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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:22 pm 
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If they take a shit I wonder if they call it a Kurd Turd?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:26 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
If they take a shit I wonder if they call it a Kurd Turd?


In Arabic it’s كورد غائط


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:41 pm 
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PBFMullethunter wrote:
Slacks wrote:
If they take a shit I wonder if they call it a Kurd Turd?


In Arabic it’s كورد غائط


And?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:50 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
PBFMullethunter wrote:
Slacks wrote:
If they take a shit I wonder if they call it a Kurd Turd?


In Arabic it’s كورد غائط


And?


Knowledge is power.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:15 am 
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DECEMBER 31, 2018

Trump’s Syrian Withdrawal: an Act of Political Realism

by PATRICK COCKBURN


President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is being denounced by an impressive range of critics claiming that it is a surrender to Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iran – as well as a betrayal of the Kurds and a victory for Isis.

The pullout may be one or all of these things, but above all it is a recognition of what is really happening on the ground in Syria and the Middle East in general.

This point has not come across clearly enough because of the undiluted loathing for Trump among most of the American and British media. They act as a conduit for the views of diverse figures who condemn the withdrawal and include members of the imperially-minded foreign policy establishment in Washington and terrified Kurds living in north-east Syria who fear ethnic cleansing by an invading Turkish army.

Opposition to Trump’s decision was supercharged by the resignation of Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis which came after he failed to persuade the president to rescind his order. Mattis does not mention Syria or Afghanistan in his letter of resignation, but he makes clear his disagreement with the general direction of Trump’s foreign policy in not confronting Russia and China and ignoring traditional allies and alliances.

The resignation of Mattis has elicited predictable lamentations from commentators who treat his departure as if it was the equivalent of the Kaiser getting rid of Bismarck. The over-used description of Mattis as “the last of the adults in the room” is once again trotted out, though few examples of his adult behaviour are given aside from his wish – along with other supposed “adults” – to stay in Syria until various unobtainable objectives were achieved: the extinction of Iranian influence; the displacement of Bashar al-Assad; and the categorical defeat of Isis (are they really likely to sign surrender terms?).

In other words, there was to be an open-ended US commitment with no attainable goals in an isolated and dangerous part of the world where it was already playing a losing game.

It is worth spelling out the state of play in Syria because this is being masked by anti-Trump rhetoric, recommending policies that may sound benign but are far detached from political reality. This reality may be very nasty: it is right to be appalled by the prospects for the Syrian Kurds who are terrified of a Turkish army that is already massing to the north of the Turkish-Syrian frontier.

There is a horrible inevitability about all this because neither Turkey nor Syria were ever going to allow a Kurdish mini-state to take permanent root in north-east Syria. It existed because of the Syrian civil war in which Assad withdrew his forces from the Kurdish-populated regions in 2012 in order to concentrate them in defence of strategically vital cities and roads. Isis attacked the Kurdish enclave in 2014 which led to a de facto alliance between the Kurds and the US air force whose devastating firepower enabled the Kurds to capture a great swathe of Isis-held territory east of the Euphrates.

Turkey was never going to accept this outcome. Erdogan denounced the Kurdish political and military forces controlling this corner of Syria as “terrorists” belonging to the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984.

This is a good moment to make a point about this article: it is an explanation not a justification for the dreadful things that may soon happen. I have visited the Kurdish controlled part of Syria several times and felt that it was the only part of Syria where the uprising of 2011 had produced a society that was better than what had gone before, bearing in mind the constraints of fighting a war.

I met the men and women of the People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) who fought heroically against Isis, suffering thousands of dead and wounded. But I always had a doomed feeling when talking to them as I could not see how their statelet, which had been brought into existence by temporary circumstances, was going to last beyond the end of the Syrian civil war and the defeat of Isis. One day the Americans would have to choose between 2 million embattled Kurds in Syria and 80 million Turks in Turkey and it dd not take much political acumen to foresee what they would decide.

