Dissecting pseudoscientific and political propaganda

Tactics used in anti-science and pseudoscience propaganda are essentially the same as used in political propaganda.

Everyone has their own ideological and political starting points – and none of us are really rational, even when we think we are. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find we are fully  in agreement with some people on one issue but on the opposite sides of the fence with the same people on other issues.

I often find this  in my on-line discussions . Some of my “allies” in the fight against pseudoscience (for example, in debunking anti-fluoride propagandists) will become my “opponents” when I discuss issues like the war in Syria. (I use quote marks because I do not feel any enmity towards discussion partners when the discussion is civil).

Nevertheless, I do not consciously separate my approaches to science and politics (and I guess my discussion partners would make the same claim). People can often be more resistant to anti-science propaganda because claims can be tested against reality. This is sometimes harder to do with political issues but if we don’t try we can be fooled by political propaganda. So, a recent article –  Dissecting the Propaganda on Syria – appealed to me as I immediately recognised that the tactics used by propagandists against the Syrian government are essentially the same as those tactics used by anti-fluoridation propagandists.

The article identifies three propaganda tactics:

1: Demonise the enemy

Those pushing pseudoscience do this continually. Scientists are claimed to be only in it for the money. How often do we hear the chant “follow the money” (and how hypocritical is this considering many of these propagandists are making money out of the “natural”/alternative health industry.

paul-connett

Anti-fluoride campaigner Paul Connett regularly charges NZ scientists with fraud – but he fraudulently distorts the evidence to do so.

Honest scientists are accused of fraud and researchers whose work contradicts the propaganda are personally attacked.

On Syria, we continually hear about the Syrian “regime” and its “brutal dictator” – despite the fact that the Syrian government and president have been elected. Words like “regime” instead of “government” are a way of demonising.

Responsibility for all the deaths in this war is often attributed solely to President Bashar al-Assad. This is absurd as these deaths also include those fighting on the government’s side. As the article says:

This propaganda “deems Assad responsible for everything, including the killing of Syrian soldiers by the armed opposition. This opposition, which is financed and armed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the U.S., includes extreme jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda’s longtime affiliate and the Islamic State. Yet, none of the leaders supplying these rebels – in defiance of international law – bears any blame for the death and devastation of Syria, according to” the propaganda.”

This demonisation of Assad is part of the interventionist strategy of “regime change.” We saw it before in Iraq and Libya. Liberal intervention to correct a wayward government appeals to many, and fools even more. After all, it is easy to find fault with the governments and leaders in these countries. But those who want regime change in Syria do everything to protect the regimes and leaders of other countries, like Saudi Arabia, with far greater violations of human rights. And the “regime change” doctrine violates the fundamental rights of people to decide their own government and leaders.

nazi-fluoride-myth

What better way to demonise advocates of community water fluoridation than to compare them to Hitler?

In a parallel way those anti-fluoride propagandists who demonise honest scientists can easily be found to be guilty of the very charges they lay against others. Aren’t these propagandists often paid shills for big business – the “natural”/alternative health industry? And don’t they frequently misrepresent and distort the science? Are they not the ones who should be charged with fraud?

2: Romanticise the opposition

Anti-fluoride propagandists continually describe themselves as fighters for truth who have “done their research.” They are fighting for natural, pure, food and water and against the wicked big business “fluoride industry” which is disposing their contaminated waste by dumping it in our water supply. And how often do we get the David vs Goliath analogy – even when it is the anti-fluoride activists who have dominated submissions to local bodies?

On Syria, our mainstream media

“portrays the conflict as a “civil war” which began with peaceful democracy-loving Syrian revolutionaries who were ruthlessly repressed by a brutal regime.

In reality, there was a violent faction from the start. In the first protests in Deraa, seven police were killed. Two weeks later there was a massacre of 60 security forces in Deraa.

In Homs, an eyewitness recounted the situation: “From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

In the first two months, hundreds of police and security forces were killed. Yet, . . . the West’s mainstream media, ignores this reality because it clashes with the desired image of white-hatted protesters being victimized by a black-hatted government.”

baath-party

Violence against the Syrian government occurred even during the early demonstrations.

This romanticisation is hardly suprising when we realise that most of our information on the Syrian war is coming from rebel or terrorist sources – or sources sympathetic to antigovernment fighters. Al Jazeera has reporters embedded in  “rebel”/”terrorist” militia forces. And so often our news reports cite “activists” or sources like the Aleppo Media Center, White Helmets, or the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which are sympathetic to the rebels.

Similarly, anti-fluoride propagandists very often cite sources from their own anti-science side. Their hope is that their reliance on sources such as “NaturalNews”, The Health Ranger, the Fluoride Action Network and Mercola, and continuous promotion of articles from those sources, can be translated into a similar acceptance by our mainstream media.

3: Attack anyone who questions the dogma

Many health professionals who recognise community water fluoridation as a safe and effective social health measure refuse to speak up in its defence because this can lead to personal attacks. A dentist who recently took issue with the misinformation being promoted by an anti-fluoride group was told in an anonymous personal letter:

“How dare you try to shut the truth down, people like you are a total insult to the art of Dentistry.”

And that is a mild example. How often are people who attempt to inject some logic and fact into this argument accused of being “shills?” Or attacked in a memes on social media – almost always from behind a wall where they are banned from participating in the discussion or answering their critics.

Similarly, those who attempt to debate the “party line” on Syria are often accused of being “Asad supporters” or worse. I was recently described as being a “fanatical follower of the Soviet camp” when I attempted to argue that there are child casualties in the government-held west Aleppo as well as in the “rebel”terrorist” held east Aleppo. (Some readers may object to my use of the word “terrorist” in this context – but the fact is the anti-government “Army of Conquest” which unites all the “rebels forces” in the current battle for Aleppo is led by Al Nusra – officially recognised as a terrorist organisation by the Russian Federation, USA and the United Nations).

Such attacks are simply a way of shutting down honest discussion of this conflict. A way of preventing information undesired by our political leaders from getting through the propaganda we are exposed to. Such attacks are really just a neo-McCarthyist tool in the information war.

Anti-fluoride propagandists and their allies in the “natural”/alternative health industry use exactly the same tactic. By attacking and labelling honest scientists and others who attempt to debunk the pseudoscience propaganda they hope to intimidate people and raise doubts about the science. We have seen this before from climate change deniers and creationists. They also use such attacks to raise doubts about the science of evolution and the findings of climate scientists.

Conclusions

This article quotes a leader of the US Veterans of Peace:

The U.S. peace movement has been demobilized by disinformation on Syria.”

I think he is correct. The tactics of demonising the Syrian government and president, of romanticising the “rebels” by selective reporting of history and current events, and of attacking anyone who speaks out against such propaganda, has been very effective in muting opposition to this war and encouraging “regime change.”

While the same tactics being used by the anti-fluoride and similar pseudoscientific or anti-science movements has been less effective for the population at large it still resonates with many.

Such propaganda tactics need to be resisted.

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55 responses to “Dissecting pseudoscientific and political propaganda

  1. Usual load of old rubbish!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A ‘part 2’ to this article might useful — where you explore for us some of the specific techniques for mis-represnting, cherry picking, undercutting, manipulating facts or analyses ( scientific or political) in published reports so that they appear to favor a position counter to what they actually do. This has been developed to a high art in the climate change denier propaganda and is not adequately countered anywhere.

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  3. Ken, I like you, and I feel privileged to count on your scientific expertise to counter all the anti water-fluoridation nonsense sweeping the internet. However, your politics are all messed up.

    Human Rights Watch is a non-political organization with no axes to grind. From Human Rights Watch regarding Syria: “Violence in Syria has escalated amid an absence of meaningful efforts to end the war. The government and its allies carried out deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Incommunicado detention and torture remain rampant.”

    So we are clear, the Syrian Government is guilty of attacks on innocent civilians and torture. There is no doubt of this. Reuters has accused the Assad regime of war crimes for its use of barrel bombs. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-barrel-bombs-idUSBREA0C19F20140113

    The BBC has reported that as much as 99% of the victims of Assad’s barrel bombs are innocent collateral damage. Only 1% are Assad’s intended victims. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32581007

    So, regardless of what you may have to say about the opponents with whom Assad is engaged, it is clear that Assad is guilty of killing his own citizens. Debate this if you will, but the evidence is clear – there is no debate.

    To be fair, Human Rights Watch goes on to say: “Armed groups opposing the government have attacked civilians, used child soldiers, kidnapped, and tortured. The extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, were responsible targeting civilians, kidnappings, and executions.”

    Both sides are guilty of human rights abuses.

    How could this happen? This is where the dialogue rightfully belongs.

    “Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets.
    The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad’s resignation. The government’s use of force to crush the dissent merely hardened the protesters’ resolve. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets across the country.
    Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. . .

    “A UN commission of inquiry has evidence that all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes – including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. They have also been accused of using civilian suffering – such as blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges – as a method of war.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868

    It’s a nightmare. But it was the Assad regime that had the ability to either quell the situation, or escalate. It was the Assad regime that is ultimately responsible for the current situation.

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  4. David, before responding in any detail could you describe the motives of the Syrian government which must lie behind a deliberate target of 99% of its innocent population and restricting attacks on terrorists to only 1% as you claim. Without a clear motive on the part of government forces I am more inclined to adopt a sceptical attitude towards your sources as such an imbalance cannot be accidental.

    For the life of me, I cannot see why a secular government (which has accepted and allowed freedom for all religions except the extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood)should be so vindictive towards its people – the majority of which have voted it into power. Even if you need to guess – what could be the possible motive?

    I have no hesitancy in acknowledging human rights abuses, torture, etc. and acknowledge the government has treated extremist badly. But if you are going to get into that some detail on who was tortured and why) and expansion to (for example) Saudi Arabia (who is arming terrorists in Syria and the US (where torture is well documentede0 who is also effectively arming terrorists in Syria.

