Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Grim Reading List

The previous post was a lame attempt to lift today's otherwise sickening tide of grim links.
Here ya go...
Like 1980s Lebanon, Syria faces a lost decade of war
Faisal Al Yafai
Aug 20, 2013

Hizbollah, says Saad Hariri, will drag Lebanon into "the Syrian fire". Mr Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, is right about the effect, but wrong about the time-frame.

Lebanon is already involved. The Syrian conflict is now a regional war, stretching from Qamishli in the Kurdish far north-east of Syria, on the border with Turkey, all the way down to the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, on the Mediterranean. It may not-yet-be one theatre, but the whole region is linked to the war. 
When historians come to write the history of the Syrian conflict - the Syrian civil war - they will divide the uprising into phases of what became a long war.
Details at the link, ending thus:
As much as the media reports on the Syrian conflict, producing millions of words and thousands of hours of television and radio, the whole enterprise still cannot convey the harsh reality of what is happening on the ground in Syria. Fear cannot be conveyed in words or pictures; the ceaseless anxiety of parents for their children, of footsteps and gunshots in the night, the fear of starvation, the fear of violence. These things cannot be grasped by mere reporting. 
But it is now clear that the Syrian civil war will not end anytime soon. Millions of Syrians have fled their homes. What lies ahead of them is what lay ahead of the Lebanese in the early 1980s: decades of wandering, of moving from country to country, of seeking a new life away from the war that now envelops their country. 
It is horrific for Syrians that their once safe country has been so destroyed. And horrific for the Arab world that it must, as with every major conflict of the modern Arab world - Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and now Syria - bear the brunt of this burden. The experience of long years of exile is one familiar to millions of Arabs. It is now the fate of millions of Syrians. The blame for that must fall in large part on all of those who watched, waited and refused to intervene.
Yahoo News reports this...
Village bloodbath highlights Egypt's new agony

CAIRO (AP) — The police captain says he has memories of pretending to be dead, of men being dragged around by cars, of a policeman being told by his attacker: "We will give you a slow death." 
Mohammed Abdel-Hamid was the sole survivor of an assault on a police station a few kilometers (miles) from the Pyramids in which 15 police were killed by supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi. An officer in his 20s, he lies in a police hospital in Cairo, shot in the shoulder and leg, recounting to The Associated Press what happened in Kirdasah, an impoverished village ordinarily known for its handmade rugs. 
This decades-old confrontation between two perennial Egyptian foes — police and Islamists — has erupted anew after the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, the elected Islamist president on July 3. It turned bloody on Wednesday, when the military raided two protest camps of Morsi's supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people.
The Kirdasah attack began three hours later, with the mob peppering the police station with firebombs and gunfire. 
Inside were Police Chief Gen. Mohammed Gabr; his deputy, Amer Abdel-Maksoud; and seven other officers plus seven rank-and-file policemen and soldiers. 
"The whole town was in the streets protesting and chanting," Abdel-Hamid. The siege went on for six hours until "we ran out of ammunition and we got no reinforcements while the machine-gun and automatic-weapons fire got heavier." 
Rocket-propelled grenades demolished the outside gates and set vehicles on fire, he said. The last words he heard from the police chief on the phone to Cairo HQ were, "We are going to die here." 
He said heavy smoke forced the men out of the building where attackers tied some of them to cars and dragged them, beat them with wooden and metal poles, stabbed and poured acid on them, slashed their throats. 
A video posted on social networking sites and circulated on newspaper websites such as el-Watan showed the police chief stripped of his clothes, sitting in a pool of blood, next to a dozen others. A second showed a scalped officer. A third showed one of the policemen on the asphalt with his back to a car that appeared to have been used in his dragging. Someone with face off-camera was seen killing a motionless man. 
Abdel-Hamid said he and three soldiers fled into a residential building to seek refuge but he was turned back by an old man who called him "traitor." He said he and others were dragged across the village to the steps of a mosque where others were lined up for beatings and mutilation.
And yes, if you haven't had enough, there is more at the link.

Via 3 Quarks Daily here is Andrew Sullivan.
Cameron Proves Greenwald Right
Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court. 
Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.
The tipping point for him was yesterday's nin-hour detention of Miranda, a truly ugly over-reach of authority on the part of the Brits, who claim the US was not the instigator. Right.
In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse. Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state. 
You have proven that these laws can be hideously abused. Which means they must be repealed. You have broken the trust that enables any such legislation to survive in a democracy. By so doing, you have attacked British democracy itself. What on earth do you have to say for yourself? And were you, in any way, encouraged by the US administration to do such a thing?
I forget where this link to The Atlantic came from but it doesn't matter. The content is more important. 
My Two Weeks With the JihadistsUnderstanding the path to Islamist militancy
Michael Marcusa, doctoral student in Political Science at Brown University

August 15 2013
They were sitting where they always sit: at the far edge of the makeshift, roadside cafe on the outskirts of of Sidi Bouzid -- the small, economically marginalized town in central Tunisia where in December 2010, a young street vendor lit himself on fire and changed the world. There were about 20 of them. Some wore long flowing robes and black skullcaps; some wore jeans, t-shirts, and Yankees hats; nearly all of them had thick beards. My friend had called in advance - they must have known I would be coming. As I took my seat in the circle, they all beamed at me. "Welcome, welcome! We are honored!" said one tall youth with glasses and a jovial smile. Another swiftly handed me the cup of ice cream he had ordered for himself, declaring that it was a gift.

"From now on, when you sit with us, you will be brother Michael!" added another. We were all in our 20s no longer boys, but still learning how to be men. They accepted me unconditionally. For the next two weeks, they welcomed me into their world. Nevertheless, we are different. I am an American. Their hero is Osama Bin Laden.
This is a fascinating insight into the making of extremists. The key to success is recruiting them before they develop a mature sense of risk assessment, a developmental ability that only in recent years has been studied and documented by experts who do that kind of research. 
Peer pressure is also an important component. 
Check it out.
When I discussed the paradox with some knowledgeable Tunisian friends, they explained to me that the young Salafists were giving me the same treatment they often give to potential new recruits to their movement. By default, they embraced me as I was -- their personal warmth towards me was not contingent on my agreement with their opinions, at least not at the beginning. Only after I had become comfortable with them on a personal level did they begin trying to convince me that their ideas were legitimate. More than that, the extreme comfort they had with each other created a powerful impression that they were a compassionate, close-knit community, where members protected each other. They always looked fundamentally happy. In Sidi Bouzid, where youth unemployment is astronomically high, young men often wear wistful, reserved expressions on their faces. By contrast, the young jihadist Salafists were always smiling. When I asked one of them why he thought this was, he paused, looked me in the eye, and said, grinning "it's because we have hope."
And before I go back to the dentist this afternoon for a root canal, there is this from Roubini Global Economics...
Our Deeds in Egypt Show the Darkness and Folly of Our Foreign Policy
Author: Fabius Maximus 

August 19th, 2013
  1. Obama explains what America has become 
  2. al Qaeda says “I told you so” 
  3. Crusaders ‘R Us 
  4. Hidden history, important and ignored 
  5. For More Information 
  6. Obama BFs our allies, Egypt’s generals 
  7. Another Perspective on these events 
Go to the link for the particulars.

As I said, today's reading is pretty grim...

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