Turkey had escalated its pressure on the US to end its protection of the Kurds and this finally paid off. A telephone conversation with Erdogan a week ago reportedly convinced Trump that he had to get US soldiers and airpower out of Syria. Keep in mind that Trump needs – though he may not get as much as he wants – Turkey as an ally in the Middle East more than ever before. His bet on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Saudi Arabia as the leader of a pro-American and anti-Iranian Sunni coalition in the Middle has visibly and embarrassingly failed. The bizarre killing of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi team in Istanbul was only the latest in a series of Saudi pratfalls showing comical ineptitude as well as excessive and mindless violence.

Critics of Trump raise several other important questions in opposing his withdrawal decision: is he not letting Isis off the hook by prematurely announcing their defeat and thereby enabling them to make a comeback? There is something in this, but not a lot. The Islamic State, that once held territory stretching from the Tigris River in Iraq to Syria’s Mediterranean coast, is no more and cannot be resurrected because the circumstances that led to its spectacular growth between 2013 and 2015 are no longer there.

Isis made too many enemies because of its indiscriminate violence when it was at the peak of its power. Trump is right to assume in a tweet that “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others…will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us”. Isis may seek to take advantage of chaos in eastern Syria in the coming months, but there will be no power vacuum for them to exploit. The vacuum will be filled by Turkey or Syria or a combination of the two.

A further criticism of the US withdrawal is that it unnecessarily hands a victory to Vladimir Putin and Assad. But here again, Trump’s manoeuvre is more of a recognition of the fact that both men are already winners in the Syrian war.

Nor is it entirely clear that Russia and Iran will have greater influence in Syria and the region after the US withdrawal. True they have come out on the winning side, but as the Syrian state becomes more powerful it will have less need for foreign allies. The close cooperation between Russia and Turkey was glued together by US cooperation with the Kurds and once that ends, then Turkey may shift – though not all the way – back towards the US.

By denouncing Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, his opponents are once again making the mistake of underestimating his instinctive political skills.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:42 pm 
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If I'm not mistaken one of the defining moments for Annoying Orange when he was running for election was that he didn't support the conflict in Syria, whereas, Crazy Bitch did. It certainly gave him way more appeal to me.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:48 pm 
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tgrant wrote:
There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.


Quite so:

JANUARY 1, 2019

The United States is First in War, But Trailing in Crucial Aspects of Modern Civilization

by LAWRENCE WITTNER


Maybe those delirious crowds chanting “USA, USA” have got something. When it comes to military power, the United States reigns supreme. Newsweek reported in March 2018: “The United States has the strongest military in the world,” with more than two million military personnel and vast numbers of the most advanced nuclear missiles, military aircraft, warships, tanks, and other modern weapons of war. Furthermore, as the New York Times noted, “the United States also has a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active duty troops deployed in more than 170 countries.” This presence includes some 800 overseas U.S. military bases.

In 2017 (the last year for which global figures are available), the U.S. government accounted for more than a third of the world’s military expenditures―more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined. Not satisfied, however, President Trump and Congress pushed through a mammoth increase in the annual U.S. military budget in August 2018, raising it to $717 billion. Maintaining the U.S. status as “No. 1” in war and war preparations comes at a very high price.

That price is not only paid in dollars—plus massive death and suffering in warfare―but in the impoverishment of other key sectors of American life. After all, this lavish outlay on the military now constitutes about two-thirds of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending. And these other sectors of American life are in big trouble.

Let’s consider education. The gold standard for evaluation seems to be the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tests 15-year-old students every few years. The last test, which occurred in 2015 and involved 540,000 students in 72 nations and regions, found that U.S. students ranked 24thin reading, 25thin science, and 41stin mathematics. When the scores in these three areas were combined, U.S. students ranked 31st―behind the students of Slovenia, Poland, Russia, and Vietnam.

The educational attainments among many other Americans are also dismal. An estimated 30 million adult Americans cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third grade level. Literacy has different definitions and, for this reason among others, estimates vary about the level of illiteracy in the United States. But one of the most favorable rankings of the United States for literacy places it in a tie with numerous other nations for 26th; the worst places it at 125th.