    Do you think a humanitarian intervention policy of regime change can justifiably be applied to the USA and Saudia Arabia, Qatar, etc. (as it was in Iraq, Libya and now Syria) ?

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  5. David Fierstien

    For starters you are asking two separate questions here. 1.) ” . . what could be the possible motive?” And, 2.)”Without a clear motive on the part of government forces I am more inclined to adopt a sceptical attitude towards your sources as such an imbalance cannot be accidental.”

    You are asking about 1.)motive, and 2.)intent. These are two separate concepts in U.S. jurisprudence. Although motive and intent are very closely related to each other. Motive precedes intent in terms of action. Motive is the reason behind the intent while intent is the background of the committed crime. Both motive and intent should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but intent has a weightier standing and bearing in a court of law compared to motive.

    It’s a good point you make. Is there a motive? Is there intent for the Assad regime to indiscriminately kill its own people with barrel bombs? You don’t think so, and you’ve given your reasons.

    To fully explore the question, I looked at exactly what “intent” is since this is the more weighty of the accusations regarding this ongoing crime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Syrian_Civil_War_barrel_bomb_attacks in which barrel bombs have been reported to have been dropped on schools, killing children, and have been reported to have been filled with chlorine.

    “As for criminal intent, there are four levels as described in the Moral Penal Code:
    (1) Purposely – At this level, the suspect expresses his purpose to commit a specific crime against a particular person.
    (2) Knowingly – The suspect has knowledge and consciousness that his actions will be considered a crime in the eyes of the law. However, the suspect can inflict a crime on a person who is not his intended victim.
    (3) Recklessly – The suspect knows the risks involved in his actions and the situation but disregards the risk and continues to perform the crime regardless.
    (4) Negligently – The suspect does not take into account various possible scenarios that will happen during the action of the crime which often leads to losing control of the situation and probably causing more casualties.”

    I don’t believe Level 1 applies to the crime of Assad dropping of barrel bombs on his own people. Level 2 applies. Level 3 applies. Level 4 may or may not apply. That’s the answer to your question, ‘What is Assad’s motive & intent?’ Despite your naive question, what other intent could there possibly have been for dropping a barrel bomb on a school on April 30, 2014?

    Regarding this comment: ” . . Without a clear motive on the part of government forces I am more inclined to adopt a sceptical attitude towards your sources . . ,” I’m not in Syria to witness first-hand current events taking place there, and neither are you. But the BBC does have people there to witness crimes taking place. Be skeptical if you like, that’s your right.

    As for this question: “Do you think a humanitarian intervention policy of regime change can justifiably be applied to the USA and Saudia Arabia, Qatar, etc. (as it was in Iraq, Libya and now Syria) ?”

    While I can’t speak for Saudi Arabia & Qatar, if the United States begins dropping barrel bombs on schools in my lifetime, I will be at the forefront of those demanding regime change in this country. In fact, there was a regime change in the United States when the government killed four protesting students at a place called Kent State, Ohio.

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  6. David Fierstien

    I should have included this link to Aljazeera, 7 September, 2016 in my comment. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/syria-war-chlorine-gas-dropped-rebel-held-aleppo-160906153118935.html

    Looking back at my comments, it occurs to me that it is interesting that the Syrian Civil War began in much the same way as the Kent State Massacre:

    Syria: ““Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets. . . ”

    Kent State: “involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970.”

    Both events began with a government crack down on protest against its policies. . . Interesting.

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  7. David Fierstien

    One more brief comment. I took another look at your original post. Looking at global politics as a scientist looks at evidence in an unbiased way. It sounds great. That’s why this comment of yours seemed to jump off the page at me:

    “But those who want regime change in Syria do everything to protect the regimes and

    Ok. You made the claim that Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses is worse than the Assad government’s (I didn’t want to use the inflammatory word “regime.”) record of human rights abuse.

    So I took a look at the evidence. Amnesty International is a non political organization whose sole purpose is to report human rights abuses. That seemed like a great place to look. Although AI lists abuses from anti-gvt. sources, this discussion is a comparison of Assad’s record against the Saudi record, therefore I will stress what is said about the government:

    “The United Nations lists more than 9 million Syrians as refugees and internally displaced peoples, making it the largest current refugee crisis in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians across Syria, including children, have been forced to endure a life of hardship under siege. Most of the sieges are imposed and maintained by forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Others have been mounted by opposition and other non-state armed groups.

    “Civilians continue to be at the receiving end of frequent indiscriminate attacks by Syrian government forces. Government forces also continue to commit other grave violations, including war crimes such as arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Amnesty’s documentation provides fresh evidence that such crimes are widespread as well as systematic, and are being perpetrated on an ever-increasing scale and as part of state policy. We also have evidence of the government targeting special groups such as medical workers and journalists. Many Syrians are victims of enforced disappearances.”
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/syria

    Here is AI’s 2015-2016 report for Saudi Arabia. It’s lengthy so I will just post the link: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/saudi-arabia/report-saudi-arabia/

    So we can compare apples to apples, here is AI’s 2015-2016 report for Syria: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/syria/report-syria/

    Abuses are reported on both sides in Syria, but for this discussion, the Assad government as compared to the Saudi government on human rights, take a look at the government’s violations.

    After that, do you still believe you have made that comment ( ” . . leaders of other countries, like Saudi Arabia, with far greater violations of human rights.”) as a strict, unbiased scientist would have? Has Saudi Arabia really committed more human rights violations than Assad’s gvt.?

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  8. David Fierstien

    Sorry, this is your quote, in its entirety, that I was commenting on: ” But those who want regime change in Syria do everything to protect the regimes and leaders of other countries, like Saudi Arabia, with far greater violations of human rights.

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  9. David, I will continue with the comparison between science and politics. And the fluoride issue does provide examples.

    Firstly, you state (as if it is an undeniable fact) that my “politics are all messed up.” I could state the same about you – but where the hell would that get us. It would just be a statement of opinion, not of fact. All you are really saying is that you and I disagree on political issues.

    The negative side of stating such things as facts rather than beliefs is that it exhibits an unwillingness to consider the facts or the arguments of a discussion partner.
    Incidentally, I often have anti-fluoride campaigners effectively saying the same thing about my science – that it is all messed up.

    Secondly, I will argue the point I often argue about scientific issues – that claims and evidence (and sources) must be considered intelligently and critically and not simply used as an exercise in confirmation bias.

    Anti-fluoride campaigners will often argue using sources they consider reliable but actually aren’t – Connett, NaturalNews, Mercola, etc. But even when they use ”reliable” sources their arguments may be very wrong – you are well aware of the way Cochrane or The Lancet are being used. It’s still confirmation bias.

    I have always argued that the same intelligent and critical analysis must be applied to “evidence” coming from reputable sources as well as the less reputable sources.
    This approach is even more important in the political sphere where, because we are in the middle of a geopolitical information war, even the sources some might argue as reputable (BBC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) often promote biased information. In the political context, I argue one must be careful about the blinkered effect of relying only on the “approved” sources. One must be willing to also look at the “unapproved” sources. And one must look at all sources and their evidence critically and intelligently.

    As you can see – I am no more impressed by an unanalysed quote from the BBC or Human Rights Watch than I am impressed by an out of context and unanalysed quote from Mercola, Paul Connett, Cochrane or The Lancet.

    I am afraid that continuing with the belief that my politics are “all messed up” and relying on an uncritical (and dare I say “unintelligent”) acceptance of biased claims, reports and sources will only lead to a “Claytons” discussion – where we talk past each other instead of meaningfully engaging with a more objective analysis if the situation in Syria.

    And, I note in passing, you have already here heavily relied on that first propaganda technique of demonising your enemy (the legitimate elected president of an elected government) which I point out “ is part of the interventionist strategy of “regime change.”

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  10. Sorry, David, you have not given a “motive” for the reported actions of Assad. You say:
    “That’s the answer to your question, ‘What is Assad’s motive & intent?’ Despite your naive question, what other intent could there possibly have been for dropping a barrel bomb on a school on April 30, 2014?”

    So what is the motive and why am I naïve to ask this? Putting aside the question of whether or not a barrel bomb was dropped on a school in 2014 (that sort of claim needs a better justification to be taken seriously given the context) what deliberate motive would the government have of dropping a bomb on a school (yes – mistakes happen in war but you are claiming this is deliberate).

    And, seriously, ALL the victims in this war are often attributed to a deliberate action of Assad (note the demonisation  ) –what possible motive could Assad have for killing his own soldiers and supporters as well as invading terrorists as well as innocent civilians? Although such a claim just seems stupid it has been seriously made by US leaders and also by the Turkish president.

    As for “regime change” – you seem to purposely misunderstand me. I am not against “regime change” in principle – I attempt to do this every three years in my own country. And I support the Syrian people in their “regime change” resulting from recent parliamentary elections – and the chance they were given to change their president in elections recently. I support proposals for a democratic determination of a new government and presidency in Syria in the future which I hope comes out of the political negotiations – whether Assad stands in these elections or not. A democratic determination involving the legitimate opposition – many of whom have stopped fighting under the reconciliation policy resulting from the last ceasefire declared in Geneva
    .
    What I oppose is the policy of externally changing a regime by force as the US has been doing (and, incidentally, proposed for Syria well before the 2011 Arab Spring). You need to confront this – a policy of intervention (humanitarian or otherwise) which the US and NATO have advanced for several years now and which has caused so much trouble in many countries.

    A policy, incidentally, which has led to the USA supporting, arming, and assisting the most despicable forces pro-fascist, nationalist and terrorist forces.
    Along with many other people I simply do not accept such an interventionist policy is justified by the real or imagined human rights violations or corruption on those countries – especially as the US supports governments which routinely carry out worse violations.

