This weekend I ran across a random copy of The Wall Street Journal and decided to see what passes for mainstream news these days. Reading it reminded me of the striking amount of terrorism propaganda being foisted upon the U.S. public. The numerous terrorism-related stories in that weekend edition of The Journal painted a confused and contradictory picture that reflects a difficulty in keeping the American public focused on terrorist threats and increasingly suspicious of their fellow citizens.
The weekend edition included five major stories about terrorism, including a shooting at a Colorado high school, the release of video from a hospital massacre in Yemen, and a review of how the Sandy Hook victims’ families are coping. In the most prominent spot, at the top left of the front page, readers found an alert for a major expose covering the Boston bombers. The fifth story was about the arrest of a Wichita man for plotting to blow up aircraft with a homemade bomb at the airport.
The new, Wichita story provides a good example of the challenges facing the FBI and corporate media in ongoing efforts to stoke the public fear. The suspect, like others in the last few years, had no previous history of terrorist activity and the FBI did everything for him.
Terry Lee Loewen was an avionics specialist at a private company working at the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. Allegedly, he tried to drive his car, loaded with explosives that the FBI had helped him make, onto the tarmac to cause “maximum carnage and death.” This man, whom neighbors called quiet and “normal” was supposedly working for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The emerging story of Loewen includes a significant number of contradictory reports and unbelievable aspects. The official account is that Loewen decided to become a Muslim about six months ago and he immediately began devoting all his time to preparations for becoming a “lone wolf” suicide bomber. FBI-produced documents allegedly provide this 58-year old white man’s reasoning for his radical change of life course—“My only explanation is that I believe in jihad for the sake of Allah + for the sake of my Muslim brothers + sisters.”
Although Loewen did not enter a plea and his public defender and current wife would not comment, his ex-wife and son were contacted for interviews and neither of them had any idea about his new commitment to jihad and martyrdom. The son had spoken to his father in the last month yet, according to The Journal, “didn’t detect anything amiss” and “didn’t know about any turn toward Islam by his father.”
Although Loewen is being portrayed as a serious, jihadist Muslim, he had no known connection to any Muslim organization in Wichita or elsewhere. Apparently he was only an online Muslim and the FBI caught him making comments about his desire to wage jihad against his own country on behalf of the members of his new faith.
His neighbors couldn’t believe it and never saw anything suspicious about him or his current wife. And although his own son had no idea about it, and his ex-wife would never have predicted it, in his last six months he must have devoted every spare moment to his new mission. One might think that a new convert would take time to learn about his new religion and interact with at least one or two Muslims in his community. After all, doesn’t becoming a Muslim require more than just making a few online comments?
Not for Loewen, according to the FBI. Instead, one day he was just a solitary, radical Muslim and he immediately began spending all his free time “studying subjects like jihad, martyrdom operations, and Sharia law.” He also “studied the airport layout and took photos of access points, researched flight schedules and acquired components to make car bombs.” He was obviously very busy and totally committed.
FOX News reported that Loewen was inspired by Usama bin Laden. Investigators from the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force further claimed that Loewen “frequently expressed admiration for Anwar Al-Awlaki.” Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas said that Loewen’s action reminded us that we must “reaffirm our commitment” to the War on Terror.
There are certainly suspicious things about Loewen. For one thing, he had another name—Terry L. Lane. How many readers of The Wall Street Journal just happen to have other names? And Loewen was cited in 2009 for a “a concealed-carry violation at the airport.”
Nonetheless, according to his ex-wife of 10-years, Loewen/Lane was “peaceful, easy-going, quiet man” who “didn’t like confrontation; he was never one to start a fight.” She said he had left his job at Hawker Beechcraft Air Services for a time, to work at Learjet across town. She didn’t know when he returned to Beechcraft. “He was happy. He was a normal human being,” she said. And although The Journal reported that the son had no idea about Loewen’s conversion to Islam, The Wichita Eagle reported that the son told his mother that Loewen had recently become a Muslim.
Other news sources report that the son said his dad was “always really calm and a loving man” and that he “had no idea how his father came to be the main suspect in a foiled terror plot.”
Therefore the news about Loewen/Lane and this alleged new terrorist plot includes many confusing reports and makes little or no sense. A 58-year old man with no connection to any Muslim organization just decided on his own to give up his entire life to become a jihadist. He forsook all other commitments to make a martyr of himself for the benefit of “brothers and sisters” who he had never met. His family and neighbors apparently knew nothing about it.
If we can learn anything from the incident it is that the next terrorist could be anybody—you, your father, your neighbor—anyone at all. And there won’t necessarily be any signs at all other than what the FBI provides about internet activity.
This brings us to the big expose that The Journal published on the Boston bombers. Readers might wonder about the coincidence of the reporter from The Journal just happening to be a relatively close friend of the Tsarnaev family, whose two sons were accused of the marathon attack. Ostensibly, that relationship was initiated because both the reporter and the family spoke Russian and the reporter was doing research on Chechens and “Russia’s Islamist insurgency.” But the friendship was clearly much more than that. Who could have predicted that chance relationship would come in so handy for a terrorism reporter from a major U.S. news source?
Anyway, the story about the Tsarnaevs presents more contradictions. For instance, the mother of the accused bombers is portrayed quite differently than we have seen before. The woman who suddenly became a terrorist suspect herself a week after she began claiming that her sons were controlled by the FBI has most often been seen as a strict Muslim woman dressed in very traditional garb. In The Journal’s new story, however, she is “a wide-eyed rapid talker with a low-cut dress and high heels who waved her arms and teased her black hair like the pop singer Cyndi Lauper.” And she ran a business on the side giving facials.
In this new light, mother Tsarnaev could be an office girl from Jersey, or the girl next door.
But those who read the whole story realize that there is a bigger purpose behind this spread on the Tsarnaevs and it is not to describe their dress habits. It is, in fact, to reveal that the Boston bombers were conspiracy theorists. Specifically, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother were “filled with thoughts of conspiracy” including that “the Sept.11 attacks were organized by shadowy financial elites.”
We have seen this tactic before with other terrorism stories but never this blatantly. We are being told that not only can anyone be a terrorist, but it is more likely that anyone who questions the official accounts of terrorism is more likely to be a terrorist. How convenient for the military-terrorism-industrial complex. If such an approach takes hold in the minds of fearful citizens, there would be no stopping the architects of the War on Terror and no shortage of suspects to keep the whole thing rolling along.
Israeli political and military leaders of all levels have been issuing almost daily threats against Hezbollah while claiming that the Israeli army stands fully ready to confront – and even crush – Hezbollah. So, why don’t they destroy Hezbollah now?
Recently, Israel began to step up its verbal threats, “flexing the muscles” of its military. Hardly a day passes without a statement, report, or interview coming from the Jewish state raising alarm about Hezbollah’s military capabilities but affirming at the same time the “might” of the Israeli armed forces and their preparedness for any future conflict involving Hezbollah.
Israeli military commanders have all put their two cents in. The Israeli top brass seem to suffer from a curious case of overconfidence, prompting observers to wonder why Tel Aviv has not already proceeded to wage war and end Hezbollah once and for all, with victory so close at hand given Israel’s allegedly full readiness and unmitigated superiority.
The most recent statement on Hezbollah came from Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister. Steinitz was keen to affirm that Hezbollah does not have chemical weapons, and that it had not obtained any, prior to the deal to dismantle Syria’s arsenal being reached.
Steinitz may have been clarifying remarks made earlier by a senior Israeli officer, who said that it could be neither confirmed nor denied whether Hezbollah had acquired part of Syria’s chemical weapons – an issue that aggravates the concerns Israelis have regarding the losses to be expected in the event of a confrontation with Hezbollah.
