Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘Time for Outrage’ Category

Lebanon: The story of late Maitre Phares Zoghbi: Univeristy USJ decided to close it to the community and displace all its 50,000 books to its headquarter

In Kornet Chehwa municipality (Lebanon), the late Maitre Phares Zoghbi’s private library (containing 50,000 books, many of them are expensive and unique), was opened to the community as a private library for over 2 decades. People could come read and borrow 2 books at a time. Last week, we learned the university of USJ is closing it. Why?

I overheard that USJ has already exchanged this property with works a company has performed on the hospital of Hotel Dieu?

Diala Gemayel published in the daily Orient 19/10/1999 what sounded as a testament of late Zoghbi:

«Je l’offrirai soit à la municipalité, soit à l’évêché de Kornet-Chehwane, soit à l’État, mais à une double condition : qu’elle soit installée dans une construction spéciale portant mon nom, ou dans une annexe à la Bibliothèque nationale, et QU’ELLE CONTINUE DE GRANDIR SELON L’USAGE ». Malheureusement, cette biblioteque tomba sur USJ.

Last week, Nada announced the closure by the university USJ. Nada is in charge of the page “Les amis de Maitre Phares Zoghbi”,  created in March 2010 to pay tribute to this exceptional bibliophile that has put all his life to the service of the book and reading.

The announcement stated:

Requiem for the landmark library of the municipality.

After more than 50 years at the service of the readers of the region of Kornet Chehwan and its surroundings, the library will close its doors soon and its fund (meaning the 50,000 books?) will be transferred to a room that is already dedicated to it at the campus of social sciences of the USJ.

The statement goes on: “The friends of late Zoghbi welcomed this news with infinite emotion and sadness, all the more this close-by community library welcomed all audiences, without discrimination. No, its new location in a university campus will only be accessed to students and researchers.

The friends of late Zoghbi are also forced to see that the library had no adapted means, (forced of not having adapted means?) ,that its website was not updated (its information users on the schedules, the news, the historic of the place) and that without accompaniment and activities, as it was the case for more than 5 years, the minimal service of the library could not be assured and that all users knew and asked for it. (Read my notes)

Here we have a special thought to all the friends of the library who, to remedy the lack of news, have enriched the library of more than 400 books, (because USJ declined any further “investment”). That met the needs of the readers and the documentary fund and to the events that have punctuated the country and the world, without forgetting the readers in search of beautiful novels!

We thank them with all heart! They allowed the library to sail as much as possible with for only precept “the book to all”.”

I replied:

In Kornet Chehwan (Lebanon), there exists a private library of late Maitre Phares Zoghbi. After years of negotiation with the university USJ,  this university has decided to trample on the spirit of keeping this library opened to the community. USJ decided to close the library, transfer all its books and dismantle all the shelves. Is the purpose to sell the property and land for real estates developers?  Is the soul of preserving a semblance of a community dead? This ignominy should Not passaran.

Why the USJ is intent on robbing the community from a local library? I urge everyone to do his due diligence and inform the newspapers, TV channels, deputies and friends on social media of this calamity and remedy to this injustice.

Nada replied:

“Le contrat de donation de maitre Phares Zoghbi autorise l’université USJ à déplacer les livres (meme toutes les 50,000 livres?) Et c’est inutile de faire tout ce bruit meme si cette fermeture fait mal.

I replied:

Est-ce que l’université à le droit de demanteler tous les etageres? De deplacer tous les livres et les transporter a l’universite’? Pouquoi prendre cette peine si USJ a deja des copies de la plupart des livres ? Pourquoi pas deplacer seulement les livres uniques et juridiques? Oui il y a de quoi faire un tas parceque cette library doit etre ouverte a la communaute’. On peut toujours trouver un manager avec nos contributions. Pourqoui USJ veut vendre la maison et la terre? Is USJ already bankrupt?

