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Sunday, June 23, 2013

UN Aid for Assad - A Daily Kos Controversy Revisited

Ever since Bob Dylan came out with Highway 61 Revisited, I have tried to work the word
"revisited" into a title when ever possible and this tweet and accompanying photograph give me ample excuse to revisit a dairy I wrote at the Daily Kos that either launched or greatly boasted a movement by Assad supporters, anti-interventionists and Obama defenders that a few days later was successful in having me banned from the Daily Kos.

For them it went beyond the pale of civilized discourse to suggest that the United Nations was giving aid to Syria in a way that would benefit Assad in this conflict.


That diary of 21 January 2013 was:
UN reveals its real stand on Syria, giving Assad $500 million
....
The very idea that the United Nations was planning to give to the government of Syria, and you know who that means, over $500 million dollars with no real control, meaning really no strings attached, was to me so incredible that at first I didn't believe it.

I have been saying for a long time that that world body, and even the United States, was in reality in Assad's corner, but this bold contribution to his war effort surprised even me. I had to read it for myself in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humantarian Affairs [OCHA] Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for Syria (1 January - 30 June 2013)

More...

Here are some of the comments my detractors at the Daily Kos left to his diary:
Are you really that thick? The Syrian government has no control over the money. --InAntalya
This diary is nonsense. Keep your politics out of things you know nothing about.

The OCHA is not allowed to take sides nor make moral judgements in a conflict. Just as the Red Cross and Red Crescent are not. The time honored principles of neutrality in a conflict MUST be adhered to by these agencies. --Claudius Bombarnac
Your ignorance and maliciousness are breathtaking. -- InAntalya
Try to learn at least a little about the subject you are writing about before you write, then you won't look like such a fool. --InAntalya
Crap like this diary of Claiborne's only exacerbates the situation. The humanitarian agencies MUST remain neutral to be effective. --Claudius Bombarnac

The Assad regime [Syrian government] has been conducting a terror campaign to stay in power for 22 months. Civilians aren't collateral damage in its campaign, they are the targets.

Assad is attempting to use "pain compliance" against the Syrian people. He is attempting the kill enough and destroy enough so that the pain will be so great that the opposition will just give up.

Then he will slaughter anyone remaining who opposes him.

He is a gangster and no NGOs operate in Syria without his approval. Once these $500 million enter Syria, in whatever form, or to whatever account, he will have a big say over how they are spent and to that extend, they will spent to further his war effort.

The first and most important humanitarian relief the Syrian people need is and end to all bombs, shells and missiles from jet planes and helicopters. They are doing the most destruction and killing the most children.

The UN certainly shouldn't be giving money to organizations controlled by the government that is doing that.-- Clay Claiborne

Another terrible diary of lies and distortion of facts. --Blue Wind


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trust but Verify: How to Download YouTube Videos

YouTube videos are playing an important role in documenting the social news of our time.

This is the way news breaks today, whether it is on the battlefield in Aleppo or a protest in São Paulo, someone uploads a video to YouTube and then Tweets it out. Often it is completely unedited recordings from a cell phone or camera and not minutes old.

I have used hundreds of these YouTube videos in my blog posts at WL Central, the Daily Kos and here, on the revolutions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere in MENA and over time I have noticed a troubling phenomenon: Some of them have disappeared.

Most often they are replaced by a black screen with the notice "This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated."

Whenever I see that, I think "terminated," that's a bad word to use in connection with activists and journalist in a revolutionary situation. It brings me visions of someone sitting in front of a computer and deleting their YouTube, Facebook, Gmail and Twitter accounts at gunpoint just before they, themselves are "terminated."

Hopefully, the reality is not that grim, but the fact remains YouTube videos have occasionally been known to disappear for whatever reason and unless there is a downloaded copy elsewhere, a piece of recorded history may be lost forever.

We must also guard against the future possibility that a change in management at Google or a change in ownership of YouTube could lead to a change in policy and the wholesale deletions of material that, shall we say, may prove an embarrassment to the powers that be. That is why I say "Trust but verify." So far, I think YouTube has been a pretty good steward of the people's video history but we need a backup.

I am writing this post in the hopes that many activists will start creating their own collections of YouTube videos from the many blogs, tweets and other sources covering the people's revolutionary struggles around the world. If it's important to you, download it and help insure that it will never disappear.

With the right tools it is easily. I use Linux and the Linux command line or terminal interface, so I will show you how I do it. No doubt, there are other ways to do this on a Windows box or a Mac, and if you know them, please share what you know in comments.

Linux and especially the command line interface [CLI] may seem a bit intimidating at first, but as you will see, its really not that hard and can be very powerful. And look at it this way, if you use Google, you already use Linux. It runs their servers. Hell, If you use the Internet or own an Android, you already use Linux.

Moreover, if you think yourself progressive or revolutionary, or if you want the best possible foundation for keeping an intrusive government out of your computer files, you really should get to know Linux. On the other hand, if you want to make it easy for the NSA to just browse your hard drive at will, just keep using Windows.

And as a bonus, since all the software we will use to download YouTube is Free Software, this solution won't cost you anything.

If you don't already have Linux I suggest you download the latest DVD image of Ubuntu Linux with this link. There are more favors of Linux than there are of socialism. Ubuntu is the world's favorite, mind too, so we will work with this. Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. It also means 'I am what I am because of who we all are'.

You will them need to burn it to a DVD. The same page that the link above leads to will also have help in how to burn a DVD from Windows, OS X, and Ubuntu in the lower right-hand column. There are also instructions for creating a bootable USB stick for those that don't have a DVD drive.

These instructions were tested on Ubuntu Desktop version 12.10.

Once you reboot from the DVD or USB stick, you will be given the option to run Linux without installing it, most likely this is what you want at first. Click on the [Try Ubuntu] button.


Once the Linux Graphic User Interface [GUI] is up, you will need to open a terminal, either with the keyboard combination Alt-Ctrl-T or by clicking Dash Home [Ubuntu logo, upper left corner], typing term and then clicking on the terminal icon.

Either way, a terminal will open and you can now type commands into the command line interface.

The key to our ability to download YouTube videos from the Linux CLI is a little program called youtube-dl, if you follow that link you will see that they also have a Windows version. We are interested in the Linux version.

That doesn't come with the standard Ubuntu install but it is easy enough to add. First we have to enable the "Universe" Ubuntu software repository and rather that repeat what has already been well said, I will refer you to this link: How do I enable the “Universe” repository?

Once you have done that, you can return to the terminal (click the mouse cursor anywhere in the terminal window.) and type:

sudo apt-get update

this will update your local software list:

Then type:

sudo apt-get install youtube-dl

Once you answer by pressing Y, it will download and install youtube-dl and a number of other packages it requires.

You can read more about the sudo and apt-get commands by clicking the names.


If you install Ubuntu Linux on your hard disk, you will have to perform the above steps only once, because the LIVE Version runs entirely in memory, all changes will be lost as soon as you reboot. Also because the LIVE system runs on a ram disk, you will need change to a suitable directory on a mounted drive so that the downloaded YouTube videos will be saved to the hard drive.

Most likely at suitable drive was mounted automatically and mounted with write permission. Otherwise you may have to do a little extrema work and get familiar with the mount command.

