I lifted this from an EO comment. That is why it has no paragraph breaks. pl
"Colonel – this is an email I sent in response to a reproach that in opposing Western policy in Syria I was supporting a mass murderer, as proved by Assad’s actions in recovering East Aleppo. It’s too long for insertion in your comments section but it occurs to me that if your committee of experts were able to put together an overview of the Syrian war with particular reference to East Aleppo it might give many of us something to fall back on when responding to such reproaches. “The Syrians had to get East Aleppo back or they’d have had little chance of successfully resisting Daesh in the longer term. But what occurred in East Aleppo might also be viewed as a hostage release operation. The Jihadis were fighting from a populated area. It was therefore difficult to defeat them without civilian casualties. For this reason the Russians kept on agreeing to cease fires or "pauses" in the fighting in order to get the civilians out. In the meantime the Jihadis were able to fire indiscriminately into Western Aleppo causing a number of civilian casualties. The pauses the Russians insisted on didn’t work that well because (1) the pauses were used by the Jihadis to regroup and where possible to re-supply, so to some extent the pauses just prolonged the agony. It’s possibly true therefore that more were killed as a result of some of these pauses than were saved. (2) The Jihadis shot at the civilians as they were attempting to leave. In spite of these drawbacks the Russians kept plugging away with the humanitarian pauses and ultimately it did work. By the end they were getting a lot of civilians out and also getting a lot of the Jihadis to lay down their arms. How many moderate rebels did the same we won’t know. The term “moderate rebel” or “rebel” might indeed have some meaning in the Syrian context but it’s a term so often used by the politicians as a euphemism for Al-Qaeda or similar groups that that meaning is never clear. Bear in mind also that many of those Jihadis couldn't really be called true Jihadis anyway. Aleppo was an industrial area before the war. When Daesh took over East Aleppo machinery and equipment was dismantled and taken to Turkey. In addition the sanctions had damaged the Syrian economy. Those two factors meant that many people lost their jobs. When Daesh came in they had a great amount of money behind them so the jobless who’d stayed often enlisted with Daesh in order to feed their families. One aim of the Syrian government was to get these people off the Daesh payroll and back into Syrian society. That seems to have worked, although you can't be sure some won't be shot in a quiet corner later. Some of the Aleppo population who joined Daesh were, however, true believers. Fanatics, just as the invaders were.
Some of those who survived agreed to leave. I suspect the fate of the rest will depend on the circumstances in which they are captured. If they are hiding among the civilians that are still in place then it’s going to be a mess separating them out. The wives and families of the Jihadis presented a problem also. Those Jihadis who agreed to leave are reported to have taken their families with them to Idlib or Turkey. I don’t know if that’s true. I hope so. It’s possible some Jihadis stayed on with the intention of staging a Masada. There was talk of the Jihadis enquiring whether they could have a Fatwa allowing them to kill their families. I don't know whether that was just one of the many pieces of disinformation we’re presented with and I don’t know whether any families were so killed. As for whether it could have been done differently, the Russians learned a lot in the Chechen wars about dealing with Jihadis who've got themselves entrenched in a heavily populated area. You don't just smash the whole lot up with heavy artillery, civilians and all. You try to get the Jihadis out of the heavily populated areas even if that means letting them go to fight elsewhere, and above all you try to get any civilians you can clear of the fighting. All this was done in Aleppo and it seems to have worked. The report you sent me mentions population figures. Originally the Western press was claiming 250,000 civilians trapped in East Aleppo. I don't think that's true. Many of the civilians got out if they could when Daesh arrived. The press also gives the impression that the civilian population supported the Jihadis. Here impressions are all we've got to go on. The relief on the faces of those who were liberated, and their gratitude to the Syrian soldiers, was clear enough but of course those were the videos that were shown. For all we know there could well have been other Syrians who regretted the Jihadis' defeat. The celebrations in Aleppo as it all came to an end couldn't have been faked but again we didn't see the people who weren't celebrating. From reports from other areas it appears that Jihadi rule is not agreeable to the population, whatever creed or group, so it’s likely that most in Aleppo were glad to be free of it. Many of the atrocity stories you're reading are demonstrably fake. The "White Helmets" and the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" are no longer regarded as credible sources, though I still see them quoted by the press. The man who set up the former, incidentally, has just been awarded the OBE. That indicates that our politicians are doubling down on that fiction. The latter I sometimes see stated to be a propaganda outlet for Western Intelligence services rather than just a man running a shop. I’m not sure that improves matters, if true. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if some of the atrocity stories weren't correct. This was no clean fight. The use of civilians by the Jihadis ensured that. I don't think we're that used to this sort of fighting. In the Second World War civilians were used to influence military outcomes – refugee flows were deliberately set in motion to clog up the movements of the opposing army, or civilians were bombed as part of the military strategy – but not as an integral part of the fighting. You could argue that that war was so brutal that civilians who got in the way or were put in the way just got rolled over, but in the Western European theatre at least the attitude was that using civilians as human shields wasn't right. That's still the attitude we have, in the main, and we're not used to operations in which hostage civilians are used for military and propaganda advantage. We like to think that the soldiers do their stuff while looking after us, not while using us as part of their armoury. Forget all that with the Jihadis. I think the reports that civilians were used as human shields by the jihadis in Manbji were probably true and the stories of civilians on the outskirts of Mosul being herded into the city for a similar purpose are true. I don't know that we ourselves have got clean hands either when it comes to causing suffering among civilians. We bomb a disproportionate amount of civilian infrastructure and the claims that we do this for tactical reasons may be correct. Certainly for the Jihadis and maybe for Western strategists civilians are pawns and the use made of those pawns is not much influenced by concern for their welfare. It is, however, influenced by the degree to which they can be used as stage props. What we are seeing in the press reports you send me are the stage props being deployed. Ultimately, what the West is doing in Syria can't be done if the peoples of the Western are massively against it. Therefore the propaganda war here is as decisive as what the men with guns do there. Therefore we must be shown dead bodies and ruined buildings and the message must be constantly reiterated that it’s Assad’s doing. Doesn't even matter if, as sometimes happens, those dead bodies and ruined buildings are from a different place and time. The message must be got through that Assad is brutally killing his own people and that that’s what it’s all about. I’m afraid that this message, repeated day in day out, is indeed what is getting through to the most of us and could be the picture of this war that most of us retain.. I think the Russians understand this very well. As in the case of the Donbass they know that the greater part of the fight is being conducted on the TV screens and computer screens in the West. It is this that accounts for those sometimes counter-productive ceasefires and truces that the Russians are forever agreeing to or imposing, those ceasefires that the military experts fulminate against because it so often loses them the military advantage. I'd like to think that the Russians and the Syrians are motivated by humanitarian reasons too, but even if they're not that is how they had to fight in order to liberate East Aleppo. There's no doubt they had to liberate it. Either the Jihadis were to be allowed to stay in East Aleppo, in which case they had a base for further advances and could continue the random shelling of West Aleppo indefinitely, or they had to be got out. I think the Russians masterminded the operation more skilfully and with fewer civilian casualties than we're going to do if the Jihadis in Mosul don't surrender, and certainly more skilfully than was the case in Fallujah earlier or in Manbji. We should also ask what our governments were doing supporting the Jihadis. Allowing the Saudis and the Gulf States to support them with large amounts of money, allowing the supply routes through a NATO ally, Turkey, and also at first through Jordan, running weapons to them from places like the Ukraine and Bulgaria, and allowing a recruitment operation that fetched Jihadis from as far away as China, all these actions mean that we, or at least our governments, must take the primary responsibility for the Syrian disaster. Before we criticise the Syrians and their allies for doing the best they could to combat the problem we should ask ourselves why we set them the problem in the first place.”"
My reading, based on several sites including SST and MoA, agrees with yours, EO. Here is Eva Bartlett, whom I find much more credible than the Western MSM.
What is instructive is the language used by the Borg.
“Civil war” implying this was a fight between Syrians who had two different visions for their country. Nowhere except among fringe gatherings is the language of proxy war. An invasion by jihadists and Al Qaeda funded and armed by nation states with the intent to overthrow a legitimate government.
Then there is the use of the word “regime” to label the Syrian government. And the head-chopping, liver eating jihadists from outside Syria who wanted to establish a medieval vision of an Islamic state being labeled as “rebels” and even “moderate rebels”. And forgotten conveniently is that the “regime” ran a secular state.
And then of course the personalization and demonization of Assad as the tyrant and butcher.
No wonder they are in meltdown as their Syrian project is on the shoals. Not much different than the meltdown around the defeat of the sure thing Borg Queen in the recent campaign.
Fighting in cities has historically caused the greatest of civilian casualties, the liberation of Warsaw and Manila each took on the order of 100,000 civilian lives and the multi-year siege of Leningrad upwards of a million. Aleppo by comparison has been a walk in the park yet the mainstream media has used terms like “genocide”, “scorched earth”, “daily carpet bombings” and compared it to “Dresden and the destruction of Carthage” secure in the knowledge that the public understandably is ignorant of the gory details of such things. Thus they can get away with claiming a 55 gallon drum improvised munition known as the barrel bomb (invented by the Irgun) is some kind of an unprecedentedly horrendous weapon as opposed to say a single B-52 which can rain down 100 mark 82 500 lb general purpose bombs each of which leaves a whole in the ground 50 feet across and 30 feet deep. I’m hardly an expert in these matters but a little historical research can place Aleppo in a context that refutes the MSM propaganda adding to your already excellent take down of the current narrative.
“Allowing the Saudis and the Gulf States to support them with large amounts of money, allowing the supply routes through a NATO ally, Turkey, and also at first through Jordan, running weapons to them from places like the Ukraine and Bulgaria, and allowing a recruitment operation that fetched Jihadis from as far away as China, all these actions mean that we, or at least our governments, must take the primary responsibility for the Syrian disaster.”