Nada replied:
Adonis le terrain a été acheté par l’USJ et payé à Maître Zoghbi pour qu’il puisse vivre à la fin de sa vie. Les livres ont été offerts et dans le contrat il est stipulé que l’usj peut les déplacer et ça tout le monde le sait et moi en premier. (Qui sont ces Tout le moned?) Ta tristesse est compréhensible mais inutile d’accuser l’Université. Tu ne connais pas le dossier. On est tous triste mais on n’y peut rien. Tu m’obliges à te raconter des détails sur Maitre Zoghbi et je n’aime pas. Calme toi
I replied:
Pourquoi tous ces secrets? Et pourtant, USJ doit permettre aux amis de la library d’ouvrire la bibioteque de leur propre argent de contribution. En tout cas, est-ce que le “dossier” respecte la volonte’ du Maitre?
Nada replied:
“Ce n’est pas un secret Adonis. Maitre Zoghbi a vendu le terrain et le contrat est clair. Il a pu vivre avec cet argent. La bibliothèque a été offerte et dans une clause du contrat de donation il est précisé que l’USJ peut prendre les livres dans un local situé dans la faculté de droit et que dans ce local, tout doit être assuré..nouveautés technologie, accueil des lecteurs…
Nada went on: “À mon avis ce qui est blessant c’est que tout se fait dans le secret et même les lecteurs n’ont pas été avertis ni par annonce, ni par avis. Moi même je l’ai appris par hasard. Cela fait plus de 15 ans que la BPZ est ouverte et la moindre des politesse est de s’excuser de cette fermeture auprès de la municipalité et des lecteurs, ….
Tu peux rentrer sur FB sur la page Bibliothèque USJ et écrire ce que tu veux. C’ est la page officielle…Nous Adonis on n’est que les amis, et pendant 5 ans nous avons essayé en mémoire de Maitre Zoghbi de garder la bibliothèque vivante…je suis triste.  C’est tout ce que je peux te dire..Rentre sur la page et écrit leur ce que tu veux…Courage!”
I replied:
Merci Nada pour les eclairssissements. Je prepare un article que je posterait sur mon blog avec des links on Fb and Twitter. I never lies in my writing.
It is embarrassing and frustrating that a university would not meet in open sessions with the municipality and the friends of the library to figure out alternative plans to enhance the “performance” of this landmark library and encourage the community to meet in a welcoming environment.
My impression is that USJ is operating with a colonial mentality and doesn’t think it has any “obligations” to consider the community opinions. Yalla, endosser vos Gilets Jaunes
The municipality should open a substitute library for the community if it is Not ready to negotiate with USJ. Even small municipalities would fight to retain its landmark location, what if this municipality is big and has so much money that it is re-doing most of the good roads.
Most people would admit that reading hard copy books is passe’. I believe it is the way books are distributed and made it easy to borrow and acquire that is the source of this problem. Municipalities that opened street kiosks to borrow books have witnessed increased convergence to reading books.
And It is lack of spaces to stow books that is another reason that people prefer Not to buy any more books. Let municipalities allocate spaces for saving hard copy books and people would gladly bring their books to be shared.
Note 1: I have posted many articles on this library and reviewed two of Zoghbi’s books and was the sole person to actually patronize this library in the last 15 years, sit down almost every day, rain or shine. I would walk a mile to read, write and peruse all new books. Occasionally a few students would come for a few days to study for their exams. For years I posted reviews on my blog of almost every book I read in the library
Note 2: USJ adopted the State strategy of degrading its public institutions in order to privatize them. The library was run by a passionate and dynamic care taker Rita. Rita organized many events and encourage the dissemination of the existence of the library by inviting newspapers and TV channels and other events where the friends of the library met. A few students were dispatched to help out and Layla was a great a addition for a while.
Then USJ must have decided a couple of years ago to sell the property and undertook to degrade the “performance” of the library by hiring a total apathy to manage the library.
Note 3: Portrait : Pharès Zoghbi , l’homme qui défend et protège le livre
« La liberté disparaît quand on cherche à détruire le livre et tous les régimes totalitaires l’ont fait quand c’était nécessaire. C’est ce que rappelle Maitre Zoghbi, en s’appuyant sur des exemples historiques :
«L’incendie de la bibliothèque d’Alexandrie par les Romains et les Arabes; l’incendie des livres à Cordoue, évoqué dans un des films de Youssef Chahine, “Le destin”…C’est pour toutes ces raisons que Maitre Pharès Zoghbi a «adopté, le livre comme compagnon».
Stowing books in universities is tantamount to preventing the common people to even think of reading. It means: practically burning books.
Note 4: The friends of the library will meet this Thursday, May 16, 2019. I’ll keep you posted of any alternatives.
Note 5: I have to offer my excuses to Nada because of my shortcoming on how Fb works. It seems Fb transformed Nada to its full name since I copied part of her sentences.
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Black Market in Lebanon: 30% of GDP?

