Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 21, 2013

Anna Barnard And The Dwarfs Of Damascus

Anne Barnard writes for the NYT. Here recent piece, Enlisting Damascus Residents to Answer Assad’s Call, is datelined "Damascus". As usual in the NYT Barnard's piece emphasizes sectarianism again and again. But how believable is this sectarian tale?

One may estimate how credible Barnard's writing is from this vignette:

At the entrance to a Shiite Muslim quarter, Mr. Lotof inspected a new checkpoint guarded by a baby-faced 18-year-old clutching a rifle nearly his height.
The usual AK-47 has an overall length of 87cm (34.3 in). The slightly larger U.S. M-16 has an overall length of 99.0 cm (39.0 in). Even rather large snipper rifles do not exceed 125cm (49.2in). But they are mostly useless for a checkpoint guard.

Are we therefor to believe that the Syrian government has dwarfs guarding the streets of Damascus? And that everything in the war on Syria is about sectarianism?

Posted by b on July 21, 2013 at 07:03 AM | Permalink

Comments

Maybe a typo and what she meant was an 8-year old? You know, the shabiha-Jugend who pull the fingernails from even younger civilian toddlers.

Posted by: peter radiator | Jul 21, 2013 9:07:01 AM | 1

I thought she was based in Beiruit to make her life as a stenographer for Harari/March 14th Bin Ladenites easier.

Posted by: blowback | Jul 21, 2013 9:40:56 AM | 2

I'm looking forward to asad's take on this. He seems to have a well cultivated, and entirely justified, contempt for Ms Barnard.
Is not the NY Times partly owned by one of the Sauds?

Posted by: bevin | Jul 21, 2013 9:45:04 AM | 3

Another attempt, with subtle rhetoric, to denigrate opposition to the "Rebels"?

Speaking of subtle rhetoric....

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014543741

Posted by: ben | Jul 21, 2013 9:57:25 AM | 4

bevin @ 3 -- I found info that a Saudi prince owns 5.5% of FOX news and has influenced how some issues are covered (he asked that the riots in Paris suburbs be called "youth riots" instead of "Muslim riots," as FOX had labeled then, and he asked FOX News to support the purchase of a US port. Both instances are a few years ago.

Do you have any citations for partisl ownership of the NYTimes by a Saudi? I did read that the Ochs family controls 90% of the stocks, but I'm not sure that's the most up to date figure.

Posted by: jawbone | Jul 21, 2013 10:25:24 AM | 5

No, jawbone, I don't have any info. I know that a Mexican telecoms thief and billionaire owns a chunk of the Times. I'm sorry I raised the matter, it doesn't really make a difference.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 21, 2013 10:42:11 AM | 6

When digging deeply into this article, there is some good information here. The problem, as I see it, is with the reporter's overall tone of disbelief in the claims of the local people while giving credence to the words of anonymous "critics" (and taking them at face value). This article succumbs to the classic "objectivity" problem where reporters don't try to find and report the truth, but instead attempt to balance two sides without weighing the validity of each sides case.

From the information reported, this article could easily point to the conclusion that what is occurring is this: local people coming together to form multi-ethnic, multi-confessional groupings to defend their city - and the historic sites within it - from sectarian extremists and criminals. It could easily go from there into talking about the problems with the militias and the governments efforts to create this National Defense Force in an effort to organize and train (and ultimately to tame) the militia. Instead the reporter stresses (using quotes from uprising supporters safely living in the Old City) the past problems with the militia that the creation of the NDF seeks to address.

But since the narrative of secular militias being organized by the Syrian government as that doesn't that doesn't fit with the "Sunni vs Shia", "both sides are to blame", "Assad, the Shiite tyrant" narrative of the United States and Israel have developed, the reporter attempts to focus on "Shiite enclaves" (never named, just cited as such) and the training in Iran (where else are they to train?) and "A Sunni gangs" (failing to label them as supremacist and without counterposing them with the local, non-sectarian Sunnis).

