Tag Archives: Syria

DEBUNKED: the UN says syrian rebels are responsible for sarin gas attack

2 Sep

This post is the 2nd of our series where we will try to debunk lies and propaganda found on the Internet and the media in recent days. Many are coming from pro-Assad, extreme right and conspirationist networks and they found their ways into honest or naive anti-war activists. We are paying a severe price of Bush’s and Blair lies about Irak and pro-Assad propaganda is using that to infiltrate media and social networks with false rumors and half truth arguments. We will try to debunk them the best we can.

The case :

The UN says that the rebels are responsible for sarin gas attack.

The Lie :

No UN body or commission ever came to that conclusion. The propaganda is using an interview Carla del Ponte, member of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not the special UN body sent to investigate chemical attacks) made last may.

Del Ponte’s comments are used without date so as to induce that del Ponte is commenting last august chemical attack that happened in damascus suburbs, Ghouta. The idea is that no one is going to read the article (and check the date) but the title and the link will go viral under the title « UN says rebels are responsible for chemical attack ». In the end, it will lead people to believe rebels are responsible for Al Ghouta chemical attack that happened in august.

Anyone who reads the date or the article can see this allegation relies on the comments Del Ponte had last may.

Here is an article that went viral on social networks. It is serious article but it was usually posted without the date so if you do not follow the link and read the article you may end up thinking it is a recent news about al Ghouta chemical attack.

Here is another article written on august 27 but also entirely relying on the comments del Ponte had last may. Again if no one reads it, it appears as if del Ponte’s comments were made last week.

Eventually, for French readers, here is a op-ed from Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (who ran for presidential elections) who also relies on del Ponte’s comments. Dupont-Aignant is a moderate center right political leader

The conclusions of the UN investigators that were officialised last may by Carla del Ponte revealed that Syrian opposition did use chemical weapons on Khan al-Aassal.

The Truth :

Del Ponte made a personal comment during an interview to RSI on may 6 2013. (here the story on BBC)

She said “According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”

Although she is a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not specifically investigating Chemical Weapons) her comments were not an official conclusion. The official reaction to Del Ponte comments from the commission can be found here

The statement reads :

Geneva, 6 May 2013 — The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict. As a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic did issue a report with its findings and conclusions. The report can be found here (in pdf) 

The official conclusion (supported by del Ponte) is :

« There are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons. The precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified. »

The report also says, on the matter of chemical weapons, that

Conclusive findings – particularly in the absence of a large-scale attack – may be reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged attack. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Panel of Experts, led by Professor Sellström and assembled under the Secretary General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, is granted full access to Syria.

This official recommendation, issued by the very commission where del Ponte is a member, was made on june 4 2013, two and a half month before Assad agrees to let Sellström into Syria.

DEBUNKED: John Kerry using a 2003 Iraq picture to promote intervention in Syria

1 Sep

This post will be the first of a new series where we will try to debunk lies and propaganda found on the Internet and the media in recent days. Many are coming from pro-Assad, extreme right and conspirationist networks and they found their ways into honest or naive anti-war activists. We are paying a severe price of Bush’s and Blair lies about Irak and pro-Assad propaganda is using that to infiltrate media and social networks with false rumors and half truth arguments. We wil try to debunk them the best we can.

The Case:

This picture went viral on social networks copy-pasted with the following text :

Marco di Lauro 2003 Iraq photograph

IMPORTANT TO KNOW !

So, Secretary of State John Kerry referenced this photograph when making his speech today, trying to drive home how awful the Syrian chemical attack was as he tried to convince us why we should go to war. One problem. The picture isn’t even from Syria. It’s from Iraq in 2003. The photographer, Marco di Lauro, said he nearly “fell off his chair” when he saw it was being used to promote a war in Syria. It’s getting pretty disturbing to see how far our politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are willing to go to drum up support for a war nobody wants.

The Lie :

John Kerry never mentioned this photograph or used it or showed it in his speech. Here are the transcripts of his speech. The only approaching comment could be this one :

We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

This does not specifically refers to this photograph and could refer to any picture that has circulated on the social networks.

You can also watch the speech on Youtube and see he does not show the video.

The truth :

This picture was used by the BBC to illustrate a story about Al Houla massacre in 2012 with the title “Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”. On this occasion, the Telegraph ran a story and interviewed Marco di Lauro who said he « nearly fell of his chair » when he saw his picture on the BBC website. Di Lauro comments were made in may 2012, about 16 month before John Kerry speech.

Here is the Telegraph article

The BBC acknowledged the mistake and apologised for it in May 2012, here is the Social Media Editor’s blogpost

The 10 step guide on how to convince yourself Syria is doomed

26 Feb

If, like myself, you are a die hard optimist, you believe in the Revolution, you think unknown and undefined freedom can only be better than a genocidal dictator, then you might be at awe with all the comments, beliefs, and analysis that state Syria, after Assad, is going to be worse. Here is a 10 step guide to help you convince yourself that Syria is doomed.

  • 1 – Revolution is a bad thing

At the very heart of the idea that “Syria is doomed”, there is a belief. It is a deep belief that Revolution is a bad thing for humanity. You will have to rewrite History accordingly, making all revolutions look bad. You do not have to go in depth into praising the old regimes for their achievement. That may come counter productive as you will appear as a supporter of the old regime. For instance, in Libya you could see hostility against the revolution divided in two separate trends:

– One insisted that Kadhafi was very kind to his people (Libyans had education, Oil was redistributed, he resisted bravely to imperialism, the great river project was something great etc.) This trend did not have that much success.

– The second trend insists that now Libya is a mess. Islamists are taking over, no central government, militias and bandits are ruling the country etc. This second trend is much more efficient as it will engage many more people.

So the idea is not to praise the old regime but to blame the revolution that put an end to it.
There is a long and furnished literature on how to blame the past revolutions, especially in French language. Because this country has a particular revolutionary past, anti-revolution forces had to develop a tradition of blaming the revolutions. This material will help you to pick another revolution in history and remind yourself how it always ends badly (always is the key word here). Here are some instance developed by the French tradition:

– 1789 French revolution ended up in decapitations, a period called “the terror” and the emergence of a new emperor that devastated Europe with his wars.

– May 68 revolution ended up in kids being abused and the end of authority of the masters in the schools. We can now admire the consequences such as the growing numbers of homosexual kids, growth of hip-hop music, joblessness, kids who can’t read, violent video-games and anti-racist movements that let Arabs invade our suburbs.

– 1917 Russian revolution ended up in communism that made 85 million dead.

  • 2 – Judge History

History does not judge. But thanks to gods, you can! In History, every event has a million or more different causes and creates a million or more different consequences. Hard to judge that. The trick is to make it simplistic enough so you can judge it. Try like that: every event is coming from one same cause and/or will lead to one same consequence. A bit lost? Here is how to apply the trick to the current Revolution in the Arab World.

The Arab Revolution is a historical event consequence of colonialism, of how independences were achieved in a cold war context, taking place in the beginning of the XXIst century in the midst of an economic crisis of globalised capitalism and communication revolution. It will have, (already has) huge and unthinkable consequences as it will see the emergence of new political forces in countries as different as Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrein etc. Hard to judge that so here is how you can read it to make it judgable:

– Revolutions are a western plot from the US and Israel to create war in the middle east and this will end badly because war is always bad and US and Israel are evil.

