Showing posts with label Killing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Killing. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2018

YEMEN, iSRAEL, TRUMP



THE ABSURD TIMES







Not much time or energy for this, but it should get out.  1) Isreal voted to make Hebrew the only offical language ande designate certain areas, previously Palestinian, Jewish.  Officially a Jewish State.  2) Interview on Yemen and what we are doing there.  Flag done by a previous illustrator I once tought that illustration was too much and the other just Yemen as it looks now, courtesy of our bombs.
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The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen is incredibly difficult to cover on the ground, with many obstacles for journalists hoping to access the capital Sana'a and other areas affected by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombings. We speak with a reporter who smuggled herself into northern Yemen to report on the widespread famine and devastation there in an exclusive three-part series for "PBSNewsHour." Special correspondent Jane Ferguson is a Beirut-based special correspondent. Her pieces are titled "Yemen's spiraling hunger crisis is a man-made disaster," "American-made bombs in Yemen are killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and fueling anger at the U.S." and "Houthis deny U.S., Saudi claim that they are Iran's puppets."


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We spend the rest of the hour in Yemen, where Houthi rebels say they're prepared to hand over the crucial port of Hodeidah to the United Nations, if U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition halt military operations there. Last month, tens of thousands of civilians fled the city when coalition forces launched an all-out offensive there. The U.N. warned the offensive would severely exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is already experiencing the world's worst cholera epidemic, with more than a million people afflicted, and with millions more on the brink of famine. This is U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande.
LISE GRANDE: Most of the eight-and-a-half million people that we describe as being pre-famine, the reality of their life is that when they wake up in the morning, they have no idea if they will eat that day. No idea. Eight-and-a-half million people are in that category. The U.N. estimates that by the end of the year, if there is not an end to this war, another 10 million Yemenis will be in that same situation. That's 18 million innocent civilians who are the victims of this war. And that's why all humanitarians are saying, "Enough is enough. There has to be a political solution, and the parties to the conflict have to sit at that table and agree on how to stop this."
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That's a clip from PBS NewsHour's exclusive three-part series by correspondent Jane Ferguson, who recently smuggled herself into northern Yemen to report on the widespread famine and devastation there.
JANE FERGUSON: The only way into rebel-held Yemen is to smuggle yourself in. And for me, that means to be dressed entirely as a Yemeni woman, with a full face veil, just to get through the checkpoints. I traveled across the embattled front lines to see what's actually happening inside what the United Nations is calling the world's worst humanitarian disaster.
AMY GOODMAN: We'll speak with PBS correspondent Jane Ferguson, now in Beirut, about what she saw in Yemen. But first we're going to her report. It was part two of her three-part exclusive PBS series. This pieceis called "American-made bombs in Yemen are killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and fueling anger at the U.S."
JANE FERGUSON: Inside rebel territory in Yemen, the war rains down from the sky. On the ground, front lines have not moved much in the past three years of conflict. Instead, an aerial bombing campaign by the Saudi-led and American-backed coalition hammers much of the country's north, leaving scenes like this dotted across the capital city, Sana'a, and beyond. A few weeks before I arrived, this gas station was hit. Security guard Abdul Al Badwi was in a building next door when it happened. He says six civilians were killed.
Why did they target here?
Can't explain why they would have targeted something like this.
Elsewhere in the city, a government office building was recently hit. Another pile of rubble, another monument to the civilian deaths of this war.
When this building was hit, it was mostly clerical workers in offices who were injured. And you can still see their blood smeared all over the walls as they were evacuated after the airstrike.
In 2014, Yemeni rebels called Houthis seized the capital and much of the rest of the country. The Houthis are supported by Sunni Saudi Arabia's archrival, Shiite Iran. So, the next year, the Saudis mobilized a coalition of Arab militaries to defeat the group. The aerial bombing campaign has not managed to dislodge the rebels, but has hit weddings, hospitals and homes.
