Dictators

An Orwell, The Middle East And Boycotts Round Up

There is never enough time to read, reflect and blog, so whilst I think over other posts here is a quick round up of stories that caught my eye.

I was surprised to find that George Orwell had a piece on antisemitism. In many respects, it is as if it were written yesterday:

“I could fill pages with similar remarks, but these will do to go on with. Two facts emerge from them. One — which is very important and which I must return to in a moment — is that above a certain intellectual level people are ashamed of being anti-Semitic and are careful to draw a distinction between “anti-Semitism” and “disliking Jews”. The other is that anti-Semitism is an irrational thing. The Jews are accused of specific offences (for instance, bad behaviour in food queues) which the person speaking feels strongly about, but it is obvious that these accusations merely rationalise some deep-rooted prejudice. To attempt to counter them with facts and statistics is useless, and may sometimes be worse than useless. As the last of the above-quoted remarks shows, people can remain anti-Semitic, or at least anti-Jewish, while being fully aware that their outlook is indefensible. If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues. “

At Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundel is direct in his criticism, Publicity-hungry extremists to protest at US Embassy London.
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World Wide Snippets: Women’s Rights, Galloway And Attacking The Disabled.

A slightly delayed round up from a few weeks back.

Lest we forget, Exhibit focuses on scientists’ role in Holocaust.

How did this come about? As HOPE Note Hate comments.

Individual tragedy from the Middle East, the Oasis of Peace’s sad news.

Still no freedom for poorer rural women in South Africa.

The Women of Afghanistan:

“A recent study by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 58 women and girls in prison, found that half were jailed for acts that any reasonable person would not consider a crime, like running away from abusive situations. People who force women into marriage, often at very young ages, or subject them to violence, are rarely prosecuted, the group said. Female victims get little support from police and judges, and they face the added injustice of being punished for committing “moral crimes,” like “zina” — sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. Criminalizing zina is contrary to Afghanistan’s international obligations, the group says. “

No means no, lest George Galloway and his supporters forget that.

ADL’s Snapshot of Al Quds Day 2012:

“While the largest Al Quds Day events gen­er­ally take place in the Mid­dle East, protests are also held in cities across the United States. The protests, which took place last Fri­day in a dozen U.S. cities, were rife with extreme lan­guage, includ­ing signs that com­pared Israel’s treat­ment of the Pales­tini­ans to the Holocaust.

In New York, L.A. and Hous­ton, large ban­ners read­ing “Stop Pales­tin­ian Geno­cide” were on dis­play, as well as other signs that read, “Israel is a Can­cer,” “Down with Zion­ism,” Holo­caust in Pales­tine” and “Gaza=Auschwitz.” A woman in New York held a sign that said, “Free Pales­tine! End ZioN­azi Apartheid! No $$ to ‘Israel!’ Boy­cott ‘Israel’.” “

WNN is a superb source of underreported news. Recommended.
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Assad Regime Guilty Of War Crimes

The Guardian is commendably forthright on Syria and the Assad regime’s crimes:

“The UN has issued a damning 102-page report saying that Syrian government forces and Shabiha fighters have carried out numerous war crimes in the country including murder and torture.

They are also blamed for the notorious massacre of 100 civilians, almost half of them children, near the town of Houla in May.

The UN’s independent international commission of inquiry says the violations were the result of “state policy”. It claims President Bashar al-Assad’s “security forces and government” at the highest levels were involved in “gross violation of international human rights”.

The violations include “unlawful killing, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and acts of sexual violence,” it says. The report paints a bleak picture of events on the ground in Syria, noting the situation inside the country has “deteriorated significantly” since February.

The commission, led by investigator Paulo Pinheiro, reports that Syria’s rebels are guilty of violations including murder, torture and extra-judicial killings. Abuses by anti-government groups are not “of the same gravity, frequency and scale” as those committed by Syrian regime forces and allied Shabiha soldiers, it says.