The U.S. healthcare system also fares poorly compared to that of other nations. A 2017 study of healthcare systems in 11 advanced industrial countries by the Commonwealth Fund found that the United States ranked at the very bottom of the list. Furthermore, numerous nations with far less “advanced” economies have superior healthcare systems to that of the United States. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 37thamong countries―behind that of Colombia, Cyprus, and Morocco.

Not surprisingly, American health is relatively poor. The infant mortality ratein the United States is higher than in 54 other lands, including Belarus, Cuba, Greece, and French Polynesia. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, the United States has the 5th highest cancer rate of the 50 countries it studied. For the past few years, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported, U.S. life expectancy has been declining and, today, the United States reportedly ranks 53rd among 100 nations in life expectancy.

Despite the fact that the United States is the world’s richest nation, it also has an unusually high level of poverty. According to a 2017 UNICEF report, more than 29 percent of American children live in impoverished circumstances, placing the United States 35thin childhood poverty among the 41 richest nations. Indeed, the United States has a higher percentage of its people living in poverty (15.1 percent) than 41 other countries, including Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Sri Lanka.

Nor does the United States rate very well among nations on environmental issues. According to the Environmental Performance Index, produced by Yale University and Columbia University in 2018, the United States placed 27thamong the countries it ranked on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The Social Progress Index, another well-respected survey that rates countries on their environmental records, ranked the United States 36thin wastewater treatment, 39thin access to at least basic drinking water, and 73rdin greenhouse gas emissions.

Actually, the findings of the Social Progress Index are roughly the same as other evaluators in a broad range of areas. Its 2018 report concluded that that the United States ranked 63rd in primary school enrollment, 61st in secondary school enrollment, 76th in access to quality education, 40th in child mortality rate, 62ndin maternity mortality rate, 36th in access to essential health services, 74th in access to quality healthcare, and 35th in life expectancy at age 60. In addition, it rated the United States as 33rd in political killings and torture, 88th in homicide rate, 47th in political rights, and 67th in discrimination and violence against minorities. All in all, there’s nothing here to cheer about.

Does the U.S. government’s priority for military spending explain, at least partially, the discrepancy between the worldwide preeminence of the U.S. armed forces and the feeble global standing of major American domestic institutions? Back in April 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower pointed to their connection. Addressing the American Society of Newspaper editors, he declared: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” A militarized world “is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

People infatuated with military supremacy should give that some thought.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press.)

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"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." - Howard Zinn


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:51 pm 
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A number of US troops have been killed in a reported suicide bomb attack in Syria claimed by the Islamic State group, the US military says.

IS said one of its militants detonated an explosive vest next to a US patrol in the Kurdish-held town of Manbij.


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:-?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:55 pm 
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Mission Unaccomplished


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:04 am 
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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is the product of U.S. and Saudi Arabian machinations to unseat Bashir al-Assad, and to slice a Sunni blade through the Shia Crescent the U.S. created when it deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Way out of range, we rely on U.S. Military reports to tell us what happened in Syria, when it happened, and who was responsible for it.

The Russians, Iranians, Syrians and Hezbollah defeated ISIS as a functioning, pseudo-state entity.

But how do you completely eradicate an idea like Jihad?

It's been All Quiet on the Eastern Front, for a while now.

Until the Trump Administration sensibly decides to withdraw U.S. troops from somewhere they are not legally entitled to be.

Much to the chagrin of the Professional Political Class.

And hey presto, a week or so later...

Guess who's back in action..?!

I'm *SURE* it's just a coincidence.