Look at the bottom of the column on the left and you should see the icons of your mounted drives. You may browse these to find the drive/partition and directory you want to save the YouTube videos to. Remember the PATH to that directory given at the top of the file manager. For example if it says media windows pictures
you are going to want to type
cd /media/windows/picture
in the terminal window to change to that directory. You can read about the cd command here
Here is a helpful hint: Open this page in the Linux Desktop and then you can simply cut-n-paste these command line instructions to the terminal command line. That makes this stuff real easy. You can open Firefox with the logo button on the left side.
youtube-dl is an amazing little script. You feed it the URL of a YouTube video and it retrieves the page, captures certain meta-data about the video and downloads the file to your computer. The command you might type into the terminal could look something like this:
youtube-dl -t http://www.youtube.com/v/YncVKgpTd6E

The -t option tells the program to include the video's title in the filename and is useful in identifying files. In this case: Google_s_domination_of_the_world_and_loss_of_mojo_谷歌征服世界-YncVKgpTd6E.flv

The .flv extension indicates that it is a flash video file. YouTube videos are generally either flash [.flv] or mpeg4 [.mp4] and to view them under Windows you may need to install a new video player or new video codecs.

Mplayer is a good video player for them under Linux and ffmpeg will allow you to convert them to other formats such as those used on DVDs or suitable for editing.

You can capture the URL of an embedded YouTube video by hovering over it, clicking the right mouse button and choosing "Copy video URL" at the top of the list.

This brings us nearer to the real power of using youtube-dl from the command line because the key to that power is not the ease with which it can download a single video but the ease with which it can download many videos.

Because the terminal understands the bash scripting language natively a simple command like
for f in `cat YT-blog.lst`; do youtube-dl -t $f; done
will take a list of YouTube URLs, each one on a separate line, and one by one, download them all to your hard drive. In this case the list is in a file named YT-blog.lst in the working directory and looks something like this
http://www.youtube.com/v/YncVKgpTd6E
http://www.youtube.com/v/yOLc3B2V4AM
http://www.youtube.com/v/YQqjM8WIpM0
http://www.youtube.com/v/YtTUsqra-MU
http://www.youtube.com/v/Yx3WjOMivoU
http://www.youtube.com/v/z6VBcpsm9VI
http://www.youtube.com/v/ZEMxLWZjdoI
http://www.youtube.com/v/zJu6VQHH714
http://www.youtube.com/v/zOIyOyrxsqU
http://www.youtube.com/v/zQRHUqkZ2pI
http://www.youtube.com/v/zy7i3Xb2N40
http://www.youtube.com/v/Zybm3iaHcmc
http://www.youtube.com/v/zzt7LLT1XX8
You can read about the cat command here, the for loop is an internal bash command.

Such a list can be created in the Ubuntu environment by opening a text editor [ click on Dash Home (Ubuntu logo in upper left corner, them type 'text' and click on the text editor icon when it comes up. ] and pasting the


copied URLs to it, one per line and then saving it to the filename you will use later.


This file could also be created beforehand in the Windows environment with Notepad and Windows Exploder and there are even Unix like environments for Windows that might allow you to use these commands under Windows, but I won't go there.

A more advanced example, using other tools in the Linux environment, such as grep, sed, sort, and uniq and by piping '|' a text stream between them I can create a filter that can read the entire xml download of my blogspot blog [filename: blog-06-07-2013.xml ] and create a file named YT-blog.lst

The command that did this look like this:
grep "http://www.youtube.com/" blog-06-07-2013.xml|sed "s|http://www.youtube.com/|\nhttp://www.youtube.com/|g"|sed 's|"|\n|g'|sed 's|?|\n|g'|sed 's|&|\n|g'|grep "http://www.youtube.com/"|sort|uniq>YT-blog.lst
So by going to my Blogger dashboard->Settings->Other

choosing Export Blog and exporting my blog to the above file and them running the above command on it to create the video URL list and then running this command on that list:
for f in `cat YT-blog.lst`; do youtube-dl -t $f; done
I was able to download the over 900 YouTube videos that I used in over 600 Linux Beach blog posts that still remain on YouTube. It took 2 days on my slow ass DSL line and takes up 17GB on my hard drive but I will no longer have to look at a video has been terminated notice and feel powerless to do anything about it.

I only hope this blog post will encourage other people to do the same and between all of us, we can preserve this video history of the people's struggles to such a depth that it can never be erased

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other diaries on Libya

EMERGENCY: Dire Conditions in #Aleppo Central Prison Today!

Basel Watfa has just sent us this message from a confidential friend about inhuman and murderous conditions being faced by the prisoners in Aleppo Central Prison:
Aleppo Central Prison- The massive tragedy

Including political and underage girls, around 4500 prisoners in Aleppo central prison are suffering what may named: the worst circumstances over the Syrian catastrophe.

100 gram of unbaked dry flour representing the daily allowance per every prisoner. After running out of plastic utensils, covers and clothes which have been fired to bake the kneading, prisoners now are just mixing flour with water to eat..

Due to extreme lack of food, diseases widely spread among the prisoners, Scab, all types of allergy, Undernourishment, Anemia, and the most dangerous is TUBERCULOSIS. More than 225 were infected by Tuberculosis, 6 were dead and the number is escalating dramatically. Once the diagnosis shows Tuberculosis, the infected person isolated with the others who have the same condition but without any kind of medication or food improvement.

Most of the prisoners lost around 20-25% of their weight. They lost all normal life conditions even the cleaning liquids, mattresses, covers and clothes as mentioned before. Since months they are living in complete darkness and nobody can see who is beside him/her. The Masters of the situation are both: illness and fear..!!

The regime army is using these prisoners as human shields, and seized the Prison storage of food and medicines. Massacres being implemented inside the prison continuously. More than 110 were killed and around 200 wounded and left with no medical care. Many torture cases led to death in addition to continuous executions. Finally: threats were heard to turn the prison into a grave yard.

Please Spread this Human Distress..

More Background on the situation at Aleppo Central Prison

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published this yesterday:
Urgent call: ICRC should head to the Aleppo Central Prison
The SOHR reports that the humanitarian conditions in the Aleppo Central Prison have plummeted to a catastrophic level due to the severe lack of medicine and food. 3 prisoners died of Tuberculosis in the besieged prison yesterday for lack of medicine, other deaths have been reported. There is an outbreak of Scabies amongst the prisoners and the guards. Food is very scarce, and only reaches the prison by helicopter drops.

More than 100 prisoners died in the prison since April 2013, killed by the rebel bombardment, malnourishment, lack of medicine and execution by the regime forces.

The rebel factions began the move to siege on the prison on the beginning of April 2013, in operation "freeing the prisoners". It began with taking control of the Jandoul roundabout, Riuhbet Shqeif, the Shqeif neighbourhood and the Henderat camp and mainly the road that lead to the prison. This cut off the main supply line to the prison. The battles and siege began on 27/4/2013 with the taking over of the Kaziya checkpoint, which is by the prison. Buildings by the prison were taken over on 2/5/2013, that was the beginning of the full siege on the Aleppo Central Prison.

The battle over the prison began when 2 men detonated car bombs by the main gate checkpoint of the prison on 15/5/2013; rebels took over the police station by the prison, in the Msalmiya area. On 23/5/2013 a rebel suicide car bomb by the main entrance to the prison caused the regime forces in control of the prison to retreat into the building, and rebels took over several developing buildings within the prison gates.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights urges the Red Cross and all other international humanitarian organisations to go to the site of the prison immediately in order to transport the urgently required food and medical assistance to the besieged prisoners. We demand that an agreement be reached to permanently let in the necessary humanitarian needs of those within the besieged area, water is a particular necessity that requires several visits.

Footage of rebel armed vehicles besieging the prison

Footage of a failed helicopter food supply drop
Radio Free Syria has just published this:
URGENT: 18-06-2013: 4,500 prisoners in the besieged Central Prison in Aleppo are at risk of imminent death, with many dying already of tuberculosis and hunger, having been starved by the regime for some time. The prisoners, most of whom are political detainees and prisoners of conscience, are also threatened with being executed by regime personnel for their "terrorism" in opposing the regime.

