Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I hesitate to utter a single word about anything connected to the Middle East - unless it's a quote from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. However, Syria is starting to push other stuff off the headlines, so I felt I really should try to understand what it's all about.

Americans and Brits - more accurately their governments - have a fetish about the Middle East. There's hardly ever a 24-hour span when an atrocity of some kind isn't going down over there, there where the sun rises; inter-tribal violence is a way of life and has been for as long as I can remember, and much longer than that, I'm sure. The same could be said about parts of Africa though, but that doesn't elicit the same passions from USA and UK governments. The reason has to be that dirty three-letter word OIL, doesn't it? What else is there?

What brought events in Syria to the fore currently is the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad against the rebels (a body of mixed sects, who no doubt also fight against one another at times.) What proof is there that Assad did use chemical weapons? It seems the rebels were already being defeated anyway, where was the need?

A paragraph from Brit politician George Galloway's piece at Red Molucca:
"It is entirely implausible that the Syrian regime chose the moment of the arrival of a UN chemical weapons inspection team to launch a chemical attack on an insurgency already suffering reverse after reverse on the battlefield and steadily losing international support with each new video showing them eating the hearts of slain soldiery and sawing of the heads of Christian priests with bread knives.

In the absence of conclusive evidence one would have to believe that the Assad regime was mad as well as bad to have launched such a chemical attack at a time when it is in less danger than it has been for almost a year. I do not believe that Bashar is mad."
Remember those dire warnings that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, back in the early 2000s? Did they? Look what happened when that warning was acted upon!

“War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.”
~ Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Thursday 29 August 2013:
British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a stunning defeat in the night's Parliament vote to endorse UK/US military action against Syria. Cameron's motion was defeated 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes. Cameron said it was clear Parliament does not want action and "the government will act accordingly."

We can only hope that on this side of the pond our leader will follow suit and at the very least do nothing without Congress taking a vote on the issue.


ex-Chomp said...

This quote is absolutely true:

But there is far more than oil over there, it was said that a Big Trouble had to come from Middle East and it is happening

Syria cannot be but a truble generator

mike said...

The Mideast has always been a no-mans'-land just as it is today. The USA's CIA has long-meddled in affairs of that sector and just about everywhere else on the globe. It's impossible to know with any degree of certainty what has occurred or what is occuring.

I can just as easily believe the gassing of Syrian citizens was orchestrated by al-Assad, his rebel opponents, Russia or Iran (to instigate USA action), or some other bizarre operative (Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, USA?).

Paul Saunders, Solaris, has some interesting astrological insight to provide in a recent blog post, as well as older posts. Esseentially continuing turmoil and al-Assad gone sometime soon.

Drones are in the back pocket of virtually every nation now, so any covert flight over Syria could release the gas in an undetected manner.

Maybe in forty to sixty years we will know what really happened, when the CIA finally declassifies and releases secret files with heavy redacting!

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ There's a lot of wealth over there, in some regions, in stark contrast to terrible poverty in others. Wealth coming from their oil originally, and who knows where once the original stash was invested. And there's Israel/Palestine, their problems and the US/UK's loyalties.

It'd be surprising if, at some point, troubles in that region and our meddling in them, didn't boil over into something none of us wants to see.....ever.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Agreed. It's a roiling turmoil where plenty can remain hidden.

I looked at the Solaris astrology website - yes that's a good piece.
The astrologer seems to feel in favour of US getting involved mainly to alleviate sufferings of the people. While it's an admirable sentiment, I fail to see how the US and its firepower could possibly make things any better for ordinary people - more deaths, more injuries, still more turmoil.

This article at CSIS website is pretty level-headed...it's by Anthony H. Cordesman. He considers the optimum time for intervention has passed...I'd say there never is an optimum time - but I understand his point.
Even if the U.S. can somehow stop all future use of chemical weapons, the military impact will be marginal at best. Moreover, anyone who has actually seen wounds from conventional artillery -- or badly treated body wounds from small arms -- realizes that chemical weapons do not cause more horrible wounds. If anything, an agent like Sarin tends to either kill quickly or result in relative recovery. The case for intervening cannot be based on chemical weapons. It has to be based on two factors: Whether it serves American strategic interest and whether it meets the broader humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.


mike (again) said...