Some excerpts I found interesting:

"But skeptical residents say that the committee seems to be more about consolidating support for the government and that government critics have not been invited." You think? Perhaps the United States should have invited al Qaeda to have their say in Iraq (er, perhaps that's a bad example...).

"... several Sunnis whom Mr. Lotof had helped release from jail said they had recanted pro-opposition views that had landed them there, formed a militia with Mr. Lotof’s help ... has helped ransom dozens of kidnapped Shiites and brokered deals to release Sunnis jailed on charges of supporting the uprising." How very sectarian of him and the government! Shocking display of extremism and brutality against the Sunni enemy... you know, letting them free and giving them weapons...

Though the tone is certainly anti-government, the reporting in this article could be very useful for people supporting the government:

1. The militias being formed in government controlled areas of Syria are multi-confessional.
2. The government is doing its best to organize and maintain control over the militias. Government controlled areas of Syria, unlike the rebel controlled counterparts, are not areas of simple lawlessness.
3. The government is lenient with former members of the opposition, including canceling prison sentences for those who will recant extremist views and reintegrating them into society - going even so far as to arm them and integrate them into the local security structure.

That's the news here. Not "the militia are being trained in Iran!" (I'd be very curious if Sunni militia men have also trained in Iran) which seems to be what the reporter hopes readers will take home.

Posted by: guest77 | Jul 21, 2013 11:47:58 AM | 7

has helped ransom dozens of kidnapped Shiites and brokered deals to release Sunnis jailed on charges of supporting the uprising.
What occurred to me when I saw that sentence in the article is that she is talking about brokering deals between the government and the rebels: release x hostages and the govt will release y prisoners. But she doesn't want to say that in so many words, so she introduces the red herring of "ransom" instead.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 21, 2013 12:06:01 PM | 8

“We are peaceful people,” said Toufiq Isra, 40, a contractor whose dress shirt seemed out of place in his sandbag shelter. “We reject carrying weapons, but we don’t have any options.”

Well, Toufiq, a contractor in a dress shirt[sic], freedom isn't free, as they say. So go grab a rifle and stop bitching.

Barnard's silly no-content piece against local militias -- "Enlisting Damascus Residents to Answer Assad’s Call" -- is odd since it is the very policy (initiated by General Petraeus) that the U.S. is pursuing in Afghanistan. There, the national army is (1) incompetent and (2) from another tribal region of the country, so it was thought best to have local people do their own policing and defense.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 12:45:35 PM | 9

re: sectarianism in Syria.

I don't do any tweeting myself, I don't know how, but sometimes others' tweets are instructive. Here's some tweets from https://twitter.com/ABarnardNYT indicating not sectarianism but only a moderate/extremist divide in anti-Syria forces, and correspondence with b's buddy (not) Josh Landis.

Overall, one might say that Barnard doesn't have a clue, based on this, which makes her fine for the Times.

Joshua Landis @joshua_landis 13 Jul
Syrian Rebel Infighting over future identity of Islam Undermines Anti-Assad Effort @ABarnardNYT http://nyti.ms/10SfqYx

Jameel @jameel20210 13 Jul
@joshua_landis @ABarnardNYT unless that would serve as grounds to support FSA after it clearly isolates itself from radical Islamic movement

Anne Barnard @ABarnardNYT 13 Jul
@jameel20210 @joshua_landis maybe better longterm 4oppo 2face split now &confront xtremists. not like split stops otherwise imminent victory

Anne Barnard @ABarnardNYT 13 Jul
@jameel20210 @joshua_landis Clear divide=small PR prob for govt that broadbrushed rebs as "wahhabis." But big PR prob (&real prob) for oppo.

