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Saturday, September 24

Citadel Church choir sings spirituals on 'war-torn' Charlotte street

The Associated Press
September 23, 2016 - 10:45 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on unrest in Charlotte after the shooting of a black man by police (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

Among the National Guard troops and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers patrolling the downtown streets was a Greensboro church choir literally sounding a call for peace.

A choir from the Citadel Church in Greensboro took over a street corner and began two hours of singing spirituals Friday night, drawing a crowd of clergy and curious onlookers who were moved enough by the songs to clap along.

The Rev. Gregory Drumwright directed the choir of approximately two dozen. He says the church membership is made up mostly of students from colleges in the Greensboro area, about 70 miles northeast of Charlotte.

Drumwright and his parishioners were dressed in white. He said that was because they wanted to be lights and "vessels of peace, vessels of righteousness, not rage."



Friday, September 23

Boy, did I ever step in it

I managed to keep my mouth shut on this blog for almost 12 years about Tibetan Buddhism. As soon as I opened it I accidentally started a riot. Oh well, it's the thought that counts. 

Now I have a choice. I can remove the post, which risks offending Mahakala. Have you ever seen a depiction of Mahakala? Never mind. Or I can try to explain. However, I don't think this is a good idea unless you have 20 hours to spare for a discussion of Chinese and Indian politics and how these intersect with Tibetan politics, and how all this intersects with Tibetan Vajrayana Lineage politics. That last is so complicated it makes Vatican politics look like a game of Tiddlywinks because it involves what people generally refer to as 'reincarnation.' 

Maybe if I just try blurting it out and hope readers are in an understanding mood today. The man who is identified as the 17th Karmapa in the YouTube video I posted of a Mahakala puja isn't the genuine 17th Karmapa. 

There, that was pretty painless. Or rather, he's not the "traditional" Karmapa. Now what is the difference between a genuine Karmapa and a traditional Karmapa? Thereby hangs a 20-hour tale, unless one wants to simply call it politics.

Anyhow, I think the puja itself is perfectly genuine. And traditional Pundita let's shut up while we think we're ahead.

Okay; I've just come to an executive decision. Let's take a tour of Ladakh with the 17th Karmapa. All the fun without the altitude sickness.


Majority US Troops Oppose Nation Building, Foreign Military Aid. It's about time.

Military Times, September 23, 2016
Most American military personnel are deeply skeptical of the United States' nation-building missions overseas and would prefer to see leaders in Washington focus the country's resources on less ambiguous missions like killing terrorists and protecting the homeland, according to a new first-of-its-kind survey.

The poll of more than 2,200 active-duty troops, a collaboration between Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, gauged service members’ opinions on U.S. foreign policy priorities. It was conducted in early September.
Today RT summarizes the findings of this important new survey:

US soldiers want fewer ‘nation building’ interventions, more attention at home - poll
After 15 years of wars, a majority of US service members are deeply skeptical about America’s foreign interventions. The US should focus on homeland defense and jobs instead of invading and “stabilizing” countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, a new poll shows.

Most active-duty members of the US military would prefer the government to refrain from overseas missions involving so-called nation-building, a number of costly and ambiguous efforts to reconstruct post-war countries, according to a poll run by the Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).

The survey, described by the Military Times as a first-of-its-kind study, included a question:
How do you view the US government’s continued involvement in nation-building efforts, establishing democracies in the Middle East and North Africa using US military and financial support?
About 55 percent of service members said they “strongly oppose” or “somewhat oppose” those efforts, while 23 percent responded positively to an idea of carrying out such missions. The remaining 22 percent were either unsure or of no opinion on the issue.
The majority of US servicemen surveyed by the Military Times and IVMF believe that the government should be more involved in combating terrorism (62 percent), homeland defense (68 percent), cyber security (81 percent) and nuclear deterrence (51 percent).
Notably, the troops expressed the most negative response on delivering foreign military aid to the US allies. About 62 percent said they believe Washington should be less involved with the foreign aid, and just 10 percent said the US must proceed with it.
Those who were against the foreign aid said they believe the US-run post-war reconstruction efforts comes at the expense of solving American’s most pressing problems.
We need to get out of foreign affairs and focus on our own country,” Duane Hulbert, a 26-year-old Air Force staff sergeant who responded to the survey, told the newspaper.
We need to build jobs around clean, renewable energy sources … It’s time to focus on how to protect this one world we live on. If we destroy it there is no going back.”
Other respondents seemed disillusioned with those nation-building efforts because they feel that the US non-military support for such goals has been used improperly.
It would be great if Washington listened to these troops. More likely the veterans will have to run for a great many political offices, until their views on U.S. foreign/defense policies finally dominate in the halls of power. 


Mahakala Tsenma puja

See the previous post if you want some explanation.

Two deaths that should not have happened

Dozens of other Westerners are now fighting with the Kurds, spurred by social media campaigners and a sense of duty rooted in the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq. The U.S. discourages but so far hasn't banned Americans from fighting with militias against terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group.
On the train platform in Denver, workers loaded the plain, wooden boxes from a baggage cart into hearses. Russell Shirley, a Vietnam veteran, gave his son a final salute.
Unlike fallen members of the armed forces, the [two] young men had no military escorts to accompany their caskets and no 21-gun salute.
The above passages are from a September 16 Associated Press report, American men who died fighting Islamic State come home. 

Now if the U.S. prosecution of the war was reasonably intelligent, reasonably responsible, I still wouldn't like American civilians -- or any civilians for that matter -- choosing battles they were not well-prepared to fight. But American civilians have no business supporting a war that is this badly managed by their government, no matter how moved they are by the plight of foreigners. And the American government has no business allowing them to fight.


As many as 27 U.S. Senators want to defend civilization! Yippee!