– Revolution were started by young westernised people who liked Facebook but are now confiscated by islamists who will impose Sharia law because they are better organised and Sharia is what Muslim people want.

– “Arab spring” turned violent and now it is a war (here you can also found instances of how things usually turn into war in the middle east). War is bad.

– Muslims throughout history have always been divided between Shiites and Sunnis; What is happening is part of this war between Shiites and Sunnis and it will become worse.

  • 3 – Arabs are different

Arabs are different than the rest of us. If you are an Arab and you read this post, that means you speak English so you are “westernised” enough to be different from the other Arabs. Arabs do not feel like us, they do not understand politics like us, they do not want what a normal human being wants.

Machiavelli had us explained some of the basics of politics: power is divided between those who want to oppress and those who do not want to be oppressed. You can do anything to a man, he wont mind unless you go after his house and/or family. These are basics for all humans but not for Arabs. Arabs like to be oppressed. You can seize their home and torture their families, they will love you as long as you blame “the West” and Zionists. Arabs are Muslims so what they want is Islam.

As a consequence, if you remove the secular dictator from an Arab country, there will be an islamic theocracy, like in Iran. Iranians are not Arabs but they are Muslims too so that makes them the same. Kind of… Also 1979 may be a bit outdated (10 years before the end of the cold war, 20 years before 9/11, 30 years before the Revolution) but it still works because Arabs do not understand History.

  • 4 – Become a geopolitical expert

It is not that complicated to become an expert in geopolitics. Here is what you need to do:

– Do not take into account the existence of individuals, human beings or free will. Consider that all humans are part of a bigger entity and only act to strengthen this entity: all Shiites think alike and want what is good for a greater Shia force. All Sunnis think alike and want what is good for greater Sunni force. All people in “the west” will act accordingly to “the west” interest. Take a map, draw big stains on it in different colours and forget that you just denied free will and free opinions to the millions of people living under the stains you drew.

– Take the name of a country or a big entity and add an action verb next to it (Russia IS; Syria WANTS, Iran HAS, United States of America NEEDS TO, China DOES, Saudi Arabia THINKS…)

– Try to think these countries are individuals, always and only driven by primary instincts of survival, expansion, gathering of resources or self interest: Russia IS trying to recreate the old USSR empire; Iran HAS oil; USA NEEDS TO get oil; Saudi Arabia THINKS Shiites are a threat; China DOES have a huge economic growth; Syria WANTS TO survive between surrounding forces, Shiites WORK for the expansion of Iran influence, Sunnis WANT Saudi Arabia TO HELP them against Shiites etc.

– Now picture the middle east as a big chess game (or Risk) and play with the pieces: countries, minorities and big entities.

– You can also draw yourself a map. Maps play a big role in geopolitics, so do not hesitate. Use nice colours and little icons. If you have computer or coding skills use them! That will give you the right to call your map an “infographics” and this title is much appreciated.

geopolitical map middle east and legend

If you have to debate with another geopolitical expert, do not panic. You will use the “yes of course but there is also the issue of” trick. See, geopolitics can only have one reading at a time that supersedes others. For instance, if it is about oil, it is not about Shia influence. If it is about Russia against the US, it supersedes Iran against Israel. This means that, in a geopolitical debate, you can always find a new issue that supersedes the one your opponent had chosen to explain everything. Remember to always agree with your opponent first as geopolitics is not a science and, therefore, can never be wrong. Here is how to do it:

1st geopolitician: US needs the oil in the middle east, this is the reason why they are allied with Saudi Arabia and invaded Iraq.

2nd geopolitician: of course, oil is the basic of US economy but one has not to forget the growing influence of Iran through Shiites. This influence is of great danger to Israel and Israel is prime US Ally in the middle east.

1st geopolitician: this is very true and one has also to keep in mind the nuclear issue. Iran wants to become nuclear and this is a great danger to Israel as well.

2nd geopolitician: Precisely! Nuclear Iran could pass nuclear bombs through the Shia crescent (Iran + Iraq + Syria + Hezbollah) and this would threaten directly the west interests.

1st geopolitician: Indeed! This is why the west will certainly try to ally with the new Sunni islamist government that took power after the Arab spring with the help of the west. In Syria, the west is helping Sunni rebellion, in Libya NATO overthrow Kadhafi and helped put Sharia, in Egypt they pushed Moubarak out: this means the west seeks to secure its interests by helping Sunni islamist to take over and ally themselves to these movements through Saudi Arabia which is allied to the west as well.

2nd geopolitician: surely but one has to distinguish between Sunni Salafi djihadis and Sunni Wahabbis, their interest may antagonise at some point in the future.

1st geopolitician: but the same distinction applies with Shiites. The Alawis that currently rule Syria are an offshoot sect of Shia that was long discriminated by sunnis. This is why they established a secular Baath party to stabilise Syria.

2nd Geopolitician: yes but one must not forget that Christians also helped to create the Baath party. Also in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was from the same village than Saladin, who was Kurdish…

If you are willing to write a geopolitical analysis, use the same trick as if you were debating with yourself. Add enough layers (Kurds, oil, Iran, nuclear, Israel, “the West”, islamists, al Quaeda etc.) so your analysis looks very complicated but examine each layer as if it was the one idea that could explain everything.

Becoming a geopolitics expert comes with huge advantages. You will experience this nice feeling of knowing how the world turns. You will also be able to initiate others and to gather disciples as you reveal to them the secrets that rule the world. People will look at you asking for your answers to their questions and this will give you a feeling of power and domination. Geopolitics is about great powers and entities struggling against each other so war is always the conclusion. You will thus predict that war is going to happen. If it is already happening you will predict that war is going to be worse. This gives you an enviable social position similar to those predicting apocalypse in the ancient times. Also you will always be right as it will be easy to find a war in the middle east that you can read according to your analysis.
Of course, once you are a geopolitical expert, there is no chance for you to believe that Arab Revolution can bring anything else than war, destruction and further struggle between great powers.

  • 5 – Arabs are all the same and have always been

This very fact allows you to use an Arab country to predict the sad developments of another Arab country. Syria, for instance, is going to be like Iraq or Lebanon where bloody civil wars ravaged the country for years. Now this may be hard as, of course, Iraq is not Syria and 2003 is not 2012 or 1975 Lebanon.

In Iraq, for instance, George Bush and neoconservatives invaded the country, divided it into three sectarian zones, dismantled the state and occupied the country for nearly 10 years. In Lebanon, Syria and Israel invaded the country and played proxy war through militias for 10 years. This, of course, has nothing comparable with Syria’s 2013 context. So the trick is to erase any context or history from the comparison by only mentioning the name of the country: “it is going to be like Iraq; it is going to be like Libya, it is going to be like Lebanon”. The key is to rely on what we saw on TV about these countries. Years of TV images of war and destruction happening every day have shaped the mind so when you say “Iraq” or “Lebanon” it triggers these images of Arabs killing themselves out of context.
The finest of all is reached when you used these countries as adjectives: Lebanisation, iraquisation, afghanisation (they are muslims too)… This will help you to see a never ending civil war looming in Syria.

  • 6 – Do not forget the sectarian thing

In the Middle-East, especially in Syria, there is plenty of different sects and minorities. Druze, Alawis, Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Armenians, Orthodox, Kurds.

