What is to be done about Syria?

syria_1433After Paris, Syria can no longer be ignored. French president Francois Hollande has declared his country at war. World leaders are scrambling to find a strategy to confront ISIS. Former rivals are coming together to speak of coordination and “deconfliction”. Over two years after the British parliament decided against intervening in Syria, the government is once again proposing a military response.

But if global inaction after the August 2013 chemical massacre in Syria yielded a disaster—at the time of the attacks, 30 months into the conflict, close to a hundred thousand people had been killed; in the next 30 months, the number of the dead would treble—action now is unlikely to make things better. The action being considered in 2013 at least had the merit of good faith. The debate now is driven by fear and optics alone. The flawed logic guiding the rush to action might deliver some telegenic victories, but will certainly make things worse in the longer run.

In the autumn of 2013, violence in Syria had reached dramatic levels, but it could still be considered a remote conflict. Bashar al Assad’s regime might have killed over 1,400 civilians in a chemical attack but he didn’t pose a threat to London or Paris (indeed, he had been welcome in both). Today Syria has become synonymous with a different monster. ISIS poses a threat not just to Syrians but also to western capitals. Action is no longer a choice, but is deemed a necessity.

This has induced some to reconsider their former antagonisms. A gathering din of approval is converging around Russian and Iranian proposals for an anti-terror alliance with Assad against ISIS. The logic was best articulated by former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine who, even before the Paris attacks, justified the rapprochement to a radio audience: “Let’s not forget that in the fight against Hitler, we had to ally with Stalin, who killed more people than Hitler.”

This logic—which strains to convey the impression of hard-nosed realism—is dubious in fact and myopic in its counsels. By misdiagnosing the problem, it prescribes a medicine that will only inflame the fever.

The US has already poured billions into fighting ISIS with little to show for it. Britain and France too could join the campaign and they will have achieved little. The reason is simple. ISIS is a symptom of regional realities that remain unaddressed. There are many causes for the rise of ISIS, the Iraq war being a salient one. But none has done more to ensure its rise and survival than the regime of Bashar al Assad, both practically and symbolically.

Beginning in autumn 2011, the regime started releasing jihadists from its prison as part of a political amnesty scheme (the amnesty however was denied to Syrian civil activists). With help from former Iraqi Army officers, many of these jihadists went on to form the nucleus of ISIS in Syria. The regime contributed to the rise of ISIS by sparing it in its military campaigns. The regime also sustained ISIS in the first years of its existence by buying oil from it. But more significantly, through a sectarian strategy of mass murder, the regime ensured a steady supply of jihadi recruits to ISIS by serving as a lightning rod for Sunni anger.

“95 percent of all civilian deaths in Syria have occurred at the hands of the regime”

ISIS and Assad are both murderous, but the Hitler/Stalin analogy is fatuous insofar as it ignores the disproportion in their terror and reality of their co-dependence. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 95 percent of all civilian deaths in Syria have occurred at the hands of the regime. In a report for the UN Human Rights Council concluded just before the August 2013 chemical attack, special investigator Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro held the Assad regime responsible for 7 out of the 8 massacres committed by then. A year later, despite the rise of ISIS, Pineheiro noted that the Assad regime “remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily”. According to Physicians for Human Rights, 283 out of the 298 medical facilities attacked in Syria and 655 out of the 687 medical staff targeted since the start of the conflict have been by the regime and its allies. Close to 70 percent of refugees surveyed in Germany have cited Assad as the cause of their flight.

There are reasons also to doubt Assad’s value as an ally against ISIS. In 2014, the year ISIS returned to Syria in force, only 6 percent of the regime’s military operations were targeted at ISIS. By contrast, the regime has on many occasions bombed Syrian rebels fighting ISIS, effectively serving as its air force. Before the entry of Russia into the conflict, the regime had lost nearly all of its military encounters with ISIS. Its reliance on sectarian Shia militias, Hizbullah mercenaries, and Iranian special forces has also alienated Syria’s Sunni majority.

This is why the US has struggled to find a ground force willing to join its campaign. Syrians loathe ISIS and the regime in equal measure: but it’s to the latter’s systematic terror that they are mostly exposed. They will not join a strategy that privileges the west’s enemy over their tormentor, let along one that uses their tormentor to fight the west’s enemy.

ISIS cannot be wished away; neither can it be defeated without a ground force. If the ground force is provided by the regime and Iran, this will only exacerbate sectarian tensions and, as in Iraq, serve as a recruiting sergeant for ISIS. Sunni rebels on the other hand have a record of confronting and defeating ISIS. They did it in January 2014, when they drove ISIS out of much of western Syria, without any support from the west. But they will not join an international coalition that they cannot rely upon to protect them from regime and Russian bombings. Airstrikes in themselves will achieve little and inevitably cause civilian casualties, creating potential recruits for ISIS.

The battle for Syria will be won or lost on the ground. The choice of the ally is therefore important. The Free Syria Army and the Kurds have already proved themselves in Kobane. They need support. They also need protecting from the regime and Russia’s aerial bombings. This can be ensured either through the imposition of a no-bombing zone across Syria or by giving shoulder-fired MANPADs to the Syrian rebels. This may also create the conditions for a political resolution by revoking the regime’s impunity, by neutralising its airpower. As long as the regime believes it can win militarily, it has no reason to negotiate; and as long as its usefulness is tied to its perceived value as an anti-ISIS force, it will have little reason to eliminate ISIS and loose its raison d’etre. It is not possible to address one without confronting the other. Without that affirmation, diplomacy will be as futile as the Israeli-Palestinian “peace-process”.


A Response from Idrees Ahmad to the many comments (30/11/15)

There are compelling reasons to oppose David Cameron’s plans for airstrikes in Syria. Some of them I laid out above. These are echoed by residents of Raqqa, a city often described as the “ISIS capital” but is really a city occupied by ISIS.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=share_btn_tw

But this novel idea—listening to the supposed beneficiaries of our good intentions—is fraught with danger, because it might erode ideological certainties.

For most commenters, Syria isn’t about Syrians; it is about ideological battles at home. For them it is not about what is good or bad for Syrians but about whether David Cameron is or isn’t a bastard (as it happens, I share their contempt for the Tories). And if David Cameron says Syrians have suffered under Assad then what better way to show him up than to deny that Assad has had anything to do with Syrian suffering (Syrians own testimonies notwithstanding). To this end, they have trawled the nether regions of the internet to find any conspiracist drivel they can find to absolve Assad for his crimes. Of course it would be easy enough for them to find out the truth if, say, they were to follow the vast network of Local Coordination Committees, the Violations Documentation Centre (established by the great Syrian revolutionary Razan Zeitouneh), the Syrian Human Rights Network, or reports from Medicins Sans Frontiers, Physicians for Human Rights, the Red Cross, the UN Human Rights Council, or Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. But why rely on such tainted imperialist institutions when you can get the complete unbiased objective truth from the world’s only truly socialist, progressive, independent news channel: RT (Russia Today). It’s not like they have conflicts of interest! (One fool even cites the disgraced truther Nafeez Ahmed as a source)

Inevitably, the conspiracists skip over the hundreds of incontrovertible, well-documented atrocities to reach for the one where, through help from credulous hacks, Assad and his Russian backers tried to manufacture doubt. Shortly after the regime’s August 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta, a group of truthers in America promoted the idea that the attack was carried out by Assad’s opponents. To back this, they cited an open letter to Obama from former intelligence officials, which claimed that they got the info from “numerous sources” in the region. Putin mentioned this theory in an op-ed for the New York Times and Russian officials in Geneva distributed this letter to members of the UN. Except, it was soon revealed that the letter was plagiarised from a Canadian conspiracy site and the intelligence officials had no sources. It was embarrassing for many who had circulated it and at least one of the signatories (Matthew Hoh, formerly of the State Department) publicly disavowed it. I was one of the people who exposed the false claims.
https://newrepublic.com/article/114676/syrias-chemical-weapons-assad-not-blame-say-truthers
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/russias-foreign-minister-cites-questions-raised-by-nun-in-syria-on-chemical-attacks/?_r=0

A few months later, one of the authors of the forged letter retailed an embellished version of the same story to Seymour Hersh who published it as two frontpage stories for the London Review of Books. The story quickly unraveled and Hersh and the LRB were left with egg on their faces.
https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/dangerous-method-syria-sy-hersh-art-mass-crime-revisionism

But the reactions to this sordid episode were telling. Many people ignored all the incontrovertible evidence that was in the public domain, including survivor testimonies, first responders’ reports, UN”s conclusions, OPCW’s judgment, Independent investigations, to latch on to the conspiracist version that accorded with their dogmas. (It is sad but somewhat amusing that someone would mention Robert Fisk’s endorsement of the consrpiacy theory without actually checking Fisk’s source [a Russian he met in a cafe in Damascus—why bother with evidence, when the truth can be vouchsafed to you by a friendly Russian in a Damscene cafe?])

Perhaps it would help if the commenters here clarified what they hope to see in Syria.

They say they are opposed to any British bombing in Syria because it would cause human suffering. I’m with them on that. But is it only potential British atrocities they object to or also the regime’s actual, ongoing and systematic ones? If both, then what do they propose to do to end Assad’s atrocities?

For many years anti-imperialists have said Bush and Blair should be tried for the war in Iraq; or Sharon and Netanyahu for theirs against the Palestinians. I am with them on that. No justice, no peace used to be the slogan. And it is a powerful one. But what do they have to say about Assad’s and Putin’s atrocities, which are deliberate, systematic, and terroristic? Should they be held accountable for their actions or do they get an exemption?

If they oppose human rights violations in Syria, then surely they must be for UN war crime investigations against all parties, regime or rebel, who engage in them? If so, then what do they have to say about the Russian veto which has repeatedly thwarted such investigations?

Some “anti-imperialists” have endorsed Russian imperialism in Syria by pronouncing Putin’s murderous intervention legitimate because it was “invited by Syria’s government”. If so, then was the US involvement in Vietnam also legitimate since it was done at the request of the South Vietnamese government? And do they support current British bombings in Iraq since Britain was invited by the current Iraqi government?

I understand that you want to protect Syrians from British bombs; but what do you propose to do to protect Syrians from Russian and regime bombs? Surely you couldn’t have missed news like these?
http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/less-than-a-third-of-aleppos-hospitals-functioning-95-of-doctors-have-fled-been-detained-or-killed.html

Like me, I am sure you condemned the attack on a Medicins Sans Frontiers facility by a US bomber in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It was a war crime and we all demanded accountability. But just in October, Russian planes hit 10 healthcare facilities in Syria. Do you demand war crimes investigations against these too, or are these ones excusable?
http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/russian-forces-carried-out-at-least-10-attacks-on-medical-facilities-in-syria-in-october.html

I understand that like me all of you are against torture. We all want those who sanctioned torture to face justice, Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. But do you also demand accountability for the the industrial scale torture practiced by the regime?
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/01/they-were-torturing-to-kill-inside-syrias-death-machine-caesar

We were all outraged when Israel used cluster munitions in Lebanon and white phosphorus in Gaza. Russia is dropping white phosphorous on Syrians and has used cluster munitions against refugees. Do you want accountability in this case too?

Until you can answer these questions without dissimulation, you might want to reflect for a moment before you throw epithets like “warmonger” or “neocon” around. (I doubt most of the commenters know what a neocon is. Most people think its a synonym for warmonger. If you want to know more about this subject or how neoconservative deception led to the Iraq war, you can buy my book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Iraq-Making-Neoconservative/dp/0748693033)

Lastly, if you are a supporter of the Palestinian cause and you are here making excuses for Assad, shame on you. Are you aware how many Palestinians Assad has killed? Have you ever heard of the Yarmouk refugee camp? have you heard about the siege and what immiseration it has caused? Perhaps you should educate yourself:
http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/palestinian-refugees-yarmouk

If you are against collective punishment, torture, and repression in Gaza but find excuses for it in Yarmouk or Aleppo or Idlib, then your concern for Palestinians has nothing to do with justice or human rights. Palestinians understand this. Here is Mariam Barghouti:

“For those that ever told me “we dont have time to show solidarity with ‪#‎Syria‬, we’re trying to focus on ‪#‎Palestine‬.” Douma, Yarmouk, Kafrnabel and other parts of Syria despite the shellings, despite the Russian imperialism and despite all of the despotism from the Assad regime managed to send out messages of solidarity.
Free Syria, and freedom to all oppressed people. May we always stand against oppression from a position of principle rather than an inherited cause.

PS: Never have those words come out of the mouth of youth I met on the streets fighting against Israeli aggression. They were always the ones that were eager to show solidarity with the oppressed. I am grateful that they have humbled me and taught me liberation transcends a single struggle.”

Comments (212)

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  1. Illy says:

    Really?

    When was the last time military “intervention” from “The West” in the middle-east worked?

    Alexander the Great?

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Maybe the Holy Roman Empire?!

      1. Illy says:

        I could be wrong, but I thought their efforts resulted in the crusader states, which had as much or more trouble from the locals that Israel does today (appropriately adjusted for the technology of the time, of course).

        The first Kingdom of Jerusalem did best out of those, watch Kingdom of Heaven for a cinematic overview of it’s fall. (One relevant scene from the movie would be where they hang the western warmongers to try to keep the peace)

        Incidentally, I consider Israel a crusader state.

  2. JG says:

    This stuff could have been written in the CFR or Chatham House!

    I certainly never expected to see such obvious propaganda and mis-information on Bella.

    1. In what way is this misinformation JG?

      1. R Wallace says:

        So far I’ve only skiffed over this but right away I can see misinformation in the form of blaming Assad for the chemical attacks. They were carried out by ISIS. I’ll go and reread all of this now.

        1. Brian Slocock says:

          There are lots of conspiracy theories going the rounds about who was responsible for the Ghouta chemical weapons attacks (conspiracy theorists think that if you have one theory then having two is twice as good – even if they contradict each other). But this is the first one I’ve seen that pins it on ISIS. However none of them fit the facts of the attack – a synchronised bombardment of 6 different sites. Only the Syrian military – whose possession of the chemical weapon in question is without dispute – had that capacity.

          1. JG says:

            Well there’s one thing for certain and that is the Russians will know down to the last detail who carried out the attack. They would surely consider the consequences of allying themselves with a monster – proof of which monstrosity could be published by America at any time to make Russia an international Pariah.

            And why would Assad and the Syrian Army do exactly what “the West” wanted them to do?

            They’re cleverer than that – that’s why they’re still there!

            As well as the Russians the Americans will know the exact circumstances of the gas attack and you can be sure if they had had genuine proof we would have been bombarded with it Morning, Noon and Night and more importantly there would now be hardly one stone standing on another where Damascus used to be.

      2. Illy says:

        Sigh.

        Look up “lying with the truth” sometime, you’re obviously rather skilled at it.

        You’re beating the war drum with this article, and that’s *not* a good thing to be doing, *especially* now.

      3. cirsium says:

        “In what way is this misinformation” In this way – “Bashar al Assad’s regime might have killed over 1,400 civilians in a chemical ……..The action being considered in 2013 at least had the merit of good faith.”

        Try this antidote to misinformation from Seymour Hersh http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

        1. Jim Bennett says:

          What a cracking article by Hirsh. Thanks for recommending it.