I am not altogether certain whether Jordan, as mentioned here, did indeed completely cease its supporting role in the south of the country. It is true that no effort at re-labeling and re-organizing the unicorn-crews into one bloc was made in the SW-corner the same way as was done in Idlib province and around Azaz to the north. Yet there is this vast stretch in the south-eastern corner of Syria on which info is murky to non-existant, that is variously attributed to be under “New Syrian Army” control as of a few months ago – an outfit supposedly disbanded, last I heard. Of course, back in summer this year there was this episode where two sites of this crew were struck by RuAF. Whether due to “mistake” or due to those fellows being caught doing dealings under the table with ISIL out in the waste, who knows.
Else, I fully agree with the piece. What I can add, however, is that, surprisingly enough, I found similar observations as to the role of western countries in the war in my local newspaper here in Germany just today – in a comment on the title page, no less. Even more remarkably, the comment concluded that “peace is possible_only_with Assad”. The paper may just have regional reach – gets quoted sometimes in major TV news sites, though -, but mayhaps this indicates that those that still prefer to screech hysterically as per the worn-out regime change-script will retreat into their think-tank and discussion-club bubbles to fume in their own delusions. One can hope, at least.
Confronting someones world view, asking them to modify or change it is a task beyond most of us. perhaps not for the amazing Eva Bartlett though.
If somebody cares to listen to the words of Virginia state Senator Richard Black, him being an ex-military person as a former helicopter pilot in Vietnam, about the Syrian war and the besiege of Aleppo, it will become very clear, that Senator Black shares the views of “English Outsider” almost entirely. For me as an European Outsider as well it was quiet astonishing to hear a high ranking US-politician talking like he did, though i am not sure about his rather optimistic prediction of future events. I am afraid, we are still in the phase, where anything, that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Link to Senator Blackˇs interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlGmWQnBCFE
Just to cheer everyone up, our major online news vendor Stuff.co.nz published a perfidious article in which they recommended donating to the White Helmets among other things. 90% of the comments are calling out the propaganda
info is murky to non-existant, that is variously attributed to be under “New Syrian Army” control as of a few months ago – an outfit supposedly disbanded, last I heard
You are referring to what happened at the end of June when, in trying to outsmart the SAA, U.S.trained (5 months training) New Syrian Army (moderate rebels/ activists) was defeated by ISIS around Albu Kamal & pulled out from al-Hamadan airport leaving many dead & wounded.
“40 NSyA militants killed & 15 captured & rest fled into desert after clashes in al-Hamdan AB @ Albo Kamal” claimed ISIS at that time.
They fought for nearly 12 hours and did not get the cover of the coalition AF, as promised, since they were tasked to go to Fallujah -24 hours after it was liberated by the Iraqi forces.
American warplanes were diverted from an offensive launched against the Islamic State last week by U.S.-backed rebels in Syria in order to bomb a more enticing target in Iraq, withdrawing air support at a critical moment and contributing to the failure of the rebel operation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the incident.
MSM propaganda …
from my own nitwit perspective I am wondering concerning the usage of “human shields”. Or more precisely I would like to read a comparative study dealing with matters, ideally from a solid historical basis of matters and earlier usage:
I just want to say “thank you” for this superior summary of the situation.
I hope it becomes more widely disseminated.
I think the dead civilians in Manila were victims of deliberate acts of murder by the Japanese soldiers and officers; crowding people in rooms and then throwing had grenades among them, for example.
They did not have to do that and many more Filipinos would have been alive had Japanese not modeled themselves on Mongols (with grenades).
The piece seems like a fair assessment of the situation AFAIK. A key observation is this:
“Ultimately, what the West is doing in Syria can’t be done if the peoples of the Western are massively against it. Therefore the propaganda war here is as decisive as what the men with guns do there. Therefore we must be shown dead bodies and ruined buildings and the message must be constantly reiterated that it’s Assad’s doing. Doesn’t even matter if, as sometimes happens, those dead bodies and ruined buildings are from a different place and time. The message must be got through that Assad is brutally killing his own people and that that’s what it’s all about. I’m afraid that this message, repeated day in day out, is indeed what is getting through to the most of us and could be the picture of this war that most of us retain.”
IMO, this is what is behind the “Fake News” suppression scam now underway in the USA and especially the PropOrNot operation. A post at Naked Capitalism today cites instances in which the suppression is propagating to broadcast and internet media. The first was a juvenile segment at the Denver NBC outlet, and the second was the removal of Counterpunch from the Google News crawler. God only knows what Facebook, et al are doing.
I missed the bit about the Coalition planes being diverted from Syria but read about the operation outside Fallujah. Iraqi helicopter gunships came across the fleeing ISIS convoy and asked the Coalition for help in destroying it. This was denied because it was thought there might be civilians travelling in it. The pilots of the Iraqi gunships decided to attack the convoy anyway and had pretty much destroyed it when Coalition aircraft showed up. There were claims at the time that the United States and Saudi Arabia had agreed to let the convoy go provided they travelled directly to Syria. I’d didn’t connect the defeat of the New Syrian Army (NSA – is that someone’s idea of a joke) with the destruction of the ISIS convoy outside Fallujah. So the NSA was largely destroyed to preserve the Coalition’s reputation.
Congratulations on a very fine piece.
My only reservation is that I think you may underestimate the extent to which opinion has been changing over the past months.
