Political Perspectives on 04/11/12

Air date: 
Wed, 04/11/2012 - 9:00am - 9:30am
Short Description: 
Elaine Hagopian on "The Syrian Revolution Enigma"

Host Per Fagereng speaks with Elaine Hagopian about "The Syrian Revolution Enigma."

Elaine Hagopian is a Syrian-American sociologist, a professor emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston and political interviewer for Arabic Hour TV. She said recently: "The so-called Syrian revolution is an enigma. It has split the left between those who support the so-called opposition with all its disparate parts to those who see the revolution as a plot to destroy the Syrian regime’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah which stands in the face of Western and local affiliate countries’ interests.

"Syria is much more complex than these opposing positions. Assad remains in office to date. The opposition continues to fracture. The international community sees no strong and stable alternative to Assad and has thus avoided overt intervention. The resurgence of the Muslim Brothers in Syria along with a number of Salafi (fundamentalist) gangs who infiltrated the 'revolution' strikes fear among Western powers and non-Muslim/Arab minorities as well as regional governments who fear possible instability. Special UN Representative Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan which does not call for Assad to step down has been accepted by Assad. Does Assad really accept Annan’s six point peace plan? Is Annan’s effort being used by all parties (local and international) as a face-saving device because of their failure to dislodge Assad? Time will tell." Hagopian wrote the piece "Bashar Assad's Missed Opportunity: Syria’s Pandoran Box."


Airing of Some of Complexities of Syrian Crisis Much Appreciated

Thank you Per Fagereng for interviewing Elaine Hagopian and thank you to KBOO for airing such an insightful twenty-five minute discussion uninterrupted. A subject as complex as the year-long Syrian crisis demands uninterrupted broadcast time as it does not lend itself well to sloganeering, or to the bumper sticker coverage of the few minute segments on late-breaking news.  Neither corporate mainstream nor alternative media has deepened our understanding of this particular crisis or the unresolved crises ravaging the muddle east and north Africa. 

A few suggestions to help other KBOO broadcasters in further deepening this much-needed coverage and perhaps help Washington steer clear of entering into the neverending largely internal jihad within the Islamic World with its roiling rivalries among sects and charismatic figures to replace the U.S. Super Lobbying stooges such as U.S. and Israeli Homeland Security contractors or the Oil Lobby led by the bottomless pockets of the Saudi Fahd family as guardians of the faith and Al Watan.   No help from us is needed in launching the next pan-Islamic Imperial Caliphate:

1) As I've suggested via phone and e-mail to Cris Andreae of Air Cascadia and News Director Jenka Soderberg there are many local Syrian proprietors of small businesses and workers who over a year ago began shedding the reflexive reticence to discuss their perceptions of how their homeland had been doing since the passing of Hafez Assad in 2000 and the succession of second son Bashar Assad. Since the crackdown by Bashar Assad began drawing public and indiscriminate blood, I've learned just by listening to those favored local merchants from Syria that a reason for a lack of public protest outside of Syria to pressure the Assad regime into halting its offensive against its own people (there have been a few exceptions notably in Los Angeles and the Dearborn, Michigan area and Washington DC) is the 17 separate and overlapping internal security agencies feared by all Syrians.

Those who've left the country fear being id'd by Syrian agents abroad and having retribution taken against family members and associates still in Syria.  KBOO has done aggressive work chronicling the Shin Bet internal and Mossad external security services of Israel, but no KBOO staff member or Arab-American or visiting commentator has taken a focused look at how the 17 separate agencies within Syria operate to stifle dissent.  KBOO could be benefitting from community radio as a medium as none of the Portland-based Syrian merchants so willing to talk to their foodcart or shop patrons often providing the witness accounts missing since foreign media has been so severely restricted in Syria, have been willing to show their faces under banners of anti-Assad protest in Pioneer Square as the brave Libyans did during the lengthy campaign to isolate the Qaddafi regime after Tunisia's dictator Ben Ali fled earlier. Names of these more fearful Syrian shopkeepers can be kept confidential and even voices can be disguised.

2) Follow-up on the strands of relevant storyline never pursued in English-language media, such as the widely circulated belief among a cross-section of Syrian ethnicities that the brother of Hafez Assad and uncle of the current ruler Bashar was involved in the car-crash that took the life of Bashar's older brother Basil, the groomed heir to succeed Hafez Assad while Bashar was in London studying optometry.  Moreover, as many corroborated biographies of the Assad Dynasty and histories of post-colonial and post-Ottoman Syria have noted (See Patrick Seale the British journalist who researched and wrote the bio titled ' Asad ' ) and recent exceptional coverage in the British progressive daily paper The Guardian  recapped and revealed see for example this Chris Doyle piece on 7/7/11 and Guardian archives)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/07/rifaat-assad-syria-parliament 


