Friday, September 14, 2012

And The Band Plays On!

Today’s killing will not stop because we are grieving for victims of yesterday’s killing, and the world does not stop because there are elections, even if they happen to be taking place in the U.S. The world is too dangerous a place to be left without leadership, and like it or not, this is still America’s role.

Thursday September 13, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 165. The Breakdown: 66 in Damascus and Suburbs (8 from the same family), 52 in Aleppo (15 in Al-Bab town), 15 in Daraa, 11 in Idlib, 9 in Deir Ezzor (3 in AlBoukamal), 6 in Lattakia, 4 in Hama and 2 in Homs.

* Effective the end of this month, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, Special Advisor on Transition in Syria in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs will be resigning his post to return to the private sector. Ambassador Hof has been one of the two key USG interlocutors working with the Syrian opposition to help them form a viable alternative to the Syrian regime and other aspects of the transition. 

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Until now, the Sunni bent of Turkish foreign policy has suited the geopolitical aims of the United States, as it has meant that Turkey, abandoning its previous ambition to have “zero problems” with its neighbors, has joined the camp against Iran. That advantage quelled whatever misgivings U.S. officials may have harbored about Turkey’s sectarian drift. But if the United States achieves, with Turkish help, its strategic objective of ousting Assad, it will need a different kind of Turkey as its partner for what comes after.
Yes, it's true: Military involvement in Syria has its risks. But the costs of non-intervention are growing by the day.
The more the West waits, the more radicalized the rebels will become, weakening the standing and influence of moderate forces.
Even if the Pentagon knew the targets, knew that they contained biological or chemical weapons, knew which specific agents were hidden at each site, had the right vehicles and ordinance to penetrate air defenses and fortifications, determined the agents were sufficiently away from populations and in calm wind conditions, determined their use or insecurity was imminent and that there was a high-probability that all of those factors were correct -- well, it's not that simple.


A Necessary Note

Long ago, I learned that “the mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it” (Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition). But, many incidents over the last decade or so have made me wonder: what if someone is intentionally trying to solicit a violent response to serve a particular political agenda that has nothing to do with freedom?

Over the last few years, a pattern has emerged that no one working on Islam can claim to ignore: when someone says something negative about Islam and its Prophet somewhere in this world violence will take place. This in itself is not a sufficient justification for banning anti-Muslim speech. But it should, by now, encourage us to question the motivations of those who insist on stirring this hornets’ nest while hiding behind Freedom of Expression? Who are they? Do they, or some of them, have a common agenda? If so, what is it? Is freedom really something they all care about it, even if we think that it is not necessarily served by their actions or words? We need to ask ourselves these questions now, because the next few years will witness more bloody developments related to faith-politics in all our societies, and not just the Muslim World.

At this stage, it seems to me that we are dealing with two subsets of people: the first in the West, the second in the Muslim World, one using Freedom, the other Dignity as covers for their own political agendas. These people are currently being given an underserved free pass to spew their venom and advance their agendas, with little questioning. I think that this is a dangerous trend. The worst of us are hijacking policy because the rest of us are doing nothing.

I don’t raise these points easily or callously. After all, I have long presented myself publicly as a heretic, and an apostate, and have made many public statements and utterances that so many believers would deem offensive, and will continue to do so. Over the last few years, I have been consistent in defending what I called the right to heresy and ridicule. Indeed, I believe that people have the right to criticize and reject their faiths or other people’s faiths even to the point of ridicule. Muhammad himself, if we are to accept the veracity of existing historical records, was not above ridiculing the faith system of his tribe. In fact, this was the main complaint often repeated by tribal elders in the early year. But he never recanted. Ridicule is a form of showing a strong rejection of something. It’s a pretty legitimate avenue for expression, and has been used by most if not all luminaries throughout history.

But it’s a basic right for all and not just the elite. Drawing a red line at certain figures and belief-systems is not an innocent or legitimate demand, as extremists would have us believe and, more importantly, as they would have the average practicing Muslim believe. By putting their belief system beyond the pail of criticism, advocates of political Islam are trying to put themselves beyond reproach as well. Unfortunately, because of the spinelessness and duplicity of our political classes, their recent rise to power in certain countries, and their control over most Arabic media outlets, they will have their way.  The Islamists will finally have their much-awaited moment in our region and that large-scale they always wanted to allow them to dream of the return of the Caliphate. The secularist of the right and left will have to wait and work extremely hard for theirs.

But for now, in Syria, the dictatorial regime of Assad is hanging on for dear life, while taking the lives of so many.

Video Highlights

A new massacre in Yelda, Damascus, perpetrated by pro-Asasd militias: some were shot on the spot, some were burnt, some died in the earlier bombing http://youtu.be/5qv91d0pVVg , http://youtu.be/v_CVB0zMZ6E , http://youtu.be/B98GOqdvtjU , http://youtu.be/jgkSlMxpMo0 , http://youtu.be/Wwfxz76ImlI , http://youtu.be/fYfxvD1yrIY , http://youtu.be/4tNj6yJvW48

To the North, MIGs take part in the pounding of the town of Yabroud http://youtu.be/t044VnJ6hn4 , http://youtu.be/Gx0QDeOgllE , http://youtu.be/hXrZpn7pokI

The pounding of restive neighborhoods in Aleppo City continues http://youtu.be/_UV_beIMpYg

In Idlib Province, Suqur Al-Sham Brigades use missiles to target a nearby military base http://youtu.be/gqJzaVinmOQ