The Greek Debt Crisis
Bombing for Ethnic Cleansing
Edward S. Herman
Conflict in Syria
John W. Whitehead
The Great Obama Bailout
Good News Clubs
The Christian Right Quiz
Steel Workers March
Military Threats in Iran
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Militarizing the Conflict in Syria
Earlier this year, London’s Daily Telegraph reported on plans being developed within the U.S. State and Defense Departments to militarily intervene in Syria, independent of the UN, through a “Friends of Syria” coalition. They state that an unnamed State Department official has revealed “the debate in Washington has shifted away from diplomacy and towards more robust action,” and that Central Command “has begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities in the region.” They quote the same official as saying: “The decision-makers have not determined we are at a point of no return.... There is still a window, it is just that that window is closing.... We definitely don’t want to militarize the situation. If it’s avoidable we are going to avoid it. But increasingly it looks like it may not be avoidable.” This bureaucratic move towards militarization had also taken place in London where it was reported that the Ministry of Defense and National Security Council were making plans for a NATO-sponsored “No Fly Zone” over Syria.
This reporting is the latest and most in depth on the Obama administrations contingency plans for regime change in Syria, a scenario that has been on the White House docket since last April 2011 when Obama issued an executive order leveling personal sanctions against three prominent Syrian officials, one of whom was the brother of President Assad. Concerning the Syrian leader, an unnamed White House Official stated at the time, “Don’t think for a second Bashar is not on our radar and that if these abuses continue we won’t sanction him.”
Obama’s bellicosity was backed up by a gaggle of prominent Senate hawks, most notably Joe Lieberman, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham. One day prior to the White House sanctions announcement, the three Senators released a joint statement calling on the president to, “take tangible diplomatic and economic measures to isolate and pressure the Assad regime, including through targeted sanctions against Assad himself and other regime officials who are responsible for gross human rights abuses.” While their statement also asked Obama to call for Assad to step down, it was clear that the Obama administration and the Senate hawks were close to lockstep in their thinking on Syria. Reporting on this new Syrian policy was Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy’s blog, The Cable. He wrote that in the past two weeks a White House “mood shift” on Syria had occurred, with President Assad no longer being seen as likely to reform. Then, “after a series of deliberations, culminating in a Deputies Committee meeting at the National Security Council last week, a new policy course was set.”
This new policy course revealed itself as summer began. In mid-May, another round of economic sanctions was leveled against top Syrian officials, this time including President Assad, as well as six of his top aides. Just as before, Obama’s Congressional flank was protected by the Senate hawks led by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. One week prior to the second round of sanctions, Rubio sponsored a resolution urging President Obama to issue more sanctions against Syria, this time targeting the very top leadership. Rubio’s resolution was cosponsored by Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Ben Cardin. Internationally, the White House policy was buttressed by the European Union, which also issued sanctions against the Syrian government. At the same time, the rhetorical pressure against the Assad regime began to reflect this new policy, with Obama stating in a speech on May 17 that the Syrian people have demanded a transition to democracy and Assad was faced with a choice to “lead that transition or get out of the way.” Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton added that: “Every day that goes by, the position of the government becomes less tenable and the demands of the Syrian people for change only grow stronger.”
As the summer heated up, so did Washington’s designs for Damascus. In June, reports began to come out that the Syrian army and populous were facing a battle with foreign fighters. An unnamed EU diplomat told the EU Observer that, “we have reports that Wahhabists [radical Sunni Islamists], who are not necessarily controlled by any state, are coming into Syria from Iraq and Saudi Arabia to create chaos. Inside Syria, there are snipers shooting at demonstrators who are not controlled by Assad but by the deep state, and other snipers who are shooting at both demonstrators and police.” There was also a claim, made months later, that beginning in April-May 2011, the NATO airbase at Incirlik, Turkey was being used as an arms-smuggling hub for Syrian opposition fighters, run by a defected Syrian army colonel, Riad al-Assad. This story was broken by FBI whistleblower-turned activist Sibel Edmonds, who is a native of Turkey.
