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Saturday, December 31, 2011


The "peaceful" opposition in Syria

What is wrong with this sentence?
In a further attempt to appeal to the monitors, dissident troops who have broken away from the Syrian army said they have halted attacks on regime forces to reinforce the activists' contention that the uprising against Assad is a peaceful movement.
Um, wouldn't that announcement refute the contention that theirs is a "peaceful" movement? Rebut it? Put the lie to it? "Reinforce" it? I think not.

Also in the article, we're told that 500,000 people demonstrated against the government. How do we know it was 500,000? It's "according to an activist and eyewitness who asked to be identified only as Manhal because he feared government reprisal." Gee, don't you wish you could call AP anonymously with estimates of the demonstrations you take part in and have them print your estimates?

Friday, December 23, 2011


How "facts" are manufactured

Two days ago, I wrote about an alleged massacre in Syria. As noted then, the proof behind these allegations was thin indeed, and it was at least clear to a discerning reader that these were claims, not necessarily facts.

By today, however, such distinctions are gone, as the same AP writes simply:

Bashar Assad's regime would appear to be setting itself on a collision course: It let in outside observers for the first time Thursday to monitor his commitment to halting the crackdown on dissent, even as his security forces unleashed a fiercer onslaught this week, killing more than 200 in two days.
No ifs, ands, or buts, no claims, simply "facts," as pushed into the Western consciousness by the always-cooperative media, ready to promote the next "humanitarian" intervention.


America's "Human Rights" record

In 1982, Elliot Abrams was in charge of "Human Rights" at the U.S. State Department. Also in 1982, a military junta in Argentina was in the process of killing tens of thousands of its opponents, and taking hundreds of children away from the families of those opponents and giving them to military families.

Now a secret memo (remarkably, revealed through a FOIA request rather than by Wikileaks) has revealed that the U.S. government (in the person of Elliot Abrams and undoubtedly many more) knew precisely what was going on in Argentina, and condoned it (by certifying that the junta's human rights record was "improving"). Of course this also means that for nearly 40 years the U.S. government has been lying (by omission) about this fact as well.

Yet another fact to remember the next time you hear the U.S. government preaching "human rights" to the world (like Hillary Clinton, whose husband was responsible for signing the "Defense of Marriage" [sic] Act and putting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" into practice, lecturing the world on gay rights the other day).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Massacre in Syria?

The Huffington Post currently has a huge red headline splashed across its front page, reading "HORROR: SYRIAN TROOPS SLAUGHTER 100," together with a picture showing...five armed people walking down a street (a picture taken in an unknown place, on an unknown day, proving absolutely nothing about any massacre). Did this happen? It is of course possible, but believing it based on the evidence in the article (which I believe is an AP article, although it's not labeled as such) certainly requires a lot of faith.

There are three "sources" in the article. The only "primary" source is "one villager who is an anti-government activist [who spoke to] The Associated Press by telephone." In other words, this person could have been anyone, calling from anywhere. The other two "sources" are the "head of the British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" (that is, some one with no personal knowledge of the events, but who is claimed to have "corroborated the account of the witness," even though his source of the information is completely unknown and may well have been the same person, which would negate any "corroboration") and "The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group," whose source of information is also completely unspecified.

What is noteworthy, compared to protests after the elections in Iran from which pictures and videos and tweets were being uploaded continuously, is the singular lack of any such hard evidence from Syria. Are we to believe that none of the people in the villages where massacres are allegedly occurring have cell phones and the ability to send pictures or video out to the world? Clearly that isn't the case, as the picture noted above proves. The "witness" tells AP that 56 villagers were buried, something that would be a rather observable event, yet no actual evidence is presented.

You'll search in vain to find any such skepticism in the Western media, however, aside from standard boilerplate about "can't be independently confirmed" placed as far down in the article as possible.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Saving lives, spending money

Just under 3000 Americans (and others) died on 9/11/2001. Even if that event were to be duplicated every decade, which seems unlikely, that's an average of 300 Americans a year dying from terrorist attacks. Allegedly to combat that threat (but in reality for other reasons), the U.S. has spent a trillion dollars (and will spend much more, likely three or more trillion, by the time we're done paying).