In recent days, Tel Aviv resumed its campaign against Hezbollah, raising many questions about its aims with regard to timing. Usually, these Israeli campaigns, often instigated by the Israeli army spokesperson, seek to ramp up the perception of Israel’s deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah to dissuade it from carrying out any operations, or to warn it against responding if Tel Aviv decides to launch an attack.
The question is: Does this weeks-long campaign seek to achieve one of these goals, or both?
Colonel Asher Ben-Lulu, commander of the Israeli army’s Kfir infantry brigade, stressed the army was ready to face the worst and most complex scenarios involving Hezbollah, though he acknowledged, “The smartest and most formidable enemy we face is Hezbollah, whether at the level of intelligence, combat techniques, or military doctrine.” In an interview with Maariv, Ben-Lulu said, “Hezbollah is a smart enemy. It possesses a network of underground tunnels and has professional fighters and state-of-the-art combat techniques.”
Regarding scenarios for a future conflict with Hezbollah, Ben-Lulu warned, “The conflict will not involve convoys of armored vehicles or legions of soldiers, but [will involve] guerilla warfare and hostilities originating from civilian areas.” The Israeli colonel then stressed the need for additional troops on the ground, and said that the Kfir brigade would be suitable for the job.
Ben-Lulu continued, “The next war will see forces brought in to control the areas where rockets are launched. We at the Kfir brigade train on combat behind enemy lines to inflict heavy losses on the enemy.”
The commander then remarked that Israel’s enemies, especially Hezbollah, are fully aware of Israel’s air superiority, intelligence capabilities, and precise firepower, and said, “Hezbollah will operate underground, will not rely on communications, and will try to invalidate our superiority as a conventional army.”
In the same vein, Raafat Halabi, commander of the Israeli army’s Herev (Sword) battalion, said that his unit was prepared to move from “zero to one hundred” in a matter of seconds. In an interview with the website Israel Defense, the officer in charge of the Druze battalion specialized in combat in Lebanon revealed that preparations had been stepped up recently, with the build-up focusing on training and increased readiness for contingencies along the northern front. He said, “We must be ready in a matter of seconds.”
“Hezbollah members patrol the border in four-wheel drives or disguised as shepherds, who are sometimes seen carrying scopes,” he added.
Concerning whether Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria serves the interests of the Israeli army, Halabi said, “On the one hand, this hurts Hezbollah. But nevertheless, it allows its fighters to accumulate operational experience on how to carry out attacks.” Halabi reckoned that “offensive combat is new to Hezbollah, which has so far played on the defensive.”
Herev’s commander then pointed out that the members of his unit are frequently posted along different border positions with Lebanon to maintain their readiness, saying that in the next war, they will spend a long time inside Lebanese territory and reach the areas where Hezbollah’s rocket-launching platforms are deployed.
According to Israel Defense, a specialized military affairs website, the Herev battalion has developed new techniques to fight Hezbollah. Israel Defense indicated that the Northern Command in the Israeli army is currently considering transferring Herev’s techniques to other units that must also be ready for war.
The website also stated that the soldiers in the battalion were training to fight inside Lebanon in a third Lebanon war and to defend settlements in the Galilee, as Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had promised “surprises” in any future conflict, for example, in the form of a Hezbollah incursion into northern Israel.
Here are the bits from Whitaker’s article that I thought were worth commenting on:
‘On one side of the chemical weapons debate is Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist, who suggested in an article for the London Review of Books that rebel fighters, rather than the Syrian regime, were to blame for the Damascus attacks’.
That isn’t really the point Hersh was making though, is it? The gist of the story was that the case against the Assad regime wasn’t as strong as the Obama regime made out, and that the Obama regime knew this.
As Hersh told Democracy Now – ‘I certainly don’t know who did what, but there’s no question my government does not’, and that Obama ‘was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case‘.
Hersh and his sources saw that as a major scandal: a President deciding to start a war, with all that entails, based on a case that was less than watertight.
They also refused to even entertain the possibility, at least in public, that a rebel faction may have been responsible, despite knowing that at least one rebel faction had ‘mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity’.
‘Given that Hersh has spent decades working for mainstream media, that Media Lens disapproves of anonymous sources’.
An apparent ‘Gotcha!’ moment, no? But maybe there’s a difference between people leaking and briefing anonymously to promote Establishment narratives and aims, and people leaking and briefing anonymously to challenge them. Hersh has, throughout his career, promoted the latter with a very good hit rate. Simply put, anonymous leaks designed to whistleblow are not the same as anonymous leaks designed to mislead and confuse.
‘Some of his other exposes have misfired, though’
Some examples might be nice.
‘he has often been criticised for his use of shadowy sources. In the words of one Pentagon spokesman, he has “a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources”‘.
Hersh has spent decades shining lights into places ‘Pentagon spokesmen’ types don’t want him to look. So it’s not surprising that they’d try and discredit his work. Would Whitaker, for example, quote an Iranian military spokesman to try and rubbish the work of an Iranian dissident journalist? I doubt it. And the fact he does it here perhaps says much about his unexamined assumptions and biases.
‘Higgins, meanwhile, is the antithesis of a “corporate” journalist’.
At this point in his career, it’s not like Higgins is some obscure, insurgent outsider. He has had his work published in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, has had a lengthy profile written about him in The New Yorker, has worked with Human Rights Watch, and has been interviewed more than once on T.V. News. Does this make him wrong? Of course not. But the line between him and ‘old media’ isn’t quite as defined as Whitaker would like to make out.
It is perhaps instructive that in this case, Hersh struggled to get anyone to publish his chemical weapons piece, while Higgins had no problem in getting Foreign Policy, an Establishment journal if ever there was one, to publish his rebuttal pretty much straight away.
‘Hersh’s source on the supposed sarin-manufacturing capabilities is an unnamed “senior intelligence consultant”:
‘Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin’
. . . Interestingly, though, EAWorldView has an idea who this consultant might be. It notes that Michael Maloof, who formerly worked in the US Defense Department, has made very similar claims in an article for the right-wing World Net Daily, and also on the Russian propaganda channel, RT’.
Pure speculation, of course. Even if the source is Maloof, it doesn’t automatically follow that Maloof is wrong.
Nor is Maloof, or any other source Hersh might have, the only person to have suggested a rebel faction may have access to chemical weapons.
In May 2013 for example, Carla Del Ponte, one of the overseers of the UN commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss T.V. that ‘there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas’ by rebel factions, and that she was ‘a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got . . . they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition’.
Predictably, her comments quickly disappeared down the Memory Hole, even though she is a very credible and well respected source, and likely wasn’t just making it all up.
She was, incidentally, also smeared and/or discredited by those who simply don’t want to see any kind of challenge to the Establishment narrative on Syria, much like is happening to Hersh now.
By Richard Hugus | January 11, 2009
In July 1980, American Indian Russell Means gave a speech at a gathering in the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) in the land of the Lakota (South Dakota). The title of the speech was “For America to Live, Europe Must Die”.1 In his speech, Means spoke to young Indians on the perils of European culture — particularly philosophies of European culture like Marxism and Christianity that appear to be for good things, like ending capitalism and loving one’s neighbor, but end up perpetuating the original problem — European culture itself and its destructive view of the world. Russell Means also spoke recently on the similarity between the genocide of the native Americans and the genocide of the Palestinians.2
Today the world watches helplessly while the Zionist entity slaughters the people of Gaza. This is nothing new — for the past 62 years, the world has watched massacre after massacre, attack after attack, and done nothing about it. In this latest atrocity, at least 900 Palestinians so far have been murdered from afar, with the Zionist’s US-supplied bombs and other weapons, and more weapons are on the way. No one who takes to the streets to denounce this barbarity is to be faulted, but protests taking place under slogans like “Let Gaza Live” seem to come from the same place that enabled the oppression of Palestine in the first place. Rather than pity the victim, why not stop the aggressor? Instead of “Let Gaza Live,” why not “Let Israel Die”? Pity for victims can go on forever; it’s high time to deal with the people who are beating that victim. And it’s time to do more for Palestinians than to just plea for them to be able to live.
