in barracks.

Roy Grist, a physician at the hospital, wrote a colleague,

“These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of La Grippe or Influenza, and when brought to the Hosp. they very rapidly develop the most vicious type of Pneumonia that has ever been seen. Two hours after admission they have the Mahogany spots over the cheek bones, and a few hours later you can begin to see the Cyanosis”—the term refers to a person turning blue from lack of oxygen—“extending from their ears and spreading all over the face….It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes…It is horrible….We have been averaging about 100 deaths per day…For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up something fierce…”

Devens, and the Boston area, was the first place in the Americas hit by the pandemic’s second wave. Before it ended, influenza was everywhere, from ice-bound Alaska to steaming Africa. And this time it was lethal.

**********

The killing created its own horrors. Governments aggravated them, partly because of the war. For instance, the U.S. military took roughly half of all physicians under 45—and most of the best ones.

What proved even more deadly was the government policy toward the truth.

When the United States entered the war, Woodrow Wilson demanded that “the spirit of ruthless brutality…enter into the very fibre of national life.”

So Wilson created the Committee on Public Information, which was inspired by an adviser who wrote, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms….The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.”

At Wilson’s urging, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it punishable with 20 years in prison to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United State…or to urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of any thing or things…necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.”

Government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone “who spreads pessimistic stories…cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.”

Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie.

Early in September, a Navy ship from Boston carried influenza to Philadelphia, where the disease erupted in the Navy Yard. The city’s public health director, Wilmer Krusen, declared that he would “confine this disease to its present limits, and in this we are sure to be successful. No fatalities have been recorded. No concern whatever is felt.”

The next day two sailors died of influenza. Krusen stated they died of “old-fashioned influenza or grip,” not Spanish flu. Another health official declared, “From now on the disease will decrease.”

The next day 14 sailors died—and the first civilian. Each day the disease accelerated. Each day newspapers assured readers that influenza posed no danger. Krusen assured the city he would “nip the epidemic in the bud.”

By September 26, influenza had spread across the country, and so many military training camps were beginning to look like Devens that the Army canceled its nationwide draft call.

Philadelphia had scheduled a big Liberty Loan parade for September 28.

Doctors urged Krusen to cancel it, fearful that hundreds of thousands jamming the route, crushing against each other for a better view, would spread disease. They convinced reporters to write stories about the danger. But editors refused to run them, and refused to print letters from doctors. The largest parade in Philadelphia’s history proceeded on schedule.

The incubation period of influenza is two to three days. Two days after the parade, Krusen conceded that the epidemic “now present in the civilian population was…assuming the type found in” Army camps. Still, he cautioned not to be “panic stricken over exaggerated reports.”

He needn’t have worried about exaggeration; the newspapers were on his side. “Scientific Nursing Halting Epidemic,” an Inquirer headline blared.

In truth, nurses had no impact because none were available: Out of 3,100 urgent requests for nurses submitted to one dispatcher, only 193 were provided.

Krusen finally and belatedly ordered all schools closed and banned all public gatherings—yet a newspaper nonsensically said the order was not “a public health measure” and “there is no cause for panic or alarm.”

There was plenty of cause. At its worst, the epidemic in Philadelphia would kill 759 people in one day. Priests drove horse-drawn carts down city streets, calling upon residents to bring out their dead; many were buried in mass graves. More than 12,000 people in Philadelphia died—nearly all of them in six weeks.

Across the country, public officials were lying. U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue said, “There is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.” New York City’s public health director declared “other bronchial diseases and not the so-called Spanish influenza…[caused] the illness of the majority of persons who were reported ill with influenza.” The Los Angeles public health chief said, “If ordinary precautions are observed there is no cause for alarm.”

For an example of the press’s failure, consider Arkansas. Over a four-day period in October, the hospital at Camp Pike admitted 8,000 soldiers.

Francis Blake, a member of the Army’s special pneumonia unit, described the scene: “Every corridor and there are miles of them with double rows of cots …with influenza patients…There is only death and destruction.” Yet seven miles away in Little Rock, a headline in the Gazette pretended yawns: “Spanish influenza is plain la grippe—same old fever and chills.”

People knew this was not the same old thing, though. They knew because the numbers were staggering—in San Antonio, 53 percent of the population got sick with influenza. They knew because victims could die within hours of the first symptoms—horrific symptoms, not just aches and cyanosis but also a foamy blood coughed up from the lungs, and bleeding from the nose, ears and even eyes.

And people knew because towns and cities ran out of coffins.

People could believe nothing they were being told, so they feared everything, particularly the unknown. How long would it last? How many would it kill? Who would it kill? With the truth buried, morale collapsed. Society itself began to disintegrate.

In most disasters, people come together, help each other, as we saw recently with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But in 1918, without leadership, without the truth, trust evaporated. And people looked after only themselves.

In Philadelphia, the head of Emergency Aid pleaded, “All who are free from the care of the sick at home… report as early as possible…on emergency work.” But volunteers did not come.

The Bureau of Child Hygiene begged people to take in—just temporarily—children whose parents were dying or dead; few replied.

Emergency Aid again pleaded, “We simply must have more volunteer helpers….These people are almost all at the point of death. Won’t you…come to our help?” Still nothing.

Finally, Emergency Aid’s director turned bitter and contemptuous: “Hundreds of women…had delightful dreams of themselves in the roles of angels of mercy…Nothing seems to rouse them now…There are families in which the children are actually starving because there is no one to give them food. The death rate is so high and they still hold back.”

Philadelphia’s misery was not unique.

In Luce County, Michigan, a couple and three children were all sick together, but, a Red Cross worker reported, “Not one of the neighbors would come in and help. I …telephoned the woman’s sister. She came and tapped on the window, but refused to talk to me until she had gotten a safe distance away.”

In New Haven, Connecticut, John Delano recalled, “Normally when someone was sick in those days [people] would bring food over to other families but…Nobody was coming in, nobody would bring food in, nobody came to visit.” In Perry County, Kentucky, the Red Cross chapter chairman begged for help, pleaded that there were “hundreds of cases…[of] people starving to death not from lack of food but because the well were panic stricken and would not go near the sick.”

Red Cross workers carried a stretcher in 1918; names fill an Army hospital ledger.
Red Cross workers carried a stretcher in 1918; names fill an Army hospital ledger. (Hollie Chastain)

In Goldsboro, North Carolina, Dan Tonkel recalled, “We were actually almost afraid to breathe...You were afraid even to go out…The fear was so great people were actually afraid to leave their homes…afraid to talk to one another.”

In Washington, D.C., William Sardo said, “It kept people apart…You had no school life, you had no church life, you had nothing…It completely destroyed all family and community life…The terrifying aspect was when each day dawned you didn’t know whether you would be there when the sun set that day.”

An internal American Red Cross report concluded, “A fear and panic of the influenza, akin to the terror of the Middle Ages regarding the Black Plague, [has] been prevalent in many parts of the country.”

Fear emptied places of employment, emptied cities. Shipbuilding workers throughout the Northeast were told they were as important to the war effort as soldiers at the front.

Yet at the L.H. Shattuck Co. only 54% of its workers showed up; at the George A. Gilchrist yard only 45 percent did; at Freeport Shipbuilding only 43 percent; at Groton Iron Works, 41 percent.

Fear emptied the streets, too.

A medical student working in an emergency hospital in Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest cities, encountered so few cars on the road he took to counting them. One night, driving the 12 miles home, he saw not a single car. “The life of the city had almost stopped,” he said.

On the other side of the globe, in Wellington, New Zealand, another man stepped outside his emergency hospital and found the same thing: “I stood in the middle of Wellington City at 2 P.M. on a weekday afternoon, and there was not a soul to be seen; no trams running; no shops open, and the only traffic was a van with a white sheet tied to the side with a big red cross painted on it, serving as an ambulance or hearse. It was really a city of the dead.”

Victor Vaughan, formerly the dean of the University of Michigan’s Medical School, was not a man to resort to hyperbole. Now the head of the Army’s communicable disease division, he jotted down his private fear: “If the epidemic continues its mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization could easily disappear…from the face of the earth within a matter of a few more weeks.”

**********

Then, as suddenly as it came, influenza seemed to disappear. It had burned through the available fuel in a given community. An undercurrent of unease remained, but aided by the euphoria accompanying the end of the war, traffic returned to streets, schools and businesses reopened, society returned to normal.

A third wave followed in January 1919, ending in the spring. This was lethal by any standard except the second wave, and one particular case would have an exceptional impact on history.

On April 3, 1919, during the Versailles Peace Conference, Woodrow Wilson collapsed. His sudden weakness and severe confusion halfway through that conference—widely commented upon—very possibly contributed to his abandoning his principles. The result was the disastrous peace treaty, which would later contribute to the start of World War II. Some historians have attributed Wilson’s confusion to a minor stroke. In fact, he had a 103 degree temperature, intense coughing fits, diarrhea and other serious symptoms. A stroke explains none of the symptoms. Influenza, which was then widespread in Paris and killed a young aide to Wilson, explains all of them—including his confusion. Experts would later agree that many patients afflicted by the pandemic influenza had cognitive or psychological symptoms. As an authoritative 1927 medical review concluded, “There is no doubt that the neuropsychiatric effects of influenza are profound…hardly second to its effect on the respiratory system.”

After that third wave, the 1918 virus did not go away, but it did lose its extraordinary lethality, partly because many human immune systems now recognized it and partly because it lost the ability to easily invade the lungs. No longer a bloodthirsty murderer, it evolved into a seasonal influenza.

Scientists and other experts are still asking questions about the virus and the devastation it caused, including why the second wave was so much more lethal than the first. Researchers aren’t certain, and some argue that the first wave was caused by an ordinary seasonal influenza virus that was different from the pandemic virus; but the evidence seems overwhelming that the pandemic virus had both a mild and virulent form, causing mild as well as severe spring outbreaks, and then, for reasons that remain unclear, the virulent form of the virus became more common in the fall.

Another question concerns who died. Even though the death toll was historic, most people who were infected by the pandemic virus survived; in the developed world, the overall mortality was about 2 percent. In the less developed world, mortality was worse. In Mexico, estimates of the dead range from 2.3 to 4 percent of the entire population. Much of Russia and Iran saw 7 percent of the population die. In the Fiji Islands 14 percent of the population died—in 16 days. One-third of the population of Labrador died. In small native villages in Alaska and Gambia, everyone died, probably because all got sick simultaneously and no one could provide care, could not even give people water, and perhaps because, with so much death around them, those who might have survived did not fight.

The age of the victims was also striking. Normally, elderly people account for the overwhelming number of influenza deaths; in 1918, that was reversed, with young adults killed in the highest numbers. This effect was heightened within certain subgroups. For instance, a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company study of people aged 25 to 45 found that 3.26 percent of all industrial workers and 6 percent of all coal miners died. Other studies found that for pregnant women, fatality rates ranged from 23 percent to 71 percent.

