Posts Tagged ‘civil war’

It is rumoured that the hard heads in the GOP have already given up any hope of Donald Trump winning the Presidential election in November and are casting their minds to 2020 with increasing attention. They were hardly helped by the laughable plagiarism scandal of Donald’ Drumpf’s poor wife reading a speech written for her that was in part lifted holus bolus from a previous Michelle Obama speech – really, who is running this shambles? – but today’s appearance by beaten candidate Ted Cruz was a killer.

Just look at this:

 

We are by no means fans of Cruz. We just honestly don’t think he’s an awfully nice guy, and he’s a few light years to the right of our own opinions. Mind you, it was hard to disagree with any of the platitudes he delivered in this address. And watching a bunch looney-tunes red-necks booing him for sympathising with the child of a dead Dallas policeman was not the most edifying thing we’ve ever seen.

But today the chickens came home to roost as he very obviously did NOT endorse the equally loathsome Trump as the GOP’s candidate, ripping any semblance of party unity to shreds. Hardly surprising when Trump attacked his wife on a very sexist and personal basis during the campaign and also dubbed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”. Probably a bit much to expect them to kiss and make up, although the managers of the GOP obviously lived in hope. If we had been running this convention we would have given all of Trump’s critics inside the party a week’s free vacation somewhere without Twitter or journalists, but hey, what do we know?

Anyhow, as you can see in the video, he was booed off stage at the Republican National Convention in Oklahoma after failing to endorse newly elected presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Now Cruz has been accused of ‘snubbing’ Trump during his speech, after finishing in second place in the primaries. And while his speech initially began with a standing ovation from the audience, the mood quickly changed after Cruz noticeably neglected Trump from his address.

 

Ted Cruz took the stage at the Republican convention. Photo: Getty

“I want to congratulate Donald Trump for winning the nomination last night. And like each of you, I want to see the principles our party believes prevail in November,” Cruz began.

But that was the first and last reference of Trump’s name.

So as he continued, an increasingly restless audience began to realise an endorsement for their leader was not on the cards.

“We want Trump! We want Trump!” fans shouted out over Cruz, as he reminded everyone to vote in November.

 

Cruz was jeered off stage after he failed to endorse Trump. Photo: Getty

“If you love our country and love your children as much as I know you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience and vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the constitution,” Cruz went on.

The final minutes of his speech were virtually drowned out by booing and chanting, leaving him to simply smile ironically and wave as he made his way off stage.

A reporter for CNN said other members of the Republican party were infuriated by the speech.

“The anger is boiling over. So much so that I am told by a source, who was in a donor suite, when Ted Cruz walked in after he said his speech, the people were so angry at Cruz that they were calling him a disgrace to his face,” reporter Dana Bash said.

 

Donald Trump looked unimpressed as he stood at the back of the arena with his family. Photo: AFP

“A state party chair was yelling at him so angrily that he had to be restrained. That gives you a sense of just how intense the anger is now on the floor.”

And Cruz’s wife Heidi had to be escorted from the audience after her husband was jeered off stage, while US Political media site FiveThirtyEight labelled the speech as a “giant middle finger to Trump”.

During the end of Cruz’s address, Trump appeared at the back of the stadium where he waved to his fans before being seated with his family.

Pass the popcorn. This party is unelectable. Not only will Clinton beat Trump hands down – a remarkable achievement for a women who has been ruthlessly pursued, pilloried and calumnised for years now, and as a result is toxically unpopular with vast swathes of the population – but it’s very likely Republicans will lose seats “up and down the ticket”. Exactly how this will play out nationally is as yet indistinct, but it’s an effect that scares Republican grandees and candidates mightily. They will lose good people, vital if the drift of their party to the wilder outreaches of the political wilderness is to be resisted.

And frankly, more fool them. After years of pandering to the “anti-politics” mob in their own party, (of whom Cruz was a leading light), Republicans have been warned again and again and again that they are converting their once great party into a basket case, and effectively transforming America into a one-party-dominated country that is bitterly – very bitterly – divided between “everyone else” and the beaten down, angry, marginalised white working class, the lower middle class, and the elderly.

The Republicans are eating themselves. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better, if it ever does.