By early July, the State Department was openly courting the Syrian opposition, with Ambassador Robert Ford making a much-publicized visit, accompanied by the French Ambassador, to meet anti-government protesters in Hama on July 7. A great deal of tension resulted from this visit, as it triggered a pro-Assad demonstration at the American and French embassies in Damascus where windows were broken, flags torn down, and walls covered with graffiti. Back in Washington, Secretary of State Clinton upped the ante once again, telling reporters, “President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.” For his part, Ambassador Ford relayed his thoughts on the ordeal through a Facebook post (perhaps to posture himself as a protester and not a government man) where he wrote, “And how ironic that the Syrian government lets an anti-U.S. demonstration proceed freely while their security thugs beat down olive branch-carrying peaceful protesters elsewhere.”
By early August, Secretary of State Clinton was holding official meetings in Washington, DC with Syrian opposition figures. Herbert London, the president of the Hudson Institute, characterized the State Department as “betraying” the pro-Democracy forces within the opposition, writing: “Most of those invited, however, have links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians, and Christian spokespeople. According to various reports, the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government or replace him if this effort fails.”
Then, on August 18, Obama and his NATO compatriots in London, Paris, and Berlin stated their desires bluntly—Assad must step down. “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” read a White House press release. Washington backed up its rhetoric by issuing yet another round of economic sanctions against Syria, this time with very broad dictates that seized all Syrian assets under U.S. jurisdiction, banned imports of Syrian oil, and banned any contact by American citizens with the Syrian government. Similar sanctions were also adopted by the European Union. The New York Times described this bout of hard-edged diplomacy as the culmination of a months-long debate, one that moved the Administration “from discussing whether to call for Mr. Assad’s ouster to discussing how to help bring it about, and what to do after that.” In short, it had become U.S. policy to destabilize the Syrian government.
It is at this juncture that the Obama administration crossed the Rubicon on the Syria situation. How long could it allow Assad to continue sitting in Damascus without committing military might to the problem? How strong were the words of the NATO alliance without the firepower of their fighter-squadrons and special forces? While Obama may give his new policy of destabilization time to play out, what would his deadline be before he turns to his National Security Advisor and says “protocol and law be damned, let’s go get this guy?”
Being more bellicose than the Democrats has been a plank of the GOP for the past decade and, due to the Obama administrations war-happy nature, Syria could be the only talking point where a Republican candidate could really hammer down on the “dovish” president. It appears that by calling for Assad’s ouster, the Obama administration backed itself into a corner, with the only way out being to bring about the fall of the Syrian government through one means or another.
Throughout the fall of 2011, groundwork was laid for the new policy of “helping to bring about” the fall of the Assad government. A semi-respectable opposition group was established, the Syrian National Council, led by a Paris-based exile, as well as an opposition militia, the Free Syrian Army. These groups were established as much for their public relations worth as their diplomatic value. The press, especially those relying on second-hand reports, need a good and evil dichotomy to report on, a brigade of “freedom fighters” to support against the brutal government thugs, and an “opposition leader” to quote on the political sanctity of whoever would replace Assad.
By the end of November, it was time to kick the policy into action. Reports began to filter out that NATO governments had set up three training camps for Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey, Jordan, and in the Lebanese town of Tripoli. The Turkish camp was located in the coastal town of Iskenderun in Turkey’s Hatay province, less than 60 miles from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The Jordanian camp was located in the town of al-Mafraq, seven miles from the Syrian border. Reports indicated that when U.S. troops were departing from Iraq, some planes went to Jordan where they set up at the al-Mafraq airbase, long a center for Jordanian plots against their northern neighbor. Additionally, 600 Libyan fighters—fresh from their march on Tripoli—were sent to Turkey, commanded by former al-Qaeda leader turned Libyan rebel commando Abdulhakim Belhadj. This came on top of reports from the Turkish daily Milliyet that France, Britain, and Turkey “had reached an agreement to send arms into Syria” and that the U.S. had been notified of the decision.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer turned journalist, revealed in early December that two new “intelligence findings” had been signed in the White House, authorizing stepped up covert action against Damascus and Tehran. Later that month, Foreign Policy magazine described an NSC working group designed to aid the Syrian opposition that was put into action, led by NSC senior director Steve Simon and State Department official Frederic C. Hof.
It appears that Syria has become a crucial fulcrum for the White House, with the option of overt military intervention, on one side, and a continuation of diplomacy and covert action on the other. But Obama seems to be slipping closer towards militarization. Will he leave the Assad government in place, perhaps in the process giving up his own shot at a second term in the White House?
Evan Taylor is a graduate of Marlboro College, where he studied American foreign policy. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he conducts independent research.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.