I would've put the number at half that figure. So I don't want to see any long faces from fellow Americans about the 71; look on the bright side, is my motto:
The U.S. Senate cleared the way for a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, defending a frequent partner in the Middle East recently subject to harsh criticism in Congress.
The Senate voted 71 to 27 to kill legislation that would have stopped the sale.
The overwhelming vote stopped an effort led by Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy to block the deal over concerns, including Saudi Arabia's role in the 18-month-long war in Yemen and worries that it might fuel an ongoing regional arms race.
The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department had approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said General Dynamics Corp would be the principal contractor for the sale.
Paul, Murphy and other opponents of the arms deal were sharply critical of the Riyadh government during debate before the vote, citing Yemen, the kingdom's human rights record and its international support for a conservative form of Islam.
"If you're serious about stopping the flow of extremist recruiting across this globe, then you have to be serious that the ... brand of Islam that is spread by Saudi Arabia all over the world, is part of the problem," Murphy said.
He's got that right. It's embarrassing that so many American politicians and policymakers think that bailing oceans with a sieve is viable anti-terrorism policy. But where there's life, there's hope: 
[Murphy's] criticism came days before lawmakers are expected to back another measure seen as anti-Saudi, a bill that would allow lawsuits against the country's government by relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
President Barack Obama has promised to veto that bill, but congressional leaders say there is a strong chance that lawmakers will override the veto and let the measure become law. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

Moon of Alabama Fundraiser -- only the second one in 12 years

Everyone who regularly reads MoA knows why it's an extraordinarily worthy site to keep on the blogosphere. I'd put it in the top five Syrian War analysis sites -- and the only site that is the work of just one person. So please help out with a donation. 

Some of the author's readers have suggested what seems to be crowd-funding site as an alternative to PayPal or a bank wire transfer; from the MoA comment section:

B [...] There is a site called "Patreon" where "fans" / followers of a site or an artist can tithe a monthly amount, usually only $1 or $2 (that's all that was asked for in the case of the 2 sites I pledge to). 

The advantage is that you, the recipient, know nearly exactly how much money is coming in & when, allowing for forward planning. It comes out of the donors bank account on the last day of the month / first day of the following month & they charge only a small percentage. I'm not a fan of Pay Pal & frankly don't have a spare $20 or $50 lying about to give, But a couple of bucks from a couple of hundred of your fans a month will help out I'm sure.

Thanks for all your work over the years B - it has been a Godsend in cutting through the (((MSM))) crap & I'll definitely put in if you launch a Patreon account.
Chris in Ch-Ch
Posted by: KiwiCris | Sep 22, 2016 8:55:45 PM | 36
Shit sorry forgot the link https://www.patreon.com/
Posted by: KiwiCris | Sep 22, 2016 9:00:23 PM | 37

From "b," MoA's author: 

You can donate with a credit card through the PayPal button below.
More preferable though are direct payments. Transaction costs are less for direct bank-wire transfers, for cashing checks or simply cash. Please email me atMoonofA @ aol.com (discard the blanks) for the necessary contact data.

I am willing to accept large sums. If you have access to a big heritage, some charitable foundation funds or other pots of money, please don't hesitate to use it. Seriously.

Thank you very much,
b aka Bernhard

Thursday, September 22

The Poet

His father, a steel worker and part-time Baptist minister, musician and Gospel singer, always sternly told his sons never to touch his guitar while he was away. They always disobeyed. But one day eight-year old Bobby broke a string on the guitar and tried to repair it with a shoestring. 

When his father got home from work and saw that Bobby's shoe was missing its shoestring and the shoestring on the guitar, he told him that he could avoid a whipping if he'd play the guitar for him. Many years later he described what happened next:
Man, I played Andres Segovia, Elmore James and BB King. Even with one string short, I played classical music, soul, country and western, and rock’n’roll. I played my ass off. Every lick I knew and then some I didn’t. When I finished, Dad was in shock. He couldn’t believe how good I had got and he’d been real selfish holding onto that guitar for himself.
Wikipedia recounts that soon after his father bought guitars for all five sons.

Bobby's mother, who played organ at church, once told him he could sing his way out of the ghetto. Did he ever. He sang, composed, and played that guitar out of the ghetto and up, up, past the ranks of second acts and backup recording sessions and one-hit wonders, past the divisions of white and black music and this music genre and that one, past the limits of a single culture and into the stratosphere of global stardom. 

He died in 2014 at the age of 70. Some say soul music died with him. I think Bobby Womack would say no, as long as black Christian churches exist in America soul music won't die. Like a mighty underground river filling wells with the purest water, the church will continue to produce great singers, singers who learn in choir to plumb their hearts when they express themselves in music. 

All right; time to get out of the way and let the man sing.

"Where Do We Go From Here?"
Backup vocals: six members of the Womack family and 
The Waters Family Singers   


Finally! US press interviews Assad about bombing of Syrian troops! THANK YOU AP!

This was an in-depth interview, 29 tough questions on a range of issues. Bravo, Associated Press, and thank you for giving the leader of his own country the opportunity to answer charges that have been leveled against him. The full interview transcript, posted at SANA, follows the video posting:

22 September، 2016

Damascus, SANA, President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Associated Press published Thursday, following is the full text:

Journalist: President Assad, thank you very much for this opportunity to be interviewed by the Associated Press.

President Assad: You are most welcome in Syria.

Question 1: I will start by talking about the ceasefire in Syria. Russia, the US, and several countries say a ceasefire could be revived despite the recent violence and the recrimination. Do you agree, and are you prepared to try again?