The UN’s findings were published on another day of carnage inside Syria. Opposition activists said at least 30 people were killed when a Syrian jet bombed a hospital in the northern city of Azaz, close to a strategic Turkish border crossing, which was captured by rebels last month after a fierce battle.”

Copies of the report in English and Arabic can be found at the home page of the UN Human Rights Council.

The English version as a Word document is here.
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Syria’s Dictatorship Admits Possessing And Biological Chemical Weapons

I suppose we should not be terribly surprised by the latest outburst from the Assad regime:

“The Syrian regime has threatened to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first-ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement on Monday came as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead, and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.

Syria’s decision to reveal the long-suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.”

It seems to be only a matter of time before the fall of Syria’s dictatorship.

I would give Assad 2-3 weeks, he’ll either be evacuated to a despot-friendly country, like Russia, or end up dead in a ditch.

Syria, No Accident

This clip from PBS News provides an insight to the diabolical attack on a refugee camp for displaced Syrians:

Syria's Cross-Border Violence May Be No Accident

What Syrian Refugees Say.

AP relates:

“The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon over the last two days to flee the violence in their country. In the Lebanese border village of Qaa, families with women with small children came carrying only plastic bags filled with a few belongings.

“We fled the shelling and the strikes,” said Hassana Abu Firas. She came with two families who had fled government shelling of their town al-Qusair, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away, on the Syrian side.

The town is in Homs province, where the government has been waging a brutal offensive for the past month.

“What are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are hitting us with tanks,” Firas told The Associated Press. “Those who can flee, do. Those who can’t will die sitting down.”

Lebanese security officials say more than 10,000 Syrians are believed to be in the country. One official said as many as 3,000 are believed to have crossed in recent days because of violence in Homs, though it is unclear how many have returned to Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under government protocol.

Inside Lebanon, many Syrians fear agents from their own country’s security services. Stories have circulated of kidnappings and collaboration between Lebanese and Syrian security forces. Syria controlled Lebanon for decades and Hezbollah, the party which now dominates Lebanon’s government, is closely allied with Syria and Iran.

Turkey says it hosts more than 11,000 Syrians in camps along the border with Syria, including more than 1,000 who crossed in the last month. About 100 have entered in the last two days.

Jordan has more than 80,000 Syrian refugees, according to the government.”

The Huff Post has more news of atrocities, and still international inaction.

In Syria Residents Suffer Death and Destruction

HRW has released some striking images of the Syrian government’s shelling in Homs:

“Local sources have reported that approximately 700 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in Homs since the Syrian military began its current assault on the city on February 3, 2012. Indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire has caused most of the casualties in Baba Amr, which is a residential area where elements of the armed opposition have sought refuge. Human Rights Watch interviewed 15 Homs residents who escaped the city in the last two weeks, as well as two foreign correspondents who spent time in Baba Amr during the military assault.

“These new satellite photos and witness accounts show the extent of the brutality unleashed on Baba Amr,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite the killing, Russia and China continue to block any international action.”

Human Rights Watch acquired and analyzed this commercial satellite image of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs on February 25. A wide view of the image clearly shows the extensive damage caused by the use of surface-delivered explosive weapons in a populated area. The image reflects the damage that has occurred since previous images were taken between four and six weeks ago.”

Julian Assange, Belarus And The New Statesman

I am highly critical of the New Statesman and how its comments boxes are often full of anti-Jewish racism, but this piece by Kapil Komireddi is very informative:

“In December 2010, Israel Shamir, a WikiLeaks associate and an intimate friend of Julian Assange — so close, in fact, that he outed the Swedish women who claim to be victims of rape and sexual assault by Assange — allegedly travelled to Belarus with a cache of unredacted American diplomatic cables concerning the country. He reportedly met Lukashenko’s chief of staff, Vladimir Makei, handed over the documents to the government, and stayed in the country to “observe” the presidential elections.