All regional and international humanitarian organisations must mobilise immediately to ensure that these detainees are assisted as soon as possible with medicine, food, and humanitarian relief and aid. Please communicate with regional and international organisations immediately to raise awareness of the plight of these prisoners and demand relief for them.

From: Union of Syrian Christians and Muslims Against Bashar Assad
This was posted to OmarSyria On 14 June 2013, it was translated from the Arabic posted to Eyewitness Aleppo:
The Situation in Aleppo’s Central Prison

The son of a prisoner in Aleppo central prison says his father sent him a letter complaining of a miserable situation there, says there has been a lack of water, electricity, phone line for weeks. Food is scarce and there is only a bit of flour left, enough for another week of bread, as prisoners eat half a loaf each day.

Prisoners are dying and were being put in morgue fridges but due to a lack of electricity bodies are decaying, so the prisoners dug into the prison ground and made a mass grave for the dead. 200 have died so far, some from hunger and others due to splinters from mortar shelling.

This situation is due to the FSA’s besiegement of the prison and operation to free the prisoners and take over its strategic location. However the liberation is not worth it if it is going to cause so much suffering and take so many lives.
Yalla Souriya has this page of videos from the fighting around Aleppo Central Prison 28-29 May 2013.

A month ago The Telegraph carried this report:
Rebels call off Aleppo prison siege after troops throw inmates out window

Rebel forces besieging the main prison in Aleppo claimed they were forced to call off an assault after the troops defending it began shooting inmates and throwing them out of the windows.
By Richard Spencer, Aleppo
9:20PM BST 16 May 2013
Forces belonging to the Free Syrian Army have managed to fight their way around the northern outskirts of the city, where the jail is situated, since seizing the nearby Rangers Academy three months ago.

They drove troops out of an unfinished extension to the prison earlier this week, and on Wednesday drove holes, including by blowing up two cars, in the wall surrounding the main compound where up to 4,000 prisoners are being held by several hundred troops.

But they failed to take the prison itself on Friday. "I saw ten bodies being thrown out today," said Anas, 30, a soldier speaking after withdrawing from the rebels' front line. "Yesterday, we attacked at about 5 o'clock, but when we began they started throwing bodies through the window.

"The bodies are still there, and we are close enough to smell them. We cannot get them because they are in the line of fire." He said the attack had stopped to prevent more prisoners being killed. More...
Rebels Fight to Free 4,000 Prisoners at Aleppo Central Prison - Torture Center 5-16-13


FSA and SAA Battle for Aleppo Central Prison 15-5


Finally, yesterday SANA had this comforting denial:
Official source denies lack of medicine inside Central Prison of Aleppo
Jun 20, 2013
ALEPPO, (SANA) - An official source denied reports of mass media which are partners in the Syrian bloodshed about the death of several prisoners due to the lack of medicine inside the Central Prison of Aleppo.

The source affirmed in a statement to SANA reporter on Thursday that all kinds of medicines are available inside the Prison, adding that there is no one among the prisoners who died of the shortage of medicine.

The source described the news broadcasted on some mass media about the shortage of medicine inside the Prison as untrue, pointing out that these news come in the frame of the feverish media war imposed on Syria.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Syria: 10 Things Worse Than Eating a Dead Man’s Heart

Republished from RacAnarchy:
May 15, 2013 by Racan Alhoch

First and foremost, the act of cannibalism depicted in that video featuring Abu Saqar is unacceptable in every way imaginable. I understand the bitterness that Abu Saqar felt when watching the videos of rape this dead enemy combatant had on his cell phone. However, this does not excuse his actions and it is unfortunate that Abu Saqar seems to have become the very monster that he is fighting against.

With that being said, this video has brought to light something that needs to be talked about. Where was all this outrage over the thousands of videos from Syria that have been posted online depicting horrible acts of mutilation? Some of them were uploaded by the very men who participated in the mutilation in an obvious show of pride. Besides that, as the opposition and its representative bodies scramble to condemn this act by a lone rebel why has the regime not condemned any of the atrocities their soldiers have committed and proudly put on display? More importantly, why are people demanding the opposition condemn these acts when almost nobody has demanded the regime condemn their’s? As a proud member of the opposition I will answer this question myself. This regime has proven itself over the last 40+ years to have an extremely low regard for human life and as the people who oppose that type of paradigm we must hold ourselves to a much higher standard. So I am proud that people demand we condemn these acts while not asking the regime to do the same because it means that people have come to expect this kind of filth from Assad’s party but they hold the opposition to much high standards.

One thing that is always important to note when comparing the mistakes of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the atrocities of Assad’s military is its structure. The Free Syrian Army is an idea more than it is an actual military. There is no central command, there is no hand book, and there is no official training. The idea of the FSA is to use weapons in defense of yourself and your people and to retake the rights guaranteed to all human beings by default but have been taken away by this regime. The idea of the Free Syrian Army does not include the mutilation, torture, or cruel & unusual punishment of anybody alive or dead. Anybody can become a part of the Free Syrian Army by picking up arms and subscribing to this ideology. If one is to commit a crime that is not in alignment with the idea of the Free Syrian Army than they have left the realm of the FSA and moved into something different.

On the other hand, Assad’s forces are a ‘national’ military. They are trained the same, they wear uniforms, they have a central command, they have a command structure. Anything that is committed by these combatants is representative of the entire body. They are products of the system that they believe in and are willingly a part of. While the evidence of atrocities this military has committed are undeniable and plentiful we have not heard of many (if any) criminal cases against perpetrators of said atrocities. This in itself is a significant testament to why Assad and his government must be dismantled.

Now that we got that out of the way I present to you ’10 Things Worse Than Eating a Dead Guy’s Heart’:

  1. While beating a group of men to death you suddenly get an urge to ask “Which one is the religious scholar?” so you can make the beating extra unpleasant for him.
  2. Saying “We will let you see your children again if you let us fuck your wife” to a man you have been torturing for an extended period of time before you execute him.
  3. Stabbing and and stoning men to death.
  4. Beating a man with a metal rod while insulting his mother before you execute him.
  5. Beating and humiliating a young kid before you execute him.
  6. Setting a man’s head on fire while he is alive and you are beating him to death.
  7. After torturing a man for hours you cut off his index finger while saying “I fucked your sister”
  8. Abducting a woman from a checkpoint you were manning then whipping her as she cries and you call her a whore.
  9. Beating, humiliating, and shaving the heads of a husband and wife in front of their children.
  10. Beating an elderly man as he cries like a child and begs you not to hit him.

These next videos are in their own category:

Arresting, castrating, and torturing to death a 13 year old boy is worse than eating a dead guy’s heart.

Arresting a 15 year old boy and using power drills to torture him to death is worse than eating a dead guy’s heart.

Shooting a 3 year old girl in the eye and killing her in front of her father is worse than eating a dead guy’s heart.

Notice all the people in the above videos were alive when horrible things happened to them. It does not justify Abu Saqar’s actions but it gives you something to think on.

I will be waiting for your outrage.

Special thanks to @YallaIr7al on twitter and his website The Revolting Syrian for providing most of the videos.


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why are they protesting Google?

I've known and used Google even before it was a corporation, so when I heard they were going to protest Google in Venice, I went just to see what it was all about.

Google was started by a couple of guys at Stanford who had the lofty goal of making all of humanity's knowledge available to all of humanity. In the 16 years since they started, they have come incredibly close to fulfilling that goal.

