Monday, February 8, 2016

“Exterminate! Exterminate!”

The commission of inquiry found there are "reasonable grounds to believe that high ranking officers... knew of the vast number of deaths occurring in detention facilities under their control".

DDGD February 9, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The Responsibility to Ignore Group (formerly known as The Realists’ Guild): We believe that we can never make a difference in this mad world of ours, and that only problems on the domestic front merit our serious attention. For this, we further believe that we have a responsibility to ignore the evil around us. Because ignored evil is contained evil, as we know, and high walls and fortified borders are sufficient protections. Amorality is how we prosper. Indifference to the plight of others is how we prove our strength, resolve and superiority. For yes, we are also convinced that we remain far more morally and intellectually superior to others, and it is indeed for this reason that we cannot afford to care about them, lest they hold us back, or, heavens forbid, we descend to their level.

The Delirica

Whatever makes you sleep well at night: It’s Not Obama’s FaultThe inconvenient truths about why you can’t blame the West for what's happened in Syria.” The argument made here by Aaron David Miller would have been believable had the United States not had a long history of interventions, many of which justified on humanitarian lines, and the last of which, in Libya, came exactly as the nonviolent protest movement erupted in Syria. Indeed, in Libya, the administration chose to intervene on the side of an armed insurrection, while it turned a blind eye to the cause of the nonviolent protesters in Syria, even they dominated the scene for close to a year, before the pressures of militarization took over and the country descended into civil war.

So, when Syrian activists looked to the United States in particular for leadership, this tendency did not come out of nowhere, it was not born in a vacuum,  rather, it stemmed from well-established facts and trends in America’s own history, including its own recent actions. The Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq justified on the basis of democracy promotion, and its support of the Freedom Agenda, which included providing funds for training thousands of nonviolent activists in Syria and across the region played an important role here. So did the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya, support for change in Tunisia and Egypt, and its own stances on the crisis in Syria itself, from President Obama’s early praise of nonviolent protest leaders, to his call for Assad’s departure, to his infamous red line.

Beyond the United States, the development and adoption by dozens of states as well as the UN of the legal doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect, whose applicability to the Syrian situation was all too evident since the early days of the Syrian Revolution, played a crucial role in building up expectations as well. Obama himself was known to have been a supporter of the application of this doctrine in Darfur, and he had invoked it in regard to Libya. Having Susan Rice and Samantha Powers on his national security team, two one-time vehement advocate of this doctrine loomed as a good sing in this regard. If there were an aura of inevitability to the situation in Syria devolving into a civil war, there was an even stronger aura of inevitability in regard to America’s intervention in Syria.

The prospect that Syria would be allowed to devolve into this quagmire flew in the face of a well-established legal, humanitarian and political trends championed by liberals like Obama, endorsed by promises from a variety of politicians, Left and Right, and sealed with legal doctrines that ended up acquiring UN support. As such, Obama’s decision on noninvolvement in Syria came out of nowhere and cannot be justified in this callous manner.

Trying to pass the hot potato to the Arabs comes by way of deflecting blame. Authoritarian Arab regimes had no reason to rush to the defense of nonviolent prodemocracy protesters, but, giving America’s dithering, they had enough time to do what they do best: help Assad turn the nonviolent movement into an armed insurrection, then, Islamize it. Moreover, when Western Europe itself proved time and again that, without American leadership, she is incapable of mustering the will necessary to stop conflicts even when they occur on its own turf, as was the case in Bosnia and Kosovo, trying to lay the blame on an impotent entity like the Arab League make absolutely no sense. In fact, this is what “infantilizing” our situation actually looks like. There is an Arab identity out there, but it has repeatedly proven too weak to allow for the adoption of concerted efforts on any crisis. The reality is Saudis, Egyptians, Moroccans, Syrians etc. are different peoples with different, sometimes, radically different, customs and interests and outlooks to be lumped together under one epithet. Outside scholars have known that and asserted it for decades. As such, it’s simply too facetious to invoke Arabism at this stage.  

To put it differently: watching someone drown when you are a good swimmer and in possession of a boat, life vests and a rope, yet choosing to do nothing is actually illegal in many countries, and not just immoral. Justifying your inaction by claiming that you were afraid of some hypothetical sharks in the water, or by claiming that it was the responsibility of other people to intervene, people whom you well know are bad swimmers and can barely keep their heads above water should they go in, does not help your case.