And Lebanon banks assets? Ranked 4th in the world in ratio of GDP?

التقدير الأولي للاقتصاد الأسود في لبنان:
٣٠٪؜ من الناتج المحلي

المصارف ليست جمعيات خيرية وبعضها راكم أرباح هائلة من جراء السياسات النقدية المتبعة.. لكن الإمعان في شيطنتها (من قبل البعض) او محاولة لي ذراعها بأسلوب “الأمر لي” (من قبل البعض الآخر) قد يوديان بما تبقى من اقتصاد شرعي في لبنان!
‏صحيح ان السياسات النقدية والمالية بحاجة الى تصحيح،

لكن الخلل الأكبر في توزيع الدخل والثروة في لبنان يتأتى بالدرجة الأولى من الخروج عن القانون (على يد الحكام والمسؤولين أولاً)،

ومن زواج المصلحة الثلاثي (بين الفساد، والمحاصصة، والطائفية)، ومن تنامي “الاقتصاد الأسود” المحمي سياسياً وحزبياً والذي بات يستحوذ على ٣٠٪ من الناتج المحلي (المقدر ب٥٥ مليار دولار). ويتوزع الاقتصاد الأسود على “النشاطات” التالية، الخارجة عن اي تنظيم قانوني والتي بالطبع لا تسدد اي قرش ضريبة للدولة:
– مولدات الكهرباء: ٢،٥ مليار 


– المقالع والكسارات والمرامل: ١،٥ مليار
– التهرب الضريبي: ٣ مليار
– التهريب والتهرب الجمركي: ٢ مليار
– التنظيمات المسلحة: ٢ مليار
– العمالة غير النظامية: ١،٥ مليار
– المخدرات والاتجار بالبشر: ١،٥ مليار
المجموع: حوالى ١٤ مليار
(وذلك من دون احتساب كلفة وعوائد الفساد والمحاصصة والزبائنية السياسية).


اما تراجع النمو في السنوات الأخيرة (من ٨٪؜ الى ١٪؜) فيعود اساساً الى نزاعات المنطقة وخصوصا تورّط لبنان في هذه النزاعات (تقلص التحويلات، انهيار السياحة، وقف التصدير الزراعي، الإغراق الخارجي، فقدان الأسواق الطبيعية، الخ..).
ان أي معالجات نقدية او مالية او ضريبية تبقى قاصرة وسطحية وقصيرة الأمد، ما لم يتم التصدي لهذه المسببات الجذرية!
Antoine Haddad

Lebanon banks assets

لبنان مصنف الرابع عالميا على ١٦٢ دولة لنسبة ممتلكات المصارف مقارنة مع الإقتصاد الوطني حسب صندوق النقد الدولي ، ممتلكات المصارف اللبنانية تقدر ب ١٦٨ % من حجم الناتج المحلي اي ما يساوي ٨٦ مليار دولار طبعا هذه القيمة لا تشمل الموجودات النقدية .