Some years ago, we predicted with shattering accuracy in this blog exactly what was about to occur in Syria. Before it started.

If the future conflict in all its horror was clear to a blogger thousands of miles away in Australia, we cannot understand how it was ignored by all the great and good, by those who are paid to know, by those who are tasked to avoid these things.

Instead we stumbled into an entirely avoidable civil war, with hundreds of thousands of dead and injured, with vast swathes of land now ruled by a murderous end-of-days fundamentalist regime that murders and destroys at will and is very likely un-defeatable, with other areas controlled by an Al-Qaeda affiliate that is apparently now our ally, with 4 million refugees, and a once relatively wealthy country reduced to rubble. And with a disgusting fascist regime clinging tenaciously to power, supported by a superpower ally who is now steadily installing forces in the regime’s defence on the ground.

You may wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing. And the great strength of the design is that it doesn’t matter which side of the conflict you “support” … and it is also, of course, applicable to a variety of other conflicts worldwide.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person’s opinion at a time.

Oh, and if you’re one of those asking why Syrian refugees don’t go back where they came from, well, this is why.

Destroyed buildings in Syria's besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.

Destroyed buildings in Syria’s besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

We were wildly opposed to the “allied” invasion of Iraq all along.

It was blindly obvious to millions of people around the world that the West had blurred reasons for invading, that the “weapons of mass destruction” argument was almost certainly a nonsense cooked up by Neo-Con influencers in Whitehall and Washington, that oil was probably the real reason for the war (as later confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Alistair Downer) and the net result would be to de-stabilise the country and the entire region, with hundreds of thousands of likely civilian deaths – as predicted by the Australian Defence Force Chiefs, amongst others – and thousands of Western forces deaths, too.

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Indeed, we were on 3AW radio with John Howard BEFORE the invasion asking him to justify that coming loss of civilian lives.

He flatly denied it would happen. The host, populist right-winger Neil Mitchell, cut the call before we could challenge the then-Prime Minister’s staggering complacency.

No United Nations approval for the invasion was ever obtained, making Howard, Bush and Blair nothing more nor less than war criminals, in our opinion. But history, of course, is written by the victors. Even when that “victory” was won at such painful cost in terms of our own losses and those of those surrounding our invasion.

For the record, the death toll of civilians in Iraq currently stands at over 500,000. Hardly a family has not been affected.

Now, the entirely predictable southward march of the ultra-extremist ISIS has the West in a flat panic again, and with good reason.

With typical shoot from the hip macho-man thoughtlessness, today the Australian Prime Minister has already signalled that the country might join another invasion of the country. Washington is weighing up “boots on the ground” versus air-strikes, versus doing nothing like a rabbit stuck in headlights.

Perhaps Abbott should remember his unusually pertinent comment on Syria, that “it’s hard to know what to do, because it’s essentially baddies against baddies”. It’s just about the only thing he’s ever said we agreed with. Apparently, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that Iraq is the same.

The following articles are educatory and very relevant to what the West does next.

How George Bush and Al-Maliki lost Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-who-lost-iraq-the-iraqis-did-with-an-assist-from-george-w-bush/2014/06/12/35c5a418-f25c-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html

How ‘Iraq’ was never going to be, and Al-Maliki’s failure.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10896711/Iraq-crisis-Rebels-are-fighting-with-a-moral-force-that-the-army-lacks.html

The following facts are certain:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is currently the world’s most appalling extremist bunch of thugs, and must be opposed. If they were to take over Iraq it would be an utter disaster for local people, and the world. They make the Taliban and even Al-Qaeda look like mild-mannered nuisances.

 

Isis at a glance

ISIS at a glance

 

ISIS is a response to Sunnis being pushed to the margins by the Alawite-led Shia in Syria and the Shia in Iraq. Western meddling in both countries has made the situation uncountably worse.

Saddam Hussein was a brute. So is Hafez Assad. Unfortunately, we now look very much like we are replacing them with something even worse.

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

Do we know what to do? No, we don’t. We suspect the West’s response will be airstrikes on the insurgents, to uncertain effect strategically, and to the certain effect of enraging Sunni opinion yet further.

What is certain is that whatever happens next will not be a long term solution to the tensions of the Middle East, and the ongoing conflict between Sunnis and Shia in particular.