          1. Brian Slocock says:

            Hersh’s article breaks all the rules of serious investigative journalism – try reading the book or watching the film of “All the King’s Men” to see how that is really done. He actually produced two conflicting accounts of the attack because of flaws in the first and neither makes very much sense. You’ll find very few ppeople who know anything about Syria who endorse Hersh: even Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk accept that the regime was responsible for the attack.

      4. JG says:

        As per the people who got in before me the claim that the Syrian Government carried out the Gas attack a lie.

      5. Thor says:

        ISIS was created and is currently funded, armed and trained by the West including the USA/UK in order to overthrow the Syrian Government. See for yourself http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq

        The idea that Assad is propping up or responsible for ISIS is ludicrous, his army has (and continues too) shed much blood in order to keep Syria free from Islamic Jihadists and maintain a secular state where minorities and women are equal under the law.

  3. Dougie Blackwood says:

    Why do we ever think that intervening in other countries affairs ever makes things better?

    Most of us understand that much of the trouble in the Middle East is as a direct result of us meddling. Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein were tyrants and monsters but they kept the lid on the ethnic and religious powder kegs that are Libya and Iraq. They would have been overthrown by other monsters and the situation would have remained stable but we had to intervene with no plan or exit strategy. Syria is presently a civil war with at least four different sides to it and we cannot get involved without making it worse.

    There is no easy solution for any of these countries. Much of the trouble is based on the Sunni, Shia and other factions with their religious wars sides being supported by different Arab countries. Nothing will ever be solved until Iran Saudi Arabia and others stop using these conflicts as a proxy war. Until that happens we should stay out then maybe assist concerted action by the Arab countries to put an end to it.

  4. Paul says:

    Until and unless the UN authorizes military intervention, which it hasn’t, the UK, US and France have no legal right to drop ordnance on Syrian soil.

    1. R Wallace says:

      I wondered when someone would spot this. Russia is there by invitation, the rest are not. I also don’t see much mention of the fact that Assad, for all his faults, is the legitimate, recognised by international law, government of Syria. To overthrow the legitimate government of any country is considered a war crime. We have the USA and the UK, others too, discussing openly in public, plotting the overthrow of Syrias government. Why is there no official condemnation of this from the UN or the likes.

    2. Illy says:

      Even if the UN does say air strikes are ok, what does that mean other than another Western power block wants to bomb Syria?

      The concept of “legal” gets very murky when dealing with actions taken by countries, as retroactive laws and similar things can generally sweep everything under the rug.

      Quick Quiz: When is murder not called murder? When it’s carried out by a government on a large scale, then it gets called war.

  5. Frank says:

    The fact that the Assad regime has been in power for so long, and has withstood years of bloodshed indicates that Assad and the Syrian army has a social base within the population. How strong that base is I do not know. I am not defending Assad merely pointing out that a bad dictator might be better than a failed state? To remove Assad as the West would like to do, would create a vacuum which could be exploited by forces even worse than Assad. We may also be dragged into a proxy war against the Russians.

    We know very little of the so called ‘moderates’ and ‘rebels’ who are fighting in this war which is why taking sides is problematic. Britain’s intervention would do more harm than good. Yet, the drum is beating for war and has been beating since the Parisian attacks which have been used by the mass media and the British Government to promote fear, alarm and panic. The result is rising Islamophobia and once again the spectre of British bombs being dropped on a middle eastern country. Have we learned nothing from recent history?

    In terms of party politics Labour is potentially split right down the middle and this is a major test for Corbyn’s authority with the SNP now in a prime position to lead the anti-war sentiment in Britain.

  6. bringiton says:

    Has Bomber Cameron actually explained what he hopes to achieve by attacking Syria?
    All I have heard is his usual B/S about not outsourcing our responsibilities (for bombing that is,because he doesn’t want responsibility for anything else) and expecting other countries to defend us.
    He seems happy enough for Norwegians,Danes and Canadians to patrol the waters off Scotland guarding against Russian submarine incursions.
    His masters in Washington don’t seem to know what their objective is now except ISIS bad,Hezbollah bad,Russia bad,Assad bad….bomb bomb bomb bomb.
    From Vietnam to Afghanistan,they appear to have learned nothing from their previous aerial bombing campaigns which have always ended in failure.
    Even the military are saying that only ground forces will bring about the beginnings of peace in Syria and all that Cameron’s token efforts will achieve is to harden feelings in the Muslim communities even more against Western interference.
    Also his B/S about no civilian casualties as a result,doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
    There is ALWAYS “collateral damage” where innocents get caught up in things and there will be an increase in refugees fleeing the conflict (which Cameron definitely wants to outsource for others to deal with).

  7. John McCrosson says:

    I believe that air strikes alone are a cowardly form of war that is ineffective in achieving its aim, is a “weapon of mass destruction” that indiscriminately kills many non-combatants, and is counter-productive by fuelling the cycle of hate amongst non-combatants that breeds new combatants.

    Any country that considers it right and just to take offensive action on another country should win the support of its citizens to the extent that they are willing to have their military put feet on the ground, which tends to be more “surgically precise” in that combatants can usually be more easily distinguished, and produces better quantifiable results. Such offensive action should also be sanctioned by the UN, which should be possible in the case of offensive action against ISIS in Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

    A broad international coalition needs to be formed and, crucially, moderate Sunnis (and the majority of Sunnis are moderate) must be in the vanguard in order to stamp out this Salafi jihadism that is the driving force behind ISIS and Boko Haram.

  8. Kevin Brown says:

    I have to say it is almost unbelievable to find ‘content’ like this on Bella. It would better suit the Torygraph. The decade long, western ‘regime change’ rampage across the middle east on behalf of Israel is at the root of this, and Syria is just the latest manifestation of it. Since when did it become OK to disregard international law and attack sovereign countries? Since Blair/Bush’s destruction of Iraq? That Saddam Hussein was an awful guy wasn’t he? I can pretty much guarantee that most Iraqis wish they had him back now.

    ISIS is our very own Frankenstein monster. We own it. For more on that, check out this interview with John Pilger (3 minutes in).

    http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/syrias-crime-it-indepedendent-blogger-john-pilger/ri11472

    1. I’m confused about your outrage Kevin? It would be good to hear the basis of it?

      As the author writes:

      “The debate now is driven by fear and optics alone. The flawed logic guiding the rush to action might deliver some telegenic victories, but will certainly make things worse in the longer run.”

      1. Kevin Brown says:

        Mike, I could produce link after link to articles written by highly respected journalists (we used to have those once) like Robert Parry, Chris Hedges or indeed John Pilger (see link above); but instead I’ll just give you this impressionistically, and leave others to do their own Google research.

        First up, that famous definition of Insanity: ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ We have been ‘changing regimes’, quite illegally, across the Arab world for a decade now and we always come up with the same result: failed states that become incubators for Islamic radicalism. When we suffer the inevitable blowback (Paris for example) our solution is always the same; as John McCain famously put it: ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran’. By a miracle we seem to have avoided that outcome, I believe largely because Netanyahu, self-invited, spoke to the US congress to remind them who their paymaster is (Aipac); and that offended Obama in the final quartile of his presidency. By some miracle that Nobel Peace Prize winner grew a spine for a nanosecond.

        All of this is in the service of the US Empire and its warfare state, and it is simply time that it all stopped. We too need to grow a spine; Europe should desist from being ‘Washington’s bitch’, and doing its bidding. There is also (mentioned in my comment above) a small matter of observing international law. The elected government of Syria has not, to my knowledge, invited the UK government to bomb their sovereign territory.

        A final point: sure, Assad is not a nice guy, and neither was Saddam, although Gaddhafi, from what I understand, had much to recommend him. But it is simply not for us to decide who governs elsewhere — illegally, immorally and enforcing our will by the use of lethal force and violence.

        1. Dear Kevin, I’ve been writing against UK foreign policy for over a decade. Idrees Ahmad is a lecturer in journalism and author of The Road to Iraq: American Neoconservatism and the Iraq War. See here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18697572-the-road-to-iraq I recommend it to you.

          I believe he explores some of the complex issues in his article and its worth looking at the facts and arguments he presents.

          1. Kevin Brown says:

            OK, I gave the article a more careful reading. Here are my specific objections: first of all, and early on in the piece, the author credits the Assad regime with those chemical weapons attack. This is dubious, to say the least. This is where he lost me, and where this article appears to be close to neocon propaganda.

            Secondly, he states near the end that ‘we should be supporting the Free Syrian Army’ or words to that effect. The Pentagon has been supporting the ‘Free Syrian Army’, which support has been very like pouring gasoline on a raging fire. I mentioned this in a reply to another comment: the predictable and documented result so far has been for this support (including military materiel) to have been diverted to ISIS.

            There was a good piece in Counterpunch today, in which the author, writing on this very subject, quoted Saint Augustine to this effect: ‘Lord grant me chastity, but not just yet’; and that has been very much the US Empire’s approach to ISIS (which I need hardly add includes ‘our’ UK as a loyal satrapy): et them first defeat Assad, and then we’ll deal with ISIS and Al Nusra. Remember how well that approach worked out with the Taliban?

            If this author is credentialed, then shame on him for publishing such drivel.

          2. Jams O'Donnell says:

            BCE – if you have “been writing against UK foreign policy for over a decade” it doesn’t seem to have done you much good – you seem now to be a typical right-wing war enthusiast. Perhaps you could come right out and explain your views to your readers in an editorial article?

          3. Barbara McKenzie says:

            I don’t know whether you had previously read the author’s article:
            https://newrepublic.com/article/114676/syrias-chemical-weapons-assad-not-blame-say-truthers
            but if so I do think his ad hominem style should have given you pause. ‘Truthers’, I ask you!

        2. Illy says:

          “We have been ‘changing regimes’, quite illegally, across the Arab world for a decade now”

          Longer than that by at least two orders of magnitude.

          The Crusades. Alexander the Great.

  9. Yiddish skittish says:

    As Russian bomber are to be accompanied with fighter jets in the future the only planes falling out of the sky will be Turkish. And as Putin, ever the master tactician has taken advantage of the situation to deploy the worlds most sophisticated and deathly air defence system the S 400 he has also rendered the Israeli air force impotent in regards to any future attacks on Syria or Iran. I seem to remember the Israeli prime minister Yaahoo saying if they were deployed that would mean war, well go ahead big boy make Russia’s day and your own nightmare. But remember there is probably a Russian nuclear armed submarine laying about twelve miles off your coast, estimated light up time three minutes.
    Now that’s a real geopolitical outcome with an end game.

    1. douglas clark says:

      This is as bad an example of war gaming as the original article. If that scenario were to be fulfilled – a nuclear strike on Israel – all bets about our future, anyones future, would be moot. It is not a given that it would start WW3, but…

      Who the hell thinks it would be a wise move?

      I am unconvinced that mass state killings are a solution to anything.

      1. Winnie Verloc says:

        Never mind that. It’s probably just a GRU astroturfer doing a bit of Vlad-heiling. They’re all over the Internet.

        PS This isn’t a very good article. It overlooks the entire geostrategic dimension, namely who wanted Assad gone and why? Until one understands that, not to mention the hopeless Gordian knot of alliances in the region, there is no possibility of an intelligent answer of whether or not to bomb, invade or keep well out of the conflict.

        For example, the suggestion to equip the Kurds with SAMs to protect them while fighting ISIS begs the question “against whom do they need protection?”, and the answer is, from our NATO allies the Turks! And from whom are the Kurds already receiving protection from the Turks? Indeed, from Russia and Iran, those very countries supposedly at fault for propping up Assad, whose bad behaviour is, we’re told the original casus belli.

        A little analysis is a dangerous thing.

        1. douglas clark says:

          Winnie Verlok,

          The chap seems about as unhinged as the US Right.

          I don’t doubt that Russia could annihilate Israel, if it wanted to. The thing that stops it from doing so is it’s own annihilation in response. Would that necessarily happen?

          I don’t know. It would raise the chances of it significantly and break a seventy year ‘understanding’ that first use of nuclear weapons would lead to a second and deadly response.

          I mean deadly in the sense of an existential threat to all human existence.

          The ‘rules of the game’ post Hiroshima and Nagasaki have held. No-one, but no-one, wanted to risk their own extinction. And now we have lunatics on all sides that see their version of truth, or religion, as requiring this sort of conflagration.

          And these idiots are creeping up the political ladder to take power in states as diverse as the USA, Russia and ISIS held territories in the Middle East. There may well be others.

          This is a gamble where we all lose.

          If our chum is a GRU plant on this somewhat obscure thread, then his threat to Israel is to up the ante on a nuclear exchange. If so, he has a suicide gene in his make-up. Unfortunately, for me, I go down with him. Somewhat like any victim of a suicide bomber.

          It’s just the scale really that shocks and offends, the principle has already been lost. Sadly.

  10. Jim Bennett says:

    The article is at best confused and contradictory: in the first paragraphs, declaring talk of Western intervention as almost certainly making things worse in the long run, contrasted with the final paragraphs where it calls for the arming of the Free Syrian Army with anti-aircraft weapons.
    Only one thing is certain: arming the alleged Free Syrian Army actually means arming ISIS. The FSA regularly lose huge arms caches to ISIS.
    Confused though the article is, the underlying assumption is of the legitimacy of the UK to exercise its fading colonial power to take part in a continuation of the Great Game. The author seems to simply be suggesting that while the UK is doing its state sponsored murder, it takes out Assad while it’s at it.
    I presume that’s why so many comments have been of the “wtf” variety. I agree with them: it seems like a very odd article for Bella.
    o

  11. kate says:

    yes agree wtf.
    see also ‘counter punch’ articles which argue US=west/turkey/saudi arabia obssession w/ assad & regime change was initiated over 2 competing gas pipelines & fuel access across syria.
    western concern with human rights issues is always proved false, a red herring disguising real reasons for western interest & real objectives. obvious the underlying interest is in assad & regime change not IS – except in france & russia – and the core question is why? western narrative has the libya/gaddafi imprint all over it.
    also sickening that media parody only turkey & russia as macho imperialists given the US obviously supports turkey’s shooting of a russian plane for no good reason, and that the next US Pres may be a macho wife rapist white racist like donald trump, or a racist misogynist african american, or a feminist with huge balls who hates poor women & is dying to go to war in syria, probably including ground troops,& regime change of course! or another Bush, 3rd of a line of dumb warmongers who went to right schools from US elite
    pass the vomit bowl.

  12. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    So the drums of war beat again. We are faced again with the impulse to hit back, to respond to violence with violence. This is atavistic stuff, coming out of the deep reptilian brain. This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages.

    We are all human; we are diverse. We so often see how you are different from me, and draw back from that difference. That drawing back is a deeply-ingrained reflex, part of our biological and neurological make-up. However, we have the capacity to overcome that reflex: when we wait for a moment, reflect on our own immediate internal response, and determine to attend and act upon our love and hope, not our atavistic fear. Then we love; then we care; then we act to help and support our fellow humans.

    We have no excuse in the joined-up, interconnecting world of the 21st century, for dividing humanity into ‘us’ and ‘them’. Your predicament is mine; your suffering is also mine. If I turn away from the injustice of your persecution, I deny my own humanity.

    So let us support those who oppose both Assad’s regime and ISIS, who have a real-life stake in the future of the area. Let’s support them on the ground, with small-scale weaponry that they can handle, and with aid for humanitarian purposes.

    Be undivided: act out of love, hope, optimism, and justice – not fear.

