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Tag Archives: Damascus

Julie Bishop’s Epiphany on the Road to Damascus

It comes as welcome news that Australia is set to abandon its opposition to Bashar al-Assad as part of a durable peace settlement in Syria.

The recent military escalation by Russia and reported sightings of Chinese war ships in the Mediterranean in the last week must come as something of an embarrassment to the war hawks in Washington, and the knives may well be out for whichever rookie secretary forgot to register the war on terror as a trademark. Still this has done little to change the tri-partisan rhetoric coming out of Canberra. “I don’t for a moment shy away from the comments that we have made in the past about the illegitimacy of the regime.” “President Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, and the death and destruction in Syria is appalling and at unprecedented levels”, Ms Bishop recently said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In hearing these remarks I can’t help be reminded of the outrageous claims and bald faced lies which led us into war in Iraq in 2003. Whatever happened to all those weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was stockpiling? Was he able to secretly shield them from UN weapons inspectors with an invisibility cloak? Perhaps the same cloak that Dr Assad is using to hide his chemical weapons arsenal? Or the one that Iran is evidently using to conceal its uranium enrichment program? Not to put too fine a point on it, but when the executive director of Human Rights Watch is leading the cheer for the removal of the legitimate government of a sovereign nation state which currently enjoys the support of 80% of its people, one might wonder if we are being told the whole truth.

Having taken part what now seems like an age ago in the rallies against the 2003 invasion of Iraq – the biggest protests Australia has seen since the Vietnam War, I’m more than a little miffed at the lack of public outrage at Australia’s compliance in 2015. Perhaps the media is doing a better job of selling its lies and deception this time around, but so far I remain unconvinced. I am tired of the blatant propaganda surrounding this illegal war. I’m tired of the persistent references to “civil war” in a country which is clearly being attacked by outside forces. I’m tired of hearing the government of Syria constantly referred to as “the Assad regime”, and carnal knowledge of dead animals aside, I’m well tired of David Cameron referring to Bashar al-Assad as a butcher.

So far as Washington’s support for terrorists is concerned, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag. I have argued this extensively in other essays, but it doesn’t take a political analyst to see that Obama, Netanyahu, Ergdogan, Salman and Abdullah before him have been working hand in glove with various terror groups to destabilize and ultimately remove the Syrian government for their own nefarious ends. Washington’s war hawks have bypassed congressional appropriations by directing their client state Saudi Arabia to deploy radical anti-Syrian (and often anti-US) militants against Assad, unleashing a wave of terror on the region. Playing both sides against the middle may have some merit in games of strategy, but willingly supporting terrorists who commit atrocities against civilians by any other name is still a war crime.

Of course there are many players in this proxy war, each with their own interests: Obviously there’s the US and its allies, who in their relentless quest for world domination just can’t seem to keep their grubby hands out of other people’s business. In their latest adventure, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in collusion with Wall Street insiders had contrived to control the entire region’s oil and gas reserves and to weaken Russia and Iran by selling cheap oil to China.

There’s Russia, whose soft underbelly comprises almost every country ending in ‘stan’ from which Islamist extremists might enter its borders. Already feeling the squeeze of tough trade sanctions since the shooting down of MH17, this manipulation of the oil market, despite weakening its economy, will likely strengthen its resolve.

There’s Israel, a newly created, US backed, militarised rogue state whose original British colonial design includes not just the annexation of both the West Bank and Gaza but of all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates including parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Sinai, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. (The plan for Greater Israel involves the Balkanization of surrounding Arab states, beginning with Iraq, which is to be divided into Shia and Sunni territories and a separate Kurdish state.)

There’s China, an emerging superpower now lumbered with a stalling economy and forced to choose between a ready supply of cheap oil and the prospect of the war in Syria spilling into Iran, Southern Russia and eventually breaching its own western borders.

There’s Germany, which seems to have embraced the prospect of close to a million new low paid workers with the same enthusiasm with which it welcomed the surge of cheap skilled labour at the close of the Soviet era (an attitude perfectly consistent with EU ambitions to enforce human misery through austerity.)

And then there are the endless hordes now beating a path to Europe in what’s been called the biggest mass movement of refugees since WWII. It’s not just the Alawites, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities once protected under Syria’s Ba’athist government who now face a grim future, but the entire Syrian population, of whom more than half are now internally displaced or have fled in fear for their lives. Pray tell what conceivable form of ‘regime change’ would ever allow these people to return to their homes?