رغم أن هذه الأرقام هي عن عام ٢٠١٦ إلا أنها الأحدث وهي بالتالي تعطي فكرة عن حجم ممتلكات المصارف التي توازي قيمة الدين العام .
أما بالنسبة الى موجودات المصارف النقدية التي تقدر ب ١٧٨ مليار دولار فهي ليست كلها أموال المودعين بل تشمل أيضا أموال المصارف نفسها والدليل أعلنته ألمصارف نفسها عندما اعلنت عن إرتفاع قيمة هذه الموجودات في أول السنة نتيجة الأموال التي دفعتها الدولة كفوائد لسنتدات الخزينة ومعروف من الذي يمتلك الكمية الأكبر من هذه السندات .


المطلوب اليوم تشريح وتفصيل هذه الموجودات ليتوقف الخلط بين أموال المودعين وأموال ألمصارف ويتوقف بالتالي التلطي وراء أموال المودعين .
أما بالنسبة إلى المضربين فنقول لهم لا ينفعكم التلطي وراء الفساد الموجود في الدولة والمدان من قبل كل مواطن لبناني ، ما ينفعكم هو أن تبرروا للشعب اللبناني :


حجم موازنة مصرف لبنان نسبة للإقتصاد الوطني ( ٢٥٠ % ) وهي من الأكبر في العالم .
– حجم القطاع المصرفي نسبة للإقتصاد الوطني ( ٤ أضعاف )
حجم الأرباح الصافية الفاحشة التي يجنيها القطاع المصرفي ( حوالي ١٠ مليون $ يوميا ) في وقت كل القطاعات الأخرى متعثرة وأنتم تتفرجون .


– سكوتكم عن الإحتكار الذي تمارسه المصارف منذ أكثر من ٢٧ سنة وحجم الأضرار الذي يوقعه هكذا إحتكار على الإقتصاد الوطني .
– سكوتكم عن الفوائد المرتفعة التي خنقت البلد ، أكانت فوائد السندات أو فوائد القروض أو فوائد المودعين .
– منافع الهندسات المالية وكلفتها على الخزينة .
– حصولكم على قروض بفوائد مخفضة واستثمار هذه الأموال بفوائد مرتفعة .


– حجز ألسيولة المستمر منذ سنوات وأضراره على كل مواطن لبناني ، هذا الحجز الذي سأل عنه وزير الإقتصاد ولم يلقى جوابا .


واللائحة تطول لكن لندع كلمة الفصل بينكم وبين الشعب اللبناني للمعايير الأوروبية ، فإذا كنتم تعتبرون أنفسكم ناجحين وصادقين في عملكم طالبوا معنا بتحكيم الخبراء الأوروبيين وتحديدا Antistrust Regulators الذين سبق وكلفوا بنوك اوروبية بمليارات الدولارات نتيجة تلاعبها بالفوائد ،

هؤلاء الخبراء يدرسون اليوم تكليف ٨ بنوك اوروبية ب ١٠ % من أرقام أعمالها السنوي لأنهم تواطئوا وتلاعبوا بأسواق السندات خلال فترة خمس سنوات .


هنا أيضا لا تتلطوا وتقولوا أن القوانين الأوروبية هي غير القوانين اللبنانية ، فالأضرار الناتجة عن إحتكار المصارف وتنسيق سوق السندات والفوائد هي واقعة بغض النظر عن القوانين ،

وهذه الأضرار كارثية على الإقتصاد اللبناني ونحن بحاجة الى من يقدرها لنعرف كمية الأموال التي يجب إعادتها إلى الخزينة وبالتالي إعادة المصارف الى حجمها الطبيعي كجزء من الإقتصاد ، خصوصا اننا لا نستطيع الأستمرار بالديون الهائلة المفروضة على الشعب اللبناني نتيجة سياسات نقدية وحكومات متعاقبة وفساد مشترك .