At the protest, I was turned off early by what appear to be harassment of two black, female Google security guards that obviously had no clue that this protest would be happening by the leaders of this group of ~50 demonstrators. After Mark Lipman finished his argument with the security guards, he went on to complain that Google provides "no jobs and no opportunities for the poorest in our community, who need it the most."

It seems that Google is to be blamed for "gentrifying our community." Apparently they pay their employees too much. If they moved a sweetshop to Venice would that satisfy this group?

True enough, Google requires mainly highly-skilled employees. The future requires mainly highly skilled employees. Have these protesters investigated the many ways Google has made it relatively easy to gain those skills, even in some of the lowest income communities in the world?

And BTW, Google has a strong history of hiring from their community, the Open Source community. When I was president of Linux User, Los Angeles [LULA] they would regularly recruit through me because they believe in hiring first those who had contributed to this community.

In 2004, when Google was in Santa Monica, near where the anti-war movement was protesting Bush at SM airport, the Google office practically emptied out to join the protest. Afterwards, a Google employee that had come from LULA invited me in for free sodas and a tour.

Most people use the Internet everyday. Few have a deep understanding of how it was built and by who.

Speaking of Google employees, everybody knows of (1) Larry Page, (2) Eric E. Schmidt and (3) Sergey Brin. How many know of David C. Drummond, a black man who joined Google 11 years ago and is number 5 in their management team. I mention this so you don't think they just hire black people for "lowest income" jobs.

After I returned from the Google protest, I watched an Al Jazeera report on Google's latest project to fulfill their mission: Solar powered WiFi access points lofted high with hot air balloons. Google sees it as a way to extend Internet access to the least connected and poorest people in the world.

One of the demands of the protest was that Google "give back" to the Venice community. The day before the protest, some Google engineers were giving a programming class for youth at the Abbot-Kinney library. I didn't hear anybody at the rally mention that. Did they even know about it?

Even before Google moved to Venice, I was told, on the q-t, by the person delivering food to homeless people in Venice, that Google was funding the regular food drops.

Last year, Google came in at #1 in CNN/Money/Fortune list of "100 Best Companies to Work For," so obviously they should not be welcomed to Venice. Do these protesters know that all Google employees can spend 20% of their time, that's one day in five, on personal projects? How many corporations do that?

That's how Google engineers, with official Google backing, were able to build the first Speech-to-Tweet system when Mubarak tried to shut down the Internet in Egypt during the revolution. Google, working with Twitter, made sure that anybody with access to a land-line could still tell the world what was happening in Egypt. They did the same thing when Qaddafi tried to shut down the Internet in Libya. I know of no US corporation that did as much for the democratic movement in MENA.

In Nov-Dec 2010, when the first indications of what would be called the Arab Spring were developing, Google paid schools in Cairo to help improve Google Translates Arabic. That would prove extremely important in the coming months. I personally know of at least one use that may have saved lives, and saved the day, in Tahrir Square. Likewise, they rushed to improve their Farsi when people were in the streets in Iran, 2009.

"We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran" said Google principal scientist Franz Och in a statement on Goolge's Official Blog.

And remember Wael Ghonim, the Google employee that played a leading role in the Egyptian uprising? After Wael Ghonim was released from the custody of Mubarak's thugs, he said he would like to return to work at Google if he was not fired. Outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt tweeted back "We're incredibly proud of you, @Ghonim, & of course will welcome you back when you're ready."

Google started out as an Open Source project. Like many successful Open Source & Free Software projects, it had to become a corporation to accomplish its mission. That's just the way the world works now.

But even though Google has become a giant corporation, I think I can accurately paraphrase Churchill by saying "Never before has a corporation done so much for so many for so little cost to the user."

I first discovered Google at the 1998 Linux Expo in North Carolina. They were just a Linux search engine working out of a garage then. They were, and are, a member in good standing of the Linux, Open Source or Free Software community.

True to the Free Software creed, they operate on a very different intellectual property model than all the other corporation in the world that are not part of that community.

Did those protesters even know that Google doesn't own Android? True Google has contributed heavily to Android development, but the software remains under a GPL or "copy-left" licensing. [Apache Software License, 2.0] Anybody can build an Android device without paying Google a single dime. Just try that with Iphone software. There is a big difference.

They say charity begins at home, but home for Google is not Venice, in spite the big building here that they have taken over. Google is a citizen of the world and home is the Free Software movement that spawned it. So if you want to look for Google's charitable side, you should look at all that they have done for Free Software. First, they continue to make most of the software they develop freely available under a GPL like license, then there are grant programs like the "Summer of Code"
Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers post-secondary student developers ages 18 and older stipends to write code for various open source software projects. We have worked with open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period. Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together over 6,000 successful student participants and over 3,000 mentors from over 100 countries worldwide, all for the love of code.
If you use the Internet, a Droid phone, or many other Internet appliance, you benefit from code paid for by Google and made available for free. Microsoft only does that by way of exception, and then only because they have to compete with the Open Source Community.

Much of what we know about Internet censorship in China is because Google very publicly fought it. All the others, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo went along with the Chinese program without so much as a mummer of public protest.

It was much the same when Bush started demanding access to people's search records in 2006. Again, all the other search engines went along with the program. It was only when Google made clear they were going to fight it that those plans were abandoned.

Google has also taken a strong position in fighting bogus claims of copyright infringement and in support of the "fair use" exception to the copyright laws. For that reason my Vietnam:American Holocaust remains up on YouTube [434,929 views] even as it was removed from Facebook because they don't recognize fair use. When Google received a copyright infringement claim about one piece of music I used, they didn't take down this very valuable anti-war film, instead they put a link to where viewers could buy the song.

The Open Source movement is a revolutionary movement, I call it communist software. Oddly enough it was through my connections to this movement, rather than the Left, that first alerted me to the rising "Arab Spring" before anyone else in the LA Left.

Obviously, I have a long association with this movement, and with the most significant corporation spawned by that movement, Google. That's why I think Google is the best corporation in the world and that's why I come to its defense.

Since this protest has adopted as its slogan "Google: We're Watching You!," I have to assume they have seen everything I have related above. What I can't figure out is why, of all the corrupt corporations in the world, they choose to target Google.

Personally, my protest time will continue to be focused on Syria, where an uncaring world is letting 200 people a day be slaughtered by their government, with the exception of occasional flurries into other areas, like this one.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Changing Importance of Qusayr, Syria in the Media

A year ago, 23 April 2012, when Qusayr was a liberated city, McClatchy called Qusayr "this all but abandoned city that once was home to 35,000 people near the border with Lebanon."

Now, 5 June 2013, after Assad had taken it back, it is "the strategic city of Qusayr in central Syria"

It is not my intention to single out McClatchy for criticism, I just happened upon the year old assessment of Qusayr while researching another story. What is true for McClatchy is true for just about all of the mainstream media. For more than a year, while it was a liberated area, it was a nothing, throwaway city as far as the media was concerned.

Since Hezbollah conquered it for Assad and it is back in Syria government hands, the media cannot even print Qusayr without the "the strategic city of" prefix.

This is one example of how the mainstream writes to support Assad and undermine the revolution without being up front about it.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Noam Chomsky & John Passant on Syria

“Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.”
-- Vladimir Lenin on Self-Determination, 1916
Noam Chomsky was recently interviewed by Maha Zaraket of al akhbar english. He is saying here what I have been saving for a long time now, namely that the US, NATO and Israel are not on the side of Assad's opposition in Syria and in fact, favor keeping Assad, but since now it is Noam Chomsky saying it, maybe more people will listen:
MZ: Would you link Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian revolution with Israel?