The Assads, father and sons, were great at playing these against one another. They were Alawis but that sect became part of Shia after Hafez al Assad have asked Imam Musa Sadr a special fatwa on the subject. It now gives them in the media the title “offshoot of Shia sect”. They are ruling with the secular baath party but allied with Iran Theocracy and Hizbullah, the party of god. They were the centre of the Shia axis but helped and hosted the Hamas Sunni movement and sent Sunni djihadis in Iraq against the US. They were fighting Muslim Brotherhood and preventing Sunnis to establish theocracy in Syria but allied with Turkey and its moderate Sunni islamist AKP party. They were fighting Israel with words but refrained from any retaliation when Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, killed unarmed Palestinians at the border in 2011 or destroyed a military facility in 2013.

Now if Assad is removed, it is only logical that things will degenerate and sectarian civil war will happen. Sunnis think like Sunnis and they will want to establish a Sunni country in Syria. Alawis think like Alawis, a long time oppressed minority that will try to keep Assad in power because he is an Alawi too. Druze and Christians will be caught in the middle and will have to fight back. Kurds will try to establish a Kurdistan, a thing Turkey will not let happen. Iran and Hezbollah will have to back Assad cause he is an Alawi and Alawis are Shiites. Saudi Arabia will back the Sunnis because they are Sunnis too…
Seeing Syria through sectarian eyes will help you see the logical sectarian civil war.

  • 7 – It is all about islamists

Now Muslims like Islam. Islamists want to bring more Islam. So Muslims are going to vote for islamists. Since the last 10 years and thanks to George W Bush “war on terror”, islamists have been the biggest threat against “the west” since… well since communism! A huge industry of private and public intelligence is dedicated to the islamist threat. Hundreds of thousands of intelligence agencies, think tanks, scholars, analysts, political advisers, specialised revues have, during the last 12 years, dedicated all their time and money to study, analyse, predict, assess or understand the islamist threat. Networks have been established, methodology has been developed, brains have been trained, money has been allowed, decisions (hard decisions like backing “secular dictators”) have been made and ears of the decision makers have been used to listen a certain music. Now what do you think this industry is going to produce when it focuses on Syria?

If you are fool enough to not speak about “the rise of the djihadi threat in Syria” you will be laughed at, no one will listen to you, you’ll get no funding, you will deny yourself access to 90% of any material produced about the middle-east during the last 10 years, and you will be crushed by any expert working in the islamist terror threat industry. Kind of stupid right? So let’s think and write about how the islamist djihadi thing is growing in Syria and how it has to be the main point of everything that is happening and will happen.

  • 8 – Switch for anti-imperialist… but not pro-regime!

If you have no opinion about Syria, you can choose to be pro-regime.

Syria is a secular country resisting to imperialist invasion launched by Zionist US backing Saudi Arabia and Qatar throwing wave of terrorists against the regime because they are zionist Sunni western bastards who want to destroy independent anti-imperialist anti-zionist secular Shia Syria. There is purposely no comma in the sentence you just read so you can chose to put some where you want to make sense of it. Sadly enough, the proud anti-imperialist regime is kind of shaking right now.

So becoming pro-regime is tricky: if you are too much into that kind of propaganda, you may read things like “Syria is resisting the imperialist plot; Syrian army cleared 2967 terrorist zones today, terrorists are loosing control, Assad launches new reform program that will solve everything etc.” If Assad saves Syria from terrorism, Syria is no longer doomed right? On the other hand, if you assume that secular anti-imperialist regime that protected minorities in Syria is about to end, you may be at awe with your pro-regime beliefs. The solution is to be anti-imperialist without being too much pro-regime. This will help you to see how bad is the US-Zionist plot and read on the internet about the horrible destruction and death the “imperialists” are causing, while avoiding the pro-regime material that says Assad is winning and Syria will become “stable” again soon. Syria is doomed, the US zionist plot will destabilise the region forever before starting a nuclear war against Iran for oil.

  • 9 – Be neutral and objective

It is quite simple to be objective about Syria, you just have to be neutral. Neutrality will lead to objectivity, it is a mathematical equation.

So take the “opposition” and give them five minutes to talk and state their point of view. Then take some pro-regime and give same the exact same amount of minutes to talk and state their point of view. The image you will get from that is objectivity.

As a collateral damage you will also get from that the impression that “Regime” and “Opposition” are two equal forces with both their reasons to fight each other. Because you are neutral, these reasons will appear to you completely irrelevant. Simply they just want to kill each other and they have to because they are two opposing forces.

Because you have to maintain strict neutrality, you will never be able to see a side better than the other. You will have to equate the war crimes, equate the military gain and losses, equate the amount of time given to one propaganda or the other. In the end, you will have the picture of two perfectly equal sides unable to win over the other: the very perfect everlasting middle east war you always dreamed about!

In war (and in history) usually, both sides are not equals and eventually you get a winner and a looser and war ends. There is an oppressor and an oppressed, a killer and a victim, one that make a genocide and one that is the victim of this genocide, one who attacks and one who defends, a conqueror against one who fights for his freedom, a master and a slave… It can be sometimes hard to recognise who is who so neutrality is the best solution. Ultimately you will have to mix black and white enough to achieve the perfect grey. To do that you may choose to make the oppressor look nicer but you risk falling into becoming pro-regime (beware number 8).

The other method is to make both sides look really bad. This is the best method as you can paint everything in black without caring too much for the perfect grey. Grey may be depressive but all in black is always better. So the Assad regime is really bad, it kills, genocides, tortures and commits mass massacres etc. but the “opposition” is also bad, commits massacres, kills, tortures. So both sides are equals (objectivity is maintained) and they are both equally horrible. This method is also perfect because you will have to insist on the human rights violations committed by the “rebels”. Depicting revolutionaries as a bunch of incapable militias plundering innocents civilians caught in the middle is also very interesting.

While engaging into this, you will launch a crusade against “Arab spring optimists” or “idealists”: any people who does not think Syria is doomed. There are not so many of them left but you can invent them with sentences like “everyone was very enthusiastic about the Arab spring at the beginning but now we clearly see that things are not turning well”. The sad and depressive future you insist on depicting is thus directly fighting optimism, your worst enemy. Even better, it is “realistic” because it will oppose to people you will name “idealists”. It will help shape your mind in thinking that your sad view is real, because you call it realistic and any positive view is idealist (thus unreal).

  • 10 – Abolishing time

What is happening now happened before and will happen again. It will end badly as it ended badly before and will end badly tomorrow. People should be happy with what they have, trying to reach imaginary goal or “freedom” is unrealistic. And you have to be realistic because we live in the reality and the reality is realistic. You know what you had yesterday, but you do not know what tomorrow will be made of. Syria was not such a bad place, they had food, electricity, water and they wont have it tomorrow because they are changing things today. Things were good in the past, at least not so bad. Because it was the past we knew what it looked like. But we do not know the future so it can only be worse. There is a chance things will not be worse but this is a very very small chance, ridiculous…

The key thing here is to predict future will be worse than the past. Or future will be as worse as the past was. Do not, in no case, allow dates or precise events into your mind. Future is future, present is what is happening, past is what happened. Never say for instance: “November 1st 1954 in Algeria…” say “Algeria war”. Do not distinguish between 1905 Russian revolution, February 1917 and October 1917 Russian revolutions, Lenin, Stalin, Krushtchov etc. Say: “Russian revolution that brought communism in Russia”.