>&8~

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"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." - Howard Zinn


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:31 am 
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Israel having a good ol' blitz of the Iranians in Syria.

https://news.sky.com/story/israel-says- ... a-11613336

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:52 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
Israel having a good ol' blitz of the Iranians in Syria.

https://news.sky.com/story/israel-says- ... a-11613336


hope they war


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:33 pm 
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PBFMullethunter wrote:
Slacks wrote:
Israel having a good ol' blitz of the Iranians in Syria.

https://news.sky.com/story/israel-says- ... a-11613336


hope they war


It'd be peculiar how a war between Israel and Iran would be carried out. Neither side has force projection capabilities for long range travel. Neither side possesses an air force that can reach the other and result in meaningful damage. (Israel's is better, but still.)

And it's unlikely anybody in the Arab World be it Jordan, Syria, Iraq or Saudi Arabia would let either side's ground forces move through their countries owing to a hodgepodge of reasons.

So unless it turned into a missile fight (and presumably nuclear), by default it'd be a stalemate to begin with.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:16 am 
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JANUARY 29, 2019

The West Failed to Learn the Most Important Lessons From the Rise and Fall of ISIS

by PATRICK COCKBURN


It is always pleasing for authors to find out that they have readers in far flung places. It was therefore surprising but gratifying to see a picture of a battered copy of a French translation of a book I wrote called The Jihadis Return abandoned by Isis fighters, along with suicide vests and homemade explosive devices, as they retreat from their last enclaves in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria.

The book was written in 2014 when Isis was at the height of its success after capturing Mosul, and was sweeping through western Iraq and eastern Syria. I described the Isis victories and tried to explain how the movement had apparently emerged from nowhere to shock the world by establishing the Islamic State, an entity which at its height ruled 8 million people and stretched from the the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean.

A picture of the book, Le Retour des Djihadistes, was tweeted by Quentin Sommerville, the intrepid BBC Middle East correspondent, who is travelling through the deserts of Deir ez-Zor and reporting what may be the last pitched battles fought by Isis. The book had presumably belonged a French-speaking Isis fighter: many Isis volunteers came from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as from France itself, and may now be trapped in this corner of Syria.

But is this truly the last round for Isis? The Islamic State no longer controls territory, but will it live on as an ideology inspiring a core of fanatical believers who will seek to rise again? They know that the US wrongly declared that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor of Isis, was dead and buried in 2007-08. Isis hopes to repeat its previous resurrection by waiting for its many enemies to relax their pressure and to fall out among themselves.

The book found in Deir ez-Zor tried to explain how Isis had escaped decisive defeat last time around, so an Isis fighter might have been interested in reading it in the hope of finding out how his movement might survive today. I wrote that al-Qaeda in Iraq was never quite as dead as people imagined: I had Iraqi business friends who were forced to pay it protection money in Mosul even when it was at the nadir of its fortunes. It was notorious that the Iraqi army of the day was a corrupt money-making racket with “ghost” battalions, from which money for non-existent soldiers, their fuel and supplies was siphoned off by crooked officers. I thought that Iraqi politicians were exaggerating when they told me that the army was never going to fight but they turned out to be right.

The most important factor reopening the door to Isis was the civil war in Syria after 2011, where the armed opposition was rapidly taken over by jihadis directed by battle-hardened commanders sent by al-Qaeda in Iraq. Well-organised fanatics willing to die for a cause and experienced in warfare will always dominate their own side when serious fighting gets under way. I portrayed Isis as an Islamic version of the Khmer Rouge and, like their Cambodian counterparts, they systematically committed atrocities to terrify and demoralise their opponents.

Could all this happen again, or are we looking at the final chapter of the Isis nightmare as the group is cornered in Syria and driven into the desert wastes of Iraq? Perhaps they will survive in small numbers, depending what resources in men and materials they preserve in their hideouts. Occupying armies almost invariably alienate local populations and a resurgent Isis might be able to exploit this. Their reputation for savagery was such that they can give the impression that they are still in business by carrying out a few limited attacks.

I was in Baghdad last year when there were some gruesome killings and kidnappings on the main road north to Kirkuk. These were pinpricks compared to the massacres of 2014, but they were enough to produce extreme nervousness in the capital, where people spoke with real fear of Isis being reborn.