NC: These are separate. First of all, Israel was not opposed to Assad. He has been more or less the kind of dictator they wanted. He has done the kind of things they wanted. The US has no opposition to Assad. He was cooperating on intelligence and they did not like everything, but he was pretty satisfactory.

In fact, if Israel and the US really did want to undermine the Assad regime and to support the rebels, they have very straightforward ways to do it without arms. Israel could considerably mobilize forces in the Golan Heights. If they mobilize forces in the north, the Syrians are compelled to respond by mobilizing forces. But they do not do it, which can only mean they do not want the regime to fall.
The view that Israel is supporting the rebellion one that is heavily promoted by the Assad regime and its supporters on the Left but it has been clear to most objective observers of this conflict for a long time now that Israel considers Assad a keeper and Obama will support Israel's policies in the region.


Another Marxist who supports the Revolution is John Passant, and he just posted this from Syria freedom forever to his blog today:
Syria or elsewhere, there are no pure revolutions, just revolutions…


Syria freedom forever writes:

More than two years after the beginning of the revolutionary processes, western medias have not ceased to repeat the same credo: after the dream, the nightmare for the populations of the Middle East and North Africa ; after the « Arab Spring », the Islamist Winter », (both terms that we refuse). Where are gone the « beautiful » and « pure » revolutions from the beginning, as we don’t stop repeating?

The situation is presented as catastrophic: Tunisia and Egypt are governed by Islamists, while the Syrian revolution would have become a civil war between Islamists and the Assad bloody regime. The propagation of such a discourse, underpinned of defeatism, advocates the withdrawal of activists fighting for democracy and social justice.

After being celebrated for their courage and determination in the struggle against their dictators, the people of the region are now described – in an elitist and misleading way – as unable or not ready for radical change. The thesis of “Arab-Muslim” exceptionalism, which supports that these areas are inherently unable to reach a democratic ideal, has returned very fast.

According to various situations, proposals have emerged to limit the revolutionary processes. In Syria, many attempts have been submitted to reach these objectives.

Geneva II or a new attempt to curve the revolutionary process

Firstly the Yemeni solution has been put numerous times on the table. The Geneva Conference II, which should normally take place next July, is one more attempt by all international imperialist forces, the United States and Europe on the one hand and Russia and China on the other, to maintain the structure of Syrian regime and include sectors of the Syrian opposition (National Council and the Syrian National Council in the lead) that are not representative of the Syrian revolutionary popular movement.

Geneva II is a repetition of the conference held in Geneva in June 2012 and all the other so called peace plan suggested by the UN including the the so called “peace plan for Syria” suggested by UN Peace envoy Lakhdar Ibrahimi. This plan calls for the formation of a transitional government, which holds the total responsibility of executive power to govern Syria until Presidential and legislative elections in 2014 under the auspices of the UN. During this period, the dictator Bashar al Assad would stay in function at the top of the State.

Yes, the blood of the Syrian people has sunk too much and yes the Syrian people want peace, but not a peace at any price and certainly not one decided by foreign powers in accordance with the Assad criminal regime and his loyal Iranian and Russian support and a section of the opportunist Syrian opposition, to the detriment of the interests of the Syrian people in their struggle for freedom and dignity!

Many demonstrations and protests in Syria have been held against the future Geneva 2 conference, and any agreement to maintain the structure of the regime. One of the slogans in the demonstrations of Friday, May 31 in Syria was “Geneva 2, there is a difference between fighting for freedom and who wants to improve the conditions of servitude (eternity)“, a direct message to those who want negotiations with the regime.

The people refuse outside maneouvres that would maintain the structure of the regime on other occasions as well: large demonstrations and numerous declarations reject the proposal of dialogue with the regime by the president at the time of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz Khatib. During the demonstrations on February 8, placards proclaimed “we will only negotiate about the departure of the regime”.

This is why we have also since the beginning of the revolution criticize the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic attempts to seek a deal with some sectors of the regime, even the vice President Farouk al Shareh, for a so called peaceful transition that just like the other solutions would maintain the structure of the regime.

Geneva 2 and other so called solutions have only one objective: to prevent the radical change from below by the Syrian revolutionary people and limit the wind of revolt that could be extended with the fall of the Assad regime, especially to neighboring countries, as we can see in Turkey today, and the Gulf states, and the opening of a new resistance front in direction of the Syrian and Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

As a revolutionary, we cannot but say that the worst solution is the remaining of this criminal regime. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Sunday, June 16, 2013

( Blood of Freedom ) A new film on the syrian revolution

An important new documentary on the struggle in Syria has just come out and we are publishing it here together with an introduction by Basel Watfa.
An Amateur Documentary Made By The Free Youth Of Syria.
Translation: Reem Mouhamed
Editing Translation: Karim Elwan
Idea: Alaa Shanana
Scenario: Mouhammed Mustajab
( Blood of Freedom ) syrian revolution


Our revolution is not for bread nor, against hungry.. Our revolution is calling for freedom, for dignity""

Those were not Words said by not an educated man or Syrian political figure.. But by Mohammad Aref Ammoura, the Syrian citizen who talks in this documentary..an indigenous man from Aleppo, speaks spontaneously, straight, doesn't beat around the bush.. on behalf of Syrians majority who sacrificed blood, money, homes and fled out of their beloved Syria escaping from daily death implemented by Bashar Al Assad army. Ammoura words express the intolerable pain and sadness which overwhelmed the Syrians lives...

Ammoura was very sad for a question being asked repeatedly: why did revolution erupt in Syria?? What are you suffering from???!! And here where the story starts.. here` s the crux..

Needless to say, Syrians were influenced by revolutions erupted in the Arab spring states, but it was hard to imagine that, it will extend to cover Syria as well.. why? Because, Syria since decades turned to be the kingdom of silence hidden behind high barriers, a big prison ruled by bloody iron fist and beasts hired by Assad family.. Syrians wanted to live just like all people on this planet!! Want to live free of fear..to feel they are citizens not slaves.. to have press and media liberty.. to have independent judicature.. to clean their life form bribery and corruption which became the only way to survive.

The toughest part was security establishments, the de-facto ruler of the country!! In Syria, there`re countless jails more than universities and scientific research centers. Who can live a normal life when fear becomes his twin, following him like a shadow?? who can speak freely when he doubts everyone around him, afraid of someone might be linked to intelligence ? Who can write an article without getting arrested and accused with silly charges?? Who can tolerate the unbearable torture and humiliation he has to suffer in regime horrible jails?? Who can wait for decades seeing his beloved ones listed as missing persons?? Who can start a fruitful career or private business without bribing the security officers or top people to avoid their depravity?

Who is willing to raise his kids to respect and love their country ,while the lovely country turned to be the source of subdue, the bed of nightmares ,the best model of media lying and foisting in every said word.. who is willing to be proud of his national army when Assad family offended the military honor and undermined it`s reputation to be pitiful,miserable, but prepared well only to face and repress people who paid money to build it up..!

Look at numerous number of Syrians who left Syria running away from military duty to exchange it by money they struggle to pay them finally to corrupted establishments.

See how many Syrians living outside, refusing to settle their life in Syria?? Does it sound strange and worth to investigate???!!

What mentioned above, were little samples about the nature of the regime against which these people marched in the streets challenging it`s suppression and calling for freedom..

Who can deny the Syrians rightfulness of living a decent life in the state the love, of dreaming to build up a country makes them proud of.. ??