The U.S. military supports the Saudi coalition with logistics and intelligence. The United States also sells the Saudis and their coalition partners many of the bombs they drop on Yemen. In the mountains outside the capital, we gained exclusive access to the site where the Houthis store unexploded American-made bombs, like this 2,000-pound Mark 84 bomb made in Garland, Texas. It landed in the middle of the street in the capital, we are told. One of the men here told me where each was found around Sana'a.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: [translated] One month ago, it landed near the Shaharah Bridge, next to the central bank of Yemen. It didn't explode.
JANE FERGUSON: He also showed me the fin of a Mark 82 bomb used to guide it to its target.
Back in the city, the Houthis also let us see a storage site with the remains of American-made cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are among the most deadly to civilians, filled with baseball-sized smaller bombs that scatter over a larger area. Any that don't explode stay where they fell, primed, and often wounding civilians like land mines. The Houthis have also targeted civilians, throwing anyone suspected of opposing them in jail.
I traveled deep into Yemen's countryside to find out more about how the bombing campaign is affecting peoples' lives there. This is what I found: a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment center completely destroyed by an airstrike the day before. It was just about to open its doors to patients. The war has made it harder for people to access clean running water, leading to the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. Now, every time the rains come, people fall ill.
Cholera is a seasonal disease here in Yemen, and that's why the aid organizations are getting ready for the worst of the cholera season coming up. This facility was brand-new.
No one was killed here, but the loss of the precious medical facility, filled with life-saving equipment, is devastating.
LISE GRANDE: It's quite clearly a contravention of humanitarian law. There is no question about that.
JANE FERGUSON: The United Nations warns the Saudi-led coalition on the location of thousands of humanitarian facilities across the country, requesting they don't bomb them.
Lise Grande is the U.N. Development Program coordinator in Yemen.
LISE GRANDE: If you look at the total number of requests that we have in and the total number of violations, there have been few violations compared to the requests. But when those violations occur, they are serious indeed.
JANE FERGUSON: In a refugee camp closer to fighting along the Saudi border, people told me they were attacked by warplanes in the last camp they lived in. In 2015, Mazraq refugee camp was bombed by coalition jets. Radiyah Hussein lost a grandson in the attack and walked for days to get here.
RADIYAH HUSSEIN: [translated] They attacked the camp with three missiles in one day, and then we ran away.
JANE FERGUSON: On the road to the refugee camp, several bridges had been bombed. Anger towards America is growing in rebel-held areas of Yemen. Most people here, whether they support the Houthis or not, know that many of the bombs being dropped are American. It provides a strong propaganda tool for the Houthi rebels, who go by the slogan "Death to America."
Dr. Ali Al Motaa is a college professor. He did his doctorate in the U.S., but is a strong Houthi supporter.
DR. ALI AL MOTAA: The missiles that kill us, American-made. The plane that kills us, American-made. The tanks, Abrams, American-made. You're saying to me, "Where is America?" America is the whole thing.
JANE FERGUSON: Despite desperate efforts to end the fighting in Yemen, the violence is getting worse. The Saudi-led coalition launched an attack on Houthi-controlled Hodeidah city last month. The city is home to hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, and aid organizations warned that the attack could kill many civilians. As the bombs began to fall, these people fled to the capital, Sana'a.
DURA ISSA: [translated] My house is a traditional house. And when the bomb landed, the gate was blown off, and the roof was gone.
JANE FERGUSON: Dura Issa's house was hit. Her family got out alive, but she is now homeless, trying to care for her severely disabled son.
DURA ISSA: [translated] I don't know where to stay tonight. We don't have money for a hotel. We cannot afford it. We left in a hurry, scared. We left everything.
JANE FERGUSON: Ahead of the battle, the coalition warned civilians to get out.
MOHAMMED ISSA: [translated] The coalition announced on the TV that we have to leave. They didn't tell us anything. They just told us to go out. The Houthis made trenches. My house is next to the sea, and the battles are there.
