Bombing Syria – to restore “democracy”

April 14, 2018

The bombing campaign and missile attacks on Syria began a few hours ago. Supposedly targeting military sites, there is no word yet on civilian casualties, but its certain there will be plenty. Assad, like most dictators, likes to keep his military bases close to civilian centres and no matter how “smart” Trump’s missiles are, a few will surely miss their targets.

I wrote this before the bombing began, but it is still relevant.

First published on Independent Australia

Neither Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus — long live the Syrian Revolution

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed the world to the edge of a new conflict by threatening a missile attack on Syria. Russia has responded with threats of its own, foreshadowing a new Cold War. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst examines the potential fall-out from the escalating rhetorical duel between rival superpowers.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result (Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0])

THIS WEEK, I was reminded of the life and work of one of my Marxist heroes, Tony Cliff. Cliff was a founding member and leading theorist of the International Socialist Tendency and famously coined the term “state capitalism” to characterise the degraded socialism and despotic regime in the Soviet Union. The politics of Russia have changed, it is now a rampant capitalist oligarchy, but “state capitalism” remains the economic policy of the Putin regime.

Thinking about Tony Cliff also prompted me to note that he would have taken a very firm position on the conflict in Syria and he would have been vehemently opposed to the Trump regime’s threats to rain down ‘nice and new and “smart”‘ missiles on Damascus.

However, Cliff’s opposition to a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime – supposedly in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Houda – would not be based on misguided love for the criminal Assad. Nor would it be based on the mistaken view that Russia is somehow “better” than the United States in terms of the Syria conflict.

(In case you’ve not been paying attention, Russia is committed to propping up the Assad Government while ostensibly fighting Islamic terrorism. In retaliation for Trump’s provocation, Russia threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria.)

Tony Cliff was an International Socialist and, therefore, would not be advocating for taking the side of either of the imperialist powers in their proxy war being fought in Syrian airspace. Understanding Cliff’s background is important here.

Cliff was born Yigael Gluckstein, a stateless Jew from what was then Palestine. He was born in 1917 – coincidentally the first year of the Russian revolution. In his youth, Cliff was a member of the Revolutionary Communist League in Palestine and left for Britain in 1947, effectively exiled for his anti-Zionist political activity.

At the height of the Cold War, when it seemed that the Soviet Union and the United States might actually launch an all-out nuclear strike on each other, the International Socialist Tendency adopted the slogan, ‘Neither Washington, nor Moscow, but international socialism’.

(Image via National Museum of Australia / nma.gov.au)

Today, Tony Cliff would be urging all progressive people to unite behind a similar slogan when it comes to the conflict in Syria. To round out the political message, he would perhaps suggest the following edit:

“Neither, Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus.”

To explain this clearly, a little bit of history is necessary.

The conflict in Syria began with an uprising against Bashar Al-Assad during the ill-fated Arab Spring of 2011. At the heart of the Syrian resistance was a largely secular working class movement which drew strength and inspiration from events in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Syrian revolution grew quickly, and Assad’s response was swift and brutal. He reasoned – as most desperate despots do – that it would be better to destroy large swathes of the nation than see Syria fall into the hands of the rebels.

Assad’s brutality extended to indiscriminate mass murder of civilians through air strikes on some of Syria’s largest cities; the imprisonment and torture (often to death) of his opponents and the deliberate targeting of foreign journalists bravely covering the conflict from behind rebel lines.

Read the rest of this entry »


“They shoot journalists, don’t they?”

April 6, 2010

So, the American military has what it calls “rules of engagement” when active in a combat zone.

Normally these “rules” are to protect the lives of non-combatants, but in the urban battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq there is sometimes very little difference.

At least according to the US military. But how far does the American war machine go to distinguish between friendlies and civilians and the so-called “enemy” – the Taleban in Afghanistan or “insurgents” in Iraq?

Really, it doesn’t go very far at all. In a recent Vanity Fair article about snipers in Afghanistan, one US soldier is quoted as calling the Afghan interpreter in his unit a “stinky”.

A Special Forces sergeant came up and said, “Hey, dude, I got some bad news. I gotta put a Stinky in your truck.” Afghans are Stinkies because they don’t wash.

We’ve all heard the term “raghead” used in relation to Iraqis. When this level of embedded racism is in play, the rules of engagement are not worth wiping your stinky on.

Whenever civilians are killed by “mistake” there are major efforts to cover it up. Details are only released when the families of the dead – you should always make sure there are no survivors – make a fuss, or the media starts nosing around.

But what happens when reporters and news workers are killed? Then the cover up goes into overdrive!

The Wikileaks site has just released some very disturbing video footage of two Reuters correspondents being gunned down in Baghdad. According to the army’s statement, the action that led to their murder was within the rules of engagement.

The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded.