Endless number of videos showed the peaceful demonstrations, when people face the army with roses, songs, flags and civilizational slogans, what was the regime immediate reaction??? We do need to say.. just killing civilians in cold blood..!

Who knows the nature of Assad regime wouldn't be surprised..! Freedom is redline, democracy is red line, criticizing regime is red line, calling for change is red line.. Who dares to cross the regime redlines must pay a red price.. BLOOD..!

Not anymore..Not anymore, we shall pay.. Freedom is valuable and deserve this cost.. you can`t turn the clock back. As Ammoura said: do you think it 80`s to fool us again??!! Not anymore.

At the very beginning, The regime went nuts, full of its extreme haughtily reacted just like a wounded beast.. killing, detaining, torturing, bombarding, devastating, humiliating it`s people when they raised their heads seeking the dawn to erase the darkness and write a new page on their new history book..

Those who criticized the Syrian revolution, wrote and spoke to twist the facts and justify the Assad approach of handling the revolution.. Giving him all excuses to maintain his country according to their sayings.. Can I ask you something?

Are you willing to live under such regime and tolerate such conditions? Are you willing to give your freedom and dignity up at any circumstances?? Do you believe that, such army is able to fight a real bottle with Israel or any potential attack?? If a wise leader wants to keep his country safe, will he destroy it as such, will he use air raids, exploded barrels, ballistic missiles against his citizens and ruin their life?? Words are futile in here.. aren't they?

Alas, Syrians were left at their crisis point under the most bloody regime known on earth, a revolution could have changed their life and fill them with hope for a better future was ignored from the entire world.. but in 21st century, and the advanced communication tools allowed to record, convey, and document every moment of their revolution.. refuting the regime and it`s allies propaganda.. they will keep doing and struggling until obtaining what they paid for: freedom and dignity..

Look carefully to grief marks on Ammoura face, listen carefully to his voice full of strength and hope..look how he`s working hardly for his family utility..Insisting to go back someday and live peacefully in Syria..

Listen to this pretty little girl, tearing while craving wrings her heart… Sad.. isn`t it??

History taught us, the greatest states were born from the womb of pains, and the brightest dawn shines after the darkest nights.

Basel Watfa : Syrian and proud to be….


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire's Syria Connection

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire has been making the rounds recently, speaking and writing about the visit to Lebanon and Syria by a 16 member delegation from 8 countries which she led.

Her essay, published by Global Research on May 27, 2013, Report on Syria – Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire: “The Syrian State is Under a Proxy War Led by Foreign Countries” is typical of the talk she has been giving.

She said that her delegation had been "invited by Mussalaha Reconciliation Movement." Near the end of her article she tell us a bit more about this group and its leadership:
Mussalaha mediates between armed gunmen and security forces, help get release of many people who have been abducted, and bring together all parties to the conflict for dialogue and practical solutions. It was this movement who hosted us, under the leadership of Mother Agnès-Mariam, Superior of Saint James’ Monastery, supported by the Patriarch Gregory III Laham, head of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria.
Looking at her earlier thoughts on Syria, we can see that the opinion of Mother Agnes-Mariam is one that Mairead Maquire has held in high regard before. On 25 June 2012 Mairead Maguire very publicly said ‘NO to War in Syria’ and went on to elaborate, according to Eileen Fleming in Veterans Today:
A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnès-Mariam.

In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her.
Opinions vary as to the role of Mother Agnès-Mariam. For example The Irish Times carried this charge against her by a Jesuit who had lived in Syria for 30 years:
Nun on Irish visit accused of peddling 'regime lies' about crisis in Syria
Mary Fitzgerald
Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00
AN ITALIAN Jesuit expelled from Syria in June due to his outspoken criticism of government violence has accused a controversial nun who visited Ireland last week of peddling “regime lies” about the crisis there.

Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, who lived in Syria for 30 years and has been heavily involved in interfaith work in the country, described Mother Agnès-Mariam as “an instrument” of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “She has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona,” he told The Irish Times yesterday. “She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime.”

During her four-day visit to Ireland last week, Mother Agnès-Mariam, who is superior at the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery in Syria, gave media interviews in which she claimed Christians in Syria were facing “extinction” and that rebels battling Assad were predominantly foreigners linked with al-Qaeda.

Fr Dall’Oglio, who has spent time with opposition activists in several restive parts of Syria, said these claims were “ridiculous” and constituted regime propaganda.

“I have been there, I know the people, including the youth, who are working for the revolution, and I know that what she is saying is insane. It corresponds with the regime version of the facts,” he said. More...
Her reputation as an Assad dictatorship mouthpiece has even made it to YouTube. Ali Haider, a video activist, has produced this critique of Maquire's hero:

ASSAD AND MOTHER AGNES MARIAM; UNHOLY ALLIANCE, SYRIA 18+
These notes accompany the video:
Published on May 10, 2013

Mother Agnès-Mariam of the Cross is, arguably, the Christian equivalent of Shaikh Ramadan Al Bouti. She is very vocal in talking about "the foreign fighters" who came to Syria and started beheading people but she has no issue with Assad forces and sectarian gangs committing the worst atrocities against civilians since the days of Crusaders and Mongols. We don't know if she is an active paid agent for Assad propaganda masters or she is just doing this for free. One explanation is that she, like many other from the Christian minority, bought Assad's claim that he protects the minorities in Syria. She and many others from those minorities forgot that there is no future for them without the Syrian majority and we are not talking here about the Sunni majority but about Syrians who had enough of the Assad's and their affiliated gangs and who wanted their country to be free and democratic. Those are the real majority and they will prevail. Those who sided with the tyrant or preferred to sit on the fence are the real minority regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation. We wanted to remind Mother Agnès that the tyrant uses his loyal servants for a specific reason then he dumps them. We saw how many senior Syrian officials either "committed suicide" or had "a heart attack" out of nowhere. We wanted also to remind everybody, Assad's sect included, that helping tyrants is immoral and punishable here and in the hereafter.
On 26 May 2012, after the Houla massacre happened, Mother Agnès-Mariam's outlet, Vox Clamantis, issued a press release claiming that the Syrian army was not in the vicinity of Houla and did not bombard the area.

Investigations and reports by the United Nations, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all concluded that the Assad regime was behind the massacre. The 15 member UN Security Council unanimously condemned Syria for the attack and Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S. announced that they were expelling Syrian diplomats in response to the massacre, which all but the most die-hard Assad supporters blame on his reign.

The Committee to Protect Journalists implicated Mother Agnès-Mariam in the murder of a journalist, Gilles Jacquier, by the Assad regime. Pulse Media reported:
Dead journalists and Sister Agnès-Mariam
August 21, 2012
The attacks on media personnel affiliated with the Syrian regime has been rightly condemned. But not enough is said about the regime’s more systematic policy to co-opt and in some cases deliberately trap journalists for propaganda purposes. Most shocking however is the role of Sister Agnès-Mariam, the regime-affiliated nun who has been feted both by the far left and the Christian right.
...
Hammouche and Jacquier were among a group of 15 journalists allowed into Syria on government-issued visas facilitated by Sister Agnès-Mariam de la Croix, a Lebanese nun of Palestinian origin with close relations to the Assad regime. Sister Agnès had helped arrange a reporting trip to Homs on January 11, although she declined to accompany the group, saying her absence would help them move freely. Jacquier resisted the Homs trip, believing it unsafe, but Sister Agnès urged him to go or risk losing the opportunity to renew his visa beyond the initial four-day period, Hammouche told CPJ in an account consistent with news reports. More...
Gilles Jacquier became the first western journalist killed in the Syrian Civil War. He was killed in Homs on 11 January 2012.