JANE FERGUSON: Millions of Yemenis are just like him, living in fear of the battle raging near their homes, or an airstrike killing them and their families. Both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have disregarded innocent civilian life in this war. Every bomb that falls on a hospital, office building or home causes more unease about where they came from.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jane Ferguson, reporting from Yemen for the PBS NewsHour. When we come back, we'll go to Beirut, Lebanon—Jane has come out of Yemen, which she smuggled herself into—and speak directly with her. Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: "Yemen Blues" by Yemen Blues. This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We're spending the rest of the hour in Yemen. We're joined in Beirut by Jane Ferguson, special correspondent for PBSNewsHour.
AMY GOODMAN: Jane is just back from Yemen, where she spent nearly a month reporting this remarkable three-part series for PBS NewsHouron widespread starvation in Yemen, American financing of the Saudi-backed coalition there, and Houthi rebels. Her recent piece in The New Yorker is headlined "Is Intentional Starvation the Future of War?"
Jane, welcome to Democracy Now! I mean, the bravery of you even going into Yemen, which particularly shows what the Yemeni people face, explain how you got there. And then, this piece we just aired, where you talk about the U.S. support for what's happening, how you found this evidence?
JANE FERGUSON: Getting into Yemen itself is not as complicated, or not even close to as complicated, as getting into northern Yemen. Journalists from some outlets, including American outlets, have been granted visas and allowed to board flights into the south of Yemen. That's the area that the Saudi-led coalition controls, and that's into the capital of the south, which is Aden. And you can fly in there. And I was able to get a visa to get to Aden after a couple of attempts, and board a flight to Aden. And from there, as you would have seen in that report, I basically had to drive north. You can drive north across the front line. Yemenis themselves, civilians, are moving back and forth. But you have to go through dozens of checkpoints. I wasn't able to film them, obviously, for the piece, as I was smuggling my way up. But it took sort of several cars and on various routes to be able to get up there, disguised as a Yemeni woman.
And, you know, once I got there, I had to work with a Yemeni team, because I could only really smuggle myself up. I couldn't bring my cameraman and have him passed off as a believable Yemeni woman. So, I worked with a Yemeni team when I was in Sana'a, journalists and friends that I've known for some time. Now, it's worth pointing out that news organizations all around the world, and particularly American news organizations, have been trying to access Sana'a, and they very much so want to report from Houthi-controlled areas, but journalists are banned. The Saudis control the airspace, and they ban journalists and human rights researchers from boarding the U.N. flights. Only U.N. flights land in Sana'a, in the capital, that is Houthi-controlled. And so, journalists, for a long time, from various news organizations, all the major networks in the U.S., have been trying to access those areas, but they've not been permitted to go. So, you know, it really is a case of whoever can smuggle their way up there. And that's extremely challenging logistically, because then you end up with one staff member up there and not a support team.
So, when I was there, you know, as you've pointed out, a major focus on the reporting is the fact that this is a war that perhaps not so visually on the ground the United States is involved in, but behind the scenes the United States is supporting this war. They are supporting the Saudi-led coalition. And when the Saudi-led coalition formed in 2015, it was Barack Obama then president of the United States, obviously. He brought in support. He supported the coalition's efforts, not with boots on the ground, but certainly with the logistics that was mentioned there. Some of those logistics include things like refueling Saudi jets. In between bombing raids, if they can be refueled midair by United States Air Force jets, that helps them, makes the process much more efficient. Also the sale of weapons, over $100 billion worth of U.S. weapons agreed in sales to the Saudis, often agreed by Obama, but then confirmed by President Trump.
There's also various logistical and intelligence support. And this is really where, you know, the Yemenis that I spoke to were coming from in terms of why they saw this as a United States war. And when I would put this question to them, even privately, off camera, to people who didn't wish to speak on camera because they were not supporters of the Houthis or the coalition, they would say, you know, "We know, we feel very much so like this is a United States war." And also when you're on the ground there, like I said in my report, the Houthis are able to use this as a very strong propaganda tool, because they're able to couch this war in terms of a jihad, a religious war, against not only foreign invaders like Saudis, but they will say, you know, whenever they're trying to recruit fighters, that this is a war against foreign invaders who are fighting against Islam.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jane, one of the weapons that the U.S. has sold to the Saudis, as you witnessed and discussed in your piece, are cluster bombs. Could you talk about what you learned about the effects of these bombs? I mean, this is a weapon that is banned by 102 countries. Explain what the effects of cluster bombs are.