Now applied to the middle-east, this trick is of huge benefits. You can in one sentence connect old Umayyad califate with today’s Syria. You can explain behaviors of Arabs today by instances that go back as far as Muhammad’s times! You can erase whole centuries, making colonisation vanish from memories, predict future of civil war in Syria for three or four generation without thinking that two years ago you were sure Assad would last for ever.

Some positive realism about the future of post-Assad Syria

20 Jul

As Assad fall is approaching, we thought it might be a good idea to do some objective comments on what is going to happen in Syria.

Chaos and sectarian strife

This will happen, of course, everyone say it will and everyone is always right. Truth is, it will not last for long and will certainly will not be as big and as long as one may think. Actions will be taken against members of the Shabihas and, because these members are Alawis, the headline will be « Syria revenge against alawis ».

This phase although bloody will not last for long. For the simple reason that any war is followed by peace. France forgave collaborators, Germany forgave the Nazis, Rwanda forgave genociders etc. People forgive because they have no choice and there is no reason to assume that Syrian are different from other human beings. Neighbours have to live together no matter what and neighbours will live together in Syria as they do in any other country and as they did before Assad.

There will be, almost certainly in Syria a phase of cleansing from remnants of the old regime. Also revenge against shabihas that massacred families. And against traitors, neighbours who denounced neighbours and also innocents that will be wrongly held accountable for the regime’s wrongdoings. It is the case in every revolutionary / postwar instance. And it will not last as it did not last in any revolutionary / postwar instance. The fate of Syria is not a massive bloodshed after Assad fall, it is a massive national reconciliation and reconstruction effort.

However anyone who predicted chaos and destruction after Assad will put emphasis on this particular chaotic phase. Orientalist scholars, doomsday predicators, reactionnary pessimists, pro-assad consipartionists and islamophobic extreme right will all work together to present the future of Syria as horrible as they can.

The bloody phase will be emphasised in the news and every bad news announcing the forthcoming of the sectarian civil war will make headlines. Local and meaningful efforts of reconciliation will be given little attention in the media. Media narrative is going to focus on the origins of the victims and revenge perpetrators (Sunnis are killing Shias) on worrying prospects (what will happen to the chemical weapons) and on chaos and uncertainty rather than reconciliation and reconstruction effort.

It is what happened to Libya after Gaddafi: all emphasis put on militia fighting each other, Gaddafi’s weapon’s falling in the wrong hands and tribal rivalry. The first national elections in the country held peacefully and the only instance of a revolutionary country not to choose an islamic government has received very little attention.

Division in the opposition / not organised opposition able to take over

Division in the opposition is a very stated fact although very untrue. All the elements in the so called « opposition » are at present united for a very common and very simple goal : Assad has to go. Once that purpose is achieved, divisions will start to emerge again on who wants what for the future of Syria.

Analyst and commentators will say these divisions are the seed for the armed chaos and long lasting civil war to come. What they will forget to say however is that these division, in an unarmed context, are also the seed for the peaceful and fruitful democracy and mutipartism that could flourish in Syria.

These divisions are political and thus can be resolved in two ways :

1) The armed way were a long lasting civil war will happen « like in Lebanon » between political militias.

2) The peaceful way where these forces agrees to abandon the weapons, to agree on the formation of a political body to write a new constitution and to follow the rules of this constitution to fight democratically on the political arena.

Many are quick to say the first solution is inevitable. This belief lies upon two arguments (that are not really powerful when they are deconstructed)

The « inevitable » argument : it is inevitable because there is no way to avoid it. Like if the civil war, killing and fighting was a natural thing for the Arab. There will be sectarian war because there are multiple sects in Syria plain and simple. After a long and detailed description on what sect believes what coupled with a percentage and a number, the argument assumes that these sects will fight each other on sectarian basis.

Alawis are an ancient shia offshoot and represent 10% of the population and are supported by Iran Shia power and they are very different from sunnis…
Christians have a long last presence in the middle east and where protected by Assad’s regime so they are afraid of Sunni takeover…
Sunnis except for a small business elite have been oppressed under Alawi rule so now they seek revenge backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar “sunni” power.
etc.

This argument reduces Syria to a simple aggregation of different sects held together by dictatorship and simply assumes that they will fight against each other as soon as the dictator is toppled. The fact that Syria is a country with history, flag, borders, currency, human citizens, political movements, historical independence struggle against colonial power, economy, cultural and intellectual production etc. is left aside. Only the sectarian and ethnico-religious aspect is considered.

What will happen is that the fall of the dictator will unleash all the forces who has been oppressed under dictatorship. It will also reduce the power of the forces that were used by the dictatorship for oppression. And the sects, tribes and Salafi terror groups will look very weak without a dictator to play their puppet-master. If anything, the sectarian divide will cease to widen with the absence of the dictator to widen it. On the other side, freedom of expression, political opposition, intellectual thinking will emerge with the end of the dictatorship. One can expect that syrian society perfectly knows sectarianism and salafi terrorist groups were used by the regime as tools of oppression and it is very possible that Syrian society fights to reject them as such.

The second dubious argument will say it’s going to be sectarian strife like in Irak, Lebanon or Libya.

Here is the consequence of a long Orientalist tradition that considers sectarian strife as natural in the middle east and disconnected from any political roots or colonial involvement. Also comparing Syria with Iraq and Lebanon negates the revolution as no revolution happened in those countries (yet).

In Irak the US empowered political opposition against Saddam on a sectarian basis for more than 10 years, then they invade the country and divided it in three sectarian part (one kurdish north, one sunni middle and one shia south) and the sectarian war happened. US did that because they think that it is how the Arabs are working so you have to treat them that way if you want to understand.
In Lebanon the civil war also was not as « natural » as it may seem. Once has to remember that Syria and Israel invaded the country and played militia proxy war in the country for very long.

Eventually Libya had a revolution and is doing surprisingly well but its success receives almost no media attention. There is a depressing lack of news on Libya for the only reason that no tribal war or country partition has happened yet. Syria can expect the same media treatment after Assad.

Now we have established that the sectarian civil war has not that much chance to happen, let’s examine the second solution : the peaceful one.

When Assad falls, many will drop their weapon and start rebuild the country. They will stop fighting simply because the main reason for them to fight is gone. Assad soldiers won’t fight for Assad when he is gone and FSA soldiers won’t fight against Assad when he is gone.

There are other reasons to fight that will keep some radical armed elements in the country (Shabihas will keep weapon just not to be killed, die hard regime supporters that will put their hopes on someone else, some salafis willing to establish an islamic state, some sectarian radicals seeking ethnic cleansing etc.) but these elements will be mathematically overwhelmed by the 20 million Syrians who wants to rebuild their homes so they can have a roof, and get the economy back so they can have food on the table.

The unity that held all FSA groups together against Assad can be transformed into the basis for a Syrian Army fighting against the civil war, disarming militias, keeping security in the country and prevent sectarian revenge.

Also radical elements are tied with the old regime narrative : Assad played the sectarian card, the salafi card, the Shabiha card etc. Assad did everything to empower them so they weaken the revolution. Although it is impossible to know for sure how these trends are rooted in the Syrian society, one has to keep in mind these trends are not natural nor cultural. They were political tools used by the dictatorship and no one can say they will survive after the dictatorship is gone.