    1. Kevin Brown says:

      Nice post until the penultimate paragraph, about supporting with arms ‘both those who oppose Assad’s regime and ISIS’. The US claims to have tried that. US $50 million they spent training and equipping ‘moderate rebels’ not long ago resulted in an army of — exactly five soldiers. The bulk of the trainees defected to ISIS, taking there arsenal with them. No, I’m not making this up. The US government even admits it. Google it if you don’t believe me.

      No more innocent blood on our hands, please.

      1. Muscleguy says:

        Not to mention Daesh got their start in Iraq by getting their hands on mountains of US supplied armoured vehicles and weapons left behind by fleeing Iraqi army troops. A lot of that ordnance then got deployed in Syria squashing anything opposing them other than the Kurds. Moderate islamists scratching by with ancient rusting small arms saw what Daesh had and decided they had a better chance of survival by joining them, a rational decision.

        And remember too that at the start of the Afghan campaign the US justified high altitude carpet bombing of front line villages from fear of attack from the ground by Stinger missiles. Made in the US and supplied to Mujahedin forces fighting the Soviets. Giving irregular forces sophisticated arms is not a solution to anything.

  13. tom says:

    Diabolical ahistorical war-mongering drivel.

  14. tom says:

    The basest propaganda imaginable. This site now officially sucks.

  15. John Hilley says:

    “The action being considered in 2013 at least had the merit of good faith.”

    Really? If that’s the level of understanding here over the warmongers’ case in 2013 – which this author helped cheerlead: “An externally imposed solution is less egregious than dooming Syria to prolonged war.” http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/9/4/in-british-vote-onsyriahangoverfromiraqwar.html – what does it say now about his latest assessment?

    This piece asks us, essentially, to blame Assad for the rise of Isis. There’s not a mention here of the West/Gulf axis in feeding it. There’s no discussion of Turkey’s vital part in facilitating it. We also read of the supposed French turn to Russia, omitting any mention of France’s dark geopolitical alignment with the Saudis, all driven by massive arms deals. Here we have the ugly irony of killings in Paris by IS, an entity sponsored by the Saudis, a state backed by France.

    “ISIS cannot be wished away; neither can it be defeated without a ground force.”

    “This can be ensured either through the imposition of a no-bombing zone across Syria or by giving shoulder-fired MANPADs to the Syrian rebels.”

    So, contrary to what we’re told at the top of this piece, it’s really a call for more weaponry and boots on the ground – more arms and invasion.

    Is militarism the only answer? Will we ever learn? Seemingly not this author, who has consistently derided Stop the War, even claiming that “Assad’s victims have been routinely demonized by Britain’s leading antiwar groups.” http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/9/4/in-british-vote-onsyriahangoverfromiraqwar.html

    Remember, too, if the author doesn’t, that, despite UN resolution 2249, any armed engagement by the West inside Syria, a sovereign state, would still be illegal.

    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/323396-unsc-isis-syria-us/#.VlWX4mke4HM.twitter

    http://www.ejiltalk.org/the-constructive-ambiguity-of-the-security-councils-isis-resolution/

    It’s really depressing to find this kind of regurgitated, dressed-up war agenda given space here at Bella. It’s far from ‘the truth about Syria’.

    For much more cogent analyses, see these pieces from Nafeez Ahmed:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/09/12/how-the-west-created-the-islamic-state/

    http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/uk-us-turn-blind-eye-islamic-state-oil-sales-553879014

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/nafeez-ahmed/isis-wants-destroy-greyzone-how-we-defend

    And from Pilger, who, in taking apart the war propaganda – notably the Guardian and BBC – reminds us of the West/Gulf agenda in promoting and fostering Isis.

  16. Peter says:

    It is hugely disappointing that this article should appear in Bella given that most people view this site as an alternative to main stream propaganda on Scotland. To then parrot the same MSM propaganda on Syria is unforgivable.
    Any piece that sources SOHR which is run out of a house in Coventry by one person has no credibility.

    1. Nobody is parroting the MSM propaganda. Please try and deal with some complexity on this difficult subject.

      1. Peter says:

        “Assad’s regime might have killed over 1,400 civilians in a chemical…”
        “The US has already poured billions into fighting ISIS..”
        “There are many causes for the rise of ISIS, the Iraq war being a salient one. But none has done more to ensure its rise and survival than the regime of Bashar al Assad, both practically and symbolically.”
        If that’s not propaganda then I don’t know what is. More or less a complete inversion of the truth. Please do some research on this difficult subject.

        1. Brian Slocock says:

          I think some people are confused about this article because it appears at a point when the public discussion is about Britain joining the bombing of ISIS in Syria. But the author is not arguing for that (I imagine that, like me, he is opposed to it). He is arguing for something totally different – civil protection for Syrians in opposition areas who are being routinely massacred by the Asad regime, and now by Russian aerial attacks. And he suggests two ways of achieving that – either by a No-Fly or Safe zone (which would require a threat of limited military action – but no boots on the ground) or by providing appropriate weaponry to sections of the armed opposition so that they can defend their communities from vicious wepons like barrel bombs. Commenters here are not facing up to the scale of the Syrian conflict – more than 100,000 civilians killed by the regime; tens of thousands unlawfully detained – many tortured; half the population driven from their homes and turned into refugees or internally displaced persons. Hard to see how that could be made much worse. Its one thing for people to disagree with this argument – these are complex issues – its another for them to stuff their ears with cotton wool and ignore the reality of Syria.

          1. Illy says:

            I don’t think anyone here is ignoring reality.

            Just what do you hope to achieve without putting “boot on the ground” (an invasion force)?

            Arming one set of locals against another set of locals hasn’t worked in the past.

            Invading and setting up new government doesn’t look like it’s worked well either.

            Take a look at the history: countries have been trying to “pacify” that area of the world since before Christianity was a religion!

            Also, unless you are currently serving as a member of the armed forces who would be deployed there, I don’t think you have the moral ground to stand on saying we should send people to die out there. Because if you’re not going to be in the line of fire, you’re proposing putting other people’s sons, daughters, brothers, sister, fathers and mothers in the line of fire instead.

          2. John Hilley says:

            “…its another for them to stuff their ears with cotton wool and ignore the reality of Syria.”

            The usual crude smear, serving the ‘we must do the honourable thing’ propaganda line. As if those who oppose more militarism don’t see the reality of suffering Syrians. We most certainly do, and consider the further case for ‘military solutions’ the most certain way to create more death and suffering, geopolitical conflict, IS recruitment, blowback, and repressive state powers.

            As Peter says, this article is a blatant inversion of the key truths about Syria. It claims we’re all “misdiagnosing the problem” – in essence, Assad – and that only more external military intervention can resolve the situation. Incredibly, it offers no serious admission of Western/Gulf criminality in feeding the crisis. This is liberal war narrative of the worst kind. What a shame to see Bella taken in by it.

          3. JG says:

            I’m sorry but I’m not confused, perhaps “differently informed” would the nicest way of putting it.

            Maybe one man’s “Murderous Assad regime massacring it’s own women and and children with the help of the fiendish Russian Air Pirates” is another man’s “Legitimate government of Syria attempting to protect it’s people from a vicious onslaught by the enemies of humanity with the lawful help of the brave gallant pilots of the Russian Airforce”?

          4. Illy says:

            Or, how about we specify what we hope to achieve by going to war again, compare it with what we hoped to achieve last time we went to war around there, see how well it worked out last time, realise that it didn’t, and then look up the AAs definition of insanity?

            Also, unless you want to get into a long and comfort-zone-shattering discussion of what a “state” is, “Legitimate government of Syria attempting to protect it’s people with the lawful help of the Russian Airforce” is an accurate description of the situation.

            The fact that we think that the legitimate government of Syria is a bad government is irrelevant to that. We have the Tories in power in the UK just now. They’re a bad government that’s slaughtering hundreds of their own people too. They just do it less directly. That doesn’t make it any better.

            Also, the fact that Russia are currently the designated enemy, and Assad has asked for their help is also irrelevant. Proxy wars by the USA against Russia almost destroyed the planet last time around.

      2. Jams O'Donnell says:

        “Bella Caledonia Editor – Nobody is parroting the MSM propaganda.”

        I’m afraid you are wrong there, BCE – this blog is, as pointed out in most of the replies above. If this is the kind of stuff you will be posting in future, I wont be reading you any more. I mean, I can get enough of these sort of lying insinuations in the Guardian, let alone the Telegraph.

  17. John Fullerton says:

    The US has ‘little for show for it’ because it hasn’t been fighting Daesh. It has carefully avoided doing so while not-so-secretly aiding the Saudi-backed Sunni insurgents. Washington, along with NATO ally Turkey, Israel, Saudi, France (and soon, the UK’s couple of clapped out F-4s) have aligned themselves with ‘moderate’ Sunni terrorists in a carve-up of Syrian territory into a kind of balkanised patchwork, while Russia, Iran and Syrian government forces have joined forces to combat Daesh directly. Turkey and the US, along with Israel’s ubiquitous Mossad, have been actively helping Daesh. Why is all this happening? Each partner in the unholy US/Israel/Saudi-led alliance has its own particular goals, but they share an interest in preventing a unified Syrian state from re-assembling itself, and they want access to oil and oil pipelines. They are also keen to enhance their relations with the Sunni Gulf states and to weaken Iran. It’s a murderous, highly immoral neo-colonial game played out at the expense of Syria’s civilian population, and it’s helping to foment Sunni-Shia hatred right across the Middle East. Putin is the spoiler: he’s managed to alter the balance of power in the region with immense long-term ramifications, not the least of which will be the fate of the Palestinians. As for Cameron, he’s probably the biggest danger to the UK’s national security. The Westminster mafiosi’s bombing will have little if any effect on Daesh, but will place the UK directly in Daesh’s line of fire.

    1. Brian Slocock says:

      Let’s try some basic fact-checking:
      1. The biggest setback for ISIS came about as the result of the coordinated US-YPG operation that blocked their assault on Kobane and led to them being pushed back into the defensive position that they are now in.
      2. No political force in Syria wants to divide the country – not the regime, not the Kurds, and not any part of the Syrian opposition – political or military.
      3. Syria’s oil fields are small and low-grade – not worth any external actor fighting for.
      4. There’s no evidence of Israeli support for ISIS – there is some evidence of minor contact between Israeli forces in the Golan and a small local group – the Yarmouk Martyr’s brigade, which seems to consist of providing medical care for the injured (whether fighters, civilians or both is unclear).
      5. The main thing fomenting Sunni-Shia discord is the large scale presence of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Republican Guard officers shoring up a collapsing and brutal Syrian regime.
      6. Turkey has been lax in policing its border (irresponsibly so), may have been aiding Jabhat al-Nusra against the Kurds, and it has bought oil from ISIS (but so has Asad). Beyond that there is no evidence of its involvement with ISIS.
      I note that you describe the armed oppositionists as “terrorists”. Not sure who you are referring to exactly, but this is not a valid label for the bulk of the opposition – unless you are channeling Basshar al-Asad (or maybe George W. Bush).

      1. Ken Waldron says:

        “I am for the downfall of a powerful and oppressive regime”…. This would be Brian Slocock who also supported the “downfall of an oppressive regime” by arming the “revolution ” and supporting a no fly zone in Libya…
        http://socialistresistance.org/1780/first-and-above-all-its-a-democratic-uprising

        All I can say is that went well, Brian didn’t it? Fact.

      2. John Fullerton says:

        Brian,
        1. With the greatest respect there is considerable information available on Israeli support for ISIS, both in terms of hospital treatment of the wounded, arms supplies and training. You only have to look for it.
        2. The oil may be small beer in your view, but it is certainly something that Erdogan’s son for one is heavily involved with in smuggling it out of Syria via Daesh. It is estimated to be worth 1.5m USD a day in income to Daesh, by no means a meagre revenue for an insurgent movement.
        3. Hezbollah is part of the Sunni-Shia divide, but not a major cause. This small, well-disciplined organisation, it should be recalled, sprang from the majority Shia population in Lebanon, long kept in a politically and economically deprived state by a Israeli-US- French-backed Maronite Christian ruling minority unwilling to comprise or share its political advantages. It just isn’t as simple as you make it sound.
        4. Turkey has armed and financed Daesh and profited from oil smuggling.
        5. The break-up of Syria is certainly a goal of ‘moderate’ terrorists, whoever they may be, backed by Washington, Saudi, Turkey, Israel etc. Israel’s aim is to remove Iran’s chief Arab ally, Syria, and ensure it is never again able to present a threat to Zionist expansionism.
        Finally, who exactly does mr Cameron think he’s going to bomb? Daesh? If he seriously seeks to defeat this phenomenon, then he should join the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance. Why is he so averse to Assad yet so welcoming to the Egyptian dictator, the Chinese leadership, the Bahrain rulers, the Saudi royal family etc. Or is he simply following a script written for him in Riyadh and/or Washington? What he’s doing makes no sense at all and is certainly not in the interests of UK national security but rather the opposite.

        1. Barbara McKenzie says:

          Yes.

          Buckets of evidence of Turkey’s involvement too – and surely the Russian plane is of some significance…

          Re: Brian’s claims about Hezbollah aggravating the hyped up Sunni-Shia divide

          1) Sunnis are 74% of the country if this it such a big deal, why does al Assad have such huge support throughout the country (my 70% was the lowest figure I have seen, and is from NATO…). Palestinians are mostly Sunni and they are huge supporters of al Assad

          2) My guess is that if Hezbollah helps to save Syria, Syrian of all persuasions will be grateful

  18. Ken Waldron says:

    Propaganda. The Syrian Government supports ISIS…right. We best support those 70000 Moderate head chopping Jihadis then. I’m giving up on Bella.

  19. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Unlike Mike Small I regard this is a difficult matter. The issue is relatively simple: you can see the Syrian ‘uprising’ as essentially a popular movement coming from the Syrian people’s hatred of al Assad, as claimed, or you can see it as another example of regime change by the West, effected by a proxy war. With of course some additional complications in each case, but relatively minor I would say.

    There is no doubt surely that US/UK effected regime change in Iraq and Libya, little doubt that it sponsored the coup in Ukraine. We know that that Nato planned regime change in Syria years before the ‘uprising’, according to a French ex-foreign minister in 2009, Wikleaks 2006. http://www.globalresearch.ca/former-french-foreign-minister-the-war-against-syria-was-planned-two-years-before-the-arab-spring/5339112

    We also know that regime change is desired not because Assad is not a very nice man (according to the ‘Napoleon ate babies’ school of history) but because Syria is an independent country, which does not borrow money from the IMF and offers unswerving support to the Palestinian cause. It’s worth looking at Syrian Girl: 8 reasons why the West hates Syria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40cD8uYOsBo

    We know that the ‘uprising’ started, not in Damascus, as one would expect, but in Dara’a, a town of about 18,000 on the Jordanian border.

    We know that most Syrians support al Assad – even a Nato report suggests 70%.