The only long-term solution will be a political one, involving mutual respect, and effective power-sharing. The recent developments in Iraq have renewed the possibility, much discussed during the war a decade ago, and a possibility that we considered made much sense at the time, that Iraq be divided into three separate regions or even nations – the mostly Shiite section, made up of Baghdad and much of the south and east bordering Iran; a Sunni area, comprised of western Iraq and parts of the north; and a Kurdish zone, also in the north and including the cities of Erbil and Kirkuk, which Saddam tried to populate with Arabs.

ISIS - well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

ISIS – well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

As night follows day, the fundamental drive to create such a solution will have to come from the Mid-East’s own Islamic populations.

And given their inability to resolve the issue in the last thousand plus years, we should be prepared for it to take some time yet, perhaps generations. If the population fail to create the peace, it is they that shall be mired in seemingly endless conflict, it is their children, wives, husbands, brothers, uncles, sisters and mothers who will be oppressed and slaughtered.

In the meantime, the rest of the world needs to do this:

  • stay out of ill-thought out military adventures in the region,
  • create energy independence for itself,
  • support those in the Middle East who argue for a secular, peaceful, long-term solution, not merely those who appear to be aligned with our perceived interests, and
  • STOP the flow of weaponry to the region, which merely fuels the endless conflict. (We need to remember that well over 90% of people killed in conflicts in the world are not killed by bombs, rockets or missiles, but by bullets.)

The devil is in the detail, of course, but the broad brushstrokes are clear to Blind Freddie. If all the think-tanks in the world can’t get Governments to understand, we give up.

(Partly sourced from Reuters)

Security forces arrests pro-Mursi female protesters during clashes in Alexandria November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Security forces arrests pro-Mursi female protesters during clashes in Alexandria November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Two high-profile Egyptian trials, both arising from years of turbulent protests, have delivered sharply contrasting sentences in the space of just a few months.

In March, a policeman was convicted of shooting at protesters, deliberately aiming at their eyes, during demonstrations in November 2011.

The man dubbed the ‘eye sniper’ was sentenced to three years in prison.

This week, 21 women and teenage girls were found guilty of obstructing traffic during a pro-Islamist protest last month. The 14 women were imprisoned for 11 years, while the seven under the age of 18 were sent to juvenile prison.

You read that right. 11 years in an Egyptian jail for peaceful protest. So much for the democracy of the “Arab Spring”. Yet despite this palpable injustice, the West, and other power blocks, have remained very cautious about criticising the Egyptian military too strongly, obsessed with the fear of another fundamentalist Islamic state being established on the broken bones of what has been in recent years both a key Western ally and in earlier decades a co-operative partner to countries like Russia and China. Everyone seems to prefer a military crackdown to another Islamist Government to deal with.

The verdicts stunned local opposition and rights campaigners, even by the standards of a crackdown in which security forces have killed hundreds of Islamists and arrested thousands since the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July.

“The ruling was shocking. We could not believe that Egypt would lock up its girls with the excuse that they are a threat to security,” said Ramadan Abdel Hamid, whose 15-year-old daughter Rawda and wife Salwa were among those sentenced. One can only imagine his anguish.

“Is this what is going to calm Egypt?” he asked. The answer is surely “no”.

As army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi implements a promised roadmap towards elections, the United States and other countries are watching closely and has repeatedly urged the interim government to treat its opponents with restraint.

Since Mursi’s fall, the US has frozen some military aid to Cairo. The European Union has been encouraging political reconciliation in a bid to stabilise Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the strategic Suez Canal.

PARDON SOUGHT

The security forces have been lionised by state and private media which denounce the Brotherhood as terrorists. But convicting women and girls who peacefully back Mursi has raised the campaign to a new level that could risk provoking a backlash.

So far there have been no street protests against the sentences, but criticism has appeared on social media.

Even leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi called for a presidential pardon, even though he is a fierce opponent of the Brotherhood.

The sentences could give the unpopular Brotherhood some political ammunition as it tries to recover from the crackdown that has all but decimated the movement.

In a statement, an alliance of pro-Brotherhood parties said: “The judiciary rules against the girls of Alexandria within days and goes at the speed of a tortoise in the trial of Mubarak and his gang.”