From Joshua Landis, UofOK

"Some of those reasons include:

1) Bombing is not a solution: Mere bombing will not provide a solution; in order to disarm militias and protect Syrians, the U.S. would have to put peace-keeping forces on the ground to end revenge killings and provide security, yet Washington has ruled sending occupation troops into Syria.

2) The financial burden is too high: The U.S. lacks the resources or will to spend enough money to do the necessary nation-building in Syria. This is why having an international coalition willing to send troops into Syria is so important. Militias have to be disarmed and a new state has to be built. To suppress competing militias and build a new central government in both Iraq and Afghanistan has cost in excess of one trillion dollars a piece.

3) The lack of desire on the part of Americans for another long-term Middle East entanglement without a foreseeable end.

4) The opposition is incapable of providing government services: Millions of Syrians still depend on the government for their livelihoods, basic services, and infrastructure. The government continues to supply hundreds of thousands of Syrians with salaries & retirement benefits. Destroying these state services with no capacity to replace them, would plunge ever larger numbers of Syrians into even darker circumstances and increase the outflow of refugees beyond its already high level. Syria can get a worse.

Most militias are drawn from the poorer, rural districts of Syria. Most wealth is concentrated in the city centers which remain integral (such as Damascus, Lattakia, Tartus, Baniyas, Hama, etc.) which have survived largely unscathed in this conflict, and have not opted to continue the struggle.

If the militias take these cities, there will be widespread looting and lawlessness which will threaten many more civilians who have managed to escape the worst until now.

It’s not at all clear that U.S. intervention can improve the economic or security situation for Syrians.

5) Entering the conflict would mean America battling on multiple fronts, not only against the regime: The U.S. has declared itself at war with al-Qaida. If we were to intervene, we would have to enter a new front against the most powerful and effective Syrian opposition militias in addition to the war against Assad. Our forces would be targeted by extremists and more radically Islamist militias. We would be fighting a multi front war.

6) The potential for ethnic cleansing and revenge killings is high: The different ethno-sectarian communities and socio-economic classes are renegotiating the dynamics of their relationship inside Syria. For the last 50 years, Alawites have monopolized the ramparts of power in Syria. They have allied themselves with other minorities and important segments of the Sunni majority, and the regime has preserved its power through a careful sectarian strategy. The rebellion, led primarily by Sunni Arabs of the countryside, aims to supplant the Alawite hold on power. The US cannot adjudicate the new balance of power that will emerge in Syria. It is not prudent to dramatically tip the balance of power in such a supercharged environment of sectarian hatred and class warfare."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~Thanks for that. Good points made.

This is interesting, but disturbing:

In this stunning but little-known speech from 2007, Gen. Wesley Clark claims America underwent a “policy coup” at the time of the 9/11 attacks. In this video, he reveals that, right after 9/11, he was privy to information contained in a classified memo: US plans to attack and remove governments in seven countries over five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

He was told: “We learned that we can use our military without being challenged …. We’ve got about five years to clean up the Soviet client regimes before another superpower comes along and challenges us.”

“This was a policy coup…these people took control of policy in the United States….”


As a commenter at Common Dreams wrote today: "The war for control of the world's resources by the top 1/100th of the 1% moves on to its next phase."

LB said...

This Huffington Post article is worth reading, as are some of the comments that followed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-glaser/obamas-war-of-choice-in-s_b_3822652.html

Whatever atrocities are being committed in Syria, the potential risk of US involvement there would seem to outweigh any potential benefit, especially considering our own motives and methods - which aren't necessarily more trustworthy or humane.

From what I've read, only a small percentage of Americans support a proposed military strike on Syria. If we don't like what's going on, then we need to speak up by letting Congress know how we feel. Peacefully, respectfully, clearly and often. We can try.

It's not just a matter of us questioning it amongst ourselves, though that absolutely serves a worthwhile purpose - which is to inform . . . so thank you, Twilight:) If we're concerned, then once we reach (relatively) informed decisions, we need to act on those judgments in practical ways that that reflect our values.

I phoned several congressional representatives earlier today, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who was the lone voice of dissent prior to the war in Afghanastan back in 2001. While she isn't my particular district's representative, I wanted to encourage her to speak out once again; apparently I wasn't the only one.:)

Here's a link to find out how to contact our representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for the HuffPo link - am in middle of reading it, and comments.

You're right! We should do more than talk amongst ourselves, though sharing does help relieve frustrations.