To put it simple : the number of the people willing to put down the guns will outnumber the one who will want to keep it… as it did in Libya.

The new dictatorship 

There will be attempts from former regime members to perpetrate the system and establish a new « sunni » or whatever dictatorship. It comes from the outrageous number of comments and analysis that stated :

1) this is a Sunni rebellion against Alawi regime

2) Syria is incapable of / not ready for / not used to / not culturally suited for democracy

This analysis has prevailed in the Regime’s circles and propaganda and any late defector has this belief graved in his mind and will be unable to see Syria otherwise.
This is probably what the Tlass family are thinking along with other big heads of the regime who defected lately.
It is also the case for US diplomatic advisor, political analysts, Neighbouring powers etc.

Some will probably try to establish themselves or proxies as new dictators. It will be called « the new strongmen needed to lead the transition to democracy. » It is a very common argument that has been used by Saif al Islam in Libya, by the SCAF in Egypt and by Assad himself (reforming Syria since 2000). It failed every time proving that this argument is not really catchy for the Arab people unless it is backed by a powerful network of mukhabarat, state army and mafia police forces.

Such attempt will fail because a revolution is not done against one man but against his very throne. Maybe Assad inner circle can try to remove him and impose a new head as a smooth palace coop. There is no certitude that would stop the revolutionaries from continuing their fight until hated figures of the old regime are ultimately removed from power. In a revolutionary context, any power that does not match the will of the people will have to face demonstrations. If this new power chooses to suppress them, then revolution continues until dictatorship is entirely removed.

The extension of Syria crisis and threat to regional complex stability and alliances

Some analyst are also quick to get in deep and complicated geopolitical analysis over what is going to happen in the region. What will happen to the « Shia crescent » and to the Russian alliance and to the peace with Israel and to Qatar and Saudi? “Syria crisis could go beyond border” from that starting point, anyone can play with the very complicated middle eastern chess game.

This is what British colonialism described as “the great game”.

The expression and usages do not come from British colonialism by chance: the “great game” in the middle east is a colonial game.

Let’s be straight, the “great game” is over. Or at least it is on the way to end. Together with complicated geopolitical analysis of the middle east. The great game is a colonial expression and Assad’s end (together with other revolutions in the Middle East) is also the end of the long colonial era. If no dictator can control the people, then the complicated and secret shifts in geostrategical alliances are no longer to be applied. Revolution pushes Syria toward the end of colonialism and so goes the end of complex Geostrategical game played by foreign neocolonial powers.

Geostrategy is a science which, from its German school, gave to the Nazis the concept of Lebensraum. (The vital space needed for a state). We will publish more on that later but Geopolitics is based on interpreting powers and nations as if they were living Darwinist organism. In this science, the will of state power is one, unchallenged, uncontested and subjected only to state interests. There is no people, no citizens, no shift of policies between a left government and a right government. In other words, geopolitical analysis is perfect to apply to dictatorships and convey the idea of the superior interest of the nation-state or empire power.

With Assad gone, geopolitics in Middle East becomes much less relevant than before. There is no longer a complicated chess game between power but the emergence of the people’s will as a game changer.

The middle east is no longer a chess game but the battleground of two forces: one revolutionary and democratic, the other neocolonial, anti revolutionary, absolutist and oppressive. Difference is not between Russian and US’s interests. Both are fighting the same neocolonial fight and Russia is doing with Assad what US are doing with Israel establishment. Both imperialisms are trying to reimpose their opposition to the revolution by claiming to help some while helping repressing other. But ultimately revolution can be considered as a third power that is fighting both imperialisms together.

Tunisia revolution fuels Egypt revolution fuels Yemen revolution fuels Syria revolution fuels Bahrein revolution fuels Saudi Arabia revolution fuels Israel’s revolutionary movement. Repression of a movement in any of these places helps absolutist and repressive power in every other. Difference between who is backed by Russia and who is backed by US thus, became completely irrelevant to understand the future of the middle east.

With Syria getting rid of Assad we get closer to a very simplified middle east where basic class fight applies: rich/poor, elite/people, dictatorship/freedom. Of course, this simplification is threatening hundreds of thousands of people all over the world (regimes benefactors, elite, self proclaimed experts in the middle east in the Media, orientalists diplomatic advisers, foreign neocolonial interests, reactionary forces all over the world, extreme right movements, herds of conspirationists sheep). This is why these people all agree to start their analysis by “it’s more complicated”.

Alex Thomson claims he was trapped by Syrian rebels: an ideology that is named negationism

18 Jun

Alex Thomson is Channel4 correspondent. He went into Syria with an official visa and followed UN observers to Qusayr. There, he was in contact with rebels. According to him, rebels led him in trap so he can be killed by the Syrian army. Here is the story on his blog.

The problem in his story is not in the scoop in itself (rebels trying to make him killed by the regime so Assad get to look bad) which seems possible. But the story appears to be extremely ideological and this trend to doubt the authenticity of what Alex Thomson claims is true.

The Irish UN officer in charge,Mark Reynolds, came over: “Usual rules Alex OK? We’re not responsible for you guys. If you get into trouble we’ll leave you, yes? You’re on your own.” “Yup – no problem Mark. Understood.”
I always say that, sort of assuming it will never come to that in any case.

In these first lines is already something bothering. Going to cover a war zone precisely implies that one is going to get into trouble and there will be danger and risks. This risk is taken by the journalist because it is part of his job to risk his life to get the information out to the world. But if Alex thinks this risk does not exist, what does that tells us about his ethics. What exactly is doing Alex Thomson in Syria thinking he will not get into trouble? Is he ready to take the role of the journalist who risk his life in the sake of the information? He wants to go to Qusayr in the “rebel” zone with the UN.

After a long and dusty half-hour of tracks across olive groves, we arrive at al Qusayr, to the predictable crowd scene.

“The predictable crowd scene” is the first expression of Alex’s ideology. For him, it is a “crowd scene”, a gathering with no individuals, no human beings, no motives, no slogans, no speech or voice, just a “crowd scene”. This is how Alex conceives what is probably a gathering of civilians shouting to the UN observers their suffering from the massacres. These “predictable crowd scenes” are an essential part of the information and of history. They are the proofs of the massacres, of the UN powerlessness but also proofs of UN presence so these massacres are not committed without the world knowing. Men and women who lost sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and sisters, who get slaughtered and they want to tell the UN observers: a “predictable crowd scene”…

How is this scene so predictable? Does Alex thinks these massacres are so numerous that they became common? Why not tell anything about it so? Does he thins it is a game that these people are playing? Rushing to UN observers like kids? Does Alex refers here to the general trend of the Arabs to produce these kind of scenes and to give these kind of images? These people are so predictable, they do not have suffering, no pain, no reasons, no condition, they do not even exist. This is not even a real crowd with real human beings in it but only a scene, transient and melodramatic, just for the show. And Alex thinks it is not even a good show: it is predictable, the scenario is badly written so Alex will try to write a better one.

The UN settles down for a long meeting with the civilian and military leaders here. It looks much like an Afghan “shura” to me. Everyone is cross legged on the cushions around the room, except it is Turkish coffee passed round rather than chai.