David D. Kirkpatrick @ddknyt 13 Jul
“The sea is in front of us, and the enemy is behind us,” NYT Syrian Rebel Infighting.... http://nyti.ms/10SfqYx @abarnardnyt and hwaida saad
Retweeted by Anne Barnard

Kareem Fahim @kfahim 13 Jul
“We staged demonstrations to get freedom, not to have an emir ruling us." http://nyti.ms/10SfqYx @abarnardnyt and Hwaida Saad
Retweeted by Anne Barnard

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 12:56:06 PM | 10

@Don "maybe better longterm 4oppo 2face split now &confront xtremists. not like split stops otherwise imminent victory"

How funny are these people? First of all, they're looking for this war to go on "long term" and second, it is clear as day that the FSA is far outmatched by al Qaeda, and it's looking like both together are outmatched by the Syrian Army. Yet this guy draws the conclusion that the FSA should "long term" take on both?

Man, some people really have PR and reality mixed up in their heads.

Posted by: guest77 | Jul 21, 2013 1:22:34 PM | 11

Barnard should be overjoyed that Syrian villages are now forming armed militia for self defense. It's the American way. It's even enshrined in the 2nd Amendment!

Or is she chafing at the thought that Syrian villagers have the chutzpah to act like West Bank settlers? Only Hassidim are allowed to do that...

Posted by: JohnH | Jul 21, 2013 1:38:24 PM | 12

@#11
Sure, let "oppo" confront the extremists we're funding by proxy and directly. But "oppo" are going down in this ongoing confrontation with extremists.

Beeb, Jul 12 (excerpts)

A senior rebel commander with the Free Syrian Army has been shot and killed by jihadis. As Paul Wood reports, the killing is part of an escalating struggle within the armed uprising between moderates and Islamists linked to al-Qaeda.

Even as the Syrian regime pushes back the rebels on several fronts, a civil war within the civil war is building on the opposition side. A spokesman for the FSA's Supreme Military Council said Mr Hamami had been driving through Latakia when they ran into a checkpoint run by the main group linked to al-Qaeda in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The fighters at the checkpoint refused to let him pass, saying he would need to get permission from their emir. He told them they had to take their checkpoint down. As the argument raged, one of the fighters - a foreign jihadi from Iraq, it is said - raised his weapon and shot Mr Hamami. The FSA men retreated with their mortally wounded commander.

According to the FSA, the emir gave a long list of reasons for the killing, one of which included the fact he was a member of the FSA's Supreme Military Council.

A year ago, the jihadis were still operating almost underground in Syria. Now they are powerful and important players, in some places running whole towns, where they impose Sharia law. "This is a disaster for us, a disaster for the revolution," a female opposition activist told me.

By the laws of sheer demographics in Syria, President Assad should have been finished long ago. Three quarters of the country is Sunni and this is a predominantly Sunni uprising.

But now some who supported the revolution are even switching, however reluctantly, to the regime, as the lesser of two evils. The result is that the government is looking stronger than ever.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 1:44:24 PM | 13

b: As usual in the NYT Barnard's piece emphasizes sectarianism again and again. But how believable is this sectarian tale?. . . And that everything in the war on Syria is about sectarianism?

Reading the Barnard piece again, I don't see that. I see many sects acting against extremism.

. . several Sunnis whom Mr. Lotof had helped release from jail said they had recanted pro-opposition views that had landed them there, formed a militia with Mr. Lotof’s help. . .groups from different sects had signed up to defend against rebels they view as sectarian extremists and criminals. . .they had recanted pro-opposition views that had landed them there, formed a militia with Mr. Lotof’s help, and were now armed and patrolling a Sunni enclave of the Old City.

Nowhere does that debate carry higher stakes than in the Old City, where for centuries Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and, until recent decades, a sizable community of Jews lived and worked together in a vibrant symbol of Syrian coexistence. Residents of a wide range of sects and political beliefs share a desire to preserve its landmarks and diversity, even if they disagree on the methods.

They fear the example of Aleppo’s Old City in the north, where centuries-old mosques and markets have been destroyed in the fighting.


That's a good thing. Of course other parts of the piece are BS, like the baby-face dwarf and: ". . he was flown with 500 other Syrian Shiites to Iran, where Revolutionary Guards trained them to use rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars." I think Syrians are smarter than that.

