Thursday, August 11, 2016

Vote to the Head

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Voters United: A nonprofit organization seeking to obtain a Supreme Court decision legitimizing bullets as a form of free speech which one can then exercise to vote.


The Looming Divorce

Turkey Is No Longer a Reliable Ally. “The failed coup was a clarifying moment. Ankara and Washington don’t share values or interests.

As NATO and Turkey seem to be inching closer and closer to a divorce, the drive for an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq grows stronger and gains more traction and support in the international level. In time, Irbil seems likely to become the possible location for a new U.S. base substituting for the one in Incirlik which is fast becoming a lost cause. The United States has options, but Erdogan is making his worst nightmare come true. An independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq is not a threat to a Turkey that is a member of NATO. If Turkey is not, Kurdish-majority areas in Turkey are bound to heat up even more than they are now. A new proxy war involving Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Iraq and Iran might emerge, with the fiercest fights taking place on Turkish soil. Erdogan is letting his ego trump his better judgment. A decade ago, he wouldn’t have made such miscalculations. This is why staying in power for such long time is a bad idea.


Embedding with Autocrats

A woman approaches a Syria Democratic Forces fighter to kiss him after the fighters entered ManbijRodi Said/Reuters

Robert Fisk won't tell the truth on Syria because, like Bashar al-Assad, he fears it. “At every major point of the war, Fisk has trumpeted Assad regime and Russian propaganda.

In a 2005 article for The Independent, Fisk very aptly warned of the dangers of journalists "embedding" with the British and US armed forces during the Iraq war due to it undermining journalistic integrity for the sake of security.

Fast forward to 2012, however, at a time when the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Hezbollah, had unleashed a war of annihilation against revolutionary Syrians, and, in a reversal of his earlier appeals against journalists sacrificing integrity for security, Robert Fisk decides to embed himself right among the Assad regime forces in Aleppo and Damascus…

Fisk knows very well that the armed opposition have committed few atrocities and that they don't even compare to the daily near-genocidal violence of the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies. He also knows that the vast majority of rebel fighters are not al-Qaeda, but he must engender the idea that "there are no good guys" in Syria.

One might think this position belies a neutrality on the part of Fisk, but it's the very opposite. Take his most recent article on Aleppo – Fisk's assertion that "there are no good guys" would be easier to believe if it was him who had not written a virtual paean to Assad's Armed Forces in October 2015, wherein he concludes with a passionate rant, gushing that the "Syrian Army" is going to come out of this war "the most ruthless ... battle-hardened ... Arab army in the region ... woe betide any of its neighbours who forget this." Fisk has also argued that the Assad regime is a lesser of two evils that the West ought to support. This is what Fisk really means when he talks of "no good guys".

Fisk is keen to push the idea that the Assad's forces are still the "Syrian Arab Army", but he might be the only journalist in the world left peddling this absurdity…

Take alook at the pro-Assad forces that took part in the partially staged reclaiming of Palmyra from the retreating Islamic State – you had Shia Afghan and Iraqi militias making up the majority of the infantry, under the command of Iranians. The same scenario is playing out across most fronts in Syria, Aleppo included.

And this is precisely what Fisk is concealing from his readers – the rebel forces are overwhelmingly Syrian and local and they are fighting to defend not just their communities and their families from Assad, Iran and Russia's brutality, but also the liberty that they have tasted for the four years since the rebels liberated areas of Aleppo. 

Robert Fisk when you choose to embed yourself with sectarian militias perpetrating a genocide on behalf of a dictator, all while sipping arak to show that they are “secular,” you emerge with blood on your conscience and what’s left of your reputation. Shout-out to Patrick Cockburn.

(The) Fisk & Cock: an international chain of British and British-style taverns reserved for the Lunatic Bunch from the Left, Right and Center in society. The chain was named chiefly in “honor” of well-known self-righteous pompous ideologues masquerading as journalists, Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, and their favorite colleagues still high on some long forgotten and mostly hallucinated “accomplishments.” The Fisk & Cock is widely popular where the Huddle & Mull isn’t or is subject to a legal ban. In fact, in many liberty-challenged and justice-impaired states, including Russia, Iran and China, laws were introduced over the last decade obligating every town with a population totaling 5,000 and more to at least have one Fisk & Cock in operation near the town center, but preferably two. In practice, each such town now has 3-5 bustling F&Cs. The Fisk & Cock Inc. is currently administered by a special international shell NGO known as the Society of Fucking Lunatics & the Fucked-Up Lunatics Who Listen To Them, whose motto asks the cryptic yet important sounding question: are you fucking listening? Well, are you… punk?



Headlines Matter

People gather to buy fresh produce that was brought into rebel held areas of Aleppo by private traders from a newly opened corridor that linked besieged opposition held eastern Aleppo with western Syria that was captured recently by rebels, in Aleppo, Aug. 11, 2016.