    The validity of the ‘justifications’ for going to war, bloody repression of protests and chemical weapons, has been analysed extensively, (http://www.shiapac.org/2015/10/08/the-dirty-war-on-syria-barrel-bombs-partisan-sources-and-war-propaganda-prof-tim-anderson/
    or: http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/10/deconstructing-the-nato-narrative-on-syria/ )

    These two articles also look at the role of human rights organisations. SNHR, from which the 95% claim is taken, is not well regarded …

    Syria is discussed in this article on the use of sniper fire by the West: http://charlesfrith.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/how-western-spies-use-snipers-to.html

    Brian Slocock claims that ‘even Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk accept that the regime was responsible for the attack’. I don’t understand the ‘even Cockburn’ (!) bit, but Fisk has argued against the idea of the Syrian government using chemical weapons. (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/bashar-al-assad-syria-and-the-truth-about-chemical-weapons-8393539.html)
    An article about the Sarin gas: http://anfenglish.com/features/sarin-gas-delivered-to-al-nusra-from-turkey
    Another article about chemical weapons: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-manufacturing-and-using-chemical-weapons-in-iraq-and-syria-us-official-claims-10496094.html

    John Hilley addresses the question of ISIS in his excellent comment above. I can’t for the life of me see why anyone would doubt that ISIS is being funded and supported by Nato and Nato allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    The article still bangs on about the ‘Syrian rebels’, when we all know that the ‘rebels’ have a formal arrangement with, supply, and fight with al Nusra, which is a branch of al Qaeda.
    http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-rebels-linked-al-nusra-front-take-strategic-base-south-1794110

    Ahmad had been described as a neo-con, and after reading this article I can’t disagree.

    Taking into account Mike Small’s comments and the twitter promotion, I don’t think there is any doubt that Bella Caledonia is sponsoring the views presented in this article, is there? As others have indicated here, the fact that it should publish and support such an article says far more about Bella Caledonia than it does about Syria.

    1. Barbara McKenzie says:

      Sorry, my usual error in opening line. I mean to say of course that I do Not see the matter as that difficult.

    2. JG says:

      Thanks for taking the time to research all the above links.

      Simple logic also comes into play – if the Syrian Government and Army had indeed carried out the Gas attack then the Russians would know this down to the last detail.

      We are being asked to believe therefore that the Russians (who are taking extreme risks to do so) would ally themselves with a regime that could at a time of choosing by her (Russia’s) geopolitical enemies be exposed as Monsters thereby making Russia an international Pariah, overnight undoing a decades long, carefully planned re-emergence of Russia as a first class power.

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        That’s a good point about Putin. Let’s face it, he has constantly shown good judgement. I was struck by the fact that when the plane came down he released a neutral interim statement, where most leaders would have gone off half cock, trying to sling as much mud around before the facts were known.

        Putin and al Assad probably had a good laugh at Western hypocrisy when Bashar was in Moscow.

    3. Jim Bennett says:

      Barbara, cracking stuff. Perhaps you should be the one commissioned to write for Bella rather than the much criticised author of the above!

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Thank you! Though, personally, I have a lot of sympathy for the simpler wtf responses above!

    4. Winnie Verloc says:

      Thanks. I find it very instructive that the author of the original piece chose to mention that 70% of refugees blame Assad for their predicament. Was he aware, I wonder of the statistic you cite that 70% of Syrians actually support the regime?

      If so, such of cherry picking, along with the numerous citations of fairly dubious (Western-backed sounding) human rights organizations does give it the whiff of classical regime change propaganda.

      On the other hand, it’s important to hear both sides of the story, and I salute Bella for taking a less-then-entirely predictable stance. This article, however, merely puts a counter-narrative to the one normal on the Left without much real attempt at a new synthesis.

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Hearing both sides of the story is one thing, but it’s something else to see Bella Caledonia coming down squarely on the side of the standard Nato, in support of illicit regime change, and all the western cliches (long exposed) of ‘al Assad bad’, ‘democratic rebels’ etc.

        As with every major issue these days, one has to work hard to find out the facts, which are not available in the traditional media. But I would expect anyone who followed the Scottish referendum campaign, the dishonesty of the press and the demonisation of Alex Salmond, to be sceptical about similar and worse treatment meted out to Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government, especially when there is a clear agenda of regime change.

        Aside from the bald facts, or as an incentive to investigate them, people should perhaps ask why so many people with an affection for the pluralistic society that is Syria, including a number ofjournalists and the ex-ambassador Peter Ford, see only disaster for Syria in this externally imposed regime change. Many of the same, myself included, looked with sympathy on the popular and briefly successful uprising in Egypt, which has of course been crushed.

        1. Barbara – Bella is simply hosting a debate. If you want to just have your established views con firmed – and you think that this the role of the ‘alternative media’ then I think that is really sad.

          I’m trying to follow your logic when you say: ‘I would expect anyone who followed the Scottish referendum campaign, the dishonesty of the press and the demonisation of Alex Salmond, to be sceptical about similar and worse treatment meted out to Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government’. So to follow your logic, Salmond was good and they said was bad, so Assad must be good? Is that actually what you are saying?

          If so its seems like an extraordinary childlike view of the world that seems to have taken hold with goodies and baddies in it.

          If you want to just collect online with unthinking people dealing in absolute black and white certainties, and then have a ‘blogger’ who can confirm your beliefs, after which you can all say ‘nailed it’, then there’s plenty out there who will do that for you.

          1. Barbara McKenzie says:

            I would be the first to apologise if I thought you were genuinely hosting a debate as some kind of neutral chairperson. Your remarks above, including your support for the author, and the way the article is promoted on twitter, do not back this this up, and I find your attempt to present yourself in this light disingenuous.

            I note that you have turned my objection to the ‘Alex Salmond-bad’, ‘SNP-bad’ style argument, notoriously associated with anti-indy and anti-SNP campaigning, into a somewhat dishonest argument that it is I that am being simplistic, when what I am saying is: when demonisation of an important figure associated with a movement or government will aid in the destruction of the same, be sceptical.

            It should be clear to you that to reach my own position I have done a lot of work, once I became suspicious of the narrative from on high. Likewise John Hillier who has also commented here in detail, and others here too no doubt. You should show some respect for that.

          2. Barbara McKenzie says:

            I said John Hilliers when I met John Hilley …

          3. Illy says:

            “Barbara – Bella is simply hosting a debate.”

            ROFL!

            You keep trying that line, and I don’t think it means what you think it means.

            Your choice of articles, and your defence of them, is you *joining* the debate. And it’s becoming pretty clear where you stand on things.

        2. I routinely promote all of the articles on social media. I do listen to all of the comments and feedback, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. Easy consensus is really dangerous in my opinion. I genuinely find the sentence: ‘I would expect anyone who followed the Scottish referendum campaign, the dishonesty of the press and the demonisation of Alex Salmond, to be sceptical about similar and worse treatment meted out to Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government’ to be unintelligible.

          1. John Hilley says:

            “I routinely promote all of the articles on social media. I do listen to all of the comments and feedback, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.”

            Fair enough. But you do explicitly endorse this piece in your tweet: “The truth about Syria… Required reading. Please share.”

            My objection is that this article is far from the truth, in its attempt to paint Assad as the only or primary party responsible for fostering Isis, in evading all the well documented evidence from writers like Nafeez Ahmed on the deep extent of West/Gulf complicity, and for all the loaded claims that only more Nato-driven militarism can offer any resolution.

          2. douglas clark says:

            There is a status disconnect usually, between about above the line comments, and below the line comments.

            Your backing for the above the line, as opposed to below the line, is frankly, typical of web site owners.

            I assume you see yourself as a commissioning editor, open to a wide range of views.

            But this is what we both call ‘click bait’.

            Of course you don’t have to agree with one single word that appears below the line. But, apart from a ludicrous desire to allow freedom of speech to go into warp drive, I cannot see the point of commissioning this article.

            You, sir, have commissioned an arguement for war. Was that what you meant to do?

            If our good chum “Yiddish skittish” is to believed, then it might be a lot more serious than you appear to contemplate.

            WW3?

          3. Ken Waldron says:

            “I genuinely find the sentence: ‘I would expect anyone who followed the Scottish referendum campaign, the dishonesty of the press and the demonisation of Alex Salmond, to be sceptical about similar and worse treatment meted out to Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government’ to be unintelligible.”

            If serious then perhaps you should give up on editing? I believe most of the commenters on this article know exactly what is meant by the above: it’s perfectly clear.

          4. Jams O'Donnell says:

            I would like to endorse Ken’s suggestion that you give up editing, if this article is the sort of tripe you are going to be promoting. I intend to e-mail your major contributors to find out if they are aware of your editorial stance and if they approve of it.

  20. JuanP says:

    The UK and France has never supported any progressive cause in the Middle East for the last two centuries. So don’t be fooled my Western-supported Arabs who ask us to fight their battles.

    Progressive forces like the Kurdish PKK and YPG only ask for solidarity – not NATO boots on the ground. Whilst Western-supported militias (jihadis) in Syria want us to topple the Government of Syria for them. We should have none of it. The Syrian Army and its Kurdish, Russian. Lebanese and Iranian allies should be left alone from Western meddling, so that they can deal with ISIS.

    I am sick and tired of Arab Western allies using guilt to make us fight wars for them and the Saudi, Turkish and Gulf backers. Remember the concocted stories from Kuwait and Iraq use by the Western allies to get us fight wars in Iraq.

  21. Jams O'Donnell says:

    “Bella Caledonia Editor: Nobody is parroting the MSM propaganda. Please try and deal with some complexity on this difficult subject.”

    Well, someone here seems to be spouting MSM propaganda, and it’s not 90% of the readers. The complexity of this difficult subject can only become more so if blogs like this pile in with outright lies, half-truths and dubious insinuations. I hope you can follow the trend of the comments above and publish no more such articles, or else I, for one, won’t be coming here any more. Frankly, I’m extremely disappointed.

    (Apologies if similar post appears twice)

    1. James – I’d be delighted to hear what the ‘outright lies, half-truths and dubious insinuations’ are. Please state them.

      1. Illy says:

        And again, look up “lying with the truth”, it’s an art form, to be able to write something that tells no outright lies that can be focused in on, yet tells a completely wrong story of the situation.

        And again, you’re a master at it.

      2. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Since you ask, here is a selection.

        1 Attribution of killing 1400 civilians in a “chemical” (sic) – an attribution widely discounted.

        2 The claim that the US has poured billions into fighting ISIS with little to show for it – as another reply has pointed out – a) they weren’t REALLY fighting ISIS, and b) they have the success of ISIS to show for it, most of the arms supplied being handed over to ISIS as soon as they were delivered.

        3 The claim that only 6% of Assad’s efforts were directed against ISIS – This is Carrollian logic. Assad is the countries legally appointed leader. Is he supposed to fight only ISIS and let the rest of the armed groups (mainly organised, armed and supported by Saudi Arabia and the west to further their own interests) to get on with overthrowing him unopposed? There is no proof that I can find that other anti-regime armed groups are fighting ISIS.

        4 The claim that Syrian people hate Assad as much as ISIS – I remember reading a similar claim that 70% supported him. In any case, if he is so unpopular where is the Syrian Army getting it’s recruits from? This has already been pointed out by others.

        5 The claim that Sunni rebels are the main hope of defeating ISIS and that Russia, Hezbollah and Iranian troops are counter productive can only be understood as special pleading by someone with an axe to grind.
        6 The claim that the “Free Syrian Army” need protecting from the regime and Russian bombing. The FSA is in revolt against the legally constituted Syrian regime, and the intervention of outside forces to help in this is a War Crime according to the UN.

        You can make your own personal choice of which are outright lies and which are half-truths, but all are basically propaganda.

        Most of these points have also already been made in other replies above. I suggest you read all the replies again, use all the links provided, and do some basic research on your own, as Kevin Brown recommended. However I suspect that you have nailed your colours to the mast and can find no way of hauling them down. Surely you can see that the great majority of your readers are appalled at BC giving space to this sort of biased warmongering trash.

        And it’s “Jams” – not “James”

        1. Barbara McKenzie says:

          Excellent run-down of biggest whoppers, Jams.

          Bella Caledonia running and sponsoring this article was one revelation – the response and awareness of readers has been a counter-revelation!

          1. Jams O'Donnell says:

            Thank you Barbara (to paraphrase the BCE himself, in relation to his solitary supporter)

        2. Ludek Stavinoha says:

          Yes, impeccable reasoning. Finally, a real, substantive take-down of the author’s argument! One that is morally consistent, too. How dare anyone oppose this “legally constituted Syrian regime”! A regime, presumably, elected in free and fair elections in accordance with its domestic laws, a regime that has engaged in the slaughter and torture of tens of thousands of its own citizens with presumably no implications for its legality or legitimacy in relation to its own constitution or international law. And I assume you truly believe you’re arguing from a Left position of solidarity with the wretched of the earth. I dare you to face a Syrian refugee and defend the notion of a “legally constituted” Syrian regime.

          1. Barbara McKenzie says:

            Exactly how many Syrian refugees do you know?

            I myself don’t know any Syrian refugees (though I am in contact with people in Damascus and Aleppo). My only exposure to refugees is the ones on tv saying, if there was no war, we don’t come to Europe.

          2. Jams O'Donnell says:

            So you want to pick and choose among the countries of the world as to which governments are “really” legitimate and which are not? But you don’t have an army, so presumably you will rely on the US to do your overthrowing for you. Unfortunately, they won’t always see eye-to-eye with you. For example, they won’t take out the equally repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, or Quatar, or Thailand.

            But what the hell, eh? At least you can aid in driving a coach and horses through International law. Then any jumped up power can bomb, invade, murder, whatever (as long as the US is ok about it).

  22. arthur thomson says:

    The only role we should be playing in this shambles is in providing humanitarian support to those who are suffering as a result of it.

  23. douglas clark says:

    It seems to me that there is a limit on what democratic politics allows itself to achieve. We are allowed to play the ‘democracy game’ up and until the powers that be, decide that the threat we face is existential.

    At that point, they withdraw all reason from the table, alienate the enemy, Germans as Pigs, etc, far worse against the Viet-Cong, and appeal to our basest instincts to not be a democracy no more. For the enemy is characterised as inhuman.

    We were lied to over Iraq, there is evidence that we were lied to, but some folk believe that we were under an existential threat.

    When newspapers and media go into melt-down, it is very hard to stand apart from that group-think.

    Given the latest council by-election results, perhaps we are breaking out of that syndrome.

    For syndrome it certainly is, the mere idea that the West can intervene and make an improvement?

    pfft!

    Afghanistan and Iraq say otherwise.

  24. David Agnew says:

    The west is now trapped in an incident pit of its own making. It could have been worse of course – we could have went to war in 2013 and that would have handed Syria to ISIS. Russia has now intervened to prop Assad. There is now nothing we can do that won’t lead to a larger conflict with Russia – who are not a 3rd world power with badly trained troops. This is a fight we really *really* don’t want to get into. Arming militants to shoot down russian planes in the idiotic belief that russia will accept our *anti-isis* agenda is pie in the sky thinking.

    As for creating a moderate force to remove Assad – America tried this and we got ISIS. They tried it again and got a force that according to recent reports saw 90% of its personnel either killed, turned to ISIS or had fled. The remainder seems to engaged in petty criminality, extortion, kidnapping and murder. So now we are about to try again and fail again. When you look at the wests record of *standing* up armies to face up to terror we usually see that money pissed up a wall instead.

    At some point we will have to send in troops and once again the same old siren songs that got us into a quagmire in Iraq and afghanistan, are screeching about how we can do it with 50k troops tops. The question is – what do we do then? The urge to rebuild and remodel syria will be too tempting and we will be right back were we started.

    What have we achieved since the GWOT? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing the wests standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?’ ‘The answers are, ‘No, no, and no.’ So why,is the author of this article and our dick led politicians, think that initiating yet another war in this protracted enterprise is going to produce a different outcome?”

