Thursday, September 12, 2013

The good, the bad, and the lawful

The fallout from Kerry's accident has been very interesting to observe but lost in the black and white good and bad comparisons of historical Russian and U.S. action has been the rule of law. One country is respecting international norms, and one isn't. One country is respecting the sovereign recognition of the Syrian Presidency and Parliament as the government of Syria and one is not.

Putin has put out a plea to the Americans which was promptly rebutted by the pro-opposition "Human Rights Watch" (though it seems only select pro-American humans apply). With all of the speeches put out by Kerry, Obama, Putin, the Syrians, I could spend all day every day rebutting every single one as I did with Obama's U.N. speech. It seems relatively pointless now but I feel I must rebut "the rebuttal" as it is blameful and plainly misleading.

What Vladimir Putin didn't tell the American people about Syria
Russia's leader poses as a champion of the rule of law in a New York Times op-ed, but his record as Assad's backer is shameful

It's not what
Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed says that's so worrisome; it's what it doesn't say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Putin overlooked …

There is not a single mention in Putin's article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the
UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia's ongoing transfer of arms to Assad throughout the past two and a half years.
Supplying arms to a sovereign nation and supplying arms to rebel opposition of a sovereign nation are two completely different things. Russia is perfectly within international law to fulfill weapons contracts. Saudi Arabia and Qatar however (backed by the U.S.) are not within their right to supply arms to the rebel opposition. The fact that Russia is supplying arms to Assad does not automatically justify backing the al-Qaeda rebels. Using this logic, all eyes should again be on the U.S. who has the largest "defense contractor" industry in the world and has supplied arms to countless brutal regimes while talking "peace".
The Russian president strategically emphasizes the role of Islamic extremists in the Syrian conflict. Yes, many rebel groups have committed abuses and atrocities. Yet Putin fails to mention that it is the Syrian government that is responsible for shooting peaceful protesters (before the conflict even started) and detaining and torturing their leaders – many of whom remain detained – and that the continued failure of the international community to respond to atrocities in Syria allows crimes on all sides to continue unaddressed.
There is also a prevailing opinion that the "civil war" didn't turn into a "civil war" until Assad brutally repressed the peaceful protestors. This is true, to a point, but remember that the Syrian "revolution" started right after the Libyan "revolution" of which al-Qaeda were also involved. Remember that the U.S. has been actively working to overthrow Assad since 2006. So here you have a leader, who was allied with Libya which was destroyed by terrorists posing as rebels, and then the same thing starts happening in Syria too. If you were in his position would you assume that the well-timed revolution against your government was spontaneous and peaceful, or having just watched your ally fall to terrorist gangs would you assume this is also a foreign backed terrorist force with the intent of overthrowing the government? How would you respond? Actually a better question might be how would a western government respond when faced with the same threat of an armed opposition attempting to overthrow them or their allies? Based on the U.S. "war on terror" I'm pretty sure it would be something along the lines of "release the drones".

Is it the continued failure of the international community which has allowed crimes to be committed on both sides, or is it the ongoing funding of terrorists by the international community who we will not allow to lose which provides ample reason for Assad to respond with force which is causing the ever escalating atrocities?

Assad Lays Down His Conditions: "US Must Stop Aiding Terrorists", Israel Disposing Of WMDs; Accuses Saudi, Qatar And Turkey
Putin's plea to use the United Nations security council to resolve the conflict sounds great, until you remember that, from the very start of this conflict, Russia has vetoed or blocked any security council action that may bring relief to Syria's civilians or bring perpetrators of abuses in Syria to account.
Of course what the author fails to mention is that all of these security council actions demanded the removal of Assad. None of them have ever attempted to bring those amongst the rebels to account. The author also fails to mention the numerous times Israel has been defended by a U.S. veto even in the face of them crossing the "red line" by using white phosphorus which unlike U.S. accusations has been 100% proven.
While Russia's proposal for international monitoring of Syria's chemical weapons is a welcome step, it will do nothing to bring justice to hundreds of victims of the latest attack, let alone to thousands of others, killed by conventional weapons. And when Putin squarely blames the opposition for the 21 August chemical attack – against all available evidence and without presenting a shred of his own evidence – one can only wonder why Russia remains so vehemently opposed to referring Syria to the International Criminal Court, an action that would be fully in line with international law, which Putin seems so keen to uphold in his op-ed, and would enable an investigation into abuses by both sides of the conflict.
"Without a shred of his own evidence" - this is a plainly false statement. The Russians have just submitted a 100 page report to the U.N. security council on a chemical attack back in March in which they claim their evidence contained within the expert report proves it was the rebels. The U.S. is claiming secret evidence which they are not allowing the U.N. security council (or anyone else) to see and are trying to simply gain public support for an attack of which no one has been able to view their secret evidence. The U.S. has not provided any evidence to back any of their claims, including the death toll of 1500 people. It is the security council which should be reviewing evidence, not the court of public opinion.
Finally, the sincerity of Putin's talk about democratic values and international law is hard to take seriously when back home his own government continues to throw activists in jail, threatens to close NGOs, and rubber-stamps draconian and discriminatory laws.
If we're going to get into this then I guess we better also talk about the systematic coordination amongst police forces in the U.S. in 2011 to shutdown Occupy Wall Street. We better talk about NSA spying. We better talk about the G20 in Pittsburgh, or the W.T.O. in 1999. We should talk about Santa Clause too. The U.S. seems to be interested in everyone's "democratic values" other than their own. HEY! remember when a large body of the U.S. didn't want to go into Iraq so they put the vote to Congress and respected the wishes of the people? Exactly.
President Putin should give more credit to his audience: Russia will be judged by its actions, both on the international arena and domestically. So far, Russia has been a key obstacle to ending the suffering in Syria. A change towards a more constructive role would be welcome. But a compilation of half-truths and accusations is not the right way to signal such a change.
"Half-truths" and "accusations". If only the author had read her own piece while keeping these considerations in mind.

The long and the short of it is both Russia and the U.S. are of course using Syria for their own national interest, readers of this blog should have known that for a long time.

Peak oil, climate change and pipeline geopolitics driving Syria conflict

Of course Russia is serving their own interests, but Russia is serving their own interests within the confinements of international law, while the U.S. is funding terrorists to "pressure Assad" and had their media blitz not fallen flat on it's face bombs would already be flying. There are only two positions to take: you either support international law and the international process and the rules that have been established following World War II, or you support funding unrecognized extremist groups, terrorism, in an effort to wage covert wars of aggression. You were never meant to know about al-Qaeda's presence in Syria, as in Libya, the bombs were supposed to be flying long ago. What the U.S. perhaps was not prepared for was the extreme war-fatigue brought on by repeated lies and continued failed attempts at dominating the Middle East.

To conclude, history is being rewritten right under your noses. Following Kerry's accident Putin has now provided Obama some cover in saying that these diplomatic roads were already in process, but of course they weren't. Go read headlines from 3 weeks ago, 2 weeks ago, and then from this last week. Obama and the rest of the Whitehouse were lobbying hard to convince you all of only one thing: that military strikes are needed. Just imagine if Obama had been relentlessly making televised addresses and other propaganda calling for diplomacy and to pressure Assad to relinquish control of those chemical weapon stocks.

On Syria, Putin runs rings around Obama

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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