I do not believe that this is going to happen because Isis no longer has the advantage of surprise as it did in the past. The surprise in 2014 was greater than it should have been because Isis had been winning local battles and taking territory for some time. I had made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, the Independent Middle East man of the year for 2013. But a consequence of the unexpected emergence of Isis five years ago is that nobody is ever again going to underestimate them. The Iraqi army of today is very different from the old and recaptured Mosul after overcoming ferocious Isis resistance.

Isis could and probably will revert to guerrilla warfare and high-profile terror attacks to show that it is still an enemy to be feared. The pictures of the suicide vests studded with ball bearings from Deir ez-Zor show that suicide bombing is still an essential part of their tactics. But Isis no longer has the resources of the well-organised Islamic State to recruit, train and finance suicide bombers on the industrial scale of the past.

An invasion of northeast Syria by Turkey, which denounces the Kurdish YPG soldiers fighting Isis with American support as terrorists, could relieve the pressure on the jihadis. Another danger is that former Isis and al-Qaeda fighters will be absorbed into the Arab militia units allied to Turkey, which have already carried out ethnic cleansing of Kurds and Yazidis from the Kurdish majority Syrian province of Afrin that Turkish-led forces captured last year.

Governments have by-and-large learned about the threat posed by Isis and are not going to allow it to rise again. But, in another important sense, the US, UK and allied governments have learned nothing from their disastrous actions in the Middle East and North Africa over the past 20 years which opened the door to Isis. During this period, they repeatedly denounced dictatorial but powerful national leaders – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Al Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad – as illegitimate and instead supported shadowy opposition figures with whom they were friendly as the true leaders of their countries.

The result was invariably disastrous: in July 2011, to take but one example, the British government announced that it was recognising the rebel council in Libya as the sole governmental authority there. But the rebels turned out to have little real power other than that provided by Nato, making it inevitable that a post-Gaddafi Libya would collapse into criminalised anarchy.

Fast forward to Venezuela this week when the US, along with the UK, Canada and a bevy of South American states, declared that the opposition leader Juan Guaido is the country’s legitimate ruler, replacing President Maduro.

The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the hitherto little known Guaido was the right person to take the country forward, though there is no obvious reason to think so. On the contrary, we are seeing the same sort of crude imperial overreach producing failed states and chaos that brought calamity to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. The terrible lesson of the rise and fall of Isis has taught leaders in Washington and London very little.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

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"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." - Howard Zinn


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:34 pm 
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So let me get this straight, after an illegitimate election Maduro clings to power like a dictator, the Rest Of The World one by one increasingly sides with democracy and ousting Maduro for the dictator he is and somehow the US is the bad guy in all this?

The left wing's apologism knows no boundaries it seems. And I'm even hearing among left-wing reaches that people are shying away from Maduro, that there's no excuse for him.

This Patrick Cockburn fellow must be daft beyond all hope.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 8:43 pm 
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SomeGuy wrote:
So let me get this straight, after an illegitimate election Maduro clings to power like a dictator, the Rest Of The World one by one increasingly sides with democracy and ousting Maduro for the dictator he is and somehow the US is the bad guy in all this?

The left wing's apologism knows no boundaries it seems. And I'm even hearing among left-wing reaches that people are shying away from Maduro, that there's no excuse for him.

This Patrick Cockburn fellow must be daft beyond all hope.


He is, but I think his point is the US (and Canada, for that matter) shouldn't meddle. Let them figure their own shit out. Why would you even care about Venezuela anyway? Lots of places are complete shit.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:02 pm 
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This would be a good time to send 5000 troops to Colombia.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:48 pm 
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PBFMullethunter wrote:
This would be a good time to send 5000 troops to Canada.



Fixed

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:25 pm 
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PBFMullethunter wrote:
Why would you even care about Venezuela anyway? Lots of places are complete shit.