Reuters had been seeking access to the video – shot from one of the Apache helicopters that also gunned down the men – for more than two years.

The murdered newsworkers  were local Reuters staff; Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Chmagh was a 40-year-old Reuters driver and assistant; Noor-Eldeen was a 22-year-old war photographer.

Rule #1: It’s OK to shoot journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »


Soldiers in harms way: Don’t ask, don’t tell

January 22, 2010

Philip Poupin/NZH 21-01-2010

Good on the New Zealand Herald for publishing this picture of two NZ SAS soldiers in Kabul.

And cheers to the Dominion Post for going for it again today.

It’s a Kiwi version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and really quite pathetic that the Defence Minister is upset about this image. He’s said that identifying the soldiers puts them in harm’s way. Presumably because now those pesky Taleban can put a name or a face to the troopers.

That’s just bullshit. These guys wander around Kabul in heavy body armour, armed to the teeth and ready to take potshots at anyone who looks remotely suspicious. That’s about 90 per cent of the population in the reasoning of the occupying forces.

Let’s be clear about this; these SAS troopers are in harms way because of a series of political decisions taken in Washington and Wellington. Read the rest of this entry »


Harry Hotpants exposes himself to Terry Taleban: "I’m a f*ck*** tosser!"

March 3, 2008

Now that the giddy “Oh my gosh!” pretend outrage has cooled a little I’d like to add my ten Kiwi cents to the Harry-Embargo-Imbroglio (HEI).

It seems that the English tosser who happens to be 3rd-in-line to the best paid non-job in the world is not that keen on the country of his birth. HEI’s been telling anyone who’ll listen – pretty much the entire world’s media – that, actually, HEI hates England. In particular Harry Hotpants doesn’t like English beer (he drinks something called a Crack

baby cocktail
(see separate post) and HEI doesn’t like the English media too much either.

From today’s New Zealand Herald (and a 1000 other quasi-tabloid shi*sheets. The NZH lifted the story from The Observer):

“I don’t want to sit around Windsor,” HEI admitted. “I generally don’t like England that much and, you know, it’s nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general shite that they write.”

England was, in fact, “poo”, HEI declared.

That’s a pity really. His retainers and flunkies should tell the lucky shite that thanks to the world’s oversupply of trash and gossip magazines HEI’s one of the most eligible rich dicks around and can get into the pants of every young ‘gel’ who takes his royal fancy. HEI doesn’t even know that “poo” (how upper-class quaint) “stinks”.

To be honest, I wouldn’t lose a minute of my life worrying or being upset if HEI was topped by an IED. Apparently there’s a price on HEI’s head.

‘Prince Harry

Is A Top Terror Target’

Prince Harry is now a top terror target after serving in Afghanistan, a radical cleric has warned.

<img src=”http://static.sky.com/images/pictures/1125999.jpg&#8221; alt=”Omar

Omar Bakri Mohammad

Omar Bakri Mohammad said the Prince, who is arriving back in the UK today, was behaving like a “big man, tough man” and that would make him a target for Islamic militants.

The cleric said the Prince had become an “ambassador of war” unlike his mother Diana who had been an “ambassador of peace”.

“I think now he will be more targeted by the Taliban and al Qaeda supporters than before,” he said. “It’s better for him to return home.

However, let’s remember that while the world’s media spent far too much time fawning over this blue-blooded waste of oxygen, real people were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can pause to reflect on another British serviceman who was killed on Sunday March 2:

British airman killed

in Iraq attack named

8:29AM Monday March 03, 2008

By Peter Griffiths
British airman killed in rocket attack named.  Photo /Reuters.

British airman killed in rocket attack named. Photo /Reuters.

LONDON – A British airman killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq was named on Sunday as Sergeant Duane Barwood.

The Ministry of Defence in London said the 41-year-old from the town of Carterton, Oxfordshire, died on Friday after an attack on the British military base outside Basra.

His death brings to 175 the number of British armed forces personnel who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Barwood, known as “Baz“, was part of the 903 Expeditionary Air Wing of the Royal Air Force and was based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

He leaves a wife, Sharon, and two daughters, Leanna and Rebecca. In a statement, his family said: “Baz will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.

Harry Hotpants you are a lucky and privileged bastard. Shove another Crack Baby down your sun-burnt neck instead of complaining about English ordinariness. Harry have you sent flowers to Mrs Barwood? I didn’t think so, you insufferable waste of space.

We should also pause for the other victims of this senseless Imperialist adventure in which Prince Hotpants got to play toy soldiers. We need to be reminded of the hundreds who die every week in Iraq and Afghanistan whose names we are never told by the press.

Sunday 2 March: 22 dead

Baghdad: 3 bodies.

Diyala

Baquba: roadside bomb kills policeman trying to defuse it; gunmen kill civilian.