President Assad: We announced that we are ready to be committed to any halt of operations, or if you want to call it ceasefire, but it’s not about Syria or Russia; it’s about the United States and the terrorist groups that have been affiliated to ISIS and al-Nusra and Al Qaeda, and to the United States and to Turkey and to Saudi Arabia. They announced publicly that they are not committed, and this is not the first attempt to have a halt of operations in Syria. The first attempt was in last February, and didn’t work, I think, because of the United States, and I believe that the United States is not genuine regarding having a cessation of violence in Syria.

Question 2: Do you believe there could ever be a joint US-Russian military partnership against the militants, as outlined in the deal?

President Assad: Again, practically, yes, but in reality, no, because the United States doesn’t have the will to work against al-Nusra or even ISIS, because they believe that this is a card they can use for their own agenda. If they attack al-Nusra or ISIS, they will lose a very important card regarding the situation in Syria. So, I don’t believe the United States will be ready to join Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria.

Question 3: This week, the US has said the coalition attack on Syrian troops was an accident. Do you accept that explanation?

President Assad: No, no. It’s not, because it wasn’t an accident by one airplane for once, let’s say. It was four airplanes that kept attacking the position of the Syrian troops for nearly one hour, or a little bit more than one hour. You don’t commit a mistake for more than one hour. This is first. Second, they weren’t attacking a building in a quartier; they were attacking a huge place constituted of many hills, and there was not terrorist adjacent to the Syrian troops there. 

At the same time, the ISIS troops or the ISIS militants attacked right away after the American strike. How could they know that the Americans are going to attack that position in order to gather their militants to attack right away and to capture it one hour after the strike? So it was definitely intentional, not unintentional as they claimed.

Question 4: Did Syria or Russia launch the attack on the Red Crescent convoy this week, and should Moscow be held responsible, as the White House has said?

President Assad: No, first of all, there have been tens, maybe, of convoys from different organizations around the world, coming to different areas in Syria for the last few years. It has never happened before, so why to happen now, either by the Russians or the Syrians? No, it’s a claim. And regarding the claim of the White House yesterday, accusing either the Syrians or the Russians. In that regard, I would say whatever the American officials said about the conflicts in Syria in general has no credibility. Whatever they say, it’s just lies and, let’s say, bubbles, has no foundation on the ground.

Question 5: So what happened to the convoy? Who should be held responsible?

President Assad: Those convoys were in the area of the militants, the area under the control of the terrorists. That’s what they should accuse first: the people or the militants, the terrorists who are responsible for the security of this convoy. So, we don’t have any idea about what happened. The only thing that we saw was a video of a burnt car, destroyed trucks, nothing else.

Question 6: Several eyewitnesses have told AP that 20 missiles were launched against the convoy. There is footage of torn bodies. This does not seem as though it would be anything but an attack from the air. Eyewitnesses are also talking about barrel bombs, and as you are aware, your administration has been accused of using barrel bombs in some circumstances. You still think this was an attack from the ground by rebels?

President Assad: Yeah, first of all, even the United Nations said that there were no airstrikes against that convoy. That was yesterday. Second, at the same time of that event, the terrorists were attacking the Syrian troops by missiles. They launched missile attacks, we didn’t respond. Third, you cannot talk about eyewitnesses for such judgment or accusation. What are the credibility of those eyewitnesses, who are they? We don’t know.

Question 7: We have eyewitnesses that were relatives, we have the White Helmets, we have many people saying that they witnessed helicopters in the air. Now, only the Syrians and the Russians have helicopters. Are you saying this is just invented?

President Assad: Those witnesses only appear when there’s an accusation against the Syrian Army or the Russian, but when the terrorists commit a crime or massacre or anything, you don’t see any witnesses, and you don’t hear about those White Helmets. So, what a coincidence. No, actually, we don’t have any interest in doing so for one reason: because if we attack any convoy that’s going to the civilians, we are working for the interest of the terrorists, that will play into their hands directly, in that regard we are pushing the civilians toward the terrorists, we put them in their laps, and we are providing the terrorists with a good incubator, something we wouldn’t do. This is first. 

Second, we are, as a government, as officials, we are committed morally toward the Syrian people, morally, constitutionally, and legally, to help them in every aspect to have the basic needs for their livelihood.

Question 8: Your administration has denied the use of chemical weapons, of barrel bombs, despite testimony and video and the results of a UN investigation. We also are hearing similar denials about airstrikes on civilians and medical workers. Can this all be false allegations by your opponents?

President Assad: First of all, the first incident of gas use in Syria was in Aleppo about more than three years ago, and we were the ones who invited the United Nations to send a delegation for investigations about the use of chemical weapons, and the United States objected and opposed that action for one reason; because if there’s investigations, they’re going to discover that the terrorists used gas, not the Syrian Army. In that regard, in that case, the United States won’t be able to accuse Syria. That’s why they were opposing that delegation. 

In every incident, we asked the United Nations to send a delegation, and we are still insisting on that position, that they have to send delegations to make investigation, but the United States is opposing. So, actually, if we’ve been using that, we wouldn’t ask for investigation.

Question 9: To the international community, it seems as though none of the charges or accusations stick, that everything is denied, everything here is ok, by your administration. Do you not feel that that undermines the credibility? In other instances, the Americans for example admitted the attack on the Syrian military was a mistake. Now, you don’t accept that, but from the Syrian administration, all the international community hears is denial.

President Assad: Regarding which issue?

Question 10: Regarding the accusations of violations of human rights, of barrel bombs…

President Assad: Look, if you want to talk about mistakes, every country has mistakes, every government has mistakes, every person has mistakes. When you have a war, you have more mistakes. That’s the natural thing. But the accusations have no foundation regarding Syria. When they talk about barrel bombs, what are barrel bombs?