And this is interesting -- I doubt that Barnard fabricated it:

Mr. Lotof, 42, a Shiite Syrian-American, said he left behind his businesses in New Jersey — a Domino’s Pizza franchise and an Arabic-language newspaper — to take on a striking combination of roles here. He not only hands out weapons, he also runs the Old City’s government-sponsored reconciliation committee, billed as a venue for citizens to bring problems directly to municipal officials and to smooth community relations.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 2:43:28 PM | 14

The unspoken premise running through Barnard's reporting on the civil war is that all violence and suffering is al-Assad's fault because he did not promptly accede to protester demands during the spring of 2011. Yes, state security forces murdered people -- as is done here in the U.S.A. -- and this, as always, made things worse. But what Barnard consistently ignores, pushing any acknowledgement to the bottom of her stories, is that the Wahhabis have hijacked any Arab Spring zeitgeist left in Syria.

Last week, a video she made in Damascus was posted on the New York Times website:
http://www.nytimes.com/video/2013/07/17/world/middleeast/100000002289577/daily-life-in-damascus.html

She was taken to a location, an outdoor cafe, where students had recently been struck and killed by a rebel mortar. Barnard, with the thinly-veiled cynicism of seasoned government operative, seems to dismiss the scene as Baathist party propaganda.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Jul 21, 2013 3:00:33 PM | 15

And don't forget the Kurds v. everybody

Reuters reports that "Islamist-Kurdish fighting spreads in rebel-held Syria . . .The Kurds retaliated by kidnapping several fighters, including the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, one of the most powerful Qaeda-affiliated forces fighting in Syria."

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has been reported to be strong in Syria's north, so this capture if true is large. You can read more about ISIS here and here.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 3:19:59 PM | 16

"he also runs the Old City’s government-sponsored reconciliation committee, billed as a venue for citizens to bring problems directly to municipal officials and to smooth community relations."

I guess they didn't want to just follow the US model: a round of ethnic cleansing and build concrete walls between the groups.

Posted by: guest77 | Jul 21, 2013 3:32:56 PM | 17

@Mike Maloney #15
The unspoken premise running through Barnard's reporting on the civil war is that all violence and suffering is al-Assad's fault

That premise exists because it's US government policy. If Barnard wouldn't accept the premise she would join the unemployment line. Along with this goes the demonization/personalization of Syria as "Assad," so Syria is called Assad as in ". . .to Answer Assad’s Call."

The same reporting techniques are used with other US-concocted enemies like North Korea, Iran, Cuba, etc. There is a problem with Iran now because the supposed dictator/holocaust denier/all-around-fool Ahmadinejad is stepping down for the newly elected Rohani. Damn, there's goes our chief demon. What to do?

Regarding casualties (deaths), the Coventry Clothier (Syrian Observatory) who is an anti-Syrian propagandist has reported:
NYTimes, Jun 26, 2013

War Deaths in Syria Said to Top 100,000

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and relies on a network of activists in Syria for its information, put the total number of dead at 100,191 since the Syrian revolt began in March 2011.

In its breakdown, the group said the dead included 36,661 civilians, including 8,000 women and children; 13,539 rebel fighters; and 2,015 defectors from government forces.

Among pro-government forces, the group said 25,407 regular soldiers had been killed along with 17,311 members of militias and pro-government units including some listed as informers for the government.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 3:38:49 PM | 18

Now this NYTimes article by Anne Barnard and two others last month DOES talk about sectarian conflict.

NYTimes, Jun 1, 2013

BAGHDAD — Renewed sectarian killing has brought the highest death toll in Iraq in five years. Young Iraqi scholars at a Shiite Muslim seminary volunteer to fight Sunnis in Syria. Far to the west, in Lebanon, clashes have worsened between opposing sects in the northern city of Tripoli.