It was actually Rifaat Assad who led the genocidal assault in 1982 of the Syrian Sara'aya Al-Difa'a forces that flattened the Sunni intellectual capital of Hama.  Ruler Hafez Assad was in hospital with heart trouble and Rifaat later bragged of slaughtering some 38,000 troublesome countrymen in and around the Sunni spiritual and intellectual capital of Hama and the mercantile Sunni hub of Homs with its roadways and escape routes through Lebanon effectively sealed off: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8571164/Syrias-Butcher-of-Hama-living-in-10-million-Mayfair-townhouse.html 

Since then Rifaat and Hafez had a falling out allegedly over succession (hence the conspiracy theories propounded of Rifaat's role in the car crash that killed his nephew and heir apparent Basil Assad) and for the last three decades Rifaat has been running a luxury hotel and Arabic News Network satellite TV empire out of Paris, Switzerland and London. No war crimes trials, no crimes against humanity allegations, Rifaat Al-Assad has instead been granted most-favored trading partner status exceeding even Libya's Qaddafi in UK & EU investments as Qaddafi had to be brought in from the cold by Tony Blair and George Bush, while Rifaat Assad LLC has never been BDS'd (BoycottedDivested or Sanctioned). He can have a microphone stuck in front of his face and his money can be followed (as the grub stake must've come from Syrian state coffers after the split with his brother's regime). Unless laundering the Syrian people's contribution to Assad family accounts receives protection from the host nations benefitting from foreign investment of this most compromised sort. Still, where are the international human rights boycotters?  Where are the solidarity protesters with no endangered kin in Syria as there were for Gaza? Where are KBOO humanitarian crisis alerts?

3) Some business press journalists have kicked the progressive media's cans in actually following the money of the Assad-Makhlouf-Hamcho families that comprise the Alawite minority grip on the Syrian economy. I've Googled and found stories spanning the period of time that Bush-Cheney cozied up to Bashar Assad in the rendition of suspected jihadis, some not even in the U.S. such as the Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar, a telecomm engineer who was visiting family in Tunis and changing planes at JFK when U.S. Homeland Security picked him up in 2002 and sent him to Bashar Assad's torture dungeons under Damascus and at Tadmor in Palmyra for "interrogation." This at a time when there were supposed to be sanctions on Syria, as there were on its sponsor Iran who were on the state-sponsored terrorism list and therefore subject to OFAC Office of Foreign Asset Control restrictions by U.S. banks.  Although no Humanitarian Solidarity groups then boycotting Israel ever advocated similar boycotts of Syrian exports and apparently the federal OFAC officers never cracked down on the many cut-out companies the ruling Assad-Makhlouf-Hamcho families used to invest heavily in the UK, EU and in the U.S. Mohammed Hamcho apparently felt quite bullish on luxury southern California real estate from Beverly Hills down  to Balboa and Newport Beach. http://www.sanctionswiki.org/Syria 

Find out why neither Washington's Homeland Security or nationwide opposition from so-called progressive human rights organizations like International Solidarity ever organized any international statement in support of those non-military yet effective methods of containing Assad's destruction of his own country's initially peaceful opposition.  No flotilla in solidarity with the shelled residents of seaside Lattakia who were hammered by the Syrian navy in its own harbor!  No Rachel Corrie-like students from the U.S. & EU to lay there bodies down in Damascus at the dungeon doors of the Assad security apparatus.  Neither western-educated young Assad nor his father before him have ever been shy about using children to strike at parents suspected of opposing him and the single Baath Party.  Why have there been no activists in the U.S., Canada, South America, U.K. EU ever advocating boycotts of Syrian goods and visiting artists?  Divestment of looted Syrian state funds laundered through the Assad family, Rami Makhlouf Syria Telecomm and Mohammed Ben Hamcho western bank accounts and real estate holdings as well as diversified hedge fund accounts and cut-out holding companies.  Public protest can make any military intervention unnecessary by shaming western financial interests into complying with OFAC.

Of course communities of such activists like KBOO audiences would first have to know about what has been in the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reports on Syria over the last three decades, and I guess that is where KBOO staff, PSU Middle East Studies staff, usually such eloquent and valued spokespeople for the plight of the Palestinians, Pacifica Radio including St. Amy Goodman and Alternative Radio St. David Barsamian have not been keen on providing a voice to this particular Middle East voiceless community. Neither has the tax-free Berkeley-based Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA makes for a useful acronym to court pan-Islamic contributions to an organization founded and run by American Jews of Conscience that I used to support and that is only set up to aid and advocate on behalf of Palestinian refugee children and those living in Palestine and Israel. Surely a better acronym than PCA that would accurately reflect the organization's more focused and quite worthy mission). 

However, MECA does not advocate on behalf of any of the Middle East's other desperately in-need children, especially those being used now by the Assad regime in nightmarish fashion as the 17 internal Syrian security agencies try to put down the uprising of its own people. 

4) KBOO listeners rightfully pride themselves as do Pacifica Radio listeners with supporting a "Voice for the Voiceless." However, when it comes to MENA (Middle East-North Africa) aside from the Palestinians, none of the other "voiceless" indigenous peoples have found much of a voice. The Syrian crisis like the ongoing Iraqi crisis, Egyptian crisis, Libyan crisis, Tunisian crisis, repressed Algerian crisis and budding Moroccan crisis will not be solved by military interventions. Some disturbing trends in marketing conspiracist fantasies since 9-11-01 (although there are legitimate calls for "official" story telling and mainstream journalism to come clean in dealing with inconsistencies and witheld info as well) have played on the lack of alternative media coverage of MENA and the many states each with their own post-Ottoman and post-colonial liberation movements that have paid a heavy price to keep the oil flowing smoothly to the western and global markets. 