It’s just a title they use in order to show something which is very evil that could kill people indiscriminately, and as I said, because in the media “when it bleeds, it leads.” They don’t talk about bombs; they call it barrel bombs. A bomb is a bomb, what’s the difference between different kinds of bombs? All bombs are to kill, but it’s about how to use it. When you use an armament, you use it to defend the civilians. You kill terrorists in order to defend civilians. That’s the natural role of any army in the world. When you have terrorists, you don’t throw at them balloons or you don’t use rubber sticks, for example. You have to use armaments. So, it’s not about what the kind of armament, it’s about how to use it, and they want to use it that time to accuse the Syrian Army of killing civilians. 

We don’t kill civilians, because we don’t have the moral incentive, we don’t have the interest to kill civilians. It’s our people, who support us. If you want to kill the Syrian people, who’s going to support us as a government, as officials? No one. So, in reality, you cannot withstand for five years and more against all those countries, the West, and the Gulf states, the petrodollars, and all this propaganda, the strongest media corporations around the world, if you don’t have the support of your own people. That’s against the reality. So, no, we don’t use it. 

I wouldn’t say that we don’t have mistakes. Again, that many mistakes that have been committed by individuals, but there’s a difference between a mistake or even a crime that’s been committed by an individual, and between a policy of crime that’s been implemented or adopted by a government. We don’t have such a policy.

Question 11: And yet the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are fleeing the country, many drowning on the way, many of them say they are fleeing your forces. What exactly are they fleeing if this campaign doesn’t exist, if this campaign of violence, indiscriminate against them…?

President Assad: You have to look at the reality in Syria. Whenever we liberate any city or village from the terrorists, the civilians will go back to the city, while they flee that city when the terrorists attack that area, the opposite. So, they flee, first of all, the war itself; they flee the area under the control of the terrorists, they flee the difficult situation because of the embargo by the West on Syria. So, many people, they flee not the war itself, but the consequences of the war, because they want to live, they want to have the basic needs for their livelihood, they don’t have it. They have to flee these circumstances, not necessarily the security situation itself. So, you have different reasons for the people or the refugees to leave Syria. Many many of them supported the government in the recent elections, the presidential elections, in different countries. 

So, that’s not true that they left Syria because of the government, and those accusations mean that the government is killing the people, while the terrorists, mainly Al Qaeda and al-Nusra and other Al Qaeda-affiliated organizations or groups protected the civilians. Is that the accusation? No-one can believe it, actually.

Question 12: Let’s turn our attention to the people that can’t flee, the people who are in besieged cities around Syria. For example, Aleppo. To go back to the ceasefire agreement, aid was supposed to get into the city, but you did not hold up your end of the agreement. Why was that, and how can you really justify withholding aid to cities?

President Assad: Again, if we talk about the last few years, many aid convoys came to different cities, so why does the Syrian government prevent a convoy from coming to Aleppo for example, while allowing the others to reach other areas? This is contradiction, you cannot explain it, it’s not palatable. This is first. Second, if you look at the others areas under the control of the terrorists, we’re still sending vaccines from the Syrian government’s budget, we’re still sending salaries to the employees from the Syrian government’s budget. So, how can we do this and at the same time push the people toward starvation in other areas? 

More importantly, the terrorists who left liberated areas under what you call reconciliation or certain agreements in different areas, they left to fight with other terrorists in Syria while they send their families to live under the supervision of the government. Why didn’t we put those families to starvation? So, this is contradicting, I mean what you’re talking about is contradicting the reality, and we don’t contradict ourselves.

Question 13: But the world saw the reality of Aleppo. There were UN convoys of aid that were not allowed into the city. Are you denying that that was the case?

President Assad: The situation has been like this for years now. If there’s really a siege around the city of Aleppo, people would have been dead by now. This is first. Second, more importantly, they’ve been shelling the neighboring areas and the positions of the Syrian Army for years, non-stop shelling of mortars and different kinds of lethal bombs. How could they be starving while at the same time they can have armaments? How can we prevent the food and the medical aid from reaching that area and we cannot stop the armaments form reaching that area, which is not logical?

Question 14: So what is your message to the people to Aleppo, who are saying the opposite, that they are hungry, that they are suffering malnutrition, that there are no doctors, that doctors have been targeted and killed in airstrikes, that they are under siege and they are dying? What is your message to them?

President Assad: You can’t say “the people of Aleppo” because the majority of the people of Aleppo are living in the area under the control of the government, so you cannot talk about the people of Aleppo. If you want to talk about some who allegedly are claiming this, we tell them how could you still be alive? Why don’t you have, for example, an epidemic, if you don’t have doctors? How could you say that we attacked, they accuse Syria of attacking hospitals, so you have hospitals and you have doctors and you have everything. How could you have them? How could you have armaments? That’s the question. How can you get armaments to your people, if you claim that you have people and grassroots while you don’t have food? They have to explain; I don’t have to explain. The reality is telling.

Question 15: Yet, they say the opposite. They say they are surviving on whatever they can, on meager means, and they are a city under siege. You do not accept that Aleppo is a city under siege with people starving and hungry?

President Assad: Again, how can I prevent the food, and not prevent the armament? Logically, how? If I can prevent food, I should be able to prevent armaments. If I don’t prevent armaments, that means everything else will pass to Aleppo.

Question 16: Have you been to Aleppo recently? Will you go to Aleppo?

President Assad: Of course I will go.

Question 17: And how does it feel for you to see the devastation in parts of what was known as the jewel of Syria?

President Assad: Devastation is painful, of course, but we can rebuild our country. We’re going to do that. Someday the war will stop. The most painful is the devastation of the society, the killing, the blood-shedding, something we live with every hour and every day. But how would I think? I think when I see those pictures how would Western officials feel when they look at this devastation and these killing pictures and they know that their hands are stained with their blood, that they committed the crime directly in killing those people and destroying our civilization. That’s what I think about.