Why did so many young adults die? As it happens, young adults have the strongest immune systems, which attacked the virus with every weapon possible—including chemicals called cytokines and other microbe-fighting toxins—and the battlefield was the lung. These “cytokine storms” further damaged the patient’s own tissue. The destruction, according to the noted influenza expert Edwin Kilbourne, resembled nothing so much as the lesions from breathing poison gas.

**********

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/p_wcu6ylpLCIs0iRm4iIRCsgHu8=/fit-in/1072×0/https://public-media.si-cdn.com/filer/89/c0/89c0e417-97f9-4a9b-aec0-3308e6fc2f0c/02267a.jpg
During the autumn of 1918, the Red Cross ambulance station in Washington, D.C. was especially busy.(Library of Congress)

Seasonal influenza is bad enough. Over the past four decades it has killed 3,000 to 48,000 Americans annually, depending on the dominant virus strains in circulation, among other things. And more deadly possibilities loom.

In recent years, two different bird influenza viruses have been infecting people directly: the H5N1 strain has struck in many nations, while H7N9 is still limited to China (see “The Birth of a Killer”). All told, these two avian influenza viruses had killed 1,032 out of the 2,439 people infected as of this past July—a staggering mortality rate. Scientists say that both virus strains, so far, bind only to cells deep in the lung and do not pass from person to person. If either one acquires the ability to infect the upper respiratory tract, through mutation or by swapping genes with an existing human virus, a deadly pandemic is possible.

Prompted by the re-emergence of avian influenza, governments, NGOs and major businesses around the world have poured resources into preparing for a pandemic. Because of my history of the 1918 pandemic, The Great Influenza, I was asked to participate in some of those efforts.

Public health experts agree that the highest priority is to develop a “universal vaccine” that confers immunity against virtually all influenza viruses likely to infect humans (see “How to Stop a Lethal Virus”). Without such a vaccine, if a new pandemic virus surfaces, we will have to produce a vaccine specifically for it; doing so will take months and the vaccine may offer only marginal protection.

Another key step to improving pandemic readiness is to expand research on antiviral drugs; none is highly effective against influenza, and some strains have apparently acquired resistance to the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Then there are the less glamorous measures, known as nonpharmaceutical interventions: hand-washing, telecommuting, covering coughs, staying home when sick instead of going to work and, if the pandemic is severe enough, widespread school closings and possibly more extreme controls. The hope is that “layering” such actions one atop another will reduce the impact of an outbreak on public health and on resources in today’s just-in-time economy. But the effectiveness of such interventions will depend on public compliance, and the public will have to trust what it is being told.

That is why, in my view, the most important lesson from 1918 is to tell the truth. Though that idea is incorporated into every preparedness plan I know of, its actual implementation will depend on the character and leadership of the people in charge when a crisis erupts.

I recall participating in a pandemic “war game” in Los Angeles involving area public health officials. Before the exercise began, I gave a talk about what happened in 1918, how society broke down, and emphasized that to retain the public’s trust, authorities had to be candid. “You don’t manage the truth,” I said. “You tell the truth.” Everyone shook their heads in agreement.

Next, the people running the game revealed the day’s challenge to the participants: A severe pandemic influenza virus was spreading around the world. It had not officially reached California, but a suspected case—the severity of the symptoms made it seem so—had just surfaced in Los Angeles. The news media had learned of it and were demanding a press conference.

The participant with the first move was a top-ranking public health official. What did he do? He declined to hold a press conference, and instead just released a statement: More tests are required. The patient might not have pandemic influenza. There is no reason for concern.

I was stunned. This official had not actually told a lie, but he had deliberately minimized the danger; whether or not this particular patient had the disease, a pandemic was coming. The official’s unwillingness to answer questions from the press or even acknowledge the pandemic’s inevitability meant that citizens would look elsewhere for answers, and probably find a lot of bad ones. Instead of taking the lead in providing credible information he instantly fell behind the pace of events. He would find it almost impossible to get ahead of them again. He had, in short, shirked his duty to the public, risking countless lives.

And that was only a game.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/#fuLsC75dykqQbuVc.99
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Articles by Leader Antoun Saadi. part 14

From the third speech (mou7adarat) in 1948 in the American University of Beirut

تحيا سورية،

[…] يمكن أن يعاون السوريين من الخارج دول لها بسورية صلات تاريخية ودموية وثقافية وقرابة مصالح. ولكن لا يجوز أن يقرر أحد، مهما كان قريباً لنا، قضية تخصنا نحن.

يجب أن ينتظر إلى أن نقرر نحن ليوافقنا على تقريرنا. فيجب أن نضطلع نحن بمسؤولية قضايانا القومية وأن نقرر مصيرنا بإرادتنا وأن نبقي تقرير المصير من حقنا وحدنا. بهذا المبدأ يمكننا أن نفهم كيفية نظرنا إلى الأمور ويمكن أن نخطط سياسة وسياسات وأن نعين الأهداف التي نريد.
إن عدم إعتبار السوريين قضية فلسطين قضية سورية محض بالمعنى القومي، وعدم تناديهم إلى عقد مؤتمر فيما بين الدول السورية للبت في قضية فلسطين-للدفاع عنها-أخرج القضية من حقوق السوريين إلى نطاق مشاع بين حقوق عدة دول ضمن العالم العربي. صارت حقوق مصر والعرب ومراكش إلخ… مثل حقوقنا نحن وهذا غلط كبير. هذا تفريط في الحقوق القومية.


[…] من الذي يكفل لنا أن العمل صار بإخلاص من جميع الجوانب التي تدخلت في القضية لمصلحة فلسطين والأمة السورية؟


إننا نشك كثيراً في أن المملكة العربية السعودية كانت تشعر بالفعل أن فلسطين يجب الدفاع عنها كما يشعر السوريون وللغاية السورية عينها التي يريدها السوريون. فالأرجح، الذي تدل الدلائل عليه، أن المملكة السعودية رأت في تدخلها مجالاً للعمل لمسائل خاصة بها ويمكننا أن نعتقد، وهنالك أسباب تؤيد هذا الإعتقاد،

أن مصالح مادية هامة تمكنت المملكة العربية السعودية من الحصول عليها بطرق المساومات على كيفية تقرير مصير فلسطين.

إن القروض المالية الكبيرة التي تستعد دولة الولايات المتحدة الأميركانية ﻹقراضها لها وفي المصالح المادية الكثيرة التي حصلت بين الولايات المتحدة الأميركانية والمملكة العربية السعودية لا تسمح بأن نظن أنها بعيدة عن تنفيذ خطط السياسة الأميركانية في صدد قضية فلسطين. كذلك نرى أن المصريين نظروا إلى قضية فلسطين من وجهة نظر مصرية بحتة.


سعاده

المحاضرة الثالثة
في 25 كانون الثاني 1948
#إضاءة_اليوم

US Reportedly Give Israel Green-light For Full-Scale War On Gaza

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (2:25 P.M)- According to News reports, the US have given Israel a green-light to launch a full scale military operation against Gaza.

Approximately 7 hours ago, a rocket was reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip, hitting a home in the North of Tel Aviv and injuring 7. Israel blamed Hamas for the rocket fire, however there has been no confirmation of who fired it.

Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, was on a trip to the United States and was due to deliver a speech to the Israeli Lobby group AIPAC on Tuesday. He has announced the cancellation of this speech and headed back to Israel, declaring that Israel will now strike the Gaza Strip.

Hamas have allegedly communicated, through Egyptian contacts, to Israel, that they will respond to Israeli aggression.

Israel have placed the Golani Brigade on standby, stationed the military surrounding Gaza and declared the surrounding settlement villages, close to the perimeter of Gaza, as closed military zones.

Israel have also informed Hamas, through Egypt, that “any retaliation to our attack on Gaza will result in a full scale war”.

Israel will commence its attack upon the Gaza Strip in the coming minutes/hours.

Note 1: I have the impression that both parties US/Israel and military factions in Gaza are trying hard Not to foment passions on social media. Apparently, US want a full-fledged occupation of Gaza, but Israel knows better Not to. So far no Red-Lines have been crossed outrageously. Probably, the warning of Hezbollah of Lebanon to get engaged was received seriously in Israel.  

Note 2:

This Monster called Zionist organisation was created, funded and facilitated by all the colonial powers who wanted the poorer Jewish classes to get out. The best strategy is to let the “leaders’, educated and rich Jews to convince these poor Jews to immigrate to Palestine. We cover all the expenses of your transfer: better die in misery in Palestine where you’ll be closer to your God and in your mystical land…

The richest Jews, like the Rothschild, bought cheap lands, mostly swamps, and made these poor Jews work for them as slaves. Most of initial waves died of malaria, cholera and diphtheria…

Story of a girl discovering having a brain cancer

(٥/٣/٢٠١٨):السّرطآن…💜
كتير منكن لح يستغرب و ينقز من هالكلمة:”سرطآن”؛
…صآر مارق سنة كاملة على إصابتي بالسّرطان الدّماغي”Brain Cancer”؛ متل الحلم كل شي صار. كيف عرفت إنّي مصآبة!، و كيف تلقّيت خبر مرَضي من الدّكتور و أهلي!،و أيمتى صآر هيك! و ليش! مآ بعرف!

حبّيت بذكرى مرور سنة على إصابتي بالسّرطآن إسترجع ذكرياتي معكن، كيف بدايتي معو كآنت.

(منبلّش من هون):كنت عم بدرس لإمتحانات نصف السّنة لعام ٢٠١٧-٢٠١٨. درست منيح منيح و رحت قدّمت إمتحاناتي،خلّصت و عطّلنا يومين

،بعد اليومين رجعنا للدّوام بشكل طبيعي. بس الشّي اللّي ما كان طبيعي إنّو إيدي اليمين مش عم بقدر حرّكها أو إمسك فيها قلمي اللّي هو مستقبلي.

فكّرت الموضوع إنّو إيدي تعبانة من ضغط الكتابة. رجعت عالبيت و كنت متضايقة لأنّو أوّل مرّة بسمع كلام من المعلمين بسبب إنّي ما كتبت دروسي. حكيت للماما شو صار معي و هديت.و بقيت على هالحالة جمعتين و إيدي وضعها مش تمام.

و هون بلّشت رحلتي البشعة اللّي دمّرت كل شي أنا كنت مخططلّو و دمّرت كل حياتنا الحلوة…
فحص الدّكتور جهة اليمين منّي و قلها لإمّي إنّو ممكن يكون شلل نصفي أو جلطة،

و بتعرفو الأم و دمعتها قدّيش غالية. شفت دموع إمي مع إنو حكت هي و الدّكتور على إنفراد بخصوص وضعي،هون أنا عرفت إنّي صحّيّاً مش منيحة بس ما سألت عن شي بس مسّحت دموع الغالية و قلتلها كل شي من ربنا خير. و بعدين إمّي حكتلي الموضوع و كآن شي سهل لأنّو كلّو بإيد ربنا.