    We may have to accept that Assad is going to have to stay. Or we face not just another middle eastern failure – but the potential to kick start a third world war. All this just to grab syrias resources. to hell with that

  25. Douglas says:

    This is a great thread, very informative, and lighten up about Bella´s decision to publish, because the thread itself is by some measure the most interesting thing on Syria I´ve read yet.

    You can´t expect the people at Bella to know everything about every subject on the shoestring budget they run, it´s the people´s press, not the friggin Guardian (thank Christ).

    It relies on people with knowledge to contribute BTL, that´s the beauty of it.

    As for Syria, I don´t know enough about it, and I´m not that interested, except to say that it it reminds me of Spain in 1936, with lots of foreign powers involved and a prelude to a more general war about to happen elsewhere….or in fact, everywhere….

    Great comments and links again.

    1. Illy says:

      The problem people seem to be having is Bella is coming down, again and again, on the wrong side of the argument: Making prostitution illegal, bad maths about the list vote, beating the war drum, it’s happening again and again that the comments section is filled with intelligent, rational arguments that oppose the article in question.

      And when that becomes apparent “Bella Caledonia Editor” comes along and tries to claim that they’re “only facilitating/hosting a debate”, and then tries to claim some sort of BBC/IFS-style impartiality.

      It gets infuriating.

      1. Ken Waldron says:

        It doesn’t help either when the “Editor” starts stonewalling and claims not to have been given any evidence of the “outright lies, half-truths and dubious insinuations” in this cherrypicked article when the entire thread above his comment is full of links pointing to evidence people have helpfully looked out. Nor that he goes on Twitter to chippily claim of the commenters to this post : “…Some are incredibly naive about Assad”.

        The whole alternative media in Scotland during the Referendum grew because we stopped being naive about the function of the mainstream media and recognised the fact that it served only the interests of the oligarchy. We saw that it did so by a process of misinformation scaremongering and the demonisation of political individuals recognised as dangerous to elite interests. The fact that the editor of Bella Caledonia: an alternative media outlet that rode on that very wave cannot even apply that experience and recognise this process at work after such an apprenticeship is not just remarkable: it’s simply unreal.

        1. Jams O'Donnell says:

          Yes, spot on, Ken. Looks like BC is going down the same path as the Labour Party under Tony Blair, without the attendant temporary success.

          1. Barbara McKenzie says:

            Ken Waldron: ‘The whole alternative media in Scotland during the Referendum grew because we stopped being naive about the function of the mainstream media’. Quite so, and there’s no going back!

            Bella Caledonia should apply the newly formulated McKenzie principle of blogging: ‘either keep to your field (s) of expertise, or stay absolute neutral’.

  26. Hamish Kirk says:

    Has Bella Caledonia been taken over by Chatham House, the Neocons or some CIA-funded Think Tank ?

  27. Fi says:

    A good article by a respected writer in this field. I came to it via recommendations from Robin Yassin-Kassab who knows a thing or two about Syria. I agree with the analysis of the situation but am not sure of the solution.

    I feel shame and sorrow as a liberal and a leftist looking at the majority of below the line comments here. The accusations of deliberate misinformation against the author and Bella are a symptom of some kind of intellectual derangement that affects so much of what I used to think of as my left. If there is truth in the old observation that empire begins to decline first in intellect, then perhaps this is what we are seeing. Oppositionalism and contrarianism are not a template, a substitute for thought, any more than wholesale swallowing of establishment propaganda. You do not arrive at the truth by turning falsehood on it’s head. Good thinking, like good governance involves constant struggle. This should not even have to be said.

    These words from the Syrian leftist Yassin Haj Saleh are burned into my consciousness;

    ‘I am afraid that it is too late for the leftists in the West to express any solidarity with the Syrians in their extremely hard struggle. What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria, its society, its regime, its people, its political economy, its contemporary history. Rarely have I found a useful piece of information or a genuinely creative idea in their analyses. My impression about this curious situation is that they simply do not see us; it is not about us at all. Syria is only an additional occasion for their old anti-imperialist tirades, never the living subject of the debate. So they do not really need to know about us. For them the country is only a black box about which you do not have to learn its internal structure and dynamics; actually it has no internal structure and dynamics according to their approach, one that is at the same time Western-centered and high-politics centered.’

    http://newpol.org/content/syria-and-left

    1. Illy says:

      Really?

      You consider an article beating the war drum for bombing Syria to be a good analysis?

      Most of the comments here are making the accurate observation that interfering in the middle east has not produced useful results in the past, and has caused things like the Paris and twin tower attacks.

      We don’t need to understand Syrian politics to know that bombing into oblivion will not help the situation. We only need to understand human nature to know that.

      They *obviously* have reasons for supporting ISIS or Assad, and denying them any agency in why they made those choices is not going to help any. Instead the call from commenters here is to hold off from escalating the situation, and attempt to de-escalate the situation. Not retaliating for a justified attack would be a step towards that.

      Unfortunately, most of our politicians just want to stomp their feet and go to war.

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Well said, Illy. Regardless of the details, there are some basic principles at stake.

    2. Barbara McKenzie says:

      ‘What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria …’

      I have found that people who have actually been to Syria, like myself, are among the people most likely to oppose this destructive attempt at regime change. This includes some very dedicated journalists and the former UK ambassador to Syria, shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh1BbvbMOp4&feature=youtu.be

      I presume you yourself have been to Syria, otherwise you wouldn’t trumpet this as a qualification? When you were there, didn’t you find that people were very optimistic, very proud of their country and their president, perhaps more than any other ME country? First time I was In Damascus the Arab conference was on and people crowded rounded their TVs to watch Bashar. One shop closed for the afternoon so the staff wouldn’t miss out.

      Obviously the relationship between government and people can change. But, the fact that the Syrian government is still functioning, despite the billions, the arms and the Toyotas that Nato and the Gulf States have provided to al Qaeda and ISIS (sorry, the ‘moderate’ rebels) is confirmation that we are not talking about a popular uprising.

      I’m not sure that personal familiarity with Syria is essential for understanding the current situation and is certainly no substitute for reading the available reports. In my case, it meant I was a bit more sensitive than I might have been to discrepancies in the stuff we were getting in our local paper. Eg, the fact when a Day of Rage across the Arab world was organised no-one turned up in Damascus, but a few weeks later there was a violent demonstration at some hick town on the Jordanian border.

      Other people haven’t needed that personal interest to notice the discrepancies and take a closer look. So I hope no-one thinks I’m pulling rank over non-travellers!

      1. Peter says:

        The increasingly bizarre responses in defence of this article by BCE are very sadly revealing. When you have pointed out in fine detail the obvious propaganda contained in this and then for BCE to misrepresent and attempt to undermine you really says it all.
        Bella has lost any credibility that it may have had over this debacle.

      2. Ken Waldron says:

        Yes. the only question is: do the Syrian people want regime change? I’ve never seen any convincing evidence that the majority do and as others have also pointed out, there is evidence that points clearly in the opposite direction: that the majority of the population is with Assad, whatever the shortcomings of the regime.

        1. Peter says:

          And do the people of Syria want to be bombed. Has anyone bothered to ask, did anyone ask if the people of Libya or Iraq wanted bombing?
          But I’m quite sure Bella and other commentators have thought through this difficult and complex issue and decided that on the balance of things they will eventually come to see that bombing is actually for their own good and well being.
          It’s a nasty business but they really will thank us for it in the end.

      3. Brian Slocock says:

        I wonder what “available reports” you are talking about. The reports of Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Human Rights Council. Clearly not. The huge volume of testimony – oral and visual – from Syrians involved in the events of 2011. No again. A couple of week’s stay in Syria (when exactly you don’t say) is unlikely to have provided you with much insight into the highly regulated society that Syria has been for four decades. Someone who was born and grew up there, like Samar Yabek, is a far better guide: http://qunfuz.com/2012/12/26/woman-in-the-crossfire/
        You are quite right that the call for a “day of rage”in February was ignored in Syria – that’s because it was primarily initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood, who had very little influence in the country. Of Course this fact gives the lie to the regime claims that the Brotherhood was behind the revolution. By “hick town” I presume you are referring to Dara’a: where the Syrian revolution is commonly claimed to have started (In fact protests took place earlier in Damascus) Dara’a is in fact a county town of c. 150,000 “hicks”. The protests there took place after a group of adolescent boys were arrested for painting anti-government graffiti on a wall and subsequently tortured by the local security agencies. The initial protest demonstration by their parents was only “violent” in the sense that it was attacked by the security forces and two demonstrators killed. The following day a large funeral cortege was also attacked. And that is when the “popular uprising” began.

        1. JG says:

          Ok and that trumps everything?

          Is it certain they were NOT panicky provincial police acting without central authority?

          And even if they weren’t and the facts are close to what you state, does this justify the attempted destruction of the country by foreigners? I mean the IDF does that sort of thing to Palestinian Youths all day long, does that mean we should be bombing “Netanyahu’s Regime” in Tel Aviv?

          You must be very naive if you think the US, Israel and the rest are opposing Assad and basically attempting the destruction of Syria out of concern for youths and their families in downtown Dara’a!

        2. Barbara McKenzie says:

          I apologise to Dara’a.

          Amnesty International does wonderful work for prisoners of conscience, but it does seem to sponsor every hoax going, including the discredited Saddam throws babies out of incubators scam, and some kidnapping falsely attributed to the Syrian Army. Last thing I read by AI was based on figures provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is essentially one man in Coventry who makes up figures to please the Foreign Office, as you should be aware.

          If you are going to quote Human Rights Watch and Kenneth Roth at me, there really is no conversation. There is plenty of evidence that HRW is heavily compromised, with a very close relationship with the US state department, but I can’t see you reading it, any more than you have read the links above, or listened to Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria.

          I am not claiming that my times in Syria (somewhat more than the couple of weeks you arrogantly assume) give me special insight. My point was many people who have been to Syria and have great sympathy for the people, including journalists and diplomats who have spent years there – in my experience every foreigner with genuine feelings for Syria – are opposed to this attempt at regime change. In my own case I developed what were no more than impressions,which were easily overturned by media reports until I started adding up the discrepancies and then found alternative sources of information. However this point was only in response to the suggestion from Fi above that people are only opposing this externally imposed regime change because of total ignorance – I think the response of other people was more relevant than mine.

          1. Brian Slocock says:

            Much as I’ve enjoyed the scintillating company of everyone here, there comes a time when its necessary to move on and rejoin the real world. So here is my parting comment:
            In my opinion, the Syrian revolution began as a popular uprising against an authoritarian regime that deliberately militarised the conflict to the present point where the country is virtually destroyed (100, 000 civilians killed, many by crude weapons like barrel bomb (there is no al-Qaeda airforce) , half of the population driven from their homes. And the regime only survives by being propped up by foreign forces.
            Some of you here are obviously good at using Google but seem to use it just to reinforce your preconceptions. Could I suggest that maybe you look a little more widely and take a look at some things that might challenge your prejudices or test your convictions.You could start with Emil Hokayem’s excellent little book Syria’s Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant (ok – I’m sure you’ll find a 101 reasons why he is an “imperialist lackey” and can be ignored, but be brave put your ideas to the test!) If you want to know the real history of ISIS (or dip into the books by Charles Lister, and Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan.
            The Syrian revolution has been brutally crushed – mostly by the regime but also by various other powers pursuing their own agendas. But many of its original activists are still invoved in the struggle, retain their committment to the values of 2011, and are working hard to do what they can to build a better society. If it was in any context other than Syria you would be rooting for these people. tBut take a look at just one of their organisations – Kesh Malek which provides education in the war zone for kids in the hope of building a new generation prepared for democracy and reconciliation. http://en.keshmalek.org/about-us/
            There are dozens of similar organisations – all created by Syrian revolutionists, many linked to the Syrian Non-violence Movement: https://www.facebook.com/SyrainNonviolence/ (that’s not my spelling slip)
            Bella Caledonia can take comfort in the fact that it is far from the first left publication to give a voice to supporters of the Syrian revolution: see the accounts of Ewa Jasiewicz (someone who has impeccable left credentials ) in Red Pepper: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/you-are-now-entering-the-liberated-area-of-marrat-al-numan/ and these accounts of of Syrian civil society activism in New Internationalist http://newint.org/features/special/2015/09/01/sept-keynote-syria-resilient-revolution/ AND http://newint.org/features/2015/09/01/syrian-activists-risk-their-lives/
            Worth discussing, don’t you think?

          2. Jams O'Donnell says:

            If you are not sticking around to discuss it, then it casts some doubt on whether it is in fact worth discussing. And if you do come back to “discuss” it, please first clarify the basis for your apparent rejection of international law regarding conspiring to overthrow a legally constituted government.

    3. Jams O'Donnell says:

      What an extremely long, complicated, condescending and disingenuous way of saying “I’ll go along with the mainstream opinion, and anyone who disagrees is stupid”.

      PS I have been to Syria, and in general I have seldom met so many people who were polite and obliging to strangers, for what that’s worth.

  28. Ken Waldron says:

    “A good article by a respected writer in this field. I came to it via recommendations from Robin Yassin-Kassab who knows a thing or two about Syria. I agree with the analysis of the situation but am not sure of the solution.
    I feel shame and sorrow as a liberal and a leftist looking at the majority of below the line comments here. The accusations of deliberate misinformation against the author and Bella are a symptom of some kind of intellectual derangement that affects so much of what I used to think of as my left.”

    Presenting a shallow “argumentum ad verecundiam” and then shedding wistful crocodile tears about something you call “my Left” butters no parsnips for me on the issue.
    You may have as fine a conceit of yourself and your own opinions as you like: the fact that you have to accuse others of “intellectual derangement” to justify it speaks volumes.

    1. Brian Slocock says:

      The rejection of intellectual “authority” sounds to me like an argument for ignorance. So let me offend you further. I can think of at least 15 highly qualified “authorities” on Syria who would not accept a single one of the “factual” claims that have been trotted out here. And I can’t think of anyone who would accept the whole package. Who can you name with sound credentials attesting to their knowledge of Syria who would corroborate whatever case it is you are pleading?

      1. Illy says:

        Really?

        You can find someone who thinks that the last 2000+ years of invasions have been good for the area?

        Name names or go away.

  29. Ken Waldron says:

    Oh I don’t think we are pleading cases: but of those who are above, I name you Brian. You supported pretty much the same kind of arming the “revolution” and no fly zone stuff concerning Libya…and we see the result. Your informed views are indeed a lesson to us all.

    1. Brian Slocock says:

      Changing the subject – last ploy of the intellectually bankrupt.

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Personal abuse – REALLY the last ploy etc.

      2. Ken Waldron says:

        Your point of view on Syria and track record on Libya Brian: of proposing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not anything so minor as intellectual bankruptcy: its Einstein’s definition of madness. Are you really so incapable of realising how mistaken you are even after your chosen path destroys an entire country and leaves it in chaos ? My point is that your judgement on these matters has already been proven to be calamitous: do you truly still trust in the excellence of those chosen “sources” which lead you to such folly?

  30. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Possibly. And if I were to contact the Syrian Embassy I would be able to produce “fifteen highly qualified authorities” who would say the exact opposite. So what?

    This is all about US global politics. You are either pro or anti the interference in, or subversion of, or attempted (and in many cases actual) overthrow of sovereign states in the interests of the US. Everything else is obfuscation.

    Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:

    Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
    Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
    Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
    Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
    Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

    Plus … although not easily quantified … more involved in the practice of torture than any other country in the world … for over a century … not just performing the actual torture, but teaching it, providing the manuals, and furnishing the equipment.