In Syria itself, “Shiites have become a main target,” said an opposition activist, who refused to be identified because of safety concerns. He was visiting Lebanon from a rebel-held Syrian town, Qusair, where his brother died Tuesday battling Shiite guerrillas from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. “People lost brothers, sons, and they’re angry,” the activist said.


And it has a quote from the ubiquitous pizza-guy Rafiq Lotof, who seems to have a ready quote on both sectarianism and anti-extremism. You need a quote? He's got it.
Rafiq Lotof, a Syrian-American Shiite who left his pizza business in New Jersey to help Syrian officials organize militias known as the National Defense Forces, said recently in Damascus that Shiite religious passions would help the government survive.

“If we start to lose control, you will see thousands of Iranians come to Syria, thousands of Lebanese, from Iraq also,” Lotof said. “They are going to fight, they are not going to watch. That’s part of their religion.”

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 3:57:18 PM | 19

Very clear manipulation of facts, mrs Barnard is a tool. A mere dispenser of propaganda. That is what passes for news nowadays in the imperium. Mierda.

Posted by: Fernando | Jul 21, 2013 5:48:31 PM | 20

What this article does not dispute is that the government of Syria is arming the population. This would suggest that, contrary to the mythology promoted by NATO and its Louis Proyect like friends, the population, given arms and ammunition, chooses not to carry out the "revolution" against the baath regime but to defend themselves against terrorists armed by imperialism, some of whom pose as revolutionaries.
Given that the largest single sect in Syria is that of the Sunnis and that the largest number of armed fighters on the government side are Sunni the sectarian conflict story is clearly wishful thinking on the part of imperialism.
The truth is that in Syria, as was the case in Iraq, the divide between sunni and shia is not of much significance except to the wahhabi sectarians whose masters employ them to turn Baghdad and Damascus into middle eastern Belfasts.
In fact it seems that most of the anti-government fighters and all of their weapons and money are foreign in origin.
I would add two points: the first is that the terrorism in Iraq is part of the same war and is carried out by Saudi agents.
The second is that Syria's government, and indeed Iraq's would be well advised to recognise the force and legitimacy of Kurdish nationalism and to offer Kurds the right to establish a nation state. This would be both just and politically wise. It would also put an end to imperialist attempts to use Kurdish nationalism to weaken the cause of the Arabs.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 21, 2013 9:44:10 PM | 21

@bevin 21

You're right, the government is arming the people, both in the form of neighborhood patrols and the NDF militia. However the government is still reluctant to use regular army in especially important areas. The patterns is usually Republican guard does the initial assault, NDF helps clean up. The regular army is used more to secure areas and as a response force when local patrols, police, or NDF are under rebel attack. Or as a sort of swat team for reports of local rebel activity. I'm as strongly on the side of the Syrian gov as anyone, but they are still holding regular army back.

As for Kurdish nationalism, it's unfortunate that the Kurds can't have their own state, but it might be a bad time for them to agitate for one. The creation of a Kurdish state today would probably mirror the creation of Israel. There would be war.

Posted by: Crest | Jul 21, 2013 10:15:36 PM | 22

@bevin
Sorry I transposed a bit of your comment in my head. I meant to say that they were holding back the regular army from fighting in hotly contested fully Sunni areas, because they don't wish to alienate them or cause any reason for more betrayals and defections. Your assertions are essentially correct. The sectarian angle arose immediately once people started doubting the chemical weapons angle. The only people who wish for sectarian conflict are fat craven monarchs and their israeli friends.

Posted by: Crest | Jul 21, 2013 10:18:35 PM | 23

@don bacon 14

The training of Shiite militias to protect holy sights is not fiction. Mostly Iraqis, some Yemenis, and some others have been trained in Iran to protect shrines from destruction by salafist geeks. They've posted about it on their own facebooks. It's surely not part of the Syrian governments sectarian blablabla, its purely defensive measure designed to ease the strain on Syrian government forces, by training and equipping people to defend holy sights so regular army doesn't have to.