Question 18: Yet, to the outside world, it feels as though the end justifies any means in your war on terror. Do you accept that?

President Assad: They don’t have morals, of course. This is a Machiavellian principle; the end justifies the means. We don’t accept it, no. Your policy should be a mixture between your interests and how you reach your ends, but based on values. It cannot be only the end justifies the means, because for the criminals, ends justify the means, for thieves, for every illegal and immoral action, the end justifies the means. That’s exactly what you mentioned in your question, this is the base, the foundation of the Western policy around the world these days.

Question 19: What is your message to the Syrians who have fled the country? Some of them didn’t make it, others did. Do you call on them to come back, do you expect them to come back?

President Assad: Of course. It’s a loss, it’s a great loss. The worst loss for any country is not the infrastructure or the buildings or the material loss; actually, it’s the human resources loss, something we want to see coming back to Syria, and I’m sure that the majority of those Syrians who left Syria, they will go back when the security and when the life goes back to its normality and the minimal requirements for livelihood will be affordable to them, they will go back. I am not worried about this.

Question 20: Do you have any expectation of when that will happen, when Syria will be pacified to some degree that they can come back?

President Assad: If we look at it according to the internal Syrian factors, I would say it’s very soon, a few months, and I’m sure about that, I’m not exaggerating, but when you talk about it as part of a global conflict and a regional conflict, when you have many external factors that you don’t control, it’s going to drag on and no-one in this world can tell you when but the countries, the governments, the officials who support directly the terrorists. Only they know, because they know when they’re going to stop supporting those terrorists, and this is where the situation in Syria is going to be solved without any real obstacles.

Question 21: So, let’s just dwell on that point for a moment. Do you believe that within a couple of months the situation in Syria will have dramatically changed in your favor to the point that refugees can come back?

President Assad: No, because I don’t believe that in a couple of months Erdogan and the United States regime, and the Western regimes in general, and of course Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are going to stop the support of the terrorists. I don’t see it in the next two months.

Question 22: So how can you really incite Syrians to come back in two months as you said?

President Assad: I said if there are no external factors. I said if you look at it as an isolated case, as a Syrian case, which is theoretical, I mean, this is where you can say that in few months you can solve it. But now you’re talking about an arena which is part of the international and regional arena, not isolated. So, this is why I said no-one has the answer when will it end.

Question 23: It’s now one year since Russia got involved in the war. Before the intervention you were losing territory and control. Did you ever feel like you were losing the war?

President Assad: We didn’t look at it that way, to lose the war, because whenever you have Syrians working with the terrorists, it’s a loss. How to lose the war, this is hypothetical question, to be frank. It’s not about your feeling; it’s about the reality. In the war, you lose areas, but you recapture another area. So, it is difficult to tell whether you are losing or gaining or it was a standstill. No one has this answer. But definitely, after the Russian intervention and supporting the Syrian Army, legally of course, we felt much much better. We captured many main cities, many main positions at the expense of the terrorists’ areas.

Question 24: Even if you were to win the war, what would be left of your country and Syrian society? Will you have to think again about the prospect of a partition in Syria?

President Assad: No, we never thought about it, and the majority in Syria don’t believe in this, and I don’t think the reality, in spite of this savage war, has created the atmosphere for such partition. Actually, in many areas, the social situation is much better, because when you want to talk about partition you need to find these borders between the social communities. You cannot have partition only on political bases or geographic bases. It should be social first of all when the communities do not live with each other. As a result of the war, many Syrians understand that the only way to protect your country is to live with each other with integration, not only in coexistence, which is actually more precise to call cohabitation, when people interact and integrate with each other on daily basis in every detail. So, I think in this regard I am more assured that Syria will be more unified. So, the only problem now that we face is not the partition, but terrorism.

Question 25: And yet you are not seen as a unifying force in Syria; people think that the society is torn apart. Just to use one example, on a personal level, you trained as a doctor and yet your administration stands accused of targeting medical and rescue workers as they race to save lives. How do you make peace with this?

And is this a society that, after suffering such consequences, can really just forget the past and move on?

President Assad: I cannot answer that question while it’s filled with misinformation. Let us correct it first. We don’t attack any hospital. Again, as I said, this is against our interests. If you put aside the morals, that we do not do it morally, if I put it aside, I am talking about now, let’s say, the ends justify the means, if I want to use it, we don’t have interest. This is how we can help the terrorists if we attack hospitals, schools, and things like this. Of course, whenever you have a war, the civilians and the innocents will pay the price. That’s in any war, any war is a bad war. There is no good war. In any war, people will pay the price, but I’m talking about the policy of the government, of the army; we don’t attack any hospital. We don’t have any interest in attacking hospitals. So, what is the other part of the question? Sorry, to remind me.

Question 26: That’s ok, that fits into the general question, but I would like to follow up with: others say the opposite, including medical workers and including the Syrian White Helmets. If you value their work, racing to the scene of whatever it may, to try and save lives, does that mean you would support the recent nomination of the White Helmets for a Nobel Peace Prize?

President Assad: It is not about the White Helmets, whether they are credible or not, because some organizations are politicized, but they use different humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement certain agenda. But, generally if you want to talk about the humanitarian support, how can I attack hospitals while I am sending vaccines, for example? Just explain it. You tell me two different things, two contradicting things; one that I am talking about is reality, because everybody knows that we are sending vaccines, the other one is that we are attacking hospitals. They do not match.

Question 27: Would you support them for a Nobel Peace Prize?

President Assad: Who?

Question 28: The White Helmets.

President Assad: What did they achieve in Syria? And how un-politicized is the Nobel Prize? That’s the other question. So, if I get an answer to these two questions, I can answer you. But I would only give a prize to whoever works for the peace in Syria, first of all by stopping the terrorists from flowing towards Syria, only.