JANE FERGUSON: Well, a cluster bomb, effectively, when it's dropped, it explodes just before it hits the ground. And it can contain anything from dozens to up to hundreds of smaller bombs. They're around about the size of a baseball, and they are just miniature bombs primed to explode. And they spread out over a wider area. They can be particularly deadly for civilians, especially in countries where people live in, you know, non-brick or non-concrete homes. So, areas where people live in mud homes or wattle homes, straw huts, they can be particularly dangerous in those situations. But they also are—they have a particularly poor fail rate, where, if they land, not all of the small munitions will explode, and so they will remain primed on the ground. And they can be picked up by a child. They can randomly explode much, much later. And that's why cluster bombs are seen as such a deadly weapon, because they can act like mines, as well as an explosive that spreads itself out.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Jane, your piece also ends with a remarkable and horrific statistic, that an estimated 130 Yemeni children died every day in 2017 from extreme hunger and disease. Now, you point out in this piece, as well as your piece in The New Yorker, that this is a man-made disaster, that there is, in fact, food in Yemen. It's just that people no longer have the means to buy that food, because millions of workers have been put out of work or are simply not being paid. Can you talk about that?
JANE FERGUSON: Sure. This is the real toll of the war. Of course, civilians are dying in these airstrikes, but not in anywhere near to the numbers of people who are falling ill and dying from the humanitarian crisis that has been caused by this war. Of course, you know, you'll hear the statistic, "Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian disaster," but that's really just a phrase. And it was—you know, one of the reasons I wanted to go into rebel-held Yemen was because no one really understands what that looks like. What does that mean to a viewer?
And what it means is a third of the country, an entire third, over 8 million people, on the brink of starvation, meaning they're not getting enough nutrients. They cannot afford to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families sufficiently. And, you know, the statistics on the deaths of children are particularly startling, and that's because, of course, as anywhere in the world, children are the most susceptible to falling ill from malnutrition. They can die of starvation. They can also, and more often is the case, die of infectious diseases, because their bodies have become so weak. And so, when I traveled to various hospitals and went to the children's wards, which are very—pretty much now just malnutrition wards, you'll see absolutely terrifyingly thin children. And you'll see a small trickle of them every single day. A lot of parents can't afford to bring their children to clinics or hospitals in rural capitals, because the cost of fuel has gone up, which means a bus ride will be more expensive.
And the reason that this is man-made, and the reason that every NGOand humanitarian organization has pointed out that this is man-made, is that it is caused by the war. There hasn't been a weather pattern or a particular natural disaster. There is plenty of food getting into Yemen. Now, what is happening is that the food prices are higher than they should be. They're higher than they were before. That's partly because of the Saudi-led coalition's blockade on the area. They're allowing food in, but it's restricted, and it's a slow process, and it's an expensive process, because the ships that import the food, they get held up for weeks at a time, they have to be inspected, and so that process is particularly difficult. Yemen imports the vast majority of its food. It has done since long before this war. So those prices going up have also been coupled with the fact that the economy, certainly in the north, but also really all over Yemen, is on its knees, if not has collapsed, essentially. You'll see people have just lost their jobs, and so it doesn't really matter how much food there is in the supermarket, and it doesn't really matter how expensive it has become, because if you have absolutely no money, then you're really—you're not going to be able to buy it anyway. And that's why Yemenis are hungry. They're hungry because of the economic collapse. And the economic collapse is as a direct result of this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Jane Ferguson, I wanted to go back to your third exclusive piece for the PBS NewsHour on Yemen, where you report on the Houthi rebels. This is a clip from your series. This is Salim Moghalis, a member of the Houthis' political wing, who told you they took the missiles from Yemen's military arsenal when they captured the capital Sana'a.
SALIM MOGHALIS: [translated] The Yemeni people and army have missiles from the past. And the army and experts were able to improve and upgrade these missiles, which is necessary. We are able to produce all sorts of arms, so they can upgrade the old weapons to have longer ranges.