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  11. David, you have now proposed this link to Aljazeera, 7 September, 2016 as some sort of evidence for your demonisation of Assad. .http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/syria-war-chlorine-gas-dropped-rebel-held-aleppo-160906153118935.html.

    It is worth considering this example as it is rather typical of Al Jazeera – and is an example of why I do not rely on this news service as either reputable or reliable when it comes to Syria. It is, after all, financed by a government which is arming and financing terrorists in Syria – so my advice to examine such claims critically and intelligently is surely valid.
    The headline reads:

    “Aleppo: Syrian forces blamed for ‘chlorine gas attack’
    Activists say Syrian government forces dropped two barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas in a rebel-held area of Aleppo.”

    Al Jazeera routinely and mainly reports from “rebel”/”terrorist” held regions and sources. It has journalists embedded with the terrorist organisations. The word “activist” usually indicated a source that one should not accept blindly because it is fighting for one side in the battle. In this case the terrorist side.

    Would you uncritically accept the word of an anti-fluoride activist who is also promoting anti-vaccine and chemtrail propaganda? No – and this is far worse.

    This report also lists a number of the questionable sources I mentioned in my article – the Aleppo Media Centre, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets). The White Helmets, in particular, have a reputation for manipulating situations – even staging incidents.

    I personally cannot see a motive for government forces using chlorine in this particular battle – although the hell cannons are routinely used against civilian areas – and given the inhuman attitudes of the terrorists to other religions I would not be surprised if they used gas cylinders containing chlorine. Certainly, terrorist groups have used chlorine in the past and one group has even admitted to a specific attack.

    Really, this discussion has got to get beyond uncritical reliance on such questionable sources and such questionable information.

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  12. David, really – comparing “apples to apples?”

    I am surprised you can make this argument. it is equivalent to comparing the human rights record of the USSR and the USA – using, on the one hand, a report on fighting in Europe during WWII involving Soviet forces (and attributing all deaths in that war to Stalin) and on the other a report of peacetime human rights violations in the US

    No, you are not comparing apples to apples.

    How many Syrians were lashed or beheaded in peace-time Damascus for the crimes of atheism, for example, compared with Riyadh today? Do you really think the modern, secular and equal treatment of women in Syria is worse than the treatment fo women in Saudi Arabia? How many women have got parliamentary positions in Saudi Arabia or have made it to powerful government or parliamentary positions as they have in Syria?

    In fact, what is the nature of the Parliament in Riyadh – and how can the democratic organisations in Saudia Arabia and Qatar even be compared with the long tradition of parliamentary existence in Damascus? And it is Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are attempting to destroy parliamentary representation in Damascus.

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  13. Further to my comments about a more critical and intelligent consideration of events I recommend people watch the currently running news conference where Kerry and Lavrov outline a just concluded agreement. And I mean watch both speeches.

    Looks like a basis for some progress on a ceasefire, getting in humanitarian aid and cooperation between the Russian Federation and the USA in fighting terrorism. The agreement has been welcomed by the UN.

    Interestingly Kerry is putting it back on the so-called “responsible” opposition that they must separate from the terrorist forces (with the implication they will face the consequences – joint bombing by USA and Russia) if they do not. Apparently, the Syrian government has accepted the agreements – which will define areas which only the USA and Russia can bomb while Syria has its own areas of responsibility.

    So looks like a good opportunity to recommence the political process.

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  14. Ken, you started your comments by saying, “Firstly, you state (as if it is an undeniable fact) that my “politics are all messed up.”” After which, you spent way too much time criticizing my comment, as if I had not justified it. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps we are “talking past each other.”

    Your politics “are all messed up.” That statement is in no way comparable to anti-fluoride rhetoric which is non verifiable. My statement is measurable, and it is verifiable. You openly said that human rights violations in Syria are not as bad as human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. That is messed up; i.e., it is incorrect, it is biased, and the incorrectness of it is provable.

    This is your exact quote: “But those who want regime change in Syria do everything to protect the regimes and leaders of other countries, like Saudi Arabia, with far greater violations of human rights.”

    I provided you with two Amnesty International reports for the same period in time for each country. Your quote: “This approach is even more important in the political sphere where, because we are in the middle of a geopolitical information war, even the sources some might argue as reputable (BBC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) often promote biased information.”

    That is exactly what anti-fluoridationists do. If a source disagrees with their, or your, bias, the problem is with the source. You’ve seen that before.

    For example, this is a quote from an anti fluoridationist that I just ran across: “Your “DDS” reveals you are part of the medical industrial complex and your mind is warped by years of indoctrination. Your title is “information director” of the American Fluoridation Society. . . . . . Therefore, you are a shill. Shill — to talk about or describe someone or something in a favorable way because you are being paid to do it.” http://personalliberty.com/researchers-find-no-evidence-fluoride-drinking-water-reduces-cavities/#comment-2884290884

    And now, here is your quote: “Al Jazeera – and is an example of why I do not rely on this news service as either reputable or reliable when it comes to Syria. It is, after all, financed by a government which is arming and financing terrorists in Syria . .”

    Your quote: “Secondly, I will argue the point I often argue about scientific issues – that claims and evidence (and sources) must be considered intelligently and critically and not simply used as an exercise in confirmation bias.”

    Please provide any evidence to support your claim that Amnesty International is politically biased. Your inability to do so is an indication that even you are guilty of the anti-fluoridationist tactic – attack the source.

    Continuing with your justified dismissal of the evidence that I have presented to counter your statement, you go on to say, “ It is equivalent to comparing the human rights record of the USSR and the USA – using, on the one hand, a report on fighting in Europe during WWII involving Soviet forces (and attributing all deaths in that war to Stalin) and on the other a report of peacetime human rights violations in the US.” Despite the fact that I provided human rights reports from exactly the same period in time.

    The problem with what you are saying – and I have said this before – is that you attribute none of the blame for the current situation on the Assad regime, as if he is completely blameless in all this. There are 9 million displaced people – the largest human displacement of human beings in the world right now – because of the Syrian civil war. And that doesn’t include torture, civilian casualties, using starvation as a weapon of war, rape, the list is endless.

    Your quote: “Do you really think the modern, secular and equal treatment of women in Syria is worse than the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia?”

    You are seriously comparing the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia to war crimes committed by the Assad regime? You would seriously argue that the Assad government has no responsibility for what is taking place there? I’ll say it again. Your politics are all messed up.

    Yes, looking at the years 2015-2016 in each country is comparing “apples to apples.” All we can do is look at the world as it is now and draw conclusions from it. This is what you said when you made the claim that human rights violations in Saudi Arabia are “far worse” than they are in Syria. Bullshit.

    We are not allowed the luxury of choosing any point in time of our liking to support our separate theses. We take the world as it is . . and for you to demand that we look at pre-war Syria (a point in time of your choosing) and compare its treatment of women, or atheists, to the current Saudi example is not only dishonest, but it completely absolves the Assad government of its responsibility in creating the current situation. An empirical scientist would not be that dishonest, but an anti-fluoridationists would.

    Your quote: “David, you have now proposed this link to Aljazeera, 7 September, 2016 as some sort of evidence for your demonisation of Assad.”

    No, but I would demonize someone who knowingly drops barrel bombs on children and other innocent civilians. Perhaps you would prefer to un-demonize a character like that? Is that what you are saying?

    Your quote: “Sorry, David, you have not given a “motive” for the reported actions of Assad. You say:
    “That’s the answer to your question, ‘What is Assad’s motive & intent?’ Despite your naive question, what other intent could there possibly have been for dropping a barrel bomb on a school on April 30, 2014?”

    This is a great example of us “talking past each other” because you seem to have missed my answer. You asked for two things. What motive would Assad have for killing innocent people with barrel bombs? That is a question of motive. And why would he deliberately do that? That is a question of intent.

    Answer: Motive precedes intent. Without motive there can be no intent. Therefore, if intent exists, motive must necessarily exist. Proof of intent is weightier than proof of motive. Intent consists of the following levels:
    Purposely – At this level, the suspect expresses his purpose to commit a specific crime against a particular person.

    Knowingly – The suspect has knowledge and consciousness that his actions will be considered a crime in the eyes of the law. However, the suspect can inflict a crime on a person who is not his intended victim.

    Recklessly — The suspect knows the risks involved in his actions and the situation but disregards the risk and continues to perform the crime regardless.

    Negligently – The suspect does not take into account various possible scenarios that will happen during the action of the crime which often leads to losing control of the situation and probably causing more casualties.”

    So the answer to your question, as I have already stated, is that the Assad government “knowingly” and “recklessly” is committing these crimes as defined by intent.

    “However, the suspect can inflict a crime on a person who is not his intended victim.” Civilians are not the intended victims. By definition the regime is guilty of intent.

    “ The suspect knows the risks involved in his actions and the situation but disregards the risk and continues to perform the crime regardless.” The regime understands the risks of dropping barrel bombs in populated areas and continues to do it anyway. By definition the regime is guilty of intent.

    The regime knowingly and recklessly commits these crimes. That is the definition of intent. That is the answer to your question: What’s the intent? What’s the motive? Answer: They don’t give a shit. That’s intent. Since intent exists, motive necessarily must exist. Do you not see this or are we continuing to talk past each other?

    Your comment: ” You need to confront this – a policy of intervention (humanitarian or otherwise) which the US and NATO have advanced for several years now and which has caused so much trouble in many countries.

    A policy, incidentally, which has led to the USA supporting, arming, and assisting the most despicable forces pro-fascist, nationalist and terrorist forces.”

    I have never denied that the United States has made mistakes in the past. I am aware of them, I have confronted them, and they are not relevant to this discussion. The United States is currently not supporting ISIS or other extreme terrorist groups in Syria.