The title of the report goes “Russia Considers Extending Humanitarian Pause in Aleppo,” but inside we run into this nugget:

But Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for one of the rebel groups fighting the Syrian government, told Reuters the Thursday ceasefire had not been upheld. Instead, he said, he cited an "escalation in Russian warplanes" and said government forces had tried to advance on the Ramousah district of Aleppo. A witness in Aleppo and another rebel official corroborated Rasheed's claims, Reuters reported.

In other words, there is no ceasefire. But the title gives Russian propagandists what they want: to make Russia look reasonable. Headlines matter, because, considering our shrinking attention span and our tendency to communicate in emojis and 140 characters or less, most people won’t even read beyond the headlines. Headlines Matter.

19: 55
The Exotic Observations & Propositions of Delirian Mundi
Known to those of his followers seeking his canonization and entry into the Valtheon of Deliriology, as Agnus Mundi, and to his detractors as Ranae Dei and even Capra Satanae, Delirian Mundi’s writings, mixing satire and philosophical reflections, continue to be polarizing, inspiring both adulation and ridicule. Bearing this in mind, we, the editors at DDGD, continue to publish these previously unknown series of “exotic observations and propositions,” as Delirian himself referred to them, as part of our continuing commitment to instigate debate over sensitive issues.

* Irrespective of the particular historical origins of the political Left and Right, at this stage in our historical march of folly, their rhetorical squabbles and declarations, especially those coming from the fringes, are clearly being exploited by competing global elite groups advancing their own particularistic agendas most of which pay little heed to the necessity of advancing public good. This said, the elite groups operating within the context of cultures that are skeptical of if not deeply inimical to democratic values pose a far greater danger to global stability and human progress than their reviled “Western” or “Westernized” counterparts.   

* The global elite are far from united, but they are aware of their existence as a unique and separate whole. The same cannot be said of other socioeconomic classes, and that’s the thing imperiling democracy more so than any conspiracy.  The struggle to maintain and advance the cause of democracy and human rights on the global stage at this juncture calls for finding ways to further connect the destinies of these other socioeconomic groups, and to make them aware of that strengthened linkage and its implications for their empowerment.  


Comic Relief… because Trump


Quote of the Day

“But the demands of survival supersede political principles. Many democrats — people who are terrified by the prospect of jihadist rule — find themselves celebrating jihadist advances… The success in breaking the siege only increases the importance of Nusra in the eyes of the local population. This is where abandonment has led.” –Leila Alshami


Hidden, Forgotten and Metastasizing

A scene from the hidden war in Sinai

 Northern Sinai: Egypt’s hidden war and open wound. “The Egyptian army's war in Sinai continues in a near total media blackout, but how long can a failed strategy of this scale stay neatly hidden?” Yes, in the age of mass media, satellite TV and social media, wars and genocides can still be hidden.  People are waiting to review the movies that will come out in few years to chronicle and meditate on our enduring sense of folly.



A most dubious honor

If the reports are true, then, Al-Jawlani worked in the supermarket next to our apartment in Damascus, which means that our paths must have crossed. As for Assad, our paths did indeed cross while in high school and on a variety of occasions afterwards. So, I have the dubious honor of having interacted with at least two well-known terrorists.

Al-Monitor speaks to two men, “Shalal” and “Amer,” who claim to have recognized the unmasked al-Shara because they worked in a supermarket owned by al-Shara’s family near al-Akram mosque in the Mezze district of Damascus. Amer agrees with the Shaam Network account that al-Shara has four brothers: Jamal, who ran the supermarket; Ali, who taught at the Faculty of Arts of Damascus University; another brother who is serving in the military; and a final brother who lives in Saudi Arabia, about whom neither Amer nor Shalal know anything.

People like Al-Jawlani were openly recruited by Assad’s security officers from mosques and universities, following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, with some of them receiving brief training in army camps before being sent out to Iraq to fight American troops. Upon their return most were arrested and interrogated. The more ardent believers were sent to Saydnaya prison, the rest were released in spurts. Some of those released were used in 2005 and afterwards to play their small part in certain security operations in Lebanon that included the assassination of former PM Raafic Al-Hariri. Some, like Mahmoud al-Aghasi (Abu al-Qaqa), were liquidated to prevent any possible defection or leaks.