This meeting who may have some very interesting informations is also considered as a common oriental scene without any kind of interest. Who are these leaders? How many civilian leaders? How many military leaders? What is the difference between the two? What do they say? Alex is not interested. For him it is an Afghan “shura” like any other. These people are all the same, tribal culture and sitting cross legged on the floor except some are drinking tea and other are drinking coffee. It is the only difference for Alex. Revolutionary leaders meeting UN observers for a whole afternoon in the middle of Syria is not at all surprising because… he saw the same scene in Afghanistan. A tribal Afghan = a revolutionary Syrian, one drinks tea, the other drinks coffee but the fact that they are all sitting on cushion on the floor makes them automatically similar cases.

Alex does not ask himself for one second about any difference: political, national, language, personal, individual or historical. « Looks like an Afghan shura to me » been there, done that… What these people say or what topics they are discussing has absolutely no kind of interest. These are savages sitting on the floor drinking hot beverages.

We settle down to filming outside. The women and boys bring us oranges and chairs in the heat. Shell fragments are produced to be filmed. They explain how the shelling will begin again as soon as we leave – a claim which, by its nature, must remain untested, though there is certainly extensive shell damage in some parts of town here.

Note here that Alex is posing the scene as completely normal. Not a single word or nice adjective in his paper thanking these people who offer him oranges and chairs (so he does not have to sit on the floor like a savage). However, Alex has to stress that the information he is given together with the oranges “by its nature must remain untested”. Choice of the word “untested” is curious though this claim has indeed been tested on multiple occasion. Shelling do arrive as soon as the UN leaves a village. But it is “by its nature” that Alex rejects this information and indicates that it “must” remain rejected despite any proofs he is given.

So we while away the time, waiting for the UN to move – they’re the only way across the lines with any degree of safety of course.

Here and together with the previous paragraph, Alex indicates clearly what he is doing in Syria. He does not come to look for information as he rejects the informations that he is given. He does not care about what the UN is doing as he only sit his ass on a chair eating oranges and waiting for the UN finishes so he can move. What Alex wants to do is to use the UN as a shield so he can cross the lines. This could have an interest if the journalistic goal was to follow the work of the UN observers but Alex has already indicated he could not care less about what the UN is doing.

Alex wants to willingly go in the middle of fire lines but protected by the UN. Alex wants the no man’s land. The grey area in the middle of “both sides” at an equal distance between them. From there he can say: here things are grey, both sides are firing each other in a perfectly equal manner and with perfectly equal motivations with no consideration whatsoever for the weapons or the cause of any of both sides. Both sides can be there melted together in indistinct grey. It is what Alex wants as a scoop and is is predictably what he is going to find because, in a very logical manner, when you go sit in the middle of a no man’s land you are going to get bullets from everyone.

Alex Is impatient. He is visibly not here to listen to the testimony of the inhabitants or to film any proof of the shelling. He does not really believe in these anyway.

But time drags. Our deadline begins to loom.

This very sentence shows all the extent of contempt Alex has toward the situation and the life of the people around him to their very existence. Alex’s “deadline” is more important of course than these meetings between revolutionaries and the UN. His little stupid scoop consisting in going filming bullets in the middle of crossed line of fire is more important than anything revolutionaries have to say to the UN or even the life of people around him. He was duly told that shelling will begin again as soon as UN leaves. This “time drags” is for now the very surviving of the people who gave him oranges but Alex does not even conceive it.

And there’s this really irritating guy who claims to be from “rebel intelligence” and won’t quite accept that we have a visa from the government. In his book foreign journos are people smuggled in from Lebanon illegally and that’s that. We don’t fit his profile.

Here was also an interesting information discarded as a “claim”: revolutionaries have sat up an intelligence service. But for Alex it is another unverifiable “claim” he will not bother to verify. Alex is here again extremely disdainful toward this man and all the stakes that constitutes the verification of his ID. « in his book », Alex knows it completely without needing to read a line. He won’t even imagine that the suspicion about his official visa can be justified. Here Alex lies by omission.

Let’s get back to how things are in the reality: Alex arrives in rebel zone with an official stamp from Bachar al Assad and a van and crew coming directly from Damascus. It could be somehow justified that revolutionaries are getting a bit suspicious. The very meaning of this official stamp indicates Alex is going to give equal credit to “both sides”. An activity which, by its nature, is going to harm the rebel’s cause. This rebel that Alex considers dumb and annoying knows perfectly what the regime does when they deliver an official visa to a foreign journalist. In a very legitimate way, he is suspicious toward the journalist who has agreed to play Assad’s game. He also has to protect himself, his family and friends and his revolutionary cause from any infiltration by Assad’s agents and Alex with his official visa is a suspect. In truth, Alex takes the regime sides and here is how:

First, he supposes that the regime visa is valid for all Syrian territory and indicates that he does not find normal that it becomes suspect in rebel zone. Here it is not normal that one does not accept the official stamp. Just by labelling the ID verification as “annoying”, Alex indicates that he thinks Assad’s flag is supposed to fly over all Syria.

Also Alex led his reader to think that the regime never used any journalist nor did it infiltrate any agent in rebel zone disguised as foreign journalists. A story duly told by Jonathan Littell in his Carnets de Homs. Such a stratagem is completely probable and Alex is lying by omission when he refuses to acknowledge that revolutionary has perfectly good reasons to verify his ID.

Eventually Alex does no conceive one moment what could happen in a reversed case: a case where he would come to Damascus from the rebel area with no official stamp on his passport. He would of course be arrested, probably tortured and most certainly knows it would be crazy just to think of trying the experiment. However he found completely normal to try the experiment in this way: from regime official to rebel area is a profile completely acceptable in his eyes and he finds a bit annoying to be asked questions.

Tired of waiting for the useless UN to end their useless cushion-on-the-floor meeting, he takes the initiative.

We decide to ask for an escort out the safe way we came in. Both sides, both checkpoints will remember our vehicle.

Simply, Alex is incredible. After having written that the UN convoy was the only way with a certain degree of safety, he asks to the one guy who thinks he is a regime agent for a rebel escort to got back to the other side. It comes hard to understand what Alex thinks is the situation here: revolutionaries are going to escort him nicely to the last rebel check point and then he is going to simply drive to the army checkpoint praying for everyone to remember his vehicles and that no one questions to hard the little trips he takes between them?
If it is really the case why ask for a escort for that?

Actually Alex is here building carefully the scenario that is going to happen to him: please could you escort me to the middle of the no man’s land so I can get shot at?

Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind. We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man’s-land.

Remember Alex just asked for an escort. SO maybe these 4 men in a black car could be his escort but he does not indicate any such thing. Alex is in the middle of the no man’s land on a blocked road which was exactly the location where he wanted to go initially. FSA told him this road because it is the road whare he wants to go: Alex wants to pass check points from both sides and predictably there is going to be an area between them that is called a no man’s land and where both sides fire on sight. And predictably the 4 guys in the black car are not going to risk their lives under a rain of bullets to protect the imbecile who wants to go get stuck in the middle.

So Thomson get shot at, he is really really afraid and turns back.

Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we re-appeared.