To backtrack again from my post @22, I don't mean that Syrian army soldiers are ready to defect at any moment, everyone who wanted to defect has. And many defectors have given up arms and disavowed the rebellion. But the gov has managed things in a more sensitive way to avoid it happening again.

Posted by: Crest | Jul 21, 2013 10:48:00 PM | 24

Arming the Syrian people is part and parcel of President Assad's plan that included the understanding of Syrians that they were deceived, and now there has been a change in their opinions that allows them to participate in Syria's defense.

sana, May 30

There is no doubt that as events have unfolded Syrians have been able to better understand the situation and what is really at stake. This has helped the Armed Forces to better carry out their duties and achieve results. So, what is happening now is not a shift in tactic from defense to attack, but rather a shift in the balance of power in favor of the Armed Forces.

The main reason for tipping the balance is the change in people’s opinion in areas that used to incubate armed groups, not necessarily due to lack of patriotism on their part, but because they were deceived. They were led to believe that there was a revolution against the failings of the state. This has changed; many individuals have left these terrorist groups and have returned to their normal lives.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 21, 2013 10:51:44 PM | 25

Fernando @20: Its all a matter of perspective, and view point. If you have the right low down view point, perspective can make a short gun look taller than the person holding it.

Posted by: Yonatan | Jul 22, 2013 4:50:23 AM | 26

Fernando @20: Its all a matter of perspective, and view point. If you have the right low down view point, perspective can make a short gun look taller than the person holding it. Posted by: Yonatan | Jul 22, 2013 4:50:23 AM | 26
You mean, if Anne Barnard was lying on the ground, on the gun side of the dwarf? That's certainly a possible explanation.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 22, 2013 5:41:54 AM | 27

As expected, the EU lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization..I guess the defeat in Al-Qussir was too bitter to swallow...


Interesting times :)

Posted by: Zico | Jul 22, 2013 6:37:30 AM | 28

@Crest #24 "Mostly Iraqis, some Yemenis, and some others have been trained in Iran to protect shrines from destruction by salafist geeks. They've posted about it on their own facebooks."

Why would they have to travel to Iran? It doesnt make any sense. Iranian (and their disciples from Hezbollah) already are in Syria and training militia here en masse. Much like Americans or UK dont transport jihadis to their countries for training, they do it in place, near the borders.

Its a common sense logistics, the time it takes for Iran to transfer back and forth and train few hundred of militia's in Iran, they could train tens of thousands in Syria.

Posted by: Harry | Jul 22, 2013 6:37:34 AM | 29

Why would they have to travel to Iran? It doesnt make any sense.

Live fire exercises and special forces training. Hezbollah do all their live fire training in Iran!

Posted by: hans | Jul 22, 2013 8:01:58 AM | 30

Zico

Rather have to do with pressure from Israel/supporters, especially since this group havent commited any terror against any european state.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 22, 2013 8:12:52 AM | 31

"As expected, the EU lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization..'

Why? Because it scares the shit out of them.
Resistance? The very concept makes the neo-liberals shake like leaves.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 22, 2013 8:51:09 AM | 32

Just a small detail:

While the original AK-47 had a wooden full stock and basically all successors had a full stock version, too (usually plastic), what one actually uses (and sees) most are AKMS models (optionally with different sight variants) which are just around 70 cm long with the stock folded.

On the other hand a bajonetted full stock AK 47/74/1xx is typically used for *formal* guarding (guarding in presentation uniform with a full size weapon held vertically in front) should be around 115 - 120 cm. But for those duties pretty every country uses upper 15% size soldiers (usually sorted to be with 5 cm/2" equal sizes. I guess that in Syria those soldiers are in the 1m80 to 1m85 range but definitely not below 1m70.

But then, considering that Mrs. barnard is, uh, how to say that, uh, quite probably a "dual citizen" one should anyway assume that the lies she stacks up in an article reach "nearly her height" ...