The world has supplied relief to Gaza through such organizations as UNRWA for decades. Wouldn’t it have been much more effective to address the obvious cause of Gaza’s suffering at the source, when it began? Wouldn’t it have been better to drop all talk of peace with a belligerent who had proved again and again he wasn’t for peace, and forcibly take the gun out of his hands? Why hasn’t this happened? Why isn’t it happening now?
Perhaps the biggest reason is that this particular aggressor, though small in numbers, has been clever at deception, infiltration, and propaganda. Zionists have talked peace but waged war. They have infiltrated ruling elites in every strategically important country in the world — the US in particular. They have infiltrated the media, the entertainment industry, Wall Street, the government, the corporate power structure, human rights and civil liberties groups, and the antiwar left. They have infiltrated the places and communities where Judaism is observed, so that today one cannot go into a synagogue in the US without seeing the blue and white “Israeli” flag. At least 80% of Jewish people in the US either support the Zionist state or are afraid to criticize it. Yet to make an issue of this would be deemed a monstrous case of religious intolerance.
Judaism has been so thoroughly hijacked by Zionism that it is no longer clear where one ends and the other begins. At the end of December, a demonstration in Boston to condemn the just-begun bombing of Gaza was met with an almost equal number of supporters of the Zionist entity holding both the star of David and the stars and stripes. They carried signs saying “We Stand With Israel” and sang anthems for both “Israel” and the US. Well-established synagogues and temples have called for gatherings in support of the Zionist state even as the mass murder is carried out.
Support for Zionism is well integrated into US culture, itself built on the unacknowledged genocide its own indigenous people, and of the African slave. In such an environment the mainstream Jewish community is allowed to have it both ways — they can support one genocide, but they can’t be challenged because of their history as the victims of another genocide. One doesn’t accuse the authority on genocide with the same crime. This would be termed a “hate crime.” With its “No Place For Hate” programs in cities across the US, the Anti-Defamation League, which explicitly supports the Zionist state, has set itself up as the arbiter of any and all persecution and intolerance in American communities.
An even more effective tool of Zionism is its propaganda, built up over the period of 64 years since the end of World War II. This propaganda has elevated the victimhood of Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany to the level of religious belief, so that this genocide is the one above all others in history that counts. Not only must this go unquestioned, it is sacrilege (and now illegal) to do so. So it has come about that Jews who commit the same or worse crimes as the Nazis may do so with impunity. In the US and Europe, Christian guilt, Christian pity, and Christian forgiveness also make this possible. Zionists have exploited both Judaism and Christianity very thoroughly, especially attitudes of exceptionalism found in each religion.
For many people — and the numbers grow daily — the acts and atrocities of Zionism have completely burned up the credit that European Jews accrued in Nazi Germany. The holocaust is an old song that no one wants to hear any more. The victims of the Warsaw ghetto are now the perpetrators of the Gaza ghetto, and the massacre inside it.
The power that Zionists have achieved must be taken away from them, first morally, then physically. No one has a corner on suffering, even the eternal victim. Palestine must be returned to Palestinians, and the Zionist state, which was based on a crime and can only exist as a crime, must be condemned as a whole. For the killing to end, “Israel” has to go.
1. Transcript at http://www.dickshovel.com/Banks.html
Washington knew Syrian rebels could produce sarin gas but “cherry-picked” intel to blame President Assad for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, citing senior US security sources.
The report was published in the London Review of Books after two of Hersh’s regular publishers, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, turned the article down.
Hersh, whose Pulitzers were for his exposes on American military misconduct in the Iraq and Vietnam wars, got his information on Syria from whistle-blowing acting and former intelligence and military officers, who for security reasons were not identified in the report.
According to Hersh’s findings, months before the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, which almost prompted US air strikes on Syria, “the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports… citing evidence that the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”
The attack took place on August 21, the same day UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons. The casualty figures have ranged from several hundred to more than 1,400 deaths.
Before the attack, the Obama administration repeatedly described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line,” which would signal the US could intervene in the conflict.
Hersh wrote that he does not believe that the intelligence data, pointing at the rebels’ having capability for making sarin, could have in any way escaped the White House’s attention.
“Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on Al-Nusra and its work with sarin,” he wrote.
Obama’s laying the blame for the nerve gas attack on Assad’s forces, completely disregarding Al-Nusra as a suspect in the case, is thus described in the report as the administration’s having “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”
“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh wrote.
It’s because of the lack of sufficient evidence against Assad that Obama quickly abandoned his plan for military strikes.
“Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal,” the report reads. “Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)”
The investigative journalist then points at an annual budget for all national intelligence programs, leaked to the media by Edward Snowden and partly published by The Washington Post. According to the document, by the time of the Eastern Ghouta chemical attack, the NSA “no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack”. That puts to question the confidence with which Obama spoke of Assad’s responsibility for the deaths.
The same document described “a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal”. Hersh wrote it was suspicious that the US intelligence received no alarm, if the Assad forces really prepared for an attack.
Hersh also analyses the news coverage of the chemical gas attack investigation, pointing to instances when the media outlets omitted the information that suggested there could be other suspects, beside Assad.
The UN September 16 report, confirming the use of sarin, contained one part that noted that the organization’s experts did not have immediate access to the attack sites controlled by rebels, so potential evidence could have been manipulated there. The passage was largely ignored in the news.
Following the release of the report, the spokesman for Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, denied the report’s major point – that the US knew of the rebel group being capable of creating sarin.
“We were clear with The Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible,” Turner told Buzzfeed. “Any suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence about a nonexistent alternative explanation is simply false.”
Hersh has remained unconvinced by the denial and has summed it up with a warning against ignoring alleged Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons potential.
“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.”
You could very well say that Navi Pillay was more than anyone else the person responsible for NATO’s disastrous invasion of Libya. As UN Human Rights Commissioner she chaired that fateful meeting in February, 2011 where Libyan NGO leader Soliman Bouchuiguir was allowed to repeat incredible tales about the “massacres” taking place in Libya – tales he openly admitted after the NATO invasion he had just made up. “There is no evidence,” he exclaimed when asked after the invasion to back up his claims, which were the basis of the chain of events that led to NATO bombing.
The first link in that chain was the UN Human Rights Commission hearing chaired by Pillay, where Bouchuiguir’s lies led to the suspension of Libya from that body and the referral of the Libya issue to the UN Security Council. At the hearing, Pillay took her cue from the falsifier Bouchuiguir, exclaiming that, “The Libyan leader must stop the violence now.” Eventually the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, cracking the interventionist door to Libya, which NATO very soon kicked open.
Commissioner Pillay wasted no time setting her “humanitarian interventionist” sights on another crisis just waiting for a military solution. As early as August, 2011 she began urging the International Criminal Court to take up the case against the Syrian government, which was fighting against a foreign-sponsored insurgency seeking its overthrow. Never mind the illegality of her position urging the overthrow of a sovereign state, Pillay has argued relentlessly from the beginning in favor of a Libya-style NATO invasion of Syria.