Because Left wing Marxists like we have seen in Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala have fucked up Central/South America and then they send millions of their starving "refugees" (economic migrants) to sneak into America stressing our welfare systems and social cohesion.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:11 pm 
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Foota wrote:
PBFMullethunter wrote:
Why would you even care about Venezuela anyway? Lots of places are complete shit.


Because Left wing Marxists like we have seen in Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala have fucked up Central/South America and then they send millions of their starving "refugees" (economic migrants) to sneak into America stressing our welfare systems and social cohesion.


They just haven't tried the right form of communism yet.


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FEBRUARY 11, 2019

Trump Says ISIS is Defeated, But He Ignores the Much Bigger and More Troubling Picture

by PATRICK COCKBURN


President Trump says that in the coming week the US and its allies will announce that they have captured all of the land previously controlled by Isis. He claims that US-led forces “have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by Isis in Syria and Iraq … we will have 100 per cent of the caliphate.“

The prediction has sparked a sterile and misleading debate about whether or not Isis is finally defeated, something which will remain unproven since the movement is unlikely to run up a white flag and sign terms of surrender. The discussion has – like all debates about foreign policy in the US – very little to do with the real situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq and everything to do with the forces at play in Washington politics.

In discussing the demise or survival of Isis, pundits make the same glaring omission. They ignore the fact that by far the largest stronghold in Syria held by an al-Qaeda type group is not the few shattered villages for which Isis has been battling in the east of the country. Much more important is the jihadi enclave in and around Idlib province in north-west Syria which is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of Levant Organisation), a powerful breakaway faction from Isis which founded the group under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra in 2011 and with whom it shares the same fanatical beliefs and military tactics. Its leaders wear suicide vests studded with metal balls just like their Isis equivalents.

It is not that the US has any doubts about what HTS is – since last year, a foreign terrorist organisation despite a name change. Nathan A Sales, the State Department’s coordinator of counterterrorism, noted that “today’s designation serves notice that the United States is not fooled by this al-Qaeda affiliate’s attempt to rebrand itself.”

Over the past year HTS has expanded its control to almost all of the Idlib enclave, which the UN estimates to have a population of three million, half of whom are refugees, and can put at least 50,000 fighters into the field. The zone is surrounded on three sides by the Syrian Army backed by the Russians and on the fourth side it shares a common border with Turkey whose local proxies it has crushed. Fighting between Assad government forces and the armed opposition in Idlib has largely died away under the terms of a shaky ceasefire agreed and enforced by Moscow and Ankara.

Blindness in the west to this embattled al-Qaeda-run mini-state, which has a population the same size as Wales and a fighting force not much smaller than the British army, is explained by the fact that such an admission would reveal that the US and its allies are weak players in Syria and there is more than one jihadi group in the country. A recurrent and disastrous theme of western involvement in the war in Syria is for governments and media to focus only on part of the multilayered crisis in which they are engaged.

Pretending that Isis is anything close to the potent threat it used to be is part of the struggle between Trump and the foreign policy and security establishment in Washington. They represent what President Obama derided as “the Washington playbook” which he denounced as always looking to military solutions and always overplaying its hand in fighting wars that never end.

This skewed vision of the Syrian conflict – with its over-emphasis on whether or not the death certificate of the caliphate should be formally signed – diverts attention from a more important question. In the short term, it is true that can Isis carry out guerrilla and terrorist attacks, but for all practical purposes Trump is right in saying that it has been decisively defeated. The caliphate that once ruled a de facto state the size of Great Britain with a population of eight million is gone.

A more important question to ask now is how far the whole al-Qaeda idea and mode of operating have become obsolete and discredited. Not so long ago, this militarised cult of extreme fanaticism with core beliefs derived from the Wahhabi version of Islam was extraordinarily successful. Suicide bombing on an industrial scale enabled it to turn untrained but committed believers into a devastating military weapon.

Suicide attacks as an expression of Islamic faith produced 9/11, which was the most successful terrorist attack in history: the overwhelming impact of the destruction of the Twin Towers provoked the US to jump into a trap of its own making by launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda, which had scarcely existed as an international organisation before 9/11, instantly took advantage of this overreaction. The US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003enabled the local al-Qaeda franchise to became the core of the armed resistance of the Sunni Arabs against their enemies at home and abroad.