JANE FERGUSON: Beyond the politics, this war has created the world's worst humanitarian disaster. Millions are on the brink of starvation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history rages on.
After three years of war, people here are weary of the airstrikes and the blockade, but they also tell us they believe America could end it. In Sana'a's market, people are hopeful for an end to the crisis soon.
ABU MOHAMMED: [translated] Since America has the biggest position in the U.N., it should have pushed for political and economic resolutions to the conflict. Look, now the people are almost dead. Poverty, hunger, disease, death, injuries, and on top of all that, the warplanes are hitting us.
JANE FERGUSON: Meanwhile in Washington, efforts by some to end the U.S.'s support for the Saudis continue.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Vote yes, vote no. Do not vote to table this resolution.
JANE FERGUSON: A bipartisan group of senators, including Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, failed to get a resolution passed in March which aimed to limit the White House's authority to get involved in this war.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We think that, in fact, this war is unauthorized, and it is in fact unconstitutional. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty clear. It's the United States Congress that declares war. The president cannot do what he wants unilaterally. The president does not have the authority.
JANE FERGUSON: President Trump enjoys warm relations with the Saudis, especially the country's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The White House is currently pushing for further arms sales of precision-guided missiles to the kingdom. Some fellow Republicans argue the Saudis deserve America's support in this war. Idaho Republican James Risch sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
SEN. JAMES RISCH: The Iranians are in there, and they are causing the difficulty that's there. If the Iranians would back off, I have no doubt that the Saudis will back off. But the Saudis have the absolute right to defend themselves.
JANE FERGUSON: To others, it's not America's job to defend a nation that doesn't reflect its values.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I don't know that I have ever participated in a vote which says that the United States must be an ally to Saudis' militaristic ambitions. You know, this is a despotic regime, which treats women as third-class citizens. There are no elections there. They have their own goals and their own ambitions.
JANE FERGUSON: American support for Saudi Arabia is a major propaganda tool for the Houthis, who frame their war here as a form of jihad against the U.S., a religious battle. But it's a battle that neither side is winning, regardless of who America helps. Instead, the conflict is defined most clearly by those who are losing—the civilians—struggling to live with its consequences. For the PBSNewsHour, I'm Jane Ferguson in Sana'a, Yemen.
AMY GOODMAN: And Jane Ferguson is with us right now, back in Beirut, special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. The power of what you're saying there, that the people who are losing right now is what counts, the massive hunger, the cholera epidemic. Jane, the fact that journalists rarely go to the north, the way you smuggled yourself in, with the Saudis not allowing that, because you see the effects of their bombing, and you see the actual bombs, and you make that connection to the U.S. Your final comment, in the minute that we have?
JANE FERGUSON: I would point out that, exactly as you say, this is a war which has had a terrible toll on the people of Yemen. And that's a toll that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Nowhere in the world has a statistic like one-third of an entire country's population is on the brink of starvation. There are attempts going on right now to broker more serious peace talks, and there is a way to end this war, if all sides negotiate in good faith and are truly willing to make the compromises necessary. And so it is possible that Yemen could see peace before the end of the year, if there is enough political will there.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Jane Ferguson, speaking to us from Beirut, Lebanon, just returned from Yemen, where she did this remarkable three-part series for the PBS NewsHour. To see the three-part series, you can watch it at pbs.org/newshour.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Syria and "Mission Accomplished"



THE ABSURD TIMES





Syria and 'Mission Accomplished'

Just to counter the video we got from American Media, about 10 minutes or so into this clip is the faces of those liberated from American "Rebels" and their reaction.  Unfortunately, I could not just clip the one shot of about 2 minutes, but you can fat forward if you have the tools and resources. 