Now Pillay is back in the news, releasing an incredibly dubious “report” concluding that the Syria government is guilty of war crimes in its fight against a foreign-sponsored insurgency. Pillay’s methodology would be laughed out of any courtroom except perhaps those of Stalin’s show trials. Her “investigators” had no access to Syria, conducted no on-the-ground investigations, but instead conducted their interviews in neighboring countries or via Skype. As with her previously discredited Libya claims, there is no independent verification of her findings, no way of even knowing who she talked to in the collection of this “evidence.” In fact, she would not even reveal the names of the accused, a list of perpetrators which she claims was secretly handed to her. No, she prefers to keep her information secret in hopes that the International Criminal Court would finally take up her case against the Syrian government.
Pillay’s fanaticism and the religious fervor of her devotion to the doctrine of “humanitarian interventionism” harkens back to an earlier era where the murder of millions was justified in pursuit of the historical inevitability of utopia on earth. It is a dangerous and deadly philosophy, which justifies all manner of death and destruction. The oft-cited C.S. Lewis quote comes most often to mind when thoughts wander to the Navi Pillays of the world:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Oh the gall to title this article “Iran and the nuclear reality“!
Get this bullshit:
“Hecker is talking about Parchin, a military complex 18 miles southeast of Tehran where, according to a 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report, there were high-explosive and hydrodynamic tests that could have been related to nuclear weapons. IAEA inspectors haven’t had access to Parchin over the past two years.”
So what’s left out? Lets count just some of the facts that have been eliminated from “the reality” by Pincus here:
1- The “Alleged Studies” about past weapons-related activities are bullshit and have never been verified, and the few actual documents that were leaked turned out to be massive frauds, such as the AP Graph.
2- Even if such “weapons-related” hydrodynamic testing etc occurred, it would not have been a violation of the NPT and Iran would not be legally required to report it to the IAEA, because the IAEA’s obligations under the terms of Iran’s safeguards agreement are “exclusively” limited to accounting for
nuclear material itself and not anything more. “Nuclear-related” experiments are not banned until and unless they involve a “diversion of fissile material for nonpeaceful uses” — that’s the legal standard for when the IAEA gets involved.
3- Iran allowed inspections at Parchin, twice in 2005, despite being under no legal obligation to do so.
4- The Alleged Studies occurred in Parchin allegedly up to 2003 so the access provided in 2005 would have sufficed to verify it if it had occurred, and so Pincus’s assertion that the inspectors have not had access to Parchin in over two years is non-sequitur.
5- Actual nuclear inspectors such as Robert Kelley question why the emphasis on Parchin in the first place.
With the U.S. Congress safely in his back pocket, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned his charm offensive on the Vatican. How is that working out for him?
It does not look promising. The Prime Minister forgot the first rule of charm school: Target your prey gently. Avoid all punches to the mid-section.
The international Jewish News Agency (JTA) reported on Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pope Francis:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Vatican audience with Pope Francis reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Israel. No date has been set for a visit by Francis to Israel, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Netanyahu on Monday presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition written by his father, the late historian Benzion Netanyahu.”
An invitation to drop by for a visit to Tel Aviv along with a gift to the Holy Father recalling the dark moments of the Spanish Inquisition? Bad form, Mr. Prime Minister.
The book delivered to the Pope was written by Netanyahu’s father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who died recently at the age of 102. The pride of a son could be one justification for the gift. The book, The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain, is considered the elder Netanyahu’s finest work.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was quick to note the incongruity of a book as a gift to the Pope which denounces the sins of Pope Francis’ 15th century predecessor, one that “largely revolves about Spanish Catholics questioning, torturing, and punishing Jewish converts to Catholicism,” a practice first legally sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV in 1252.
The Seattle PI adds:
“The elder Netanyahu’s impact on his politician son is well-known within Israeli circles. In 1998, David Remnick of the New Yorker wrote that while Ben-Zion Netanyahu’s opinions frequently differed from his son, the pessimism of his right wing worldview influenced his son’s hawkish policies. ‘His dilemma is always to what degree he can, or should, remain true to the ideals, the stubbornness, of his father,’ Remnick observed. The book given to the pope, Remnich adds ‘reflects that deep pessimism.’”
If the Pope accepts Netanyahu’s invitation and presents his own tit-for-tat gift to Netanyahu, there is a document in the Vatican library he could copy and take with him to Tel Aviv.
From what we are learning about this new pontiff, that Vatican document is not a gift Francis is likely to consider. Tit-for-tat does not appear to be the style of this pope.
Nevertheless, the document resting in the Vatican library files is one the Pope might read closely before he engages in further dialogue with the Israeli leader.
This Vatican document is referenced in an important new book by Scott Anderson, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
So important is this book that it received two laudatory views in the New York Times, one month apart.
In his Times review, Alex von Tunzelmann capsules the narrative of the book:
“Scott Anderson, a veteran war correspondent and an author of both fiction and nonfiction, gives Lawrence’s story a new spin by contextualizing him in a group biography. He weaves in the lives of three contemporary Middle Eastern spies: Curt Prufer, a German conspiring with the Ottomans to bring down the British Empire; Aaron Aaronsohn, a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, settled in Palestine; and William Yale, an East Coast aristocrat and an agent of Standard Oil who ended up in the service of the American State Department.”
A month later, Janet Maslin is back with her review, equally laudatory. She writes:
“As to why such acclaim elevated one renegade Briton and his feat of creating a guerrilla Bedouin army, Mr. Anderson writes that the short answer may seem anticlimactic. His reason: ‘This was a time when the seed was planted for the Arab world to define itself less by what it aspires to become than what it is opposed to: colonialism, Zionism, Western imperialism in its many forms.’”
In their reviews, both Alex von Tunzelmann and Janet Maslin avoid mentioning a key moment in Scott Anderson’s book. It is an important episode Pope Francis should be reminded of should he choose to visit Tel Aviv.
The episode, described by Scott Anderson (pages 298 to 305, your Holiness, if I may be so bold) describes a successful propaganda campaign orchestrated by, among others, Aaron Aaronsohn, described by reviewer Alex Von Tunzelmann as “a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, who had settled in Palestine.”
Scott Anderson tells the story in his superb history of the period, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
The In in the title is underlined to distinguish it from Lawrence Of Arabia, the 1962 David Lean film.
Here is how the Anderson narrative is developed, summarized and quoted in part:
In the spring of 1917, the Turkish Ottoman ruler of Syria was Djemal Pasha. When the British army was poised to strike Gaza City in February, Djemal Pasha ordered the evacuation of Gaza City’s entire population, a total or around 20,000 citizens. He wanted to clear the area for his army to move in and defend Gaza. After defeating the British in a cleared out Gaza, Djemal Pasha and his German commanders looked north.
They suspected that the British would next attack Jaffa (now a modern Tel Aviv). The city had a population of 40,000, of which around 10,000 were Jews and around 4,000 were Arab Christians, living alongside Arab Muslims. After the defeat in Gaza, the Ottomans were afraid that the British would attack Jaffa from the sea, using the city’s smooth beaches for easy access.
The British defeat at Gaza came on March 26, 1917. Two days later, assuming the British would turn north, Dejmal ordered the evacuation of the entire population, Christians, Jews and Muslims. He gave the residents a week to prepare to move out. When Jewish leaders protested that the sacred Passover holiday was about to begin, Dejmal extended the evacuation order for an additional eight days.
Anderson writes: “By clearing the city, Djemal Pasha unwittingly set in motion one of the most consequential misinformation campaigns of World War I.”