As for America, people look up to her, because she willingly (and actively, at least since WWII) sought to be in that position, by virtue of its values and interests. Syria was never a test that Obama “couldn’t possibly have passed,” it was a test that he chose to ignore. And no, Obama was not expected to do everything alone, but he was expected to lead the way, as behooves an American leader. There have been numerous occasions where an American intervention could have made ample difference and prevented this mass slaughter.

Even now there are a variety of ways where an American intervention can create a more suitable environment for holding serious peace talks by establishing a better balance of forces on the ground. But Obama has amply proven by now that he is not the kind of guy who can be counted on to do the decent thing. Realists reserve their decency to the home front, because the ideal of creating a better world is not realistic, nor is it the responsibility of the powerful. This is what idealists may contend and want, but it’s not what realism is about.

So, Aaron, you are quite wrong: America does squarely belong on the list of countries to blame for what’s happening today in Syria, and across the region. It belongs there by virtue of its own history, its own values, its own power, and the actions and stated positions of its recent leaders, including many of those adopted by President Obama himself.

The realists might want to deny all this, falling back on that old amoral behavior, that never disappeared anyway, because it makes the job of leadership much easier and, perhaps, much more popularly justifiable, considering its low material costs on the short-run. But that does not make their choice right, neither strategically or morally, and will not make its long-term costs disappear. When concentration camps are back in vogue again, there is something fundamentally wrong at works, and the most powerful nation on earth, as its leaders keep boasting, cannot afford to look the other way or wring its hands.

The Deliricon

Dikafwellian (Dickensian/Kafkaesque/Orwellian): An adjective used to aptly describe modern realities. But although the term itself is accurate, the intellectual credentials of its inventors and potential users remain subject to further scrutiny.

Dosdikafwellian (Dostoyevskyesque/Dickensian/Kafkaesque/Orwellian): A synonym of the term Dikafwellian often used by more pretentious intellectual wannabe types. Hence, it’s far more common.

The Daily Delirynth

To His Undying Shame! Kerry 'blames opposition' for continued Syria bombing. He also warns them that rebels will be decimated as Russia intensifies its bombing campaign over the next three months. So, nothing that the Russians and Iranians are currently doing in Syria comes as a surprise to the people in the Obama administration, and none of it seems to meet with their disapproval. At this stage, none of this is surprising, but every bit of it is still disgusting. What a shame! What a crying shame!

For A Little More Shame: Syria: Assad regime kills so many detainees it amounts to 'extermination' of civilian population, UN says. “UN investigators called the deaths of those detained by the regime a crime against humanity.Russia/Syria: Daily Cluster Munition Attacks. “Increased Use of Widely Banned Weapon.” The one line the West keeps repeating about Syria that is helping Assad win the war. “As the diplomats called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis… pro-regime forces were encircling Aleppo — Syria's largest city — aided by heavy Russian airstrikes that are estimated to have killed scores of civilians.” But of course none of this means anything. It’s not the responsibility of the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth to do anything to stop this, not to mention prevent it when they could. Because, as history has repeatedly shown, principles and wise-ass utterances aside, with great power comes great indifference to the suffering of others. For it’s by caring for others that we become weak. 

Shame As A Necessary Good: Why Obama fails the leadership test in the Middle East. “The US "better safe than sorry" approach to the Middle East has proven dangerous.” Indeed, the Obama administration created more chaos in the Middle East, but it did so, on the cheap. That’s the nature of its accomplishment: not less chaos, but cheaper chaos. More importantly perhaps, contrary to its predecessor, which recognized its fuck ups at one point, owned up to them, and tried to correct them through the surge, rekindling the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and remaining committed to isolating the Assad regime, the Obama administration seem quite content with its fuckups. Indeed, the administration and its realist supporters seem committed to seeing wisdom in their folly, and triumphs in their multiplying defeats, and to congratulating themselves on all this, right up to the Gates of Hell, and even they step in pulling the rest of us behind them. Talk about ideology. Realism turns out to be the more dangerous ideology of all.