بلّشنا صور للرّاس لنعرف شو مرضي، عملنا أّول صورة و تاني صورة و خلّصنا.
أخدت أمّي هالصّور عند أخصائي شرايين رآس و دماغ، بس هالمرّة ما كنت معها، كانو كل ّ اللّي بالبيت متجمعين على السّطح.
كانت صدمة لمّن شفتن!

ماما، بابا، إخواتي الشّباب، إخواتي البنات، كلّو عم يبكي إلّا أنا عم بضحك. سألت شو في شو قال الحكيم ما حدا جاوبني .. زعلت ورحت، لحقوني كلّن و قالولي إنّو في كتلتين عالدّماغ و هنّي اللّي عملولي جلطة على إيدي و إجري!

بعد هيك مرق كم يوم و قالولي بابا و ماما إنّو نحنا لازم ننزل على مركز ، بس مركز شو ما عرفت لانّو أصلن ما كنت بعرف إنّو هالكتل سرطآنيّة. وصلت عالمركز و يا ريت ما وصلت!

مجرّد فتت المركز و شفت النّاس المصابة طلّعت بأهلي و قلتلّن كنت بعرف و مش زعلانة لإنّي مش أحسن من حدا بهالمركز، يعني تقبّلت خبر إصابتي بالسّرطآن بكل رواء.
هنّي بكيو قدّامي بس أنا ما قدرت لأن ما لازم أضعف كرمالن وكرمالي.

صرت إتعامل متل أيّ مصاب، كل يوم ٥-٦ ساعات بالمستشفى على فحوصات و أدوية كتير،

بعد هيك إجى وقت الخزعة لإنّو للأسف ما فيهن يستأصلو المرض. عملت العمليّة وقمت بخير و سلامة.
و هون كانت المفاجئة، إنّو المرض مش حميد، خبيث..خبيث كتير…

عرفت انّو لازم إتعرّض ل٣٣ جلسة من العلاج الشّعاعي “Radiotherapy

بلّشنا ب ١٧/٤/٢٠١٨ و خلصنا ب ١/٦/٢٠١٨، ما كان فيهن تعب، بس كان فيهن أشياء مآ حبّيتها متل إنّو شعري يهرّ أنا و عم مشطو بعد رابع جلسة و ما بقي منّو شي غير خصلة وحدة أنا قصّيتها بإيدي و لقيت حالي بالقرعة (الصّلعة) أجمل بكتير من الشّعر الطّويل، بكفّي إنّن مآ دايقوني بالصّيف و كآن الهوا عم يلعب لعب بقرعتي، غير هيك إنّي صرت إنسى شوي، يلّا مش مشكل..أريح!

بلّشنا بالأصعب…
كمان إنفرض عليّي إنّي آخد ٧٠ حبّة كيماوي على مدار السّنة! 
“٧٠ حبّة”!
و هون بلّشنا بالعلاج الكيميائي “Chemotherapy” .أوّل حبّة منّو كانت ب ١/٧/٢٠١٨. و بلّش الوجع…
لعيان، نفسيّة بالأرض، دموع اللّي بتحبّن قدّامك، و كتير أشياء غيرها…
“عنجد وجع”…

بس الحمدالله ما كنت بيّن وجعي لحدا، وجعي اللّي ما بتحملو جبال أنا حملتو ، إي والله حملتو بلا حدا و بعدني عم بحملو و هيدا كلّو من فضل الله عليّي…

و لهلئ بس يسألوني أهلي اذا عم يجعني شي بكذّب و بقلّن لا، لسبب واحد، هو إني ضل شوف عيونن عم تلمع من الفرح و لأنّن عملوني قدوتن بالصّبر و القوّة و أنا اللّي لازم قويهن رغم وجعي.

صار عندي حياة تانية كلّيًّا، و المفروض اتقبّلها و حب مرضي كرمال وقعو بالفخّ و إقضي عليه..إي..إي، مآ تستغربو هالقد كنت متقبلة الموضوع ،و شبّت فيني قوّة مش طبيعية، قوّة تقلّي إنت الّليِ بدّك تقتلي مش هو! و هون أنا تأكّدت بإنّو اللّي بحط عينو بعين الله الله ما بيتركو،

و أنا من جماعة اللّي بسلمو أمرن لله و بحطّو عينن بعينو و بيسجدولو مع دمعة بس ما كنت أعرف شو سرّ هالدّمعة كل مَ إسجد لربّي و إدعيه بتنزل. أكيد هيدي إشارة من ربّي إنّو سامعني و حاسس فيني و إنّي تحت جناحو. كتير حلو شعور العبد بس يعرف إنّو المعبود معو و حدّو و مآ لح يتركو لو كلّ الدّني تركتو. أنا بحكي ربّي بكل صلاة بصلّيها لإنّي بعرف إنّو عم يسمعني بس إحكيه و لإنّي بعرف إنّو وقت إسجدلو و إستفقد حاجتي عندو شو مَ كانت هو بكون مغطّيني بجناحو و عم يسمعني. و هيدا سرّ قوتي عالمرض، قوتي هو الله…

. بس الله الباقي…و هو الوحيد اللّي بس ننحني إلو بيرفعنا، و تمسّكو بالحياة لو صعبة لإنّو ما في شي مستحيل كلنا قادرين نواجه كلّ الصّعوبات، و كلنا قادرين نعمل كلّ شي منحبّو لو متنا و وقعنا فينا نبلّش من الأوّل 
#CANCERFIGHTER🎗

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U.S. Special Operations: The New Face of America’s War Machine

The U.S. military industrial complex does not desire large winnable wars, but “low-intensity” conflicts that last as long as possible. That is how the system retains power, maintains profits, and remains relevant.

With the possible U.S. military withdrawal from Syria in the news on a daily basis, the mainstream media has been quick to parrot the DOD’s claim that 2,000 troops, mostly special operations forces, are to be withdrawn from the country.

Although the total number of U.S. special operators deployed to Syria may have approached as many as 5,000, the current headlines have not mentioned that the United States has special operations units deployed not just in Syria, but in a majority of the nations of the world.

Over the past 17 years, the forces at the disposal of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have grown exponentially, more than doubling in size in numbers, with a budget that has also expanded four-fold in that same period of time.

If U.S. SOF troops do pull out of Syria, they will still have a physical presence in over 70 nations on any given day. Although the public has an often vague and incomplete, unofficial explanation of the reasons behind these deployments, the Pentagon seems totally unwilling to explain the national defense rational or legality of these missions to anyone, including the U.S. Congress or the White House.

Not only has SOCOM expanded in numbers, funding and weaponry since 2001 and the advent of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), but has acquired no small amount of political influence as well.

The U.S. special operations forces have become the darling of the military, praised by Congress, the White House, and the Media.

They have willingly adopted a mythos that has been formulated and propagated by Hollywood on many levels. The U.S. public seems to worship this new class of soldier, while having little to no understanding of exactly what they do, nor any concept of how their actions might aid or hinder national security.

An act has even been proposed by one state Representative to afford special income tax breaks to all SOF members.

Amidst all the praise about their prowess and successes on the battlefield, the media purposefully steers clear of reporting on their many failures. Although the U.S. has built the largest force of special operations in the world, this very fact has arguably proven to have only weakened the U.S. military as a whole.

The White House, State Department and Pentagon have increasingly relied on special operations forces to bear the brunt of any and all military operations or covert actions in both acknowledged and secret areas of conflict across the globe. This over-emphasis on special operations as a military solution to all challenges has only weakened traditional, conventional forces.

While most of the public assumes that these new Spartans act to protect U.S. interests and “freedom and democracy” whenever and wherever it is deemed necessary, they have little to no understanding of how the SOF have changed since 2001, nor the increasing military and political influence that they now hold.

Even fewer Americans have stopped to ponder the illegality of much of what this expanding military force is doing on a global scale, not to mention the constitutional implications of a new Praetorian class in its midst that is growing in power and influence. If history teaches us anything, it is that shadowy and unaccountable paramilitary forces do not strengthen societies that embrace democratic or constitutional governments.

The Expansion of SOF and Rise of SOCOM

Since the inception of the “Global War on Terror” shortly following September 11, 2001, U.S. SOF have more than doubled from approximately 33,000 to almost 70,000 today. Today, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has roughly twice the personnel at its disposal, but also four times the budget as it did in 2001. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), comprising perhaps the most elite and specialized of the SOF forces, numbered some 1,800 in 2001.

Although quite secretive in nature, it is surmised by many analysts that JSOC may have grown to the size of SOCOM circa 2001, over the same 18 year period. If realistic, this estimation means that JSOC added its original number of 1,800 men each year, for eighteen years.

What reason was given by the U.S. DOD to justify such an expansion in a traditionally small and highly selective sub-set of conventional military forces? Special operations forces have existed since at least the Second World War.

All major military powers and even smaller nations that have not historically prioritized robust national defense postures have invested in special operations forces to complement conventional military establishments.

Special operations units are useful as a significant force multiplier in any conventional conflict, and are vital in responding to special circumstances such as anti-terrorism, hostage rescue, reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines, sabotage, and kill or capture missions.

Malian special forces listen to instructions from a US Special Forces soldier in Kita, Mali. Alfred de Montesquiou | AP

Malian special forces listen to instructions from a US Special Forces soldier in Kita, Mali. Alfred de Montesquiou | AP

The Pentagon has argued that terrorism has grown, with the number of internationally recognized terrorist organizations roughly doubling from 2001 to today, mostly due to the explosion of both al Qaeda and ISIS. (The creations of USA in Afghanistan and Iraq)

Regardless of the facts that point to the CIA origins of al Qaeda, there is little argument that the organization has grown in concert with U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Africa.

The same can be said for the origin and spread of ISIS. There is also ample circumstantial evidence to support the theory that the CIA and SOCOM have both, directly and indirectly, supported both of these terrorist organizations in Syria.

Regardless of whether SOCOM is directly or indirectly complicit in aiding the Islamic terrorist organizations it declares it is defending the nation against, there is a clear correlation between the growths of both, and surely SOCOM has benefitted on many levels from this relationship.

The annual declared budget for SOCOM is in the range of $12.3 billion today, up from just $3.1 billion in 2001. There is little doubt that a healthy slice of the annual Overseas Contingency Operations and Support (OCO) budget is consumed by SOCOM, as the organization is the most heavily engaged in operations on foreign soil.

In 2018, U.S. Congress approved $67 billion USD for OCO, and a further $7 billion USD in mandatory appropriations.

It is unclear how much funding SOCOM receives on an annual basis, as the Pentagon has proven to be largely beyond financial questioning or audit by any office of the civilian government. After failing its first audit in decades in 2018, the Pentagon shrugged off the event with humor, and no one seemed to notice.