45,000 Amerians die every year because of the lack of health insurance. That's 150 times as many people as the "annual death toll" from 9/11. If the government bought each one of those people a $5,000 health insurance policy, the total cost would be $225 million. Which is less than the U.S. is spending fighting a war against the people of Afghanistan every single day ($334 million).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The Haditha massacre, (almost) up in flames

A telling article from the New York Times about the massacre of 20 Iraqis at Haditha:
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
Told about the documents that had been found, Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the United States military in Iraq, said that many of the documents remain classified and should have been destroyed.
"Classified" not because it was such "top secret" information, but because of what they have to say about the U.S. role in Iraq.

This event did stand out, although the fact that not a single soldier has been punished makes it not stand out, but fit right in with everything else that happened in Iraq. And here's the truth:

Marines came to view 20 dead civilians as not "remarkable," but as routine.

Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, in his own testimony, described it as "a cost of doing business."
"Doing business", that is, for imperialism.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Who qualifies as a "person" exactly?

Not Syrian soldiers, according to the U.N. Human Rights Chief:
More than 5,000 people have been killed in nine months of unrest in Syria, the U.N. human rights chief said...Navi Pillay reported the death toll to the U.N. Security Council as 1,000 higher than the previous toll just 10 days ago. It includes civilians, army defectors and those executed for refusing to shoot civilians, but not soldiers or security personnel killed by opposition forces, she said.
Those poor unfortunate "things" killed by opposition forces amount to "1,100 members of the army, police and security services" according to the Syrian government. Just a minor issue, apparently, not worth mentioning.

By the way, the number 5,000 comes from "the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," based presumably on claims made in phone calls or emails from people in the opposition inside Syria. There isn't even a pretense that this data comes from hospitals, morgues, or cemeteries. The credibility of this number is an order of magnitude lower than any that were coming out of Iraq in the early days, that were routinely poo-poo'ed or ignored by the corporate media and U.S. government. This number, in contrast, is simply reported as fact, without the slightest questioning as to its accuracy.

Update: Listening to TV news, the story is broadcast as "The United Nations now estimates that 5000 people have been killed in Syria..." Aside from the confusion about who qualifies as a "person," this is complete nonsense. The "United Nations" hasn't estimated anything, and, as far as I can tell, has no independent information whatsoever on the subject.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Today's edition of: Capitalism Kills

All in today's paper:


"Shortages have dramatically worsened for normally cheap generic injected medicines that are the lifeblood of hospitals: drugs for cancer, pain, infections, even liquid nutrition and anesthesia for surgery...at least patient 15 deaths since mid-2010 have been blamed on the shortages...As of Nov. 30, there had been 251 different new drug shortages this year. Multiple causes have been cited, including manufacturing deficiencies leading to production shutdowns, companies ending production of some drugs with tiny profit margins, consolidation in the generic drug industry and limited supplies of some ingredients."

A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself.

In the biggest settlement ever reached in a U.S. mining disaster, the new owners of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men were killed in an explosion agreed Tuesday to pay $210 million over a tragedy the government blamed on the ruthless pursuit of profits ahead of safety.
Not in today's paper (or yesterday's or tomorrow's) - the estimated 50-100 people who died yesterday (and every day) because they lacked health insurance.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Who is dying in Syria?

Multiple headlines today proclaim: "19 killed in Syria." No doubt that's all that will stick in people's minds, as they reinforce the lesson that is being drummed into them — the Syrian government is slaughtering its citizens. But if you read closer, you find the truth is more complicated:
Seven soldiers and 12 civilians, among them a woman and child, were killed in the fresh violence that engulfed areas in the provinces of Daal and Idlib. 'Two security force vehicles were blown up. Seven (troops) were killed.'
And who were those 12 "civilians"? Well, they might have been "innocent civilians," killed by Syrian government troops in a wanton slaughter. No doubt that's what most people will believe. But they might also be innocent civilians killed by the blast which blew up the government vehicle, that is, they might have been killed by the rebels. Or, presumably excepting the woman and child, they might not have been "innocent civilians" at all, but armed rebels who were killed as the army counter-attacked after the attack which killed 9 soldiers.

The Syrian Office of Human Rights (per Wikipedia) says 2,738 civilians and 970 security forces have been killed. But that's conveniently nebulous. Who were those "civilians"? Were they all just non-violent "Occupy Syria" protesters, and not a one part of the group responsible for the deaths of 970 security forces? Hardly likely. The Syrian government claims that 1,400 security forces, 716 insurgents, and 700 civilians have been killed, which may reflect its own bias, but at least tries to differentiate between the types of civilians killed.

Whatever the exact numbers, one thing is clear — the one-sided picture presented to consumers of Western media of a Syrian government slaughtering innocent civilians and nothing more is utterly false. And also utterly intentional.

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