One of Mother Agnès-Mariam's more extreme claims can be heard here in her own voice:
Syrian rebels took bodies from hospital to stage massacre
"People told us that they have seen militias carrying out from the national hospital in Taldou, corpses on blankets of the Ministry of Health, carrying them to assemble them in a mosque."
The Assad regime has used every means at its disposal to promote its narrative in the mainstream media and even the Catholic Church has unwittingly played a role:
For example, in March, Agenzia Fides, an official Vatican publication, republished (almost verbatim) material provided by the Syrian propaganda website "Syria Truth." The article claimed that jihadists had expelled Christians from Homs. This information eventually found its way into outlets such as the Los Angeles Times. When we demonstrated the dubious veracity of these claims, Syria Truth went ballistic. A subsequent McClatchy article corroborated our refutation.
Middle East Forum wrote on 12 June 2012; they also wrote about Mother Agnès-Mariam:
Like Nizar Nayouf of Syria Truth, Mother Agnès-Mariam often assumes the slick veneer of a moderate; she even wrote an open letter to Assad about the condition of people affected by the fighting in Syrian hospitals. It's hard not to conclude that Mother Agnès-Mariam is little more than another Assad propagandist using her religious credentials to push a particular narrative.

According to the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier, Agnès-Mariam was "comfortable among [Assad's] security services," and she told their reporter it was hoped he could "dismantle the propaganda of Western media." Thierry Meyssan also conducted a revealing interview with Mother Agnès-Mariam about Middle Eastern Christians. During the interview, the mother superior repeated the typically farcical Assad line that the dictator was truly trying to "reform."

Agnès-Mariam told Meyssan that she "deplored the fact that the so-called opponents didn't accept President Bashar Al-Assad's invitation to debate with him the series of reforms which he is in the process of carrying out."(Of course, it would be of no consequence to the sister (who never recanted her earlier statements) that in leaked private e-mails Assad told his wife, "We are going to adopt [a plan that left him in power] instead of the rubbish laws of parties, elections, media [i.e., actual democratic reforms].")

Mother Superior Agnès-Mariam continued by claiming that the opposition was just a puppet in a conspiracy guided by foreign powers.
Why Mother Agnès-Mariam appears so strongly in Assad's corners is a matter for speculation. A flower child in the sixties, Agnès-Mariam had "a kind of revelation" in the eighties that eventually, in 1994, led her to move to Qâra, Syria "to breathe new life into an ancient monastery of the sixth century that lies in disuse." If that is the case, she may well feel that her ability to continue her life's work is dependent on her staying in the good graces of Bashar al-Assad.

In any case, Mairead Maguire does appear to rely on her heavily both for her information and views about the situation in Syria and her special connection to the Assad regime for access.

Mairead Maguire's Syria Narrative

The fact that Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate buys her a lot of instant creditability when she speaks on Syria. It probably buys her more than it should when it is considered that she shares that title with the likes of Barack Obama and Henry Kissinger.

Looking at her current narrative on Syria, as reflected in the GlobalResearch piece, we find that it has considerable agreement with that of Agnès-Mariam, which in turn reflects the fantasy narrative of Bashar al-Assad.

Like all fantasy narratives, this one only makes sense if certain very real factors are left completely out of it. So just as much can be learned by looking at what is discussed, much can also be learned by what is left out of the discussion.

In the following discussion of Mairead Maguire's views, it is important to note that she completely fails to address at least three major realities of the Syrian Revolution that conflict with her narrative:

1) Defections from the Syria Arab Army and the formation of the Free Syrian Army.
Like Bashar al-Assad, she thinks Syria's troubles are the result of an invasion of foreign terrorists with foreign backing. She doesn't consider the tens of thousands of defectors from Assad's own army, or the Free Syrian Army they formed. Wikipedia tells us:
The Free Syrian Army traces its origin to early defectors from the Syrian army who refused to shoot unarmed protesters during the Syrian uprising.
I have prepared a separate post to supplement this one to better highlight a handful of the many defection reports and videos here: Why have there been so many Syrian Army defections?

2) The Assad regime's attacks on civilian areas with aircraft, missiles and artillery.
Assad's use of cluster bombs against civilian targets has been well established, as indicated by these reports from Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera, CJ Chivers of the NY Times, the National, Arab News and many more. His use of ordinary bombs, dropped from his planes, have turned large parts of major cities into rubble, and his use of Scud ballistic missiles on his own cities is also well documented. Assad's delivery of "Death from Above" is a big part of the slaughter taking place in Syria now yet Mairead Maguire says nothing about this.

3) The foreign intervention of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in support of Assad.
Her opposition to foreigners involved in the Syrian conflict is decidedly one-sided. She blames the whole situation on foreign terrorist attacking Syria and demands that they leave but says nothing about foreign fighters from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. While it is clear that individuals from all over the globe, even from the US, have rallied to the Syrian Revolution, those three state organizations have sent armies to fight for Assad.

All of these realities are now so well documented that only the most strict believer in the Assad narrative continues to deny them, and yet none of them exist in Mairead Maquire's report back on Syria:
Report on Syria – Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire:
“The Syrian State is Under a Proxy War Led by Foreign Countries”
...
In Lebanon we visited several refugee camps, hosted by Lebanese or Palestinian communities. One Woman said: “before this conflict started we were happy and had a good life (there is free education, free healthcare, subsidies for fuel, in Syria ,) and now we live in poverty”. Her daughter and son-in-law (a pharmacist and engineer) standing on a cement floor in a Palestinian refugee camp, with not even a mattress, told us that this violence had erupted to everyone's surprise and spread so quickly they were all still in shock, but when well armed, foreign fighters came to Homs, they took over their homes, raped their women, and killed young males who refused to join their ranks, so the people fled in terror. They said that these foreign fighters were from many countries like Libyans, Saudis, Tunisians, Chechens, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Emiratis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turkish, Europeans, Australian, and these gangs are financed and trained by foreign governments. They attach suicide vests around peoples’ bodies and threaten to explode them if they don’t do what they are told.
Homs was know as the capital of the Revolution and from the very beginning it had a strong protest movement, as you can see from this video:

Martyrs funeral in Homs turns to freedom protest on 9th April 2011


Violence brutally visited the Homs protests nine days later on 18 April 2011 when 50 opposition demonstrators were shot dead by regime forces in what became known as the Clock Square massacre. [An eyewitness story] [another report] [democratic underground report]

This video catches the moment the Assad forces open fired on the protesters:

Homs: New footage: the Clock Square Massacre (1) - Syria

Also Homs: New footage: the Clock Square Massacre (2) - Syria length 5:43

This is a leaked video of after the massacre showing what seems to be regime forces chanting pro Bashar slogans at the Clock Square in Homs.


Apparently these developments went unnoticed by the Homs family interviewed by Mairead Maguire, which explains why the "violence had erupted to everyone's surprise." But since they could count foreign fighters from no less than a dozen countries in Homs, it is hard to understand how they could have missed this development and many others like it:

(12.03.2011) Adjutant Ali Ahmad & other soldiers defect & form Homs battalion - Free Syria


Mairead Maguire continues her report:
2- Hospitals: We visited the hospitals and saw many people injured by shootings, bombings, and armed attacks. A moderate Sunni Imam told me how he was abducted by jihadists, who tortured him, cut off his ear, tried to cut his throat, slicing his legs, and left him for dead. He said when he goes back to his mosque they will slaughter him. He told us “these men are foreign fighters, jihadists from foreign countries, well armed, well trained, with money, they are in our country to destroy it. They are not true Muslims but are religious extremist/fundamentalists terrorizing, abducting, killing our people”. The government spokesman also confirmed that they have in detention captured foreign fighters from 29 countries, including Chechens, Iraqis, and many others. The Ministry of Health showed us a documentary on the terrible killings by Jihadists and the terror caused by these foreigners with the killing of medics and destruction of medical infrastructure of the Syrian State which has made it difficult to answer the needs of the population.
None of her knowledge of these things is first hand. Clearly she would have us believe the Sunni Iman and the government spokesman, but that is no reason to give them any credibility given the history of this government and her support for the views of Agnès-Mariam.