    (William Blum – http://www.williamblum.org)

    Syria is just the latest in a long list.

    1. Barbara McKenzie says:

      I was going to say that …

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Sorry Barbara. I imagine you might have put it better (pass sick-bag) 🙂

      2. Peter says:

        Barbara, you have an impressive writing style, you should post on Media Lens, Ken Waldron and John Hilley post there regularly but don’t recall seeing your good self there, get on it!

    2. Ken Waldron says:

      Just to add some relevant levity…we have yet another dictator requiring regime change:

      Senior Labour MPs: Jeremy Corbyn should resign after acting like ‘the Fuhrer’ over air strike in Syria.

      http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14108843.Senior_Labour_MPs__Jeremy_Corbyn_should_resign_after_acting_like__the_Fuhrer__over_air_strike_in_Syria/

      As “the Dug” says: “…It’s possibly the first time in the history of invective that someone has been called a fascist for NOT wanting to invade Poland..” 🙂

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        George Orwell’s concept of “Newspeak” seems more and more to be a creation of absolute and prescient genius.

      2. Peter says:

        Ken, don’t know how you can bothered trawling through all that rubbish, I gave up on our great free press years ago. Looks like Bella has revealed itself as well, never mind, Mike has his guardian column now so that’s nice, he can go on news night now and discuss what we must do in Syria, Iraq, Libya…….. with Kirsty, now that he’s an expert on the Middle East after having mastered this difficult and complex issue.

        1. leavergirl says:

          Joining the chorus against beating the drums of war on Bella.

          Also, it would be nice to see some real analysis of how the situation in Syria can be altered for the better, after the bombing that is already going on ends. Instead of arguing back and forth about Assad and exactly how bad he is, or even about the bombings (that train has already left the station), how about instead to imagine a process leading to healing and peace, those of you who have experience in, and insight into the area?

        2. Peter – the last time I wrote for the Guardian was in May this year, so my niche role is spectacularly unsuccessful. I don’t profess to be an expert in the Middle East at all and am rarely invited on to Newsnight, so apart from that this was all very useful.

      3. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Lol, I collect these!

        If ever you want to go into bat for someone maligned by the British establishment, whether it be Arthur Scargill or Ares Velouchiotis ( or Bashar al Assad) just look at what they try to do to … Jeremy Corbyn (!!)

    3. Brian Slocock says:

      I’ll take that as a no, then.

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Obviously you will take it as anything you like, as long as it will help you to avoid addressing the points made.

  31. Ken Waldron says:

    Ah right… column in the Guardian now. That explains a lot.

    1. Douglas says:

      The idea that Mike has run this piece to please the Guardian is as ludicrous as the need for air strikes, and is as backed up as little by the evidence in each case….

      Bella runs all kinds of stuff…that´s why I come here, to meet charmers and flatterers like yourselves….plus, I don´t think The Guardian gives a shit what Bella publishes…

      I bet there are areas of politics or culture where you might be equally susceptible to being taken in….

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Glad to say you don’t sound like a charmer or flatterer, Doug. The way I read it is that Mike is trying for a seamless transition into the Guardian mindset. I can congratulate him in achieving success in this aim, although they might find him a little Milquetoast.

        1. Douglas says:

          Consider yourself disagreed with on all counts…

          1. Jams O'Donnell says:

            So, are you implying that you ARE a charmer and flatterer, Doug? If so, you will have to do better than that.

    2. Barbara McKenzie says:

      Someone else who has positioned himself on the left over a single issue, only to come home?

  32. Douglas says:

    Of course I consider myself to be a charmer and a flatterer, Jams, if we ever met, you´d see that for yourself…but we´re talking about me now, when we were previously talking about this smear that Bella and Mike are some kind of Guardian puppet…that sounds like a conspiracy theory to me….and not at all a plausible one….

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Well, Doug, if you can read all that conspiracy into my post, you should be teaching creative writing as well as charm and flattery. Please read my post again, with more attention to the precise meaning of words.

      1. Douglas says:

        Jams, now you´re really rocking my boat….what exactly do YOU mean when you talk of a “seamless transition to the Guardian mindset”. Transition from what or where? What does that mean? Milquetoast is a word I never heard before. So I don´t quite grasp your post.

        I mean if we´re going to get all finicky and pernickity with the editor on a Sunday night…..

        As for teaching creative writing, there is nothing I would like better. That´s where all the money is these days in writing. My first class would be on the opening lines of great books, starting with Proust´s “Remembrance of Things Past”….it reads: “For a long time, I used to go to bed early.” Which is precisely what I am going to do now. Nice to chat.

        1. Jams O'Donnell says:

          Look Doug, if you are going to teach creative writing you will have to get to grips with the meanings of words, what additional implications the words may have, what they imply when used together, and how to string them together to make a sentence. If I were you I would start of with a pad and pen and a good dictionary and try to puzzle out all the bits you don’t understand. It is a good and worthwhile exercise, and you will have a sense of achievement at the end.

          To give you a hint, the entry above by Ken Waldron starting: “Conspiracy …” conveys a similar (but not identical) meaning to the post of mine that you are puzzled about.

        2. Jams O'Donnell says:

          PS – Doug – you seem very concerned about “the editor” and defending his position. Are you a friend or relative, or perhaps just a doppelganger?

    2. Barbara McKenzie says:

      It’s not a smear to point out that this article resembles not so much one of the more slimy pseudo-left centre-right pieces that the Guardian favours, but rather something from the extreme right, equally favoured by the Guardian in order to ‘give balance’.

      Anyone who screams ‘conspiracy theorist’ when they don’t like what they hear loses all respect. Suggesting that people who are genuinely looking for the truth are crackpots doesn’t wash any more.

      1. This is great, so now I’ve moved from being ‘pseudo-left’ to extreme right?

        1. Barbara McKenzie says:

          Not what I said, but don’t let that worry you.

  33. JuanP says:

    Mark Curtis the author of, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, is well worth reading to understand the self-serving role Britain plays in the Middle East.

    His two post today are worth a read:

    https://markcurtis.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/peninsula-1958/

    https://markcurtis.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/the-main-objectives-of-the-united-kingdoms-overseas-and-strategic-policy-january-1960/

    Hist first post reads:

    Joint Intelligence Committee report, “Nationalist and radical movements in the Arabian Peninsula”, 10 February 1958

    ‘Arab nationalism, including the urge towards greater Arab unity and the removal of any foreign control, is already the most powerful emotional force in the area and it is beginning to penetrate even the most remote corners of the peninsula… The maintenance of our interests in the Persian Gulf states is dependent on continued stability in the area. At present only the Rulers can provide this. No alternative regimes are in sight, certainly not regimes which could provide the stability on which the maintenance of British interests depends. A failure to support any one of the Rulers would weaken the confidence of the others in our ability and willingness to protect them. It is on this confidence that our special position in the Gulf chiefly rests’.

    1. Barbara McKenzie says:

      Thanks for those cheery little numbers JuanP. I really needed reminding that the UK ruling classes have *always* been this evil …

      However useful to know about his blog, thank you!. I have read Unpeople and was reading Secret Affairs until my son nicked it.

  34. Ken Waldron says:

    Conspiracy? Na. Shaping the cut of his suit for the new job in mainstream media would explain the blind-spot tho.

    1. This is hilarious. Where can I pick up my snazzy new suit? Where’s my new job in the mainstream media? Details please, sounds great! What’s the salary?

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Sorry Mike. My sources in the Grauniad say that your ineptness in handling this “introductory offer”, so to speak, has resulted in withdrawal of their job offer. 🙂

      2. Ken Waldron says:

        Dunno… how cheap does the Guardian go? You can tag-team with Owen Jones…

        1. Douglas says:

          You guys are like gatecrashers at a party who you kindly let in the door and then proceed to bore everybody to death with how shite the party is while refusing to leave at the same time….

          …Jams O´Donnel…….si yo te contara lo que sé de diccionarios hijo…allí no llegas, ni lejos….¿estamos? No, no estamos pues no sabes una mierda tierna de diccionarios ni de nada….

          1. Jams O'Donnell says:

            Ha! It all comes out at last. The thin veneer of politeness vanishes. Why didn’t you just express yourself honestly in the first place Doug? Oh well, at least you seem to have found two dictionaries now. Why the Spanish though? Is that your “acccomplishment”?

  35. Ken Waldron says:

    Glen Greenwald tweets on the ongoing success of the war party’s last adventure:

    https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/671057175545036800

  36. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Won’t bother replying to Brian as he is no longer with us, but I have looked at Emile Hokayem’s twitter (yes, I did look up his book too!). I *think* it’s fair to say that of his claims fewer than the norm are substantiated:

    Forget previous tweets: Assad, who perfected terrorism [huh?], wins competition for most disgraceful post-Paris reaction

    Both militarily and in terms of intelligence cooperation, Syrian rebel groups are way more useful against ISIS than Assad/Russia.

    If you work with Assad agst ISIS, you lose the rebels’ greater manpower, intelligence, legitimacy among populations living in ISIS areas.

    All those labelling “70%” of the #Syria opposition as extremist are: – Utterly delusional – Empowering actual (Sunni & Shia) extremists

  37. Idrees says:

    There are compelling reasons to oppose David Cameron’s plans for airstrikes in Syria. Some of them I laid out above. These are echoed by residents of Raqqa, a city often described as the “ISIS capital” but is really a city occupied by ISIS.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=share_btn_tw

    But this novel idea—listening to the supposed beneficiaries of our good intentions—is fraught with danger, because it might erode ideological certainties.

    For most commenters, Syria isn’t about Syrians; it is about ideological battles at home. For them it is not about what is good or bad for Syrians but about whether David Cameron is or isn’t a bastard (as it happens, I share their contempt for the Tories). And if David Cameron says Syrians have suffered under Assad then what better way to show him up than to deny that Assad has had anything to do with Syrian suffering (Syrians own testimonies notwithstanding). To this end, they have trawled the nether regions of the internet to find any conspiracist drivel they can find to absolve Assad for his crimes. Of course it would be easy enough for them to find out the truth if, say, they were to follow the vast network of Local Coordination Committees, the Violations Documentation Centre (established by the great Syrian revolutionary Razan Zeitouneh), the Syrian Human Rights Network, or reports from Medicins Sans Frontiers, Physicians for Human Rights, the Red Cross, the UN Human Rights Council, or Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. But why rely on such tainted imperialist institutions when you can get the complete unbiased objective truth from the world’s only truly socialist, progressive, independent news channel: RT (Russia Today). It’s not like they have conflicts of interest! (One fool even cites the disgraced truther Nafeez Ahmed as a source)

    Inevitably, the conspiracists skip over the hundreds of incontrovertible, well-documented atrocities to reach for the one where, through help from credulous hacks, Assad and his Russian backers tried to manufacture doubt. Shortly after the regime’s August 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta, a group of truthers in America promoted the idea that the attack was carried out by Assad’s opponents. To back this, they cited an open letter to Obama from former intelligence officials, which claimed that they got the info from “numerous sources” in the region. Putin mentioned this theory in an op-ed for the New York Times and Russian officials in Geneva distributed this letter to members of the UN. Except, it was soon revealed that the letter was plagiarised from a Canadian conspiracy site and the intelligence officials had no sources. It was embarrassing for many who had circulated it and at least one of the signatories (Matthew Hoh, formerly of the State Department) publicly disavowed it. I was one of the people who exposed the false claims.
    https://newrepublic.com/article/114676/syrias-chemical-weapons-assad-not-blame-say-truthers
    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/russias-foreign-minister-cites-questions-raised-by-nun-in-syria-on-chemical-attacks/?_r=0

    A few months later, one of the authors of the forged letter retailed an embellished version of the same story to Seymour Hersh who published it as two frontpage stories for the London Review of Books. The story quickly unraveled and Hersh and the LRB were left with egg on their faces.
    https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/dangerous-method-syria-sy-hersh-art-mass-crime-revisionism

    But the reactions to this sordid episode were telling. Many people ignored all the incontrovertible evidence that was in the public domain, including survivor testimonies, first responders’ reports, UN”s conclusions, OPCW’s judgment, Independent investigations, to latch on to the conspiracist version that accorded with their dogmas. (It is sad but somewhat amusing that someone would mention Robert Fisk’s endorsement of the consrpiacy theory without actually checking Fisk’s source [a Russian he met in a cafe in Damascus—why bother with evidence, when the truth can be vouchsafed to you by a friendly Russian in a Damscene cafe?])

    Perhaps it would help if the commenters here clarified what they hope to see in Syria.

    They say they are opposed to any British bombing in Syria because it would cause human suffering. I’m with them on that. But is it only potential British atrocities they object to or also the regime’s actual, ongoing and systematic ones? If both, then what do they propose to do to end Assad’s atrocities?

    For many years anti-imperialists have said Bush and Blair should be tried for the war in Iraq; or Sharon and Netanyahu for theirs against the Palestinians. I am with them on that. No justice, no peace used to be the slogan. And it is a powerful one. But what do they have to say about Assad’s and Putin’s atrocities, which are deliberate, systematic, and terroristic? Should they be held accountable for their actions or do they get an exemption?

    If they oppose human rights violations in Syria, then surely they must be for UN war crime investigations against all parties, regime or rebel, who engage in them? If so, then what do they have to say about the Russian veto which has repeatedly thwarted such investigations?

    Some “anti-imperialists” have endorsed Russian imperialism in Syria by pronouncing Putin’s murderous intervention legitimate because it was “invited by Syria’s government”. If so, then was the US involvement in Vietnam also legitimate since it was done at the request of the South Vietnamese government? And do they support current British bombings in Iraq since Britain was invited by the current Iraqi government?

    I understand that you want to protect Syrians from British bombs; but what do you propose to do to protect Syrians from Russian and regime bombs? Surely you couldn’t have missed news like these?
    http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/less-than-a-third-of-aleppos-hospitals-functioning-95-of-doctors-have-fled-been-detained-or-killed.html

    Like me, I am sure you condemned the attack on a Medicins Sans Frontiers facility by a US bomber in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It was a war crime and we all demanded accountability. But just in October, Russian planes hit 10 healthcare facilities in Syria. Do you demand war crimes investigations against these too, or are these ones excusable?
    http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/russian-forces-carried-out-at-least-10-attacks-on-medical-facilities-in-syria-in-october.html

    I understand that like me all of you are against torture. We all want those who sanctioned torture to face justice, Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. But do you also demand accountability for the the industrial scale torture practiced by the regime?
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/01/they-were-torturing-to-kill-inside-syrias-death-machine-caesar

    We were all outraged when Israel used cluster munitions in Lebanon and white phosphorus in Gaza. Russia is dropping white phosphorous on Syrians and has used cluster munitions against refugees. Do you want accountability in this case too?