No photo description available.

Why aren’t Europeans calling Israel an apartheid state?

Israel’s apartheid is not that different from the one South Africa used to have, both in terms of policy and brutality. (Israel is the worst kind of apartheid that ever existed: the slow genocide over 70 years, with the full consent of all colonial powers)

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Apartheid is alive and well and thriving in occupied Palestine.

Palestinians know this. South Africans know this.

Many Israelis have accepted this as part of their political debate. Americans are coming to terms with this, with new voices in Congress and NGOs like Jewish Voice for Peace unafraid of speaking this truth.

Only in Europe is there a steadfast denial of Israeli apartheid over Palestinians despite overwhelming evidence underlining it.

Israel‘s restrictions on freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory are a resurrection of South Africa’s hated pass laws, which criminalised black South Africans without a permit or pass to be in a “white” city.

 Israel’s policy of forcible population removals and destruction of homes resembles the relocation of black people from areas zoned for exclusive white occupation in apartheid South Africa.

The Israeli security forces engage in torture and brutality exceeding the worst practices of the South African security apparatus.

 And the humiliation of black people that was a feature of apartheid in South Africa is replicated in occupied Palestine.

Racist rhetoric in the Israeli public debate offends even those familiar with the language of apartheid South Africa. The crude racist advertising that characterised campaigning in Israel’s recent elections was unknown in South Africa.

There are differences that arise from the different histories, religions, geography and demography, but both cases fit the universal definition of apartheid.

In international law, apartheid is a state-sanctioned regime of institutionalised and legalised racial discrimination and oppression by one hegemonic racial group against another. 

In some respects, apartheid in South Africa was worse. In some respects, Israeli apartheid in occupied Palestine is worse. Certainly, Israel’s enforcement of apartheid in occupied Palestine is more militaristic and more brutal.

Apartheid South Africa never blockaded a black community and methodically killed protesters as Israel is currently doing along its fence with Gaza.

These facts are well known.

No one who follows the news can claim to be ignorant of the repression inflicted on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation army and Jewish settlers. It is common knowledge that the different legal systems for settlers and Palestinians have created a regime of separate and grossly unequal legal statuses.

Why then do Europeans consistently deny the existence of apartheid in occupied Palestine? Why is it business as usual with Israel?

Why is Eurovision to be held in Tel Aviv?

Why does Europe sell arms to Israel; trade with it, even with its illegal settlements; maintain cultural and educational ties?

Why is Israel not subjected to the kind of ostracism that was applied to South Africa and complicit white South African institutions?

Why were sanctions against apartheid South Africa welcomed while European governments take steps to criminalise the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to secure freedom, justice and equal rights for Palestinians?

There are three explanations for this conundrum.

First, pro-Israeli lobbies in many European countries are as effective as their US counterparts without the same degree of visibility.

Second, there is Holocaust guilt. The policies of some countries towards Israel, such as the Netherlands, are still determined by guilt stemming from the failure to have done more to save Jews during World War II.

Third, and most important of all, there is the fear of being labelled anti-Semitic. Encouraged and manipulated by Israel and Israeli lobbies, the concept of anti-Semitism has been expanded to cover not only hatred of Jews but criticism of Israeli apartheid.

In the case of South Africa, President PW Botha was hated because he applied apartheid and not because he was an Afrikaner.

It would seem obvious that in the same way many hate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because he enforces apartheid and not because he is a Jew. But this distinction is increasingly blurred in Europe. To criticise the government of Israel for applying apartheid is seen as anti-Semitism. And so it becomes dangerous and unwise to criticise Israel.

In Europe, criticism of apartheid in South Africa was a popular cause. The Anti-Apartheid Movement, which lobbied for the boycott of South African exports, trade, sport, artists and academics was encouraged and subjected to no restrictions. Governments imposed different kinds of sanctions, including an arms embargo. Public protests against apartheid were a regular feature of university life.