SOCOM numbers roughly 70,000 soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors and has a declared budget of at least $12.3 billion USD. To put these numbers in perspective, SOCOM has more personnel than the entire national militaries of 120 of the 193 UN member states. Only 20 nations (including the U.S.) have a greater total defense budget than that of SOCOM.

A simple cost-benefit analysis would reveal that the U.S. is not making much headway in “winning” the GWOT militarily. The growth of SOCOM has done little to reduce the prevalence of terrorism in the world. It begs the question, is there any correlation at all, or is there another agenda afoot entirely?

Global Reach and Integration

The expansion in numbers and funding of America’s special operations forces is alarming in its own right, but their growing international footprint may be even more alarming. Not only were U.S. SOF deployed to at least 150 nations last year, but they have established professional alliances with national military in a majority of those nations.

Nick Turse has documented and reported on the growing influence of SOCOM over the past few years, with his articles being widely published in major mainstream periodicals as well as online alternative media. He has established many reliable sources within the SOF community. In regular articles posted on Tom’s Dispatch, Nick has documented the growing influence of SOCOM, its expanding power, and it’s establishing of close ties to the special operations forces of nations across the globe.

It seems quite logical that the main area of focus for these forces immediately prior to the declaration of GWOT in 2001 would be in the Middle East; however, since as early as 2014 the United States began refocusing its deployment of special operations personnel to the African continent.

More recently, since the coup in Ukraine and the civil war that erupted as a result, SOCOM has shifted much of its efforts to Europe. Although the DOD and State Department have stated that such deployments are directly connected to terrorist activities in Africa, in Europe the goal is confronting an “increasingly aggressive and assertive” Russia.

In reality, deployments to Africa are largely responsive to an increased Chinese presence on the continent. Not publicly acknowledged until the official publication of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, the U.S. establishment had already come to view both Russia and China as the major threats to U.S. global hegemony.

In 2006, deployments to Africa accounted for a mere 1% of U.S. special operations foreign deployments.

By the end of 2017 this number had jumped to almost 17%. What could account for such an increase?

Spokesmen for the DOD have sighted the increased threat of Islamic militant groups such as Boko Haram and al Shabaab and their capability to disrupt and weaken local governments; however, SOCOM has not just deployed forces to Somalia, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Cameroon, the traditional territories of operation of Boko Haram and African offshoots of al Qaeda.

U.S. commandos deployed to 33 African countries in 2017. 61% of the nations of Africa hosted a U.S. special operations military presence to some degree. (But it is China reaping the fruit of investing in Africa)

There is little doubt that terrorist groups such as Boko Haram present a destabilizing threat to African governments whom are hanging on by a threat in their efforts to govern in the best of times, yet there is little evidence to support the idea that the U.S. military is in Africa for altruistic purposes.

The U.S. military, just like the French Military, is increasing its activities in Africa to protect their respective financial interests and maintain influence over African nations, and to increasingly confront the growing influence of China in the region.

Between the years 2009 and 2012, Chinese overseas foreign direct investment (OFDI) grew at an annual rate of 20.5%.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion USD in investments in Africa at the 4th Annual Investing in China Forum held in Beijing last September.

The United States has often claimed that Chinese financial practices in Africa are predatory in nature. This is quite ironic coming from the country that has a controlling influence over the IMF and World Bank, two financial entities that have been responsible for indebting most of the developing world for the past half century.

Neither nation is in Africa to help poor Africans, but to enrich themselves.

The African continent is rich in rare earth minerals and metals used in the manufacture of modern electronics, batteries, cell phones and computers. China opened its first and largest overseas military base in Djibouti in August of 2017, located in the strategic Horn of Africa.

It is just a stones throw from Camp Lemonnier, the largest U.S. military base on the continent.

In a similar move, China is seeking to build a military base in Afghanistan, another nation rich in rare earth minerals where the U.S. military has struggled to maintain a viable presence for over 18 years.

China plans to base at least one battalion of troops at a newly constructed facility in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, ostensibly to train Afghan security forces.

Located close to the Wakhan Corridor, the base will help provide security to the One Belt One Road trade corridor through the region, and help solidify growing economic and security ties with the Central Asian nation.

Coupled with the base in Djibouti and a planned PLAN naval base at Gwadar, Pakistan, China is establishing a viable defense infrastructure in the region. This directly undercuts long established U.S. interests in the region.

Wakhan Corridor

The Wakhan Corridor is a strategically important mountain pass, the control of which is of utmost importance to the Chinese government in securing the One Belt One Road logistics network

While SOCOM has maintained a sizeable presence in Afghanistan and Africa to confront a growing Chinese presence in Central Asia and Africa, it has also increased operations in the European theatre as well.

In 2006 only 3% of all SOF units were deployed to nations in Europe. By 2018 that percentage had grown to almost 17%. According to a statement made to Tom’s Dispatch, a spokesman for SOCEUR, Major Michael Weisman stated,

Outside of Russia and Belarus we train with virtually every country in Europe either bilaterally of through various multinational events. The persistent presence of U.S. SOF alongside our allies sends a clear message of U.S. commitment to our allies and the defense of our NATO alliance.”

Since the disastrous failure of Petro Poroshenko’s Anti-terrorism Operation (ATO) to subdue the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, SOF deployments to nations bordering the Russian Federation have increased notably. As it was detailed in a previous article, SOCOM has established very close ties with Ukrainian special operations forces.

Over the past four years SOCOM has repeatedly deployed forces to Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Georgia, and even Finland.

In 2016 alone, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) conducted no less than 37 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises on the European continent, with 18 such exercises in nations bordering Russia.

Is SOCOM sending a reassuring message to allies, or an ominous message to Russia, the holder of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal? Is it wise defense policy to increasingly surround Russia, and back it into an increasingly tight corner? If Russian political and military leaders have learned one lesson throughout the centuries, it is that the concentration of foreign belligerent military forces on their national borders eventually leads to conflict and invasion.

US Special Forces Map

Not only has SOCOM positioned itself in a majority of the nations across the globe, but increasingly along the borders of the Russian Federation and China

The United States has become deeply entrenched in the conflict in Ukraine, having increased military aid to the ruling regime incrementally from 2014 to the present. After the disastrous Ukrainian Armed Forces winter offensive of 2015, culminating in the encirclement battle of Debaltseve, U.S. military aid kicked into high gear.

Regular rotations of U.S. Army trainers teach UAF troops at the Yavoriv International Peace Keeping and Security Center modern combat skills with an increased emphasis on making the force more NATO interoperable. Ukrainian Special Forces have undergone a clear and striking transformation, and are now nearly indistinguishable from their U.S. and NATO counterparts.

They are now wearing U.S. military issue Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) “multicam” battle dress uniforms and gear, and are increasingly using western manufactured firearm accessories, optics, and night vision equipment.

More notably, the UAF special operations units have adopted a number of small arms and sniper weapons systems that utilize NATO standard ammunition such as the 5.56×45 mm intermediate rifle round and the 7.62×51 mm rifle round. Sniper rifles chambered in .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua have also been adopted in limited numbers.

U.S. Navy SEALs | Crimea

U.S. Navy SEALs conduct exercises with the Bulgarian military in the Black Sea in 2018, a clear message to Russia that the U.S. was prepared to escalate asymmetrical warfare targeting the Crimea

Speaking at a GEOInt (Geospatial Intelligence) annual symposium in 2014, former head of SOCOM, General Joseph Votel opined that “We want to be everywhere, know everything.” Clearly, SOCOM has increasingly pushed for the first part of his stated goal in the intervening years; however, the increased focus and funding of special operations over the past 18 years has left the U.S. military’s conventional forces in a state of atrophy and decline.

The U.S. political establishment and military leadership have come to see SOCOM as the go-to solution provider for just about any scenario where military force is seen as an option. This has increased the reputation and clout of SOCOM, but this has increasingly come at the expense and detriment to more traditional conventional forces that chiefly serve the national interests of deterrence and defense.

Conventional Warfare Atrophy

In a detailed analysis posted late last year, “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict”, I outlined the causes and effects of the decline in U.S. conventional warfare capabilities. There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the reliance upon and exponential growth of U.S. special operations forces, and the decline in conventional force readiness and capability.

This is evident in all service branches and has had a negative effect on the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to carry out future offensive and defensive combat operations against peer adversaries. The U.S. military will have very little hope of achieving decisive military victories in either Russia’s or China’s backyard. Any assertion to the contrary is delusory.

The U.S. military obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation stemming from one U.S. invasion or regime change operation after another, has left a once cutting edge, combined-arms conventional force gutted materially and low in morale. Special operations forces were leveraged in a fight against popular uprisings, Islamic terrorist organizations, and often an alliance between the two.

The overwhelming majority of the growing names on the U.S. enemies list found their genesis as a result of U.S. military adventurism.

These various insurgencies were a direct reaction to heavy-handed U.S. “foreign policy” delivered at the barrel of a gun. The resulting struggles in the so called GWOT depended greatly on an ever expanding pool of special operations forces. SOF were prioritized over other traditional, conventional forces not meant for occupation and not skilled in counterinsurgency.

While the troops at the disposal of SOCOM ballooned to almost 70,000, the U.S. Army has struggled to replace armored vehicles first fielded in the 1960’s, the Navy witnessed the utter deterioration and exhaustion of its carrier air wings, and the Air Force struggled to retain pilots to fly aircraft that fell deeper into a state of disrepair.

Although achieving battlefield successes, the Armed Forces of the United States have yet to decisively win any of the numerous conflicts embarked upon since 2001. The intervening years have revealed the U.S. military of today to be an organization riddled with major material shortcomings and inferiority, while plagued with a leadership lacking sound judgement and brimming with both hubris and an unfounded superiority complex.

This leadership has repeatedly decided to invest in special operations forces that are unable to win wars on their own, at the expense of conventional forces designed solely for that purpose.

Growing Political Power

SOCOM has not restricted its influence to the many battlefields across the globe, or the forging of ties with foreign militaries through training and advisory programs. Just as the CIA has stationed personnel at most U.S. embassies overseas, SOCOM has followed suit.

Special Operations Liaison Officers (SOLO) are stationed at a growing number of embassies, including the NATO member countries the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Italy, Turkey and Canada. SOLOS can also be found in U.S. embassies in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru, Israel, Jordan, and Kenya. SOCOM’s former head, General Joseph Votel, had announced the intention of putting a SOLO is at least forty U.S. embassies around the globe by 2019.

This statement should be viewed with some skepticism, as SOCOM rarely speaks publicly about the extent of their operations and planning, so it is likely that SOLOs are already serving in many more U.S. embassies, especially those located in flash points or trouble spots in Africa, the Middle East, South America, and nations bordering the Russian Federation and China.

Not only should this development be worrying to host nations who may not be inclined to look at a foreign military presence on their soil as acceptable, but it also clearly exhibits closer ties between SOCOM and the Department of State.