    One last thing. I’ve also seen the recent development in Syria and hold out hope for an improved situation.

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  15. David, I think you have let your emotions get away with you – and I really can not make much sense of your last extensive comment. It certainly is talking past my comments as it misrepresents my positions and ignores my points.

    All I can suggest is that you calm down and then have a reread of my comments. Perhaps then it will be possible to engage with them properly.

    Thankfully you see some hope with the current results coming out of the Kerry-Lavrov talks (which were built on the Putin-Obama talks).

    One hope is that there is a mechanism there to separate the legitimate opposition from the invading extremists like Al Nusra. True, the US has not in words supported ISIS or Al Nusra (they have agreed these are terrorist organisations) but their arms supplies have got inevitably to those groups because they are intimately connected (especially in the case of Al Nusra) to the groups that the US does finance and arm (and some of those “groups” were fictions of the US imagination anyway).

    Let’s not forget that Al Nusra currently leads the Army of Conquest, which includes groups supported, armed and financed by the US, and which is actively involved in the battle for Aleppo. Kerry really acknowledges this for the first time in his speech today. And also effectively admits they cannot control the groups that they are arming and financing.

    The US has been unable to separate their proxy groups from the terrorist groups and seems willing now to say to their proxies “if you don’t remove yourself from territories held by Al Nusra then we, together with Russia, will bomb you.” I only hope they have the will to follow through because the recent cooperation amongst the “rebels” and “terrorists” (which has led to battle successes) will make it hard to bring about a separation. Already there are voices in the US criticising the agreements and presumably indicating attempts to get the US to back away from that resolve.

    Thankfully these agreements have been reached before Clinton takes office as I think she and her likely administration would not support such an agreement. I see her presidency as very dangerous for the chance of peace in Syria.

    Incidentally, you did describe Al Nusra as freedom fighters in a previous Facebook discussion – I hope that Kerry’s current clarity on that group will get you to revise your previous description.

    Finally, let me drag in someone else, and a country, that you have previously demonised. When you look at the details of the current agreements I think an objective observer must see them as a victory for Putin and Russian diplomacy. Yes, there are always concessions in such diplomatic agreements but Putin was calling for cooperation between the US and Russia to fight terrorism right back in his UN speech last October. He and his fellow countrymen have worked hard to achieve that since then. And the Russians have been attempting to get the 48 hr ceasefires requested by the UN to enable humanitarian aid to get into isolated areas for a while now. Problem is that the “rebels”/”terrorists” always threatened to fire on aid convoys. The Lavrov-Kerry diplomatic efforts have now brought the US on board and this makes the ceasefire and humanitarian aid convoys far more likely.

    Putin and Lavrov have been very impressive in their diplomatic work – and I also think Kerry must be congratulated (despite some stupid comments he seems obliged to make for home consumption).

    I only hope that the ceasefire can last. It has the support of the USA, Russia, the Syrian government and some of the major opposition militia. But clearly, Al Nusra will not support it and this will weaken support from the opposition groups that have so far been recognised as legitimate. Some elements of the US establishment will oppose it and while formal acceptance may come from the countries involved in the Syrian talks some of these will have motives for sabotaging the agreements.

    So I look forward to next week with some hope but also some trepidation that this chance to move on to the political discussions may be sabotaged.

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  16. Regarding my previous comment, in order to help you make sense of it, let’s take one thing at a time. I presented two reports from Amnesty International to counter a statement you had made. In response to this, you said:

    “This approach is even more important in the political sphere where, because we are in the middle of a geopolitical information war, even the sources some might argue as reputable (BBC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) often promote biased information.”

    In response, I asked you for any credible evidence showing that Amnesty International is biased in any way.

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  17. David, my general comment about the need for intelligent and critical assessment of claims in the political sphere was not directed at any specific quote of yours. It was, I thought, a sensible bit of advice considering that you are resorting to the uncritical use of quotes. The example from Al Jazeera surely shows how sensible my advice is.

    But regarding your quotes from Amnesty – the problem was that you were comparing a quote about conditions during a vicious war in Syria (not human rights issue within the normal society) with a quote about a peacetime situation in Saudi Arabia. That is comparing apples with oranges.

    It is simply diversionary to claim that one should look at the same time frame – the important thing is the prevailing situation.

    Perhaps you should look for an Amnesty quote about the Saudi actions in Yemen if you want to stick to the same time frame but a prepared to accept that one should look at prevailing conditions. Saudi Arabia is carrying out inhumane bombings of hospitals and schools and killing innocent civilians there. (And where is the western condemnation of the sort we get about Syria which is defending its own country?).

    But really, the important thing is to consider the nature of the regimes. Syria had a far more progressive humane society (and still has in Damascus) until Wahhabi terrorists, with the support of external countries, interfered.

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  18. David, I do not wish to get into any specifics of your amnesty quotes (I think the important aspect is the choice of two separate situations which is diversionary) but it is worth reacting to your question as it does highlight the need to approach politics in the same way as science – intelligently and critically.

    You say:

    “In response, I asked you for any credible evidence showing that Amnesty International is biased in any way.”

    Now why is it that you accept my ability and recommendation not to uncritically accept statements by or about The Lancet (re Grandjean’s paper) or Cochrane (re their Fluoridation Review) yet you lecture me not to do the same in the political sphere?

    Of course, I will not just uncritically accept quotes from Amnesty, BBC, Voice of America, RT, Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch, etc., uncritically and unintelligently. I will approach them the same way I approach scientific sources and simply recommend you do the same. Any other approach is simply confirmation bias.

    I did that with your link to Al Jazeera and recommend that you consider that specific example which you originally presented as “gospel truth.”

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  19. David Fierstien

    Ok, fair enough. But you did say that human rights violations in Saudi Arabia were “far worse” than human rights in Syria. You don’t seem to have a problem with Amnesty International, but you did have a problem with using the current time frame since there is a war in Syria. Fair enough.

    So let’s take a look at Syria in 2010. One of your criticisms of Saudi Arabia was its treatment of women. No argument. But was the Saudi gvt far worse than Syria in 2010? Here is a link to the AI report on Syria from 2010: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-syria-2010 “Women continued to be denied equality with men under the law, notably the Personal Status Law covering rights to marriage and inheritance rights, and the Penal Code, which prescribes lower penalties for murder and other violent crimes committed against women in which defence of family “honour” is considered a mitigating factor. ”

    To be fair, Assad “instituted a penalty of at least two years’ imprisonment for men convicted of killing or injuring women relatives on grounds of “honour”. However, no amendment was made to other Penal Code articles prescribing reduced sentences for crimes deemed to have been committed in the name of “honour”.
    At least 13 women and one man were reported to have been victims of “honour killings”.” However, in 2010, under Assad, injustice still existed for women. It was hardly, as you said, “modern, secular and equal treatment of women.”

    For a complete report of Syrian human rights abuses – pre war under Assad – take a look at the link. Conditions were not “far worse” in Saudi Arabia, and Syria was not an equal rights utopia.

    Now you are suggesting that I look at “the Saudi actions in Yemen if you want to stick to the same time frame.” Conditions in Syria are still worse. The displacement of 9 million people cannot be overlooked.

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  20. David Fierstien

    Oh . . one more thing, other than the fact that, under Assad, a man could receive two years in prison for the honor killing of his sister, which was an improvement for women’s rights, (“Syria had a far more progressive humane society (and still has in Damascus) . . ” Whatever you say.)

    Per your recommendation, allow me to critically look at this comment of yours, “you have already here heavily relied on that first propaganda technique of demonising your enemy (the legitimate elected president of an elected government) . . ”

    “Legitimate elected president of an elected government.” You are right. I should not uncritically accept this at face value. What exactly do you mean by “legitimate elected president?” Let’s take a look:

    According to Wiki, “In both the Syrian presidential election, 2000 and subsequent 2007 election, Bashar Assad received votes in his favor in the upper 90th percentile . . ”

    Wow! 90th percentile! His people must really love him for that kind of landslide to occur. But wait a minute. Let’s take a critical look at those so called “legitimate” elections. This is the same quote in its full context:

    “In both the Syrian presidential election, 2000 and subsequent 2007 election, Bashar Assad received votes in his favor in the upper 90th percentile in uncontested elections where other candidates were not permitted to run against him.”

    You are right. When you critically look at things in their full contexts, it does change things a bit.

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  21. David, who is claiming that Syria was “an equal rights utopia.?” Please don’t put words in my mouth. I simply pointed out the position of women in Syrian was (and in Damascus is now) far better than in Saudi Arabia. While the Kingdom does not even have credible representative organisations Syria has a long parliamentary tradition and it does have representation of women, and women politicians in high positions. Of course, the position of women in the areas held by the groups you called “freedom fighters” is not the same (have you not seen the reports of sexual slavery, trading in women, forced coverage by the “freedom fighter” police units, etc.

    I have long argued for the advantages of secularism and for a while there was rather worried about the point put forward in a book I read that some secular countries – like those few in the middle east – were not good advertisements for secularism. But that is an idealist position and in the real world one has to put things in context We have now seen that, despite real human rights issues, these secular countries shone out like beacons of hope when compared with the alternatives – like Saudi Arabia and the regimes which came to power after the US and NATO succeeded with their policies of ”humanitarian” intervention in Iraq, Libya and parts of Syria.

    And who is overlooking the displacement of Syrian? The problem is not overlooking – it is the dishonest blaming that displacement of Syrians on the government and one man – the President. In fact it is in those cities that have been liberated from terrorist controls that resettlement of displaced people is now becoming possible. The presidents appearance for prayers in a recently liberated area near Damascus highlight this solution.