« Predictably » again. For Thomson this car is waiting “predictably” because he does not want to think of any other possibility. It was predictable this car would be here because it was what Thomson predicted. Maybe this car just waited for Thomson to make a very predictable drive back as soon as he would realise that one get shot at when one gets in the no man’s land. Called a no man’s land for a reason. Maybe this car was checking if he was alive? Alex does not want to think about that. The only reason for this car to be here was that it was predicted. The duality and treason of the Arab is just as predictable as the “crowd scene” , it is in their nature.

I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.
That conviction only strengthened half an hour later when our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side-street, blocking us from the UN vehicles ahead.
The UN duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town.
Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus.

Here is the scoop Alex wanted all along. He went into the no man’s land from the rebel zone, get shot at and so concludes the rebels led him into a trap. That the regime fired on him is no problem at all, still rebels fault. His conviction is reinforced because the rebels prevented him from following the UN half an hour later. For him it is part of the plan. Maybe the rebels just prevented him from getting shot at a second time. Maybe they took the time to negociate a safe passage for him so he could go back to Damascus. Curious enough there is absolutely no detail whatsoever on how he got back. “Eventually we got out too,” funny how time drags now. How? why? at what time? in what conditions? Nothing. Alex wanted to go in the no man’s land and thought that this little tribal meeting was taking too long so he decides to go alone, gets shot at, comes back and finds a conspiracy in the fact he is not allowed to go back with the UN after all.

But of utmost importance is the conclusion Alex wanted that is a model of ideological construction:

In a war where they slit the throats of toddlers back to the spine, what’s the big deal in sending a van full of journalists into the killing zone?
It was nothing personal.

First, Alex put his little fear in perspective of the massacre of 100 people. For him, these things arrive in a war where “they” slit throats so it is normal that “they” send journalist to death. In this general “they”, of course, it is implied that the same “they” are responsible for both events. “They” in Alex story are the revolutionaries and he identifies them clearly as responsible. Then, Alex spreads the idea that “they” are also responsible for the massacre just by not defining who are these “they” who slits throats.
« it was nothing personal » in the form of a paternalist “it is normal”. They, these people, undistinct, with no soul who kills and massacre themselves with no cause nor guilt tried to get me killed but it is not personal. It is in their Arab nature to do that, who am I to judge? They are like that, the situation is like that and Alex is filled with empathy and understanding for the savage nature of the Arab savages.

Alex’s ideology is this: these people (let’s call them arabs but maybe also Afghans who looks very much like them), these people massacre and get journalists massacred. With no cause, no reasons, no revolution, no politics, no surprise (“predictable”). And this is what a war zone looks like in the middle east: all the same, all without any other cause or any other reason than being the nature of the middle east.

And it is this ideology that Alex is going to promote in an interview with Russia Today where he details his story.
Now let’s say for people not as familiar with the media world as is Alex Thomson that going to be interviewed by Russia Today (Putin’s TV) is not completely innocent from an ideological point of view.

In the interview, what comes out the most is the word “both sides” which appears no less than 10 times so he can penetrate deeply in the brain. Let’s examine the passages where “both sides” occurs so we can grasp the ideas hidden behind this “both sides”

Russia Today : Thomson’s mission to Syria was unique in a way, as he was reporting on both sides of the conflict, interviewing both Assad loyalists and rebels (this is introduction)

‘Both sides involved in very dirty tactics’ (this is the title of the interview written very very big)

AT : By and large, when we spoke to Syrian people on both sides of the war, they were pretty honest and pretty straightforward in their assessments of the situation. That was the situation in places like Homs, on both sides, in Houla, on both sides. It was certainly the case on one side in al-Qubair. But when we got to the rebel side of al-Qubair, there was something different and for the first time, we encountered a degree of hostility and suspicion about us, because they had never seen foreign journalists who had a visa from Damascus, who were in the country legally, not illegally. And that immediately aroused suspicion on their part. »

Here, “both sides” is used to show how rebels are different. It is “both sides” all the time until Qusayr where suddenly rebels are not “both sides” at all. After having strike a perfect balance, Alex uses al Qusayr to unbalance things is disfavour of the rebels.

 It is very unusual, almost unheard of, to do the kind of things that we were doing, which is to go from Damascus, cross the lines with the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and talk to both sides.

What Alex is doint is actually very well known and he is not the first to try the “both sides” with a visa from the regime. All those who tried this had the open goal of putting Assad’s regime and rebels on the exact same plan. It is an ideological manipulation as proven by the next question from Russia Today:

RT: So can it be that your willingness to talk to both sides was the reason why the rebels wanted to set you up?

Let’s translate: Is it because the rebels did not accept this ideology that you get yourself into danger? And the anwser of Alex Thomson which should be carved in stone:

AT: That’s certainly possibly the case.

In the “both sides” ideology, things can certainly become possible…

(…)  I’m not angry about it, I’m not upset about it, this is a war and these things will be done. Both sides are involved in very dirty tactics in this war. This is a nasty and dirty war on both sides.

Here “both sides” is uses clearly to make the rebels responsible (but not guilty) of the “very dirty tactics”

RT: So are Assad’s troops mostly responsible for this violence?
AT: No, it’s a war. Both sides are responsible.

Here clearly Both sides is used to take the direct defence of Bashar al Assad. “both sides” and “it’s a war” are used to answer a firm “no” to the question of Assad’s troops responsibility in the violence.

One can conclude from that analysis of Alex’s ideology that his little adventure does not constitutes an irrefutable and objective proof but an ideological story of an adventure more wished than lived and looking to balance the rebels and the regime. This balance once stroke is unbalanced in disfavour of the rebels because it is on this story that Alex tries to get the media focus.

Clausewitz, the one who gives the war a definition told us that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. To eliminate all politics from the journalistic cover of a war by putting “both sides” on the same level is a ideological negation of the reality. It implies that there are no killer nor victims, no innocents nor guilty, no oppressor nor oppressed, no master nor slaves, no genocide maker nor genocide victims…

This ideology is called negationism

And your ideology, Alex, has to be fought against, nothing personal.

What is not happening in Lebanon

28 May

Syrian crisis spreads to Lebanon.

A common headline that one will see flourish in the coming days. As usual, it is difficult to know what exactly is happening in the country.

Anti- Assad “salafis” get arrested by security services while lured into recovering social care money

Sunni clerics suddenly forget to stop at army checkpoints and get killed

And shiites pilgrims get caught by Free Syrian Army in Syria while travelling from Iran in a bus.

And armed psychopaths goes amok against the army and throws grenades from their balconies in the middle of the night over a girlfriend dispute…

Of primary importance is to understand, state, underline, highlight, precise, or describe any origin, religion, nationality or ethnic background of any of the people involved. So we can gather a picture of a very messy Lebanon on the brink of Civil War (again) and composed of plenty of sects fighting each other for God knows what.

Thus, it becomes nearly impossible to understand what is happening in Lebanon. But one can try to think around what is not happening.

First there is no “Syrian crisis hitting Lebanon”.

It is not a crisis, it is a revolution and, unless this very fact is acknowledged, current Syria will remain out of any comprehensive sight. Revolution has specific dynamic and logic and it is impossible to understand what happens if it is thought as a crisis. Crisis have solving. One can solve a crisis, no one can “solve” a revolution. Crisis have blurred origins, it comes from undefined multiple causes while revolutions all share the same grounds. A crisis is located in a specific region of the globe it can be local or regional crisis, while a revolution has a continental or world wide consequences.