When Lukashenko pronounced himself the winner on 19 December 2010 with nearly 80 per cent of the vote, Belarusians reacted by staging a mass protest. Lukashenko dispatched the state militia. As their truncheons bloodied the squares and streets of the capital, Minsk, Shamir wrote a story in the American left-wing journal Counterpunch extolling Lukashenko (“The president of Belarus … walks freely among his people”), deriding the dictator’s opponents (“The pro-western ‘Gucci’ crowd”, Shamir called them), and crediting WikiLeaks with exposing America’s “agents” in Belarus (“WikiLeaks has now revealed how… undeclared cash flows from the U.S. coffers to the Belarus ‘opposition’ “).

The following month, Soviet Belarus, a state-run newspaper, began serializing what it claimed to be extracts from the cables gifted to Lukashenko by WikiLeaks . Among the figures “exposed” as recipients of foreign cash were Andrei Sannikov, a defeated opposition presidential candidate presently serving a five-year prison sentence; Oleg Bebenin, Sannikov’s press secretary, who was found dead in suspicious circumstances months before the elections; and Vladimir Neklyayev, the writer and former president of Belarus PEN, who also ran against Lukashenko and is now under house arrest.

Did Assange at this point repudiate Shamir or speak up against Lukashenko? No. Instead he upbraided Ian Hislop for publishing an article in the Private Eye that exposed Shamir as a Holocaust denier and white supremacist. There was, he claimed, a “conspiracy” against him by “Jewish” journalists at the Guardian. Addicted to obedience from others and submerged in a swamp of conspiracy theories, Assange’s reflexive reaction to the first hint of disagreement by his erstwhile friends was to hold malign Jews responsible.

His subsequent attempts to distance himself from Shamir were undermined when James Ball , a former WikiLeaks staffer, revealed that not only did Assange authorise Shamir’s access to the cables — how else could he have got hold of the documents from this impenetrably secretive organisation consecrated to transparency? — he also stopped others from criticising Shamir even after news of his Belarusian expedition became public. “

Yossi Gurvitz on Syria

I suspect that lot of what Yossi Gurvitz says applies to attitudes in Britain and Europe:

“Last Thursday, a special UN commission on Syria found that the Assad regime is committing crimes against humanity, and that senior regime officials are participants in these crimes. The commission was significantly limited in its ability to report on events, as the regime denied it entry into Syria, and it had to rely on the testimonies of refugees. Even so, it is important to take its conclusions seriously: in several previous cases, the first testimonies about crimes against humanity came from refugees.

The refugees supply us with only a partial view, yet they indicate a terrible desolation, thousands of casualties, the systematic use of rape as a tool of terror, and prevalent torture. The number of civilians massacred by the regime in the last year is estimated in the many thousands – many more, for instance, than the number killed by the IDF during the Second Intifada. Naturally, the precise number is not known, but an opposition site that is considered reputable cites 8,791 dead; another site, which also furnishes a map of the atrocities, estimates the number of dead at 9,236. These numbers are updated to the time of writing of this post, and both of them reflect only the known dead – people identified by others. It’s very probable that there are hundreds more, unrecognized.

Read more at Opposition activists must choose: Either human rights or Assad.

Marie Colvin, Syria And Abyssinia.

Marie Colvin’s killing reminds us how brutal the Syrian regime is. How it will murder anyone that opposes it by virtue of their words or actions. Marie Colvin is a victim like thousands of dead Syrians who have died over the past year.

The murderous events in Syria should remind us how little we have learnt since Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia. It is a standard text amongst Western children on the nature of the 1930s, aggressive dictators and the failure of the West to stop them, yet it could be rewritten in terms of 21st century Syria.

Despite a year of merciless murder, the slaughter of civilians and numerous war crimes the West has done little to stop the carnage in Syria.

There has been plenty of hand wringing, a lot of coughing and arguments trotted out that would shame a 1930′s isolationist by their naiveté, repetition and cynicism.