I prefer not to contact reps by phone, due to my accent as mentioned once before in this context. :-) I've used the link you left, found our US Congressional Rep Tom Cole's contact info - sent him an e-mail. I cannot bring myself to contact our Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, I despise them too much.

If I can think of anyone else with clout for OK later, I'll e-mail them too.

LB said...

Nancy Pelosi has a lot of influence. Regardless of where she stands on the issue, it can't hurt to let her know how we feel, especially if enough of us send a similar message.

I remember what you said about your accent. If it makes you feel any better, my sense is the person (or machine) taking our comments is less concerned with who's calling or what they sound like and more interested in keeping an accurate count of where people stand on particular issues. Numbers count when it comes to political decisions. Generally speaking, it's a pretty impersonal process.:)

I'm sure your accent is lovely.:)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks -I've now sent an e-mail to Nancy Pelosi. :-)

Will think more about telephone contacts bearing your remarks in mind. If reaction of some people here to my accent is anything to go by, it must sound more like Swahili to them than English. ;-)

mike (again) said...

I always contact my representative regarding issues that cause me consternation, but unfortunately, it's Republican Blake Farenthold, whose ideologies are more commonly diametric to mine. I use e-mail and am required to submit my name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number. I always receive a generic response, suitable for any concern. I receive recorded messages periodically...updates on his superb handling of Republican issues, usually anti-Obama or anti-Democratic Party. I receive regular updates by mail, too.

I find that contacting my representative is nothing more than putting myself on a "contact list" that assumes I'm supportive of my representative's fine work.

The concerns surrounding Syria are international, so perhaps Farenthold is truly interested in my opinion, and there are divisions within each party regarding Syrian involvement, so Farenthold has no template to follow.

I always contact my state and federal delegates, but I ALWAYS wonder if it makes a difference!

LB said...

Hi mike - I often wonder the same thing, although I know flooding the switchboards by weighing in on important issues can and *has* made a difference in the past. Maybe the most important thing is that we try. It's voting I'm not so sure about.

When I call, I no longer leave my name since it only adds me to a pointless list. I also used to email my representatives but now prefer to sign online petitions and/or call. Recently I got shut out of my previous email address - *permanently*, which made me wonder. Calling seems to be more effective anyway since there seems to be a system in place whereby they keep track of the public's yeas and nays and add up the totals.

DC said...

it's almost laughable to hear people's opinions about what they consider to be the "Middle east".
Syria and Turkey are often included in maps showing the middle east.
But let me mention one thing ....people here (in Turkey) and in Syria, consider lands to THEIR east the "Middle East".
The "Middle East" is a moniker of the press, forced upon their countries in their regions as a tool of control. Control of the Western mind.
As long as one thinks that this country or that country IS in fact, a Middle Eastern country, then the press reporting this is in a position to go ahead with rhetoric supported by years of conflict in what has been known as the Middle East in the (more accurately stated ) past.
Here's a Wiki link concerning this label
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East#Criticism_and_usagehere><a/>
...but what I'm getting at here is that the superpowers are expanding our awareness (in the west)of what the "Middle East" actually is thru THEIR press.
And it is to their benefit that we believe more countries are in fact Middle East...whether they are or not.
The lies are basically expanding thru dis or mis-information....and all to the benefit of western interests.
Now MAYBE Syria, in the Western mind IS in fact the Middle East...but to all the Syrians I've spoken with...they, at a grass roots level, see the Middle East, as well as the USA...as invading interests, in their own sovereign country.
To them...the true Middle East is at their doorstep....and looking in their window is ...guess who...the good ole US of A.

DC said...

here's that link I messed up haha


DC said...

here's that link I messed up haha


Twilight said...

mike ~ You and I both live in very red states, and it does seem fruitless to contact our US Reps.
If only to show that we're here, though, and remind them that not every mortal in their domain is a rabid Republican, to remind them that Republicans did not get 100% votes in any election, then it could be worthwhile.

I noticed that Tom Cole Representative Rep. for our district of OK is Chicksaw, and the Republican Rep for another district is Cherokee. The only two Native Americans in Congress. You know I cannot help thinking that those two ought to know better!! Very disappointing.

mike (again) said...

@LB - I don't utilize digital social media, but Twitter has become a tool to rapidly assess a topic, particularly with the hashtag-trending ability. Several companies have developed software to capture and derive statistical data from social media.