Now, for the transcript of the video: this is the most sane analysis or report on what is really going on there that I have been able to find anywhere.  It reminds me of what I might expect from Horkheimer or Adorno if they were around.  I am just going to post it without further comment:

As the United Nations Security Council holds an emergency session over the growing prospect of a war between Russia and the U.S., after President Trump threatened U.S. strikes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, we get response from Syrian-Canadian writer Yazan al-Saadi. "Let's remind everyone that the U.S. is striking Syria already. You have more than 2,000 soldiers on the ground. There are bases." He adds, "For me, as a Syrian, I see it as an occupation, just like how I see the Russians are an occupation on the country." Regarding the alleged chemical attack in Syria, he says, "This ignores the fact that most deaths are happening through conventional means," such as airstrikes.


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Syria, where Syrian government forces have taken full control of the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, in a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad. The capture of Eastern Ghouta followed a Russian-brokered deal that saw the last remaining rebel fighters granted safe passage to a rebel-held area in northern Syria. Human rights groups estimate some 1,700 civilians were killed in heavy fighting, after Syrian forces, backed by Russia, launched an offensive on Eastern Ghouta in February. The U.N. says food, water and medicine are in short supply for those left behind. This is U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland.
JAN EGELAND: There is, by our count, still at least 100,000 people in Douma, and they need desperately our help. We have been prevented from going there. We have had very little supplies to there. And now, hopefully, there is finally an agreement between the armed actors.
AMY GOODMAN: Eastern Ghouta's fall comes as the U.N. Security Council is set to meet in an emergency session today over the growing prospect of a war between Russia and the U.S., after President Trump threatened U.S. strikes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma last Saturday. This is Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.
VASILY NEBENZYA: The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.
REPORTER: Sir, you just mentioned that you want to avert the danger of war. The danger of war between the U.S. and Russia?
VASILY NEBENZYA: Look, we cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw—we saw messages that are coming from Washington. They were very bellicose. They know we are there. I hope, I wish there was dialogue through appropriate channels on this to avert any dangerous—any dangerous developments.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as President Trump tweeted Wednesday, quote, "Get ready Russia, because [missiles] will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" Then, on Thursday, Trump appeared to back off slightly from his aggressive stance, tweeting, "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!" That last tweet came after Trump missed a self-imposed deadline of 48 hours to announce major decisions on Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma on Saturday.
Those comments came as the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Russia has evidence the attack was fabricated. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he has "proof" that Syria's government carried out the attack. And NBC News cited two unnamed U.S. officials who said blood and urine samples taken from a victim and smuggled out of Douma show signs of poisoning from a nerve agent and chlorine gas.
On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. is still investigating the attack. This is Mattis being questioned by Hawaii Democratic Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard.
REPTULSI GABBARD: What would the objective of an attack on Syria be? And how does that serve the interests of the American people?"
DEFENSE SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: I don't want to talk about a specific attack that is not yet in the offing, knowing that these are decisions—this would be predecisional. Again, the president has not made that decision.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on Syria, we go to Beirut, Lebanon, where we're joined via Democracy Now! video stream by Yazan al-Saadi, a Syrian-Canadian writer and researcher.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Yazan. Your response to all the latest developments in Syria?
YAZAN AL-SAADI: Thank you very much for having me. One thing I wanted to say is how surreal this is, even this interview, because, Amy, the first time I was on Democracy Now! was almost a year ago, this exact situation appearing. And so—so it just struck me, and I feel I have to say that Karl Marx was right: History repeats. And it was a tragedy, a farce, and it's even more absurd.
There's just so much to say. I mean, my first comment I would like to really point out is this weird discussion happening in the U.S. as if in attack on Syria hasn't happened by the U.S. and by others. Let's remind everyone that the U.S. is striking Syria already. You have more than 2,000 soldiers on the ground. There are bases. For me, as a Syrian, I see it as an occupation, just like how I see the Russians are an occupation on the country. So, I just find the whole discussion that's happening is so absurd.
And I feel like the hysteria that is being manufactured, in my opinion, by these politicians are just distracting from the core issues. And the core issues, at least to me, is accountability for Syrians. I mean, let's be honest. Whether the U.S. strikes Syria—and here, I believe people mean the Syrian military or the Syrian regime—how is this going to bring justice? How is this accountability in any way? Because it's not. And even then, what's next? What's the plan here? So I think the biggest issue that is really driving all of this is that this is another example of the complete dysfunctionality and failure of the international political and accountability system, that this is what we're witnessing again and again. And we're seeing it in Syria, and we've seen it in so many other places around the world. And it's just—it's become very absurd.