Although I have had to listen to a very great many of my – educated, middle class – friends simply regurgitating the nonsense that the MSM produces on Syria and Russia, it is clear that the readers of the ‘Daily Mail’ are simply not buying it. How the changes involved are going to develop – and I can see both benign possibilities and ugly ones – seems to me at the moment very hard to gauge.
There is a bizarre dual movement, which is very strange, given that historically one of the sources of the success of the ‘Mail’ has been its feel for its audience: and that of the website, interestingly, seems increasingly to be throughout the ‘Anglosphere’.
Currently, the propaganda in the paper gets more and more hysterical, while the ‘best rated’ comments get more and more dismissive. There is a tension there, which will have to be resolved, in some way.
One interesting recent report is headlined ‘Sweden is “preparing for war” with Russia: Officials are ordered to return to Cold War tactics and implement their Total Defence Strategy as fears of invasion grow.’
(See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4033994/Sweden-warns-preparing-war-Officials-ordered-ensure-civil-defence-infrastructure-ready-fear-Russian-invasion-grows.html .)
Another is entitled, ‘White House tears into Russia for standing by Syria’s Assad as he bombs children on playgrounds: “What kind of sick mind comes up with a strategy like that?”’
(See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4034042/White-House-tears-Russia-standing-Syria-s-Assad-bombs-children-playgrounds-kind-sick-mind-comes-strategy-like-that.html .)
An interesting case of the paper’s instinct for a story overcoming propagandist imperatives, however, is a report headlined:
‘EXCLUSIVE: Ex-British ambassador who is now a WikiLeaks operative claims Russia did NOT provide Clinton emails – they were handed over to him at a D.C. park by an intermediary for “disgusted” Democratic whistleblowers.’
The subheadings read:
‘Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and associate of Julian Assange, told the Dailymail.com he flew to Washington, D.C. for emails
‘He claims he had a clandestine hand-off in a wooded area near American University with one of the email sources
‘The leakers’ motivation was “disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the “tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders”
‘Murray says: “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks”
‘“’Regardless of whether the Russians hacked into the DNC, the documents Wikileaks published did not come from that,” Murray insists
‘Murray is a controversial figure who was relieved of his post as British ambassador amid allegations of misconduct but is close to Wikileaks’
(See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4034038/Ex-British-ambassador-WikiLeaks-operative-claims-Russia-did-NOT-provide-Clinton-emails-handed-D-C-park-intermediary-disgusted-Democratic-insiders.html .)
It is an interesting sign of the times that a large number of the ‘best rated’ comments are from the United States. The second in line, from Scottsdale, is simply ‘Seth Rich. RIP’. It has 1271 approvals to 13 disapprovals. The name recurs rather frequently in the other comments readers approve.
For what little it is worth. In my view, whatever might be said against Craig Murray – and I do not share his enthusiasm for ‘human rights’ – he is patently not a dishonest man. The chances that he would be making these claims to cover up for the Russians seem to me vanishingly small.
The only circumstances in which I could see him deliberately lying is if he was covering up for some other intermediary to Assange, who he believed could be under threat. If that seemed necessary, I would not doubt his courage.
I also think it worth looking at Craig Murray’s discussion of the ‘Crowdstrike’ report on his blog which – rather to my surprise – is wildly funny. (I had been inclined to think he was something of a dour Scot.)
To my mind, he is quite right in arguing that the suggestion that the GRU would mount a hacking operation leaving obvious markers – such as the initials of ‘Iron Felix’ – is nonsense. It seems to me absolutely apt to remark that it appears from the ‘Crowdstrike’ document that ‘despite himself being a former extremely competent KGB chief, Vladimir Putin has put Inspector Clouseau in charge of Russian security and left him to get on with it.’
I am perfectly prepared to believe that MI6 is run by ‘Inspector Clouseau’ types. But, without wanting to exaggerate their capabilities, I do not think that people like General Valery Gerasimov, who Putin appointed as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces in November 2012, and who has overall responsibility for the GRU, are dolts like Dearlove, Scarlett, Sawers, and Younger.
That does not, repeat not, mean that Russian intelligence or figures associated with them have not hacked into all these sites: indeed, if I were Putin, and I were told that all the e-mails of Hillary Clinton, Podesta, etc etc, had not been available to me many months ago, I would be saying ‘heads must roll’ (in a metaphorical sense, of course – these are not Stalin’s times.)
Nor does it mean that one can rule out the possibility that Russian intelligence fed material to WikiLeaks. It simply means that whoever produced the material analysed by ‘Crowdstrike’ was quite patently trying to conceal what actually happened.
(See https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/12/russian-bear-uses-keyboard/ .)
Facebook is posting the “Last Messages from Aleppo”.
Some Iranians reposed those video messages; I guess they had a death wish.
While I generally agree with your comment, I think in a minor detail of the younger history of Aleppo you made a mistake.
It was not Daesh who “took over East Aleppo machinery and equipment and dismantled it and take it to Turkey.” That was the work of the Western backed so-called moderate rebels who mostly operated under the brand of FSA “Tawheed Brigade.” These “FSA” guys, who were equipped and trained in spring 2012 in Turkey, were usually just criminals with hardly any other aim than personal gain, so they dismantled factories to sell them, they systematically robbed the civilian population under their control and they regularly faught against each other for the spoils of war. They couldn’t have cared less for the well being of the population of the places they ruled.
