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Hometown: VA
Home country: USA
Current location: VA
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 55,432

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I'm still living... Twitter: @glitchy_ashburn

Journal Archives

Civilians and Hospitals Repeatedly Attacked as Bombing Escalates in Northern Syria

DUBAI/NEW YORK—Airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 35 Syrian patients and medical staff in 12 hospitals in northern Syria since an escalation in bombings began in late September, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

According to staff at the hospitals, the attacks, which have also wounded 72 people, targeted medical facilities in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates, including six supported by MSF. Overall, six hospitals have been forced to close, including three supported by MSF, and four ambulances were destroyed. One hospital has since reopened, yet access to emergency, maternity, pediatric, and primary health care services remains severely disrupted.

"After more than four years of war, I remain flabbergasted at how international humanitarian law can be so easily flouted by all parties to this conflict," said Sylvain Groulx, MSF head of mission for Syria. "We can only wonder whether this concept is dead. So many humanitarians and health actors including MSF have repeatedly called and are calling for an immediate halt to such attacks across the country, but are our voices being heard?"

As a result of the growing number of attacks in the region, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, said MSF. Some have sought refuge in fields and nearby villages. According to MSF community health workers, others have fled further, with some 1,700 families joining an existing 110,000 internally displaced Syrians in four cluster camps spread around Atmeh, in Idlib Governorate. In the past week alone, 225 additional families have arrived at the camps.


How Can America Respond to a Double Standard in War?

There remain many unanswered questions about the Kunduz strike, including how and when the U.S. forces involved in the strike actually learned about the hospital and how they reacted after learning. But in the meantime, it is interesting to compare how both MSF and the international community has responded to this strike, versus other strikes against MSF aid workers. It reveals a troubling double standard about American conduct that policymakers need to learn how to manage.

The closest analogy to the Kunduz strike happened just this week, when the Saudi air force destroyed an MSF hospital in Saada, Yemen. Unlike in Afghanistan, MSF has not called the strike a war crime and the UN has not led the charge to investigate the strike with an independent team (UPDATE: while MSF still does not refer to the strike as a war crime, after I wrote this the Yemen country director did so in a statement to Reuters; however, since many falsely believe the Saudis to be acting on behalf of American interests, the larger point here still applies I think). Saudi officials have admitted to Vice News that they targeted the hospital deliberately, and have accused MSF of not submitting sufficient notification of the hospital's location to their military. And yet, MSF remains mute about the strike, criticizing it (no one wants to lose a hospital) but not using the same heightened language. And no one has called for a war crimes probe.

The two strikes are similar in a lot of ways: both involve humanitarian workers providing medical care in areas controlled by insurgents (at the time, Kunduz was occupied by the Taliban and Saada is a stronghold of the Houthi insurgency). In both cases, MSF had at some point registered the hospital's location with the attacking forces, and the attacking forces both believed the hospital had either been overrun or used as a base for engaging in combat. Both strikes could, conceivably, be war crimes if investigations reveal the violated the Law of Armed Conflict governing medical facilities.

Other attacks on MSF workers reveal the same troubling tendency to only call incidents involving Americans a war crime. In August of this year, two MSF doctors in South Sudan were killed during a battle between government forces and rebels in the town of Leer. Despite photographic evidence that the hospital was the site of violence, including defamatory graffiti on its walls, MSF has not called the incident a war crime and it has not called for any party to the conflict to be investigated for war crimes (more than 30 aid workers have died in South Sudan).

The pattern repeats elsewhere: in 2014, in the Central Africa Republic three MSF workers were killed in the capital, Bangui. The attack by the mostly-Muslim Seleka rebels targeted the MSF clinic and killed more than a dozen other civilians. MSF did not call the attack a war crime, and UN did not issue a demand for a full investigation into the incident to see if any war crimes were committed. In 2008, a bomb blast at an MSF hospital in Kismayo, Somalia, killed four volunteers. Same pattern: no media campaign to call it a war crime, no UN demand for an independent investigation, no media campaign against the bombers.


How a U.S. Think Tank Fell for Putin

Last June, three months after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and just weeks before Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down a civilian airliner, killing nearly 300 people, a small group of Americans and Russians gathered on the Finnish island of Boisto. Policy analysts and former government officials, they had come to discuss the fate of the post-Soviet country whose democratic revolution had helped sink U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest point in three decades.

The symbolism of the location could not have been lost on the meeting’s participants. Sharing an 800-mile border with Russia, Finland has delicately managed relations with its neighbor. During the Cold War, it adopted a policy of formal neutrality, accepted Soviet interference in its domestic politics, and imposed rigorous self-censorship to avoid provoking Moscow. This phenomenon of voluntarily choosing limited sovereignty to appease a large and aggressive neighbor earned the moniker “Finlandization,” and the Soviet Union held up Finland as an example of its ability to live in peace and friendship with its neighbors. At the time of the Boisto meeting last summer, foreign policy luminaries like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and David Ignatius were trumpeting “Finlandization” as a model for Ukraine to follow.