Can these conditions be recreated in Idlib or in the deserts of western Iraq, eastern Syria or wherever else al-Qaeda type groups have their hideouts from Pakistan to Nigeria and Chechnya to Somalia? A ferociously disciplined group with experienced military leaders will always have an influence out of proportion to its size in chaotic war-time conditions.

But al-Qaeda and its clones should not be allowed to remain a bugbear, a cause of obsessive fear because of its past successes in staging 9/11, dominating the armed opposition in Iraq in 2004-09, and unexpectedly resurrecting itself in Syria and Iraq after 2011.

It once was able to offer miraculous victories to its followers but for the past few years it has been able to offer them nothing but defeat and martyrdom for a cause that has been failing demonstrably.

The al-Qaeda formula worked because it caught its enemies by surprise and this will not happen again. Early successes after 2003 required a degree of covert assistance or tolerance from Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all of whom imagined at different moments that they could channel or manipulate the jihadis into acting in their own interest.

Al-Qaeda operated through fear and fanaticism but it also required a constituency among the Sunni Arabs of Iraq and Syria which no longer exists; and for which the Sunni have paid a terrible price in the form of lost wars and devastated cities from east Aleppo to Raqqa and Mosul.

Al-Qaeda no longer works as a winning formula, but this does not mean that its destructive capacity is exhausted. Its track record of savagery was such that its limited attacks can still provoke almost unlimited terror among potential victims. I was in Baghdad last year when Isis kidnapped and killed some half dozen police on the main road north to Kirkuk, provoking a wave of fear out of proportion to what had happened among my friends who started to recall past massacres by Isis.

Casual remarks by Trump such as saying that the US might keep troops in Iraq in future to watch Iran will continue to keep the pot boiling which is to the advantage of al-Qaeda. But the all-conquering warrior cult whose columns of fanatical fighters were wining Napoleonic victories in 2014-15 has gone for good and cannot be recreated.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

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"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." - Howard Zinn


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:26 pm 
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FEBRUARY 19, 2019

She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?

by PATRICK COCKBURN


A tidal wave of hypocrisy has greeted the discovery of the Bethnal Green schoolgirl and Isis bride Shamima Begum in a refugee camp in eastern Syria. Grandstanding politicians like Sajid Javid, the home secretary, say they will do everything to stop her coming back to the UK and might seek to put her on trial as a terrorist if she did return.

It is a symptom of the parochialism of British political life that debate rages over the fate of Begum and her possible complicity in Isis crimes. But there is scarcely a word of well-informed discussion about the role of the British and other western governments in creating the circumstances in which Isis was able to create a powerful de facto state in the heart of the Middle East.

The role of foreign fighters in Isis was important but tends to be exaggerated because of understandable public fascination with people who would leave London or Paris to go to fight for a murderous and bizarre jihadi cult in Syria and Iraq.

I was once in touch with a former Isis fighter, himself a Syrian, who had talked to foreign volunteers of whom he was highly critical, saying that they were ill-informed about Islam and local customs. He thought that many had come to Syria because of unhappy home lives or simple boredom and were not much use for anything except propaganda – showing that Isis was a global movement – or as suicide bombers.

A reason why many of the foreigners were used in the latter role was they lacked military training. Another was that Isis is a deeply paranoid movement that sees spies and traitors at every turn and was convinced that a proportion of the volunteers from abroad were in fact foreign agents so it was prudent to have them blow themselves up as soon as possible.

It is difficult to have much sympathy for these foreign jihadis and Isis sympathisers who found Syria very different from what they expected. But they were not alone in their misunderstanding of the nature of the war and its likely outcome.

The rise of Isis surprised many, but it was neither unpredictable nor unpreventable and many in the region foresaw what dire things would come years before Isis fighters captured Mosul in 2014 and established the caliphate.