It said the verdict “proved that the independence of the judiciary has passed away”.

In the picture above, An anti-government protester waves a flag with a picture of youth activist Gaber Salah, during a rally against a new law restricting demonstrations, in front of Egypt’s Parliament in Cairo. Photo: Reuters.

DELICATE ISSUE

women protestingStreet protests are a highly sensitive issue in a country where people power has led to the downfall of two presidents in less than three years, beginning with veteran autocrat – perhaps kleptocrat would be a better phrase – Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The sentencing of the women and girls coincided with tensions over a law passed on Sunday that tightly restricts demonstrations.

While many Egyptians support Sisi and his roadmap, and while Mursi could never be considered to have ruled with any great skill nor restraint himself, even non-Islamists are becoming more critical of the military, suggesting the authorities may have to tread more cautiously.

“I was surprised by how quickly this case was decided,” said Anwar El Sadat, a former member of the People’s Assembly and chairman of its Human Rights Committee. “I was hoping they would show some mercy, especially because it’s women and girls.”

Tamara Alrifai of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch described the case as “shocking”.

“The seven girls are underage and considered children,” she said. “It is part of a wider campaign to put a halt to protests. People seized the right to protest in 2011 and they are trying to take it away from them.”

Relatives of the women and girls have condemned the court ruling, but said it would strengthen their resolve against what they call the military coup to remove Mursi.

womenSohanda Abdel Rahman, 13, said she could not believe her mother was sentenced to 11 years in jail.

“This is an oppressive and political sentencing,” she said after visiting her in prison. “But we began the path and know what will happen to us and we will not retreat.”

Those words should cast a chill through the collective consciousness of the Egyptian military. Here at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, we would simply like to advance some arguments that invariably seem to be ignored time and again by politicians and military men the world over, with the same inevitable effect, and the same inevitable suffering for innocent people. As sure as night follows day:

  • History shows that the will of a people cannot be overcome forever.
  • People who disagree must eventually be brought to peaceably agree, no matter how far apart their opinions seem to be.
  • Peaceful protest can never be wrong.
  • Jailing innocents solves nothing.
  • Persecution is sooner or later served back ten-fold to the persecutors.
  • Local conflicts become civil wars in the blink of an eye.
  • Civil conflicts spill beyond a country’s borders like water finding its own level.

 

As many warned with Iraq, as we warned on this very blog with Syria – a conflict that we said was about to hurtle utterly out of control when the dead still numbered in the dozens not in the hundreds of thousands – Egypt is a live powder-keg and the fuse is lit. Anyone who thinks that moderately advanced countries with modern cities cannot stumble into chaos is ignoring Greece after the Second World War, they’re ignoring the Balkans, they’re ignoring Lebanon. Hell, they’re ignoring Europe in 1939.

And if a major conflict breaks out in Eqypt, one can see an Al Qaeda (and fellow travellers) fuelled insurrection right across the top of northern Africa, and spilling down into countries like Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Sudan … essentially a brushfire that could rapidly become uncontainable, setting Africa back a hundred years, destroying the trade its people need to live, with potentially millions of casualties, and cruelling fledgling moves to democracy. Meanwhile the Syria, Iraq, Iran situation continues to destabilise that region – with Israel uncomfortably co-existing between warring Sunni and Shia tribes, then Afghanistan without a sufficient American and Allied presence descends into turmoil, then Pakistan, then India …

Welcome to World War 3.

Over alarmist? We suggest you Google “Gavrilo Princep”.

Gestures can change perceptions. They can affect the public mood. Dramatically.

So: time to release those women? Well, that’s what we think. And fast.

Syria takes to the streets

How should the West react?

I am re-publishing my original article on the situation in Syria, originally published on 23rd December, and before Syria became the issue du jour on the nightly news, because my conclusion then seems even more pressing today.

Sadly, what I predicted them – a full-scale civil war that threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries and embroil the area in an unpredictable and murderous regional conflict – is even more likely than it was a couple of months ago, if it could not be said to be enthusiastically underway already.