Ignoring the fact that Jews were joined by Christians and Muslims in the forced evacuation, the Zionist propaganda machine went into action, building the movement of the Jaffa population into an attack on all Jews of Palestine. The British Jewish Chronicle newspaper led the way with a May 4 story that carried the subhead: “Grave Reports — Terrible Outrages — Threats of Wholesale Massacre.”
The Chronicle story continued:
“But even worse is threatened. For the Turkish Governor, Dejeml Pasha, has proclaimed the intention of the authorities [sic] to wipe out mercilessly the Jewish population of Palestine, his public statement being that the Armenian policy of massacre is to be applied to the Jews.” That message swept “through Jewish communities in Britain, the United States and continental Europe and drew anguished appeals to their governments that some kind of action be taken.”
William Ormsby-Gore, a Conservative member of Parliament who had been favorably impressed with Aaron Aaronson, the Jewish spy leader in Palestine, cabled British War Cabinet member Mark Sykes (of Sykes-Pico fame) May 4:
“I think we ought to use pogroms in Palestine as propaganda. Any spicy tales of atrocity would be eagerly welcomed by the propaganda people here, and Aaron Aaronsohn could send some lurid stories to the Jewish papers.”
Aaronsohn gave Sykes the names of 50 Zionist leaders throughout the world, urging him to spread the word of the “dire threat” against the Jews of Palestine. Soon, The New York Times printed its story with this headline: “Cruelty to Jews Deported in Jaffe.”
The Turkish government was slow to respond to the false accusations, including one that claimed, falsely, that all the Jews had been evacuated from Jerusalem.
Finally, facing worldwide condemnation based on Jewish propaganda which spread rapidly, Dejaml Pasha pointed out that the entire population of Jaffe, 40,000 residents, had been evacuated, only 10,000 of which were Jewish and 4,000, Christians.
Scott Anderson concludes his account of the successful misinformation campaign surrounding Jaffa’s Jewish population in 1917: (p. 304)
“Spain, Sweden and the Vatican, all neutral entities in the conflict, sent envoys to investigate what had happened [in Jaffa]. Both the Spanish and Vatican envoys quickly concluded that the reports of Jewish massacres and persecutions were without foundation, while their Swedish counterpart went even further.
“‘In many ways,’ he wrote, ‘the Jewish community of Jaffa had fared far better — and certainly no worse — than the resident Moslem population in the evacuation.’ Shortly afterward, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem also reported that the accounts of violence against the Jaffa Jews were ‘grossly exaggerated.’
“It didn’t matter, of course. In war, truth is whatever people can be led to believe and Dejaml Pasha had just handed his enemies a ‘truth’ that would change Middle Eastern history… The fiction of what happened in Jaffa in 1917 — a fiction repeated as act by most historians writing on the period since — would now become the ur-myth for the contention that the Jewish community in Palestine could never be safe under Muslim rule, that to survive it needed a state of its own.”
Pope Francis does not have to make a gift to Netanyahu of either the Vatican 1917 Jaffa report or Scott Anderson’s book, should the two leaders meet in Tel Aviv. What he can do is prepare for his meeting by reading both the Vatican document and Lawrence In Arabia.
Having read the document and the book, he will be prepared to confront the Prime Minister with some hard truths about a history that is more recent, and certainly more pertinent to this moment, than the 15th century Spanish Inquisition.
From an article published December 2nd:
‘The UN commissioner’s statement, reported from Geneva, coincided with the publication of a new death toll of 125,835 for the last 33 months. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), based in the UK, said the dead included 44,381 civilians, including 6,627 children and 4,454 women. The SOHR said at least 27,746 opposition fighters had been killed, among them just over 19,000 civilians who took up arms to fight the Assad regime. The opposition toll also included 2,221 army defectors and 6,261 non-Syrians who joined the rebels’.
The glaring omission is, of course, the ’50,430 deaths among the Syrian armed forces and local militias supporting Assad’ – the biggest single documented toll among any of the groups.
Why Black would omit this figure is anyone’s guess. But it’s a strange oversight, and one you couldn’t imagine him ever making if it was the supposed Good Guys being killed in such numbers.
It appears that the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers, are recognizing that their strategy for keeping their co-dependent relationship with the NSA going is failing and that the American public and an increasingly large segment of Congress no longer believes their bogus claims. Perhaps that’s because every time they open their mouths, it takes all of about an hour before many of their claims are completely debunked, if not outright mocked for obviously being bogus. So their latest strategy? To basically yell “Ooga Booga Terrorists!” as loud as they can to try to scare people based on absolutely nothing.
Feinstein and Rogers did a little dance on Sunday political TV shows insisting that “the terrorism threat is increasing” and we’re all going to die if we stop trying to make sure the NSA actually, you know, respects the Constitution. Asked if we were “safer” now than a year or two years ago, Feinstein kicked off the FUD:
“I don’t think so,” Feinstein replied. “I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that. The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs. Trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”
And Rogers quickly followed:
“I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same very reasons,” he said. “So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it’s getting more difficult.”
Of course, Feinstein’s claim that “terror is up worldwide” is — as is so often the case with her (and Rogers’) claims about terrorism — sorta true, but highly misleading. Yes, recent stats show an uptick in terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2012 — but you can also see that it’s highly variable. Earlier in the year, before the 2012 numbers came out, people were commenting on the fact that terror attacks and fatalities around the globe had been on the decline since 2007. Terrorism is highly variable and dependent on a few big successful attacks. Furthermore, if we look at attacks on the US, we find that there have basically been next to none in the US since 2001. You could make the case that 16 people have died in US “terrorist” attacks since 2001 (including the 13 soldiers killed by Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood), but you have to have a very broad definition of terrorism to do so.
Nearly all of the “terrorist” attacks in that original report that Feinstein is obviously relying on, appear to take place in areas that are considered war zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And, um, I hate to bring this part up, but part of the reason why those are war zones is because, you know, the US invaded both places. This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrorists out there who would like to attack the US. There clearly are. But it seems highly misleading to make the claims that both Feinstein and Rogers are making here, as the “data” they’re talking about don’t show any heightened risk in the US at all.
Either way, this whole thing — having both appear together, both making vague “we’re all going to die” statements without any details to back it up combined with an exceptionally misleading use of statistics — suggests that this is the typical FUD. It’s Feinstein and Rogers shouting “terror” in a crowded theater, because they know that they’ve already lost public opinion on this, and are quickly losing Congress as well.
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
A handy dictionary/rules book for anyone writing on the Middle East issues in the mainstream media. To get published as a news journalist, it seems you have to follow these rules.
Caught in the Crossfire: When Palestinian civilians are killed.
Retaliation: When Israeli army or settlers kill Palestinians.
Escalation: Any act of violence or resistance by the Palestinians.
Murdered: When Israeli Civilians are killed.
Brutal/cowardly/ghastly: adjectives describing attacks on Israelis.
Self defense: Any act of violence by Israelis.
Terrorism: Any act of violence by the Palestinians.
Civilians: Armed settlers are civilians when killed. Try to avoid using this term for Palestinians.
Neighborhoods: Areas inhabited by Israeli settlers.
Positions: Any Palestinian towns and villages especially when bombed by helicopter gunships or raked with large caliber machine guns.
Tragedy: Any Israeli death.
Deserved: Any Palestinian death.
Squatters: Palestinian natives.
Democratic ally: Synonym for Israel.
Disputed Areas: Any Palestinian or Arab land occupied by Israel in defiance of International law.
Anti-Semite: Person condemns Israeli violations of Palestinian civil and human rights.
Victims: Any Jewish Israeli.
Attacker: Any Palestinian engaging in any form of resistance.
Targets: Palestinian buildings, homes, offices – What the Israeli military designates as military targets.