Syria was and is the last secular nation state in the Middle East, and as has been argued by many, not least President Putin himself, it is for the people of Syria and nobody else to decide who will govern them. Russia is now working in concert with Iran, Hezbollah and other regional partners to end the horror brought to bear by Washington’s incessant meddling, and while Obama still condemns Russia’s strategy as “doomed to failure” and continues to demand Assad’s ultimate resignation, this outcome is looking increasingly less likely.

While China’s last minute arrival is obviously a game changer, it’s not like the US were never invited to the party. Putin’s attempts to forge an alliance of nations to deal with the growing threat of global terror have never specifically excluded US participation, but with the US demonstrably the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, it does make things a little awkward. As well as Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, the new coalition looks likely to include all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO); Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tajikistan. This poses an obvious question right off the bat. Is Washington really afraid that Russia’s intervention will make matters worse in Syria? Or rather that putting an end to ISIS once and for all might render the US irrelevant?

What emerges from this picture is a strong sense that Washington’s war hawks are losing, or have lost, their grip over Middle East politics. The Iranian moderates who are inclined to cooperate with the West for economic reasons are naturally allied to Russia where the Syrian ISIS threat is concerned; the Gulf monarchies seem only too happy for Russia to broker a peace between warring Shi’ite and Sunni factions, and with Russia now flexing its military muscle, Netanyahu is hardly likely to be spoiling for a fight either.

Whether or not any of this could lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East it’s too early to say, and with the likes of Carly Fiorina now set to trump Trump for the GOP candidacy, and Hilary Clinton still a likely choice for the Democrats, Washington’s campaign for global hegemony is unlikely to end any time soon. It does however seem that we may have reached a turning point. Could the battle for Syria prove a victory for peace and diplomacy in an increasingly multi-polar world? Or is this how WWIII begins?

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

By Mike Mizzi

On April 29th 2012 Muaz Nukkari’s car exploded five minutes after he had parked it. He was on his way to work. Muaz is a lawyer and poet. The bombers were suspected to be operatives of who many believe are Western backed rebels who had been sent to Damascus to cause maximum fear and chaos amongst Basher Al Assads Alawite heartland.

This is the story about Syria that Western mainstream media will not tell. Despite a plethora of stories on the social media websites, alternative news sites and YouTube, the official narrative about Syria is that Assad and his people are being besieged by “terrorists” of the Islamic State and so called “local rebel forces.” What that narrative leaves out is that the rebels were armed and financed by Qatar at the behest of its staunch ally the USA, which has its largest Middle East base on its soil.

The Qatari royal family is a tribe called the Al Thani clan, a super oil rich group who run their nation like a medieval fiefdom wherein the locals are some of the wealthiest people per capita on the planet and the work is done by imported, indentured slaves whose lives are hard and miserable for the most part. Recent revelations of multiple deaths of labourers working on the World Cup soccer stadium in Doha has focussed the world’s attention on Qatar momentarily, but for all intents and purposes very little has changed for the guest workers who flock there from poorer Muslim nations seeking a chance to make some money. Qatar, has it’s finger in many pies and is now reportedly the major sponsor of Wahhabi terrorism in the Middle East, having taken that honour from Saudi Arabia.

Muaz has been a Facebook friend of mine for two years now. We have exchanges on a range of subjects and we differ greatly concerning Israel and its right to exist. He considers himself an enemy of what he terms “the Zionist regime,” citing Israel’s seeming aggression and expansionist policies in the Golan Heights, an area gas rich and once Syrian territory. Syria lost the Golan in a short war in 1967. Now a consortium comprised of Rupert Murdoch and the Rothschild banking cartel are investing heavily in exploiting that gas. In the Middle East, ancient rivalries never die and most of those rivalries are underpinned by territorial and resource desires. Oil and gas are jinns which never seem to sleep.

Muaz is a poet. He writes of fragrant plants, the joys of love and martyred Syrians fighting against what he terms the ”cannibals” of IS. One of his friends, Ahmed Ammar Hassoun, was martyred on the 14th of September this year. On Nuaz’s Facebook page you can see a photo of Ahmed, a young soldier in the Syrian Arab Army, nonchalantly smoking a tailor made cigarette in a canteen with a Coca Cola sign in the background. It made me wonder how much of this war is being fought as much for multinational corporations to get more Syrian market share as much as the oil and gas fields embedded in Syria’s geology. Muaz seems to think Israel is behind the IS terrorists and cites occasions when IS operatives were treated in Israeli hospitals. Yet IS regularly posts anti Israeli propaganda and has even declared it will eventually march on Jerusalem. Nothing is ever as it seems in the Middle East.

