Feb 112012
 
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CounterPunch Diary

Rally in support of Syrian President_(2011)

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

If you want a sense of what could well lie in store for Syria, go no further than Anthony Shadid’s report from Libya in the New York Times for February 9. Shadid, a good reporter, describes a dismembered country, rent by banditry:

“The militias are proving to be the scourge of the revolution’s aftermath. Though they have dismantled most of their checkpoints in the capital, they remain a force, here and elsewhere. A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated there are 250 separate militias in the coastal city of Misurata, the scene of perhaps the fiercest battle of the revolution. In recent months those militias have become the most loathed in the country.”

One martial enterprise of some of these Misuratan militias is to attack a refugee camp of 1,500 people they had previously driven from their homes in Tawergha on the grounds they had supported Qaddafy. Other militias from Benghazi and Zintan are trying to protect these refugees.

“‘Nobody holds back the Misuratans,’ said Jumaa Ageela, an elder there. Bashir Brebesh said the same was true for the militias in Tripoli. On Jan. 19, his 62-year-old father, Omar, a former Libyan diplomat in Paris, was called in for questioning by militiamen from Zintan. The next day, the family found his body at a hospital in Zintan. His nose was broken, as were his ribs. The nails had been pulled from his toes, they said. His skull was fractured, and his body bore signs of burns from cigarettes.

“They’re putting themselves as the policeman, as the judge and as the executioner,’ said Mr. Brebesh, 32, a neurology resident in Canada, who came home after learning of his father’s death. He inhaled deeply. ‘Did they not have enough dignity to just shoot him in the head?’ he asked. ‘It’s so monstrous. Did they enjoy hearing him scream?’

“The government has acknowledged the torture and detentions, but it admits that the police and Justice Ministry are not up to the task of stopping them. On Tuesday, it sent out a text message on cellphones, pleading for the militias to stop.

“‘People are turning up dead in detention at an alarming rate,’ said Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who was compiling evidence in Libya last month. “If this was happening under any Arab dictatorship, there would be an outcry.’”

Many images are suspiciously clearly produced for foreign consumption, especially in America.

It looks as though Syria might well be heading into civil war of a probable brutality and level of bloodshed far beyond what is transpiring in Libya – as veterans of Lebanon’s civil wars can attest. There are howls of outrage in the West about Russia and China’s vetoes of the resolution in the UN Security Council calling for Assad to step down. What did they suppose would be the consequence of the NATO powers’ interpretation of the UN National Security Council’s two resolutions on Libya, taken as the green light for heavy bombing and kindred military activities in the cause of regime change?

It’s clear enough that the Sunni alliance led by Saudia Arabia and Qatar has ensured that the insurgency inside Syria will countenance no ceasefire offers; and that the propaganda machine so well described by Aisling Byrne on this site will continue a non-stop flow of mendacious bulletins eagely seized upon by the western press.

As Byrne reported,

“Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations – the pillars of the narrative – all are part of the ‘regime change’ alliance.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in particular, is reportedly funded through a Dubai-based fund with pooled (and therefore deniable) Western-Gulf money (Saudi Arabia alone has, according to Elliot Abrams allocated US$130 billion to ‘palliate the masses’ of the Arab Spring).

What appears to be a nondescript British-based organization, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the narrative of the mass killing of thousands of peaceful protesters using inflated figures, ‘facts’, and often exaggerated claims of ‘massacres’ and even recently ‘genocide’.”

Note that Byrne also wrote emphatically that:

“All this is not to say that there isn’t a genuine popular demand for change in Syria against the repressive security-dominated infrastructure that dominates every aspect of people’s lives, nor that gross human-rights violations have not been committed, both by the Syrian security forces, armed opposition insurgents, as well as mysterious third force characters operating since the onset of the crisis in Syria, including insurgents, mostly jihadis from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, as well as more recently Libya, among others.”

Buttressing Byrne’s observations are some interesting passages in the final report of the Arab League’s team of observers in Syria:

“26.    In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.

“27.    In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

“28.    The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded.

“29.   The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.”

It’s a sure thing the escalation will continue: attacks and bombings; heavy-handed government response, as with the shelling. Another country on the downward slide into disintegration, to the satisfaction of the Sunni alliance and the NATO powers.

Meanwhile, on another front, the networks are ready. A CounterPunch informant reports:

“I was visiting ABCNews the other day to see a friend who works on graphics. When I went to his room, he showed me all the graphics he was making in anticipation of the Israeli attack on Iran; not just maps, but flight patterns, trajectories, and 3-d models of U.S. aircraft carrier fleets.

“But what was most disturbing – was that ABC, and presumably other networks, have been rehearsing these scenarios for over 2 weeks, with newscasters and retired generals in front of maps talking about missiles and delivery systems, and at their newsdesks – the screens are emblazoned with “This is a Drill” to assure they don’t go out on air – (like War of the Worlds).

“Then reports of counter-attacks by Hezballah in Lebanon with rockets on Israeli cities – it was mind-numbing. Very disturbing – when pre-visualization becomes real.”

Another CounterPuncher emails us:

“Just a quick possible scoop for the news room – I have a neighbor who bounces for a Seattle bar, and he had some very rowdy US service men in the bar the other night. When he asked them what was up, they told him they were being deployed to the mid-east as a front-running group for an operation in Iran.”

Footnote: on the topic of manufactured news, if CounterPunchers missed it, I recommend Israel Shamir’s report from Moscow on this site last week on the two demonstrations held in Moscow on February 4 on Bolotnaya Heath and Poklonnaya Hill. The liberals mustered in Bolotnaya had to concede that the turnout at the “pro-Putin” rally on Poklonnaya far exceeded their own numbers and all previous expectations.

Shamir wrote:

“Echo Moskvy, the voice of the Orange, liberal opposition, gave 62, 000 Bolotnaya vs 80, 000 Poklonnaya. There’s the usual gap in assessments partly due to methods of counting. One can count how many people were located on the square at any given time (this will be a low estimate) but it is just a guess how many people came and went away; perhaps the flow was high. By this guess you can reach a very high estimate. I would guess that on Bolotnaya there was a considerable flow: it is a downtown place, easy to come, easy to go. Probably Poklonnaya would have less flow, as it is an out-of-town place, hard to get there, hard to leave. So my estimate would be 50,000 on Bolotnaya, and 110,000 on Poklonnaya. Though precise numbers are being argued over, the numerical victory of Poklonnaya was accepted by the Boloto people….

“This second and largest rally was not “for Putin” – there were many speakers known for their dislike of Putin and his regime, but they hated the “white” (or “orange” as they say) opposition of Bolotnaya Heath even more. If the West hates Putin, it should try the forces woken up by the rally. It became a rally against neo-liberals, against pro-Western policies, a rally of Red-Brown (or “patriotic”) alliance of statist, nationalist opposition of Russia-First. They out-Putined Putin in no time.”

An Associated Press story, picked up by hundred of news organizations round the world put the Poklonnaya demo at 20,000 – an estimate that is clearly ludicrous the moment one looks at any news photo, such as this one.

For further interesting photographs and comparisons I recommend  Patrick Armstrong’s amusing piece, “Who Ya Going to Believe, The Associated Press or your lyin’ eyes?

Incidentally, Shamir has some figures from  Moscow Underground: “Poklonnaya (Park Kultury) Station worked only one way and delivered 105,000 passengers. Provided that some people came by buses and cars, 140,000 sounds plausible.”

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com

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