    In the end, the solution to this disaster for the Syrian people is the defeat of the terrorists. Hopefully the current agreements will bring that closer – with the US for the first time agreeing to joint military action against them. I know the chances of success for the COH is small but we could yet see this happening. If it does the US will be in a far better position morally as it looks like they will also be bombing the very groups they have been financing and arming in attempts to overthrow a legitimate government. The public disavowal of the peace efforts and refusal to disengage from joint action with Al Nusra should make those groups target for US military action, at last. That is, if the US does not renege on the commitments it has made (and we know those commitments were only made after long discussions in the US and against the opposition of leading neocons who could yet sabotage them).

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  22. David, your resort to citing the earlier elections ignores (or attempts to cover up) the reforms that the current president has supported and carried out. One of these has been the introduction of multi-party elections. The recent parliamentary and presidential elections where in fact multi-party.

    One advantage of pursuing the political negotiations in Geneva will be the holding of multi-party elections, with international supervision and participation of Syrians living overseas. The current government has, in principle, given their support to such a process. Of course, the groups you describe as ”freedom fighters” will work hard to prevent that.

    And that would be far more legitimate than forcing the Syrians to succumb to the US, Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and NATO demands that “Assad must go.” Imposition of regime change from outside (and we can see what that slogan means in terms of the huge numbers of displaced people and other suffering of the Syrian people) is not a real solution. Why is it impossible for these leaders to learn from what happened in Iraq and Libya?

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  23. Ken, your selective memory is as messed up as your politics. When you ask, “Where did I say that Syria was “an equal rights utopia.?”” and you go on to criticize me for reading your comments, “Please don’t put words in my mouth. I simply pointed out the position of women in Syrian was (and in Damascus is now) far better than in Saudi Arabia.”

    No, you didn’t simply say that the position of Syrian women was far better than Saudi women. You said, and I quote, Syria, under Assad, practices, “modern, secular and equal treatment of women.”

    Modern, secular and equal treatment of women sure sounds like an equal rights utopia to me. The way you tell it, I’m surprised women aren’t running for office of the President. Equal treatment of women? That’s a better record than the United States has where it is documented that women receive less pay then men. Equal treatment of women? I’m laughing at what you call a scientific approach to global politics.

    In answer to your question, that is where you said Syria was an “equal rights utopia.”

    Your quote: “And who is overlooking the displacement of Syrian? The problem is not overlooking – it is the dishonest blaming that displacement of Syrians on the government and one man . . ”

    Ah . . no. From my perspective, discussing this with you, the problem is not blaming the President. You have never once put any of this on his shoulders. Instead you condemn those who “demonize” a petty dictator that is supported by Russia & Iran – two other bastions of human rights abuses. Nine million displaced people that started with some graffiti that was spray-painted on a wall during the Arab Spring. Do you think someone else might have been able to handle it a little better? Ah . . yes.

    “The presidents appearance for prayers in a recently liberated area near Damascus highlight this solution.” — Wow! What a nice man! Again, I’m laughing at the hypocrisy of this comment by someone who argues for a secular society.

    Ken, in your second comment you say, “David, your resort to citing the earlier elections ignores (or attempts to cover up) the reforms that the current president has supported and carried out.”

    I cited earlier elections of the same man we are talking about. “In both the Syrian presidential election, 2000 and subsequent 2007 election, Bashar Assad received votes in his favor in the upper 90th percentile in uncontested elections where other candidates were not permitted to run against him.”

    That’s like saying George W. Bush won 3 elections in the U.S. In the first two, no one was allowed to run against him. But because of the most recent election, everything is ok.

    That’s not fair of me, is it. Comparing a good man like Assad to George W. Bush.

    I want to be fair to you. You want to talk about the most recent election. “The recent parliamentary and presidential elections where in fact multi-party.”

    Was it? Again, according to Wiki, “On 16 July 2014, Bashar Assad was sworn in for a new seven-year term, after taking 88.7% of votes in the presidential elections, running against two regime sanctioned candidates . . ”

    Running against two regime sanctioned candidates. Did you get that? You may want to let Wiki know that they are not being fair to this petty dictator whom you say has won a legitimate election.

    Despite your defense of a tiny dictator who has no regard for human rights, and your criticism of the United States for its demand for regime change, I don’t see Obama putting boots on the ground in Syria to support your thesis.

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  24. Don’t be silly, David. Of course, if you want to be completely literal there is no country with completely equal rights for women – including NZ and USA. But in the context of this discussion )(let’s not make it a silly argument) the societies in Iraq, Libya, and Syria stood out like a sore thumb alongside despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia. Human rights are a separate issue – but even there let’s not cover up the shocking human rights record in Saudi Arabia just because it is formally allied with, and armed by, the USA and the UK.

    As for putting things on shoulders – I agree with Sergei Lavrov on this – no one in the Syrian theatre is completely innocent. My refusal to go along with the mindless demonisation (which underlies the anti-democratic foreign policy of the US and NATO) is simply because of my critical and (attempted) intelligent approach. I have applied the same to Putin, you may recall.

    You say “Do you think someone else might have been able to handle it a little better? Ah . . yes.”

    Yet, strangely, you do not suggest anyone specifically. Perhaps because you would prefer to see “freedom fighters” like Al Nusra running the show? 

    I was watching a very partisan programme on Al Jazeera the other day where an expert made this very point – there is just no-one with the support to replace Assad at this stage (outside the armed terrorists) and it is telling the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Cameron, etc., who have demanded “Assad must go” have never once publicly given a name for a replacement. There only alternative (although they don’t say this publicly) is the Caliphate.

    This same expert (and remember Al Jazeera is very anti “regime” on Syria) voiced the opinion that the solution to the problem requires defeat of the terrorists, disarming of non-military militia groups (there are huge numbers of these and some progress has been made in this disarming and inclusion in the political process since February) and involvement of the opposition politicians in the work for new elections of government and president. He explained that armed militia groups never provide a solution – that the military role should be left to the legitimate army. (Incidentally, we have also seen this in Ukraine where armed pro-fascist and ultra-nationalist groups are causing so much trouble.)

    By the way, I have to laugh at US citizens worrying so much about “regime-approved” candidates where we have the spectacle in the US at the moment of the fact of only 2 regime-approved candidates getting coverage and hence convincing the electorate that they have no real choice – hence the extremely low turnout.

    Finally, at this stage, I want to explain the real situation regarding support for the Syrian president by the Russian Federation.( I don’t recall anything specifically from Iran – but the politics there are extremely convoluted). The Russian Federation’s position is extremely clear (as you might expect from a statesman like Lavrov). They have time and again said they are not supporting Assad the person. They are supporting the legitimate regime against the attack of extremists with outside support from Turkey, NATO, USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc). This attack nearly succeeded last year and the regime was possibly only saved by the rather limited legal intervention of the Russian aerospace forces and advisors.

    Lavrov has always made clear that his office is working for the defeat of the terrorists and movement on a political solution. They do not insist on any specific candidates in elections and they do no exclude legitimate candidates like Assad. Their position is that it is up to the Syrian people to select their leaders – something you country appears to disagree with. I support Lavrov’s position and he appears to be slowly making progress with this – even with the US at the moment.

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  25. David Fierstien

    “Of course, if you want to be completely literal there is no country with completely equal rights for women – ”

    I’m glad to see you’ve admitted your mistake. I think that’s a first. It’s also good to know that Syria isn’t the equal rights utopia that you suggested. After reading your comment, I think my wife wanted to move there. Now I think I can get her to put those plans on hold.

    “By the way, I have to laugh at US citizens worrying so much about “regime-approved” candidates where we have the spectacle in the US at the moment of the fact of only 2 regime-approved candidates getting coverage . . ”

    That’s funny. I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Of course the interesting thing is that Trump is not a regime approved candidate. He’s not even approved by his own party. He’s been approved by the people – so you should love him.

    Of course Obama won’t be running against Ms. Clinton, so it’s not exactly the same thing as Assad running against two candidates of his choosing (in an election where he got 87% of the vote. Yeah, that’s got “fair election” written all over it.).

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  26. David Fierstien

    My mistake. Your legitimately elected el-presidento won 88.7% of the vote in a 3-way race. Again, it’s good to know that you have a sense of humor.

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  27. Might I suggest, David, if your wife was living in Saudi Arabia she might well have wanted to move to pre-war Syria? She would have been able to stand for parliament, drive her own car, hold high office, observe her own religious activities, not be forced to dress in a black sack, attend university classed together with male colleagues, etc., etc.

    Mind you, if she or you were involved with the Muslim Brotherhood she (and you) may well have ended up in prison.

    As for “regime approval.” If one defines the constitutional requirements of candidates as “regime approval,” then Trump and Clinton are “regime approved.” But even more so – given that most US citizens are unaware that other candidates are standing and think they have only 2 choices – then they are also approved by the ideological and financial regime in the US. You are perhaps worried about high election turnouts because you just don’t have them in the US. In effect, most US citizens really don’t think they live in a democracy or that their vote counts for anything.

    The Syrian constitution does define people who are excluded from standing for election (members of armed forces, etc.) as do most constitutions and electoral laws. We certainly do in NZ. But perhaps you have some data to back up a more sinister explanation of “regime approved.” I am particulalry interested in you claim that ciditates were selected by the current president.

    I agree that some of the exclusions in the case of Syria are restrictive – especially for a secular country. For example the requirement for a presidential candidate to be Muslim (presumably one of the reasons your wife could not have been a candidate) – but this may just reflect the prevailing attitudes. Given the cooperation between religions in the areas under government control surely this requirement must be abandoned in the future.

    Here is how Wikipedia describes the three candidates who did pass the constitutional requirements:

    Bashar al-Assad, the incumbent president, leader of Ba’ath Party.

    Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri, from the National Initiative for Administration and Change in Syria, a 54-year-old MP from Damascus

    Maher Abd Al-Hafiz Hajjar, formerly from the People’s Will Party, a 43-year-old MP from Aleppo. This party is led by veteran opposition leader Qadri Jamil who supported the initial protests in 2011 but then described calls for the overthrow of the government as “unrealistic and useless”. Jamil was a member of the committee that drafted the new Constitution of Syria in 2011. However, People’s Will won just two of 250 MPs in the 2012 parliamentary election with their allies from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party won a further four. Jamil was nominated Deputy Prime Minister by President Assad in June 2012 but removed in October 2013. The small number of MPs from the party indicates that most of his nominations must have come from either independents or MPs from the ruling National Progressive Front. A statement from the People’s Will Party on 27 April distanced the party from Hajjar, claiming that Hajjar was no longer a member of either the People’s Will Party, or the Popular Front for Liberation and Change. Instead the statement claimed that Hajjar represented only himself.

    Incidentally, a reason for the high turnout and high electoral support of the most popular candidate in Syria could have a lot to do with the fact that elections could not be held in areas where Assad is unpopular – I don’t think Daesh and Al Nusra would have allowed them. Also, Syrians living overseas in countries which refuse to recognise Syria could not vote because there was no Embassy. ASnd countries like the USA and its allies denied the right to vote for overseas Syrians there.

    There is a current parallel with the upcoming September parliamentary (Duma) elections in Russia. Poroshenko has denied the right of Russian diplomatic posts to hold elections for Russian citizens living in Ukraine. It looks like Russians living in Ukraine who wish to vote will have to cross borders into Russia (including Crimea), Belarus, Poland, Hungary, etc. Mind you, Poroshenko’s attitude certainly conforms to the prevailing pro-fascist and ultra-nationalistic attitudes in the country where ethnic Russian have been described as sub-human by the former prime minister and the parliament in Kiev refuses to pass the legislation required by the Minsk agreement which is necessary for elections to be held in Donbass.

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  28. David, sorry to descend to this level – but you started it with your comments about your wife – and I assume we are having a good old laugh.

    I thought your wife was actually planning to move to the paradise of the Al Nusra held areas after you justification of the attitudes of people you described as “freedom fighters.”

    Mind you, if she does move she may soon have to put up with bombing from “freedom loving” US forces as well as those horrible Russkies.🙂

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  29. David Fierstien

    Speaking of having a good laugh, I really have to comment on this from you:

    “As for “regime approval.” If one defines the constitutional requirements of candidates as “regime approval,” then Trump and Clinton are “regime approved.” But even more so – given that most US citizens are unaware that other candidates are standing and think they have only 2 choices –”

    That’s not exactly true. Everyone in the U.S. is aware of a third “non-regime approved” choice, Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. I should say everyone in the U.S. is aware of him now, that is, after what he said about Syria the other day. By all means, encourage all U.S. citizens to vote for the non-regime approved candidate since you want us to have that choice: http://www.newsgram.com/what-is-aleppo-asks-us-libertarian-party-candidate-gary-johnson/

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  30. David Fierstien

    “Might I suggest, David, if your wife was living in Saudi Arabia she might well have wanted to move to pre-war Syria? She would have been able to stand for parliament, drive her own car, hold high office, observe her own religious activities, not be forced to dress in a black sack, attend university classed together with male colleagues, etc., etc.”

    If my wife and I were living in pre-war Syria, I could have set her on fire, burned her alive, and only received 2 years in prison. It’s a good thing I like her.

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  31. David Fierstien

    Despite all the excuses you appear to be making in defense of Assad and his “legitimate elections,” you seem to completely ignore the fact that in the 2000 & 2007 elections he was the only candidate permitted to run.

    Perhaps you feel this is not relevant today. That’s your choice. But considering your criticism of the United States’ election process (for example, “You are perhaps worried about high election turnouts because you just don’t have them in the US. In effect, most US citizens really don’t think they live in a democracy or that their vote counts for anything.), I find your approach neither critical nor objective. Frankly, defending Assad’s elections as “legitimate” while criticizing the U.S.’ 2 party system flies in the face of reason.

    And I thought that’s what this post was all about – to critically and objectively get beyond the rhetoric of political propaganda. Perhaps you were trying to provide examples of unbalanced rhetoric. If so, you’re doing a great job because I see very little objective critical analysis in your approach.

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  32. Yes, David, many people may now be aware of something somebody called Gary Johnson said. Buy the fact remains that almost every commenter and news source in discussing the problems of Clinton resort to the argument that they juss cannot accept the only alternative – Trump. Most people in the street are really just not aware they have any other alternative.

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  33. David, you resort to the early period of the president’s rule and ignore his reforms which have resulted in the removal of the requirement that candidates accept Baath Party rule. It is unscientific to cherry pick such examples without looking at them in their context and development.

    Perhaps you did not notice but I am as critical of the nature of the legitimacy of the Syrian elections as of the US elections. The constitutional requirement that the president is Muslim sticks in my throat. Hopefully, the reform process will eventually remove that – and if your “freedom fighters” can be defeated by joint US-Russia strikes then there will be a chance for the new constitution and elections provided for on a political solution to remove that clause from the constitution. The Caliphate’s requirements of their leaders are of course far more restrictive yet I hear no criticism from you of that.

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  34. I wonder if you would have got a greater sentence for setting your wife on fire in the US. I keep hearing complaints from people who are very critical of the light sentences given to rapists, murderers of afro-Americans, etc.

    Or am I just cherry-picking by referring to such examples?🙂

    Mind you, if you and your wife did go to live with the “freedom fighters” you admire (Al Nusra) I am picking setting your wife on fire may be acceptable – especially if she was complaining about you buying a couple of young Christian sex slaves or your insistence that she cover herself with a black bag in public.🙂

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  35. David Fierstien: “Despite all the excuses you appear to be making in defense of Assad and his “legitimate elections,” you seem to completely ignore the fact that in the 2000 & 2007 elections he was the only candidate permitted to run.”

    But the people could vote against him, and if he got under 50% he would not be confirmed.

    2007 result (Wiki)

    Choice Votes %
    For 11,199,445 99.82
    Against 19,653 0.18
    Invalid/blank votes 253,059 –
    Total 11,472,157 100
    Registered voters/turnout 11,967,611 95.86

    Like

  36. Ken, your quote: “Mind you, if you and your wife did go to live with the “freedom fighters” you admire (Al Nusra) I am picking setting your wife on fire may be acceptable . . ”

    Why do you keep saying that? I never once said that I admire al Nusra. Why do you continue to put words in my mouth? At the beginning of this discussion I did use the phrase “freedom fighter.” Where did I ever say that was a reference to a terrorist group? You are certainly not taking this discussion seriously by making things up.

    The event that sparked the Syrian civil war was someone painting graffiti on a wall. That was a non-violent act of defiance which has led to the displacement of 300,000 dead and 9 million displaced people.

    According to Wiki, a freedom fighter “is another term for those engaged in a struggle to achieve political freedom for themselves or obtain freedom for others.” Among those movements listed as examples are the Indian Independence Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

    There is nothing analytically critical, scientific, or objective in your approach which includes making up the facts. Indeed anti-fluoridationists make up the facts and you have joined their ranks.

    Like

  37. Ken, your quote:
    “David, you resort to the early period of the president’s rule and ignore his reforms which have resulted in the removal of the requirement that candidates accept Baath Party rule.”

    Yes, that is exactly what I said:
    “Despite all the excuses you appear to be making in defense of Assad and his “legitimate elections,” you seem to completely ignore the fact that in the 2000 & 2007 elections he was the only candidate permitted to run.

    “Perhaps you feel this is not relevant today. That’s your choice.”

    I’m not the one cherry picking here. By ignoring 14 years of an illegitimate presidency with a deplorable human rights record that resulted from two illegitimate elections, and focusing on a few minor human rights reforms, you are cherry picking.

    Your quote: “Perhaps you did not notice but I am as critical of the nature of the legitimacy of the Syrian elections as of the US elections. The constitutional requirement that the president is Muslim sticks in my throat.”

    Yes, you did mention that once. This is the first mention of your contempt for anything related to Assad. Progress. Shall I take the time to count the number of criticisms you have made against the United States and compare that with your total criticism of Assad? Look who’s cherry picking (from his own comments) now? I think you will find the human rights record of President Obama far exceeds that of el-presidente Assad.

    You remind me of a professor of Islam I had in college. He continually defended and praised the Ayatollah Khomeini, much like you with Assad and his meager reforms. I sat down with him and told him my problem with Khomeini was the Iranian genocide of Baha’is which the Iranian theocracy fully supported and pushed.

    He answered by saying that Khomeini only had one bad policy. I answered by saying that the Nazis only had one bad policy.

    Syria in 2009, nine years into Assad’s presidency:
    “In 2009 Syria was included in Freedom House’s “Worst of the Worst” section and given a rating of 7 for Political Rights: and 6 for Civil Liberties.[18] According to Human Rights Watch, as of 2009 Syria’s poor human rights situation had “deteriorated further”. Authorities arrested political and human rights activists, censored websites, detained bloggers, and imposed travel bans. Syria’s multiple security agencies continue to detain people without arrest warrants. No political parties were licensed and emergency rule, imposed in 1963, remained in effect.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Syria

    I know you don’t like it when I provide links, but what about you? Where exactly are these progressive reforms that you keep talking about? If I provide a link to support what I’m saying, according to you I am being uncritical and unscientific.

    On the other hand, when you make things up, talk about reforms with nothing to support your claims, when you put words in my mouth, you are being critical and analytical. Sorry – I don’t get that, and neither would any other normal person.

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  38. Oh, I am sorry, David. You did use the term “freedom fighters” when we were discussing Al Nusra and you seemed to be doing a lot to justify the behaviour you saw in the video of them.