The fundamentals of this story are that Assad was targeted by rebels allegedly backed by the USA and armed by Qatar. Assad is armed and supported by Russia, which is now reportedly moving heavy artillery and tank equipment and ”advisers” into Syria. Vladimir Putin has this week declared that this will continue despite recent protestations by American Secretary of State John Kerry.

The ingenuous duplicity of US foreign policy has turned the entire Middle East into a foreign policy quagmire, and there is no end in sight. America and Russia continue to play their “great game” and the people who suffer are ordinary Muslims, Kurds, Yezidis and Christians who once lived in relative peace and harmony in Syria and whose lives are now destroyed by men in expensive tailored suits in far off lands speaking languages most of them cannot begin to comprehend making decisions none of them will ever hear or understand.

Obama seems intent on blundering from one foreign policy mistake to another and in the meantime in Syria alone over 250,000 human beings have met their deaths and over 6 million are now wondering around homeless and stateless, with many knocking loudly on Europe’s and the rest of the Western world’s doors looking for succour and shelter from the bombs and bullets and vicious depredations of Islamic State operatives and Assad’s deadly barrel bombs.

Meanwhile Muaz and his mates make the most of their lives. Living it up in bars and nightclubs in Damascus, enjoying what is left of Assad’s once secular and multi religious state. Every time I log onto Facebook and send Muaz a message, I wonder if he will answer or if his dream of a beautiful and peaceful Syria will be shattered for all time.

Muaz’s Facebook page.

 

Experiment in terror: Islamophobia and the politics of illusion.

“Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secrecy the human dress.”

– William Blake: A Divine Image

In an awkward social situation I was recently challenged to debate the proposition that Islam is not a religion, but a political ideology. #facepalm #whitepeople. This seems to be the default position of a lot of conservatives, and one can easily see its appeal. What’s not to fear about a triumfulist, supersessionist ideology which divides the world into Muslims and infidels, and Muslims into Sunnis and Shiites, who’ve been murdering each other in God’s name for 1400 years? If this is really the way we look at the culture and polity of the Middle East then perhaps we may need to adjust our glasses and dust off the history books.

The fertile land to the east of the Mediterranean has been a war zone for millennia. The Bulgars murdered the Macedonians who murdered the Phoenicians who murdered the Romans who murdered the Persians who murdered the Assyrians who murdered the Hittites who murdered god knows who in their conquests of Anatolia and the Levant. For all its alleged brutality, the Muslim conquest of the Arab world is but one chapter in a history which spans the rise and fall of empires. Let’s not forget the millions of Muslims who would be murdered by the papacy under its holy inquisitions, their children forced into slavery in the New World. If history is indeed written by the victor, then the proposition that Islam was spread by the sword is a eurocentrism egregiously unabashed of the log in its own eye.

There is a period familiar to most of us which European history refers to as the Dark Ages (evidently darker for some than others.) While Europe under the Holy Roman Empire had become a sophophobic monoculture obsessed with death and purgatory, the Arab world was enjoying its renaissance, embracing a newfound pluralism equal parts Shi’ism, Sufism and Greek Philosophy. While Christians were sacking libraries, drowning witches and burning heretics at the stake, cities like Baghdad and Damascus boasted libraries, museums and academies, and were the birthplaces of modern medicine, algebra and astronomy.

Some would argue that the argument over patriarchal succession which would divide the followers of Islam into Sunni and Shia has been the primary cause of conflict across the Middle East since the seventh century CE. Some might also argue that pigs fly. Despite the hundreds of holy wars fought on land and sea, the glorious kingdoms of the Azeris and the Ottomans owed more to their policies of inclusion and modest taxation than conquest, conversion and subjugation. Then, as now, military expansion was about the control of resources, meaning as long as they paid their taxes people were generally free to worship in whichever way they chose.

The emergence of Wahhabism in the 18th century is a different story. Set against a background of British and French colonial expansion and ongoing territorial disputes with the Ottomans and Safavids, the doctrine of One King, One Faith, One Mosque became a rallying cry under which the al-Sauds would conquer the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and establish theocratic rule across the Arabian Peninsula.

