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missiles as Ukraine militants defy call for vote delay," opens, without explanation: "A day after claiming to have withdrawn thousands of Russian troops from Ukraine's border, Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin presided over East bloc military maneuvers Thursday that included tests of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.
The ancient Syrian Christian village of Maaloula has changed hands at least three times in the past week of fighting between government forces and al-Qaeda franchise Nusra Front—and Syria's Christians are becoming propaganda fodder in an international war of perceptions. Nusra Front issued a video clip showing a commander urging his men not to harm Maaloula's historic churches and monasteries. The Assad regime countered with images of the rebels shooting in the air and at buildings in in the village, and of a church damaged by mortar fire, Haaretz reports. The village has already suffered civilian casualties from the fighting, and local youth have organized a self-defense militia. AFP, citing local residents, reports that rebels forced at least one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another when they held the village Sept. 10. "They arrived in our town at dawn...and shouted 'We are from the al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders," AFP quoted a resident who identified herself only as Marie.
By now we've all seen the ugly meme, at least if you've got a Facebook account. A uniformed serviceman holds a hand-written sign over his face reading "I didn't join the army to fight for al-Qaeda in Syria." (In case you've missed it, it is of course flaunted by the right-wing xenophobes at InfoWars.) Hopefully, we don't have to explain how this is a shameful betrayal of the secular civil resistance in Syria—it simply denies their existence, painting the entire opposition as al-Qaeda. And you certainly don't have to be pro-intervention to recognize this. A related ugly meme shows a face-palming Obama with the caption: "That awkward moment when you realize the only allies the US can muster for a Syria attack... are the terrorists who flew planes into your buildings twelve years ago."
The latest statement from the poorly named United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is entitled "No more wars—US out of the Middle East!" The very first line reads: "The White House's June 13th announcement that it would begin directly supplying arms to the opposition in Syria is a dramatic escalation of the US/NATO war against that country." Anyone with a modicum of sophistication should see the problems with this formulation right off the bat. Let's put aside the fact that the White House promise of arms to the insurgents is a completely empty one, since the shipments have been held up by Congressional fears that war material could find its way into jihadist hands, as Reuters reports. The more important point is the assumption that Syrians' most pressing problem is the hypothetical threat of the US arming the rebels—while for two years the Bashar Assad dictatorship has been vigorously waging war against its own people, with a death toll topping 60,000, with reports of "cleansing" of Sunnis by forces loyal to the regime, and the UN Security Council urging the International Criminal Court to open a war crimes investigation.