And it's become—and it's also, as human being, I mean, I just am so personally upset as a human, as I can. You know, I have to be empathetic here, because people are dying in the scheme of things. Men, women, children, they are being killed predominantly by the ones that have the most power, i.e. the regime and its allies, and they all are also being killed and harmed and abused by armed opposition groups, who are backed by other superpowers. So, that's where we're at.
And these theater plays, these things that happen over an alleged chemical attack—and I personally believe it happened, and I believe—I have my thoughts and my conclusions on who the culprit are, based on the evidence that we all have around. It's really—
AMY GOODMAN: Who do you believe—who do you believe launched this attack?
YAZAN AL-SAADI: Who do I think launched the attack? Based on the evidence that is around, based on trends, based on the history, based on context, I do think it was the Syrian regime. However, what does this change anything? Because, OK, the OPCW is currently investigating in the country, and they should start on Saturday. And I support that. I believe in an investigation. There has to be some sort of accountability here. I don't believe in a Western invasion and overthrow of the Syrian regime, because I don't think that leads to Syrian determination. However, how does this change anything? Because the OPCW has already said, in previous reports, that it has linked the Syrian regime to chlorine attacks, at least three of them. It has also pointed out there are links of ISIS using mustard gas. So, what are we arguing here? Are we arguing that chemical weapons are happening in Syria? Well, they are. People are using chemical weapons, are using chemical agents, whether it's chlorine or anything else. What changes? This doesn't—it ignores the fact that the most deaths are happening through conventional means. People are dying because of airstrikes, bullets, sieges. So this idea of chemical weapons is also—it's absurd.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Yazan, for people who aren't aware, OPCW is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But I wanted to go to Russia's foreign minister rejecting the allegations of the chemical weapons attack in Douma.
MARIA ZAKHAROVA: [translated] Doctors, chemical defense specialists have been to Douma, where chemical weapons were allegedly used, but they found no traces of such use, no casualties or victims of this mythical chemical attack. The West stubbornly refuses to listen to a heap of information.
AMY GOODMAN: France says they have evidence that it was the Syrian government. But today the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said Western countries must increase pressure on Russia in order to solve the crisis in Syria.
HEIKO MAAS: [translated] We want these people to be held criminally responsible internationally, and there remains a lot to be done. The repeated use of chemical weapons, which is internationally prohibited, cannot come without consequences. You cannot just continue with the daily agenda. This now needs to be discussed with our Western partners.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Germany says they wouldn't get involved with Britain and France and the United States with an attack. And, Yazan, your response to the Russians saying it's not them?
YAZAN AL-SAADI: Yeah, I'm not surprised that the Russians would take this line, just like I'm not surprised about the Western governments' line. I mean, you know, a lot of people point to the example of what happened with Iraq. And I agree that, you know, what happened with Iraq is criminal, and this idea of manufacturing evidence.
But there are two things I want to point out. Does this mean that if the U.S. was actually telling the truth and there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—does this justify the killing of over a million Iraqis and the destruction of Iraq? Is this what people are arguing? Because that's what I'm hearing.
Secondly, the position of manufacturing or victim blaming isn't really new. All regimes, whether they are the Russians, the Syrians, the Israelis, the Saudis, the Americans, say the same thing, and they've said the same thing throughout history. A lot of people say, "Remember Iraq." I also say, "True, and I agree: Remember Iraq. And also remember things like Guernica, where the fascist government at the time, during the Spanish Civil War, completely denied what happened to Guernica, and said it was fabricated and that the anarchists and leftists were bombing and burning themselves." So, this is—this is the situation, let's all agree. And let's be frank: They are all lying in many ways to us. They are all lying.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it's interesting you raise Guernica. The famous painting by Pablo Picasso of what happened in Guernica well over 75 years ago, the banner of a tapestry of that painting, famous painting, that is known around the world, hangs outside the U.N. Security Council. Today, the U.N. Security Council will be meeting on Syria. So, what do you think is the solution, Yazan? You are a Syrian. You have seen your country destroyed. You now—don't you have actually Russian soldiers and U.S. soldiers on the ground in Syria?