What happens in Syria is not a crisis and what happens in Lebanon is not a revolution. Therefore, the two are not as connected as one may think.

Let’s go further from that point: It is not Syria hitting Lebanon, it is Lebanon hitting Syria.

Lebanese political leaders have decided to take sides. March 14 pretending to help the Syrian revolution and March 8 pretending to defend Bachar al Assad’s Syria. Lebanese political leaders have thus decided to clash over Syria rather than clashing over political Lebanese issue. It helps them to avoid addressing real Lebanese issues such as Hezbollah weapons to integrate in national defence strategy, civil state, legitimacy of politicians based on outdated confessionalism or more day to day issues such as lack of internet, lack of electricity, lack of public transport, lack of water, migrant workers slavery or widespread corruption.

Taking sides on Syrian revolution is a useful trick for Lebanese politicians to avoid doing Lebanese politics. March 14 leaders have taken firm stance against Bachar al Assad and desperately try to describe the 14 march 2005 as the inspiration and true origin of the “Arab Spring”. Truth is, when asked, activists in Tunisia or Tahrir square have no idea who Hariri is…

Nevertheless, March 14 leaders need to do that because the political alliance, formed after the popular demonstration that ended Syrian presence in Lebanon in 2005, has not inspired anything truly meaningful since that date. They lack legitimacy and also they lack a real political stance now they are in the opposition. In other words: March 14 does not know how to oppose against March 8 and tries to divert by siding with Syrian revolution.

March 8 siding with Assad also shows political weakness and lack of vision for the country. March 8 still does not believe they can be accepted as a real political force without the help of the Syria. They don’t believe they can survive without Assad and still think their fate is tied to his. Ultimately, March 8 show that they have not realised the reality of their legitimacy, they don’t trust their government to do better job than the previous one and they don’t trust Lebanese to be able to judge them based on that fact.

They also do not want to think what is going to change in the Middle East and how to adapt to new challenges. By defending Assad, they reveal a vision where Lebanon remains a small piece in a wider neocolonial game: Russia and China playing Shias through Iran, replacing US who played Sunnis through Saudi Arabia or France who played Christians etc. They show they are unable to understand “majority” and minority” in a normal political democratic way but only with confessions attached to it: sunni majority, alawi minority, etc. In a new revolutionary middle east it is about politics, not about minorities.

This is not sectarian clashes.

Clashes in Lebanon are between armed militias or militants belonging to political movements. They can have a confessional taint since these very political movements are based on confessionalism but this is not sectarian clashes in its essence. All sunnis in Lebanon are not for Syrian revolution and all Alawis or shias in Lebanon are not siding with Assad. Christian are divided, propaganda and conspiracy runs everywhere and even anti-assad hearts can wish that Assad ultimately wins and brings back “stability” through dictatorship is the best solution.

Despite these truth, Media continues to present what happens in Lebanon as confessional clashes. It becomes very difficult for them and readers to understand why confessional sunnis would clash with other confessional sunnis in Tarek el Jdeideh as all sunnis are supposed to be united against Assad the Alawi.

Ultimately, Lebanon is Assad’s dream: a country where sectarian divisions is the reality he wants for Syria. Transforming the Syrian revolution into the Lebanese civil war is exactly what Assad would like, thinking he will regain his country by solving a sectarian civil war as Syria did with Lebanese civil war.

Syrian opposition knows that and their game is precisely to avoid that as much as they can. If Syria turns into Lebanese civil war, they loose and they know that. And because they do not want to loose, they do not want Syria to become sectarian civil war. A Lebanon falling into sectarian civil war would serve as a reference for Assad to introduce civil war in his country. Assad does not want Syria civil war in Lebanon, he wants Lebanon civil war in Syria.

He is not alone: any political or religious leader seeking to tie a particular community to a side of the Syrian revolution is playing this game. Salafi leaders claiming Sunnis have to support Syrian revolution, religious figures calling to Shias to defend Assad or stupid political analysts declaring that all alawis in the country are supporting Assad because he is himself an alawi.

Assad can play sectarian divisions in Lebanon and he probably does through secrete and hidden channels. But his direct implication is probably much lower than one thinks. Sectarian demonstrations in favour of the Syrian revolution also plays Assad game and harm the revolution. Truth is, leaders organising Sectarian demo in favour of the Syrian revolution could not care less about the Syrian revolution. They do not understand that the very stake of the revolution is to avoid sectarian divisions and to unit the country against the dictator.

That leads to a very Lebanese paradox: Salafis and sunni leaders are in effect harming the Syrian revolution by creating sectarian tensions and Hezbollah is in effect protecting the Syrian revolution by avoiding to play that game.

There is no pro versus anti-syrian in Lebanon

This paradox helps to reveal another truth: there is no “pro-Syrian” versus “anti-Syrian” in Lebanon. Currently, neither Bachar al Assad nor Syrian revolution can claim to be “Syria” and the country is experiencing revolutionary process. Attributing “anti” or “pro” Syrian stance is therefore irrelevant as no one know what is Syria any more. March 14 leader Saad Hariri would not be anywhere without the sweat of the very Syrian migrant workers who built his concrete real estate power.

The division between “pro-syrian” and “anti-syrian” is used to hide the reality of the political game in Lebanon and to deny democracy to the country. Instead of political stance, programs, ideas or projects, everything is put under the giant carpet of “pro vs anti-syrian”. March 8 is pro-Syrian, march 14 is anti-Syrian and anti-Syrian are March 14 and pro-Syrian are march 8. With that trick, politician can avoid to take real political stance (left / right – majority / opposition). But ultimately, pro-Syrian vs anti-Syrian is purely and strictly Lebanese thing that has nothing to do with Syria. Because the Syrian revolution is more and more revealing that trick, Lebanese politicians, especially March 14, start to be afraid for their legitimacy and resort to the sectarian factor: Sunnis are against Assad and side with March 14 and any sunni who disagrees is a traitor and has to be expelled from Sunni neighbourhoods (such as Tarek el Jadeedeh).

There is no civil war in Lebanon.

A civil war in Lebanon needs civilians willing to fight against each other and the country lacks this basic elements necessary for a civil war to happen.

But because there is a will from media and politician alike to imprison Lebanon in its past, anything happening in the country is considered the sign of a new coming civil war. A never ending 1975. So now  Syria is under the spotlight, headline reads: Violence in Syria may trigger a new civil war in Lebanon,

The dangerous game in Lebanon is about who is going to not start the civil war. First party to start the civil war has lost. If one party is more clever and rational than the other, civil war won’t happen. And the last speech from Nasrallah calling against violence or road blocking and for calm to prevail is indeed a very clever and rational move proving that if Hezbollah does not wants a war, no war can really happen.

Civil war in Lebanon is not as useful as the fear of civil war in Lebanon. Fear is a very useful tool to rule a country and keep people quiet. It is convenient to avoid a revolution. It is useful to prevent people from calling against corruption or to complain about lack of electricity, water, public services or prices. It is also a useful tool to retaliate. If, for instance, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar wanted to punish Mikati prime minister and 8march government they could try to destroy the tourist summer season. They could do so by advising their rich citizens not to travel to the country using the “fear of civil war”.

The fear of Lebanese civil war, a very useful tool indeed…