    Until you can answer these questions without dissimulation, you might want to reflect for a moment before you throw epithets like “warmonger” or “neocon” around. (I doubt most of the commenters know what a neocon is. Most people think its a synonym for warmonger. If you want to know more about this subject or how neoconservative deception led to the Iraq war, you can buy my book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Iraq-Making-Neoconservative/dp/0748693033)

    Lastly, if you are a supporter of the Palestinian cause and you are here making excuses for Assad, shame on you. Are you aware how many Palestinians Assad has killed? Have you ever heard of the Yarmouk refugee camp? have you heard about the siege and what immiseration it has caused? Perhaps you should educate yourself:
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/palestinian-refugees-yarmouk

    If you are against collective punishment, torture, and repression in Gaza but find excuses for it in Yarmouk or Aleppo or Idlib, then your concern for Palestinians has nothing to do with justice or human rights. Palestinians understand this. Here is Mariam Barghouti:

    “For those that ever told me “we dont have time to show solidarity with ‪#‎Syria‬, we’re trying to focus on ‪#‎Palestine‬.” Douma, Yarmouk, Kafrnabel and other parts of Syria despite the shellings, despite the Russian imperialism and despite all of the despotism from the Assad regime managed to send out messages of solidarity.
    Free Syria, and freedom to all oppressed people. May we always stand against oppression from a position of principle rather than an inherited cause.

    PS: Never have those words come out of the mouth of youth I met on the streets fighting against Israeli aggression. They were always the ones that were eager to show solidarity with the oppressed. I am grateful that they have humbled me and taught me liberation transcends a single struggle.”

    1. Illy says:

      “I understand that you want to protect Syrians from British bombs; but what do you propose to do to protect Syrians from Russian and regime bombs?”

      What do you propose a tiny country like the UK does to stop the Russians bombing Syria?

      What evidence do you have that Syria will be better off after western “intervention”, as opposed to every other time we’ve gone meddling in that area of the world?

    2. Jams O'Donnell says:

      I must say that if I had to choose between you and Nafeez Ahmed I’d take him every time . Your cheap denigration of Robert Fisk and Ahmed, your rather frenzied tone, your obvious hatred of Assad and Putin, all mark you out as one of those I mention above, who are dedicated to the interference in, or subversion of, or attempted overthrow of sovereign states in the interests of the US. Why this should be so I fail to see.

      The only sensible way out of this situation is for the West to aid Russia in shutting down the civil war by demoralising ALL militants as quickly as possible, and then to negotiate a settlement. Your espousal of helping your own personal choice of rebels to overthrow Assad (helped by a major power like Russia)can only lead to prolonged war, killing and destruction – and possibly a third world war – is that what you want? If so, your egotism is astonishing.

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        I might add that is people like you, dupes of the neocon (yes, I know what it means) establishment in the US (and which is itself captured by the Israeli lobby there), with a (possibly justifiable) hatred of Assad, who caused this terrorism and destruction in the first place. Dupes who were egged on to make Syria the latest in a string of Islamic “revolutions” – to make the world better for US and Israeli interests. You shouldn’t let the word “Palestine” past your lips.

  38. Ken Waldron says:

    “For most commenters, Syria isn’t about Syrians; it is about ideological battles at home. For them it is not about what is good or bad for Syrians but about whether David Cameron is or isn’t a bastard (as it happens, I share their contempt for the Tories). And if David Cameron says Syrians have suffered under Assad then what better way to show him up than to deny that Assad has had anything to do with Syrian suffering (Syrians own testimonies notwithstanding). To this end, they have trawled the nether regions of the internet to find any conspiracist drivel they can find to absolve Assad for his crimes.”

    Most Commentators above in fact never even mentioned Cameron: only two: John Fullerton & Bringiton. That’s a grand total of umm…three posts out of what ? 146. If you really want to write a believable narrative to tell us all how you are right and your detractors are all misguided, it is best not to start with a big fat straw man as a lead in to the insults, Idrees. Otherwise people might suspect from the onset that the collective caricature of your detractors is likewise something you just made up…

  39. Ken Waldron says:

    Hmmm… have I been blocked?

    1. Illy says:

      Nope, but this thread might be dying a little due to age/page placement.

      1. Ken Waldron says:

        I’ve been trying to post a comment on this article by John H eight times now… he can’t post himself due to a technical hitch on the site.

    2. “Have I been blocked?” No, you haven’t.

      1. Ken Waldron says:

        Thanks Mike. How come anything posted with a link to John Hilley’s article disappeared into the ether?

  40. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Mohammed Idrees Ahmad

    Raqqa: Syria and Russia agreed at the outset to use a mix of ground troops and air cover for urban areas, to minimise civilian casualties. Surely that makes more sense than a bombing campaign, which is …umm .. .rather a blunt instrument?

    For most commenters, Syria isn’t about Syrians; it is about ideological battles at home.

    It’s clear that those who take offense at your article

    1) Are opposed in principle to illegitimate regime change, taking into account variously the bare principle of illegitimacy, the horrific implications of war, and the disastrous mess left afterwards; and/or
    2) Are sceptical of the individual claims that claim give justification for the war.

    In neither case is there any indication that anyone is impervious to the implications for Syrian people. And not all commenters live in the UK.

    Sources

    Sources such as AI and HRW no longer have credibility. A few months ago I would have been influenced by an article in Al Jazeera (owned by Qatar which is putting billions into ovethrowing al Assad), quoting Amnesty International (partially funded by US and UK governments and with record for getting it wrong when it really matters), quoting something impressively titled the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, (but long exposed). Not any more. (There are links provided by me and others above, to well-referenced articles on the role of human rights organisations)

    Atrocities by Syrian Government and Russia

    Your discussion on the use of chemical weapons is not convincing: ‘Shortly after the regime’s August 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta, a group of truthers in America promoted the idea that the attack was carried out by Assad’s opponents. To back this, they cited an open letter to Obama …’ I’m pretty sure that none of the analyses I have cited above rely on this letter, or Seymour Hersh for that matter. Rather on the relevant facts and logic.

    It was your supporter Brian Slocock who relied on Fisk, inaccurately: I was merely corrected Brian’s claim on Fisk’s beliefs .

    I read your linked article, The New Truthers: Americans Who Deny Syria Used Chemical Weapons. I know little about the claim re ‘the entry into Syria on August 17 and 19 of US-trained guerrilla forces of the Free Syrian Army, numbering more than 300 — and the passage of those forces through Ghouta about the time of the chemical attack’, but I note that Bromwich’s source is the Jerusalem Post …

    “Russia is dropping white phosphorous on Syrians.’ You haven’t given anything in support of this claim – maybe you are relying in this: ‘The Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, a Syrian opposition group, claimed that a Russian warplane targeted Idlib province’s Benin village using a white phosphorous bomb.’ http://www.albawaba.com/news/syria-white-phosphorus-bomb-dropped-idlib-village-768582

    Putin, like him or loathe him, has scarcely put a foot wrong over Syria. I am not prepared to believe that he would use white phosphorus on Syrian people, or that al Assad would agree to it, without good evidence.

    Palestine

    ‘Lastly, if you are a supporter of the Palestinian cause and you are here making excuses for Assad, shame on you’

    You must know that the suggestion that the majority of Palestinians are not almost totally behind the Syrian government, as they have always been, is totally mendacious. This particular whopper doesn’t warrant serious attention, but see for example: http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/2015/07/16/statement-of-palestinian-groups-and-individuals-in-the-occupied-homeland-refugee-camps-and-the-diaspora-about-the-global-war-on-syria-3/

    Palestinians have always supported Syria, because Syria has always supported them. They have full rights in Syria, except for citizenship (so as not to negate their claims in Palestine). Al Assad has always insisted on the legitimacy of the Hamas and Hezbollah struggle for Palestine.

    As far as I’m concerned, this claim alone discredits you.

    Don’t know much about Yarmouk, but I recall lots of reports of great resistance, and punitive response when the rebels invaded. To focus purely on the effects of the siege is somewhat dishonest.

    ‘Truthers’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’:
    Interesting that Idrees and two of his supporters have resorted to this egregious tactic to close down research and debate: Orwell would probably agree that ‘truther’ is a new low.

    1. Idrees says:

      You claim to be a supporter of the Palestinian cause, yet you write this about Yarmouk?

      “Don’t know much about Yarmouk,”

      Seriously? You don’t know much about a place where over 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in the past 3 years, tens of thousands starved, and 168 killed under torture? You don’t know about a place that has suffered a crippling regime siege for over two years?
      http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-civil-war-thousands-palestinians-killed-ongoing-conflict-2148325
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-governments-indiscriminate-and-stupid-bombing-of-the-yarmouk-refugee-camp-is-the-10160805.html
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/10/yarmouk-is-being-annihilated-palestinians-in-syria-are-left-to-their-fate
      http://www.palestine-studies.org/jps/fulltext/162936

      And did you actually cite a letter from the pro-fascist SSM as evidence of Palestinian support for Assad? Do you even know where Palestinian public opinion stands?
      http://beyondcompromise.com/2014/04/13/at-least-168-palestinians-tortured-to-death-by-syrian-regime/

      It is obvious that your concern is not Palestinians. They are dispensable. You can ignore, even excuse, their suffering if you can’t blame it on Israel. But Palestinians don’t make such distinctions. They reject all oppressors.

      And did you seriously think revealing your Stalinist sympathies publicly was a good idea?

      “Putin, like him or loathe him, has scarcely put a foot wrong over Syria. I am not prepared to believe that he would use white phosphorus on Syrian people, or that al Assad would agree to it, without good evidence.”

      I take it you find nothing wrong with this then?
      http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/russian-forces-carried-out-at-least-10-attacks-on-medical-facilities-in-syria-in-october.html

      Or this:
      http://time.com/4129222/russia-airstrikes-syria-civilian-casualties-isis/

      Or this:
      http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-11-27/british-watchdog-group-says-russian-planes-are-killing-syrian-civilians-alarming

      So you don’t trust Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. You have something in common with Netanyahu then. He also thinks their reports on Palestine are biased. Guess who doesn’t? Norman Finkelstein. Write to him. Ask him what the thinks of Amnesty and HRW.

      Do you also distrust the UN Human Rights Council, the ICRC, and Medicins Sans Frontieres?

      What is a trusted, unbiased source then? RT? Sputniknews? Russia-Insider? Globalresearch.ca?

      1. Jams O'Donnell says:

        Nothing to say, Idrees, about how the dismemberment of Iraq and Syria is part of the zionist plan for a Greater Israel, and the part you are playing in helping this. You pretend to be a friend of the Palestinians, but your every word is a brick in the foundation of a secure Israel, surrounded by impotent, fragmented states. Do you seriously think that if you got your “free” Syria, that it would be allowed to do anything to help the Palestinians? You only cement in their chains.

        1. Barbara McKenzie says:

          ‘You pretend to be a friend of the Palestinians, but your every word is a brick in the foundation of a secure Israel, surrounded by impotent, fragmented states. Do you seriously think that if you got your “free” Syria, that it would be allowed to do anything to help the Palestinians? You only cement in their chains.’

          Exactly. Syria, with the rights it is has offered Palestinians, and more importantly the unswerving political support it has given them, is Palestine’s best friend. And Syria’s good relations with Russia and China will only benefit Palestine.

          Do you remember when Tony Blair was strutting round the world trying to get support for war? I remember a press conference between Blair and Bashar al Assad (first time I had noticed either of them, as I live on the other side of the world).

          Tony Blair, all easy charm, was crapping on about the fight against terrorism … Hamas, when Bashar stopped him dead in his tracks by saying ‘We don’t consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. They’re legitimate fighters for freedom’, or some such. Tony was absolutely thrown, but soon was back to all the charm, ‘we have a different perspective but …)

          Tony Blair put me, and a lot of people, off ‘charisma’ for ever.

      2. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Shout away Idrees, I don’t think anyone is listening to you. You have made it clear that the reason you support the NATO narrative is because you support the NATO agenda.

        Shame on me because I don’t claim to be an expert on Yarmouk? How ridiculous!

    2. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Excellent, Barbara. Great research.

  41. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Syria watchers might be amused and impressed, as I was, by Jonathon Pie’s take on the issue – do have a look, if you’ve missed it so far.

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Thanks Barbara – so good it should have been true.

    2. leavergirl says:

      Whoa! This vid made my day!!!! 😀

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Good! Defy anyone to come up with a better summary!

        1. leavergirl says:

          Can’t be done. He nailed it.

  42. Ken Waldron says:

    Bella’s mistaken claim of ‘truth’ on Syria

    Bella Caledonia has published an article by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, asking: What is to be done about Syria?

    In an introductory tweet, Bella’s editor announces the piece as “the truth about Syria”. As a large number of comments on the article suggest, it’s nothing of the kind.

    The Bella editor is challenged on exactly why the site is playing host to such war narrative. His response to one such comment:
    I’m confused about your outrage Kevin? It would be good to hear the basis of it? As the author writes: “The debate now is driven by fear and optics alone. The flawed logic guiding the rush to action might deliver some telegenic victories, but will certainly make things worse in the longer run.”
    Bella, presumably, sees this as a statement of ‘war aversion’. Yet, consider what the author says in his preceding lines:
    But if global inaction after the August 2013 chemical massacre in Syria yielded a disaster—at the time of the attacks, 30 months into the conflict, close to a hundred thousand people had been killed; in the next 30 months, the number of the dead would treble—action now is unlikely to make things better. The action being considered in 2013 at least had the merit of good faith.
    The strong inference here is that military “inaction” in 2013 was a serious mistake, leading to greater deaths. We’re asked to believe that the action being considered by Cameron and Obama was initiated in “good faith”. And we’re also expected to accept without question the ‘certainty’ of Assad’s responsibility for these attacks.

    Whatever one’s views on such issues, these lines should be enough to indicate the author’s own real war agenda. Indeed, the very title of the piece plays immediately to liberal war sensitivities.

    The author asks us to blame Assad for the rise of Isis, ignoring the West’s key role. He won’t countenance the possibility that bombing in 2013 would have led to even more deaths. The death count is all attributed to Assad. His ‘reticence’ about the rush to action now, as opposed to 2013, is because this one isn’t specifically about bombing Assad. It’s also contradicted by his actual prescription at the end of the piece for deeper militarist involvement:
    This can be ensured either through the imposition of a no-bombing zone across Syria or by giving shoulder-fired MANPADs to the Syrian rebels.
    This military aid, we’re to presume, is for Cameron’s proclaimed ‘70,000 moderate rebels’ still ready to fight Assad. Robert Fisk thinks otherwise. Instead, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad takes the “indispensable Charles Lister” as an ‘authoritative’ voice on such matters. Writing at the right-wing Spectator, Lister also laments: “Had the West more definitively intervened in Syria early on, we would undoubtedly have more moderate, more cohesive and more natural ally-material opposition to work with.” A Visiting Fellow at the conservative Brookings Doha Center, Senior Consultant to The Shaikh Group, and once leading figure at IHS Janes’ “Terrorism and Insurgency Center”, Lister is part of an establishment ‘think tank’ circle posing as objective scholars, what Glenn Greenwald exposes as “the sham ‘terrorism expert’ industry”.

    Readers of the Bella article may rightfully ask why an author upholding such figures and ‘military solutions’ ever got commissioned by its editors.

    In defending this, the Bella editor tweets that many of those commenting below the article are being “incredibly naïve about Assad.”

    Whatever the truth of Assad’s own conduct in this conflict, that’s a pretty patronising remark. Another Bella response appears to use the author’s academic status as a seeming rebuke to those who have ‘no such understanding’ of the issues. The article is further lauded by Bella as being “a more nuanced view” of the conflict.

    Alas, this is so much Guardian-type posturing.

    The more urgent and direct question here should be: what is to be done about the West?

    As Chomsky so often asserts, we should be doing all we actively can to challenge, expose and resist the mendacious actions of our own states and governments. Pilger makes the same essential point in asking us to see the West’s dark record of aggressions over Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. That kind of opposition is, in itself, an act of humanitarian intervention in support of already war-afflicted Syrians.