Hugh Dixon looks at some of the issues, in How to help the Syrians.

Elsewhere, Slain journalists may have been targeted by Syrian military.

Marie Colvin’s last piece ‘We live in fear of a massacre’.

My friend, Marie Colvin.

Recalling a Last Dinner With a Journalist Killed in Syria.

Marie Colvin’s November 2010 speech on the importance of war reporting.

Journalist Marie Colvin in Homs.

Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling.

We can only hope that in 20 years from now that children are taught the lessons of not allowing dictators and murderous regimes to slaughter civilians whilst the world looks on. I am not that optimistic.

Homs, Syria

This video detailing events in Homs, Syria makes for distressing but necessary viewing.

Update 1: PRI describes what is happening in Homs:

“Dayem said shelling has been going on for hours in his hometown. They will stop at 7 p.m. — their normal time. Dayem said shelling goes on all day, every day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“That’s the way we live now,” Dayem said. “This is not a normal life.”

Dayem said in addition to the shelling, venturing outside puts you at risk of being shot by a sniper merely for crossing the street. Kids as young as 8 and 9 years old know that they can’t walk outside, they have to run.

“That isn’t a life. A kid has to run to cross the street so he doesn’t get shot by a sniper,” Dayem said.

Before the current outburst of violence, Dayem said the presence of Arab League monitors had actually forced the army to lessen their attacks. But with the monitors having pulled back, violence is escalating.

“They did a big massacre three days ago,” Dayem said.”

Reflecting On Gaddafi, His Toupee and Last Days

There’s a great deal of coverage of Gaddafi’s death, but not so much on how Libyans view him, Ted Anthony considers those issues:

“Whatever ultimately happens with Gadhafi’s body, the impact of its visibility will endure. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate about his objections to the Libyan leader’s end, nevertheless acknowledged the sentiment of many in the Arab world: “At the close of an obscene regime,” he wrote, “it is natural for people to hope for something like an exorcism. It is satisfying to see the cadaver of the monster and be sure that he can’t come back.”

That’s the very definition of “habeas corpus” – “you have the body.” And now, in an age when a device we keep in our pockets can reveal a dictator’s demise, it has never been more relevant. Whether it’s Saddam hanging from a rope, Nicolae Ceausescu dead in his suit and tie, or Gadhafi beaten and confused and then dead and gone, the sight of the body is one of the most powerful political and emotional totems of all.

Gadhafi’s former subjects attested to that in the city of Misrata this weekend. In long lines curling around corners and into the street, they waited to enter a produce locker in a run-down shopping plaza. There, upon that blood-stained mattress, they saw a man they held responsible for years of misery and ruined lives.

They looked down upon his shirtless remains, his toupee gone, his slight pot belly visible, his oft-facelifted visage sagging. They smiled and they ogled and they wept. They were the ones who had the power now. The man who had carefully built himself into a curious myth was rendered unto those he once ruled as something diminished and frail, hurtling toward impermanence and irrelevance.

Great and terrible in life, in death these mythologized despots and masterminds are revealed at last as the much smaller men behind the curtain – shorn of the outsized facades that frightened and mesmerized so many for so long. The stars, in the end, are just like us.”

A cousin of Colonel Gaddafi adds to the story:

“MISURATA, Libya — After 42 years of absolute power in Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi spent his last days hovering between defiance and delusion, surviving on rice and pasta his guards scrounged from the emptied civilian houses he moved between every few days, according to a senior security official captured with him.

Under siege by the former rebels for weeks, Colonel Qaddafi grew impatient with life on the run in the city of Surt, said the official, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, the leader of the feared People’s Guard, a network of loyalists, volunteers and informants. “He would say: ‘Why is there no electricity? Why is there no water?’ ”

Mr. Dhao, who stayed close to Colonel Qaddafi throughout the siege, said that he and other aides repeatedly counseled the colonel to leave power or the country, but that the colonel and one of his sons, Muatassim, would not even consider the option. “