Question 29: My last question: The US election is now just a few weeks away. How do you expect that a Clinton or Trump presidency would differ in terms of US policy towards Syria, and specifically towards you?

President Assad: The problem with every American candidate regarding the presidency, I am not talking only about this campaign or elections, but generally, that they say something during the campaign and they do the opposite after the campaign. As we see now the American officials, they say something in the morning and they do the opposite in the evening. 

So, you cannot judge those people according to what they say. You cannot take them at their words, to be frank. We don’t listen to their statements, we don’t care about it, we don’t believe it. We have to wait till they become presidents, we have to watch their policy and their actions and their behaviors. We do not have a lot of expectations, we never had. We have hopes that we can see rational American presidents; fair, obey the international law, deal with other countries according to mutual respect, parity, etc., but we all know that this is only wishful thinking and fantasy.

Journalist: Thank very much, President Assad.

President Assad: Thank you.


Wednesday, September 21

Overheard from Hillary's body double: "Tell me again why we're invading this hick planet"

Trust a Frenchman to notice the difference in the hips but if that photo wasn't doctored Thierry Meyssan doesn't know what he's messing with. Obviously Hillary has been kidnapped by the same shape-shifting aliens who kidnapped Liam Fox and replaced him with a body double. 

The problem was that nobody could figure out why they wanted to invade the U.K. My speculation was that it had something to do with cricket but now my only guess is that they hate the Russians. Maybe something to do with Sputnik I -- the satellite not the news site -- but don't quote me on this.  
The Two Hillarys

Voltaire Network
September 20, 2016
Hillary Clinton was the victim of a dizzy spell during the ceremony for the commemoration of the attacks of 11 September in New York. One hour later, she left her apartment, sporting a pair of dark glasses, to salute the crowd and confirm that she was in good shape.
Examination of these photographs demonstrates that the person who left the apartement is not Mrs. Clinton. While we could engage in a long discussion about the lines on her face - despite the dark glasses - the size of her hips does not correspond at all.

Translation:  Pete Kimberley

The Boing Boing Boing Peacekeeping Strategy in Syria

Foreign Policy reported yesterday:
Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, told reporters that “for the foreseeable future … we will be in deconfliction mode and not in the joint operations” mode with the Russians.
RT reported today:
Despite the ongoing blame game over the elimination of a humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo on Monday, the members of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG), co-chaired by the US and Russia, agreed on Tuesday they will not give up on attempts to enforce the ceasefire in Syria in accordance with the Geneva deal.

Following the ISSG meeting on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly session, the US State Department issued a statement calling on all parties to adhere to the ceasefire “despite continued violence.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov designated the delineation between US-backed moderate opposition and terrorists a top priority, urging regional powers to put pressure on radical groups under their influence, without specifying the details.

“The ceasefire is not dead,” assured US Secretary of State John Kerry as he emerged from the meeting preceded by the talks with Lavrov.

His words were echoed by the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who admitted that although “the ceasefire is in danger” it is premature to speculate on its failure to deliver the goods as “the only ones who can announce the ceasefire is dead are the two co-chairs [Lavrov and Kerry] and they have today not done so.”
See, their side has terrorism. We have changing our minds. Another two months of dealing with this peacekeeping strategy in Syria and they'll be begging to surrender. But by then it will be too late. 

That's how we've beaten off every alien invasion. They flee screaming back to their own galaxies, completely bonkers. We learned the strategy from studying kangaroos. I suppose you don't believe me. Someday you will. 


"Survivor: Millennials vs Gen Xers"

This could bring me back to television, if only for this one show. Regular broadcast night for the series is Thursday but tonight for the special to introduce the cast:
SURVIVOR: MILLENNIALS VS GEN X premieres Wednesday, September 21 at 8:00 pm with a 90-minute special.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X will feature 20 brand new castaways divided down generational lines. The season was filmed in Fiji this past April.

The unforgettable voice, the song that upstaged Julia Roberts

No PA system or pagers at U.S. operations center, eh? What if it had involved a nuke?

What's that? What looks like a nuke heading your way? Can you call back in ten minutes? Your contact is still on his coffee break. 

Okay, I'll buy the Brooklyn Bridge but I doubt the Russian command is interested in buying any more bridges from the USA.   
Russia Had to Call U.S. Twice to Stop Syria Airstrike
Paul McLeary
September 20, 2016 - 4:08 PM EDT
Foreign Policy
Saturday, about 30 minutes after precision bombs from an armada of American, British, Danish, and Australian warplanes began smashing into a large group of Islamic State fighters gathered near Deir el-Zour, Syria, the phone rang.
But there was a problem. No one at the operations center for the U.S.-led coalition could figure out what the Russian officer on the other end of the line was on about.
So he hung up, and called back.
By time the Russian officer found his designated contact — who was away from his desk — and explained that the coalition was actually hitting a Syrian army unit, “a good amount of strikes” had already taken place, U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.
U.S. commanders called off the strike within minutes, but the damage had been done. The incident Saturday killed an estimated 60 Syrian soldiers  ...

Elementary, my dear Putin: The Saudis

Last night on the John Batchelor Show Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen mentioned that Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Permanent Representative the United Nations, asked in front of a microphone who was running American defense policy -- the White House or the Department of Defense. 

Steve emphasized that Churkin wouldn't have made the statement unless authorized by Putin, that it was Putin who wanted the answer.  And this wasn't a rhetorical question, Steve pointed out, in light of the debacle visited on the Cessation of Hostilities agreement that the White House and Kremlin perspired over for many days.