Not only has SOCOM fostered closer ties with the Department of State, but with the monolithic U.S. security apparatus as a whole.

In an attempt to “be everywhere and know everything”, SOCOM has moved further away from its subordinate position in the Department of Defense, and pursued a more independent and unaccountable path, similar to that of the CIA or NSA, two organizations that it has increasingly worked closely with. SOCOM has even forged close ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose prevue is supposed to be limited to U.S. domestic crime investigations and the enforcement of federal laws.

There should be some apprehension at both the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress, of the growing power of this new military within the military. In a constitutional republic that clearly delineates, compartmentalizes, and limits government power, the growth of a largely unaccountable, secretive and influential new military organization should be viewed as a threat to the very foundations of political and social order.

A number of former special operations members have run for political office in recent years and won. While electing retired soldiers into Congress and gubernatorial office will most likely bring a level of restraint to government military adventurism, with those individuals having seen and paid the price for war, there is also a chance that they will steer policy to aid the military industrial complex. The cautionary tale of Governor Eric Greitens is one such example that also signals another problem effecting the special operations community as a whole.

Scandals Tarnish the Mythology

A number of scandals involving U.S. special operations soldiers have hit the headlines in recent years, corresponding with the exponential growth of the force. In an attempt to expand the SOF, the Pentagon seems to have lowered physical, cognitive and moral standards in order to fill the ranks.

The Hollywood-Pentagon alliance that has worked tirelessly to create and perpetuate the image of the invincibility of the Navy Seals, presenting them as modern day Spartans or Praetorians, has run into a minor set-back in recent years. The criminal conduct of the elite of the elite has recently tarnished a once proud and silent fraternity of soldiers.

On June 4, 2017 an Army Special Forces NCO was murdered by two Navy SEALs and two Marines “Raiders” in Mali. The original story put forward was that the soldiers accidentally killed their compatriot in an attempt to scare him into silence. The Green Beret, Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar, had uncovered gross criminal conduct by Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews and Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph.

The two SEALs had been embezzling money meant to pay off local informants, and had also been bringing local prostitutes back to the small unit’s “secret” safe house . Staff Sergeant Melgar was ambushed in the safe house, beaten and choked to death. It took military investigators roughly a year and a half to finally charge all four perpetrators with felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary.

The investigation found that the men killed Staff Sergeant Melgar while engaged in an act of burglary; however, it is not known if they were attempting to steal back or destroy evidence that the Army Staff Sergeant had collected against them.

Perhaps no better example of the meteoric rise and fall of a former Navy SEAL exists as a greater cautionary tale than that of disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.

Greitens had ridden the reputation of the SEALs into fame and political office, only to fall victim to his own despicable criminal mind. Greitens never served in combat and was not highly regarded by most rank and file SEAL members with combat experience.

Many such members speaking off the record, regarded him as an overly ambitious ladder climber that intended to ride the SEAL reputation as far as it would take him. It was largely theorized that before accusations of criminal conduct started coming to the fore, that he fully intended to launch a U.S. presidential campaign. Thankfully, investigations revealed gross corruption in his political dealings and his personal life.

Geitens had been listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2013, and made the list of Fortune Magazine’s 50 greatest leaders in 2014. By May 29, 2017 he had resigned from political office in disgrace.

Eric Greitens

A still shot from a gubernatorial commercial promoting Eric Greitens in 2016. Greitens ran on the collective reputation of the SEAL teams, much to the chagrin of many rank and file members

A vocal critic of the new trend in special operations personnel seeking the spotlight and financial gain is Navy SEAL Lieutenant Forrest Crowell, who even wrote his post graduate thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School regarding the issue. While writing a detailed story on Governor Greitens in The New Yorker, Phil Klay summarized Lt. Crowell’s opinion put forward in his thesis:

In it, he argued that the SEALs’ celebrity status had diverted their culture “away from the traditional SEAL Ethos of quiet professionalism to a Market Ethos of commercialization and self-promotion.” Crowell warned that the new approach incentivized “narcissistic and profit-oriented behavior” and undermined healthy civil-military relations by using “the credibility of special operations to push partisan politics. “The people of this nation should be suspicious of SEALs who speak too loudly about themselves,” Crowell wrote.”

Reversing the Trend

Although it remains to be seen whether or not U.S. special operations troops will be withdrawn from Syria or not, it is highly unlikely. The timetable for withdrawal continues to stretch into the future. It is also highly unlikely that SOCOM will reduce its global footprint, slow the tempo of joint military training with foreign military, or request a smaller budget for 2020. Like all U.S. federal government entities, it will promote itself at the expense of all others, and will resist any demands to lessen its power and influence.

President Trump has proven himself either incapable of challenging the military industrial complex, or totally complicit in the aim of that complex to perpetuate endless military conflict. There is very little sign that anyone in either the civilian government or the military leadership of the United States has the integrity or is willing to make the political sacrifice to alter the current course that the U.S. Armed Forces are embarked upon.

The U.S. military has mis-allocated funds and priorities for the past two decades, engaged in misguided and disastrous regime change operations that have cost the nation trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. These military adventures have gutted the armed forces materially and morally.

A generation of Americans have been left scarred physically and mentally. Hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians in countries across the Middle East and Africa have lost their lives, while millions of refugees have fled the resultant chaos.

By 2019, SOCOM has reached a pinnacle in power and influence within the military industrial complex. It has garnered and fostered an almost mythical status in U.S. society. Yet it has not won and is incapable of winning any conflict that the government of the United States has seen fit to employ it in.

Perhaps that is the very point. Special operations forces deployed across the globe, in almost every country you can imagine can help initiate, maintain and perpetuate conflict as long as the United States stays in a position of relatively unrivaled power in the world.

The U.S. military-industrial complex does not desire large winnable wars, but “low-intensity” conflicts that last as long as possible. That is how the system retains power, maintains profits, and remains relevant.

A strengthened SOCOM, deployed across the planet, establishing relationships with the foreign militaries of most of the world’s nations, and stationed in an ever-growing number of U.S. embassies is a dream come true for the Deep State. There is little chance that SOCOM will reverse its course of expansion and accumulation of power at the expense of U.S. national security anytime in the immediate future. J

ust as the FBI, NSA and CIA have grown in power, influence and unaccountability since their creation, SOCOM seems poised to follow the same model to the detriment of the Republic that it was created to serve.

Top photo | A U.S. operative prepares to load into a C-130J Hercules after the completion of a night mission rehearsal near Grand Bara, Djibouti, Dec. 4, 2018. Amy F. Picard | U.S. Air Force

Written and produced by Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

How CIA creates extremist factions, and set conditions for resolving the problems

اتمنى ان تقرأوا هذه الواقعة
10 مايو، 2017/0 .
اذا اردتم ان تعرفوا كيف يتم التحكم بالارهاب طالعوا اجابة وزير الخارجية الجزائري “بن فليس ” السابق كيف تخلصت الجزائر من
الارهاب الذي فتك بها حتى اواخر التسعينات

أ. د . عبدالحميد دشتي نائب سابق في مجلس الامة الكويتي
——————–
سؤال مقدم للسيد بن فليس
كيف تمكنتم في الجزائر من القضاء على ظاهرة العنف والقتل والتي استمرت لسنوات عديدة ؟؟؟؟؟
نظر إليَّ السيد بن فليس وأخذ نفسا عميقا مع تنهيدة بسيطة , قام عن مقعده وطلب مني أن نسير سويا بمحاذاة الشاطيء …..

قال والحديث لبن فليس :
في أحد الأيام استدعاني الرئيس بوتفليقة إلى مقره , فوجدت عنده السفير الأمريكي ومعه ثلاثة أشخاص آخرين , تبين أنهم من دائرة السي أي ايه الأمريكية .

طلب مني بوتفليقة الإستماع لما سيقولون . بدأ السفير الأمريكي بالكلام قائلا :
هل ترغبون يا سادة أن تنتهي حالة العنف والقتل السائدة لديكم في الجزائر ؟؟؟
فأجابه الرئيس بوتفليقة :
طبعا وبدون شك ……

استطرد السفير قائلا :
حسنا , نستطيع أن ننهي لكم هذا الوضع وبسرعة , ولكن وحتى نكون واضحين لدينا شروط واضحة يجب أن توافقو عليه مسبقا ……
أشعره بوتفليقة بالموافقة وطلب منه أن يكمل ……

قال السفير :
أولا :
عليكم إيداع عائدات مبيعاتكم من النفط لدينا في أمريكا ……
ثانيا :
عليكم إيداع عائدات مبيعات الغاز في فرنسا …….
ثالثاً :
عدم مناصرة المقاومة الفلسطينية …..
رابعاً :
عدم مناصرة إيران وحزب الله ……
خامساً :
لا مانع من تشكيل حكومة إسلامية وعلى أن تكون شبيهة بما لدى تركيا ……

وافق الرئيس بوتفليقة على هذه الشروط متأملا إخراج الجزائر من حالة القتل والفوضى التي كانت تعصف بالبلاد ……
استطرد السفير الأمريكي :
حسنا , سنقوم بدورنا بالتحدث مع كافة الأطراف المعنية لإعلامهم باتفاقتا .

سأل بوتفليقة :
ومن هي تلك الأطراف ؟؟؟؟؟
فأجاب السفير :
فرنسا و إسرائيل والسعودية !
صعقنا من ذلك وتساءل بوتفليقة:وما علاقة هذه الدول بما يجري لدينا ؟؟؟؟
أجاب السفير والإبتسامة الصفراوية على وجهه ::
السعودية هي التي تقوم بتمويل شراء السلاح من إسرائيل , وتقوم إسرائيل بإرساله إلى فرنسا , وفرنسا بدورها وعن طريق بعض ضباط الجيش الجزائري المرتشين والذين يتعاملون معها , يوصلونها للجماعات الإسلامية المتطرفة …..

واستطرد السفير وسط دهشتنا :
سنقوم بإبلاغ فرنسا وإسرائيل باتفاقنا وعليكم إرسال شخص من طرفكم للتحدث إلى الملك عبد الله ملك السعودية حيث سيكون أسهل إبلاغه عن طريقكم نظرا لصعوبة التفاهم معه .