I was spending much time in Baghdad after 2011 and I recall Iraqi political leaders repeatedly telling me that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) would resurrect itself unless the civil war in Syria was swiftly brought to an end. They said the same to western diplomats and were told they were exaggerating.

But those Iraqi politicians were dead right as the western powers, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, supported the Sunni Arab insurrection in Syria. The initial aim of western countries like Britain in 2011 and 2012 was to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, and, when this turned out to be more difficult than originally supposed, to weaken him – though not to the extent that his jihadi opponents would take over.

Iraqi politicians were not alone in foreseeing the calamity that was in the making. The Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) drew up a draft report in August 2012 which is an astonishingly accurate resume of what was happening in Syria and the probability that it would spread to Iraq.

“There was a regression of AQI in the western provinces of Iraq during the years of 2009 and 2010,” says the report which is written in a rather contorted bureaucratic style. “However, after the rise of the insurgency in Syria, the religious and tribal powers [in Iraq] began to sympathise with the sectarian uprising.”

The author of the report rightly interpreted the struggle in Syria and Iraq as one which was essentially a conflict between Sunni and Shia. He says: “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.” Moreover, he or she foresaw “the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria (sic)”. The DIA report goes on to suggest that the outcome of this turmoil might be the declaration of “an Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq.

The purpose of quoting the DIA report at length is to show that western governments were in a position to know what the real situation in 2012 and do something to prevent such a disaster by making greater efforts to end the war.

Unfortunately, when the declassified report was published it met the fate of many such revelations, which is to fuel conspiracy theories inculpating the US government. The fact that one or more intelligence officers knew what was happening does not mean that this knowledge was shared by the White House and the Pentagon.

It is easy enough to say that Begum and her fellow schoolchildren should have had some idea of what Islamic State was all about when they set off for Syria in 2015. If they did not know when they departed, then they should have learned about its atrocities soon after their arrival.

Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent MindsNo doubt they should have, but so too should the British and other western governments when they played sorcerer’s apprentice in Syria and ended up failing to get rid of Assad but creating the sort of chaos in which Isis could flourish.

There is much anxiety now in Europe and elsewhere about former Isis fighters and volunteers heading back to their homelands. But the very same governments showed remarkably little concern five years ago about tens of thousands of foreigners travelling in the other direction to join the war in Syria. They poured unimpeded across the Turkish border without the rest of the world expressing much concern.

I have always been struck by the contrast between outrage over Tony Blair leading Britain into the war in Iraq in 2003 and the lack of interest in British government culpability in becoming engaged in Afghanistan and later in Libya and Syria. The British role in these three conflicts was more limited than in Iraq but it was not insignificant. All of them turned out to be disasters for the inhabitants of these countries and whatever the British government thought it was doing certainly ended in failure, as has been explained in copious detail in various reports and inquiries. What comes across in all of them is that successive British governments had little more idea of what they were doing than Begum and her teenage friends on the road to Syria.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

_________________
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"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." - Howard Zinn


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:21 pm 
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Holyman wrote:

[b]She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:00 pm 
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Holyman wrote:

It is easy enough to say that Begum and her fellow schoolchildren should have had some idea of what Islamic State was all about when they set off for Syria in 2015. If they did not know when they departed, then they should have learned about its atrocities soon after their arrival.



Not that easy to say when the Cockburns of the world and other Leftist/activist "reporters" have spent over a quarter century white-washing radical Islam and blaming it all on the West.

No wonder a bunch of morons in Europe and the UK (and the US) signed up to go play jihad.

All of their radical Imams and Western "intellectuals" were all playing off the same sheet music.

I think they need to make a major example of Begum and throw the book at her, to address Cockburn's concern that these people are not sufficiently aware of what they are doing when they decide to travel half way around the world to join a racist death cult terrorist group.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:15 pm 
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Yeah it seems kinda sexist to give women a free pass on this when they volunteered to go there and pop out as many little future jihadi fighters as they could.

Fuck that stupid bitch.


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