Interestingly, the MMA-style slugfest in Washington might actually be happening between the Pentagon and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than the White House and Pentagon, if we recall JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford's astounding statement last night. With the CoH up in flames -- literally -- Dunford breezily asserted the agreement was holding up, just a few bumps in the road that was all.

Kick 'em in the teeth, General Dunford! Semper Fi!  Pundita if you don't settle down we're going to spend the rest of the year blogging about cooking shows. 

At the moment the Pentagon has the upper hand in the fight. Foreign Policy reported yesterday:
Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, told reporters that “for the foreseeable future … we will be in deconfliction mode and not in the joint operations” mode with the Russians.
So if the CoH agreement isn't dead, it's on life support. But I believe one would have to look outside Washington to understand why.  

All right, let me see if the podcast of Steve's analysis of this latest Battle of the Potomac is posted yet. [taptaptap]  Yes! Yes!    


Tuesday, September 20

It's getting progressively harder to lie about Syria

Remember that blanket drone surveillance Russia set up to monitor violations of the ceasefire in Syria?

Reuters, September 20 - 8:45 PM EDT:
The United Nations, Red Cross and United States had all described Monday's incident as an air strike, implicitly pinning the blame on Russian or Syrian aircraft that fly in the area for breaking the ceasefire with an attack on a humanitarian target.
But the U.N. revised a statement to remove the phrase "air strikes" and replace it with references to unspecified "attacks". U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said the original reference to air strikes was probably a drafting error, saying the U.N. was not in a position to determine if they were air strikes but was sure the convoy was "attacked."
RT, September 20, 20:34:
“Russian and Syrian warplanes did not carry out any airstrikes on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Tuesday.

The Russian Center for Reconciliation said that it had used drones to accompany the convoy because its route passed through territory controlled by the rebels, but only to a certain point.
"Around 13:40 Moscow time [10:40 GMT Monday] the aid convoy successfully reached the destination. The Russian side did not monitor the convoy after this and its movements were only known by the militants who were in control of the area,” Konashenkov added.
The Defense Ministry spokesman said that the Russian military had been looking at video footage from the scene and that there was no sign of the convoy being targeted by shells or an airstrike.

“We have closely studied the video footage from where the incident took place and we did not find any signs of any ammunition having hit the convoy. There are no craters, while the vehicles have their chassis intact and they have not been severely damaged, which would have been the case from an airstrike,” Konashenkov said.
“All of the video footage demonstrates that the convoy caught fire, which strangely happened almost at exactly at the same time as militants started a large scale offensive on Aleppo.”
The above Reuters quotes are taken from several paragraphs into the report. Now I'll go to the beginning of the report; emphasis mine:
The United States believes two Russian aircraft attacked an aid convoy near Aleppo in a strike that shattered a one-week truce, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, but Russia denied involvement.
Despite the military blame game over Monday's deadly attack, diplomats struggled to save the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that took effect on Sept. 12.
The incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed, looked likely to deal a death blow to diplomatic efforts to halt a civil war now in its sixth year.
Two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck late on Monday, two U.S. officials told Reuters, citing U.S. intelligence that led them to conclude Russia was to blame.
While Reuters doesn't say this, the UN probably revised its statement after the Russian defense ministry showed video footage taken from the drone surveillance to Staffan de Mistura's staff at the United Nations.

So what's really going on here? From reading between the lines of the rest of the Reuters report, I'd say the White Helmets lied their heads off, and the U.S. military either didn't bother to check their story before running with it, or hoped it would fly.


What fiend at the Pentagon spun the 'theory' about US coalition bombing of Syrian troops?

"The US is trying to determine what specifically led to the mistaken strike and how the [Syrian army] personnel may have been misidentified. Officials told CNN they believe a likely scenario is the personnel hit were prisoners of the regime, perhaps military personnel being detained, although that is not certain."

Prisoner of the regime, huh?     

Kanaan Mahmoud Abboud was martyred in Deir Ezzor after a U.S. airstrike attacked his unit. Rest in peace, hero

Prisoner of the regime, huh?

Fadi Al-Jissri of the 137th Brigade was martyred alongside his comrades when the U.S. warplanes attacked them in Deir Ezzor. RIP hero

Leith Fadel posted the photographs and tributes at his Twitter page about 10 hours ago. I don't think he'd seen the following CNN report at the time; at least I hope he didn't see it and never does. He's lost many friends in Syria's military to the war.

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Updated 3:12 PM ET, Mon September 19, 2016
The mistaken US-led coalition bombing of a Syrian military position Saturday may have happened because the personnel weren't wearing military uniforms and didn't have standard military weapons, several US military officials told CNN.
Officials said they now think the personnel bombed may have been Syrian military prisoners, according to several US defense officials.
That's a working theory of how US, British, Danish and Australian aircraft may have incorrectly assessed intelligence and targeted the site that killed more than 60 Syrian personnel near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria. The UK Ministry of Defence is saying it used drones in the strike.
Officials emphasized there are no final conclusions by the US about who was struck. Overhead imagery and interviews with those involved will have to be assessed.
But the US is not disputing that Syrian personnel were hit. The US is trying to determine what specifically led to the mistaken strike and how the personnel may have been misidentified.
Officials told CNN they believe a likely scenario is the personnel hit were prisoners of the regime, perhaps military personnel being detained, although that is not certain.
The initial signs indicate they were dressed in civilian clothing. They also may not have had the typical weapons of a Syrian military unit but rather trucks with weapons mounted on top of them.
It is also not known if they were deliberately placed there to potentially deceive the coalition.

JCS Chairman: Syria ceasefire not derailed

General Dunford is grandly fluffing off that all hell broke loose again in Syria -- the bombing of Syrian troops; the bombing (or mortar shelling) of an aid convoy; and Syria's government saying to heck with this crazy ceasefire. [smiling] As I mentioned in an earlier post, my view is that President Obama is VERY determined to get that Russian-U.S. joint bombing campaign in Syria up to speed. 