I return to my thesis of before Christmas. Distasteful as it may be to contemplate, the Assad regime is not only vicious and cruel, it is also proving extraordinarily difficult to dislodge. Atrocity is heaped on atrocity – even if, sadly, we only really pay attention when brave western journalists are deliberately targeted and killed and injured – and the situation, already bloody in the extreme, threatens to spiral utterly out of control.

The simple fact is, if you thought the mess in Libya was protracted, and you are disappointed that the flowering of democracy in Egypt merely appears to have resulted in the same bad guys remaining in charge under a different name, then get used to being depressed, because the situation in Syria is infinitely more complex and even less likely to provide a neat solution sensible to Western tastes.

Whilst the rebellion is now unlikely to be put down successfully, the infinitely stronger and better equipped government forces can continue to wreak havoc on rebel areas for many months or years. There is no widespread desire to replace Assad in the capital as a whole, not because it is a highly successful regime, but merely because the capital of this relatively modern and essentially secular country fears the arrival of an incoming Islamic regime even more.

Whilst Assad and his cronies must, eventually, step aside for there to be a lasting settlement, with no obvious “out” they will cling to power – stubbornly – for a long time yet, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a “failed state” governed by competing factions and warlords. The stage is set for a humanitarian disaster that will make the civilian casualties in the Arab Spring thus far look like a merely prelude to the main tragic opera.

I repeat what I said below: there needs to be a circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker, much as even saying it sticks in my craw, is to create a safe haven for the Government and its more enmeshed Baathist fascists.

Many will remain behind, and de-Baathification of some future Syria is a myth. Just as with Iraq, the other country ruled for a generation by a brutal Baathist strongman, they will be needed to ensure a continuance of civil society after the Assad dynasty and its most ironed-on supporters have been spirited away – to Russia, perhaps, which has proven entirely disruptive of any attempt to bring its satellite to heel.

So shout “Assad out” for all you’re worth, by all means. He and the shadowy figures behind him will not be missed. But remember, as you do, that the only way to actually achieve “Assad out”  without tens of thousands of casualties will be exactly that – an out, for Assad, and the rest of his miserable crew.

And if you don’t want to re-read the original article, just flick to the bottom, and buy the damn tee shirt.

The original article is below

Ignore cafe society trudging on unconcerned in parts of Damascus. There is a genuine and widespread rebellion going on in Syria, yet the reporting of its scale to the west is patchy. Sadly, the regime’s determination to hang on is resulting in many more thousands of deaths than previously feared, at least 400 of which have been children. Read more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/6200-killed-in-syrian-crackdown

It should also be said that the anti-Assad forces may well also be responsible for horrible atrocities. (See the Robert Fisk article below.)

The West’s response to all this, thus far, apart from some ineffectual chest beating, has been muted. Does this reflect that the West would rather a weak President Assad still in place that they can control rather than an unknown, unquantifiable and possibly pro-Islamic-extremist opposition?

Let us be clear. The longer the aspirations of the Syrian people are crushed, the more fundamentalist, non-secular and anti-Western the incoming regime will be. It is time for the West to be unambiguously on the side of the angels, and the angels are emphatically not Assad and his cronies.

No, no: I do not mean the West should invade Syria on behalf of the rebels, or any other sort of militarist posturing or adventuring. But back channels must now be used effectively to ensure that the true leaders in the military-Baathist alliance realise that the game is well and truly up, and they must make way for a new and more democratic Syria, or inevitably end up hanging from street lights themselves.

And if necessary – and let us say the unsayable here – safe haven must be found for current regime insiders – yes, including Assad and his family themselves – stomach-turning though that prospect may be – in order to prevent the possible loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in a full-scale civil war.

Time is short. And as this article by the eminent British writer Robert Fisk enumerates, the fear of the coming conflict embroiling next-door Lebanon is very real too.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/robert-fisk-shadow-of-syrian-conflict-stretching-into-lebanon-2630243.html

These are dangerous times indeed, and needless to say, if we do not manage them correctly, then the real losers will be – overwhelmingly – innocent men, woman and children who simply dream of living in peace and freedom. It would be easy to despair, but we cannot. This situation must be resolved, or we abandon the innocents to the militia, the armed lunatics, and fanatics, and the psychopaths.

On all sides.

You may also wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person's opinion at a time