But what was most notable about the Boisto meeting—which eventually produced a 24-point plan to resolve the crisis—was what it lacked: Ukrainians. Large powers discussing the fates of smaller ones while simultaneously locking them out of the room has an understandably ugly resonance in Central and Eastern Europe. By excluding Ukrainians, the Boisto initiative signatories lent credence—wittingly or not—to the Russian view that Ukraine is not a real country and that outside forces can determine its fate. As for the Boisto proposals themselves, most were amenable to the Kremlin line.

For instance, in calling for both sides to withdraw forces from certain conflict areas in eastern Ukraine, the signatories treated aggressor and victim as moral equals, likening Russian removal of its soldiers with Ukraine’s withdrawing troops from its own, sovereign land. (Full disclosure: I signed an open letter at the time rejecting the Boisto initiative alongside dozens of other foreign policy analysts, including, most important, Ukrainians.)


China Looks at Syria, Sees $$$

Russia is betting its geopolitical future in the Middle East on a military intervention to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But one of the biggest companies from another rising power, China, is betting that when the long civil war in Syria is over, the country will be a good place to do business.

Huawei, one of China’s richest companies and the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, has signed an agreement with Syria to design a “national strategy for information and communication technology,” including the construction of a broadband network for Internet service, the company announced earlier this month.

This isn’t the first time Huawei has gone to work for an authoritarian Middle Eastern regime. In 2011, the company signed a contract to install equipment for Iran’s largest mobile phone company as part of a system to track people’s locations via their cell phone signals. And U.S. intelligence officials have long suspected that the company gives the Chinese government and its security services access to the equipment that it installs, effectively acting as an arm of the Chinese surveillance apparatus.

The Syria deal won’t alleviate those concerns. It runs until 2020 and covers both a short and long-term plan to repair and develop Syria’s telecom infrastructure, which has been badly damaged by five years of civil war, and says that Huawei will advise the country’s communications and technology ministry.

That assumes, of course, that there still is a ministry, or a government at all for Huawei to work with. The future of Syria and its embattled dictator is very much in doubt, despite Vladimir Putin’s best efforts. So, why would a massive Chinese firm, with longstanding and deep ties to the government, take such a risk?


Fun with archives...Look at all these DUers rushing to defend a telecom giant that's a front for Chinese intelligence all because Snowden said they were getting spied on by the big, bad, NSA: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014762667

There are plenty other threads about that "expose" to peruse, I just chose the first one...

Russia Bombs Hospitals. Lefties Shrug.

Earlier this month in the Afghan city of Kunduz, the U.S. committed an apparent war crime. At some point in the early hours of October 3, a U.S. gunship fired on a hospital run by Medicins Sans Frontieres, destroying the facility, killing 22 people and injuring over 30. There is no doubt of the criminality of this act—even if, as the U.S. and Afghani governments have suggested, the attack occurred due to Taliban militants having some presence within the hospital compound (a claim vigorously denied by eyewitnesses and victims), it was still a crime.

In the hours following the attack, many people of all political persuasions from around the world rightfully condemned it, but perhaps most vocal were those on the political left. Public outrage over war crimes is of course not just to be welcomed passively, but it can be actively useful in terms of demanding accountability from those who committed the crimes, while giving a voice to its victims. All too often, when it comes to activity against these acts of criminality, it is organizations, political parties, and individuals who identify with the left that lead the charge on these matters—the consequences of this can be impressive.

And the left are no longer marginal. The so-called ‘alternative media’ is catching up with the mainstream media in terms of its reach, while political forces that identify as left-wing are now once again in the mainstream of politics, whether it’s forces like SYRIZA in Greece or Jeremy Corbyn’s new role as the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the UK. What these people do and say now matters on a global scale. Millions of politically-aware people from around the world hang on every word that prominent leftists write and say, whether it’s a figure such as Glenn Greenwald, whose news site The Intercept has become the go-to place for so-called “anti-imperialists,” or a leading politician such as Corbyn.

For a self-identified leftist like me, you might think I’d be over the moon at the way things were steadily—or exponentially, if you consider the rise of the left in this era relative to its fate in the past two decades—developing for the global left, but you’d be wrong. For there’s a bitter catch to all this. While today’s left is more than willing to speak about perceived Western crimes, it is all too often caught up in a type of politics that not only makes a virtue out of not condemning crimes committed by powerful non-western actors, namely Russia, China and Iran, but that often explicitly or implicitly supports such crimes.


You all make it too easy for me... I love the smell of hypocrisy in the afternoon -- It smells like new car smell...

And for the record, if "war crimes" outrage you and you want to see justice, start an investigation of Assad, who has probably committed thousands of them by now...