Wajihiya: roadside bomb kills 6, 2 of them children.

Buhriz: motorist is shot dead by Iraqi soldiers, after failing to ‘respond to checkpoint instructions.’

Muqdadiya: 3 bodies.

Ninewa

Mosul: car bomb kills civilian.

Shabana: 2 policemen killed in clashes with gunmen.

Salahuddin

Samarra: car bomb kills 4, a child among them.

But while all this is going on, the crap media’s attention is somewhere else. The photogenic action man Harry Hotpants has been discovered living a “normal” life in southern Afghanistan.

As an aside:

“Oh shi*, hold the presses!” Harry Hotpants leads ‘normal life’, now there’s a headline you don’t see every day.
You little silver-coated turd; you think life in southern Afghanistan is ‘normal’? You freakish little rich shi*, fu** you and your warped idea of ‘normal’. A life of war and poverty is not ‘normal’. You, sir, have no idea of what ‘normal’ is. Suck down another Crack Baby you lazy ill-begotten drunk and fu** off back to Knightsbridge.

HEE HEE HEE…Oops…

Sorry, back to the real point of this post:

A few days ago there was an almighty fuss that was heard around the world: some pissant little Australian gossip rag had broken an embargo on a story that the valiant prince had “seen action” in Afghanistan.

No, it wasn’t about the princely prick getting on in a Kabul whorehouse; though it would be a better story if it was. There happened to be a jeep-load of photos and video footage of Harry with a pistol tucked into his flack jacket in really cool wrap-around sunglasses in a cool brown T-shirt and a backwards baseball cap chatting to “Terry Taleban“. but I noticed with some delight that Harry and Terry were never in the same frame; though HEI did tell the media that when Terry’s head “popped up”, HEI fired his trusty blunderbuss for a minute or too.

As an aside: Does anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable about this veiled reference to “Towel Heads” (Terry-toweling)?



When HEI wasn’t kissing Terry’s babies, or getting the footman to make HEI an icy Crack Baby back in the mess, HEI was cracking off some rounds of 50 calibre machine gun fire in the general direction of the native men-folk.

“Mix me another Crack Baby, Hughes.

This damn gunnery is hot work.”

Harry Hotpants on show during a secret attack

against Terry Taleban of Helmand Province.

As an aside:

Cue Monty Python music: “I fart in your general direction.” Did you notice HEI looked remarkably uncomfortable behind that gun, with the regimental SM leaning over his shoulder: “Put your balls into it you useless twat.” Not the right kind of show for a chap with the (purely ceremonial) rank of Coronet.



Is it just me, or did the whole thing seem slightly staged from the royal “get go”?

And why pick on New Idea, according to other media reports the story was also on the Drudge Report and on several European news websites.

The point is that the whole idea of an embargo is stupid and the media who were prepared to stick with an agreement to keep Sir Hotpants‘ deployment to Afghanistan secret were colluding in a restraint of trade and an ideological hoodwinking of their readers and viewers.

Buckingham Palace and the British government had a deal: Sir Hotpants‘ heroic (sic) stint in dusty Afghanistan would be revealed to a grateful public at a time of their own choosing; preferably when Harry was doing the horizontal Zorba with a suitably lubricated (with Crack Baby) Chelsea slapper and was safely out of the way.

Just to make sure the loyal tabloids didn’t miss a beat, or a shot, a royal battalion of tame paparazzo was billeted next to HEI to film his every move across the wide brown plains of Helmand province.

“Sir, would you mind pooing in this trench, sir. We can shoot your royal buttocks from a flattering angle over here, sir.”

“Make-up, more powder on the royal derriere please…and…action.”

“Oh sir, it’s true! Royal poo is blue, and sir, it smells divine, sir.”

You think I’m being funny? No? Well, yes and no. The Telegraph story on the breaking of the embargo contained this little gem:

As part of the deal between the media and the MoD, a small number of journalists went to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to report.

[British defence chief] Sir Richard said: “What the last two months have shown is that it is perfectly possible for Prince Harry to be employed just the same as other Army officers of his rank and experience.

Yes, just the same as any officer with rank of Coronet with fuc*all experience, except in drinking Crack Baby cocktails and senseless rutting.

Yes, just the same as every Coronet who needs a battalion of minders tagging along in a war zone.

Harry Hotpants was never in danger in Helmand Province. He’s safer there than in any Soho nightclub where he might drown in his 37th Crack Baby of that particular binge.

The whole thing was a stinking propaganda exercise designed to hit British hearts and minds with a “shock and awe” message bomb. The war is unpopular in Britain and this would have been a huge publicity coup.