Criticism of Israel’s discriminatory and repressive policies, on the other hand, can result in one being labelled anti-Semitic with serious consequences for one’s career and social life.

Consequently, there are fewer protests against Israeli apartheid on European campuses and less popular support for BDS. Public figures who criticise Israel are attacked as anti-Semites, as evidenced by the witch-hunt against members of the British Labour Party.

Until Europeans have the courage to distinguish criticism of Israel for applying apartheid from real anti-Semitism – that is, hatred of Jews – apartheid will continue to flourish in occupied Palestine, with the direct complicity of Europe.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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?

c_scalefl_progressiveq_80w_800

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.

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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.

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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)

New Zealand mosque shooting suspect reportedly visited Israel in 2016

Official quoted as saying there were no red flags in security check of Brenton Tarrant; Greek, Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia, and Hungary also confirm trips

A right-wing extremist who went on a shooting rampage that left 50 mosque-goers dead in New Zealand on Friday reportedly visited Israel in 2016.

A senior Israeli immigration official said Brenton Tarrant arrived in the country from Turkey on October 25 using his Australian passport, Channel 13 reported.

Tarrant was granted a 90-day tourist visa, and left Israel nine days later.

According to the official, there were no red flags during the suspected killer’s security checks.

Earlier on Sunday, police in Greece said Tarrant had visited the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini, and had traveled through the country twice, all in 2016.

Authorities in Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia, and Hungary have also confirmed visits by Tarrant between 2016 and 2018, as he apparently studied battles between Christians and the Ottoman Empire.

In a statement, Greek police said Tarrant entered the country twice in 2016 on transit flights, on November 29 and December 10.

In March 2016, he entered the country on a flight from Istanbul and stayed for a few days in Heraklion, Crete and Santorini.

Authorities are investigating any phone calls or purchases Tarrant made in Greece. On Tarrant’s rifle was written the Greek word meaning “Turk-eater” or, metaphorically, “Turk-slayer.”

Tarrant, 28, appeared in court Saturday where he was charged with murder. A raft of further charges are expected.

The attack has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in the country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.

The last comparable mass shooting in New Zealand was almost three decades ago, and the annual murder rate is usually around 50 people for the entire country.

Ardern said the shooter was “in possession of a gun license” obtained in November 2017, and he started legally purchasing the weapons the following month.

Supporters arrived from across the country to help with the burials in Christchurch and authorities sent in backhoes to dig graves at a site that was newly fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.

This frame from video that was livestreamed on March 15, 2019, shows gunman Brenton Tarrant in a car before the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Shooter's Video via AP)

This frame from video that was livestreamed on March 15, 2019, shows gunman Brenton Tarrant in a car before the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Shooter’s Video via AP)

People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Two semi-automatic weapons, reportedly AR-15s, two shotguns and a lever-action gun were used in the attacks. Ardern said some of the guns had been modified to make them deadlier.

I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change,” she said.

The suspect documented his radicalization and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy filled far-right “manifesto.”

He live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away in the main Christchurch mosque.

(I saw the live video of so many sickening 16 minutes. He returned again to shoot and make sure the victims were really dead)

Relatives are still waiting for authorities to release the bodies. Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.

In this image made from video, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, center, hugs and consoles a woman, as she visits Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers among tributes to Christchurch attack victims, in Wellington, March 17, 2019. (TVNZ via AP)

Flanked by armed police he made an upside-down “okay” signal, a symbol used by white power groups across the globe. He did not request bail and was taken into custody until his next court appearance which is scheduled for April 5.

The attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques has been labeled terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and is thought to be the deadliest attack directed against Muslims in the West in modern times.

Note: New Zealand had to emulated Australia strict weapon control. This Australian committed his massacre because he could purchase automatic weapons in New Zealand


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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