Assavros calls on all the Shialeks of the world to come to Syria to exterminate the reviled Sunnimies

So, and as stories of extermination of detainees and of Russia’s use of cluster munition come out, nothing will change, because no one in the administration sees a need for change. What’s happening in Syria is everybody else’s problem, and fault. And it’s actually good, since it is draining our enemies’ resources, sapping their energy, and preventing them from shifting their focus elsewhere… and it’s others that are paying the price for all this. Isn’t amorality wonderful?  We can watch other people fuck each other while we reap the benefit.

As for that possibility that we might see ourselves one day friendless and surrounded by enemies united in our hatred, the realists would like to remind us that we have the strongest military in the world, even when compared with all other armies combined. Well, that may be, but, doesn’t such facile calculus represent exactly what hubris is made of?

Be that as it may, and considering all the above, I can only conclude by saying: Fuck you President Obama and Secretary Kerry. Fuck you both from all my heart. Personally, I'll never forget the day when Kerry paid a visit to Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus back in January 2005, right after his defeat to Bush in the elections, and by way of trying to undermine Bush’s Syria policy at the time. The series of interrogations to which I was subjected took place right after this visit, and were, in a way, a product of it. Assad had been avoiding me up until then, for fear of antagonizing America. But once reassured that there were powerful people in the Senate who stood by him, and thought of him as a reformer and an ally even, my immunity disappeared, and that space for activism which my family, my colleagues and I have created inside Syria began to shrink continuously until we were ordered out of the country. Now, the same person is involved in sealing Syria’s fate, and not only mine, and that of the liberal democrats. Admittedly, we were always few, but we were pioneers, we led. And for all the boasting of leftist and Islamists, this was our revolution to begin with, and we were betrayed first, and foremost. We had to be. With us out of the way, with few nonviolence advocates and moderates on the scene, the administration can then justify the betrayal of the entire country. Where are the moderates? They keep asking. Right!

Well, again, fuck you sir, and sir, and all you SOBs who support their policies on Syria. Fuck you all for being such good and decent folk on so many domestic issues and so amorally tribal when it comes to certain foreign affairs. Fuck you all for being so good at compartmentalizing your sense of decency and humanity, for imposing geographical limitations on them. 

Love in the time of sectarianism 

Impunity Triumphant: Couple takes eye-opening wedding photos in bombed-out Syrian city. (“The wedding photographer told Eid that the purpose of the shoot was to demonstrate “life is stronger than death.” But the images are more complicated than its "love conquers all" message. Youseff is a soldier in Bashar al-Assad’s army. The Syrian president’s regime did this to Homs after rebel forces took over Homs in the middle of the war. After Syrian forces laid siege to the stronghold, the rebels evacuated and the city fell back under governmental control at the end of 2015.) No. This is not simply about a soldier in Assad’s army celebrating his wedding while standing in the ruins of a former rebel stronghold. The truth is even worse. This is about an Alawite couple celebrating victory over their fellow countrymen who happen to be Sunnis. By pointing this out, there will be many who call me a sectarian agitator. Still that level of hatred is definitely not Obama’s doing. And it is still ugly even when it is so sexed up. Eye-opening indeed.

Our societies offer people like Assad enough ingredients for them to whip out a nasty sectarian quagmire. That’s why we needed to oust him. That’s why we needed help. When people like Obama refuse to intervene on our behalf, Assad has plenty people like him around the world who will come to his rescue, intending to send a message to their people back home. Obama has sent a message to the people back home, and it resonates far stronger than anything he said directly at the Baltimore Mosque, or at any of the funerals he attended over the years.

R.E.S.P.E. C.T. U.S., other nations condemn North Korean launch of long-range rocket. The world has given much to Iran just for threatening to become a nuclear power. Meanwhile, N. Korea is already a nuclear power and already has long range missiles and is getting nothing for it. I am not really sure how Kim Jong Un defines respect, or if he can even spell it, but I am pretty sure it includes a kind of recognition of N. Korea’s status as a regional power. If a nuclear threshold state like Iran can get it, why can’t he?

But the kind of recognition that Jong Un craves, considering his country’s internal economic situation, existing state ideology, and his own deducible quirks of mind, must include a major economic and development package offered in a manner that preserves his total control of everything N. Korean. Everything has to be given directly to the state, the state will disperse it as it pleases. There will be no civil society organizations emerging, and no international organizations allowed to take part in anything, at least not on N. Korean ground. Aid and investment will have to come without any expectation of or demands for social or political openness, and without any call for the dismantlement of existing nuclear warheads and missiles. The best that could be achieved is perhaps a temporary freeze on further development of the program.