As we can see, there is no mention of the thousands of defections, no mention even of the existence of the Free Syrian Army. No mention of attacks by helicopter gunships, long range artillery or tank fire. No threat from Assad's use of Scud missiles or cluster bombs on communities. The whole problem is these foreign fighters from 29 countries that are bent on the destruction of Syria.

Also, according to the Syrians she interviewed, it was the protesters that first attacked an un-armed army rather than the other way around.
They told us when the conflict started it was peaceful for change but quickly turned into bloodshed when armed men killed many soldiers.

In the first days soldiers were unarmed but when people started asking for protection the government and military responded to defend the people and in self defence.
I expect this is how she would defend the use of cluster bombs and Scuds if she was forced to acknowledge their use by the Assad regime.

She blames the use of Sarin nerve gas on the opposition.
Most recently however, a UN investigator, High Commissioner Carla Del Ponte, has confirmed that it was rebels, not Syrian government, who used Sarin gas.
This is a very dishonest citation in that she neglects to say that Carla Del Ponte's own commission disputed her claim only hours after she made it and the UN Commission final report said:
It is possible that anti-Government armed groups may access and use chemical weapons. This includes nerve agents, though there is no compelling evidence that these groups possess such weapons or their requisite delivery systems.
Finally, she comes to her conclusions: Assad is the great defender of the Syrian people and the victim of a foreign plot:
Following many authorized reports in the mainstream Medias and our own evidences, I can stress that the Syrian State and its population are under a proxy war led by foreign countries and directly financed and backed mainly by Qatar who has imposed its views on the Arab League.

Turkey, a part of the Lebanese opposition and some of the Jordan authorities offer a safe haven to a diversity of jihadist groups, each with its own agenda, recruited from many countries. Bands of jihadists armed and financed from foreign countries invade Syria through Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon porous frontiers in an effort to destabilize Syria. There are an estimated 50,000 foreign jihadist fighters terrorizing Syria. Those death squads are destroying systematically the Syrian State infrastructures.
Although her views on the situation in Syria parrots those of the Assad regime, they are quite out of sync with reality and, in fact, border on delusional. The wonder is that her views on Syria hold any currency at all, let alone the wide approval they have gained on the Left lately.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Why have there been so many Syrian Army defections?

Bashar al-Assad and all the spokespeople for his regime insist that they are fighting "armed terrorist gangs." Even presumed independents like Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, repeat the regimes outlook:
These foreign fighters were from many countries like Libyans, Saudis, Tunisians, Chechens, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Emiratis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turkish, Europeans, Australian, and these gangs are financed and trained by foreign governments.
These foreign fighters are a small minority of Assad's opposition. The truth is the the majority of those who are fighting him, and now make up the rank and file, as well as the leadership, of the Free Syrian Army, are Syrians who once fought for him and made the moral and courageous decision to change sides.

This is an inconvenient fact for Assad and his supporters, but these defectors cannot be ignored. Anyone seeking to understand the true dynamics of the Syrian Revolution must come to terms with these soldiers and understand why they left Assad and joined the Revolution.

What follows is a small sampling of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of defection videos and reports to be found on the Internet.


Reuters reported:
Syria force surrounds town after defections: residents
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
AMMAN | Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:35pm EDT
(Reuters) - An armored Syrian force surrounded a town near the city of Homs Monday and fired heavy machineguns after the defection of tens of soldiers in the area, activists and residents said.

One woman, 45 year-old Amal Qoraman, was killed and five other people were injured, they said, adding that tens of people were arrested in house to house raids in the town of 40,0000.

Since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi's rule in Libya, activists and residents have reported increasing defections among Syrian troops, as well as more intense street protests in a five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al Assad.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied army defections have been taking place. They have expelled independent media since the uprising began in March.

Activists say there have been desertions in eastern Deir al-Zor province, northwestern Idlib province, the Homs countryside and the outskirts of Damascus, where security forces fought gunbattles with defectors Sunday.

At least 40 light tanks and armored vehicles, and 20 buses of troops and military intelligence members deployed at dawn at the entrance of Rastan, 20 km (12 miles) north of Homs and began firing heavy machineguns at the town, two residents said.

"The tanks deployed at both banks of the highway, which remained open, and fired long bursts from their machineguns at Rastan," one of the residents, who gave his name as Raed, told Reuters by phone.

He said defections began in the town when it was stormed by tanks three months ago to crush large street protests against Assad in an assault that killed dozens of civilians.

Security forces killed Monday a former officer who had played a key role in coordinating army defections, activists said.

Mostapha Selim Hezbollah, a former air force officer in his 40s', was shot dead when his car was ambushed near the town of Kfar Nubul in Idlib province, which borders Turkey, they said. More...

Adjutant Ali Ahmad & other soldiers defect & form Homs battalion FSA | 03 Dec 2011


Massive soldiers defection joined the FSA to fight against Al-Assad in Syria | 15 Dec 2011


(01-23-2012) Major Muhammad Ali Ayoob defects and joins Free Syria Army - FSA


(02-01-2012) Homs | More defections join Free Syria Army - FSA


(02-02-2012) Aleppo | Group of soldiers defects to join Free Syria Army - FSA


(02-05-2012) Group of police officers defects to join Free Syria Army - FSA


(02-06-2012) Group of soldiers defects to join Free Syria Army - FSA


Colonel Bassam al-Shikh Ali defects and joins Free Syria Army | 16 Feb 2012


Defection of Brigadier General Fayiz Omar - FSA | 16 Feb 2012


Syrian Army officer deflected and joined Free Syrian Army (FSA) | 16 Feb 2012
Syrian Army officer Lt. Adnan Al-Somair deflect from the Syrian regular army and joined the new Free Syrian Army, supporting Syrian uprising protesters.

What´s left of Homs, Syria | 17 Feb 2012


Idlib | Colonel Abdul Jabbar Mohammad Akeedi defects & joins FSA | 19 Mar 2012


General Defects from Assad's Army to Free Syrian Army | 28 Mar. 2012
Footage depicting a man claiming to be Brigadier General Ziad Isma'il Fahd announcing his defection from the Syrian Army, and joining the Free Syrian Army. He states that the regime's collapse "is coming inevitably" and that "there is no going back." It was uploaded by Syrian activists on March 28, 2012.

(05.01.2012) Colonel Abdullah Ali Al-Khtebi defects and joins Free Syrian Army


Syria humiliated by Pilot Defecting to Jordan | 22 Jun 2012


Albawaba News reported:
Syria army hit by new defections as civilians trapped in Homs
Published June 25th, 2012 - 12:47 GMT
A general, two colonels, several officers and 33 soldiers have deserted the Syrian army and arrived in Turkey, CNN-Turk said. These defections are an addition to the 13 Syrian generals who defected the army and reached Turkish soil, reported the Anatolia news agency.

The general, whose the agency failed to identify, entered into the the Turkish province of Hatay together with the soldiers and their families, i.e. a total group of 196 people, including many women and children, according to Anatolia. More...

(7-14-12) Rastan | Homs | Large Military Defections From Army



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