    Sites like Bella should be on emergency footing right now, standing with Stop the War and other such voices in helping to resist the war parties. It should be shining the most damning light on Nato’s militarism, alongside the West’s support for Saudi and other repressive regimes in inflaming this conflict. As copious links provided in the comments section show, the West’s and their Gulf proxies’ leading part in the disastrous attempt at regime change in Syria is all too obvious.

    Rather than invite the kind of militarist line being laundered and spun in this piece, Bella should be urgently promoting decisive commentary against war propaganda and more weaponry. Otherwise, what does Bella fashion itself as? A purveyor of Guardian-type war editorials and tortured call-to-war mitigations?

    The war media are in full drive, joined, as ever, by liberal White Man’s Burden appeals for dutiful intervention. Indeed, the first two paragraphs of this Bella article look like something straight out of a Guardian leader. “After Paris, Syria can no longer be ignored”, announces the author. Shouldn’t a supposedly critical, left-leaning site like Bella be asking more incisive questions about the role of the French state and their allies in all of this? Here’s 10 key truths for a start.

    The author of this piece, and his Pulse Media site, proclaim ‘pro-uprising’, ‘people-defending’ motives, while positioning themselves around the ‘necessary intervention’ argument. It would be facile to label them neo-cons. Yet, they employ a more insidious war-speak, using false emotionalism as a spur to ‘external involvement’. As with Libya, they peddled this very line in 2013 over the proposed UK/US action against Syria, claiming: “An externally imposed solution is less egregious than dooming Syria to prolonged war.” Any resistant voices, such as Stop the War, who have argued otherwise, who see the repeated folly of more bombs and militarism, are denounced for their “left infantilism.” So much for ‘nuanced analysis’.

    That’s essentially, what Bella has given a platform to here. I don’t know whether that’s down to ‘naivety’, or the site’s own attempt at ‘nuance’, but it certainly suggests an absence of critical recognition and assertive activism.

    John H.

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      It’s too late now for poor Bella. She has taken the establishment shilling, and lost her virtue. She will end up in Gin Lane with the rest of the tatty trollops who tout for business there. She should change her name to avoid tarnishing the good one she had. Goodbye Bella – you were a nice girl once.

    2. leavergirl says:

      Aw, guys, so Mike made a mistake. Jeez. Give him some slack. Nobody’s perfect. Shrill rants against Bella — our Bella — I cannot support any more than Mike’s misled piece. Besides, Bella is far more than Mike’s pieces. So let not turn into the dogs of war ready to shred it while it briefly falters.

    3. Jams O'Donnell says:

      “Collapse of stout party”, I think.

    4. Jams O'Donnell says:

      “Collapse of stout party”, I think. Ken, Barbara and John H.with the help of others, seem to have comprehensively demolished this exercise in mendacious trash. Public – 1, Bella – 0.

      1. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Yes, v. grateful to Idrees for his responses, each time exposing himself further.

        Have to say, I’ll be dining out on this ‘truthers’ accusation for ever!

        1. Jams O'Donnell says:

          I’m jealous – he never replies to me …

          But with any luck he’ll never be back. Unless he’s a masochist … oh! no!

  43. Barbara McKenzie says:

    FYI, three links to statements by former UK ambassador to Syria.

    First, very brief, on Cameron’s ‘deceitful’ claim of 70,000 moderate fighters:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh1BbvbMOp4

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/07/former-ambassador-attacks-camerons-arrogant-syria-policy

    V. good radio clip with Ford, half way down this article
    https://www.rt.com/uk/322605-corbyn-sanctions-isis-funding/

  44. Keith Granger says:

    After everything we know of recent times how anyone can accept that Assad gassed his own people is beyond me.

    Believing that “The action being considered in 2013 at least had the merit of good faith.” is a complete failure to accept the reality of psychopathy (or is indeed afflicted).

    And as anyone who has experience will know; continuing to listen to, engage with, and entertain such disorder with “good faith” is useless and counter productive. Nothing short of professional treatment is worth the effort.

    1. Barbara McKenzie says:

      ‘After everything we know of recent times how anyone can accept that Assad gassed his own people is beyond me.’

      Quite so.

      It seems to me that you accept the Nato narrative, on everything, or you don’t on anything. There is no such thing as being ‘sometimes unreliable’, when it comes to the truth. If you decide that the West has lied its head off about facts or motives, over WMDs, Saddam pulling babies out of incubators, whatever, you are not obliged to accept a single word of the dominant discourse.

      1. leavergirl says:

        Barbara, here is an interesting take on the whole IS thing. What might be your reaction?

        http://www.npr.org/2015/11/22/456989124/can-we-construct-a-counter-narrative-to-isis-s-end-goal

        1. Barbara McKenzie says:

          Hi Leavergirl

          Thanks very much for link. An intelligent attempt to help us better understand what’s going on.

          Doesn’t properly address our role in promoting it, by destroying functioning countries, but that’s a separate issue!

          Read it once, will read it again.

          Tx again!
          Barbara

  45. David Allan says:

    My thanks to Bella for publishing this article and providing a platform for the author, I remind myself that a hundred years ago events had spiralled into the Great War and ask myself if in 2015 we are sleepwalking into yet another conflict with potential to escalate into a conflagration of an unamaginable scale.

    De-escalating this potential should be everyone’s priority – the history of war-mongering preceeds the history of war.

    On reading some of the conflicting comments made and the tone adopted by so many sanctamonious contributors, who or what side you believe , it all matters not a jot , now we have to rely on Westminster’s finest to determine through debate what decision should be made.

    Had we been approaching a 24 March 2016 Scottish Independence Day , would opinion’s expressed differ. Would Cameron and the rump of the UK be sabre-rattling ?

    Bella good!

    1. Barbara McKenzie says:

      If you want to go into bat for this writer, you would be doing him and yourself a favour if you focused on what you really like about him, in terms of content and style. This would be preferable to patronising other commenters, who have expressed genuine outrage at what they perceive as a turn to the right from Bella Caledonia, and done their best to explain why.

    2. Jams O'Donnell says:

      No. Bella double-plus-ungood. Bella run around with naive and deluded fanatically anti-Assad writers who do not suspect that they are tools to build Eretz Israel in Middle East and add further blow against Palestinians whom they wish to help.

      And if you are going to use big words like “sanctimonious” (which is also a plausible description of your own post) you should really learn to spell them first.

    3. Ken Waldron says:

      “…we are sleepwalking into yet another conflict with potential to escalate into a conflagration of an unamaginable scale.”

      Rather than concern yourself with judging the relative levels of the “sanctimonious” amongst the contributors would it not better to concern yourself with the fundamental contradiction you find yourself in David ?
      For here you are complementing the promotion of a warmongering article which is the actual dwale to the sleepwalk you so fear.

    4. JG says:

      And it’s the same bastards doing the warmongering – for Grey, Churchill, Milner and their masters read Cameron, Osborne and their string pullers.

  46. Barbara McKenzie says:

    I was going to say something about human rights in my reply to Idrees, but there really is no point in addressing him, given his sympathies

    A CIA executive said that human rights organisations now do a lot of the work the CIA used to do (I think it’s in one of those links above). Plenty of evidence that HRW was set up specifically for the purpose of propaganda.

    Amnesty International’s sponsoring of lies such as Saddam Hussein removing babies from incubators, or lies about Gaddafi, have helped pave the way for these catastrophic wars.

    Here’s a link to a discussion on the human rights industry. Quite solid. I think there was some ongoing debate between author and AI for a while

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/08/amnesty-international-and-the-human-rights-industry/

    In it it refers to CounterPunch article from Diane Johnstone entitled, “How Amnesty International Became the Servant of U.S. Warmongering Foreign Policy,” which might be interesting, when I find it.

  47. David Allan says:

    I am not complementing the article I am complementing Bella for providing the platform for the content to be then dissected. The attacks on Bella are unjustified.

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      This sort of propaganda can be found in a wide range of sources, from the BBC to the Guardian, The independent, the Telegraph etc. etc. There is absolutely no need for BC to join in in publishing such dubious material – it is widely available, for anyone who wants to be misled.

      Do you thing BC should perhaps also publish extracts from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, or maybe “Mein Kampf”. There seems as much justification. The comments of the editor do not support your thesis that he put it up merely to be dissected.

      Which leaves the question – why publish it at all. The answer can only be that the editor is keeping company with reactionary Syrian activists, and that his own personal tastes run to a right-wing stance of intervention and bombing in other countries, anti-Russianism and British exceptionalism. A stance which is closely tied to US imperial and zionist aims. A strange place for the editor of Bella Caledonia to be, it would appear to me.

      1. I think anyone reading this comment will just conclude that you are completely unhinged and incapable of adult dialogue.

        1. Jams O'Donnell says:

          Hmmm. Struck a nerve there alright. Well, you have access to the facts in this case – please correct me where I am wrong.

        2. Illy says:

          “I think anyone reading this comment will just conclude that you are completely unhinged and incapable of adult dialogue.”

          Are you referring to David or Jams there?

          Because Jams has it right: There’s no need for Bella to join in on the warmongering promotions, there’s plenty of that crap elsewhere, and once you’ve stated that you’re willing to publish crap to give “balance” then you’ve opened yourself up to being accused of having a stance unless you publish crap from all sides. You’re coming down pretty squarely in one place from my reading.

          Unless you really are about to publish something from the perspective of the guerillas who hit Paris?

      2. Barbara McKenzie says:

        My reply below was supposed be in answer to Jams, who I thought articulated the situation well, and with whom I am quite happy to have dialogue …

  48. Chris Le Pelley says:

    Idrees, your comment about Nafeez Ahmed is an outrageous smear and should be retracted. “One fool even cites the disgraced truther Nafeez Ahmed as a source.” In what possible sense can Ahmed, one of Britain’s best independent journalists, be described as either ‘disgraced’ or a ‘truther.’ What your remark tells me is that you have not read a word of Ahmed’s output or, more likely, your whole argument is in bad faith. Perhaps you should read Ahmed’s own words on the subject: http://www.nafeezahmed.com/2015/08/911-conspiracy-theory-and-bullshit.html

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Idrees’s message falls on yet more stony ground. Perhaps he should stick to the Daily Mail in future.

      All in all an unedifying experiment in influencing opinion, although most of the commentators have been superb.

    2. Barbara McKenzie says:

      I can’t share your admiration for Nafeez Ahmad, having read the article you recommend and his piece on the Gouta massacre. https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/syria-deciphering-propaganda-war-ghouta-massacre/

      Like Idrees, Nafeez Ahmad has a penchant for ad hominem attack, flinging round terms ‘like conspiracy theorist’ and ‘pro-Assad hack journalists’. His article on Gouta consists of picking holes in a very limited number of reports. He also quotes Human Rights Watch as an authority… (‘Syricide’ gave a very effective reply to some of his points, to which the author did not respond.)

      If anyone is interested in Gouta, there is a site that carried out an intensive study on the issue, aiming to be totally objective and scientific, which concluded that the ‘only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces’.

      The conclusion is here: http://whoghouta.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/the-conclusion.html

  49. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Yes. I can almost buy BC running the article, if an opposing article or response is planned. But no mention of that and in any case why do it that way round?

    I can almost buy BC thoughtlessly promoting this on twitter, after all that’s its business.

    But Mike Small continued to dig himself into a deeper and deeper hole, defending the article, praising the author. Given that Idrees’s loyalties (and style …) are so apparent, It’s hard not to draw conclusions about Mike Small’s own loyalties.

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Well don’t worry Barbara. Mike will get round to telling you that you are unhinged too. Then all the rest will be added, Ken, John, etc.

      Mike will then have a little audience of sycophants who will agree with his every word. Heaven!

  50. Barbara McKenzie says:

    For those still impressed by the ‘al Assad bad’ narrative (and its very hard not to be affected), here are a few comments on the early protests:

    Whereas HR is true to form: “The protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011”- Human Rights Watch, March 2012, Washington

    Others differ:

    “I have seen from the beginning armed protesters in those demonstrations … they were the first to fire on the police. Very often the violence of the security forces comes in response to the brutal violence of the armed insurgents” – the late Father Frans Van der Lugt, January 2012, Homs Syria

    “The claim that armed opposition to the government has begun only recently is a complete lie. The killings of soldiers, police and civilians, often in the most brutal circumstances, have been going on virtually since the beginning”. – Professor Jeremy Salt, October 2011, Ankara Turkey

    These from Professor Tim Anderson’s upcoming book ‘The Dirty War on Syria’, as quoted in http://www.globalresearch.ca/history-of-us-natos-covert-war-on-syria-daraa-march-2011/5492182

  51. David Allan says:

    By choice I do not read or financially support the Guardian or the Telegraph.

  52. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Looks like you have yet to convince some of your public that I am unhinged. Perhaps it’s you, Mike, who is hanging a little loosely?

    How about an exercise in your “adult dialogue” to convince us otherwise. We have all pinned our hearts to our sleeves. Why don’t you pen a Statement of Editorial Values, or something similar? Then we will know just where you are coming from, and can henceforth choose to avoid you or not as the fancy takes us?

    1. “Jams” I’d love to pen a statement of Editorial Values for you but I’m too busy hanging out with all my far right-wing Syrian friends and proofing my new extract from Mein Kampf for Bella.

      I’ve spent 20 years and more writing about British State atrocities and imperialism in Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I don’t need to prove this to you or anyone else.

      1. Ken Waldron says:

        It might help if you explain just how your opposition to Imperialism and I assume, also its modern guise “Liberal Interventionism” suddenly changed just for Syria then Mike.

          1. Illy says:

            So you were always in favour, and just wrote from the opposite point of view?

            Well done.

  53. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Guardian and Sarin gas attack in Gouta

    ‘If there is any comfort in how the Guardian has been reporting the Middle East, especially Libya and Syria, it is that many of its readers, judging from their remarks in ‘Comment is Free’, do not appear to believe or trust it.’

    In this article about Guardian misreporting Jeremy Salt homes in on the Sarin gas attack in Gouta.

    http://www.palestinechronicle.com/the-guardian-of-what-the-media-and-war-propaganda/

  54. Illy says:

    I find myself thinking about the words: “By Any Means Necessary” that are in the UN resolution.

    Then I remember the last time I heard those words in a positive light: Babylon 5, Season 1, Episode 12.

    I wonder what a better man than Cameron would do with that sort of authority to deal with the situation in Syria.

  55. Barbara McKenzie says:

    This is mildly interesting:

    Here is a petition, from 2012?, signed by “left” luminaries demanding intervention in Syria to overthrow Asad https://www.change.org/p/solidarity-with-the-syrian-struggle-for-dignity-and-freedom

    The only two signatories who claim Scotland as their domicile are Brian Slocock and Muhammad Idrees Ahmad …

  56. Amill says:

    In the photo.. 3 so called men stand underneath an unstable building, oblivious to common sense.. it makes me wonder how dumb people can be..and why?

    Anyone from the middle east can confirm their culture has been at war since day 1 it is nothing new.. The west does not need to worry about any of this… it is not our problem. We have our own kids, and adults to educate properly, and help our elders,,instead of worrying about social media headlines.. We ousted the Caveman nothing stopping this from happening again.. Wake Up and smell the toast.. Syria is what it is.. you don’t like it then take your barefoot self and walk on to another village…No sympathy here.. we got Veterans worth more then Syrian kids…

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