This “rebel chaos” set the stage for the Daesh presence in Aleppo. Daesh infiltrated Aleppo later in 2012 and 2013 as one more rebel group, but unlike the criminal for personal gain “moderate” rebel groups Daesh was harsh, but quite disciplined and they oftenly cared with great devotion for the places and people they ruled. They didn’t rob the people and they repaired civilian infrastructure.
Due to their good organization and discipline Daesh was able to defeat and bring to account many of the disorganized criminal “moderate” rebels in 2013. And Daesh had the support of lot’s of popular support in rebel-held territories in Aleppo and elsewhere, not because they were harsh extremists, but because they were the only force to keep the boundless criminal rebels in check. Many people in rebel areas felt a sense of security – not being robbed on the streets and in their homes anymore – when Daesh came in.
However, the harsh extremist rule Daesh created brought a backlash. Eventually, at the start of 2014, more “moderate” islamist rebels organized in the Islamic front – likely with foreign help – and they defeated Daesh in Aleppo and Idlib and slaughtered all Daesh and the families of the Daesh they could get. So Daesh had to retreat to Raqqa and other areas in the east where Daesh won tough battles to prevail against more “moderate” Western backed FSA rebels – who by that time faught for example in Raqqa under the Nusra brand.
In rebel areas in Aleppo city and the surroundings, the more “moderate” Western/Turkish-backed Islamist front was however not the end of the development. Inside the Western/Turkish-backed Islamists in Aleppo Al Qaeda’s brand Nusra Front became dominant in 2015 – especially when Nusra Front captured Idlib city, the capital of Idlib province, the biggest success of rebels so far. And so it came, that Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and their partners became the dominant power in rebel areas of Aleppo and they defeated all those rebels who worked for democracy or the United States. And while Nusra Front and their partners proved to be socially a bit more tolerant than Daesh, they nevertheless were true political extremists, not wanting any political compromise but only total victory in war, with the aim to install not a democracy, but a sectarian Islamist dictatorship modeled on the Taliban emirate of Afghanistan.
So, over time, more and more people left the rebel areas in Aleppo. Each of the rebel or terrorist rulers over eastern Aleppo, whether more criminal or more extremist, made more people leave for various reasons. And now that rebel coalition led by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was defeated by the Syrian army and it’s allies in Aleppo. I think that’s the true story of Aleppo.
Did the Japanese offer excuses of the Nanking variety? I believe it ran something like “We used terror in Nanking to promote a general Chinese surrender.”
If they did, I never heard of it or read of it.
I speculate that the typical Japanese soldier or officer enjoyed murdering those cheerful people called Filipinos.
Excellent writeup, EO.
That Assad is the worst of the worst meme hasn’t infected all of the elite. Nassim N. Taleb, a well known risk (black swan) analyst has put together a short, “which would you rather have” list on Syrian “moderates” v Assad:
Perhaps what makes this more credible is the claim he is acting against his own interest where he says: “Assad father’s operatives blew up my house in Amioun when my grandfather, then MP, voted for Bashir.”
If we’re discussing the UK at this time, it’s worthwhile reading the following brief article which comments on a recent speech by George Osbourne in the UK parliament. The article also has several interesting links:
Quoting from it:
“The recent dismal record of the British military is not an aberration. In fact, the overall historical record of British military involvement in other countries’ affairs is decidedly poor. In a study published in International Studies Quarterly, Jeffrey Pickering and Mark Peceny concluded that of the all the cases studied, ‘Not a single target of hostile British military intervention liberalized or became a democracy. Hostile British intervention consequently drops out of [our model] because it predicts failure perfectly. Furthermore, hostile British intervention has a negative and significant impact on political liberalization.'”
I agree. English Outsider’s comment is excellent, excellent, excellent.
In my view, Samantha Power is a mass murderer.
These are interesting times. I find that keeping up with the media (mainstream) is somewhat akin to reading tea leaves. As an example, yesterday, December 14th, all day and into the evening there was widespread lamentation and incessant wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention the wearing of sackcloth and ashes, over the slaughter of innocents in Aleppo. Today. on the other hand, there was little said on the matter. What to think? My thought is that it was realized that facts contradicting the narrative were making maintaining the story embarrassing. I wonder if S. Powers’ weird rant at the U.N. was not a breaking point?
Thank you for the correction. Not such a minor one either.
Yes, the high body count in Manila was in large part due to a gratuitous slaughter of civilians by the Japanese whose appalling behavior throughout East and Southeast Asia has been under appreciated by history due to a post war focus on Nazi atrocities.
Yup. Error. The result of some extensive late night cutting. The undifferentiated term “Jihadi” should have been used throughout, although as your correction makes clear some of the factions in East Aleppo scarcely merited even that term. I’ve changed the email to match – I find I’m responding to a few others who are similarly horrified by what they’re hearing about Aleppo. Is that the only correction needed?