على أثر ذلك طلب مني بوتفليقة السفر إلى السعودية لأجل هذه الغاية …..
وصلت إلى السعودية بعد ترتيبات مسبقة , والقول لبن فليس , والتقيت بالملك عبد الله وشرحت له ما تم من إتفاق مع الجانب الأمريكي وأنهم أي الامريكان طلبوا من باقي الأطراف وقف الدعم للمسلحين , والآن على السعودية وقف تمويل السلاح .
استغرق حديثي مع ملك السعودية عدة ساعات دون أن يوافق وأصر على موقفه . عندها اتصلت بالسفير الأمريكي وأعلمته عن تزمت الملك السعودي وعدم موافقته على هذا الإتفاق

.
أجابني السفير :
لا بأس انتظر قليلا , سأهاتف الملك شخصيا ….. لم تمض بضع دقائق حتى استدعاني الملك وهو يربت على صدره قائلا :
ابشر ابشر .
بعدها بعدة أيام توقف الدعم والتمويل للإرهابيين , وتم تزويد قواتنا المسلحة من الأمريكان بإحداثيات لمواقعهم وأماكن تواجدهم , حيث قامت قواتنا المسلحة بالقضاء عليهم وخلال فترة بسيطة من الوقت

انتهت القصة . هذه القصة التي سمعتها مباشرة من صديقي وليس عن وعن .
والآن أعزائي وأحبتي هل لكم أن تدركوا حجم الدور الذي يقوم به آل سعود وحكام مشيخة قطر في دعم الإرهاب وفي خدمة أسيادهم الأمريكان ولغاية تدمير بلداننا العربية مقابل الحفاظ على كراسيهم ؟؟؟؟
وكيف تتم معالجة مثل هذه الأمور ؟؟؟؟
وما هذا عما يحدث الآن في سوريا والعراق واليمن وليبيا ببعيد .
— – – – – –
أ. د . عبدالحميد دشتي نائب سابق في مجلس الامة الكويتي

 

How We Were Misled About Syria: Amnesty International

Most of us living outside Syria know very little of the country or its recent history. What we think we know comes via the media.

Information that comes with the endorsement of an organisation like Amnesty International we may tend to assume is reliable.

Certainly, I always trusted Amnesty International implicitly, believing I understood and shared its moral commitments.

As a decades-long supporter, I never thought to check the reliability of its reporting. Only on seeing the organisation last year relaying messages from the infamous White Helmets did questions arise for me.[1]

Having since discovered a problem about the witness testimonies provided by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I felt a need to look more closely at Amnesty International’s reporting.[2] Amnesty had been influential in forming public moral judgements about the rights and wrongs of the war in Syria.

What if Amnesty’s reporting on the situation in Syria was based on something other than verified evidence?[3] What if misleading reports were instrumental in fuelling military conflicts that might otherwise have been more contained, or even avoided?

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Amnesty International first alleged war crimes in Syria, against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, in June 2012.[4]

If a war crime involves a breach of the laws of war, and application of those laws presupposes a war, it is relevant to know how long the Syrian government had been at war, assuming it was. The UN referred to a ‘situation close to civil war’ in December 2011.[5]

Amnesty International’s war crimes in Syria were therefore reported on the basis of evidence that would have been gathered, analysed, written up, checked, approved and published within six months.[6] That is astonishingly – and worryingly – quick.

The report does not detail its research methods, but a press release quotes at length, and exclusively, the words of Donatella Rovera who ‘spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.’ luther

As far as I can tell, the fresh evidence advertised in the report was gathered through conversations and tours Rovera had in those weeks.[7]Her report mentions that Amnesty International ‘had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria’.[8]

I am no lawyer, but I find it inconceivable that allegations of war crimes made on this basis would be taken seriously. Rovera herself was later to speak of problems with the investigation in Syria: in a reflective article published two years afterwards,[9] she gives examples of both material evidence and witness statements that had misled the investigation.[10]

Such reservations did not appear on Amnesty’s website; I am not aware of Amnesty having relayed any caveats about the report, nor of its reviewing the war crimes allegations.  What I find of greater concern, though, given that accusations of crimes already committed can in due course be tried, is that Amnesty also did not temper its calls for prospective action.  On the contrary.

In support of its surprisingly quick and decisive stance on intervention, Amnesty International was also accusing the Syrian government of crimes against humanity.

Already before Deadly Reprisals, the report Deadly Detention had alleged these.

Such allegations can have grave implications because they can be taken as warrant for armed intervention.[11] Whereas war crimes do not occur unless there is a war, crimes against humanity can be considered a justification for going to war. And in war, atrocities can occur that would otherwise not have occurred.

I find this thought deeply troubling, particularly as a supporter of Amnesty International at the time it called for action, the foreseeable consequences of which included fighting and possible war crimes, by whomsoever committed, that might otherwise never have been.

Personally, I cannot quite escape the thought that in willing the means to an end one also shares some responsibility for their unintended consequences.[12]

If Amnesty International considered the moral risk of indirect complicity in creating war crimes a lesser one than keeping silent about what it believed it had found in Syria, then it must have had very great confidence in the findings. Was that confidence justified?

If we go back to human rights reports on Syria for the year 2010, before the conflict began, we find Amnesty International recorded a number of cases of wrongful detention and brutality.[13]Deadly Reprisals.png 

In the ten years Bashar Al-Assad had been president, the human rights situation seemed to Western observers not to have improved as markedly as they had hoped.

Human Rights Watch spoke of 2000-2010 as a ‘wasted decade’.[14] The consistent tenor of reports was disappointment: advances achieved in some areas had to be set against continued problems in others. We also know that in some rural parts of Syria, there was real frustration at the government’s priorities and policies.[15]

An agricultural economy hobbled by the poorly managed effects of severe drought had left the worst off feeling marginalized. Life may have been good for many in vibrant cities, but it was far from idyllic for everyone, and there remained scope to improve the human rights record.

The government’s robust approach to groups seeking an end to the secular state of Syria was widely understood to need monitoring for reported excesses. Still, the pre-war findings of monitors, are a long way from any suggestion of crimes against humanity.

That includes the findings of Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights.

A report published just three months later portrays a dramatically different situation.[16]In the period from April to August 2011, events on the ground had certainly moved quickly in the wake of anti-government protests in parts of the country, but so had Amnesty.

deadly-detention

In promoting the new report, Deadly Detention, Amnesty International USA notes with pride how the organisation is now providing ‘real-time documentation of human rights abuses committed by government forces’.

Not only is it providing rapid reporting, it is also making strong claims. Instead of measured statements suggesting necessary reforms, it now condemns Assad’s government for ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’

The Syrian government is accused of ‘crimes against humanity’.[17]

The speed and confidence – as well as the implied depth of insight – of the report are remarkable. The report is worrying, too, given how portentous is its damning finding against the government: Amnesty International ‘called on the UN Security Council to not only condemn, in a firm and legally binding manner, the mass human rights violations being committed in Syria but also to take other measures to hold those responsible to account, including by referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

As well, Amnesty International continues to urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria and to immediately freeze the assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity.’ With such strongly-worded statements as this, especially in a context where powerful foreign states are already calling for ‘regime change’ in Syria, Amnesty’s contribution could be seen as throwing fuel on a fire.

Since it is not just the strength of the condemnation that is noteworthy, but the swiftness of its delivery – in ‘real-time’ – a question that Amnesty International supporters might consider is how the organisation can provide instantaneous coverage of events while also fully investigating and verifying the evidence.

 JORDAN-SYRIA-CONFLICT-REFUGEES

Amnesty International’s reputation rests on the quality of its research. The organisation’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, has clearly stated the principles and methods adhered to when gathering evidence:

we do it in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.’[18]

Amnesty thus sets itself rigorous standards of research, and assures the public that it is scrupulous in adhering to them. This is only to be expected, I think, especially when grave charges are to be levelled against a government.

Did Amnesty follow its own research protocol in preparing the Deadly Detention report? Was it: systematicprimarycollected by Amnesty’s own staff, on the ground, with every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration and by cross-checking with all parties concerned?

In the analysis appended here as a note [ – [19] –] I show, point by point, that the report admits failing to fulfil some of these criteria and fails to show it has met anyof them.

Given that the findings could be used to support calls for humanitarian intervention in Syria, the least to expect of the organization would be application of its own prescribed standards of proof.

Lest it be thought that focusing on the technicalities of research methodology risks letting the government off the hook for egregious crimes, it really needs to be stressed – as was originally axiomatic for Amnesty International – that we should never make a presumption of guilt without evidence or trial.[20]

Quite aside from technical questions, getting it wrong about who is the perpetrator of war crimes could lead to the all too real consequences of mistakenly intervening on the side of the actual perpetrators.

wwiii

Suppose it nevertheless be insisted that the evidence clearly enough shows Assad to be presiding over mass destruction of his own country and slaughter in his own people: surely the ‘international community’ should intervene on the people’s behalf against this alleged ‘mass murderer’?[21]

In the climate of opinion and with the state of knowledge abroad at the time, that may have sounded a plausible proposition. It was not the only plausible proposition, however, and certainly not in Syria itself. Another was that the best sort of support to offer the people of Syria would lie in pressing the government more firmly towards reforms while assisting it, as was becoming increasingly necessary, in ridding the territory of terrorist insurgents who had fomented and then exploited the tensions in the original protests of Spring 2011.[22]

For even supposing the government’s agents of internal security needed greater restraint, the best way to achieve this is not necessarily to undermine the very government that would be uniquely well-placed, with support and constructive incentives, to apply it.

I do not find it obvious that Amnesty was either obliged or competent to decide between these alternative hypotheses.

Since it nevertheless chose to do so, we have to ask why it pre-emptively dismissed the method of deciding proposed by President Al-Assad himself. This was his undertaking to hold an election to ask the people whether they wanted him to stay or go.

120226101932-syria-vote-horizontal-large-gallery

Although not widely reported in the West, and virtually ignored by Amnesty[23] – a presidential election was held in 2014, with the result being a landslide victory for Bashar Al-Assad. He won 10,319,723 votes – 88.7% of the vote – with a turnout put at 73.42%.[24]

Western observers did not challenge those numbers or allege voting irregularities,[25]with the media instead seeking to downplay their significance.

‘This is not an election that can be analysed in the same way as a multi-party, multi-candidate election in one of the established European democracies or in the US, says the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Damascus. It was an act of homage to President Assad by his supporters, which was boycotted and rejected by opponents rather than an act of politics, he adds.’[26]

This homage, nonetheless, was paid by an outright majority of Syrians. To refer to this as ‘meaningless’, as US Secretary of State, John Kerry did,[27] reveals something of how much his own regime respected the people of Syria.

It is true that voting could not take place in opposition-held areas, but participation overall was so great that even assuming the whole population in those areas would have voted against him, they would still have had to accept Assad as legitimate winner – rather as we in Scotland have to accept Theresa May as UK prime minister.

In fact, the recent liberation of eastern Aleppo has revealed Assad’s government actually to have support there.

We cannot know if Assad would have been so many people’s first choice under other circumstances, but we can reasonably infer that the people of Syria saw in his leadership their best hope for unifying the country around the goal of ending the bloodshed.

Whatever some might more ideally have sought – including as expressed in the authentic protests of 2011 – the will of the Syrian people quite clearly was, under the actual circumstances, for their government to be allowed to deal with their problems, rather than be supplanted by foreign-sponsored agencies.[28]

(I am tempted to add the thought, as a political philosopher, that BBC’s Jeremy Bowen could be right in saying the election was no normal ‘act of politics’: Bashar Al-Assad has always been clear in statements and interviews that his position is inextricably bound up with the Syrian constitution.