Attack/bombing/murder: Acts the Palestinians commit when directed at Israelis.
Clashes: This is a difficult term to understand but is generally used when Palestinians die.
Measures (e.g. Economic measures, security measures): Any acts the Israelis commit (blockades, collective punishment, shelling neighborhoods, starving a population etc).
Security: Anything the Israeli government chooses to do. This can include land confiscation, extra-judicial killings, home demolitions, destruction of groves, uprooting trees, blockades etc. The term security is reserved for use only with the word Israel or Israeli and must never be applied to Palestinians. Lashing out: A term reserved for Palestinians and acts they commit against Israelis.
Under siege: Again a term for use by the Israelis as in Palestinians have put Israelis under siege. Exact meaning depends on the circumstances. Never use for Palestinian towns or villages.
When to use Passive voice: If the violent action is committed by Israelis (e.g. 2 Palestinians were killed, one of them a 9 year old).
When to use active voice: If the action is committed by Palestinians (e.g. Palestinians killed a Jewish child, Palestinians kills teenager).
While reporting about Israelis: “2 Israelis were injured”, while reporting about Palestinian use the verbs claimed, say etc. “Palestinians say woman dies of teargas inhalation in West Bank” (e.g. Ha’aretz)
Names: Must be included for any Jewish victims, always avoid names for Muslim or Christian victims but use numbers in stead (remember in the passive voice, e.g. 2 Palestinians died in clashes).
When an Israeli is killed: It is important to note his or her profession, where he/she is from and was going, whether or not he/she is religious, and whether or not he/she is an immigrant from the U.S. or Russia. If the dead person is survived by a spouse and children, this should be noted. If the victim is a youngster, the school they attended should be mentioned, and their friends’ feelings should be noted. in general, people who knew the dead person should testify to their humanity.
When a Palestinian is killed, they should not be personalized in any way.
When an Israeli is killed, it is useful to include graphic descriptions of the death scene – the covered body, the fragments of flesh, the path of flowing blood, etc.
Please ensure that your local media editor/journalist receives this list.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
American national security journalist Jeremy Scahill and leftist British columnist Owen Jones announced recently that they would not share a platform with a Palestinian-Lebanese nun at the Stop The War Coalition’s November 30 UK conference.
Neither Scahill nor Jones provided any reason for their harsh “indictment” of Mother Agnes Mariam, who has worked tirelessly for the past few years on reconciliation in war-torn Syria, where she has lived for two decades.
The journalists – neither of whom have produced any notable body of work on Syria – appear to have followed the lead of a breed of Syria “activists” who have given us doozies like “Assad is about to fall,” “Assad has no support,” “the opposition is peaceful,” “the opposition is unarmed,” “this is a popular revolution,” “the revolution is not foreign-backed,” “there is no Al Qaeda in Syria,” “the dead are mostly civilians,” and other such gems.
For some of these activists, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure is no solution of any kind. Mother Agnes Mariam, whose Mussalaha (Reconciliation) movement inside Syria works specifically on mediation, dialogue and the promotion of non-violence, is unmoved by black-and-white solutions: Reconciliation, after all, is a series of political settlements forged on both local and national levels. There are only compromises there, not absolute gain. She doesn’t actually care who leads Syria and who wins or loses, providing the choice comes from a Syrian majority.
Yet the smear “Assad apologist” persists in following Mother Agnes on her visits to foreign capitals to gain support for Massalaha and its methods. It puts her at risk on the ground in Syria and inhibits her ability to open communications with those who would otherwise welcome the relief she brings.
When Scahill and Jones announced they would not share a platform with Mother Agnes at the STWC conference, she withdrew so as not to undermine the event’s anti-war unity objective. But instead of bringing this incident to a close, a maelstrom has erupted around the actions of the two journalists: “Who are they to pass judgement? Why would reporters seek to censor any voice?”
Award-winning British journalist and author Jonathan Cook perhaps put it best in his piece entitled “Bowing before the inquisitors on Syria”:
“Scahill and Jones have not done something principled or progressive here. They are trying to stay ‘onside’ with the corporate media, the main political parties and the Syria war-mongers. In short, they are looking out for their careers…They are looking to keep their credibility within a wider political system that, they otherwise seem to acknowledge, is deeply compromised and corrupt. In this episode, they are not chiefly worrying about countering moves towards an attack or saving Syrian lives, even while they claim this is exactly what their participation is about.”
Both journalists are outspoken against the censorship of information by the “establishment media” so it is particularly galling to see them succumb to the bullying narratives that have so dominated Syria coverage in the mainstream. In their own domain and area of expertise they don’t trust establishment voices, so why trust them in any other arena? This rather obvious contradiction has turned the tables on Scahill/Jones – if anything, generating interest in Mother Agnes and what she has to say.
Time to give her that platform back – no need for others to filter your information, you can judge for yourself below. And because so much of this debate has taken place on Twitter and the blogosphere, I invited “tweeps” from all sides of the Syrian divide to pose some questions too:
So without further ado, here is Mother Agnes Mariam, in her own words:
Did the Stop The War Coalition ask you to withdraw from their anti-war conference or did you choose to do so of your own volition?
I was invited to this conference, then I was informed about people that were against my coming and threatening to blow it up because of me. I preferred to immediately withdraw for the sake of this conference. Now, to tell you the truth I also have fear that this conference will not be useful, because these people attending are not applying non-violence principles. Non-violence principles means to be open to all adversaries. We can deal with people who don’t think like us. A non-violent approach is to dialogue precisely with people who are different. For a peace conference to begin like this, I felt like it is not a peace conference.
Have you ever heard of Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones before this?
No, not at all. Who are they? Didn’t even notice who the people were. I heard about this from my organizer – that some people opposed even my presence. I understand everybody – I have been in dialogue with precisely the kind of people who opposed my presence. But it is the first time I hear their names, so no, I don’t know them. I’m not a person in the “scene.” (laughs)
What do you think of the attempt to censor views on Syria – and does your own experience this week have any correlation with how the mainstream media has covered Syria for almost three years?
You know, before working in reconciliation, I thought the so-called “democratic world” was really protecting freedom of expression and political choices. I am not involved with politics but they are ‘framing’ me; politicizing me. Am very shocked to learn that in this democratic world it is forbidden to think differently, talk differently and act differently from people who proclaim themselves as the ‘absolute reference’ for public opinion. This is a campaign of defamation. I am threatened by them: not by Jabhat al-Nusra, with whom I sometimes have good relations, or Al Qaeda – but by French media, by prominent leaders and CEOs of catholic NGOs, and by reporters. Am really astonished at how a reporter can become a prosecutor and a judge and can issue the sentence, and I am afraid that he can apply this sentence because today I see he works in total impunity.
Some media outlets and activists have accused you of brokering a civilian evacuation in rebel-held Moadamiya, only to hand them over to the Syrian authorities. What actually happened?
It was a purely humanitarian endeavor. Our (Mussalaha) team receives calls from all over Syria asking us to investigate people who have disappeared, to find out conditions for their release, to mediate on prisoner exchanges, to get food supplies to populations in need, how to transport humanitarian aid to hot areas, how to bring medical equipment to dangerous areas, how to arrange ceasefires, how to help violent opponents to shift to non-violence. We help to implement a non-violent spirit – we work with everybody, all sides, to do this.