In other words, the generosity shown to Iran must be matched and raised several folds in any future deal with the Dear Leader. This is one of those hidden costs of the Iran Deal that go far beyond the Middle East and which no one would acknowledge. Just as no one wanted to see a connection between Putin’s moves in Ukraine and Obama’s policy of indifference towards Syria. But, in fact, Obama’s stance on Syria revealed to all and sundry how deep his risk-aversion goes, and this has emboldened autocrats far and wide. What better time to push the envelope than now, knowing that every crisis you create only goes to justify and deepen Obama and the realists’ risk-aversion?

The Hypocrisy Cake! Here’s What Would Happen if Saudi Arabia Deployed Troops to Syria. "Saudi Arabia's strategic goals in Syria are very different from ours. And any new introduction of foreign ground troops into Syria would be greatly complicating efforts to focus attention on ISIS as the threat," says Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs. "The Saudis know what their goal is. They want to overthrow Assad. Period."… "I would consider any introduction of foreign ground troops [into Syria] to be destabilizing. You're pushing Saudi Arabian power closer and closer to Iran," Kinzer says. "That kind of ground deployment would certainly undermine the already weak efforts toward peaceful resolution of this conflict." So, Saudi will intervene to pursuit its interests, just like everyone else has done, and that is bound to be destabilizing, just all previous interventions have accomplished, because the one power that could make a difference has chosen to abdicate it all. But to blame this hypothesized intervention by Saudi for undermining peace talks rather than the ongoing Russian bombardment and Iranian military intervention is the fucking icing on the hypocrisy cake.

Meanwhile, let’s keep ignoring that other little conflict unfolding in the region, it’ll probably resolve itself like all other ignored conflicts do. Right? Turkey descends into civil war as conflict in southeast escalates.

The Brave: ‘You created ISIS!’ Press conference scandal mars Kerry’s visit to Italy. Yes. Everybody is brave when it comes to criticizing America, and making all sorts of foolish accusations. But, admittedly, the screw-ups of the last two administrations have made doing so that much easier. Still, there is nothing truly brave about throwing your shoes or fists at America’s leaders, especially by those who fail to show such courage and principle when Russia or Iran are involved. Those who are motivated by ideology rather than commitment to human rights are not brave but assholes, and when their ideology inspires them to tie bombs around their waists and blow themselves up to make a point or take down a perceived enemy, theirs will be an act of terrorism and criminality, not bravery. Personally, I only gave myself the right to criticize America’s leaders, vehemently and openly, because I had dared criticize the Assad regime itself, even while in Syria, in very much the same open, vehement and irreverent manner with which I criticize others. Whether doing so is wise or unwise, right or wrong, smart or stupid, brave or foolish is another matter.

The point is this: a measure of balance and consistency is required here, so is the ability to differentiate between commitment to certain humanitarian principles and that which binds one to certain ideological predilections. Of course, consistency is not synonymous with resistance to change and refusing to acknowledge mistakes, and when it does, this is exactly when we can safely label it as ideological.  I cannot sympathize with or condone any action perpetrated by an ideologue or in the service of a particular ideology, even when it seems to contain a certain cathartic element. Fuck catharsis! Healing can only happen when the right things happen.

The Power of Retention: Instead of Helping Flint, Michigan Republicans Just Passed a Bill That Makes Anal Sex Illegal. Indeed, some Republicans are so anal retentive they don’t want to share the… joystick of it.

Quote of the Day

“We Americans, I think, kind of take that for granted: ‘Well, the president said this, so what?’ It isn’t that way around the world. When a president of the United States says something, especially about foreign policy or about another leader of another country, that means something, and we have to understand that that means something, and the president and the White House has to understand that means something.” Former Secretary of Defense Chuck hagel on President Obama’s decision to walk away from his red line in 2013

Tweet(s) of the Day

Video(s) of the Day

In 2013, a defector named "Caesar" smuggled over 50,000 photographs of a hospital at a military base in Damascus. These photographs revealed over 10,000 murdered and tortured victims of the Assad regime. Bellingcat was able to geolocate these photos: practically in the shadow of Assad's Presidential Palace.

The Assad regime and its allies may behave like the Daleks and go about exterminating their opponents, but we have Doctor Who himself on our side, and we shall be victorious:

Cartoons: The Cauldron

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