He didn’t choose to give up a career in medicine to become a dictator, as I understand it; rather, the chance event of his older brother’s death altered his plans.

Until actual evidence suggests otherwise, I am personally prepared to believe that Assad’s otherwise incomprehensible steadfastness of purpose does indeed stem from a commitment to defending his country’s constitution. Whether or not the people really wanted this person as president is secondary to the main question whether they were prepared to give up their national constitution to the dictates of any body other than that of the Syrian people. Their answer to this has a significance, as Bowen inadvertently notes, that is beyond mere politics.)

Since the Syrian people had refuted the proposition that Amnesty had been promoting, serious questions have be asked. Among these, one – which would speak to a defence of Amnesty – is whether it had some independent justification – coming from sources of information other than its own investigations – for genuinely believing its allegations against the Syrian government well-founded.

However, since an affirmative answer to that question would not refute the point I have sought to clarify here I shall set them aside for a separate discussion in the next episode of this investigation.

My point for now is that Amnesty International itself had not independently justified its own advocacy position. This is a concern for anyone who thinks it should take full responsibility for the monitoring it reports. Further discussion has also to address concerns about what kinds of advocacy it should be engaged in at all.[29]

SYRIA-CONFLICT-POLITICS-VOTE

NOTES

[1] For background on concern about the White Helmets, a concise overview is provided in the video White Helmets: first responders or Al Qaeda support group? For a more thorough discussion, see the accessible but richly referenced summary provided by Jan Oberg.

On the basis of all the information now widely available, and in view of the consistency between numerous critical accounts, which contrasts with the incoherence of the official narrative as made famous by Netflix, I have come to mistrust testimony sourced from the White Helmets when it conflicts with testimony of independent journalists on the ground – especially since reports of the latter are also consistent with those of the people of eastern Aleppo who have been able to share the truth of their own experiences since the liberation (for numerous interviews with people from Aleppo, see the Youtube channel of Vanessa Beeley; see also the moving photographic journals of Jan Oberg.)

There have certainly been efforts to debunk the various exposés of the White Helmets, and the latest I know of (at the time of writing) concerns the confession featured in the video (linked above) of Abdulhadi Kamel.

According to Middle East eye, his colleagues in the White Helmets believe the confession was beaten out of him (report as at 15 Jan 2017) in a notorious government detention centre (http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-white-helmet-fake-confession-filmed-assad-regime-intelligence-prison-344419324); according to Amnesty International, which does not mention that report in its appeal of 20 Jan 2017, states that there is no evidence he was a White Helmet and it is not known what happened to him (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/01/man-missing-during-east-aleppo-evacuation/).

What I take from this is that some people want to defend the White Helmets, but that they cannot even agree a consistent story to base it on under the pressure of unexpected events in Aleppo showing behind the scenes – literally – of the Netflix version of events. It is also hardly reassuring about the quality of AI’s monitoring in Syria.

[2] My critical inquiry about Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was sparked by learning that their testimony was being used to criticise claims being made about Syria by the independent journalist Eva Bartlett. Having found her reporting credible, I felt compelled to discover which account to believe. I found that MSF had been misleading about what they could really claim to know in Syria.

In response to that article, several people pointed to related concerns about Amnesty International. So I had the temerity to start questioning Amnesty International on the basis of pointers and tips given by several of my new friends, and I would like to thank particularly Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Patrick J.Boyle, Adrian D., and Rick Sterling for specific suggestions.

I have also benefited from work by Tim Anderson, Jean Bricmont, Tony Cartalucci, Stephen Gowans, Daniel Kovalic, Barbara McKenzie, and Coleen Rowley.

I would like to thank Gunnar Øyro, too, for producing a rapid Norwegian translation of the MSF article which has helped it reach more people.

In fact, there are a great any others too, that have I learned so much from in these few weeks, among what I have come to discover is a rapidly expanding movement of citizen investigators and journalists all around the globe. It’s one good thing to come out of these terrible times. Thanks to you all!

beeley-bartlett-balloons

[3] For instance, it is argued by Tim Anderson, in The Dirty War on Syria (2016), that Amnesty has been ‘embedded’, along with the Western media, and has been following almost unswervingly the line from Washington rather than providing independent evidence and analysis.

[4] The report Deadly Reprisals concluded that ‘Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.’

[5] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40595 – .WIGzeZIpGHk

[6] ‘In the areas of the governorates of Idlib and Aleppo, where Amnesty International carried out its field research for this report, the fighting had reached the level and intensity of a non-international armed conflict. This means that the laws of war (international humanitarian law) also apply, in addition to human rights law, and that many of the abuses documented here would also amount to war crimes.’ Deadly Reprisals, p.10.

[7] Rovera’s account was contradicted at the time by other witness testimonies, as reported, for instance, in the Badische Zeitung, which claimed responsibility for deaths was attributed to the wrong side.

One-sidedness in the account is also heavily criticized by Louis Denghien http://www.infosyrie.fr/decryptage/lenorme-mensonge-fondateur-de-donatella-rovera/

Most revealing, however, is the article I go on to mention in the text, in which Rovera herself two years later effectively retracts her own evidence (‘Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict’). This article is not published on Amnesty’s own site, and is not mentioned by Amnesty anywhere, as far as I know.

I commend it to anyone who thinks my conclusion about Deadly Reprisals might itself be too hasty. I think it could make salutary reading for some of her colleagues, like the one who published the extraordinarily defensive dismissal of critical questions about the report in Amnesty’s blog on 15 June 2012, which, I would say, begs every question it claims to answer.

(The author just keeps retorting that the critics hadn’t been as critical about opposition claims. I neither know nor care whether they were. I only wanted to learn if he had anything to say in reply to the actual criticisms made.)

While appreciating that people who work for Amnesty feel passionately about the cause of the vulnerable, and I would not wish it otherwise, I do maintain that professional discipline is appropriate in discussions relating to evidence.

[8] ‘For more than a year from the onset of the unrest in 2011, Amnesty International – like other international human rights organizations – had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria as it was effectively barred from entering the country by the government.’ (Deadly Reprisals, p.13)

[9] Donatella RoveraChallenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) 2014.

[10] The article is worth reading in full for its reflective insight into a number of difficulties and obstacles in the way of reliable reporting from the field, but here is an excerpt particularly relevant to the Syria case: ‘Access to relevant areas during the conduct of hostilities may be restricted or outright impossible, and often extremely dangerous when possible. Evidence may be rapidly removed, destroyed, or contaminated – whether intentionally or not.

“Bad” evidence can be worse than no evidence, as it can lead to wrong assumptions or conclusions. In Syria I found unexploded cluster sub-munitions in places where no cluster bomb strikes were known to have been carried out.

Though moving unexploded cluster sub-munitions is very dangerous, as even a light touch can cause them to explode, Syrian fighters frequently gather them from the sites of government strikes and transport them to other locations, sometimes a considerable distance away, in order to harvest explosive and other material for re-use.

The practice has since become more widely known, but at the time of the first cluster bomb strikes, two years ago, it led to wrong assumptions about the locations of such strikes. … Especially in the initial stages of armed conflicts, civilians are confronted with wholly unfamiliar realities – armed clashes, artillery strikes, aerial bombardments, and other military activities and situations they have never experienced before – which can make it very difficult for them to accurately describe specific incidents.’ (Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict)

In light of Rovera’s candour, one is drawn to an inescapable contrast with the stance of Amnesty International, the organization. Not only did it endorse the report uncritically, in the first place, it continued to issue reports of a similar kind, and to make calls for action on the basis of them.

[11] ‘This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action …

For more than a year the UN Security Council has dithered, while a human rights crisis unfolded in Syria.  It must now break the impasse and take concrete action to end to these violations and to hold to account those responsible.’ Deadly Reprisals press release.

The executive director of Amnesty International USA at that time was on record as favouring a Libya-like response to the Syria ‘problem’. Speaking shortly after her appointment she expressed her frustration that the Libya approach had not already been adopted for Syria:

‘Last spring the Security Council managed to forge a majority for forceful action in Libya and it was initially very controversial, [causing] many misgivings among key Security Council members. But Gaddafi fell, there’s been a transition there and I think one would have thought those misgivings would have died down. And yet we’ve seen just a continued impasse over Syria… .’ Quoted in Coleen Rowley, ‘Selling War as “Smart Power”’ (28 Aug 2012)

[12] The question of what Amnesty International as an organization can be said to have ‘willed’ is complex. One reason is that it is an association of so many people and does not have a simple ‘will’. Another is that public statements are often couched in language that can convey a message but with word choice that allows deniability of any particular intent should that become subject to criticism or censure.

This practice in itself I find unwholesome, personally, and I think it ought to be entirely unnecessary for an organization with Amnesty’s moral mission. For a related critical discussion of Amnesty International’s ‘interventionism’ in Libya see e.g. Daniel Kovalik ‘Amnesty International and the Human Rights Industry’ (2012).

Coleen Rowley received from Amnesty International, in response to criticisms by her, the assurance ‘we do not take positions on armed intervention.’ (The Problem with Human Rights/Humanitarian Law Taking Precedence over the Nuremberg Principle: Torture is Wrong but So Is the Supreme War Crime’, 2013).

Rowley shows how this response, unlike a clear stance against intervention, shows some creativity. I also note in passing, that in the same response Amnesty assure us ‘AI’s advocacy is based on our own independent research into human rights abuses in a given country.’ This, going by the extent to which AI reports cite reports from other organisations, I would regard as economical with the truth.

In my next blog on Amnesty International, the role of Suzanne Nossel, sometime executive director of Ammesty International USA, will be discussed, and in that context further relevant information will be forthcoming about the purposes Amnesty’s testimony was serving in the period 2011-12.

[13] Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October 2011,‘End human rights violations in Syria’. Without wanting to diminish the significance of every single human rights abuse, I draw attention here to the scale of the problem that is recorded prior to 2011 for the purpose of comparison with later reports.

Thus I note that the US State Department does not itemise egregious failings: ‘There was at least one instance during the year when the authorities failed to protect those in its custody. … There were reports in prior years of prisoners beating other prisoners while guards stood by and watched.’ In 2010 (May 28) Amnesty had reported ‘several suspicious deaths in custody’: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-syria-2010.

Its briefing to Committee on Torture speaks in terms of scores of cases in the period 2004-2010: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/008/2010/en/

For additional reference, these reports also indicate that the most brutal treatment tends to be meted out against Islamists and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also complaints from Kurds. A small number of lawyers and journalists are mentioned too.

[14] Human Rights Watch (2010), ‘A Wasted Decade: Human Rights in Syria during Bashar al-Assad’s First Ten Years in Power’.