This particular evacuation was requested by the civilian population itself in Mouadamiya. We have Mussalaha team members from Mouadamiya who are mediators. We were addressing the humanitarian issue in Moadamiya for many months before this, to try to make reconciliation from a violent opposition to a non-violent opposition. And when I saw photos of starving children on the Facebook – like in Biafra – I went to the Syrian Minister of Social Affairs Kinda al-Chammat to say this was not acceptable and that we should do something. Then we made contact with all the world health groups and international NGOs – we had talks with them to provide food. A caravan of more than 20 trucks was ready to enter Moadamiya, but it was forbidden to enter. It is difficult to say by who – I think it was from the army that was besieging this rebel stronghold, but also from the warlords that fix enormous prices to provide the entrance of food. Minister Chammat was really open to finding a solution, I said if they are not giving us the green light, I will go myself to take the 18 children who were under threat of dying. So we were entrusted to negotiate with the notables and the families in Moadamiya. Our mediators (also from Moadamiya) were surprised when whole families expressed the wish to be evacuated – because they are the families of the rebels, and to ask to be evacuated means they will be relying on the government. When we heard this we thought it was an easier and safer solution because if you bring in food but the violence continues, those civilians will be harmed anyway.
You know, under the Geneva Convention, it is illegal to transform a residential area into a battleground and if you do that you cannot keep civilians there like human shields. So the evacuation was motivated first by the desire of the families (not all, you know). The first project was to evacuate 100-200 women and children without any of their belongings, because there was a big fear that undisciplined members from either side would breach the ceasefire. It was delicate. Then on the very day, Minister Chammat, seeing hundreds of women and children arriving, told us “let as many who want to leave come out, because we cannot make discrimination,” so she made it open for that day. The government agreed to let us go alone; we were not escorted. All this was done in negotiations between the ministry and the governor of rural Damascus. Our responsibility was to bring the civilians to the barricade, but when we went there the rebels did not allow the women to proceed. I concluded, through contacts with the families that they were willing to come out, but we had to negotiate directly with the rebels. So I took a white flag into the area called no man’s land. I was followed by two of our mediators and by Sister Carmel – and it was heroic from her because she is a fearful person but she didn’t want me to go alone. There were tens of young rebel men, some armed, others not. And we were taken on a tour to see the destruction of the city and they asked us to come to the military council. (A video of Mother Agnes inside Moadamiya can be viewed here) They gave us security assurance. The commander arrived and they asked me to make a statement, which they recorded by video. But then we were detained, they wanted us to remain like ransom in exchange to let the women go out. We were hearing many noises and even gunfire while we were waiting. Then a real battle broke out – it was a big danger for everybody. We noticed that among them there was no unity, each would say their own thing. Finally, another leader came and agreed to the evacuation. Many of the leaders of fighters wanted their own families to leave. Others who don’t have families didn’t care. All we did was to answer a humanitarian request from rebel families.
In total, we evacuated 6,600 women and children – we have all their names, they are all registered. More than 200 are not registered because they left immediately with relatives. Also 650 young men came on their own to surrender. The army considered them as fighters. A few were badly wounded and they were taken to hospital. The (media) criticism was based on fake stories because the opposition (not the ones in Moadamiyada) do not want to accept the success of reconciliation based on mediation between the government and rebels. And because – after the success of the Moadamiya evacuation – ten other points in Syria have asked for the same mediation. Yesterday, for example, we had another evacuation – from Beit Sahm I believe – who were evacuated temporarily until the violence ceases. These critics said many were killed, abducted, raped when they came out of Moadamiya. Yes, there have been some errors and undisciplined acts. For instance, nine of the women were robbed. Volunteers from the ‘popular committees’ robbed their gold. We have done this evacuation in three separate days. On the first day we had 20 boys that were arrested, but we launched a campaign about this and they have been released. There are only two young boys now who are detained. We are still following up to secure them. The rebels with whom we have negotiated have entrusted us with their families, and they are the families of leaders and fighters, not just normal families. Until today, the two boys who disappeared after the Moadamiya evacuations are a problem for me and my credibility with the rebels. I am struggling with the authorities to find these boys right now.
The other major attack against you stems from a report you wrote about the aftermath of an alleged chemical weapons (CW) attack in Ghouta. You are accused of whitewashing the incident, blaming rebels for it and even charging children of “faking death.” How do you respond to these charges?
I have been accused of denying CW attacks, of protecting the Syrian regime and of accusing the rebels of launching those attacks. I have never said this. In the forward of a study I did on this, I affirm: I am not an expert. I am not talking on a military basis, or a forensic or medical basis. I just questioned some videos. It started because I was asked by the parents – survivors of a terrible massacre in the Latakia mountains – to help find some children abducted with women after the massacre. Some had recognized their children in the pictures of the chemical attacks. They delegated me to look into this for them. I was tracking those children in the videos – without this task I would not have had any incentive to look at the videos. My work at the monastery was in iconography and restoration (preservation) – I am very used to using my eyes to look for tiny details. I noticed discrepancies in the videos. I came to look at them for one thing (the abducted children) and in the process I discovered these videos were fake. When I went to Geneva to the commissioners in the Human Rights Council, I told them about my findings in relation to the missing children and the videos, and they said they would be interested to have something written. I do not incriminate anybody in this study. I do not pretend to decide if there was a CW attack or not. There were discrepancies and I am simply asking questions. The study was done in a hurry – we even said it was a beta version. Now I am finalizing the study that will introduce even more evidence. Those videos – numbers 1, 6, 11, 13 among the 13 videos claimed by the US intelligence community as authenticated and verified to be presented to Congress as genuine evidence of CW attacks – are fake, staged and pre-fabricated. Nobody thus far is answering my charges – they are incriminating me without answering. My goal in this is to find the children; that’s my only goal. If they were used for staging, are they alive? Where are they now? If they are alive they must be returned to their families. If they are dead, we want to see their bodies to bury them so their parents can mourn them and we want to know how they were put to death and where. I am asking to see the graves where 1,466 alleged corpses are buried in Ghouta and to take from the pit samples to conduct an honest inquiry. Because I doubt that there is such a pit.
Question from Twitter user @MortenHj: “Can she elaborate on how she conduct her talks between the warring sides? How do they acknowledge her; promise safety?”
Normally, we are called by the rebel sides who invite us for some settlements. Usually Syrian fighters either want to shift to non-violence, surrender and continue their lives, or they want us to mediate an exchange between abductees and detainees. We mediate among the responsible parties in government, like the ministry of justice and ministry of social affairs – it depends, since each case has its own context. We do it on a neutral basis – we are mediators, not part of the conflict. We want to ease the fate of civilians and we consider the fate of the Syrian rebels. We do not care about foreign fighters. Those foreign fighters are legally not allowed to enter or be in Syria. But we have special care for the Syrian fighters. We consider them as victims. A 17 or 18-year-old boy who is to be jailed, his mother is crying, what am I to do?
We talk via phone or Skype, sometimes we visit them as I did in many places. Sometimes the leader of a rebel group come to see me in a disguised way. Our (more detailed) talks are preferably face to face to build trust and transparency.
Sometimes you have rebels who request the release of their people who have been captured, others want to surrender – they don’t want anymore to participate in the armed struggle. Sometimes the liberal factions ask for help against the radical factions. I always say that between Syrians there is not a real wall. There is not a watertight impervious wall, so we receive many requests. We have had meetings with Jabhat al Nusra (JaN). When they are Syrians they can be flexible, when they are radical (foreigners) they will not talk to you, they will kill you. It’s like the Baggara tribe of around 3 million – they have relatives in Liwa al-Tawhid and JaN too. Half the tribe are loyalists, half are opposition. And this is a hope for the future. Everybody can talk to everybody. Once in Raqqa they put me on the phone with the emir because they wanted dialysis equipment for their hospital and so we mediated and the ministry of health sent 3 dialysis machines for the sake of the civilian population. I am always astonished how my people in the reconciliation committee know everybody.