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 22, 2013 10:04:16 AM | 33

As expected, the EU lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization

Yet again the EU shows how subservient it is to the US. Just in the last few weeks we have had the NSA wiretapping, grounding the Bolivian President, and now this shit. Why the hell are we pimping out our foreign policy to that trailer park trash across the ocean? The EU has a population of 500 million. We have the largest, most powerful economy in the world, when taken as one bloc. Why should we let a crumbling empire dictate what our foreign policy is.

Cowardice and Stupidity. The fact that EU officials mentioned the Bulgaria bombing as the main reason boggles the mind, since the new President of Bulgaria has said they still have not established a connection.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jul 22, 2013 11:33:55 AM | 34

Colm, I realise this is a bit of a dangerous point, but consider the power of the central bankers. It is unrealistic to assume, as is commonly assumed, that their political preferences are irrelevant to their actions as bankers, that they somehow wall off their political preferences and make purely 'technocratic' decisions. This is the final great myth of our time, I fear. Dispelling it will be very messy, because it will involve looking at who the central bankers actually are. And this, for obviously reasons, is strichtig verboten.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 22, 2013 11:37:43 AM | 35

At the entrance to a Shiite Muslim quarter, Mr. Lotof inspected a new checkpoint guarded by a baby-faced 18-year-old clutching a rifle nearly his height.

[snip]

Are we therefor to believe that the Syrian government has dwarfs guarding the streets of Damascus?

No it means that you're not entirely familiar with English language idiom any more than I would be with idiomatic German or French.

To say that a new checkpoint was guarded by a 'a baby-faced 18-year-old clutching a rifle nearly his height' is merely to say that the check point was guarded by somebody who looked far younger that 18 years old and was slightly built.

Dubhaltach

Posted by: Dubhaltach | Jul 22, 2013 11:41:21 AM | 36

On Lebanon, I think I can see what will happen. Hariri will insist that any government including Hezbollah will be an international absurdity, because EU governments will refuse to deal with all of its members. And the red herring will be that by supporting the legitimate government of Syria, Hezbollah has invited retaliatory sectarian terrorism into Lebanon. Even if you find the Bulgaria bus bombing allegation as implausible as all the other allegations of literal terrorism made against Hezbollah, this Syria argument will sound like a substantive argument, at least to the mass media, who will dutifully repeat it. And the ordinary reader will just feel outmanoevred by this, because after all its logic is quite opaque, and will give up trying to judge the issue at all. Leave it to the politicians, they at least are paid to make sense of all this, will be the feeling.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 22, 2013 11:52:16 AM | 37

@Dubhaltach #36
To say that a new checkpoint was guarded by a 'a baby-faced 18-year-old clutching a rifle nearly his height' is merely to say that the check point was guarded by somebody who looked far younger that 18 years old and was slightly built.

Except that Barnard's description of the youth, while generally irrelevant, just happens to tie in with her thematic denigration of Damascus militias, which is probably not a coincidence and thus suspicious particularly due to its obvious inaccuracy.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 22, 2013 11:56:17 AM | 38

Stating the obvious: When the U.S. entered world wars I and II, and for the latter provided the primary economic support for the western campaigns, it earned the right to rule Europe forever, which it is doing.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 22, 2013 12:03:56 PM | 39

Yes, Don, I take it you are picking up my point about the central bankers. The dollar became the reserve currency of the world, and so on. But who are they, these central bankers? It is said that the most powerful financial dynasty of the USA is still the Rockefellers, but I wonder. Back in the 1920s, the talk was of 'international bankers'. And you know what attempts to identify these gentlemen led to.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 22, 2013 12:10:45 PM | 40

Don Bacon | Jul 22, 2013 11:56:17 AM | 38

LOL your loyalty is touching however that's just the way she writes. B was making too much of an idiomatic expression just as you and I probably would with the equivalent in German. I wonder how many different ways someone could write "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" if they wanted to do it in idiomatic somewhat slangy German.