I was taken aback by the avalanche of misleading news coming out of Aleppo. The spin and misinformation we’ve all got used to ratcheted up to hysterical levels and almost anything was instanced as proof of mass murder. As David Habbakuk points out above they overdid it and many weren’t taken in. Many were, however, and I think will remain so. The only solution I can think of would be to make SST compulsory reading for anyone near a news desk.
Yes, this is the only major error I saw. However, replacing the term “Daesh” for the more general term “Jihadi” wouldn’t correct that mistake.
If you say jihadis had committed these crimes like looting the factories, it would be not true neither because jihadi implies people driven by jihadist ideology. But the people who did these crimes were often enough simple bands of gangsters or warlords not following any specific ideology other than personal gain. Since today’s narrative is mainly about how bad ideologically-driven jihadi extremists like ISIS are, – and rightly so, because they are indeed really ugly sectarian terrorists – western people tend to forget that there was a time in Aleppo when ordinary people there preferred these ideologically driven extremists because the crimes of the non-ideological bands of “rebels” were even worse.
I think for example of people like Khaled Hayani, on whom a bit was written here for example:
Quite exemplaric for the non ideological rebels – though I’m not sure if this story is as true as the story of Khaled Hayani – is also the story about Abu Ali Sulaibi published by the Guardian at he end of 2012:
If you read these two stories you start to get a sense why ordinary people started to embrace jihadis who were sectarian extremists but oftenly had at least some sense of serving a greater good instead of just being criminal against everyone.
So this is what I mean with the error – the more secular rebels in Aleppo committed crimes that were as bad as – or even worse than – the crimes of the jihadi extremists.
In hindsight it’s surely no wonder, just think about any town in the world: if someone comes and offers people lot’s of guns to fight, who will pick them up? Of course, the worst kind of criminal gangs and extremists will pick them up, and it pretty much looks like that’s what happened in rebel Aleppo. And many of the non ideological gangsters proved to be even worse than the ideologically driven jihadis.
Thank you for your reply. I reckon that you have hit on the difficulty of attempting a rebuttal of the Western account of the relief of East Aleppo. Apart from small communities of specialists such as are found on this site we in the West have so little in common with the Syrian experience that we don’t have many common points of reference. We have, for all our regional variations, a fairly homogeneous society, or had one until so recently that we still most of us think in terms of such a society. We don’t see much civil disorder, let alone war. We can’t therefore visualise the mosaic that is Syria, nor have any feel for how its components might operate under stress. Therefore everything has to be explained. In constructing such explanations, as we have found here, compression is misleading, expansion takes one off the point, omission loses it. Better in this case to lose the point than to mislead. Looks like some further cutting is required.
So much for that specific point in my email. There is of course a wider point. The term “Jihadi” is itself inaccurate when it comes to identifying the various elements fighting Assad. We can’t most of us distinguish between fanatic and thug, Daesh and Al Nusra, local and foreign, soured adherent of the old regime and modern secular dissident. We certainly can’t cope with the various combinations of those categories, nor with all the various offshoots. In particular we fail to recognise the idealist Jihadi, or the appeal of his idealism to the disenchanted young in the West and in the ME. Amongst those unfamiliar categories Mr Cameron could therefore hide his 70,000 “moderate rebels” with little fear that we would call him out on the scam, and the press can tell us more or less what they please about the make-up of the fighting force that has just been defeated in East Aleppo.
What the press please to tell us at present is that they are “rebels”. An almost comfortable word, that. It conjures up Kossuth or Garibaldi, or maybe a Che Guevara T-shirt. As we hear more of the vicious treatment suffered by those civilians who were trapped inside East Aleppo we realise how far the press misled us in using that comfortable word. But of course, for those of who reject the propaganda our governments feed us, using the word “Jihadi” as a portmanteau term for that fighting force is similarly misleading. If you can think of a more suitable collective noun that would therefore be useful. Otherwise I hope you, as a specialist, will not find the term too misleading when a collective noun is needed.
Thank you again for your reply.
You are ill-equipped to deal with peoples and cultures East of the Diocletian Line since you have been steeped in a rational approach to the world for a millennia.
Especially in England, the poverty of those isles have impressed upon every Englishman the brutal and empirically endured indifference of Nature to man.
It is impossible for you to connect to Syrians, or Iranians, or Vietnamese – the farther East you go the more inscrutable those people appear to you.
That you try to adjudicate among sects of Islam is a child’s play compared to trying to orient yourselves in that emotionally-riven world East of the Diocletian Line.
While it is really hard to generalize all the various armed criminals, terroroists, rebels and revolutionaries, ideologues and non ideologies in Syria, I think the English language has an almost perfect noun to catch them all: gunman. I’ld use the term “gunman” for one or plural “gunmen” for many speaking of these armed guys in Syria in general terms. I think that vague noun would transport many of the appropreciate connotations, and regardless in which colours one paints groups of gunmen roaming the streets, they usually don’t bode well for the civilian population.
Another possibility would be to take a leaning from Russia. Russian media media usually uses the term “Boeviki” (Боевики) which is usually translated as “militants” – which I don’t find a very bad choice neither.