The Syrian complex of crises will not be resolved until more people know about the nearly century-long struggle of the indigenous Kurds (also spelled Qurds) who pre-date the Arab presence in Syria and who contributed the revered (by Muslims and Jews to the extent that streets and public spaces are named after him even in Israel) Kurdish General and liberator Salah Al-Din. The Kurds have been stripped of their citizenship under post-Ottoman and post-colonial Syrian rule and while this is not news, it might be if one searches the KBOO archives for any granular investigation into the Arabicization policies of both Iraq's and Syria's Baath Party policies. Here is the Kurdish Aspect view:  http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc04032012SS.html 

The other main Kurdish clearing house of information that can be corroborated by checking also the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International state-by-state online reports for each of the last 25 years, e-kurd, notes about Syria: http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2011/1/syriakurd285.htm 

"Suppression of ethnic identity of Kurds in Syria include: various bans on the use of the Kurdish language; refusal to register children with Kurdish names; replacement of Kurdish place names with new names in Arabic; prohibition of businesses that do not have Arabic names; not permitting Kurdish private schools; and the prohibition of books and other materials written in Kurdish.

"Kurds in Syria also suffer severe discrimination because of their ethnicity. Many of them are denied Syrian nationality and therefore do not receive the full provision of education, employment, health care and other rights enjoyed by Syrian nationals."

Similar struggles have been going on for just as long in post-colonial North African states (though you wouldn't know it listening to KBOO, check KBOO archives or those of Democracy Now or Alternative Radio also carried by KBOO) including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Niger and Morocco where the indigenous majority Tamazight-speaking (Berber is the derogatory name given by the Greeks, Amazigh is a single Berber and Imazighen is the plural while Tamazgha or Land of Free Peoples refers to what the Arab conquerors called El-Maghreb, or The West in Arabic) peoples have been in each country risking life, limb and livelihood for the right to use their native language in public and name their children after their pre-Arabic ancestors and teach pre-Islamic history of the indigenous people in North African state schools.  For the true voiceless yet to be championed by KBOO see: http://www.afrol.com/articles/35843 or just Google Tamazight and hit the translation button.  

By avoiding the sort of valuable granular scrutiny brought so fruitfully to bear on Zionist suppression of the Palestinian independence movement, many KBOO listeners lacking in mainstream and alternative media coverage of these long-running domestic struggles have been quick to accept some frankly flaky so-called "Truther" conspiracy-theories of 9-11 and the subsequent intervention of western military forces into what has been an ongoing bloody sectarian struggle within the greater Islamic World and impacting most heavily on the non-Islamic and sometimes even Islamic but non-Arabophone parts of the greater Islamic World or the Umma. These truther and 9-11 conspiracy DVD's and books and public speakers have created a lucrative trade in filling the vacuum of media coverage or progressive interest in long-running conflicts within the Islamic World or Umma resulting in a cause and effect that posits some non-Islamic omnipotent scheme using Al Qaeda as a front to hide the creation of a new Islamic boogey man. While I don't doubt military-industrialists (and what else have the neo-liberal economies left to export?) would benefit the most from replacing the old Cold War Designated Enemy with Amorphous Islam, there has been a history of just such rivalry among puritanical Islamic sects to be the Guardians of the Faith.

This has hurt the Islamic World most, primarily for the suspicion each new suicide or terrorist bombing has brought upon the vast majority of peaceful and productive Muslims in the Islamic World's diaspora as well as in countries that have born the brunt of overwhelming military forces invading and occupying. However, the international trade in conspiracy theories that keeps suggessting that Al Qaeda cannot possibly have accomplished its anti-Western goals lets slip the anti-Islamic supremicist thought of the Western conspiracy theorists.  Moreover, if Washington and EU capitals, Israel and now the U.N. Security Council do not steer clear of intervening in what is actually a rivalry among puritanical sects within the Islamic Umma that has historically been expressed as a neverending internal jihad against the less-pure Muslims, each trying to score points in the quest to win the most Muslim hearts & minds required to ressurrect the Imperial Pan-Islamic Caliphate by striking at Infidel targets, any victory by modern-armed forces will be Pyrrhic. 

KBOO could at least attempt to track the parallel paths of the rise of Christian and Islamic Imperiums through fundamentalism as the BBC did in profiling the intellectual influence of Sayyid Quttb in its nuanced and savvy multi-part documentary The Power of Nightmares. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyid_Qutb . That'd be a far more helpful course than fundraising or considering it appropriate community outreach to sponsor entrepreneurial conspiracy-sellers by selling via Pledge Premiums DVD's and books or hosting local Public Forums like those of star KBOO fundraiser Michael Ruppert.



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