Question from Twitter user @Kreasechan – What does she think should happen to those in command positions in the regime who have committed or commissioned war crimes and crimes against humanity?
I will tell you something. All this ‘apparatus of incriminations’ is politicized. If you can read between the lines of the report of the international Commission of Inquiry, you will see that the Syrian government has a hierarchy so it is easy to incriminate the government as a whole. But the rebels don’t have a hierarchy – you have 2,000 different battalions. Every time you see violence by rebels, large scale ones with hundreds of civilians now killed every week on a sectarian basis… If you study the more than 100,000 dead in Syria, you will be surprised to see that more than 45% of them are from the army and security forces. Then you have 35% of civilians among those dead, more than half of whom are killed by opposition. Then you have 15-20% of dead who are rebels. So it is not true to say the government is the only one perpetrating things against human rights. The Commission of Inquiry will have to work without political pressure to implement a good inquiry where everyone will be heard, because we are scandalized that light is shed on one side, but not on the other side. I know by saying this, they will incriminate me. But in reality, I am on side of the victims – I care that they will be heard. If you don’t hear from every side, these victims will continue to be under violence with impunity. We must ask accountability from everybody. Those incriminated by a fair, unbiased inquiry will have to pay their crimes, even those who have instigated and financed sectarian crimes.
Question from Twitter user @Paciffreepress – Do you love Assad, Mother Agnes?
I live in Syria and I have a burden on my shoulders for Syria. I believe beheading Syria from its government is a dangerous aggression when the UN still continues to consider the government of Assad to be the legal government. I rely on the UN position, which is the legal position. I consider that the dismantling of any State is a crime against humanity because it deprives the citizens of their citizenship and from their legality. They become pariahs. The Syrian people should decide through fair elections.
Question from Twitter user @r3sho – What is her opinion about Kurdish autonomy in Syria?
I am with the Syrian people – they will choose their own way, even if they want to make a federation or whatever. I am personally against the division of Syria, but federalism is up to the people. In my view, dividing a country is an aggression, but if the country decides to be a federation, it is a legal thing. They are free to do so.
Question from Twitter user @broodmywarcraft: what does she have to say to those who call her a stooge for Assad?
I am a stooge only for peace, not for Assad. I am for peace through reconciliation. I am for dialogue and I am for discussing issues with everybody who wants to discuss peace. If any Syrian, on any side of this horrible conflict wishes to discus peace or work toward peace through reconciliation, I am ready to help.
Question from Twitter user @bangpound: Does she still think the children were faking it in Ghouta?
They were not faking it. I never said that at all. I believe that they were either under anesthesia or that they were killed. But as the videos are fake, my terrible question is what were they doing with them?
Question from Twitter user @Nouraltabbaa: If she is trying to perform a Mussalaha why is she meeting with Ali Kayyali and other militias but not the opposition fighters?
For some hard cases, I have to go beyond the civil administration to negotiate with the warlords. We go there officially as a reconciliation committee, accompanied by some Muslim clerics. I have to mediate with the opposition and the government and the popular committees. I have to mediate with everyone.
Question from Twitter user @HRIMark: What effect is the campaign of defamation and threats against her having on her and her work?
It affects my life. I cannot go back to my monastery. I was saved by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They informed me about orders to abduct and kill me by foreign parties. They helped me to go out from Qara and they protected our monastery and they have not, to this day, given me the green light to return. A lot of them were workers in our monastery.
Question from Twitter user @Net_News_Global: Ask her, if she thinks, that there was, besides murderous propaganda, a real CW attack.
We have witnesses and ‘social sensors’ everywhere in Damascus. Until today we have received 88 claims of death in Moadamiya (from the August 21 attack).
We are told they were not killed because of sarin, that they were killed because of heavy shelling from the army and from suffocation from heavy shelling. The deceased were together in a shelter and they suffocated from this. Moadamiya people told us this. One of the reasons that I would like to see the graves is because 1,466 deaths is a real “social tsunami” in the Syrian society where everybody knows everybody and everybody is related. In the case of East Ghouta, we did not even have one case show up. We did not know of one single person who is dead. You know, to have relatives claiming this – the brother, the friend – nobody did. We did not have the “echo” of the death of 1,466 people. We are asking for a neutral inquiry with the presence of witnesses from both sides, where they will open the pits, see the victims, they will take samples randomly – where they took it, how they took it, etc. Samples should be sent to 5 labs under the same conditions and precautions. Until then there is a question mark on everything. I cannot say yes, I cannot say no.
Question from Twitter user @tob_la: How would she describe her relationship with Syrian intelligence services?
There is no relationship. This is despite the wild allegations of some people who believe that the heads of the Syrian intelligence meet with me, a simple nun, on a daily basis. Do you believe that these people would spare such time?
I have no “relations” with such authorities. As mediators we have to deal with these people when necessary. And without my mediation task I don’t have anything to do with them.
Question from Twitter user @MortenHj: What does she view as the biggest problem facing the refugees, especially children, with the approaching winter. How can anyone support?
This is a very big problem. We need warm clothes, blankets urgently. During my trip in the US – from California – they are sending me a container with a special kind of textile that is very warm. “Oakley” warm clothing. We can provide for the local diaspora or NGOs to come collect these things from anywhere in the world and send them in containers to Syria. We are trying to do a big push for winter now. We’re also getting some tents. I will be going back to the US where an NGO will be providing us with something that resembles tents, but is rectangular. We are planning to get thousands of these – one per family. You have whole neighborhoods that are destroyed. Instead of displacing residents outside their areas, I would like to return them to their home, even if it is destroyed, and put them on their land in a refurbished structure. Like this, slowly by slowly they can rebuild their homes.
Question by Twitter user @edwardedark: Could you please ask her why the Vatican has not been more outspoken on the plight of Christians in Syria?
I don’t know – maybe because the Vatican and all of us we are in solidarity with all the civilian population in Syria and we don’t want to emphasize a sectarian dimension because we viewed this as artificial. Christians have shared the same fate as Muslims in Syria – everybody faced the same violence. Monsignor Mamberti and the Pope are finally expressing their sadness for the sectarian nature that the conflict is taking, I think because now there is too much targeting of Christians now in Maaloula, Sadad, Qara, Deir Atieh, Nabek and other places. Every day Christian buses, schools are being targeted. In Bab Touma, Bab Sharqi, Jaramana, Kasa’a, Malki…
Now the Vatican is talking. Mgr. Mamberti is saying loudly and clearly that The Holy See cares about unity, sovereignty, and the place of the minorities so they will not be isolated, cornered, or forgotten. The Holy See is promoting reconciliation, dialogue and a peaceful settlement of the crisis. They are against the arming of any side. They want more creativity for peace and not creativity for war. What I found outstanding about the Monsignor’s recent comments is that he said the Syrian people should isolate the foreigners, distance themselves and denounce them. This is a very clear statement against foreign intervention. Then he opened the issue of humanitarian aid and the dialogue between religions – interfaith dialogue. This is not the task of experts, but the task of everybody, the believers. So there is a real change in language from the Vatican. The Holy See is no longer shy about Syria – and to tell you the truth, it is time. What is left for the Christians in Syria otherwise?
Mother Agnes is now on Twitter https://twitter.com/MotherAgnesMari
- Activist Group Issues Statement on Mother Agnes and the Campaign Against Her (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Investigative Journalist’ Scahill Takes Swipe at Mother Agnes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- On Owen Jones and the Stop The War Coalition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mother Agnes and the Self Destruction of the Political Left (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”. (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Open Letter to the Stop the War Coalition (pulsemedia.org)