I think both terms “gunmen” and “militants” are also fitting well, because as far as I understand that war, it’s fully in the capacity of some of the gunmen to go one day with secular FSA symbols and beg western audiences for weapons to fight radicals while at the next day wearing jihadi symbols begging Qatar and Saudi Arabia for weapons to fight infidels. And then when they get the weapons they may well go and rob and loot their neighbors wearing Syrian army style uniforms. And to top it off they may then force their innocent civilian victims to wear these real or fake Syrian army style uniforms so they can make heroic videos how they catched and killed Syrian army soldiers while committing crimes, and than publish two videos of the same false flag massacre, one time branded as showing secular FSA “freedom fighters” at good work and another time “jihadi saviours of muslims” at good work.
Of course, not all of these gunmen in Syria work like this, but well, deception is a widely spread method to do well in war times.
Why bother with denominations Jihadis, rebels, thugs, Daesch, whatever.
(to hell with the “rectification of names”)
Use tried and true methods from the past
“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”
“That you try to adjudicate among sects of Islam is a child’s play compared to trying to orient yourselves in that emotionally-riven world East of the Diocletian Line.” Am I included in this judgment? I agree with your statement. I have face this disability in my Western colleagues all my adult life. Sob. pl
No, I am not including you in that judgment because you have spent years trying to understand those alien people; in Vietnam or in the Middle East.
A friend of mine was in Vietnam a few years ago and he stated that at times he came face to face with the “Inscrutable Oriental”. Mind you, he is very well-travelled man but he has not been able to get out of his Western Mindset since he has never lived outside of the Diocletian West for any length of time nor knows any of their languages.
That level of understanding requires years of suffering through language instruction, cultural faux pas and a whole lot of introspection – few possess the ability, the willingness or the inclination to do so.
‘You are ill-equipped to deal with peoples and cultures East of the Diocletian Line since you have been steeped in a rational approach to the world for a millennia.’
That is very much a half-truth. Historically, British culture was a complex interplay between ‘rational’ and much less ‘rational’ elements. It was partly because of this that, whatever their many faults, British imperialists did not make a complete and utter hash of managing an empire in India.
(Remember that our two greatest generals were both – to hark back to Napoleon’s silly remark about Wellington – ‘sepoy generals’. The Japanese encountered another ‘sepoy general’ in Burma, Slim, and came rather badly unstuck. The guts of the army that defeated them was made up of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.)
But then, British culture was never simply ‘rational’ and ‘modern’. In the mid-nineteenth century the poet and critic Matthew Arnold described Oxford as: ‘Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!’
The world has, however changed. A somewhat eccentric but by no means stupid history lecturer there, Mark Almond, wrote following the ‘Brexit’ vote that: ‘Once Oxford was romantically Jacobite, now it is the Bunker of referendum denialism.’
(See http://markalmondoxford.blogspot.co.uk/2016_06_01_archive.html .)
If one wants to make sense of the inanity of current British foreign policy, older cultural patterns are relevant – but so also are quite recent cultural transformations.
People often talk about ‘cultural Marxism’. Actually, I think it makes more sense to describe the ideology of large elements of the current Western élite as ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonism’.
A characteristic of this ideology, however, is that enables a coming together of those who were once the most disruptive and dangerous Marxist-Leninists, with many of those who were the most extreme – often irrationally so – anti-communists.
What it has in common with Marxism-Leninism is the belief in a ‘modern’ world in which the ‘enlightened’ put the rubbish of the past behind them; together with an absolute certainty that the ‘vanguard’ know the natural and inevitable course of history.
If anybody does not accept the ‘truth’ possessed by the ‘vanguard’, the only possible explanations are either ignorance or evil will.
Naturally, such patterns of thinking generate demonologies.
At this point, the pretensions of the ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonists’ to be ‘rational’ are exposed as a fraud.
You think ‘Tailgunner Paul’ Krugman is a ‘rational’ thinker? Of course he is not.
The notion of Trump as the ‘Siberian candidate’ is part of a demonology. It is clear that Krugman and his like believe in witches – or rather wizards – quite as much as those who perpetrated the Salem trials.
The critical point is that, as with Marxist-Leninists, ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonists’ are thinking in terms which make no sense outside of a – corrupted – religious framework, while being convinced that they are utterly ‘secular’ and ‘rational’.
1. I share that impatience to see the end of the Syrian disaster but I don’t think it could happen if all bearing arms against the Government were summarily dispatched. “Kill them all, The Lord will know his own” has been tried often enough in the past but the final section of the link supplied above shows what can happen next: “However, the crusaders lost the support of the local Catholic population and thus became a hated occupying force. The war became protracted …”
It seems that Assad knows very well that “Hearts and Minds” is the only way to go.
That aside, what would stir the blood more if one were a young man inclined to fight for the cause and looking on as the battle for East Aleppo came to an end – an epic resistance to the last man; or a group of dejected losers catching a bus?
2. Names do matter. It’s a cliché that if you call them Freedom Fighters we all love them but if you call them terrorists we don’t, but it’s a cliché that the politicians and the media know all about and make the fullest use of. It would be useful if there could be an accurate and brief term for that murderous brew of imported terrorists, mercenaries, Special Forces, dissidents, idealists, opportunists, and ordinary people just caught up in the mess that we’ve let loose in Syria.
