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Thursday, August 17

A Syrian bishop wants to know why Americans would arm al Qaeda groups

In Aleppo, I also met the city’s Bishop Youssef Tobji, a leader of the city’s threatened Christian Maronite community. “If you respect us, please don’t say ‘rebel’ in front of us,” Tobji demanded. “They killed our children, our history. They are terrorists.”
The bishop then turned to me and asked how America, the target of the 9/11 attacks, could arm groups associated with Al Qaeda and then have the audacity to glorify such people as rebels. I struggled to offer him an answer.
Hmmmm. Anyone want to try for an answer?

While you're putting on your thinking cap, here's more from Rania Khalek's report Ignored By Western Media, Syrians Describe the Nightmare the Armed Opposition Brought Them, published by Alternet in May of this year, in which she's interviewing another Syrian:
 “Most Syrians in the West who are today’s pro-opposition activists are descendants of Syrian and Egyptian-expelled Muslim Brotherhood families or they are ex-aristocrats who lost their lands due to socialist policies in the 1950s and 60s,” he told me. “Now they speak out against the government from the safety of America.”
Here I'm fairly certain most Americans -- and certainly all Americans in the Obama and Trump regimes -- would reveal their knowledge of Syrian history, which isn't enough to fit on a flea's wing, by asking what aristocrats the Syrian is talking about.

But given enough time, say 500 years, Americans will feel their way to an understanding of what has been going on in Syria. Closer to the present, more of the truth about 'events on the ground' is inexorably working itself into news reportage, even though most of it remains confined to the internet in the United States.

For example, in early July, Sputnik reported that Encouraged by Liberation of Aleppo, Students Join Syrian Arab Army En Masse:
Employees of the central military commissariat of Aleppo state that the number of those wishing to join Syrian army units in order to fight terrorists is increasing every month as the liberation of the city has motivated hundreds of former students and school pupils to put on military uniforms.
Yesterday Sputnik reported on a situation that was also ignored by the mainstream media in the United States:
WASHINGTON — Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad earlier in the day accused US and UK-based companies of supplying toxic agents to terrorists, adding that CS and CN substances, allegedly produced by NonLethal Technologies and Chemring Defence, were found in Aleppo and Damascus.
"We have seen these reports. Let’s be clear, we have long expressed our strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons. [Its] use by any party in Syria would violate international standards and norms," the [State Department] official said.
The official provided no additional comments on the companies, but reiterated the US position that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible in previous instances of chemical weapons use.
That State didn't deny the accusation suggests there is evidence to back up the Syrian government's claim. But one would think that at the least State would have raised the possibility that non-state actors arranged for the purchase and delivery of the toxic chemicals to a terrorist group(s) in Syria. Instead, State deflected the entire question.

Sputnik fell down a bit by omitting mention that Turkey was also named in the Syrian government's accusation, which was summarized in a report today at SANA, Syria's state information agency:
Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Fayssal Mikdad affirmed on Wednesday that the United States, Britain and their allies in the region breach the Chemical Weapons convention by supporting terrorist organizations in Syria and supplying them with toxic materials and weapons of all forms.
Mikdad, in a meeting held with a number of journalists at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry HQ, called on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate into the US, Britain and Turkey’s supply to terrorist organizations, which are present in Syria, with internationally-banned poisonous materials.     
And Rania Khalek's report for Alternet is positively stuffed with information that would be news to Americans who stay informed on Syria by watching TV reports and reading The New York Times.  To wit:

[...]


Many of the armed groups Areej came across were made up of non-Syrian Salafi Jihadists who could not speak the local dialect. In many cases they couldn’t speak any Arabic at all. “There was a group from China, Kazakhstan, another from Pakistan, another with fighters from France,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Indeed, there are thousands of Chinese foreign fighters who joined the jihad in Syria. Calling themselves the Turkistan Islamic Party, they helped spearhead the seizure of Areej’s village. But they weren’t alone.

Each street corner seemed to be controlled by a different faction. Every faction spray painted their name on the walls to demonstrate their claim over a street. She remembers on one wall where a rebel group inscribed the popular slogan, “Democracy is the religion of blasphemy.”

Areej noticed that much of the graffiti was scrawled by foreigners. “The groups that are governing the area my family is from wrote their names on the walls in bad Arabic,” Areej recalled, shaking her head in disdain. Her hometown was suddenly teeming with Frenchmen. “Syrian people are dying to reach France while people from France come here to kill Syrians,” she complained.

She eventually helped her family escape Jisr al-Shogour. They joined her in Damascus where they are internally displaced refugees dependent on UN aid. “There are no winners,” said Areej. “All of the countries—Russia, Iran, America, Saudi Arabia—they are playing with us. We are like toys.” Yet she still wants the government to vanquish the insurgents because the alternative they present to Assad is so terrifying.

Worst media coverage in modern history

The voices of Syrians like Areej simply do not fit within the accepted narrative that justifies the West’s geopolitical aims. And it is wholly out of line with the content that dominates the Qatari state outlet Al Jazeera, which has functioned as a 24/7 vehicle for the Syrian armed opposition. And so she and others like her have been ignored.

Like 18 million Syrians, Areej lives under the control of the Syrian government. Seven million of them are internally displaced refugees who have fled from the areas conquered by the insurgents and ISIS. Only about 2.5 million people live under the opposition’s control, while some 1.8 million live in areas dominated by ISIS.

The coverage of Syria by Western media contains little resemblance at all to the lived experiences described to me by the people I met when I visited the areas where most Syrians live in 2016.

Having watched for years as Syrian expatriates promoting regime change from abroad occupy the limelight, Syrians inside the country have developed a strong sense of resentment.

In the United States, two of the Syrians most prominently featured by mainstream media are Lina Sergie Attar, CEO and co-founder of the Karam Foundation, and Zaher Sahloul, the former head of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Both have been pushing for years for the US to bomb Syria, and have set up advocacy arms to promote their aims.

Writing under the pen name Amal Hanano for Al Jazeera in 2013, Attar agitated for the US to go to war against the Syrian government. She claimed to be speaking on behalf of Syrians but she hasn’t been to the country since 2008.

Despite providing medical services in areas controlled by Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Sahloul’s SAMS has received millions in support from the US Agency for International Aid and Development. Both his organization and Karam have collaborated on Syria with the Zionist and Islamophobic Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. They have therefore been branded with the Western media’s stamp of approval.

Attar was a guest on Democracy Now! the day after President Donald Trump bombed Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack that the US blamed on the Syrian government. “I am very happy that there is one less airfield for Bashar al-Assad to use to kill his own people,” Attar told Amy Goodman. 

However, residents near the targeted al-Shayrat airbase told the LA Times that the base was instrumental in protecting them from ISIS.

Zaher Sahloul, another vocal advocate for US military intervention who has also appeared on Democracy Now! claims that SAMS provides medical care in opposition areas, but never specifies that these areas -- like eastern Aleppo before the government recaptured it or Idlib today -- are under the control of Salafi Jihadist groups like Al Qaeda.

In Idlib, the Al-Qaeda-controlled area where SAMS supports the rebel-run administration, “schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls,” according to Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma's Middle East Studies Center.

[...]
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All right; time's up. Anyone have an answer for the bishop?

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