[15] According to one account: ‘As a result of four years of severe drought, farmers and herders have seen their livelihoods destroyed and their lifestyles transformed, becoming disillusioned with government promises of plentitude in rural areas.

In the disjuncture between paternalistic promises of resource redistribution favoring Syria’s peasantry and corporatist pacts binding regime interests to corrupt private endeavors, one may begin to detect the seeds of Syrian political unrest. … the regime’s failure to put in place economic measures to alleviate the effects of drought was a critical driver in propelling such massive mobilizations of dissent.

In these recent months, Syrian cities have served as junctures where the grievances of displaced rural migrants and disenfranchised urban residents meet and come to question the very nature and distribution of power. …

I would argue that a critical impetus in driving Syrian dissent today has been the government’s role in further marginalizing its key rural populace in the face of recent drought.

Numerous international organizations have acknowledged the extent to which drought has crippled the Syrian economy and transformed the lives of Syrian families in myriad irreversible ways.’ Suzanne Saleeby (2012) ‘Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and the Syrian Social Contract’s Unraveling.

[16] The names, dates, and reporting periods of reports relevant here are easily confused, so here are further details. The Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights mentioned in the text just here reports on the calendar year 2010, and it was published on May 13 2011. The separate report published in August 2011 is entitled Deadly Detention: deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria’ and covers events during 2011 up to 15 August 2011.

[17] Crimes against humanity are a special and egregious category of wrongdoing: they involve acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. Whereas ordinary crimes are a matter for a state to deal with internally, crimes against humanity, especially if committed by a state, can make that state subject to redress from the international community.

[18] Salil Shetty interviewed in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unl-csIUmp8

[19] Was the research systematic? The organising of data collection takes time, involving procedures of design, preparation, execution and delivery; the systematic analysis and interpretation of data involves a good deal of work; the writing up needs to be properly checked for accuracy.

Furthermore, to report reliably involves various kinds of subsidiary investigation in order to establish context and relevant variable factors that could influence the meaning and significance of data. Even then, once a draft report is written, it really needs to be checked by some expert reviewers for any unnoticed errors or omissions.

Any presentation of evidence that shortcuts those processes could not, in my judgment, be regarded as systematic. I cannot imagine how such processes could be completed in short order, let alone ‘in real-time’, and so I can only leave it to readers to decide how systematic the research could have been.

Was the evidence gathered from primary sources? ‘International researchers have interviewed witnesses and others who had fled Syria in recent visits to Lebanon and Turkey, and communicated by phone and email with individuals who remain in Syria … they include relatives of victims, human rights defenders, medical professionals and newly released detainees.

Amnesty International has also received information from Syrian and other human rights activists who live outside Syria.’ Of all those sources, we could regard the testimony of newly released detainees as a primary source of information about conditions in prison. However, we are looking for evidence that would support the charge of committing crimes against humanity through ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack’.

On what basis Amnesty can claim definite knowledge of the extent of any attack and exactly who perpetrated it, or of how the government organizes the implementation of state policy, I do not see explained in the report.

Was the evidence collected by Amnesty’s staff on the ground? This question is answered in the report: “Amnesty International has not been able to conduct first-hand research on the ground in Syria during 2011” (p.5).

Was every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration? The fact that a number of identified individuals had died in violent circumstances is corroborated, but the report notes that ‘in very few cases has Amnesty International been able to obtain information indicating where a person was being detained at the time of their death. Consequently, this report uses qualified terms such as “reported arrests” and “reported deaths in custody”, where appropriate, in order to reflect this lack of clarity regarding some of the details of the cases reported.’

[This would corroborate descriptions of the pre-2011 situation regarding police brutality and deaths in custody. These are as unacceptable in Syria as they should be in all the other countries in which they occur, but to speak of ‘crimes against humanity’ implies an egregious systematic policy.

I do not find anything in the report that claims to offer corroboration of the evidence that leads the report to state: ‘Despite these limitations, Amnesty International considers that the crimes behind the high number of reported deaths in custody of suspected opponents of the regime identified in this report, taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations committed against civilians elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity.

They appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’]

As for corroboration of more widespread abuses and the claim that the government had a policy to commit what amount to crimes against humanity, I find none referred to.

Was the evidence relied on cross-checked with all parties concerned? Given that the government is charged, it would be a centrally concerned party, and the report makes clear the government has not been prepared to deal with Amnesty International. The non-cooperation of the government with Amnesty’s inquiries – whatever may be its reasons – cannot be offered as proof of its innocence.

[That very phrase may jar with traditional Amnesty International supporters, given that a founding principle is the due process of assuming innocent before proven guilty. But I have allowed that some people might regard governments as relevantly different from individuals.] But since the government was not obliged to have dealings with Amnesty, and might have had other reasons not to, we must simply note that this aspect of the research methods protocol was not satisfied.

[20] I would note that a range of people have disputed whether there was any credible evidence, including former CIA intelligence officer Philip Giraldi http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/nato-vs-syria/ while also affirming that the American plan of destabilizing Syria and pursuing regime change had been hatched years earlier.

That, unlike the allegations against Assad, has been corroborated from a variety of sources. These include a former French foreign minister http://www.globalresearch.ca/former-french-foreign-minister-the-war-against-syria-was-planned-two-years-before-the-arab-spring/5339112 and General Wesley Clark http://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166.

[21] Although quotation marks and the word alleged are invariably absent in mainstream references to accusations involving Assad, I retain them on principle since the simple fact of repeating an allegation does not suffice to alter its epistemic status. To credit the truth of a statement one needs evidence.

Lest it be said that there was plenty of other evidence, then I would suggest we briefly consider what Amnesty International, writing in 2016, would refer to as ‘the strongest evidence yet’. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/03/from-hope-to-horror-five-years-of-crisis-in-syria/ (15 March 2016; accessed 11 January 2017) The evidence in question was the so-called Caesar photographs showing some 11,000 corpses alleged to have been tortured and executed by Assad’s people.

A full discussion of this matter is not for a passing footnote like this, but I would just point out that this evidence was known to Amnesty and the world as of January 2014 and was discussed by Amnesty’s Philip Luther at the time of its publication.

Referring to them as ‘11,000 Reasons for Real Action in Syria’, Luther admitted the causes or agents of the deaths had not been verified but spoke of them in terms that suggest verification was close to being a foregone conclusion (remember, this was five months before Assad’s election victory, so the scale of this alleged mass murder was knowledge in the public domain at election time).

These ‘11,000 reasons’ clearly weighed with Amnesty, even if they could not quite verify them. To this day, though, the evidence has not been credibly certified, and I for one do not expect it will be. Some reasons why are those indicated by Rick Sterling in his critical discussion ‘The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations’.

Meanwhile, if Amnesty International’s people had thought up hypotheses to explain why the Syrian electors seemed so nonchalant about the supposed mass murdering of their president, they have not shared them.

[22] Although this was very much a minority perspective in the Western media, it was not entirely absent. The Los Angeles Times of 7 March 2012 carries a small item called ‘Syria Christians fear life after Assad’ http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/07/world/la-fg-syria-christians-20120307

It articulates concerns about ‘whether Syria’s increasingly bloody, nearly yearlong uprising could shatter the veneer of security provided by President Bashar Assad’s autocratic but secular government. Warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon.’ It notes ‘their fear helps explain the significant support he still draws’.

This well-founded fear of something worse should arguably have been taken into account in thinking about the proportionality of any military escalation. The LA Times article carries an interview: ‘”Of course the ‘Arab Spring’ is an Islamist movement,” George said angrily. “It’s full of extremists. They want to destroy our country, and they call it a ‘revolution.’ “…

Church leaders have largely aligned themselves behind the government, urging their followers to give Assad a chance to enact long-promised political reforms while also calling for an end to the violence, which has killed more than 7,500 people on both sides, according to United Nations estimates.’ The LA Times carried several articles in a similar vein, including these: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/church-fears-ethnic-cleansing-of-christians-in-homs-syria.htmlhttp://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-05-09/syria-christians-crisis/54888144/1.

We also find that support for Assad’s presidency held up throughout the period following the initial protests: Since then, support for Assad has continued to hold up. Analysis of 2013 ORB Poll: http://russia-insider.com/en/nato-survey-2013-reveals-70-percent-syrians-support-assad/ri12011.

[23] No mention is made to it on Amnesty’s webpages, and the annual report of 2014/15 offers a cursory mention conveying that the election was of no real significance: ‘In June, President al-Assad won presidential elections held only in government-controlled areas, and returned to of ce for a third seven-year term. The following week, he announced an amnesty, which resulted in few prisoner releases; the vast majority of prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners held by the government continued to be detained.’ (p.355, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/0001/2015/en/)

[24] Reported in the Guardian 4 June 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/bashar-al-assad-winds-reelection-in-landslide-victory. The total population of Syria, including children, was 17,951,639 in 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Syria

Although most of the Western press ignored or downplayed the result, there were some exceptions. The LA Times noted that ‘Assad’s regional and international supporters hailed his win as the elusive political solution to the crisis and a clear indication of Syrians’ will.’ http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-prisoner-release-20140607-story.html In a report on Fox News via Associated Press, too, there is a very clear description of the depth of support: Syrian election shows depth of popular support for Assad, even among Sunni majority. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/06/04/syrian-election-shows-depth-popular-support-for-assad-even-among-sunni-majority.html The report explains numerous reasons for the support, in a way that appears to give the lie to the usual mainstream narrative in the West.

The Guardian reports: ‘Securing a third presidential term is Assad’s answer to the uprising, which started in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrators calling for reforms but has since morphed into a fully fledged war that has shaken the Middle East and the world. And now, with an estimated 160,000 dead, millions displaced at home and abroad, outside powers backing both sides, and al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups gaining more control in the north and east, many Syrians believe that Assad alone is capable of ending the conflict.’

Steven MacMillan offers a pro-Assad account of the election in New Eastern Outlook http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/20/bashar-al-assad-the-democratically-elected-president-of-syria/

[25] Despite assertions from the states committed to ‘regime change’ that the election result should simply be disregarded, international observers found no fault to report with the process http://tass.com/world/734657

[26] It is deemed of so little consequence by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that its webpage on Syria, as last updated 21 January 2015 (and accessed 16 January 2017) still has this as its paragraph discussing a possible election in Syria in the future tense and with scepticism: ‘there is no prospect of any free and fair election being held in 2014 while Assad remains in power.’

[27] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27706471

[28] A survey conducted in 2015 by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, still showed Assad to have more popular support than the opposition. The report is analysed by Stephen Gowans: http://www.globalresearch.ca/bashar-al-assad-has-more-popular-support-than-the-western-backed-opposition-poll/5495643

[29] For earlier and preliminary thoughts on the general question here see my short piece ‘Amnesty International: is it true to its mission?’ (12 Jan 2017)


adonis49

adonis49

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