No one had predicted that the Turks would ally themselves with the Central Powers in WWI, or that the Hashemites under Faisal bin Hussein would become our proverbial enemy’s enemy. Victory for the allies saw the final curtain fall on the Ottoman Empire and marked the end of the Arab dream of independence. The spoils of war were divided among the victors (Britain and France) and new territories carved out from traditional lands, while the status of regional powers was downgraded from formal statehood to little more than tribes waving flags, as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would later quip.

The House of Saud’s moment finally arrived in 1932 when Abdulaziz Ibn Saud united the Arab kingdoms of Najd and Hizaz to form modern Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy with Wahhabism as its official religion. The discovery of oil in 1938 was a fait acompli which would give the Saudis influence over western economic and foreign policy, and in 1945 the greatest protection racket in modern history was put in place. The US Military Training Mission was an arms-for-oil deal which guaranteed military co-operation and the protection of the Saudi Royals in return for a controlling interest in the global oil market. In 1971 Richard Nixon finally tore up the Bretton Woods agreement in a financial coup d’etat which established the US dollar as the world’s indispensible oil currency. The US has continued to have a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia ever since; so much so that when 19 Saudi hijackers flew jet planes into the World Trade Centre buildings on September 11 2001, the US responded by invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the 2003 invasion of Iraq has been universally touted as a monumental clusterfluck, the descent into stone age barbarism which followed was not the result of religious extremism or sectarian violence, but rather a long term strategy for the Balkanization of Iraq and Syria into three new territories representing their ethnic majorities: Sunni, Shia and Kurdish. More than a decade of aggressive foreign policy; of interventions, assassinations and torture; of rape and pillage and wanton destruction of Iraq’s industrial potential has seen this goal all but fulfilled. Now it’s Syria’s turn.

Just like its predecessor al Qaeda, Islamic State is a creation of US intelligence and Saudi manpower. Oddly enough its recruits are less likely to come from the ranks of disaffected youth loitering in the dark corners of the internet, and more likely to be death row prisoners from Saudi gaols pumped full of fenethylline and other psycho stimulants. The joint air campaign by the US and its British, French and Turkish allies, far from being designed to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS, has systematically targeted civil infrastructure and created a refugee crisis which is now creating tensions in Europe – all according to plan.

In his book Children of the Days, Eduardo Galeano tells the story of March 9, 1916, The Day Mexico Invaded The United States.

“On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale. This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England. In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world. Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget. The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.”

The US is not only the most militarized country on earth, but far and away the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. With billions spent on proxy armies armed to the teeth with the latest weapons technology, entire governments can now be removed at arm’s length. Whether it be deposing a socialist president in Africa or Latin America, or a demolition job in lower Manhattan, America’s attack dogs stand ready and waiting.

In his 2004 documentary mini-series The Power of Nightmares, Adam Curtis paints a bleak picture of how our political landscape has changed in recent decades. From the ashes of 9/11 came a new golden age of opportunity for the political class. Empowered by mass hysteria, our leaders learned that their jobs would now be safe as long as they promised to keep us safe. Yet far from keeping us safe, the last 15 years have seen an exponential increase in terror attacks throughout the world. With the cold war barely over a new enemy has already emerged, this time not a great empire or a great army, but a shadow.

As heroic tales go, there is none more epic than an apocalyptic clash of civilizations. And who needs Stanley Kubrick to bring it to life when you have an iphone and an internet connection? Shock footage of brutal executions permeates our daily news feeds, while playing further to our fears is the suggestion that the Middle East is now exporting terror; that the waves of refugees flooding into Europe are a Trojan horse which ISIS will use to spread its message of hate throughout the world.

Pandora’s box has nothing on the hell on earth George Bush heralded in when he proclaimed his absurd War on Terror. But with the forces of darkness now unleashed, what happens when the mission is accomplished? Who will call off the dogs? Is there a plan for containment? An exit strategy? Do Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Hallande and Erdogan have a secret safe word? Or has perpetual war been the plan all along?

Like the U-boats, bombers, machine guns and tanks of WWI, and the Atomic bomb that ended WWII, the spectre of terror and the power of mass media are devastating new weapons in the hands of the global industrialists and their government whores. The war on terror is a farce. ISIS is a patsy – a straw man being used to justify a shameless war of aggression. In Nazi Germany we saw the power of propaganda to stigmatise a religious and ethnic minority. Do we really want to go there again? Blaming Muslims for problems of integration and failing to contain jihadism plays well with right wing media pundits, but seriously, one might as easily blame the Jews for the holocaust.

 

 

 

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