YAZAN AL-SAADI: Yeah, we have everyone on the ground. It's a buffet. So, what do I think? And I can only—and I am going to say this very clearly: I am speaking for myself; I'm not representing, you know, Syrians or Syria, because there's a whole wide range of views.
What I think I believe the solution is: accountability. I believe the only way and the only way we, as Syrians, could move on and build a sustainable—a sustainable, coherent country is to move for accountability, accountability against every crime inflicted on every Syrian body over the course of seven years. I mean, if the regime—and I know that the regime has committed crimes. They should go—they should be taken to court, and then they should be put in prison. Same thing with the armed opposition. Same thing with the Americans, who have devastated places like Raqqa. Same thing like the Russians, who have devastated places around Syria. They should all be held to account.
And the only way to do that is not resorting to the international legal, political mechanisms, because they are failing. They are dysfunctional, and they are not made to help us citizens of the world. I believe, or I think, I should say, the best thing we can do—me and you and whoever else is listening or watching—is that we need to build a movement, because the movements today, whether it's Stop the War or the so-called mainstream left, they are abysmal, and they are failing just as well, because not only are they not stopping the wars, they are reproducing narratives that are harming people on the ground in the end—no different from the neocons and the Orientalists and anyone else that are warmongers.
The solution, or the idea, in my mind, is a better discourse, as well. For example, if one says that Assad is a criminal, this does not mean automatically Western intervention. And we shouldn't think that. At the same time, Western intervention cannot be presented as the only solution to dealing with Assad. Neither are correct. Both of them are terrible. And the Syrian people, like many other communities in the world, deserve better discourse and movements. Our bodies are being devastated, just like bodies are being devastated in Iraq, in Palestine and in Yemen. And we all need help. And that requires, really, an international mobilization of people, because everything else is horrendous. Don't you think so?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Yazan, let me ask you a last question. President Trump making this decision as he is embroiled in various sex scandals, accusations of—the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is moving in on him. His lawyer's, you know, home and hotel room and offices have been raided. Apparently there are recordings of his lawyer that have also been taken by the authorities. Now, why raise this as you're dealing in Syria with a possible chemical weapons attack, the number of people killed over these years, is because this decision might not actually be made because of what's happening on the ground in Syria, but the internal politics of what's happening here in the United States and wanting to distract attention.
YAZAN AL-SAADI: That could be certainly so. I mean, whatever Trump does, he can do. But let's not forget that behind Trump is a whole system in place, right? There is—it's not just Trump. We're talking about a political military system within the United States, just like within other countries, that makes these decisions. So, I have no faith in that, and I have no faith in Trump.
And there's one thing. The tweet that Trump had—it was yesterday—where he ended that people should say "thank you" to America. You know, I have something to say, and I'm going to say it in Arabic: Kol khara, which basically means—you can tell him it means "thank you." Because, in the end, what Trump is doing and all this hullabaloo that we also hear from, let's not forget, France and the U.K., who are no better and who are embroiled in a lot of crimes and supportive of repressive regimes in the region—how can I expect them to save me? They are no different from the Russians, in my opinion, you know, in terms of—will they bring me self-determination? Are they actively working to help me and my society and our neighbors? No, they're not. Let's not forget that the three main countries that are gung-ho to start, you know, launching attacks are also—you know, the U.S., the U.K. and France—are also the three main countries that deny the rights of Syrian refugees to enter their lands. So how can I take them seriously? I cannot.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Yazan al-Saadi, I want to thank you for being with us, Syrian-Canadian writer and researcher, speaking to us from Beirut, Lebanon.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, President Trump railed repeatedly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was one of his first acts in office to pull out of any such agreement. He is now saying he wants to rejoin the TPP. We'll speak with Public Citizen's Lori Wallach. Stay with us.
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