Violence in Syria Spurs a Huge Surge in Civilian Flight

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A tenuous truce in the Syrian countryside north of the city of Homs was shattered this month when Russian warplanes attacked the village of Ter Ma’aleh, killing at least a dozen people and sending most of the residents into hurried exile.

The assault on the village was part of a wider escalation of violence across the country that has displaced tens of thousands of people in just weeks and led relief workers to warn that Syria is facing one of its most serious humanitarian crises of the civil war.

The intensity of the fighting, they say, is fueling increased desperation as a growing number of Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries and, especially, to Europe. More than 9,000 migrants a day crossed into Greece last week, according to the International Organization for Migration, the most since the beginning of the year.

The influx has overwhelmed the authorities in Greece and the northern European countries where most asylum seekers aim to settle. The leaders of those countries moved late Sunday to deal with the increasing flow of tens of thousands of people escaping the war in Syria and elsewhere. European Union leaders in Brussels agreed to establish reception centers in Greece and along the so-called Balkan route in Europe to process and hold up to 100,000 asylum seekers.


Maybe Russia could make room for these refugees...It's not like they don't have the space...

Russia Now the Leading Killer of Syrian Civilians

Russian airstrikes are now the leading killer of Syrian civilians, accounting for more than half of all civilian deaths. In a letter to the UN Security Council delivered on 26 October, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, called on Member States to stop the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians through the enforcement of a no-bombing zone, calling Russian claims that its airstrikes targeted ISIS a “fallacy”.

Citing data from the Syrian Civil Defence (“White Helmets”), the Syrian National Coalition’s letter outlined the alarming human toll of Russian airstrikes and warned that Russia’s actions were war crimes. Analysis of Russian airstrikes conducted between 30 September and 17 October revealed:

Russia conducted 297 air airstrikes across North West Syria, in Homs, Idlib, Aleppo, the Damascus countryside, Hama and Deraa

231 civilian deaths due to Russian airstrikes in Syria, including 38 women, 34 children and 3 Syrian Civil Defence (“White Helmets”) rescue workers.

Russian airstrikes accounted for 53 percent of all civilian deaths in Syria.

Only 7 percent of Russian airstrikes targeted ISIS.

Since the start of Russian strikes, ISIS has made significant advances, including in Aleppo.

As many as 85,000 people fled Hama and the southwestern districts of Aleppo city after Russian and regime forces launched a co-offensive in opposition-held areas.

Russian airstrikes have overwhelmingly targeted civilian objects, including civilian homes, bread distribution points, IDP camps, farms and fields.


Snowden and Greenwald were unavailable for comment:

Russia 'tried to hack MH17 inquiry system'

The Hague (AFP) - Russian spies likely tried to hack into the Dutch Safety Board's computer systems to access a sensitive final report into the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine, experts said Friday.

The cyberattacks were revealed by security experts Trend Micro which blamed a shadowy group dubbed Operation Pawn Storm, "an active economic and political cyber-espionage operation" that has targeted the White House and NATO in the past.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch board, which led the investigation into how Malaysia Airlines flight came down in July 2014 over war-torn Ukraine, confirmed the board had detected the attacks.

But there was "no evidence" that anyone "was successful in the attempt," spokeswoman Sara Vernooij told AFP.

She declined however to reveal "how and by whom" the attacks were carried out.

Trend Micro Friday blamed Operation Pawn Storm for a "cyber-espionage operation before and after" the publication on October 13 of the board's detailed report.

The "coordinated attack from several sides was launched to gain unauthorised access to sensitive material of the investigation conducted by Dutch, Malaysian, Australian, Belgian, and Ukrainian authorities," the Tokyo-based company said in a statement.


I'm old enough to remember when Robert Parry was constantly accusing the U.S. of trying to subvert the investigation

OK, Assange is going way off the deep end now...

Want to thwart govt spies? Use snail mail, Assange says


Wikileaks Doxxes CIA Chief’s Wife and Daughters

The anti-secrecy outfit once known for exposing potential war crimes is now publishing the personal information of civilians instead.
It will go down as one of Wikileaks’ more astonishing achievements that it managed to turn the director of the CIA—a man who some have vilified as the architect of the drone wars and an endorser of torture—into a sympathetic character.

But that’s what happened on Wednesday when the Web site devoted to transparency and government accountability published loads of personal information about John Brennan, his wife and children, and other people close to him that had no obvious connection to his work as the CIA chief or his earlier role as President Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.

Wikileaks said the documents it published, which include a lengthy background check form that Brennan was filling out before joining the Obama administration in 2009, were obtained by a hacker who broke into Brennan’s personal email account. Readers hoping to see inside details of Brennan’s role in covert intelligence program were instead shown the names and birth dates of his two daughters, as well as Brennan’s parents’ dates of birth and their home address. Also the same information for his brother. And his sister.


Glad to see others are starting to see through the veneer...
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