I don’t much care who broke this story. If it was New Idea then good luck to them. According to The Telegraph in London, the story was in New Idea a month ago and no one picked it up then. In a statement issued on Feb 29, New Idea is quoted as saying:

“New Idea was not issued with a press embargo and was unaware of the existence of one…

The story was published on Monday, January 7. Since then New Idea has received no comment from the British Ministry of Defence.

We take these matters very seriously and would never knowingly break an embargo. We regret any issues the revelation of this story in America has caused today. “

Six weeks ago this story was mentioned in NW; now they’re getting blasted by the rest of the press. Actually, NW was probably dobbed in by Palace flacks as a way of giving the story a boost. How else could Sky TV and other networks have a special all ready to go with the shit-eating headline “Hero Harry Home At Last”. PUKE!

The British tabloids hate to be upstaged and for an Antipodean trash mag to do it is the height of colonial bastardry. For revenge, the tabbies have been falling over themselves to gush the mush about the heroic Harry Hotpants and sections of the quality press have been rubbing their noses in it:

Earlier yesterday even The Sun found itself saying: “There’s no doubt Harry has struggled with the pressures of Royalty. But Harry has found richer fulfilment serving with his mates than he ever found in the bottom of a Crack Baby cocktail.

“In place of the tipsy playboy, we saw a self-assured and mature man of action at ease with himself.”

The Daily Mirror said: “Harry, famous in the past for his partying, is a young man who has come of age, serving his Queen — his grandmother — and country with distinction…

The Daily Express said: “For Harry to serve his country in a combat zone will boost the morale of forces families everywhere. Britain can be extremely proud of its soldier Prince and so can the Royal Family.”

The story was heavily used around the world, and in the United States there was sometimes a little more comment added.

The New York Post said: “Looks like the Taliban is getting the royal treatment.” And it added: “The 23-year-old royal heir, once nicknamed ‘Dirty Harry’ by British tabloids for his hard-partying ways, has now been dubbed ‘Harry the Hero’ for his role in the war on terror.”

The real point is the sycophantic coverage by the hypocritical tabloids that’s vomited up on every news website since Sir Hotpants‘ glorious return to the country of his mother, his mother country that he hates.

As an aside:

Fuck you, Harry Hotpants; bloodsucking scion of inbred ingrates.

And to you sycophantic toadies of the tabloids:

Get a grip (or actually let go of your august organs and start thinking with your brains, not your assholes).

I’m with Peter Preston of The Observer on this shabby little story:

But phooey! Double phooey! There’s no point in criticising anyone involved in this deluded little charade, because everyone acted from perfectly comprehensible motives. Harry wanted a bit of proper soldiering. The MoD wanted a warm bath of publicity on its own terms. The press loves being praised for restraint, plus getting pool exclusives of ‘Hero Harry’ playing ‘keepyuppy‘ with a toilet roll shortly after ‘shedding tears for Chelsea’. But the difficulty is that this was always going to be a flaky deal, which lasted rather longer than you’d have bet at the start.

That’s right, a flaky deal designed to get some good publicity for the British military machine and for dumbass Gordon Brown.

A flaky deal aimed at the gullible audience (in MoD parlance) of New Idea readers who were told this remarkable and top secret news SIX WEEKS AGO, but didn’t see they’d been duped by those nasty editor-bitches.

Hey guess what, Terry Taleban (or at least his missus) must also not be reading NW. Terry and his brothers had six weeks to get to Harry Hotpants with a suicide bomb or a sniper yet the self-confessed “bullet magnet” made it home alive.

The power of the press HEI HEI HEI. It seems HEI actually blew it with his “I don’t like England” comments. I think the good folk of the Home Counties should whip the hat around to buy the idiot prince a ticket back to Helmand Province. Perhaps HEI and Terry Taleban could share a Crack Baby and get drunk enough to think they’d solved all the world’s problems. At least they’d be too pissed to shoot at each other.

And for those whingeing outlets who are now ganging up on New Idea, including stupid, inane and unethical gossip websites, such as Defamer.com, stop the crocodile tears. You would steal your granny’s nickers for the sake of a story.


How the Pentagon Planted a False Hormuz Story – CommonDreams.org

January 17, 2008

How the Pentagon Planted a False Hormuz Story – CommonDreams.org

I am grateful to my old friend Rob Elliott in Hobart for passing on this piece.

Do you remember the incident a couple of weeks ago when the Americans alleged three of their warships came under direct threat from Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz? Well, surprise surprise, it ain’t what it appears to be at first glance.

This piece from Interp Press Service and posted at Commondreams.org deconstructs the story quite nicely and shows it for what it was – blatant propaganda designed to boost public interest in and support for Dubya’s sleazy “peace” mission to the Middle East.

Hat tip Rob, keep’em coming.


Citizen Journalism at War

January 6, 2008

Citizen Journalism at War
Video sent by 18doughtystreet

Broadcast Journalist David Heathfield’s report investigating the impact of citizen journalism on war.