    So perhaps you can tell us what groups specifically you were attributing “freedom fighters” to? Perhaps one of the groups currently shelling the Castello road where Red Crescent and Russian Marine teams are trying to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid into eastern Aleppo? What freedom are those guys fighting for, exactly?

    Like

  39. David, I am not ignoring the history of Syria. But you are the one complaining about the restrictions of candidacy for pre4sedint in the early election . You see them as human right violations (I agree) but when they are removed they suddenly become a “few minor human rights reforms.”

    One of the most useful books I have found so far is The Dirty War in Syria by Tim Anderson, an Australian academic. He goes into the history of the role of the Muslim brotherhood, the transition to power of the current president, his reform programme, the Arab spring, the protest movement in Syria, the involvement of extremists in that movement and the transition to a full-on extremist war. No – this is not available as a link.

    But I repeat my point about assessing reports (and books like Dr Anderson’s) in a critical and intelligent way. Every source has their bias and influences. Human Rights Watch, for example, has been strongly criticised for being influenced by the revolving door employment policy where individuals move from state positions to influence in NGOs.

    I did say I would attempt to link the relevant chapter from Aderson’s book – 15 pages on Assad in his reform movement. But it has not been simple to copy this to a suitable document for linking. The book does not appear to be available on Amazon – I got my copy from Global research.

    Here is a small extract:

    “He probably had little room for political reform in the early years as he did not have an
    organised constituency outside the Ba’ath Party. Perhaps in part to compensate for this he
    built links with businessmen and initiated several government sponsored NGOs amongst
    youth, students, other ‘civil society’ sectors and rural workers. These groups included the
    Syrian Trust for Development and the Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria (FIRDOS).
    First Lady Asma al Assad played a prominent role in some of these groups, particularly
    those to do with youth and children. They attracted some international partners,
    including the UNDP and UNICEF (Kawakibi 2013).
    One US analyst says the Damascus Spring of 2000 saw a ‘flowering of expression, assembly
    and political action unknown since the 1950s’ (Wikas 2007: 4). Despite the market
    reforms, Syria maintained its virtually free health and education system. State universities
    also remain virtually free, to this day, with several hundred thousand enrolled students.
    That sort of mass education is critical, the foundation of social empowerment.
    In this period a number of critical political discussion groups were established, including
    the Kawakibi forum, the Atassi Forum and the National Dialogue Forum. They began to
    issue statements of demand on the government, one of which had 1,000 signatories
    (Landis and Pace 2007: 47). However ‘state of emergency’ laws still applied and military
    intelligence saw conspirators in some of these groups, leading to arrests in what some
    called a ‘Damascus Winter’. Some of the prisoners were reported as tortured and killed
    (Ghadry 2005; Ulutas 2011: 89-90). Despite this, some relatively well informed US analysts
    say the ‘Damascus Spring’ left some ‘lasting if modest accomplishments’. There was
    no unified opposition, but for the first time in many years ‘individuals could vocalise critical
    views of the regime in public settings’. Some of the discussion groups survived for some
    years, including the Committee for the revival of Civil Society and the Attasi Forum for
    Democratic Dialogue (Landis and Pace 2007: 48-49).”

    I think this gives a bit of a favourite for its objectivity and the complex nature of the reform process.

    Perhaps you could hunt the book down.

    Like

  40. David Fierstien

    Your comment: ” Every source has their bias and influences. Human Rights Watch, for example, has been strongly criticised for being influenced by the revolving door employment policy where individuals move from state positions to influence in NGOs.”

    Every human rights watchdog group has been criticized for something. AI for example, has received criticism from virtually every country on which it has reported. But that would be irrelevant to bias.

    I believe your point here is that because individuals move from state positions their bias is carried with them to NGOs. Is that correct?

    And yet you present an extract from a book which uses as a source “some relatively well informed US analysts,” and you call it, “bit of a favourite for its objectivity.”

    Odd, to say the least.

    Like

  41. David Fierstien

    Your quote: “So perhaps you can tell us what groups specifically you were attributing “freedom fighters” to?”

    Go back and look at the definition, and examples, of freedom fighter that I presented. A person spraying graffiti on a wall in defiance is a freedom fighter. Unarmed protesters being mowed down by a brutal regime are freedom fighters. Was there anything else?

    Like

  42. David, you used the term “freedom fighter” in our discussion of Al Nusra. You now say this was not to describe Al Nusra – I repeat what specific groups do you see as “freedom fighters” in the Syrian war?

    Personally, I think only the Syrian Arab Army and their allies are fighting for freedom here – and that is why you cannot find an opposition militia group fitting this description. Without exception, they are fighting against a secular, democratic and free Syria.

    I have to laugh at your diversion. We have plenty of disaffected young people here who regularly spray graffiti on walls. Maybe they consider themselves artists but this is the first time I have heard them described as “freedom fighters.”🙂

    Like

  43. David, the point about the book is its balanced academic nature where it uses multiple sources. From memory it is actually quite critical of the cherry picking approach of relying on selected rights groups. I can not recall now (its a few months since I read the book) but it may have also discussed the problems with NGOs and the revolving door.

    I cited a few paragraphs for you to indicate the balance and lack of bias. But I suggest you read the whole chapter.

    Like

  44. David, another extract from Dr Anderson’s book.

    After discussing the Hama insurrection in 1982 he goes on to draw similarities to what happened in 2011:

    “The Hama insurrection helps us understand the Daraa violence because, once again in
    2011, we saw armed Islamists using rooftop sniping against police and government officials,
    drawing in the armed forces, only to cry ‘civilian massacre’ when they and their collaborators
    came under attack from the Army. Although the US, through its allies, played an
    important part in the Hama insurrection, when it was all over US intelligence dryly observed
    that: ‘the Syrians are pragmatists who do not want a Muslim Brotherhood government’
    (DIA 1982: vii).

    In the case of Daraa, and the attacks that moved to Homs and surrounding areas in April
    2011, the clearly stated aim was once again to topple the secular or ‘infidel-Alawi’ regime.
    The front-line US collaborators were Saudi Arabia and Qatar, then Turkey. The head of the
    Syrian Brotherhood, Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa, issued a statement on 28 March which
    left no doubt that the group’s aim was sectarian.

    The enemy was ‘the secular regime’ and Brotherhood members ‘have to make sure that
    the revolution will be pure Islamic, and with that no other sect would have a share of the
    credit after its success’ (Al-Shaqfa 2011). While playing down the initial role of the
    Brotherhood, Sheikho confirms that it ‘went on to punch above its actual weight on the
    ground during the uprising … [due] to Turkish-Qatari support’, and to its general organisational
    capacity (Sheikho 2013). By the time there was a ‘Free Syrian Army Supreme Military
    Council’ in 2012 (more a weapons conduit than any sort of army command), it was said to
    be two-thirds dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood (Draitser 2012). Other foreign Salafi-
    Islamist groups quickly joined this ‘Syrian Revolution’. A US intelligence report in August
    2012, contrary to Washington’s public statements about ‘moderate rebels’, said:

    ‘The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq, later ISIS] are the
    major forces driving the insurgency in Syria … AQI supported the Syrian Opposition
    from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media’ (DIA 2012).

    In February 2011 there was popular agitation in Syria, to some extent influenced by the
    events in Egypt and Tunisia. There were anti-government and pro-government demonstrations,
    and a genuine political reform movement which for several years had agitated
    against corruption and the Ba’ath Party monopoly. A 2005 report referred to ‘an array of
    reform movements slowly organizing beneath the surface’ (Ghadry 2005), and indeed the
    ‘many faces’ of a Syrian opposition, much of it non-Islamist, had been agitating since about
    that same time (Sayyid Rasas 2013). These political opposition groups deserve attention,
    in another discussion (see Chapter 3). However only one section of that opposition, the
    Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafists, was linked to the violence that erupted in Daraa.
    Large anti-government demonstrations began, to be met with huge pro-government
    demonstrations. In early March some teenagers in Daraa were arrested for graffiti that had
    been copied from North Africa ‘the people want to overthrow the regime’. It was reported
    that they were abused by local police, President Bashar al Assad intervened, the local governor
    was sacked and the teenagers were released (Abouzeid 2011).”

    So there is a bit more detail about your “freedom fighters” and their graffiti.

    He goes on:

    “Yet the Islamist insurrection was underway, taking cover under the street demonstrations.
    On 11 March, several days before the violence broke out in Daraa, there were reports
    that Syrian forces had seized ‘a large shipment of weapons and explosives and night-vision
    goggles … in a truck coming from Iraq’. The truck was stopped at the southern Tanaf crossing,
    close to Jordan.

    The Syrian Government news agency SANA said the weapons were intended ‘for use in
    actions that affect Syria’s internal security and spread unrest and chaos.’ Pictures showed
    ‘dozens of grenades and pistols as well as rifles and ammunition belts’. The driver said the
    weapons had been loaded in Baghdad and he had been paid $5,000 to deliver them to Syria
    (Reuters 2011). Despite this interception, arms did reach Daraa, a border town of about
    150,000 people. This is where the ‘western-rebel’ and the independent stories diverge, and
    diverge dramatically. The western media consensus was that protestors burned and trashed
    government offices, and then ‘provincial security forces opened fire on marchers, killing
    several’ (Abouzeid 2011). After that, ‘protestors’ staged demonstrations in front of the al-
    Omari mosque, but were in turn attacked.

    The Syrian government, on the other hand, said there were unprovoked attacks on security
    forces, killing police and civilians, along with the burning of government offices. There
    was foreign corroboration of this account. While its headline blamed security forces for
    killing ‘protesters’, the British Daily Mail (2011) showed pictures of guns, AK47 rifles and
    hand grenades that security forces had recovered after storming the al-Omari mosque. The
    paper noted reports that ‘an armed gang’ had opened fire on an ambulance, killing ‘a doctor, a paramedic and a policeman’. Media channels in neighbouring countries did report on
    the killing of Syrian police, on 17-18 March.