Note the time this USA TODAY report was filed. Heh. Take that, Washington Post and New York Times:  

Top U.S. military official: Syria cease-fire not derailed
By Jim Michaels
September 19, 2016 - 11:47 PM EDT

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT — An alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrike on Syrian soldiers has not derailed a cease-fire agreement between Russia and the United States to halt fighting in Syria, the top U.S. military officer said Monday.

“There’s been a lot of unhelpful rhetoric over the last couple days,” said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It hasn’t yet … derailed the process we're involved in with the Russians to seek a verifiable cessation of hostilities.”

Still, the future of the cease-fire agreement appeared to be in jeopardy Monday, as a United Nations aid convoy was hit while trying to deliver aid to civilians trapped in Syria's civil war, and the Syrian military said it was pulling out of the truce because of rebel attacks.

The State Department said it was "outraged" by reports that a humanitarian aid convoy was bombed near the Syrian city of Aleppo, but is prepared to extend the cease-fire if Russia pressures the Syrian government to abide by terms of the truce and ends a pattern of attacking aid convoys.

The State Department said violence in the 5-year-old civil war had been reduced but only a small amount of aid has made it into the country since Sept. 12.

The Pentagon acknowledged that it halted an airstrike by coalition planes Saturday after Russia said the planes hit Syrian government forces, killing 62.

Dunford cautioned about drawing any conclusions about the allegations until the Pentagon conducts its own investigation to determine what happened.

“Before we start going down a path of what went wrong let’s do an investigation and actually ensure that something did go wrong,” said Dunford, who was returning home from a trip to Europe. U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees military operations in the Middle East, is conducting an investigation into Saturday's airstrike.

The Pentagon previously said pilots believed they were striking Islamic State militants, who had operated in the area, and would not intentionally strike Syrian military forces.

The U.S.-led coalition has a rigorous process for approving airstrikes, involving extensive surveillance to confirm what is being targeted and to ensure civilians are not in the area. Targets have to be approved by a one-star general or above.

Dunford said the coalition has conducted thousands of strikes in the past two years with minimal loss of civilian life and without striking Russian or Syrian forces. [Pundita note:  He would get an argument from Syria's military. See this December 2015 report from CBS, U.S. rejects Syrian claim state forces were targeted]

Under the ceasefire agreement, the United States and Russia would begin exploring military cooperation in Syria if violence is reduced and aid convoys are able to get to Aleppo and other besieged areas within a week after the cease-fire began. Monday marked the end of the first week for the truce.

The cease-fire, which does not apply to al-Qaeda linked militants or the Islamic State, is intended to halt fighting between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and an array of rebels seeking to overthrow him. That would allow U.S. and Russian military efforts to be directed at the two militant groups.

The Pentagon has not detailed what form military cooperation with Russia would take if a cessation of hostilities lasts.

But any military cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is risky. Russia’s military uses “dumb,” or unguided, bombs in Syria and humanitarian groups have accused it of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.

“Our job is to develop a construct within which we do mitigate the risk of being involved in any violation of the law of armed conflict or any unnecessary loss of civilian life,” Dunford said.



US-backed fighters in Aleppo execute 26 civilians including 9 teens for trying to leave

The above news is from SouthFront's 19 Syria sitrep, sardonically titled ISIS OBTAINS AIR FORCE: [emphasis in the report is mine]

On September 17, two F-16 and two A-10 jets belonging to the US-led coalition bombed positions of the Syrian government forces near the city of Deir Ezzor, resulting in at least 62 deaths and more than 100 injured soldiers. The action followed a successful advance of the Syrian army at the strategic Turdah mountain, south of Deir Ezzor, and was directly followed by a massive ISIS attack in the area.
The Pentagon denied that the air strikes were aimed on the Syrian army. However, some experts suggested that the air strikes were an American answer to the recent advance of the pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor. We recall some 1000 elite soldiers of the Syrian Republican Guard had arrived Deir Ezzor in order to support operations against ISIS prior to the US-led air strikes.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said the incident was "a direct consequence of the stubborn unwillingness of the American side to coordinate with Russia in its actions against terrorist groups in Syria," while the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the US-led air strikes on the Syrian Army “were on the edge between gross negligence and direct assistance to Islamic State.”
The incident has deepened the split between Russia and the United States on diplomatic and military levels over the situation in Syria and decreased the chances of defacto implementation of the ceasefire agreement that had been signed by the state’s foreign ministers. 
Considering the United States’ unwillingness to release the text of US-Russia [Cessation of Hostility] agreements, separate the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ from Jabhat Al-Nusra and other terrorists, and an American public rhetoric clearly aimed to damage the concluded deal, it could be suggested that the air strikes on pro-government forces were an attempt to sabotage the implementation of the ceasefire deal and start of US air raids against Al Nusra.
It’s important to note that on September 18 ISIS downed a Syrian warplane, MIG-21, in the province of Deir Ezzor. Colonel pilot Ali Hamza was reported killed in the crash. The fighter jet was allegedly downed with 23 mm machine gun while it was conducting air raids against terrorists. Pro-government sources reacted by suggesting that the US special services had been able to provide intelligence to ISIS, thus assisting the group to counter Syrian Air Force air raids.
Meanwhile, US-backed ‘moderate oppositioneers’ have executed 26 civilians, including nine teenagers, in Aleppo who attempted to leave their neighborhood via humanitarian corridors provided by the Syrian government. According to spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, the report is based on the information provided by civilians who left Sheikh Hader Neighborhood via the 1st and 6th humanitarian corridors on Sunday.
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