Meanwhile, Al-Jawlani was naturally among those sent to Saydnaya where they became part of an interesting experiment to that pitted Islamist Jihadi prisoners against secularist and moderate Islamist prisoners. The prison guard ended entrusting managing the internal affairs of the prison population to the Jihadis, and these Jihadis, including Al-Jawlani and the early leaders of other Jihadi factions, were released by the regime in the early weeks of the Revolution in a cynical yet successful attempt by the regime to turn the nonviolent protest movement into an Islamist armed insurrection – a move that would helped the regime consolidate its internal support and gain some international support for its stands. Indeed, regime troops have for long avoided any direct clashes with Jihadi groups focusing instead on moderate rebels. This policy and activities of these Jihadi elements facilitated the rise of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Of course, the involvement of Iranian intelligence services in this regard needs to be highlighted as well, considering that some of the Jihadi leaders that emerged on the Syrian scene were previously known to reside in Tehran under the watchful eyes of the Mullahs.  


Shrouded in Infamy


Commander of the Russian military in Syria meets with Assad’s top field commander


A man with a child after a bombing in Aleppo in June. Credit Thaer Mohammed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

…allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy. It is also a stain on all of us, analogous to the indifference toward Jewish refugees in the 1930s, to the eyes averted from Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur in the 2000s…

“There are many things we can be doing now,” James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me. “We can do many things to create security in selected areas, protect and stabilize those safe zones and allow them to rebuild their own country even as the conflict continues in other parts of the country.”

Cartwright, who has been called Obama’s favorite general, acknowledges that his proposal for safe zones carries risks and that the American public should be prepared for a long project, a decade or more. But he warns that the risks of doing nothing in Syria are even greater…

Many experts recommend trying to ground Syria’s Air Force so it can no longer drop barrel bombs on hospitals and civilians. One oft-heard idea is to fire missiles from outside Syria to crater military runways to make them unusable.

One aim of such strategies is to increase the odds of a negotiated end to the war. 


R2P vs. C2N: Responsibility to Protect vs. Choosing to Neglect

The 15 doctors serving the 300,000 people still living in eastern Aleppo urged the US President to create a permanent lifeline to bring in urgently needed medical supplies. "We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians," said the letter.


“Yes, he said this.” Episode 203

Hewitt pushed back again, saying that Obama is "not sympathetic" to ISIS and "hates" and is "trying to kill them." "I don't care," Trump said, according to a show transcript. "He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS.” 


The Putinistas’ Unlikely Plan

The Putinista: Sergei Glaziev

"This group understands that neoliberal policies make Russia’s economy susceptible to destabilization by Washington if the US wants to punish the Russian government for not following Washington’s foreign policy.  Their aim is to promote a more self-sufficient Russia in order to protect the nation’s sovereignty... ... Glaziev also wants the ruble’s exchange value to be set by the central bank, not by speculators in the currency market."

An exit from the global financial system will be disastrous for Russia as its frail economy will not have enough time to adjust. Gradual disengagement is also unlikely to work, as require a measure of cooperation from the very financial institutions being abandoned and the government involved. This cooperation is unlikely. This is not a Brexit situation, that is, it’s not a friendly divorce between parties that largely still share similar values and interests. I short, then, Putinism is above all a danger to Russia itself, a danger that is much more deadly than its avowed enemies: the United States and the European Union.

At this stage, it’s not clear whether Putin himself actually subscribes to Putinism, or whether he is using it to advance a much more limited agenda. The future president of the United States need to explore this, without risking pushing Putin over the edge, unless he’s already there. It shouldn’t take her long to know, and to adjust her policies accordingly.


For inquiring minds who really want to know and not simply imagine…

But for those insist on imagining things… this from a man whose regime is currently hosting Al-Qaeda operatives, and whose client in Syria (Assad) has done his best to enable and empower the rise of IS.

12:22 pm

Mr. Putin Goes To War, While Mr. Obama Wrests On Imaginary Laurels. 

Putin’s Infowar on America. “The DNC leaks were another Russian victory as the U.S. fails to fight back.

Information wars are damaging only to the side that cares about “image” and certain public perceptions. The United States can launch similar hacking campaigns against Russian official institutions, but I seriously doubt that making the information available to the public will have similar effect on Putin and Co. as their own campaign is having on the American political scene. The Russian people are already quite familiar with the corruption of their government, and many seem to have accepted it and are ready to keep living with it so long as their living standards don’t deteriorate below a certain as-of-yet undefined line. At best, some leaks might bring some public embarrassment to certain officials, and might prove career-enders for some. Perhaps, the biggest damage that can be done is the mere act of showing that Russian official institutions are as vulnerable to hacking as American and European ones.

Still, the overall impact might still too minimal in comparison to the impact of Russian-instigated and orchestrated hacks. Responding in kind may not be the right strategy then. Yet, punishing this behavior by the Russians through economic and diplomatic sanctions requires bringing Europe on board and keeping it on board for as long as required to send the message. This has not proven easy. Also, there an embedded risk here of having more direct and militaristic confrontations in places like Syria and Ukraine, and of starting new conflicts even. Still, democracies are particularly vulnerable when it comes to infowars, which is why continued dithering is not an option. The next American president needs to find the right strategic and tactical response.

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