    On 21 March a Lebanese news report observed that ‘Seven policemen were killed during
    clashes between the security forces and protesters in Syria’ (YaLibnan 2011), while an
    Israel National News report said ‘Seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in
    Syria have been killed … and the Baath party headquarters and courthouse were torched’
    (Queenan 2011). These police had been targeted by rooftop snipers.
    Even in these circumstances the Government was urging restraint and attempting to
    respond to the political reform movement. President Assad’s adviser, Dr. Bouthaina
    Shaaban, told a news conference that the President had ordered ‘that live ammunition
    should not be fired, even if the police, security forces or officers of the state were being
    killed’. Assad proposed to address the political demands, such as the registration of political
    parties, removing emergency rules and allowing greater media freedoms (al-Khalidi
    2011). None of that seemed to either interest or deter the Islamists.

    Several reports, including video reports, observed rooftop snipers firing at crowds and
    police, during funerals of those already killed. It was said to be ‘unclear who was firing at
    whom’ (Al Jazeera 2011a), as ‘an unknown armed group on rooftops shot at protesters and
    security forces’ (Maktabi 2011). Yet Al Jazeera (2011b) owned by the Qatari monarchy,
    soon strongly suggested that that the snipers were pro-government. ‘President Bashar al
    Assad has sent thousands of Syrian soldiers and their heavy weaponry into Derra for an
    operation the regime wants nobody in the word to see’, the Qatari channel said. However
    the Al Jazeera suggestion that secret pro-government snipers were killing ‘soldiers and protestors
    alike’ was illogical and out of sequence. The armed forces came to Daraa precisely
    because police had been shot and killed.”

    Sorry about the formatting problems due to copy and pasting from a pdf.

    You should read the book.

    Like

  45. “We have plenty of disaffected young people here who regularly spray graffiti on walls. Maybe they consider themselves artists but this is the first time I have heard them described as “freedom fighters.””

    If New Zealand is an oppressive regime that would mow down unarmed protesters, as Assad has done, perhaps you should consider your graffiti artists freedom fighters. On the other hand, if the New Zealand gvt. is not capable of killing innocent protesters, then your comparison of New Zealand graffiti artists to the Syrian artist who sparked the civil war is bullshit.

    Like

  46. Cutting through all your bullshit, are you seriously saying that President Assad is not guilty of human rights abuses?

    Like

  47. David, yous ay these teenagers were “mown down.” Anderson says otherwise:

    “In early March some teenagers in Daraa were arrested for graffiti that had
    been copied from North Africa ‘the people want to overthrow the regime’. It was reported
    that they were abused by local police, President Bashar al Assad intervened, the local governor
    was sacked and the teenagers were released (Abouzeid 2011).”

    Like

  48. David Fierstien

    There you go again, putting words in my mouth. I never said those who sprayed graffiti were mowed down. I said, “If New Zealand is an oppressive regime that would mow down unarmed protesters, as Assad has done . . ” Does Anderson also say that unarmed protesters were never killed by the Assad regime?

    BTW, you never answered the question. Are you seriously saying that Assad is not guilty of human rights abuses?

    Like

  49. David, I didn’t realise that your question was directed at me. No, I am not saying “Assad is not guilty of human rights abuses.” That is the sort of question that could be asked of any leader – take Obama for example – and I would give the same answer. It’s like the question ” are you saying fluoride does not cause any health issues?’ And, of course, it is asked with the same sort of motivation.

    But why pose that question to me when I have provided you with fuller information about the teenagers and their graffiti? It appears these guys were treated badly – but not by Assad who in fact intervened, got them released and sacked the governor. Interestingly, in following reports of this incident I found the original Time’s story’s description of Assad’s intervention was gradually deleted from subsequent presentations in the media – so that now we have the gullible public blaming an individual, the president, for the actions of local officials.

    I call that naive demonisation.

    And, no, I don’t remember Anderson saying unarmed protester were never killed. But I certainly don’t recall him saying that Assad killed anyone. That would be silly. After all, we know examples of unarmed protesters – or individuals minding their own business – being killed in the US. But only an idiot blames the current president for that – surely.

    But, what about you reading the book for yourself? That would be better than relying on cherry-picked media reports or Amnesty claims.

    Like

  50. David Fierstien

    “But, what about you reading the book for yourself? That would be better than relying on cherry-picked media reports or Amnesty claims.”

    Your comment implies that you don’t believe AI reports. Is that correct?

    “I don’t remember Anderson saying unarmed protester were never killed. But I certainly don’t recall him saying that Assad killed anyone. That would be silly. After all, we know examples of unarmed protesters – or individuals minding their own business – being killed in the US. But only an idiot blames the current president for that – surely.”

    By whom were unarmed protesters in Syria killed prior to the dawn of the war? Could they have been killed by the persons in the Assad regime?

    And yes, if federal agents in the US, or representatives of the federal government killed anyone who was “minding their own business,” you’d better believe I would blame the President – unless he punished those people.

    (Interesting side note. In 1991, four Los Angeles police officers beat the hell out of Rodney King, a black motorist. The four officers were acquitted by a Los Angeles jury. It was the President, G.H.W. Bush, who re-tried the police under Civil Rights laws. So no, it wouldn’t have been silly at all to have blamed the President for letting those police officers off the hook.)

    Like

  51. David, I don’t know how you can use my recommendation to read a book as implying I “don’t believe AI reports.”

    So you are incorrect.

    Anderson does describe several instances of killing of protesters by snipers, probably from the Muslim Brotherhood. I imagine police could also have been involved – although apparently they were not armed at the early stages of protests.

    Again, I recommend reading the book.

    The problem about blaming a president for actions of local officials is that you can end up ignoring the details – as you did over the kids who were imprisoned for their graffiti, but released by intervention of the president.

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  52. “The problem about blaming a president for actions of local officials is that you can end up ignoring the details – as you did over the kids who were imprisoned for their graffiti, but released by intervention of the president.”

    Is that your cherry-picked example of a nice el-presidente? I don’t care to discuss the kid who was tortured by the Syrian gvt. for expressing himself, and then later let go. It doesn’t change the fact that the Assad regime was way out of line just before this war began.

    If I see the book and have the time, I will read the discussion by Anderson.

    “David, I don’t know how you can use my recommendation to read a book as implying I “don’t believe AI reports.””

    Hey, I only asked the question. Why would you be defensive about that? I asked the question because you said, “. . what about you reading the book for yourself? That would be better than relying on cherry-picked media reports or Amnesty claims.”

    Again, is there a problem with Amnesty International reports?

    Oh, one more thing. I don’t want to demonize Putin by mentioning that his airplanes just blew up a UN humanitarian relief convoy, but I will. “Attacked” was the word that the UN used.

    Sometimes, demonization is earned.

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  53. David – you asked “Your comment implies that you don’t believe AI reports. Is that correct?”

    My answer – “So you are incorrect.”

    You say “the Assad regime was way out of line just before this war began.” I think most people in most countries would say that of their governments from time to time. They certainly do here. But that is just a diversion away from the inhuman actions of the “rebels”/”terrorists” – supported by your government.

    This attempted ceasefire has collapsed because the US, once again, has done nothing to separate their proxies from Al Nusra, etc. I cannot see any sensible action now except the Syrians and Russians stop holding back. Surely they have given the USA every chance.

    You now, rather precipitously it turns out, say:

    “Oh, one more thing. I don’t want to demonize Putin by mentioning that his airplanes just blew up a UN humanitarian relief convoy, but I will. “Attacked” was the word that the UN used.”

    I think the UN describes it as an attack, having pulled back from saying it was an areal bombing. In fact, the photos I have seen seem to back up the Russian MOD comment that there does not seem to be any evidence of aerial bombing (craters etc.,) but there was certainly a fire which could have resulted from a ground attack.

    The convoy was first described as a UN one but turns out it was a Red Crescent convoy.

    I say, wait for the evidence before deciding responsibility. To not do so amounts to demonisation. Especially as both the Russian and Syrians deny knowingly attacking a humanitarian convoy – and the Russian MOD have released drone footage showing they were monitoring the convoy for some of its trip because there was a “militant” armed vehicle towing a high calibre weapon hiding within it. So I can not see that the Russians (and hence the Syrians who coordinate with the Russians) were unaware of the convoy.

    The only on the ground reporting of the attack has come from the White Helmets who work closely with Al Nusra. I did not think that report was at all credible.

    Let’s not forget that the “rebe’s/”terrorists” holding the east of Aleppo and part of the Castillo road were dead against allowing humanitarian aid to get through (see the video in my most recent post). And the attack on the convoy occurred at the same time Al Nusra launched a massive attack in the area near Aleppo.

    Having said that – I am happy to condemn the Russian military if they did purposely attack a humanitarian convoy. It’s just that I don’t have a Pavlovian knee-jerk reaction to words like “Russia” and “Putin” – especially when they come from the mouths of proven liars.

    Like

  54. David, I have seen this comment on social media:

    “Attack on UN convoy SW Aleppo was not an airstrike. Supplies hijacked, trucks burned, civilians murdered in al Qaeda held area.”

    No supporting evidence and I do not take it as gospel. But it has just as much supporting evidence at the moment as the US claim of Russian responsibility. Ad this sort of thing (hijacking of relief supplies by terrorists) does happen.

    http://atimes.com/2016/09/un-halts-aid-after-convoy-attack-kerry-says-ceasefire-not-dead/

    Like

  55. Here’s why the world should back Russia and Syria against Al-Qaeda and ISIS
    http://theduran.com/heres-world-back-russia-syria-al-qaeda-isis/

    Like

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