Dubhaltach

Posted by: Dubhaltach | Jul 22, 2013 1:12:49 PM | 41

@ Rowan

I take your point on central bankers and obviously that is a lot of it. The two economic systems (US and EU) have been merged to a great extent. There was a time when central banking in Europe was Euro-centric. I remember reading (around 2003-2004) about how the US was worried that the Euro currency would achieve dominance over the Dollar. Obviously now a lot of that talk has died and the EU central banking institutions have chosen to be more Pro-US than Pro-Europe.

I think a lot of the antagonism at the time was due to Chirac, who had a very Gaullist approach to US rule and US culture infecting France, that obviously found a lot of support amoung other EU nations during the Bush reign. Nowadays the German phrase Atlantiker seems to sum up the thinking of not just the central bankers but all of the elite structure in Europe.

Hopefully in the future this will change. The Chinese Yuan will probably make a play for the reserve currency or at least dethrone the US dollar in favor of a basket of currencies. China rising along with European dependence of Russian (and maybe Iranian) natural gas should move us towards a more independent foreign policy. Also the US pivot to the Pacific means it will spend less resource trying to win over Europe.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jul 22, 2013 1:20:32 PM | 42

Colm O Toole

I agree with most, especially the stupid non existing burgas connection. However its not US but Israel that have pressured European union the most on this, although - apparently Israel is not happy enough, they want more (read the israeli headlines today).

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 22, 2013 2:02:22 PM | 43

its not US but Israel that have pressured European union the most on this, although - apparently Israel is not happy enough, they want more (read the israeli headlines today). Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 22, 2013 2:02:22 PM | 43
Yes, it's the famous distinction without a difference, between Hezbollah's "political" and "military" wings. But I think the point is that this allows tactical discretion. Whenever Lebanon tries to form a new government, the pressure can be subtly shifted, by blacklisting some Hezbollah politician or other, alleging that he is really a "terror master" with "ties to the IRGC" etc. Now, how does Israel manage to exercise such influence on the policy-making levels of the EU (that is to say, foreign minister level, which is pretty high up)? In my opinion, it does it by working with the US, bargaining behind the scenes for eg trade concessions to Europe from the US in return for the desired resolutions. And this means, not exactly that Israel necessarily controls the US, ZOG style, but at least that Israel can be certain that the bargains it arrives at will be honoured by the US, since Israel can use its multiple agents of influence in the US government (I'm thinking of Under-Secs) to ensure the US agrees to whatever. This is complicated, but it approximates to what I have been reading between the lines of the political newspapers for the last ten years.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 22, 2013 2:27:00 PM | 44

Bernhard, thanks for the jesting ... and to you above for this stimulating thread.

I've missed Moon of Alabama for a while, but this reminds me why we all came here in the first place.

Specifically the analysis of Syria's government arming her people rings true, as does the discussion of the men behind the curtain. In the province of British Columbia where I live there was a predicted New Democrat (centre Left) landslide victory over the incumbent Liberal (centre Right) party, shamed after a series of poorly-reported privatizations and scandals.

After a media-rich campaign the neoliberal, or business-first party won.

It turns out that BC has no law against out-of-province election funding, in fact out-of-country funding is welcomed here. Well spent sir!

Another example of capital over people. Explained here, via the amazing Salt Spring News. Thanks Jim Scott!

- jonku

Posted by: jonku | Jul 23, 2013 4:53:14 PM | 45

Interesting article at Syria Comment by Aron Lund about the pro-government militias and the label, "Shabbiha." Aron Lund (who did an interesting series about the various insurgent groups a few months back), displays a familiarity with the range of Syrian groups that few other reporters have matched; but his anti-Assad sentiments season his perception of the big picture in Syria, so that readers should take his analysis with a healthy dose of salt.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Jul 25, 2013 9:18:26 PM | 46

Basically President Assad wants disunion in his enemies and control of his own forces, including militias. So he's got the Kurds fighting the Islamists fighting the FSA, which is cool, but he doesn't want to have his militias fighting each other so he moves to control them, as Barnard notes.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 25, 2013 9:44:41 PM | 47

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