Proof reading matters too, by the way, as I found out to my chagrin when I read my email the Colonel had been kind enough to post. My apologies for that, and to “David Habakkuk”, whose name, I’ve just noticed, got its own proof reading error as an encore.
“Dismal record of the British military”
It’s not, in fact. The record of the politicians in deploying that military recently is dismal. I’d agree with that. There may also be a question mark over defence procurement: if you read Dr Richard North on his website you may come to the conclusion that British Forces weren’t sent out to Iraq and Afghanistan properly equipped and supported – though defence procurement is always the most difficult area of Government spending because the goalposts are forever moving. There has also been some debate over whether the Rules of Engagement were framed appropriately for the task. But the record of British military personnel in modern times is the reverse of dismal. From the Korean War onward it has been superb.
As for the duties we ask them to undertake, and that perhaps is what the post above is getting at, a Royal Marine Officer I heard speaking recently disposed of that in one brief sentence. “We go where we’re sent.” I wouldn’t think you could run an army any other way.
Thank you for your comments.
I did not intend to imply that the English are some how emotionless creatures, like the punch line of that joke: “O she was dead? I thought she was English!”. Rather I was endeavoring to point out that they are a people, who, for a number of unknown reasons, have learnt the best in the world how to keep their emotions in check – as much as humanly possible – “stiff upper lip” and all that.
These comparisons do not enjoy an absolute distinction but one of relative degrees. All throughout the 19-th century, the “Sober Englishman” with his “black suite of clothing” was an object of emulation in France and in Italy, as far as I know.
Compared to Iranians, I should think it be true that the English are the epitome of dispassionate analysis of the world as well as the means to alter it. Not for the Englishmen are the emotionalism displayed during the commemoration days of the Passion of Imam Hussein – it could never happen in England.
I must beg to differ with you also on the English culture – it has been Modern because England – together with France and Italy and parts of Germany – embodied what “Modern” has meant for centuries; as far back as the time of New Organon and then all the way to Spencer, Darwin and that entire empiricist approach to the world and world history – the occasional English quirkiness not withstanding.
One could be sitting beside an Iranian in a reception and casually mention the need for rational analytical approach to problems and issues and one’s interlocutors would be knowingly smiling – think of one as a fool and themselves all too clever and completely dismissive of that point of view.
It is a curious coincidence that you mention Matthew Arnold, a great poet, and in my opinion, a man of penetrating genius when one reads his essay of Shia passion play in Persia (Iran) in the 19-th century – he rationally understood the Shia Iranians and produced the best description of them in English language – to this day.
Reading the rest of your response, I wonder perhaps I had used an incorrect word – “Rational” – in order to convey what I had meant. Perhaps I ought to have used the words “sensible” or “reasoned”.
David Habakkuk makes an important point.
A powerful factor in our Elites’ dangerous and hysterical reactions
to Brexit and Trump, is that the further Reality diverges from their Ideology,
the more desperately they cling to their Ideology.
And what might their Ideology be?
That’s why we are Exceptional and Indispensable.
And why our Meritocracy of Technocrats have been anointed by Progress
(i.e, secularized Providence) to spread the Universal values of
human rights to benighted realms — including Libya, Syria, Yemen,
and my own deplorable Flyover Country.
(We are the French Revolution’s “Cult of Reason 2.0”,
pushing a newly-upgraded triad — digital “freedom”, diversity, and democracy.)
Babak Makkinejad has shown the power of correctly naming an ideology —
So I humbly propose we name the disease that possesses our Elites …
Perhaps this could be added also – Eva Bartlett in Aleppo.
I have moved your comment to this thread. It was seriously OT in the wargame thread. pl
Wiki Leaks , the MSM thinks maybe , releases a large cache of documents today that purport to ‘prove ‘ that President Elect Donald Trump had dealings with Exon Mobil & Barazani several years that” aided & abetted ” the Kurdistan independence effort when US Military was ‘actively engaged ” with several militias in Iraqi that led to the destabilization of the Baghdad National Government , caused US military casualities , and supposedly helped fund the nascent former Baathist Parties – ( Ibrahim al Douri among other Saddam cohort being named) collaboration with al Baghdadi to launch the Daesh Caliphate. Further leaked documents purport that CEO ExxonMobil Iverson directly made money off his dealings with Barzani ‘ as our brave troops fought and died to save the Baghdad central government “. Meanwhile expert parties at Crowd Strike and other private cyber security companies are reporting that the documents are not coming from Wiki Leaks but ‘privateers’ that are known associates of the PRC. Moreover the MSM is reporting allegedly the ‘Sino Centric” privateers are part of the current leaks – and thought is being given to that Beijing has launched its on stand alone campaign to discredit the Trump administration for abandoning the One China policy . The DIA , FBI , NSA , and other federal IC entities remain totally quiet on any of the new WikiLeaks Trump administration MSM reporting ..”
From a comment on the Saker website – Turkish looting of Aleppo. Organised directly from Turkey, the FSA mentioned as involved.