My representative, Blake Farenthold, last week was captured on video at a meeting suggesting Obama should be impeached. The video went viral within hours and the Twitter response was overwhelmingly critical of Farenthold. Just a few hours after his comments, he was able to launch a "correction campaign". Thus, the power of Twitter.

"Use hashtags. These # symbols are created to trend a topic. Use a hashtag to join a discussion. The hashtag creates uniformity about a topic." Michael Geheren

Twilight said...

DC ~ Hmmmm I wasn't aware of that. It's kind of similar to how, here in the USA, certain states are said to be mid-western, when to us in OK they are actually eastern states.
Which came about, I think, while the country was still developing westward.

I think of what's on the map shown above as the Middle East, with China and Japan as The Orient or The East proper. But that's probably wrong, and as you say the term ME has long been used by journalists and governments in the US and Europe as a catch-all term, perhaps for brevity perhaps at times for devious reasons. I doubt it could be changed now though.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - It's easy to ignore individual requests or negative criticisms, but most politicians and corporations will very rapidly respond to negative reviews when presented through social media, open for public review.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Re Twitter and hash tags: I've considered occasionally hash-tagging something on this blog - I think I did it once, just once.

There is just so much on Twitter - stuff gets burried in seconds, the "trending" topics change all the time. Syria has disappeared from the list of "trending" at present and "#Name Obama's new war" is there instead - making it into some kind of a joke.

I see the sense what you're saying in your PS though.

Maybe I'm just not far enough into Twitter to fully get it.
I have an account, follow a scant handful; if I follow someone who floods me with stuff (re-tweets) I'm not interested in I un-follow them rapidly. Re-tweets are a pain in the ass.

LB said...

mike - The person who took my comment at Barbara Lee's office yesterday asked me if I tweeted (I don't), apparently because the Congresswoman had tweeted her official position on Syria. Thankfully, the person read it to me because I couldn't find it online, which says a lot about the power of Twitter. I was also told the congresswoman's office had received a number of phone calls, probably from us older folks.

The great thing about the internet is that if you look hard enough and long enough and dig deeply enough, you can uncover a lot of useful information. I have to wonder how many people who respond to tweets (or even email alerts) take the time to investigate further before reaching their judgments.

The advantages of communicating through social media can be both negative and positive. It can be a great way to quickly influence (and bring together) a whole bunch of people - a lot of them young.

Unfortunately, it can also be great way to emotionally/intellectually manipulate a whole bunch of relatively uninformed people by pushing all the right buttons and encouraging groupthink. Or, an "us against them" mentality where people make assumptions based on a very limited perspective of either/or: If A is bad, then B must be good, or if something bad happened to B, then A must be to blame. Just because something is (or has been) true some of the time doesn't mean it's true all of the time.

mike (again) said...

LB, I agree with your comment. The "group think" and "us against them" mentality has been practiced like an art form by most politicians and anyone fervent to see their views hold sway. I'll assume that it's the cornerstone of politics and human interactions to indicate how an opponent is different. A little doubt or fear sprinkled on the opponent goes a very long distance. The tactic is as old as politics.

Every presidential election cycle since 2000 has seen my email's in-box increasingly stuffed with forwarded emails espousing vacuous claims toward the originator's selected opponent. It doesn't seem to matter how inane the wording, as the recipients are eager to forward the email to the entirety of their address book, without regard for content. The only criterion is that it supports their belief and values ("Obama is an Islamic Nazi" or "You can tell Romney is the Morman's grand poobah by his underwear").

I've politely chastised several senders for their over-enthusiasm to illegitimately burn a candidate simply because they received supportive-to-their-cause, but erroneous documentation. I do make it a point to include non-refutable links to references. I used to reply only to the sender, but I now do a "reply to all".

The same logic can be inferred for the newer, faster method of Twitter and other similar media. I don't think it's the choice of delivery, but simply the text.

ex-Chomp said...

Yes it is, situation, step by step, si worsening in Middle East, and it is true, its main reason is Oil that provoked enormous richnesses in too few hands, with the inevitable consequences...

We are near to another step but, if things remain as such, it is not the resolutive step, probably very similar to Kossovo and not to Iraq.

It will not solve anything, true, but they let the situation worsen too much for too much time.

And so they must do something, in some way whatsoever

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ I fear you're right - they will not rely on diplomacy and peace talks - that would not be in their best interests, and they care nothing for the interests of ordinary people of Syria, or for us and the rest of ordinary people throughout the world.

We wait for the bad news.