Well, this is surreal. In authorizing US air-strikes in northern Iraq, President Obama invoked the responsibility to protect the Yazidis from ISIS and avert a potential "genocide." Before the missiles fall, there will be air-drops of aid to the several thousand Yazidis besieged on a mountaintop in Sinjar, Nineveh governorate, driven from their homes below by ISIS militants. Said Obama: "Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help." (AP, AFP, NYT, Aug. 7) We have been noting for years the growing persecution and attacks on the Yazidis as jihadists have been unleashed in the decade since the US invasion, and warning of the threat of genocide. But too small to matter in the Great Power game, their plight was little noted by the outside world. Now their name is on the lips of the leader of the West, and in the global headlines.
Elie Wiesel—yet again—seems to find himself on the wrong side, this time in a full-page ad he took out in US newspapers (PDF), problematicallly entitled: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas' turn." Offering no evidence for the accusation, he writes: "I call upon President Obama and the leaders of the world to condemn Hamas' use of children as human shields." This formula of course gives Israel a blank check to kill Palestinian children, while blaming Hamas for using them as "shields." And while the statement invokes co-existence and a shared Abrahamic heritage with the Palestinians, it does so in utterly hypocritical terms. In his penultimate paragraph, Wiesel writes: "And I enjoin the American public to stand firmly with the people of Israel who are in yet another struggle for survival, and with the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace." Note the subtlety of the propaganda. We are admonished to stand with "the people of Israel" (presumably, all of them), who are engaged in a "struggle for survival." Whereas, we are told to stand with "the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace"—this after a lecture about the Gazans using their children as "shields." So presumably, we are only to "stand with" those Gazans who reject their own leaders. No such conditions are placed on the Israeli side—on the contrary, the Israeli war is legitimized as a "struggle for survival." There is no acknowledgement of a "struggle for survival" in Gaza—with over 1,500 dead, 200,000 displaced, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and thousands without water or electricity.
President Obama in his statement on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine emphasized that it was "shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine." He added that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia." Vladimir Putin, of course, blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying: "Without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy." Of course he was referring to Kiev's military offensive against the rebels, but Business Insider wryly notes that placing the blame on "the government of the territory" where the disaster occurred "technically points the finger at the rebels themselves, who have proclaimed the area 'The People's Republic of Donetsk.'"
The May 24 shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, that left three dead, is greeted by the usual ridiculous bet-hedging. CNN typically writes: "The circumstances of the shooting have raised suspicions that it may have been an anti-Semitic attack, but no motive has been determined." Once an anti-Semitic motive is finally conceded, we will next be assured that it was the work of a lone nut with no organizational ties. How many commentators will tie the attack to the terrifyingly good showing that far-right "anti-Europe" paties made in the next day's EU parliamentary election? In France, Front National leader Marine Le Pen, daughter of xenophobic party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, boasted as the exit polls rolled in: "What has happened tonight is a massive rejection of the EU." In Britain, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is on course to win, displacing Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and burying their coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats. (Globe & Mail, CBC) And think there's a wide gap between the "anti-Europe" ideologies of the Front National and UKIP and the anti-Semitic doctrines of classical fascism? Think again...
The ominous story in the Los Angeles Times today, "Russia tests missiles as Ukraine militants defy call for vote delay," opens, without explanation: "A day after claiming to have withdrawn thousands of Russian troops from Ukraine's border, Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin presided over East bloc military maneuvers Thursday that included tests of Russia’s nuclear forces and live firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles." Excuse us? "East bloc"? What "East bloc"? The Warsaw Pact has been defunct since 1991, as the LA Times could easily glean from goddam Wikipedia. There isn't a clue in the text of the article as to what they mean by "East bloc," or whether any countries other than Russia participated in the maneuvers. The whiff of Cold War nostalgia around the Ukraine crisis is getting out of hand.
Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Dec. 9 announced the capture of the new commander of the remnant Sendero Luminoso column in the Upper Huallaga Valley—one of two remaining pockets of coca-producing jungle where the scattered Maoist guerilla movement is still keeping alive a local insurgency. The commander was named as Alexander Fabián Huamán AKA "Héctor"—said to have assumed leadership of the guerillas' "Huallaga Regional Committee" after the capture last year of "Comrade Artemio," the last "historic" Sendero leader (that is, dating back to the insurgency's heyday 20 years ago). Gen. Víctor Romero Fernández, commander of the National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO), called the arrest a "hard blow" against the guerillas, and predicted that "Sendero Luminoso is disappearing in this zone." (InfoBAE, Andina, Dec. 9)
A massacre at Adra, outside Damascus, is being attributed to the Nusra Front, which on Dec. 16 may have killed over 100 civilians after seizing the town, targetting Alawites, Druze, and Christians. Some civilians were reportedly "saved" by regime army troops, who stormed houses where they were being held. These claims are aggressively plied by the official media in countries that back the Assad regime (Russia Today, Voice of Russia, Tehran Times, Xinhua) and the "alternative" media in countries that oppose the Assad regime (Antiwar.com, Intifada Palestine—which is, very significantly, not based in Palestine, where Assad is actually very unpopular). The anti-Assad Linux Beach blog is skeptical about the claims, noting that the presumably more objective BBC News account put the death toll at 10, not the 100 attributed elsewhere to anonymous regime sources. Linux Beach also engages in the cyber-sleuth routine to argue that some photos supposedly taken by the jihadists of bodies they'd mutilated were actually recycled from other, unrelated atrocities (a trick the Assad-supporters are always accusing the mainstream media of). Linux Beach more astutely points out that the Adra claims come just as "the death toll from a 10-day Syrian regime air offensive on Aleppo rebels passed 400," in the words of AFP. Most have been killed by the regime's improvised "barrel-bombs," seemingly designed to win the maximum number of civilian casualties. ("Aleppo rebels" actually means rebel-held areas of the city; we may assume a high proportion of non-combatant deaths.) A Google News search for "Aleppo" brings up such mainstream US sources as the Washington Post, LA Times and CNN. Pretty predictable, eh?
With the passing of Nelson Mandela today, Barack Obama of course issued the requisite accolades, hailing the departed icon of South African freedom as "one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth... Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him." (USA Today) Obama's words may well be heartfelt, but the notion that the US stood beside Mandela in the long struggle against apartheid is revisionism that must be combatted.