Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"We Mustn't Turn Away"

"We Mustn't Turn Away" 
Omran and Abdullah, Delusion and Reality
August 21, 2016)
(minor edits  8/22)

A Petition for Omran
A new Oxfam America petition calls on president Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for end to the conflict in Syria, with some kind of political settlement, and also urges them "to secure full implementation of UNSC resolutions that would help end attacks and sieges of Syrian civilians and ensure unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid." To "secure implementation" could mean "enforce," and could be the basis for a Libya-style air war or other military intervention. The enforcers might decide the only way to ensure those things is to eliminate Syria's government, as they did in Libya.

The trigger event making now the time for this plea: a young boy named as Omran Daqneesh was injured in Aleppo, and images of him went "viral." Among hundreds of thousands of children wounded, killed, displaced, orphaned, or otherwise traumatized by the ongoing conflict (all in murky circumstances following on an optional regime-bleed campaign), one child is supposed to "say it all." 

Unlike a previous "one child" fad, "Aylan Kurdi," * Omran is alive. Unlike thousands less-noticed, he's not too gory or distressed, just bland and front-page acceptable (see compilation at right). Some say the images are horrible for the ordinariness, coming with a gnawing awareness how many are even worse off, and have been, and will be. ** But they're also awful for how no one helps the boy for these moments, as he's left alone as if just for a photo opportunity (this is a horrible aspect of a lot of opposition videos of child  suffering over the last 5 years). 

* Remember 52% say bomb Syria, "for Aylan?" 'Syrian Girl' puts this in context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHFnvFbThDE
**  This was built into the narrative, eventually, with the delayed reporting that Ali, Omran's older brother, had died, when originally all five children were said to be alive and fine. (Moon of Alabama - ACLOS)

Also upsetting to some of us is how the picture is used by opposition activists to embody and prove allegations of indiscriminate bombing by their enemies (Russian air force in this case). In fact, as usually, we don't know what really happened here. Russia's military denies they targeted the area at all, but of course they would. Rebels and activists have been caught many times claiming regime jet attacks and the like that turn out to be rebel rocket attacks instead (see Douma, one year ago, for a solid example - mapping the arc of attack).

Oxfam's policy and campaigns media manager Laura Rusu blogged about how Omran's image "shook us to the core," and how she “found the images so awful that I could barely look. But then I forced myself to watch," and came out urging everyone "we mustn't turn away." She doesn't mean anyone should stare indefinitely at a photo or video of Omran. She means we must do something now to stop this suffering, and hence the petition.

McCain's Way
Between Rusu and the petition, Oxfam almost seem to agree with war freak Senator John McCain, in a recent statement spurred by the same images: “Omran Daqneesh has moved the world ... there is still more that we can and should do now to protect the innocent and end this violence.”

McCain has previously urged arming rebels and bombing Syria for them, since February, 2012, to topple the government in the vein of Iraq and Libya. In May, 2013 he went to Azaz, Syria, (north of Aleppo) and met some of the reliable, non-Islamist rebels who should be armed to end the violence. Upon returning, he seemed sure “we can identify who these people are. We can help the right people." But famously, it turned out some of those he was photographed with were sectarian kidnappers, according to Lebanese Shia kidnap victims (Antiwar.com, citing Daily Star). If that were true, McCain's office said, it would be "regrettable," but he didn't "knowingly" meet with - or arm - such people. (CNN) But he did meet them, and he did advocate the U.S. government using taxpayer money to arm such people. 

I'm not sure of McCain's current suggestion for how to bring peace, but it's probably based on just about the same sloppy replacement of wishful thinking for reality.

The Omran Story, via a Child Beheading Advocate
Another Aleppo activist McCain would vouch for is Mohammed/Mahmoud Raslan Abu Sheikh. He took the most famous photos of Omran, to "move" people, and says, as a father, he was crying himself: “he made us cry while he himself was silent, just watching us," he told Reuters (via Dawn.com). But Abu Sheikh previously took a "selfie" smiling on August 5 with Islamist terrorists who had just "shocked the world" (but didn't “move” it) in mid-July. They killed another, older boy named Abdullah (full name contested) – by sawing his head off slowly with a knife. This was also in Aleppo, and on video. They shouted "Allahu Akbar." (Lina Arabi on Twitter - les-crises.fr)

This group - Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki - is branded "moderate Islamist" and is directly backed and armed by the United States, surely at McCain's urging. (Daily Beast) They likely used U.S.-supplied guns to shoot Abdullah in the leg so they could capture him easier and saw his head off. It's a horrible scene. Did we turn away? 

A man who admires Abdullah's killers - Mohammed Raslan Abu Sheikh - is one of those brought in for this photo op of little Omran, and to speak of shedding crocodile tears. And so Oxfam and McCain, among many others, were moved by the pain of Syrians - as framed for us by an advocate of beheading children. ( See also Syrian Girl )

So... What to Do?
Either way, people are suffering. Both Oxfam (America) and Senator McCain claim to want urgently to stop it finally, by proposing the same new approaches they've been offering the whole time. Oxfam differs from McCain at least in emphasizing an apparently non-violent solution, that involves women, children and families, and things that start with "United Nations." Everyone who understands the conflict in Syria knows a negotiated settlement has never been plausible. But it sounds better than "anti-tank missiles," or "invasion," or even "no fly zone." 

No, the only path to peace is when there's a solid shift in the military situation - either toward how things were in 2010, with the government of Syria alone running security, or very far towards what the Islamists want to see. Everyone who thinks they have a chance will at least fight a bit longer to improve their hand at any negotiations. Only once the end is truly obvious to all will all agree to negotiate a stop. In the most extreme cases, the final talks are a few guys in a warehouse negotiating their surrender. Then, with no more opposition fighters, guess what happens? Peace. No more dusty injured kids.

So ... McCain is either exactly right or exactly wrong, and all these clean-seeming "middle ways" are actually what drags the answer out, and causes the prolonged instability, the death and pain, the grief, the refugees, the Islamic State. 

If you're tired of seeing pictures that make you cry, then quit trying to sound good and on-script. Focus on the real world these people actually live in, not the sanitized version handed in by these Islamist "activists." Form an accurate view of the true problems. From there, the confusion will clear up, and realistic solutions can be found. And you'll find a hell of a lot of Syrians already there and working on it. They could use some help, or at least less obstacles, to speed this thing up. And that's it. Any kind of realistic, clear-headed help could finally tip the balance back towards a sustainable peace.

1 comment:

  1. (above was me)

    Expanding, Mahmoud (or Mohammed?) Raslan Abu Sheikh issued a statement claiming he didn't know which rebel heroes these were, let alone what crimes they had done. (analysis at ACLOS) The original post doesn't seem to prove that either way - but I'm checking the comments (Arabic, saved record in case puled here) Within 18 hours at least people were naming the commander of the Zenki movement, but he didn't respond. Earlier comments are interesting - he seems giggly about who's in the picture: "I'm the first, hehehe" "Free Syria(Sham) (unclear)"

    Either way, what the photos show - and he might be the first to prove it (hehehe?) is the killers were out there on the front lines in the fight to break the siege of east Aleppo, 2-3 weeks after the Zenki movement promised the perps were denounced, under arrest, and waiting for a fair trial. In fact besides two indispensable Zenki commanders (Omar Salhou and Mohammed Marouf), we probably see the actual beheader here, on the left. Might be named Matin Abu Ahmed.(ACLOS)


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